Thursday, September 15, 2005

First Night

It was a night of stylized nostalgia. Guitarist Oscar Herrero was able to bring out the full intensity of the spirit of his compositions in the style of flamenco. Throughout most of the concert, neither did he explain his pieces nor attempt to spice up the mood through words, but his music spoke volumes of the intense melancholic passion he had when composing such pieces. He did speak before his last programme piece, but well, it was in Spanish. Of course, most of the audience probably wouldn't understand, including me, but I somehow made it out that he thanked various people for the chance to perform here. Nonetheless, despite the presence of an audience who didn't understand his language, he indulged himself in the music and didn't show any hint of nervousness.

It did bother me at first when he played into the first few bars of his music. I went into the hall, expecting to immerse myself with the deep Spanish culture and mood, after all, his concert was publicised as a flamenco concert. Yet, what visual images his music brought was not at all Spanish in any nature. It wasn't in any way faithful to the flamenco culture. The excessive rubato which will embarrass romantic performers is totally unacceptable in flamenco culture. What he played was clearly a fusion between flamenco, jazz and classical styles, and I really had a problem identifying what genre of music was I listening to. But to brand himself as a flamenco guitarist is totally ridiculous for the very essence of the flamenco culture is gone. It's pretty near to impossible that a flamenco dancer or singer can accompany a guitarist who takes so much liberty with the rhythm. I was absolutely repulsed by the fact that he actually attempted to sell his hybridized music as flamenco music to people like us, naively believing that we are unaware of the music culture in another place. If he had just termed himself as nuevo flamenco guitarist, I truly wouldn't have minded so much. I could see that my teacher was slightly disappointed, or was he just tired? And it's been such a long time since I've had a lesson with him. As for the guitarist, what a pity, can you hear the Spanish world who is so deeply rooted in the pure flamenco culture lamenting out loud?

What had God done to my day? I didn't even intend to buy the tickets for this concert at all. In the afternoon, I just felt an irresistable urge to make my way down to the concert hall to take a look at the merchandise they had there. Upon reaching there, I was just offered a ticket at a highly subsidiesd rate, which was too good a deal to reject. And at that particular seat, it was just one of the best seats available, with the full dynamic range of the guitar audible to me. He didn't play very loud and I really doubted if those at the back of the concert hall could hear at all. All of his choice of repertoire was directed at stirring up a particular visual picture in my mind. After which, the first bus I took at random went through just that particular route we took that night somewhere around this period last year. I've gotten enough emotions to handle from several happenings these week and now that flood of emotions came. And what intrigues me most is that how the happenings of the day flow so smoothly from one to another just to ignite this particular sentiment...

Tonight, it's going to be Stefano Cardi who'll be playing 20th century guitar music. Now I'm really interested to know how it'll turn out for me. It's nice to know that he has quite a wide range of the type of 20th century guitar music for this performance in Asia tonight - Astor Piazzolla, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Toru Takemitsu, Heitor Villa Lobos and Manuel Ponce. (The last composer is of course a modern composer who was borned in the wrong era, like Brahms, but well, his music is beautiful in a very traditional tonal way.) And he's also playing pieces by composers which I have not heard of at all - Shih Hui Chen (Chinese guitar composer?), Alber Harris, Ferdinand Morton. Let's just see how the concert tonight turns out...


Hucbald said...

As far as your criticisim of Herrero for billing himself as "Flamenco", I have a thought. If you compose the vast majority of your own repetoire, as he does and as I do, you are bound to run into the problem of HOW TO BILL YOURSELF.

I bill myself as a "classical guitarist" for the purpose of getting gigs because that's where my music is coming from: The classical tradition. This even though I play an electric nylon string guitar and use a Lexicon MPX-G2 to get chorus/delay/reverb and other effects in my sound, and even though I have pieces by Joe Satriani, Eddie Van Halen, Eric Johnson, and other contemporary jazz/rock players in my set. Sure, I have a lot of little Bach pieces mixed in also, but it's problematic for me sometimes because people have certain "expectations" of a "Classical Guitarist" that I'm not going to fulfill for them. Oh well.

This is probably the same situation Herrero finds himself in: He comes from the Flamenco tradition, and HIS MUSIC is inspired by that tradition, but he did not fulfill your expectations for a "Flamenco Guitarist". I mean, I like the "Pacos" style a lot, so don't get me wrong, but if Herrero takes a more laid back and Romantic approach to that tradition, I PERSONALLY would enjoy that on it's own terms without placing on him the burden of having to fulfill MY expectations. I would enjoy the music on it's own terms.

Perhaps you should cut the guy some slack in that area and just criticise his music from a more objective viewpoint.

Your reviews rock otherwise. ;^)

solitudex said...

I guess what you've said is true. But I really did enjoy his concert. The only thing is that he missed out the nuevo word. I wouldn't have been mad if he had just termed himself as a guitarist playing nuevo flamenco. =)

Really appreciate your insightful comments from you, Hucbald.