Finally this hour, a new piece of classical music with a twist. "Rumba Sinfonica" is written for symphony orchestra and Latin pop band. It got its world premiere last year when the group Tiempo Libre took the stage with the Minnesota Orchestra. There are several performances with other orchestras planned for this year.

From Minneapolis, Gail Wein reports.

GAIL WEIN: Ricardo Lorenz is a Venezuelan-born composer who teaches at the University of Michigan. His works have included a concerto for maracas, miniatures for flute and ghetto blaster. And this piece for solo piano called "Bachango."

(Soundbite of piano piece "Bachango")

WEIN: He often raises his music with traditional Latin America sounds, but Lorenz doesn't write what anyone would describe as pop music.

Tiempo Libre is a tight seven-piece Cuban timba band.

(Soundbite of music)

TIEMPO LIBRE: (Singing in foreign language).

MASTERS: The two approaches come together in "Rumba Sinfonica," a 25-minute long piece that Lorenz describes as a musical travelogue through Latin rhythms. Lorenz says that when he met Tiempo Libre band leader Jorge Gomez. He knew he had found a perfect partner to bring classical and Latin music into one piece.

Mr. RICARDO LORENZ (Composer): I've always been interested in hybrids. I mean, that's where I feel most comfortable. I don't like pure forms in music. It just don't - somehow, they don't much to me. But hybrid forms just drive me crazy.

MASTERS: Lorenz first heard Tiempo Libre a couple of years ago at Indiana University. They are Cuban American musicians based in Miami, and they all went through rigorous classical training at the conservatory in Havana. He was impressed by the arrangements and writing of Jorge Gomez.

(Soundbite of music)

TIEMPO LIBRE: (Singing in foreign language).

Mr. LORENZ: When I heard his so-called montunos, those very intricate piano mechanisms that you hear even in salsa music, I thought, you know, this montuno sound like coming on to me. You know, the typical montumo will be - ga, ga, ge, go, ge, ge, ga, go, go, ge, ga, ga. How would you transform to that?

Mr. JORGE GOMEZ (Band Leader, Tiempo Libre): (Singing in foreign language).

(Soundbite of laughter)

MASTERS: Richard Lorenz and Jorge Gomez worked together over the course of a year in marathon brainstorming sessions, using electronic keyboards to play the parts of both of the orchestra and the band. Composer Richard Lorenz.

Mr. LORENZ: We had three sessions in Miami, three phenomenal sessions we had at his house in his wonderful apartment overlooking the beach. And we worked for 12 hours at a time. And I saw every single idea I would bring being transformed in real time to fit the style and needs of Tiempo Libre.

WEIN: Not only did the two composers have to be on the same page musically, but the performers had to match as well. You can't just put an amplified Latin band in front of an 80-piece orchestra and hope for the best.

Mr. LORENZ: It's almost like mixing chemicals and you need to know how many, you know, how many woodwinds to use in order to balance out an electric bass and how many strings to balance out on electric bass.

WEIN: And when it all came together, the Minnesota Orchestra found itself swinging. Sarah Hatsuko Hicks was the conductor for the concert. One of her challenges was to get the players to loosen up.

Ms. SARAH HATSUKO HICKS (Conductor, Minnesota Orchestra): I kind of danced on the podium, and I jumped up and down and I swing and I swayed, and they sort of relaxed into the rhythm that I'm trying to show them. It eventually got into this great group.

(Soundbite of music)

WEIN: The musicians in the orchestra not only responded to Hicks conducting, they picked up on the stage presence and attitude of the guest artist. Manny Laureano, principal trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra, says that watching Tiempo Libre at rehearsal gave him and his colleagues a different perspective on performing the music.

Mr. MANNY LAUREANO (Principal Trumpet, Minnesota Orchestra): It was wonderful to see how incredibly relaxed they were about everything that they did. Okay, there's energy, but they're not forcing anything.

WEIN: And that's due in part, says band leader Jorge Gomez, to a classical background of the members of Tiempo Libre.

Mr. GOMEZ: To play timba, you need that technique, to play timba and to play jazz. If you understand the classic music, you understand whatever music you want to play.

WEIN: Besides Minnesota, there will performances this season with the other groups that commissioned "Rumba Sinfonica." The Ravinia Festival, Festival of the Arts in Boca Raton and the Detroit Symphony. Tiempo Libre has at least three more performances scheduled this spring across North America.

For NPR News, I'm Gail Wein.

(Soundbite of applause)

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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