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Espana

Craig Ogden and the Halle Orchestra

The Bridgewater Hall, 30 January 2016

Craig Ogden2

Photo copyright Craig Ogden.

There was much to enjoy and reflect upon in this delightful concert which conjured the country and spirit of Spain.

The varied and comprehensive programme began with Mikhail Glinka’s Spanish Overture No. 1, the Russian composer taking as his inspiration a traditional folk song, Jota Aragonesa, which is usually played on guitar. Anyway, that is how Glinka heard it and here the orchestra’s strings were played for part of the time in pizzicato style, so simulating a guitar.

Next we heard three dances, including a seguidilla and a farruca, taken from The Three-Cornered Hat, a ballet that Manuel de Falla scored for the Ballet Russes just after the First World War. It was interesting to note that Falla was born in Andalusia, land of duende, though the influences on his music range far and wide.

Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez was the centrepiece of the concert, one might almost say its emotional heartland, and it was the first time we heard Craig Ogden, Halle’s guest artist of the evening, play guitar. He played Isaac Albeniz’s Asturias later on as well. Composed during the Spanish Civil War, this was an elegiac work full of loss and yearning. If you want to understand that conflict, or the soul of Spain come to that, you need to go to Guernica, the poetry of Lorca, a victim of the war, and Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez. That is the stature of the work.

In the second part we heard three works by French composers who were inspired, apparently, by their love of Spain. Emmanuel Chabrier’s Espana: Rhapsody was based on a Spanish dance, the Jota. It was lively and very enjoyable, if a little light. Bizet’s Carmen: Selection, an orchestral arrangement of the music of the great opera, was wonderful, as you might expect. And we ended with Ravel’s Bolero: a single dance rhythm, repeated again and again. It could have been tedious, but when done as well as this, by the Halle’s finest, it was exciting and intoxicating. The popularity of the work disguises its innovative, experimental quality. If you ask yourself what are the precursors, in the classical repertoire, to Techno, House and Trance music, well, the Bolero has to be up there. Whether Ravel would have been flattered by this, and whether he would have been sympathetic to what would likely have seemed a rather foreign aesthetic, is a moot point. But certainly the Bolero was ahead of its time.

A delightful evening. Truly, the soul of a country is to be found in its music…

Craig Ogden’s website is here.

Details of future Halle concerts can be found here.

 

 

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