Flamenco in the world

Silvia Calado. Amsterdam, January 30th, 2011

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Closing gala: 'Flamenco sin fin'. Nieuw Ensemble. Conductor: Ed Spanjaard. Special guests: Fuensanta la Moneta (baile), Arcángel (cante), Zabit Nabizade (mugam vocals). Program: 'Libra', Roberto Gerhard. 'Mugflagamenco', Frangis Ali-Zadeh. 'Black stars' (suite), Florian Magnus Maier. 'Muerte sin fin', Mauricio Sotelo (world premiere). 3rd Dutch Flamenco Biennial. Bimhuis. Amsterdam (Holland), January 30th, 2011, 3 p.m.

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Mugflagamenco (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

Flamenco is (once again and more than ever) in the world, in its time. The glass hood having been broken into a thousand pieces once and for all which many wished to cover it with, it inevitably continues to evolve in an international context full of different sorts of music, art, fashion, flights, networks, individuals. And the world realizes it and wants to contribute to it. The Dutch Flamenco Biennial is one of those initiatives which only urge on a natural, unstoppable trend. And it is due to the criteria of this program of not settling for what is given, but rather intervening in order to create (and/or to see) shows which distinguish it in the populated context of international flamenco festivals.

The definitive proof of this peculiar attitude, which is now its own trademark, was the closing gala of this third edition of the Dutch festival at the impressive Muziekgebouw aan het IJ, a European temple of contemporary classical music. Where Joseph Haydn was performed the previous afternoon, Mauricio Sotelo is performed today. And that means that flamenco is also contemporary classical music. Of course it isn’t the first time that Sotelo, whose music is described as “spectral flamenco”, has premiered a show of his at a great European theater; in fact, all of them were. The original thing about this occasion is that 'Muerte sin fin' was premiered at a flamenco festival.

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Black Stars Suite
(Photo Daniel Muñoz)
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Arcángel on "Muerte sin Fin"
(Photo Daniel Muñoz)

The Spanish composer’s piece closed a program which, performed by Nieuw Ensemble and conducted by Ed Spanjaard, included another three works with flamenco or the Spanish in concomitance with the contemporary as a common denominator. The first one was 'Libra' (1968), by Spanish composer Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970), a musician who developed his career in exile starting from the dual influence of Felipe Pedrell and Arnold Schoenberg. The second one was 'Mugflagamenco', by composer Frangis Ali-Zadeh, who gathered the tradition of her native country, Azerbaijan, and that of flamenco in the setting of contemporary music. And to do so, she had soloists like Azeri singer Zabit Nabizade and Ali Asgar Mammadov on 'tar'. The musical triangle traced was surely never-before-seen. The third piece was authored by young Dutch composer Florian Magnus Maier, graduated in flamenco guitar at the Conservatory of Rotterdam, directed by Paco Peña. In his suite 'Black stars', together with guitar and flamenco cante, he himself takes part wielding an electric guitar, an element which fits together with violins, cellos, clarinets... in a vibrant score por bulerías which ended up bringing the audience to their feet.

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Fuensanta la Moneta on "Muerte sin Fin" (Photo Daniel Muñoz)

The intermission allowed time to ponder the beautiful sight of misty Amsterdam which can be seen behind the giant windows of this building designed over the waters of the IJ by the Danish architecture studio 3XN. Pardon the comment, but it’s spectacular. And with that sight on our mind, we return to the hall to witness that world premiere by Mauricio Sotelo which the Spanish press, unfortunately, will probably ignore. In an encounter with the audience, the composer previously explained the keys to his way of building with flamenco, a type of music which he fights tooth and nail to defend in the world of classical music, understanding it as the “writing of memory”. He therefore doesn’t intervene in the traditional element. The cante which Arcángel does por soleá is a cante por soleá, they’re several sets of old-time lyrics por soleá. And perhaps the only liberty the composer takes is to broaden the structures. He does the same with baile, an element which he hadn’t worked with before. Fuensanta la Moneta faced the challenge of sticking her winding rhythmics into that universe of sound which was being built, at the same time, in analogical (clarinet, harp, percussion, piano, guitars...) and digital. And her picture and expressiveness were very beautiful which she gave to that death which is announced, to that death which doesn’t come, confronting the orchestra conductor’s own choreography and that of the musicians performing. After all, music is one, and pain is, too. And flamenco is music and pain (and enjoyment)... and it has neither a beginning, nor an end.

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'De Oscura Llama'

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