The Music of Flamenco

I spent the first couple days of my Vassar spring break in Madrid and was lucky enough to see a flamenco performance at the Teatro Español.  The performance was based on an elegiac poem by Federico García Lorca and featured the music of Enric Granados, a classical Spanish composer.  Granados was born in the Catalan region of Spain, home to the city of Barcelona, in 1867 and is most famous for composing a suite of piano pieces inspired by Goya paintings.  But the piece that floored me at the performance of “El Llanto” was the piece “12 Danzas Españolas, No. 5 Andaluza,” inspired by the region of Andalusia in southern Spain where flamenco was originated (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuLHh8JM0a8&feature=related is the best version I found on YouTube─listen without watching).  In the performance, they used the song as a theme for the encounter between the matador and the bull and it worked perfectly as a piece of both passion and melancholy.  I didn’t quite understand what the show was about since I don’t speak any Spanish, but the poem that it was based on is an elegy for the famed Spanish bullfighter Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, so you can see how both passion and melancholy would have played a role.

In this clip of the performance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktu6daNYRr0&feature=channel), the singer (cantora) narrates what is going on before and after the bullfight, but the star of the scene is the dancing.  The bull (el toro) begins his dance to “12 Danzas Españolas” and then the matador (el torero) comes at the end of the slow part of the piece to commences his fight with the bull.  The song perfectly highlights the conflict between the bull and the matador and the way that the dancers interact with the music─slowing down in some places, moving their feet in a frenzy in another─is beautiful and evocative. 

If you’re interested in more Andalusian-inspired music check out Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s beautiful “Andalucia” from the Andalucia Suite (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9vo4ojU0Tc&feature=related─terrible sound quality, but he plays it well).

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