Conductor: Josep Pons
Reviewer: Sam Chipman
When you think of quintessentially Spanish music, the immediate thought is that of classical guitars and castanets: while the Flamenco is a proud cultural treasure there is a lot more to Spanish music than just festivals and dances, as this concert perfectly demonstrates. Falla himself said that ‘melancholy and mystery also have their part’ in Spanish music. Regarded as a culture full of passion and flair, the music on offer certainly reflects this.
Conductor, Josep Pons is himself a Spaniard. His understanding of the culture shines through in his tactfully sharp control of the CBSO, allowing a truly authentic Spanish feel to come through in the playing.
Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole opens the program, a piece showing Ravel’s passion for Spanish music inherited from his mother. A grand scale Orchestra play with great rise and fall under the leadership of conductor Pons, with a very expressive woodwind section adding much to the texture. A suitably poetic atmosphere is created in Prelude a la nuit and the lively Espana is full of life and vigour.
Ravel’s Bolero is a piece recognised in many a British household; largely down to the fact that Torvill and Dean’s gold medal winning performance at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics included a routine to the piece. Ravel, at the time of writing Bolero could not have known how bigger success the one-theme piece would be, but his clever orchestration gives it fire where the lack of melodic development leaves a gap. It has a rather hypnotic feel and proves a fitting finale to the concert with its rowdy, brash ending.
Many will not be as familiar with Manuel De Falla’s work as with that of Ravel. The Love, the Magician suite originated as a Flamenco ballet, and tells the story of a gypsy girl who is haunted by the memory of her dead lover. The songs are powerfully performed by Maria Toledo, described as ‘the Diana Krall of Flamenco’. Her abrasive tones map that of traditional Flamenco singers and her attack of the text adds to the uniqueness of the performance. A smaller orchestra play magnificently in this piece, creating a more intimate chamber feel.
Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain is played rather majestically by Pons and his orchestra. Its evocative nature shines through as Pons dictates precisely what he requires from his instrumentalists. Again the woodwind section feature heavily, helping to achieve the feel of the Granada garden which was the inspiration for the work. Javier Perianes piano playing is artistry to the highest degree, the apparent ease with which he tickles the keys is a sight to see as well as to hear.
An exciting, cultural evening that proves a success with the audience. Lyrical, fiery and bold: this concert is a welcome addition to the CBSO season.
Reviewed on 22nd January 2014