Notes for a Concert
WIGMORE HALL 2006
Looking back over the many years since I first gave a concert at the Wigmore Hall, I reflect upon the very different world that we now inhabit, in so many ways, not least of which changes is the extent to which the performance and enjoyment of flamenco music has become so widespread and natural.
It wasn’t so at the time; flamenco, to be sure, was known to fewer music lovers than it is today, and was presented mostly as a spectacular dance form (the spectacular and wonderful dance form that it still is) rather than also highlighting the value of the solo guitar as a worthwhile and fulfilling form of music in its own right. The Wigmore Hall was certainly among the first classical institutions in the music world to see and appreciate that value and offer it to their audiences, and I must say that I feel privileged to have been beneficiary of that vision at the time.
But if the world has changed, as it undoubtedly has, in relation to the awareness of the profound beauty of flamenco music, that occasion, all those years ago, when I was first welcomed at the Wigmore Hall, was also life changing for me personally, in at least two ways.
First, just appearing there, on the stage, trying to express, with the guitar alone, the elements of my musical culture, which traditionally involved accompanying singers and dancers, was a great departure for me. I had taken a big decision and the situation was scary and the result unpredictable!
It turned out well in the end, in no small measure due to the support and warmth I received from both the staff and audience at the Wigmore Hall. Since then I have tried to follow that same goal of seeking to convey what I believe is the true essence of flamenco, whether when playing solo or with my troupe.
The other momentous revelation on that day was the discovery that flamenco, in the way that I presented it, that is to say, without pretence but simply as I honestly believe the music to be, the way I had received it from my tradition, resonated with the audience! I had been banking on that notion, but having it proved by the result of the concert made me immensely happy in a way that determined me on the path I have followed ever since.
Coming back to this lovely hall now I can’t but continue in that same vein. My concert consists of a variety of guitar solos based on, and extracted from, different forms of songs or dances that come directly from the traditional flamenco repertoire that I learned during my childhood and adolescence.
I start with a GRANAINA, a reflective piece that explores sonorities in a calm, lyrical way, without a specific rhythmic pattern to follow, i.e. belonging to the category of flamenco pieces called “Toques Libres”, ‘free’ or “ad libitum” forms that have their origin in the ancient Spanish dance called ‘fandango’.
Next is a contrasting ALEGRIAS, a rhythmical, lively dance (and singing form) originating from Cádiz.
Then a TARANTAS, another ‘free’ form full of intensity and depth of feeling, perhaps on account of its genesis among the working people of the mines in Eastern Andalucía.
SOLEARES is the favourite ‘palo’, or form of most aficionados of flamenco. It has the potential of expressing a wide range of emotions quintessentially linked to the deepest qualities of flamenco.
TIENTOS. A gentle, profound and very expressive rhythm that invites to passionate singing. TANGOS is the more lively climax that invites to dance.
PETENERA is a flamenco style directly derived from the folklore. In its early form it was a fairly lively rhythm performed by the community which later acquired a more serious character, especially in the voice of the great singer Pastora Pavón “Niña de los Peines”.
ZAPATEADO means ‘clicking of the shoes’, and is of course a dance that offers ample possibility for the display of accomplished footwork.
The title of this piece (Maestro Mario) pays tribute to my late friend and great guitar master, Mario Escudero, on whose composition I have based this arrangement.
MALAGUEÑAS is another “free” form originating in Málaga. It also comes from other forms of fandangos with a much more rhythmical character called ‘verdiales’, which I bring in as a climax at the end of the piece.
FANDANGOS DE HUELVA. This variety of fandango is perhaps the most popular and widespread. The strong, compelling rhythm is further highlighted by the accompaniment on ‘cajón’, or percussive box, of my good friend and star dancer in my Company, ANGEL MUÑOZ.
BULERÍAS is, par excellence, the song and dance for the fiesta or party. It displays a kind of explosion of complex rhythm (watch out for the ‘cajón’ accompaniment of Angel Muñoz) and happiness that makes it truly unique in its character, and absolutely indispensable in a celebratory flamenco gathering.