The return of the prodigal son
Interview with the conductor José Molina
Antonio Gómez Sotolongo
José Antonio Molina (born in Santo Domingo, 1960) who has been performing on stages of the world with highly valued stars of the musical market made his debut as a concert pianist with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic about two decades ago and received favorable reviews from the media. Later when he chose orchestra conducting as a profession he lead this orchestra in various performances with great success, but first of all he received applause from musicians of the group. However, in his native land he had not performed with a symphony concert for fifteen years. During all these years he had neither participated in season concerts organized by this institution as a guest conductor, nor in the Musical Festival of Santo Domingo, biennial festival since 1997. Finally, on November 12, 2002, he came back to conduct at the Eduardo Brito hall the concert of the Spanish tenor José Carreras.
"What happened is that my career made a turn that I myself did not expect, Molina commented. I honestly could not be here all these years. I have many obligations abroad, and I think it is good for my country too, because while I mature as a professional in front of audiences of the world they also see the Dominicans, first of all representatives of the artistic class of this country. I think that I grow as a musician every day, and this gives me the ability to render much more when I come to conduct here, where I love to stay and to work. At one of the rehearsals I said that it was the only orchestra of the world where I knew all musicians by first and last name. In this orchestra I was born as a conductor twenty years ago. So he program of the first performance was composed of the Pathetic Symphony by Tchaikovsky, "La Gazza ladra" (thief magpie) by Rossini and the Spanish Symphony by Lalo with Caonex Peguero as a soloist. Conducting this orchestra gives me much emotion, but I have contracts for 2004, 2006 at various stages of the world, I move in an ambience where everything is planned well in advance, this is why I could not perform here as often as I wanted.
Beside señor Molina's successful career in the popular music, his work as a composer and interpreter of academic music became his permanent companion. He says: "Last year I received great satisfaction from my concert music. I performed a program of Dominican symphony works at the great hall of the Kennedy Center with the Washington Symphony Orchestra. I conducted Tres imágenes folklóricas by my father (Ramón Antonio 'Papa' Molina), Fantasía criolla by Bienvenido Bustamante, A la caída de la tarde by José Dolores Cerón and my own two works: La Obertura Yaya and la Fantasía Merengue - works that are horse-powers (?) in my catalogue already known here in Santo Domingo - and received magnificent comments from the Washington Post. Also, Leonard Slatkin who is today one of the most important North American conductors conducted my Obertura Yaya."
"All this inspires me to continue with composition. Now I write mostly chamber music, short pieces for string quartettes and other small groups using Latin-American but first of all Dominican themes. The programs of different halls of the world need short, exciting and diverse pieces, with a unique sound, and I think our Caribbean music will always be important and will always occupy a fitting place there. Also, I am working at a piano concert and a cantata, and of course I participate in many recordings every day. To name a few: I recorded a disc with Christmas music for Sony with Jhon Secada; this work was one of the most important for me in the field of sound recording and was highly rated by New York Times last December I am always very busy writing music."
With this concert in Santo Domingo together with José Carreras maestro Molina seemed to have an opportunity to show some of his works, but none of them was in the program.
"I know how much people love me in my country," Molina says, "and how kindly the orchestra is, but tonight maestro Carreras was the protagonist. He was generous enough to let me do four pieces with the orchestra alone, but none of my own works suited the program. Tonight maestro Carreras sang Pascuale Costa's Era de Maggio, Pregaria by Fermín Álvarez, Il Poveretto and L'Esule by Verdi, the aria 'Lamento de Federico' from the opera L'Arlesiana by Cilea, Tosti's A Vucchella, Gastaldon's Musica Proibita, Falvo's Guapparia, Rendine's Vurria, Granados' Andaluza and Sorozábal's No puede ser. I did overtures from operas La forza del destino by Verdi and Candide by Berstein, and intermezzo from Cavalleria by Mascagni and 'Bacchanale' from the opera Sansón y Dalila by Saint Saëns. These works harmonize with each other, and I did not want to upset the balance with my own compositions."
During the evening of November 12 one thing was striking: maestro Molina's movements in front of the orchestra, wide of the academic style that he did not follow from the first years of his conductor's career. Open hands, extended arms and wide movements of the torso would surely irritate the purists. But José Antonio believes that "the more one develops as an artist the less important is the technique when the orchestra responds you have the right one. I am immersed in music, and I do what it tells me to do. My gestures are a sequel of my musical will. I may be inspired to make a free gesture or want to lower both hands that the orchestra plays alone, because the music needs it this is how it works. I believe it is a result of artistic development. I thought formerly that if your movements are not exact everything is bad. Now I am in a different dimension: I want to conduct the music and not make musicians play together."
"Yes, I want to conduct (here) as often as possible! Of course! I would always be grateful. As I already said, I would like to compose a special program, but it is a pleasure. Every time I perform in whatever country of the world I am happy that my compatriots participate in my triumphs. When I conducted the concert of Parvarotti and friends (with Bocelli, Sting and many other stars) this year, the Dominican press witnessed this event. I participated in this performance for the sixth time, but this one was special because the press of my country was there and my compatriots were able to enjoy the concert and feel that I not only work to make myself famous, but represent my country, the land I am very proud to come from."
"The fact that during the last months I conducted for Andrea Bocelli, Pavarotti and José Carreras, three of the world's most important tenors, is not only my own achievement, it belongs to the youth of my country too. He, who once dreamed great, dreamed of impossible things, should believe that he is able to achieve them through his work. I want my achievements to become an incentive for the Dominican youth that they think if José Molina could do it they also can. Twenty years ago I did not dream of conducting for José Carreras, all the more in my own country. God brought me here, and I think it was a combination of His generosity, much work and my strong desire to do it. There are children who want to study music because I did it; there are many Dominicans who also can do it. In conclusion I would like to emphasize that any invitation to work in my country is very special for me, and if we coordinate everything on time it will be a priority. I wish I could return soon."
the concert of José Carreras the Eduardo Brito hall was packed; the public
applauded the star, one of the greatest tenors of the 20th
century. About thousand people standing on their feet paid homage to artistic
merits, past triumphs of the artist and made him to present five more
songs: Core 'ngrato, by Cardillo, Vierno by Acampora, Aranjuez
con tu amor to the theme from Rodrigo, Granada by Agustín Lara,
and Torna Surriento by Curtis. About thousand people on their feet
applauded the energetic José Molina who worked with vigor and confidence,
and the orchestra of which it was the greatest work in the current year.
translation © Maria Kozlova
regreso del hijo pródigo. Entrevista con el director José Molina
lo que sucede -comenta Molina-, es que mi carrera tomó un rumbo que yo
mismo no esperaba, y sencillamente no he podido estar aquí durante todos
esos años. Mis compromisos en el exterior son muchos, y creo que eso también
es bueno para mi país, porque en la medida en que yo crezca profesionalmente
ante los públicos del mundo así verán en el mundo a los dominicanos y
sobre todo a la clase artística de este país. Yo creo que como músico
estoy ascendiendo cada día y eso me pone en capacidad de rendir mucho
más cuando venga a dirigir aquí, donde me encanta estar y trabajar. En
uno de los ensayos comentaba que esta es la única orquesta del mundo en
la que yo puedo llamar a casi todos los profesores por sus nombres y apellidos.
Esta es la orquesta que me vio nacer como director hace quince años. Entonces,
debuté con un programa que estuvo integrado por la Sinfonía Patética
de Chaicovsqui; La urraca ladrona de Rossini; y la Sinfonía
Española de Lalo, con Caonex Peguero como solista. Por esto convergen
en mí muchas emociones cuando me paro delante de esta orquesta; pero,
yo tengo pautados conciertos para el 2004, 2006, en diferentes escenarios
internacionales o sea, que me estoy moviendo en un ámbito en el que todo
se programa con mucha anticipación, y es por eso que no he podido conciliar
fechas aquí con la frecuencia que yo hubiera querido.
el relumbrón que adquirió la carrera del señor Molina en la música popular,
aparentemente su labor como compositor e intérprete de música culta o
académica quedó velada, por eso apunta al respecto: 'El año pasado tuve
grandes satisfacciones con mi música de concierto. Hice un programa integrado
por obras sinfónicas dominicanas en la sala principal del Kennedy Center,
con la Washington Symphony Orchestra y allí dirigí Tres imágenes folklóricas,
de mi padre (Ramón Antonio 'Papa' Molina); Fantasía criolla, de
Bienvenido Bustamante; A la caída de la tarde, de José Dolores
Cerón; y dos obras mías: La Obertura Yaya, y la Fantasía Merengue
-obras que en mi catálogo son caballos de fuerza y que ya se conocen aquí
en Santo Domingo-, y tuve una crítica del Washington Post magnífica. Por
otro lado, Leonard Slatkin, quien es en la actualidad uno de los directores
norteamericanos más importantes, me dirigió la Obertura Yaya."