Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two Weeks Of Concerts — From Bach To Patti Smith

     The six concerts I've attended in the last two and a half weeks probably all deserve their own post. But time is short and reading about music is certainly not as enjoyable as listening to it. But don't worry, I've posted links to some of the music I've heard. Here are the concerts I've attended since late October: Bach Modern (Bach and contemporary pieces for piano); El Cigala (famous Flamenco singer); Michel Camilo and Tomatito (Jazz/Flamenco pianist and guitarist); From the Vihuela to the Electric Guitar (A history of the guitar); Patti Smith; Canal Street Jazz Band.
     Madrid is proving to be a music mecca. There is an endless variety of music to choose from, and the performances are world class. Nicolas Hodges, the pianist for the Bach concert, has played with all of the world's top symphonies. El Cigala is perhaps the most famous contemporary Flamenco singer, and The New York Times selected his performance in New York City as the best concert of 2011. He didn't disappoint when I saw him— though honestly, I was more impressed with his guitar player. Here's a video of the two, and here's a video of the guitar player by himself. Flamenco is to Spain what Blues is to the United States. It has its own rhythms and scales, its lyrics are often melancholy, and though it was cultivated in Spain and identified as Spanish music, its origins are foreign. I wish I could play it.
     Tomatito famously played with Camarón de la Isla, one of the most celebrated Flamenco singers of all time. He is an incredible guitarist, and has been playing with Camilo, a jazz and Latin pianist from the Dominican Republic, since 2000. It was obvious watching the concert that they are both virtuosos. Being a guitar player, I thought the grand piano sort of overpowered the Flamenco guitar and wished it were the other way around. Here's a video to give you an idea of the duo.
    Last week, I went on a field trip (as a teacher/supervisor, woo!) with a couple of classes to a guitar concert at La Fundación de Juan March in Madrid. The concert was closed to the public, so it was a special performance for select high school classes. A musicologist gave a lecture on the history of the guitar and its predecessors, and after he had given the history of an instrument, the guitarist would play a few songs on said instrument. The instruments played were the vihuela (a 16th century guitar-shaped instrument with six doubled strings, like a 12-string guitar but smaller), the baroque guitar (17th and 18th centuries, with five strings and a small body), the classical guitar, and the electric guitar. As you might have guessed, this was awesome for me. Here's a video of a song for vihuela by the composer Luis de Milán, written in the first half of the 16th century. And here is my favorite piece that was performed, a sonata by Fernando Sor, a famous 18th century Spanish classical guitarist.
     Then on Thursday there was Patti Smith. She has a really great voice and sounds as good as ever. The band played a couple songs from her new record, but there were also plenty of songs from Horses, including my (everyone's?) favorite, "Gloria." I was able to stand right in front of the stage, and the crowd was good. For a concert without electric guitars, it sure sounded pretty heavy at some points. And of course, they played the 1978 hit (co-written by Smith and Springsteen) "Because The Night."
     And finally, Saturday, I went back to Juan March to see the Canal Street Jazz Band, who performed songs such as "Jeepers Creepers," "Saint Louis Blues" (the first time I actually heard this performed live), and "Tiger Rag."All of the musicians were from Madrid, except for the band leader, who was from California but spoke Spanish really well. This free concert was part of the Foundation's annual Jazz concert cycle.
     So, in sum, I believe I will see more quality concerts this year than I've seen ever before, and at a better price. I'm really glad I was placed in Madrid, and am pleasantly surprised at what a cultural capital it is turning out to be.

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