CONCERTS IN CAVES AND CONVENTS
36th Festival International Classic Music Canarias
BEETHOVEN AT EASE, MUSICIANS AT PLAY
Cuarteto de Cuerdo Ornati
Inglesia de San Roque, Tinajo, January 11th 2020
As genuine lovers of chamber music and as a String Quartet, Cuarteto de Cuerda Ornati find themselves in the best space to express that love and to share that music with new and traditional audiences of the genre.
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that in addition to delving into the works of the great masters of history, they constantly build and re-shape a repertoire that takes sidetracks and detours even into contemporary music. They have done so with sufficient aplomb to have enough recorded numerous works that will surely become great classics in the future.
The quartet members have studied in various places with renowned teachers and have had the opportunity to perform in all kinds of concert halls.
Their story, though, is simple. Four orchestral partners gathered back in 2003 to make music and have continued to share good moments both on stage and in the rehearsal room. The passage of time has widened their understanding of, and facility with, chamber music and increased their desire to share it with as many people as possible. Sharing is a word that appears frequently in the quartet´s vocabulary and they do mean sharing in the fullest sense of the word; not only with their own audiences but also with the numerous collaborations of musicians and friends that enrich the quartet, in classical and not so classic style; such as mezzo Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Michael Gieler (viola), Klaidi Sahatci (violin), José Luis Castillo (piano) or bandoneonists Santiago Cimadevilla and Rodolfo Mederos.
Cuarteto de Cuerda Ornati are all members of thePhilharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria (OFGC). They each of them love to teach and do so in the academy of OFGC, being teachers both on their own instruments and of chamber music in general.
They are also regular collaborators of the International Bach Festival, of which CCO violist, Adriana Ilieva, is a founding member.
With such credentials we had a feeling that the CCO might prove to be a big draw, given that this concert was, incredibly, to be another free until full event, held in the beautiful church in Tinajo. So, although the venue is pretty huge, with plenty of seating, we figured that if we wanted any kind of a preferred view rather than one from a pew behind a pillar we should try to get there early. That the commencement of the concert was scheduled for 8.30pm meant we needed to be ready to form an orderly queue outside the church by around 7.45pm, and that in itself meant a little bit of logistical planning, as we would be travelling from Playa Blanca, around a thirty minute drive, and would want, in fact need, to eat before the concert. This would be slightly problematic as there are not too many restaurants in the town, so we would need to drive to dine in La Santa a few miles away.
The Mezza Luna is a lovely restaurant on the side of the road on the downhill road from Tinajo . It looked inviting in the dark, was lovely and cosy inside and benefitted further from the happy, smiley people who form its young staff. We all (Dee and I had friends Margaret and Iain with us) each ordered a different dish off an interesting menu, and my four cheeses and pear on a bed of rice was absolutely delicious and the brownies and ice cream for pudding were pretty good too. We killed a couple of hours there, with lazy coffees whilst laughing and joking with the staff, with around another twenty covers already in by the time we left at 7.45 pm to arrive back at the church, where we found parking already at something of a free premium.
We were not surprised, then, to find several fans already standing outside the church, including our friends, Christine, Dena and Michael who had recently enjoyed taken part in a successful series of carol concerts with Voices, raising more than 2,000 euros for Calor y Café charity. We were pretty amazed, though, to find the church doors open, and a couple of hundred people already inside, as a mass was just coming to a conclusion.
It then became obvious that many of those inside had sat through the mass in order to reserve seats for the concert to follow, so we didn´t quite win our usual front row seats.
By the time the CCO came out to play there was standing room only left in the venue, and nearly all of that was already filled with throngs of people lining the perimeters of the ornate church. What the venue adds to the occasion with its wonderful acoustics it almost subtracts with its lack of a raised platform, making ´watching´ the concert almost impossible from most seated areas. The music that ensued, though, was so exquisite as to render that almost irrelevant.
Beethoven´s Quarteto number 4 en Do menor, Opus 18 number 4 filled the opening ´half´ of the concert, which Quarteto de Cuerda Ornati opened emphatically by offering a playful, skittish delivery of the allegro ma non tanto over a more restrained cello. A short violin solo opened the Andante sherzoso quasi allegretto, before the other instruments began swooping below and soaring above each other in a delightful dance, again with a strong cello presence, and the Minuet, Allegreto was mature and full bodied yet refined and restrained and wonderfully delivered. The Allegro pestissimo set off at a gallop and continued with each instrument overtaking the others in short sprints to the finish in an exhilarating fashion. This first part of the concert was concluded with the members of the CCO speaking to the audience about its closing Fragmentos del period intermedia, with their wonderful sense of distance and longing.
During the interval we took the chance to speak with Dee´s yoga ´professor´ who told us about a classical concert that she had seen in Haria on New Year´s Day. She was surprised when we then told her about the forthcoming Haria Guitar Festival scheduled for 23rd to 26th January, as she had not heard or seen any publicity for it, despite the fact that she lives in Haria !
When we told her that we hadn´t heard anything about the New Year performance she had described we realised that whether Spanish, indigenous Lanzaroteno, Italian, German, French or a new resident or tourist from any other country, our arts publicity on the island seems very parochial.
What happens in Haria stays in Haria and what is performed in Playa Blanca also seems to remain private.
We all resolved, Iain and Margaret, yoga lady and Dean and Christine that whatever our different nationalities we all need to communicate to each other what we have learned in the shops and from the Agenda Cultural monthly leaflets distributed around the island, or from Migeul´s announcements of what´s on at his on line Lanzarote information, or any news I might have published in my Sidetracks and Detours blog or what the choirs are hearing of what other choirs are doing. Dee and I are fortunate enough to see two or three events a week but we always learn, retrospectively of two or three a week we have missed, so as I was always told when I was working in sales teams, let´s network, network, network !!!
The time for talking was over though, for now the CCO were returning to the floor to perform Beethoven´s Cuarteto number 13 en Si bernol mayor opus 130.
The adagio ma non trappo and Allegro was noteworthy for its portentous opening and yearning cello, with the Presto being all of a chase as the instruments raced after one another, fluently, without ever stumbling. The Andante con mato, ma non trappo, Poco scherzosa enjoyed sweeping violin and creeping cello and the Alla danza Tedesco and Allegro assai had the instruments building lovely melodies that all four of us found the most enjoyable of the evening. Similarly the Cavatina and Adagio molto espressivo was full of romantic motives, dancing on a solid floor laid by the cello. The Grofse fuge overture, played allegro and fugo, I can only describe in terms coined by one of favourite folk artists, the late Kate Wolf, in her song Dancing Down These Muddy Roads. She described herself ´dancing down these muddy roads, soft sand beneath my toes, shirt in hand and singing out in crazy rhyme.´ Sorry if that isn´t classical enough for the musical connoisseurs amongst our readers, but that is precisely how the piece made me feel.
In fact, I was thinking to myself that this evening had introduced me to a quite different Beethoven to the one I thought I knew, and somehow his usual bombast and drama had been replaced by a joyous mischief.
The closing piece, or Finale allegro, was, though, very different. The music, rather than the playing of it, sounded to me almost experimental compared to the exquisitely wrapped parcels we had listened to throughout the show. It was more demanding than the ´sit back and enjoy´ attitude of earlier but the genius of so many great classical composers is how they created music that could delight and distract, please and perplex all at the same time.
The applause and cries for more revealed that the first Lanzarote concert of this year´s 36th Festival Of Internacional de Musica de Canarias (FIMC) had been rapturously received by an audience even larger than its venue.
Cueva de Los Verdes Saturday 18 January 2020
The second concert of the 36th Festival International Classic Music Canarias to be held here promised us a doe Internationally acclaimed for its exquisite musicality and sensibility. Duo Cassadó captivates both audiences and critics thanks to its originality and charisma.´An exclusive Warner Classics artist, Duo Cassadó has performed in prestigious auditoriums around the world in Israel, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Morocco, Tunisia, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Egypt, Jordan, China, South Korea and Japan.
The duo´s album ´Rapsodia del Sur´ received the support of the BBVA Foundation and has been chosen among the best albums of the year and was awarded the Melómano de Oro, and the Duo Cassado cellist, Damian Martínez, is considered one of the best cellists of his generation, acknowledged as such and publicly supported by Mstislav Rostropovich.
The skill and subtlety of the Dúo Cassadó is such that are also recommended, by Alicia de Larrocha, as the brightest duo representing Spanish chamber music.
On the Warner Classics record label Duo Cassado recently recorded “RED”, a work that unites Spanish and Russian culture and includes the first worldwide recording of “Fantasía Española” written by Ernesto Halffter.
There are, surely, Glastonbury-goers who reject the Festival´s new ´glamping´ facilities and prefer instead to wallow, down in the hollow, in all of that glorious mud. How many of them, though, would have been prepared to follow sherpas with torches, down steep, winding, low ceilinged paths into the apparent under-belly of the volcano field that is Timanfaya. This venue, at Cuevas de Los Verdes (named after the colour of the water in the ground level lagoon) is surely unique, and the trek was made worthwhile by the pretty, little stage illuminated by hidden, subdued lighting set in the nooks and crannies and crevasses of the rock walls. With a piano and two stools laid out on it and about three hundred people, (most of whom had overtaken we slow coaches en route) sitting around it on comfortable seating, it all looked ghostly, spiritual, ethereal and cathedral-like. We somehow found three seats together on the front row, (our pal Margaret, she with the bad back, had broken her own personal best in the sprint to the finish) and had only just settled into position when the two musicians who are Due Cassado came down the aisle behind us to take to the stage.
Dressed in an elegant, delicate green dress (when common sense might have dictated trackie bottoms and a fluffy, fleece jacket) Marta Moll de Alba placed herself at her piano whilst Damien Martinez sat slightly to the fore with his violoncello, and a music stand in front of him.
The programme notes, whilst always welcome, left me not much wiser about what to expect. I apologise to our readers for not being familiar with the names of the composers G. Cassado (1897 – 1966), though that his surname is incorporated into the duo´s stage name was surely significant, or E. Halffter (1905 to 1989), or M. De Falla (1876 – 1946) who was being celebrated by six short pieces, and nor did I know the name of A. Piazzolla, composer of what was listed as the likely final piece. Whether or not I was in for shocks or surprises I was uncertain.
The concert would be a magnificent triumph that almost magically matched and complemented its setting. There was a gloriously, polished-to-gleaming, constant background sound, reminding us of the naturally honed walls down here, but there were, too, some sharp edges that further reminded us that this honing and re-shaping is a constant geological (and musical) evolution. Occasionally, in some works, the music seemed to be struggling to make its way to the light at the end of a tunnel, in much the way as had we the audience on our way here to listen to it.
As we listened, however, shadows played on the cave walls. of Marta´s hands, often crossed over, as she created a sometimes solid floor for the cello and at others seemed to dance away from it some careless rapture.
It sometimes sounded like each instrument was seeking to make its own voice and style heard against the other. That could have led to an audience feeling a little insecure but the truth is this was a result of, and perhaps the purpose of, a composer and in fact each musician was perfectly in control of the music and their instrument and were enjoying the rigour of the ride.
There were beautiful, hummable motifs that, had they been in the popular genre rather than the classical, would have passed ´the old grey whistle test´ with flying colours.
Damian allowed his instrument some licence in its search for safety and beauty, and although it bumped its head along the way sometimes, he constantly brought it to soaring melodies that seemed to reach up to the natural ´chimney´ holes in the cave ceiling, and fly out into what we learned on exit was the most amazingly starry night. This was all delivered to an audience delighted by the risk-taking and security the musicians brought to their work.
They were brought back to the stage for two encores by an audience that had listened in awe to the sounds they had made. Their encores were, perhaps, slightly more recognisable pieces, less risky ventures than what we had previously heard. All of it, though, concert and encores, had been crowd-pleasing and played to perfection in a fine example of the ethos of the Festival Internacional De Musica De Canarias. It seems the organisers commit to musical exploration and explanation and encourage the artists to fully express themselves.
As we made our way back up to Mother Earth, the beauty of this vast underground labyrinth became even more noticeable and as we rounded a corner at the top of a flight of deep, stone steps, we found ourselves in an incredible cathedral of almost whitewashed rock, gently and discretely lit and as awe-inspiring and as spiritual as any man-made place of worship.
I was once invited to take part in a radio debate about whether or not poetry is enhanced by music, but there is surely another debate to be had, too, about whether or not music is enhanced by its setting, or whether the setting, no matter how incredible, is enhanced by the music played therein.
Answers on a postcard please.
…. TO THE CONVENT
36th Festival Internacional de Musica de Canarias
Cora De Camara Ainur; review
Ensemble de la O. Sinfonica de L.P; review
Convento de Santo Domingo January 2020
The AINUR Chamber Choir resumed its activities with great momentum in 2006. Initially only a group of nine at its conception the Coro has gradually increased its members to around thirty, that allows, within the capacities of a chamber group, the Coro to address demanding repertoires. The group’s own idiosyncrasies makes addressing new challenges, and revisiting scores of great complexity, a motivation in itself to face ever more daunting challenges.
Several successes obtained in national competitions culminated in the national Grand Prix of Choral Singing in 2012 and in 2018. The evaluations of the different juries have as a common denominator the elegance with which Ainur approach different styles, musicality and vocal tones. This recognized quality is endorsed by invitations to participate in the most prestigious festivals and competitions such as the International Festival of Canary Music or the Festival of Religious Music of this same community.
The repertoire usually stands out for the variety and innovation, as it is common to incorporate pieces of recent compositions by the most prestigious composers of the choral world, as well as to give special attention to the new works of emerging musical authors from the Canary Islands.
The choir’s career to date could not be more glittering, obtaining first prizes in the contests of “Antonio José” in Burgos, “Fira de Tots Sants” in Alicante, the second golden lira of the contest of San Vicente de la Barquera in the special edition of winners for its fiftieth anniversary, and the National Grand Prix of Choral Singing won in 2018 in Burgos, complemented by the “Antonio José” award.
The activity of the choir is not limited to the interpretation of choral music but goes further in the dissemination of this type of music, promoting a composition contest of a biennial nature, currently in force, with several awards and the boost to the Canarian Week of Cor Music in which it participates.
The Ainur Chamber Choir has counted on the collaboration of guest conductors to face different programs, including. Elías Rodríguez, Angel Camacho, Emilio Tabraue and Laura González Machín and Eligio Quinteiro.
So, our trek all across the arts this week would end with us following signposts and signals that would lead us back to the third event of five on Lanzarote of the 36th Festival Internacional de musica de Canarias. This time we found ourselves at their camp at Convento de Santo Domingo in Teguise.
We had arrived in the former capital of the island in time to have a meal before the concert, though we realised we might have to be at the venue quite early to secure seats at another free to full event.
We fine-dined in The Palmera, a bar and music venue at the other side of the town. This strange, slightly bohemian, beatnik, bluesy music kind of venue is staffed by smiley people and the food deserves my description of fine-dining. Omelette and cheese baguette might not sound to be so, but it would take several offerings from a five star chef to tempt me to part with this dish here. The cheesecake and cream is really special, too, and they know how to serve their beer and wine. The three of us, me, my wife Dee and our friend Magrait Margaret, were sitting back replete and relaxed when Dee suddenly alarmed us to the time to be going that it had become. We drove back the half mile across town so that we could park close to the venue, but when we arrived in the dark, we could nevertheless make out the silhouette of a very long but orderly queue around the walls of the building. By the time I had parked up and joined said queue I was already afraid we might be too far at the back to gain entry.
Then, to our delight, a member of the staff from the Department of Culture at the Cabildo was walking down the queue giving everyone an admission pass. Surely he wouldn´t reach us, I feared, but he did and we became three of the last few to of the three hundred and fifty people who managed to see what would be the third wonderful concert in this festival.
They Cora was conducted tonight by Mariola Rodriguez, and in their first half of ac appella music, they gave a sparkling performance. They have an expansive and beautiful tonal range and the thirty or so members are capable of making all sorts of music, with their first number sounding somewhat of Gregorian Chant in its delivery. Their second delivery captured their ability to create high and low between male and female voices, with the latter soaring to wonderful heights. The next in their repertoire again proved to be both gentle and powerful within the same song and their fourth song gloriously highlighted harmonies within he female vocal work. The male section of the Cora De Camera Ainur excelled in the choir´s next offering, and indeed in their penultimate offering, when they provided a powerful opening for what became a female only piece. They closed their set with a full ensemble sound of enormous might and majesty.
Within a couple of minutes they had reassembled at the back of the stage to collaborate with photo 4 Ensemble de La O. Sinfonica de L.P., a group of musicians from The Las Palmas Symphony Orchestra. Their recital of Faure´s wonderful Requiem, would remain faithful to an 1893 version with its celestial ending.
This chamber music arrangement included a huge harp, violins, violoncello and bass instruments, and would also introduce us to the marvellous voices of soprano Tania Lorenzo and Baritono Fernando Camper. All this was directed Jose Brito Lopez.
Their first number, of Fauve´s set, was gentle and extremely musical and on the second, Ofertoria, they were joined by the Cora.
We had two such powerful ensembles here that I feared they might drown out one another, but skilful and knowledgeable musicians that they all are, they instead provided a beautifully modulated ensemble work.
What followed was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. Sanctus was, of course, a requiem but the voices and the sounds of the instruments seemed ethereal, almost literally hanging in the air, crisp, clean and pristine.
Tania Lorenzo’s solo performance had her voice soaring around the walls right up to the high ceiling of this beautiful former church, and the strength of her vocals bellied her tiny frame. The same could be said, too, of Fernando Campero who was nothing like the stereotypical baritone. Tall and slender, he amazed us with a deep voice that roared, in a very musical kind of roar albeit, right around the auditorium.
Coro and Ensemble had worked together in perfect synchronicity all evening and the demands for more, (although unrewarded) were long and loud.
There was, however, a glorious It´ll Be Alright On The Night moment when, during the calls for an encore, the two musical directors embraced, only to become entangled and trapped by her long, feathery scarf, much to the hilarity of the audience.
As we all eventually dispersed it seemed almost half of us were chatting excitedly about the musicianship of the ensemble and the other half were waxing lyrical about the voices of the Coro. Our particular threesome, one the way home in the car, agreed that perhaps this wedding of music and vocals would be a long and happy marriage.
Still two concerts still remain on the agenda to be performed on Lanzarote and we shall, of course, bring you our reviews but given that the festival has already scored seventeen and a half out of ten on the all across the arts accumulator, we dare not hope for anything better.
CLASSICAL CAMERATA CONCERT IN CAVES
CAMERATA DE LA ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA DE ÁMSTERDAM
Jameos del Agua
Date: Friday 31 January at 20.30 h
Camerata RCO is a unique group made up of members of Amsterdam’s famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Camerata RCO performs chamber music in multiple formats ranging from duet to chamber orchestra, with a special focus on the classical and romantic repertoire of winds and strings, and at the same time, with an active relationship with living composers.
They have an absolute love of chamber music, and that is what drives this formation to devote time, with their busy schedules, as members of one of the best orchestras in the world, to perform together with the Camerata RCO.
Praised by the New York Times for its “warm and brilliant performance”, the ensemble has enjoyed great success in the Netherlands and abroad and now performs around 50 concerts per season in music capitals such as Amsterdam, Vienna, Tokyo , Seoul, Madrid, Rome and New York. His ever-expanding discography on Gutman Records includes recordings of works by Corelli, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Mahler and Ravel.
They have recently featured for the critically acclaimed Tour in South Korea; the residence at the Musika-Music Festival of Bilbao; concerts in the halls of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw; its UK debut at Cambridge; and a benefit concert conducted by the head conductor of the New York Philharmonic and former Concertgebouw concert pianist Jaap Van Zweden.
Camerata RCO toured North America in the 2017-18 season, with works by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert and Schumann, as well as Dutch composer Tristan Keuris and composer-in-residence RCO Detlev Glanert.
In February and April 2019 they toured the United States with works by Dohnanyi, Bartok, Brahms, Mozart and others.
Tonight, the approach to the theatre once we were in Jameos del Agua took us through the foyer, down the rock staircase, then down the twisting white painted steps to the swimming pool, with the whole walk way beautifully, but discreetly lit. There was quite a buzz in the air and much animated chatter, in several languages, about the incredible natural rock cave that the theatre is set in and about the many great musicians who have played here in the past. Set in the North of the island, the sky above the venue is almost unblemished and many people were craning their necks to see the cosmos seeming laid out on the flat. As Tom Paxton once said in song, ´we listened to stars spreading rumours.´
The theatre doors opened. There was no crazy stampede, though, just a hushed and civilised murmuring of ´after you,´ followed by a ´no, please after you.´ We entered the auditorium, from the top at the back and as every group of people looked down from the top step there was an audible gasp. The stage is set in a bowl at the bottom of huge rock walls, and a subdued lighting system gives it even added gravitas. The rows are laid out as cushioned benches in a huge cemi-circle that serves as almost a wraparound blanket for the stage and as Dee and I took our seats for the recital I was thinking to myself that surely, of all the great players who have performed here, not many could have ever previously seen such a magnificent and unique performance area. It seemed to be some sort of Tolkien-esque great hall where the hobbits used to hold their feasts.
By the end of the evening, though, I was thinking, not only to myself but also aloud to anyone who would listen, that regardless of all the great musicians who have played here, surely none could have ever given a performance so uplifting, so moving and so absolutely sublime as this. The quartet´s opening offering invited us to a picnic with Dvorak and to high tea with Berg. Later we were invited by a fuller line-up to taste, delicious, tantalising tapas from Mahler.
These recitals of exquisite playing simply took the breath away.
The vocal delivery of Soprano Judith van Wanroij was never either overpowering noir overpowered. Instead she skilfully slid her lines in and out the music and each instrument treated those lines not as a human voice but as another integral instrument in the ensemble.
I have seen several and several more classical concerts in the seven years that have elapsed since, but I did not engage with classical music at all, because of some vague sense of reverse snobbery (and fear) until I was sixty years old. Before that I had had only a brief encounter od the third kind with Holst and his planet suite, a Dulux colour coated notion of Dvorak and a vague awareness of Copeland through some old black and white westerns on TV that plagiarised his soundtracks.
What a different Dvorak I discovered here when a piano accordion, two violins and a violoncello played Bagatelles opus 47 B79 as four members of Camerata de la Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra de Amsterdam delivered the kind of echoes and chases that are heard too, of course, in the New World Symphony. There was, too, much of the excitement of new frontiers and the nostalgia of looking back on old homelands that we find elsewhere in Dvorak. The almost Dali-sequel attire of a female violinist added much to the parades that Dvorak seemed to invariably plant in our minds eye, and that same outfit would also later perfectly complement the playfulness and frivolity of Mahler.
Her clothing, all jazz and pattern, was in direct contrast to the somehow beautifully still but nimble directing of musical director Lucas Macias, who totally enabled his ensemble in creating three very different moods. This ninety minute programme was the third concert on Lanzarote of the 36th Festival Internacional de Musica de Canarias.
Perhaps the most difficult of the pieces to control might have been the work of A. Berg (1985 – 1935). His was not a name or a music known to me before tonight, but I will give you my impression of his music before I look him up on Google or any of the other fine search engines available to the public, as I am legally obliged to say.
It seemed to me his work was rather melancholy and carried a sadness of regret. The contributions of the Soprano seemed to confirm that to me, but it is easy to run away with an idea in your head if you are not an accomplished listener. So let´s see, yes here it comes. Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer of the Second Viennese School. His compositional style combined Romantic lyricism with the twelve-tone technique. Although he left a relatively small oeuvre, he is remembered as one of the most important composers of the 20th century for his expressive style encompassing “entire worlds of emotion and structure”. OK, Norm, close but no cigar. However, I ought to say that what I heard here tonight will certainly send me out in search of more of his music, and that must be part of the raison d´etre of this wonderful festival.
Photo 5 Camerata de la Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra de Amsterdam There was then a short break, and after only a few minutes the four musicians from the first segment of the concert came back out now as part of an ensemble of twelve or more.. There were added now woodwind instruments, percussion of triangle and a huge drum, an upright double bass and a piano, and an incredible instrument I did not recognise so I cannot name it for you, but it went bop when it stopped, and zip when it moved and whirrrr when it stood still, just like Tom Paxton´s Marvellous Toy, and was the main maker of mischief and mayhem in an ensemble that seemed full of such characters.
What we were hearing was en Sol mayor of Sinfonia Number 4, by Gustav Mahler, who is described by Wikipedia as having been an Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect, which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 his compositions were rediscovered by a new generation of listeners.
Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century. In 2016, a BBC Music Magazine survey of 151 conductors ranked three of his symphonies in the top ten symphonies of all time.
You can listen on You Tube to a dozen different offerings of the piece, but I doubt any would match this because; a) live is always better than recorded and b) this live performance was as much soundscape as classical music, and celebrated some of the works more populist passages as being exactly that.
The massive applause from the audience to the musicals at the end was returned in kind from the stage´, as were the rounds of applause from conductor to his soprano and, individually to each of his players. The players and vocalist all gave visible evidence of having enjoyed the evening and certainly Dee and I left believing we had seen and heard something very special.
It was a slight shame that the theatre was less than 100% full, and it was difficult to understand why that might have been the case. On such a small island, there is a plethora of art offerings that any event invariably has competition for its audience from events that are more easily geographically accessible and are perhaps less expensive in their admission cost.
In reply to any of that, though, let me assure any reader still here that we drove up from our home in the southern-most tip of the island. The roads were clear and we had time for a snack at the beachside bar in Arietta on the way in. Car parking stewards were superb and there were none of the exhaust fumes and beeping horns that we associate with such events in the UK. As for the price I would say it was certainly less costly than seeing concerts of this quality in most other parts of the world. At this event alone we had seen a dozen and more world class musicians brilliantly bring classical music to contemporary relevance.
On the way into the theatre we were given free copies of Textos Cantados (lyric sheets) and a free programme, and on the way out our paths were lit by ushers with torches and only ten minutes after leaving the theatre we were out on to the road and on the way home.
It is part of the purpose of publishing these reviews to encourage people to feel more able to join in these events. We would like to see more new residents joining the indigenous population in attending these concerts, and even to attract the tourists who are only here for a fortnight and otherwise might not think that events like this are available to them.
We should be enormously grateful to the governments and Departments of Culture around The Canary islands and to our own Cabinda for making this wonderful annual event possible, so if you´ve missed it this year, try joining us next, and feel free to bring a friend. This was a world class concert in a world class cave, and that is certainly a sentence I never thought I would write.
Our 2020 36th Festival Internacional de Musica de Canarias, however, had one more concert to offer us with a final event at Teatro El Salinero in Arrecife.
DE CÁMARA RUSA DE SAN PETERSBURGO
36º Festival de Música de Canarias
Teatro Víctor Fernández Gopar “El Salinero”
The Russian Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg, founded in 1990 by musicians graduated from the renowned Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St. Petersburg, is undoubtedly one of the most important musical ambassadors in his country. The orchestra impressively reflects the musical talent and high level of musical education of his city. An extraordinary and extensive repertoire spanning Baroque to contemporary music has made it one of the most sought-after chamber formations in Europe.
Their numerous concerts in Europe, which have earned them the praise of critics and audiences, are complemented by record productions. The orchestra’s recent CD with works by Weber, published by Sony Music, received the coveted Editor’s Choice from Gramophone magazine.
The Russian Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg has performed in renowned halls and festivals such as the Gewandhaus Leipzig, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Gasteig in Munich, Opera de Bayreuth, Teatro Real de Madrid, Teatro de la Sociedad Filarmónica de Bilbao, Theatre Municipal Luxemburg, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Rheingau Music Festival, Izmir International Festival, Musique Festival in Vendée and Music Summer Weggis.
That would make a neat little package tour of most of the world´s great concert venues, wouldn´t it?
El Salinero held its own in the company of other such illustrious venues in so much as it drew a full house to the capital city´s theatre and the staff did a great job in quickly getting the night´s walk-on crowd, arriving without tickets, into the arena. It must be said that a good size audience can make car parking awkward and time consuming when there is a football match in the Deportivo stadium across the road and / or basketball in the sports hall, next to the theatre. Tonight we had it all, and things were a bit chaotic, but fortunately the prompt and friendly service by the staff in The Davina Restaurant at san Gines had enable us in time to claim the last parking space outsoide the football ground at 8.15 and so, being a season ticket holder at the club, I did so.
Dee and I, and friends Iain and Margaret, had been settled into the armchair comfort of our theatre seats for about five minutes when the musicians of Orquesta de Camara Rusa de San Petersburgo took to the stage, followed by their musical conductor Juri Gilbo in black tie and tails.
A frequent guest with orchestras around the globe, Juri Gilbo is one of Russia’s foremost and distinguished conductors on the international scene. He has been music director and principal conductor of the Russian Chamber Philharmonic St. Petersburg since 1998 and is credited with building this orchestra to the high standard it enjoys today. Born in St. Petersburg, his studies took him to the well-known St. Petersburg State Conservatory and subsequently to the University for Music and Performing Arts in Frankfurt, Germany. He studied viola with the celebrated German violist Tabea Zimmermann and conducting with Luigi Sagrestano.
Juri Gilbo made his conducting debut in 1997. Since then, his concerts have taken him to the USA, Europe, Latin America, Japan, China, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and the UAE.
Standing ovations have celebrated Juri Gilbo and his orchestra in sold-out halls such as the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, the Salzburg Festival House, the Munich Philharmonic Hall, Tonhalle Zurich, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Alte Oper Frankfurt, the Bayreuth Opera House, el Teatro National de Costa Rica and Istanbul Is Sanat. He has also performed at numerous renowned international festivals, including the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, Rheingau Music Festival, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Izmir Festival, Haydn Festival Seoul and Al Bustan Festival Beirut, amongst many others.
We were whispering to each other that Iain thought he looked ´non-Russian´ and a bit like Arthur Askey and I thought he looked like a very young and misheivous Eric Morecambe.
We had noted from the programmes, being given out for free by theatre staff as we had entered, that tonight´s reciotal included works from three composers. Noting the name of one of them Iain said his work sometimes sounded like he was describing in music the act of sawing wood, and one of the composers was an unknown name to any of us. The Schubert work, with its familiarity, held the most promise for us, but that would be in the second half.
For now, as the lights dimmed and the musical director poised his baton and his orchestra of twelve for action, we were about to hear Stravinski´s Apollo Musagetta (Ballet en dos actos).
I loved it, and it later transpired that we had all loved it. The aforementioned m.d. was something of a star; a Fred Astaire with a baton, all skips and jumps and twirls and sudden dramatic swoops. Far from in any way distracting the players he kept them alert and fully engaged and there were interesting pizzicato inclusions and clever works on the lower toned instruments. Sometimes the music felt to be chasing down marbled halls and at others relaxing in elycian fields. The Variacione de Pollinio, so full of grace and exciting pace, seemed to sag slightly in the middle, though surely as indicated in the score rather than any fault of the players. Juril Gilbo, though, constantly allowed a gentility of delivery that had us all holding our breath at the piquancy of some notes and had us thrown back into our seats at the power of others.
The twentieth century piece by Bonini was slightly too clever to be considered in any way carefree and slightly too disconnected to tell any discernable narrative. The instrument were occasionally used to represent the sounds of contemporary life in a busy world that, as such sounds often do, disturbed us as we made our way through the piece.
Nevertheless, the musicians delivered the work with aplomb and we were left to reflect on music that had, to me, managed to sound both sweet and somewhat sinister.
We spent a five minute ´pause´ in our seats chatting not only about what we had heard but also about what we had seen. I certainly felt that the nimble performance (and be in no doubt that it was a performance) by the director had enhanced the music for me, and even for his orchestra to be honest. By watching him from our place in the audience I was beginning to learn which of his mannerisms and signals were preparing certain parts of the ensemble and how he led the tempo and rise and fall of volume, even as he enabled the players to deliver their interpretation of the mood of the music.
This was then again illustrated, even more clearly I felt, in the pieces by Schubert in the second half. Here we had more recognised and identifiable motifs than in the first half of the recital. Here each instrument had its say and the strings of the violins often spoke of one accord sometimes running skittishly away from us, as if tittering with laughter, and at others seemingly whispering gossip to each other. The musician on the upright bass sometimes was sneaking up on them, sometimes seeking to almost silence them, but on other occasions seeming to comfort them whenever anything disturbed them. The violoncellos were, we might imagine, warning of a need for discretion and reflection, and this orchestral sound filled this lovely theatre,
It being the final Lanzarote performance this year of the 36th Festival Internacional de Musica de Canarias it was fitting that the audience rose as one to call, in several languages, for more. We heard identifiable roars in French, German, English, Russian and Spanish as this audience demanded a well-earned encore that delivered to us a prancing polka and a thrusting tango from an ensemble that seemed to have fully enjoyed its evening.
The Festival had brought to The Canary Islands musician from all over the world, and composers from all across the classical music time spectrum.
Here on Lanzarote they had been rewarded by rapt attention from the traditional classical music followers on the island, some of it very knowledgeable, but also by some by people like us, still discovering what we missed in our youth by listening to Agadoo and The Birdy Song.
The Cabildos and the organisers must be encouraged to return next year, and we hope that in 2021 you will remember these positive reviews and feel determined to join us.