By Harold Emert, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After two years in Venezuela surviving food shortages, electricity blackout, runaway inflation, foreign bank account stoppages, and even prohibited border closings, Brazilian virtuoso flutist James Strauss, 44, recently arrived in Colombia.
Already with “saudades” or “missing” his young Venezuelan musicians, the Recife-born flutist told The Rio Times between concerts in Colombia that despite all the problems in the land of President/Dictator Nicola Maduro, he will be returning there to play music.
“I simply fell in love with the Venezuelans and the love they have for music. They are very good people.”
After concerts in Colombia, the flutist returns to Caracas for concerts with the musicians produced by the world-famous El Sistema and Simon Bolivar orchestra of whiz kids. Afterward, Strauss returns to Colombia and is off to Vienna, Austria for more recitals.
Brazilians say “Home Saints don’t make Miracles” and world-renowned Strauss is still unsure where and if he will perform in 2019 in his native country.
Using his own earnings from concerts he has performed in New York, Colombia and Ecuador to Austria, Finland, and Italy, and money from the sale of his late father’s violin, Strauss created in Caracas the Camerata Simon Bolivar.
His total investment in Caracas the Camerata was US$ 4,500, a fortune by Venezuelan economic standards. He paid each of his fifty musicians 20 to 30 dollars a month, which many confessed enabled them to eat three meals a day.
The young musicians’ salaries were supplemented with six dollars a month by the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela.
“For us, these salaries seem to be little but this payment helped the kids very much,” emphasizes James.
By the end of 2019, the Pernambuco flutist hopes to launch one result of his daily work with Camerata. Entitled “James Strauss plays (Philip) Glass,” the CD features the compositions of the 82-year-old American minimalist composer.
Glass and his ensemble have performed numerous times in Brazil. At one time the New York City composer even rented an apartment in Ipanema to compose works to add to his catalog of opuses including the opera “Einstein on the Beach” (1975) and his ballet “Uakti, the Waters of the Amazon” (1993/1999).
Strauss graduated from the Paris Conservatory studying with, among others, a frequent musical visitor to Brazil, the late and great French flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal.
Despite all the difficulties he has faced in Venezuela including being without light, water and energy for 24 hours recently, he says: “I hope to travel the world playing with these young and talented Venezuelan musicians.”
In a musical culture which produced one of the greatest Maestros today, Gustavo Dudamel (Los Angeles Philharmonic), anything and everything is possible!