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Vicente Amigo

By Srajan Ebaen
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Vicente Amigo "Poeta"

Compact Disc Compact Disc: Sony Records 8532 (Import) Compact Disc


Genre: Symphonic Flamenco Guitar Concerto

  The late Camaron de la Isla, an incendiary Flamenco cantaor of near Pop fame, experimented with introducing symphonic backing into the classic Flamenco milieu. Hard line purists accused him of trespassing, those sensitive to any genre’s need to evolve applauded. Rafael Riqueni, a guitarist who frequently collaborates with legendary cantaora Carmen Linares, has added a string quartet to certain tunes on his brilliant Alcazar de Crystal album as well. Still, attempts to marry flamenco and symphonic orchestra or smaller-scale Western classical elements are rare and regarded with suspicion.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Vicente Amigo, Paco de Lucia’s unofficial successor, would be the one to cut the ribbon and say “I do”, as Ang Lee of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame was the director to finally elevate the Kung Fu movie genre to epic mainstream status. Orchestrated by Leo Brouwer who also directs the Orquesta de Cordoba symphony for this production, Poeta is subtitled “Concierto Flamenco Para un Marinero en Tierra” and features the poetry of Rafael Alberti that is recited by Miguel Bosé at the beginning of various tracks against the backdrop of ocean surf.

For ¾ of an hour, Poeta erects an aural cathedral of Andalusia’s essence, of Lorca’s and Hemingway’s Spain, the peninsula that for centuries hosted Moors and Jews and Gypsies coexisting in relative harmony and which, carried on the winds crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, even embraces flavors of Northern Africa’s Maghreb. Achingly beautiful, lushly romantic, Poeta accomplishes the seemingly impossible – well, impossible only if you trusted the perennial nay sayers: presenting the heart of Flamenco in the unlikely setting of a Western Symphony, replete with hair-curling Cante Jondo solos by singer Jose Parra who rises against the orchestra like a heroic tenor but with the raw intensity that classical trained singers lack; with explosive percussive compas compliments of Tino di Geraldo and Luis Dulzaides and complex palmas handclaps by ‘El Pelle’, ‘Botas Gordas’ and ‘Mochilones’; and of course the headlining guitar artistry of Amigo that ranges from smoky and burnished passion against muted trumpet to the dreamy mystery of a solitary oboe call, and from silvery tremolos to the fiery strumming that has an entire orchestra try to keep up with him in heavily syncopated chordal attacks that mimic the frenetic foot stomps of Flamenco dancers.

Poeta is as perfect an accomplishment of the art of Flamenco as Carlos Saura’s movies Carmen and Blood Wedding. As Saura used the silver screen to show us the beating pulse of this highly evolved, complex yet also hidden in barrios life style, so does Poeta distill the same essence into a form familiar and inviting to audiences attuned to Symphonic tone poems – say, the orchestral suite of de Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat or Bizet’s Carmen. In fact, if you admire those latter two, consider Poeta absolutely essential listening, of the same class yet even closer to the real mystery as it features authentic flamenco performers. Another parallel that comes to mind is Eddie Daniel’s gravity-defying Five Seasons in which the clarinetist introduces a Jazz quartet into Vivaldi’s symphony to establish a haunting communion between two disparate aural languages that not only meet but cheer each other with gladness.

By virtue of being a Japanese import, Poeta requires custom ordering and likely will have a highish, close to $40 price tag attached. Never mind – it’s worth every penny, and even the recording quality keeps up with expectations for such a surcharge. As if the above hadn’t been said clearly enough already, Poeta is unequivocally a modern masterpiece that one day will be mentioned in the same breath as Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.












































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