Auditorio Príncipe Felipe', Oviedo

Our readers might know the ‘Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias’ from recordings the ensemble made for Naxos. We recently had the opportunity to hear it live, at the ‘Auditorio Príncipe Felipe’ in Oviedo, conducted by Chinese conductor Perry So, with Canzonas & sonatas by Gabrieli, the Symphony in C by Stravinsky as well as Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto played by the young British pianist Teo Gheorghiu.

The history of the Orchestra of the Principality of Asturias goes as far back as 1937, but in the current configuration, it made its official debut in 1991 under its first Principal Conductor, Jesse Levine. From 1994 it has been under the direction of Maximiano Valdés and since this season the music director is the Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov. The orchestra organizes its own series of concerts at the ‘Auditorio Príncipe Felipe’ in Oviedo and in other cities of the Principality. It also participates in opera performances and has its own youth series organized in collaboration with Carnegie Hall, thus introducing a Spanish-language edition of ‘Link Up’, the famous program set up by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.

OSPA General manager Ana Mateo is proud for having had the possibility of implementing the renowned program in Spain. It allows the orchestra to work closely with the schools and the teachers. “Our educational concerts are always prepared with prior work in the classroom on the basis of printed guides which Carnegie Hall provides and which enable different levels of participation. The quality of the materials is exceptional and a great help for the teachers. We have kids on stage and kids in the hall, and they interact with each other in order to show what they have been working on at school. Recently they all brought their recorder flute and it was amazing to hear 1.200 kids playing the same tune altogether. »

Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias

Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias














But, obviously, those children’s concerts are only a part from the OSPA’s activities. Ana Mateao, who is the General Manager since 2007, clearly says that for all the concerts, also the adult series, quality is one of the goals: « I believe that if we offer quality, our audience will look for it and be able to recognize it and call for it again. »

To reach this quality today is not so easy as in 2007, when the orchestra had a budget of 7,1 million Euros. Indeed, the OSPA has not been spared by the crisis. In 2009, « out of the blue’, the government of Asturias proposed budget cuts and the orchestra managed somehow to finish the season without major damaging. Later, musicians and staff accepted salary cuts of 5%. Those cuts and cuts in the running costs as well as in the fees paid for conductors and soloists allowed Mrs. Mateo to conserve the quality. « Our Board is very supportive and, even more important, our 72 musicians like to work. We encourage this by organizing health workshops for them and by improving the social life within the orchestra.

And so the Orchestra can more or less fill the hall in Oviedo for its series, even though the ‘Auditorio’ has 1.200 seats. The audience, as we could see, is quite old, and one only can hope that the success of the educational program will show results in some years.

We also noticed that OSPA has a really good sound. We liked very much the very lyrical performances of the Gabrieli pieces at the beginning of the concert, though the Fourth Piano Concerto by Beethoven was not that convincing. But this was certainly not the fault of the orchestra, but rather of the soloist, Teo Gheorghiu, who took very slow tempi, obviously hiding a lack of musicality and soul in his otherwise technically brilliant playing. The concert ended with an absolutely bright performance of Stravinsky’s Symphony in C, richly detailed, spirited, filled with tension and rhythmic drive in the faster movements and beautifully relaxed playing in the slower parts.

No wonder that with such a bunch of excellent musicians Ana Mateo serenely can plan ambitious seasons and even upcoming tours throughout Europe.

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