By Stephen Vargha
The Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuenca (Cuenca Symphony Orchestra) has an ambitious schedule for the remainder of the year, and they want everyone to know what is new for all to enjoy. Their concerts have something for people with all sorts of tastes.
The orchestra has been performing only online for eight months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, rebroadcasting some of their best concerts on their YouTube channel. Their newest performances are being performed and recorded at Teatro Pumapungo where the acoustics are perfect for their online concerts.
With a schedule full of new performances for the rest of the year, Maestro Michael Meissner wants the community to celebrate what is ahead.
“We want to project the beauty and spirit of life… the best parts of humanity,” Meissner stated.
The maestro of the Cuenca symphony for over four years added, “The orchestra is light; it is the future.”
It is why the orchestra has been enthusiastically rehearsing at their facility, which is the old Borja School. Located next to Museo Pumapungo, the property used to be an all-boys school founded by the Society of Jesus in 1937. That school property was donated by the widow of Rafael Borja. Some musicians are in rooms rehearsing while others are outside to take advantage of the weather and ambiance.
With a great and optimistic attitude, Meissner says the orchestra will be performing a special concert that will air online on Monday, November 2 at 8 p.m.
“We will have the World Premiere of a composition by Jorge Oviedo. He has dedicated his new Requiem 2020 to the victims of Covid in Ecuador,” Meissner announced. “It will be a beautiful concert to honor those who have died from this disease during the last months.”
The maestro says the orchestra is honored to be performing the work as he considers Oviedo to be Ecuador’s leading classical composer. A native of Quito, Oviedo currently directs the Quito Ensamble 6, which was created with the objective of providing opportunities for the dissemination of traditional and contemporary Ecuadorean music. The 46-year-old has been the recipient of many awards and honors.
Right now, the symphony is focusing its energies on Cuenca’s 200th anniversary of independence celebration. “We want to contribute to the celebration of the 200th anniversary,” Meissner declared.
Every year, on November 3, Cuenca remembers its Independence Day from the Spanish monarchy. The whole country joins in on the celebration, which is why the day is a national holiday.
Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuenca was found 48 years ago. Since then, it has become one of the most important musical groups in the country. Its first conductor, the Spanish maestro José Castellví Queralt, placed great emphasis on the wide and consequently democratic diffusion of the concerts.
Miguel Jiménez Cueva, with academic training in the U.S. and Europe, was the Orchestra’s conductor for ten years. He incorporated technical innovations in conducting, and especially the presence of new repertoires.
Maestro Medardo Caisabanda trained in France, Russia and Israel. He was the Principal Conductor for six years, raising the technical-musical level with special attention to chamber music.
In May 2016, Hamburg, Germany-born Meissner participated in an international competition for chief conductor of the orchestra. He won the position and assumed his duties three months later.
Under Meissner’s direction, the orchestra performs regularly at numerous venues, including the Old Cathedral, Teatro Pumapungo, and at Universidad de Cuenca’s Teatro Carlos Cueva Tamariz. To the delight of thousands, there generally is no admission charge for these performances. Between those concerts, the orchestra has recorded four CDs.
Meissner sees more greatness ahead for the symphony and for the city. “The orchestra is the light, the future. Humanity has to come back,” the maestro exclaimed.
And many in Cuenca wholeheartedly agree.