Review: BACH AL COMPÁS

Tuesday 29th July 2008/ no. 174 Neue Luzerne Zeitung - Neue Urner Zeitung - Neue Schwyzer Zeitung - Neue Obwaldner Zeitung - Neue Nidwaldner Zeitung - Neue Zuger Zeitung

Flamenco – the measure of defiance

Johann Sebastian Bach understood his suites merely as stylised dances. At the 'Spinnerei Neuägeri' they were actually translated into movement.

La Castaño dances flamenco to the Bach suites as if she had been born for it.

by Jürg Röthlisberger

The fourth concert of the 'Summer sounds' offered a very unusual combination at the former spinning works (Spinnerei) in Neuägeri. The celloist Thomas Demenga interpreted Johann Sebastian Bach's cello suites together with the attractive flamenco dancer Bettina Castaño. An extraordinary and unforgettable concert experience was given in the best possible surroundings.

Although the original manuscript has been lost, no-one doubts that Bach wrote the six solo suites in his Köthen era. The oldest transcripts however, differ in many details, which almost automatically motivates inprovisation.

This also justifies the free mix of different sections. Following the allemande from the beginning of the fourth suite – the programme was played forwards and backwards, and roughly half of Bach's complete music had been played by the end. Thomas Demenga convinced the audience from the first tone on, not only as a result of his technical sovereignty, but also because of his clarity in the overall concept – which, with such a piece of music, can only be acquired through years and decades of intensive analysis

Constant eye contact

Constant eye contact

His partner, Bettina Castaño also knew the Bach suites better than purely from the sound recordings. She has played cello herself since her youth, which despite a common path, made an optimal joint venture possible. The eye contact with the celloist who played predominantly without sheet music, created the right mixture of established programme and improvisation.

Johann Sebastian Bach never worked with choreographers, he saw the phrases of his suites as merely as conventionalised dances. Menuett, Courante and Gigue prevailed. However, for the Sarabande – as a Spanish dance, the closest to flamenco in appearance – the dancer paused, while the Prelude of the third suite – which is completely different to a dance – was perfectly performed, effectively and skilled. A highlight was the Sarabande of the sixth suite, which as a result of its technical difficulties is even feared by professionals, it was performed as if it were nothing.

Bettina Castaño appeared in five extraordinary dresses, which didn't just create colour and different movement possibilities, at the same time, the change of dresses also gave little pauses for breath, as not even a professional flamenco dancer can dance continuously on stage without a break.

Dachstock stood the test

The somewhat low, but otherwise very spacious Dachstock stood the test of suitability for this performance . How elegantly, perfectly, virtuously, powerfully and smoothly La Castaño danced, and this was praised with applause. The suites were complemented by her dancing, the slightly amplified cello tones sounded natural throughout the room and the huge Buddha statue behind the celloists didn't seem to bother anyone. The long, intensive applauser at the end was responded to by a repeat of the third Sarabande, this time with flamenco dance to the cello.

"Sensing the music frees the dancing muse."

Bettina Castaño