Costa Blanca Arts Update, Cassado and Chopin in Alfas Del Pi and Stravinsky in Alicante

Costa Blanca Arts Update, Cassado and Chopin in Alfas Del Pi and Stravinsky in Alicante

Just over a year ago, it would not have been anything special to declare that it had been possible to attend four quality concerts in this area over three days. And then there was covid. Here is Spain, we had a strict initial lockdown, but since then schools have stayed open and some cultural spaces have kept running in spite of restrictions on numbers. Before saying anything else, it is necessary to remind oneself that the new norm has involved social distancing, fifty per cent capacity for venues, compulsory hand sanitiser, masks, the recording of contact details and a temperature test on entry. This has severely restricted audience’s willingness to attend and has persuaded many, perhaps a majority of venues to cease activity altogether. In addition, performers’ travel has been as restricted as the population in general, despite there being the possibility of exemption permits for work. The combination of restrictions on travel, availability of travel and reluctant venues has severely curtailed cultural activity, however, and there have been many perennial supporters of live events who have expressed the opinion that such gatherings should not be happening during a pandemic. Opinion is on one side, while the law places the limits. Also, many more elderly regular attendees have decided that now is the time to lock up and stay in. Individuals have made their own choices.

And now, on the day that bars and restaurants can open until ten o’clock in the evening and when cultural venues can admit seventy-five per cent of their capacity, it was under the previous, more severe restrictions that saw concerts on Friday evening, Saturday lunchtime and evening and Sunday lunchtime in Alfas del Pi and Alicante.

On Friday in Alfas del Pi, Antonio Garcia Egea and Fernando Espi joined as Duo Arbos to play a works from the repertoire of violin and guitar. This was the kind of programme one does not encounter often. It started conventionally with Spanish Dance no5 by Granados, but Carlo Domeniconi’s Sonatina Mexicana has probably not figured often on concert programmes in the last year. It has probably never been followed by Ravi Shankar’s El Alba Encantada, and the microtones of Indian music have probably never before led into Paganini’s Cantabile! Astor Piazzolla’s Historia del Tango, Bourdel 1900 and Café 1930 followed by Libertango was conventional in comparison, as perhaps was Pablo Sarasate’s Playera Romanza Andaluza, despite the understated but stratospheric virtuosity of the ending of the violin part. We finished the evening with Fernandon Espi’s own Impromptu and we were particularly grateful in these times to be taken by the performers on such a varied journey.

On Saturday lunchtime the orchestra at ADDA (Auditori de la Diputacion de Alicante) marked fifty years since the death of Igor Stravinsky with a breath-taking performance of Petroushka. Yes, it’s a work that the majority of the audience had hear many, many times, but it remains a work that is fresh with every new exposure and particularly so in this reading by Josep Vicent, whose reading of this music is faultless. The colours were always vivid, the scenes clear and beautifully depicted in this work that paints with sound. We also heard a superb reading of the Elgar Cello Concerto by Damian Martinez and then had encores of the Valse Triste of Sibelius and, and true to the form of current concerts, a short piece of Piazzolla, Oblivion, with the leader’s violin as soloist.

Then on Saturday evening, back in Alfas del Pi Duo Fortecello, the cello and piano of Anna Mikulska and Philippe Argenty, gave the first of their two concerts. This one featured works by Chopin, Nocturne opus 9, Cello sonata and Polonaise Brillante coupled with Piazzolla (yet again!) in the form of the Triptyque “la Trilogie de l’Ange” and finally the Danse Macabre of Saint-Saens. We only just made the curfew…

Then on Sunday, Duo Fortecello presented their second programme in Albir. While their first programme was the epitome of the conventional, the second was as opposite as it is possible to be. They opened with Joaquin Nin’s Seguida Española and followed with what proved to be a rare gem. Gaspar Cassado wrote a famous sonata for cello and piano based on old Spanish tunes, but this Sonata en la menor, though from the same year, 1925, is quite different in character. Exactly how many times this work has been performed in Spain cannot be assessed, but it is certainly not many times. And it may have been performed elsewhere even less. The work itself is superb and deserves to be much more widely heard, especially when it is compared to other works that form the basis of the repertoire for cello and piano. Any music lover will find great reward in searching out this work and hearing it performed. It has to be said that the fourth movement, Paso Doble, does not live up to the quality of the first three, but the criticism is minor. How many composers, after all, were capable of writing finales that lived up to their preceding movements?

Anna and Philippe continued with a Flamenco solo for cello by Rogelio Huguet y Tagell and then Andaluza by Granados. Manuel de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares Españolas is music of genius and Gaspar Cassado’s Requiebros, though derivative, is a superb way to finish any concert. And so the duo had given a musical tour of Spain, visiting most regions and sampling its musical soul. Superb. And what a relief from current preoccupations!

Philip Spires

Author of Eileen McHugh, a life remade, a free downloadable biography of an unknown sculptor.

Eileen McHugh - a life remade - is a novel about a sculptor whose creative life ended in the 1970s. She left no work, but now an archive of her notes and sketches has come into the possession of Mary Reynolds, who is determined to resurrect the artist’s life and reconstruct her work. She contacts people who knew Eileen as a child and as a student in London. Via these partial memories, she recreates the artist and her work.

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