"Peregrinos" is Spanish for "pilgrims." Gabriela Lena Frank is a 39-year-old American composer with a Peruvian-Chinese heritage, a strong bent for Latin American music and a two-year Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residency. These "wanderers" and this composer conjoined in a brand new work, debuted during last weekend's three-concert ISO program. Frank's Peregrinos
, cast in five movements, was, in many ways, the highlight of the evening. Starting and ending with a movement called "Green Trees," we heard orchestral colors novel even in present-day music: e.g., the violas and cellos strummed and held like guitars, string centered instrumentation absent the brassy textures of trombones and tuba and the demure presence of harp, xylophone and marimba. I found its overall mood sad, yet beguiling. Peregrinos
certainly offered more than Bernstein's ensuing "Symphonic Dances" from his West Side Story
. A study dominated by scintillating percussion without much real music, all of "Lennie's" perorations were sparked by Kazem Abdullah -- our 29-year-old guest conductor (born in Indy's own Wishard Hospital!) -- the orchestra even sharing a souped up "Maria," Bernstein's only American-pop standard. Abdullah began with Aaron Copland's "Party Scene" and Finale from his opera The Tender Land
(1955), a well-played study in the composer's view of homespun Americana. Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero finished the program with what the large audience came to hear: Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue
(1924). Aside from overpedaling her fast passages, Montero poured lots of jive and nuance into her account -- not to mention certain orchestral soloists.