On July 22, 2001, Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestra were scheduled to give a free outdoor concert beginning at 6:00 p.m. in Harrison Park in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. However, shortly after 5:00, strong wind gusts and torrential rain left the musicians waiting out the storm in the nearby Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum,* which had co-sponsored the daylong Plazas de México arts festival.
According to Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times, “At 6:10 p.m., as the wind subsided and the rain began to let up, Henry Fogel, the CSO’s rain-soaked president, announced that he was ‘willing to give it a try.’ The hardy audience members, many of them crowded under the museum’s sheltering eaves, began returning to the park, with their folding chairs, soggy blankets, and children in tow.”
Following a quick cleanup of the stage, Barenboim greeted the nearly 2,000-member audience and began the concert, barely an hour after it was scheduled to begin. He led the Orchestra in works by Latin American composers, including Carlos Gardel, José Pablo Mancayo, Mariano Mores, Astor Piazzolla, Silvestre Revueltas, Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, and Horacio Salgán (due to the delayed start, Ravel’s Boléro was omitted from the program).
The Orchestra’s music director “lived in Buenos Aires for the first decade of his life, and the infectious, syncopated rhythms and folk-inspired melodies of Latin music, especially the tango, are in his blood,” continued Delacoma. “Between pieces Sunday, Barenboim chatted easily with the audience in Spanish. This was not a program conjured out of nowhere simply to raise the CSO’s profile in Chicago’s Latin community. . . . The CSO wants residents of Pilsen—and every other Chicago neighborhood—to know that classical music isn’t the exclusive property of people who can afford the most expensive seats in Symphony Center. That message came through loud and clear Sunday.”
*The museum changed its name to the National Museum of Mexican Art in December 2006.
This article also appears here.