The Canary Islands are for many people the place to go for sun, sand, sea; and sleepy siestas after long lunches. But the Gran Canaria Island has a special cultural fame through its orchestra, which performs in the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium, named after the renowned Spanish tenor, who although of Austrian descent was actually born in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. (Kraus had an exceptional lyrical voice that made it possible for him still to be singing in his 70’s).
The orchestra was founded in 1845 and may have had an uneven history as it struggled to survive, but in more recent years it has gained in reputation, has toured in other countries including China, as well as performing extensively in Spain. They appear in Madrid and Barcelona and have been designated as one of the ‘Great World Orchestras’. The International Festival of Music in the Euroresidentes’ home city of Alicante, held in July and August, has welcomed the orchestra as part of their annual programme, and so has the Alicante Contemporary Music Festival held in late September.
The orchestra contributes to a very lively musical scene in the islands. I see that also during this and next month the Hague Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras are in residence in the Canary Islands, and the Gran Canaria Orchestra itself is presenting a concert performance of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ in Las Palmas on February 15th.
The English conductor Adrian Lepper is closely associated with the orchestra. He was its Director of Music for some years, but is still one of their favoured conductors. Together they have made several discs for the redoubtable Naxos label. They include recordings of symphonies by Sibelius, Mahler and Dvorák, and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, as well as a Spanish repertoire CD of music by Rodrigo and Turina and interestingly Walton’s Symphony No.
1 (music which is about as ‘un-Spanish’ as you can get!) But he and the orchestra have also recorded a series of three discs for ASV which covers an extensive range of the contemporary Spanish repertoire, including music by Halffter and Montsalvatge.
The Orchestra seems to lack an up to date website and its distinction as a long-standing ensemble in an area known only for relaxation and pleasure by most holiday-makers, deserves one. Certainly if I was to go on holiday there I would first find out whether they were performing!