Review Reutlingen (2), 24th March 2011

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Flamenco evening with the philharmonic and Bettina Castaño

Artistically noble savageness

Reutlingen. A symphony orchestra and a flamenco dancer –With this unusual mixture,the conductor Holger Herzog organised the fifth concert of the Württemberg Philharmonic of Reutlingen

Susanne Eckstein

 

Holger Herzog has proved his hearts and his hands to be made for Spanish rhythm. This time, he brought a huge orchesteral hommage to Spain to the stage, with the flamenco dancer Bettina Castaño. The greatest part of the musical programme was dedicated to Isaac Albéniz, the creator of the national musical style of Spain, who's anniversary was overshadowed by other names in 2009 and 2010.

In addition to the orchestral passages from the 'suite Espanola' for piano (Asturias, Catalunya, Córdoba) and the symphonic poem 'Navarra', Herzog, who also moderated, presented two german debuts from Albéniz works - the suite from the opera 'Pepita Jiminez' and the original orchestra version from the componist of the movement 'El Puerto' from the cycle 'Iberia', flanked by a new version of 'Malaga' from the andalusian composer Francisco Guerro. Surprising how much new and appealing music can be offered in such a concert! The new version of 'Malaga' seemed a little too analytically fragmented - one couldn't help thinking that more practice would have helped the natural flow of the music - however there were very colourful, sometimes distinctive instrumental and appealing rhythmical works to be heard in a cultivated performance. Next to Albéniz came Manuel de Falla with pieces from 'La vida breve' and 'El amor brujo' as a dramatic contrast, as well as the Zarzuela composer Amadeo Vives and Gerónimo Giménez, concluded by Joaquin Turinas 'Procesión del Rocio'.

If Herzog had conjoured up imaginary clopping heels and spiralling frilled skirts at his Zarzuela guest conducting engagement in 2006, one could experience it live this time in exchange with pure orchestral performances – with the flamenco dancer Bettina Castaño, who has made a name for herself with her varied dance cross-over. She combines flamenco with different styles of music, with music of the Orient, as well as with Appenzell string music, or – as here – with symphonic music.

Of course this is not original flamenco, with raw vocals accompanied by foot stamping and guitar. Bettina Castaño's work has only the inner countenance and the repertoire of movement in common. This converts it into a type of dance of flamenco expression, which translates the synchronised live music into spoken movement.

Thanks to her musicality, she embodied sensitive charachter and movement of the orchestral music of Albéniz,the expressive connection between sound and dance was a treat for the ears and eyes. The transition from solo dance to precisely danced orchestral music, for example in 'Asturias' was extremely successful. Seriously concentrated, Castaño simulated the rhythms with hands and feet, in order to integrate them exactly with the rhythms of the Orchestra.

She showed all-round gracefullness, with train and fan, in 'Cordoba', she celebrated restrained ferocity in an extremely cultivated manner in the dance from de Fallas 'La vida breve'. The expressive, almost brutal note to flamenco was made tangible in de Fallas love dance from the 'Liebeszauber', which she performed with an artistic, red, fringed scarf, and in the fantastic solo, in which Bettina Castaño let her strictly controlled body be narrated by the wild ghost of archaic dance. She appeared as serene as in the opera during the Zarzuela pieces towards the end, which peaked in a coquettish encore, followed by a raging applause.

"Sensing the music frees the dancing muse."

Bettina Castaño