Pacho Flores interview
It would be easy to remember 2020 for all the wrong reasons – but there were some memorable highlights too, and the Liverpool debut of Pacho Flores was one of them.
The irrepressible trumpet virtuoso won over the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall audience with his ebullient performance and his on-stage rapport with fellow Venezuelan Domingo Hindoyan – which led them being dubbed the new ‘dream team’.
And now he is back for two more unmissable concerts promising a pair of premieres – Paquito D’Rivera’s Concerto Venezolano for Trumpet and Orchestra, and Flores’ own Cantos y revueltas for trumpet, Venezuelan cuatro and strings.
“It was amazing,” Flores recalls of last January’s performance from his home in Valencia in Spain. “We did the world premiere of Roberto Sierra’s Salseando and Concierto de Otono by Arturo Marquez who is Mexican and is one of the most well-known Latin (American) composers.
“It was so nice because it showed the Liverpool public a little bit of my influence. It’s all my culture and music.”
What concertgoers may also remember was the huge range of instruments – seven in all – which he played over the course of the evening.
For the past 20 years Flores has collaborated with Stomvi, Spain’s only manufacturers of brass instruments, to create a range for him to play – instruments like a four-valve flugelhorn, more of which later.
Designing his own instruments and performing in concerts across the globe is a far cry from San Cristóbal in mountainous western Venezuela where Francisco ‘Pacho’ Flores was born in 1981.
He was four or five when he first picked up the trumpet, and eight when he began studying with his father Francisco Flores Diaz. By the age of 11 he knew it was what he wanted to do.
Flores says: “My father was a conductor in a band but as a trumpet player he wasn’t professional. He had a passion for the trumpet and was a good teacher.”
A teenage Pacho joined Venezuela’s famous El Sistema music programme where he met a violinist (later conductor) called Domingo Hindoyan.
The two remained friends and finally found the opportunity to work together in October 2010 when they performed the premiere of Efrain Oscher’s Mestizo trumpet concerto with the Venezulan Youth Symphony Orchestra in Caracas.
Flores subsequently moved to Europe to further his career, while Hindoyan was already based in Switzerland. But despite being on the same continent, their busy careers took them in different directions – until last January in Liverpool.
Now they are being reunited again at Hope Street.
The Sound the Trumpet concert will see Flores play the European premiere of D’Rivera’s concerto, a four-way commission of a new work for trumpet which received its world premiere in Mexico before the pandemic. Future performances are planned in San Diego and Bordeaux.
Sunday’s Viva Venezuela concert meanwhile will feature the UK premiere of his own concertante Cantos y revueltas.
“Cantos means songs from the workers with animals,” he explains. “And revueltas is one particular style of Venezuelan joropo. Joropo is like a national dance, an adaptation of baroque music originally from Spain.”
Composing is a second career strand for the 40-year-old who started off arranging works for the trumpet which were originally written for other instruments, widening the trumpet’s repertoire in the process.
“Arranging is the first step to understanding music and orchestration,” he says. “And you can include music from the romantic and classical repertoire, but now for the trumpet.”
One piece he has arranged is the prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite No.3 which he plays on the aforementioned four-valve flugelhorn, which “has extra range and gives more possibilities to play music originally written, for example, for the cello.”
From arranging, in recent years he has progressed to composing original work – and not only for trumpet. He’s currently working on a symphonic poem for orchestra.
It’s trumpet (accompanied by cuatro – a stringed instrument related to the guitar) however which Liverpool audiences will hear this time around.
And Flores is looking forward to his return to Hope Street.
“I had an amazing time in Liverpool,” he enthuses. “I love the hall, and I feel part of a family. I can go into the office to say hello to everybody and it’s the only orchestra where I feel that permission to do that.”
Plus of course there’s that ‘dream team’ relationship to nurture with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s new chief conductor.
“Please, write this!” he beams. “I can sign now. Wonderful!”
Listen to Pacho Flores play his Cantos y Revueltas
Liverpool’s new chief conductor was still just a guest performer when he took the baton at the Sound the Trumpet concert in January last year.
But the musical fireworks he and fellow Venezuelan Pacho Flores created on stage and the banter between the pair undoubtedly endeared him to Hope Street audiences and helped to raise his profile in the city.
Now the duo, dubbed the new ‘dream team’, are back together on the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall stage in this celebration of the music of their shared homeland.
Leo Rondón is one of the leading contemporary exponents of the cuatro – a type of stringed instrument related to the Spanish guitar and which is played in Venezuela, Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries.
As a soloist, he has created the Leo Rondón Project which allows him to interpret his compositions and arrangements and to make music with invited musicians from all around the world.
Paris-based Rondón is also the musical director of Waraira Quartet, a group created in 2015 with the aim of spreading the Venezuelan music in Europe.
Watch Leónidas Rondón play the Venezuelan cuatro.
Instrumentalist and composer Paquito D’Rivera was born in Havana in 1948 where his father played classical saxophone.
D’Rivera studied at the Havana Conservatory and later became a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning Cuban band Irakere. He defected to the US while on a tour of Spain in 1980, finding major success both performing with leading international orchestras and composing.
In addition to his award as a member of Irakere, D’Rivera has 11 Grammy Awards of his own.
His work is informed by widespread and eclectic musical interests.
D’Rivera composed his Concerto Venezolano for Trumpet and Orchestra specifically with soloist Pacho Flores in mind, and as part of a worldwide project to commission more pieces for the instrument.
Watch a performance of Concerto Venezolano for Trumpet and Orchestra.
On March 30, 1922, Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók played a recital of his own work for members of the Liverpool Centre of the British Music Society at Rushworth Hall in Islington.
One critic later recalled that “his shy and modest personality charmed everyone, just as his string and wilful music surprised us all.”
Bartók’s early works were influenced by Brahms, Liszt and Richard Strauss, while his style developed as he discovered both Debussy and the rich seam of Hungarian folk music.
An important feature of his work was the constant variation of melodic ideas, rather than their repetition.
He fled Hungary for America in 1940 and it was there in 1943 that he wrote his Concerto for Orchestra which remains one of his most popular and accessible pieces. He revised it in early 1945, just a few months before dying of leukaemia.
Watch a performance of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.