Review: Flamenco and gypsy violins in Uster (CH)

Flamenco and gypsy violins.                                                                                               Uster Tagesblatt from 4.11.2002, by Irene Maier

A flamenco evening full of superlatives

Extraordinary flamenco from an extraordinary dancer

The flamenco evening with Bettina Castaño and the Berky devils fiddlers at the Stadthofsaal Uster which was advertised with a great deal of premature praise, promised a special treat. The great expectations were more than excelled.

On the stage with just minimal decoration, there were just a couple of chairs, and inbetween a wonderful cymbal. A typical instrument of gypsy orchestras. The guitarrists El Espina and Miguel Perez stepped onto the stage almost unnoticed, and took their seats on the chairs in the middle.

What the musicians offered, was the highest standard of flamenco guitar music. They played 'Granaina por Rumba' , a story-telling flamenco which is not danced. They interpreted this full of expression, together with a fantastic technique and achieved a fulminant start to the performance. A fantastic pick up for the following 'devils fiddlers'. They introduced themselves to the audience with overwhelming temperament, humour, and impressive musical talent. The electronic amplification wasn't even really necessary.

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Dance of love and sorrow

Then, the long anticipated performance of Bettina Castaño. She began her dance to 'Zigeunertränen' with graceful, gentle movements. A dance which tells of love, death, sorrow, passion, joy and happiness. While the singer sang the story, accompanied by the guitarrists, and the palmero clapped the rhythm, Bettina Castaño showed the extent of her expression in dance – sometimes graceful and playful, and then firey, boisterous, and passionate. When the gypsy orchestra joined in, the explosion was perfect. The Berky Devils fiddlers and the flamenco musicians treated the audience to a rest, with a little ear candy, in the form of well-known gypsy melodies.

Then La Castaño performed again, this time with a Algrias. This dance is a very feminine, joyful dance. It is seen as the queen of all flamenco dances. What is special about it is that a large scarf , a mantón, is danced with – which makes the movements seem very feminine. Bettina Castaño also proved here, that she is a master of her field.

The masculine dance in flamenco

Following the break, Miguel Perez performed a guitar solo.impressively and virtuously, he pulled us into the male world of flamenco, with his 'Farruca' . Farruca is a serious dance, which was created by the dancer Fiaco in the 19th century, and is only danced by men.

The musicians demonstrated their masterful interaction and creative improvisation with the 'Rumba Puebla' and 'Rumba Nueva'. The cymbaliist Ernest Sarközi masterfully played a solo, then the singer Antonio Saavedra and the palmero Manuel Salgado also performed solos. Salgado introduced different rhythms with hand-clapping and stamping feet, with such speed and precision that most percussionists would be amazed. Finally, folloowed the emotional violists Josef Farkas and Emil Hasa, and the stylish accompaniment of the kontrabassist Tibor Lévai, and of course the violinists Jan Berky jr and Martin Sleziak, who overflowed with temperament. Together with the guitarrists, they complimented and supported Bettina Castaños fantastic dancing. The special thing about this composition is the interesting connection between the firey gypsy music of the east and the passionate flamenco music of Andalucia. Despite their differences one can feel the common root of these two types of music. As we experienced, the idea and conception of the programme FLAMENCO AND GYPSY FIDDLERS was from Bettina Castaño herself, and the clever dramaturgic development and arrangement of violin and guitar by the guitarrist El Espina.

The wild dance with a hat

For the last dance of the programme 'El Garrotin', La Castaño appeared in a bright red velvet dress, with a matching hat. She elegantly integrated the hat as an additional dance element, sometimes with almost girlish movements, and then coquettishly putting it on her head again. The signal for a wild Czárdas was to throw the hat in front of the cymbalist in a zestful manner.

The public was delighted, and hoked, and of course didn't let the artists leave the stage without cries of 'encore' and a standing ovation. The icing on the cake was when the Palmero let himself be led into a racey 'Zapateado', and revealed his own dancing skills. Bettina Castaño and her musicians, and the Berky Devils fiddlers offered the audience a wonderful, impressive and unforgettable experience.

The flamenco evening will be repeated on November 8th at 8pm at the Volkshaus in Zürich.

"Sensing the music frees the dancing muse."

Bettina Castaño