It is hard to believe, and even more to assume, that a quarter of a century has already been accomplished in the solo career of Rodrigo Leão. For the moment, we remember the memory well and now we can admit it without pruritus: almost all of us came to think, back in 1993, that the keyboardist incurred suicide by separating himself from Madredeus when those Lisboetas seemed anointed by magic. But that Leão with which we met again yesterday in the New Apollo of Madrid continues to be a creator of atmospheres like few, a composer of miniatures so beautiful that it enters the temptation to think that they are simple.
Leão credits an amazing skill for the chamber piece. We sat with our backs to the piano, like the one who treasures a secret that he prefers to keep, and from his fingers sprang melodies of irrefutable charm. They are almost always humble works, accompanied melody: in all this time it has not given us any reason to think that I aspire to a future opera, a symphony or a great suite room. But it is easy to feel trapped by these pieces that are born of just an elementary progression of chords and are gradually arming, discreet and modest, until enrarded in memory.
Leão develops as the main weapon, in the background, the simple humility of the great. In the eighties he promoted the sophisticated pop of Sétima Legião (the current ambassador in Spain was one of its members!) And, immediately after, the beautiful adventure of Madredeus: an evocative, poetic band, fascinating in the creation of that universe in black and white with a lot of grain, one saudade Lusitanian and universal, popular and chamber music.
And in those, having reached the top, chose to disengage. He understood in time that in his brain lived, more than in any other, the flash of lucidity. It was surprising to revisit the already distant operatic sketches of his debut yesterday, Ave mundi luminar (1993), from Imortal to Carpe Diem, and not find them hieratic or pedantic, but touched by an enviable timelessness. Bel canto without pretenses and in pocket format, but accessible as if we had inherited it from the odd century.
Up to three women interspersed their voices last night and allowed to alternate that singing facet with the most flirtatious chamber music, where the weeping of the two violins receives the comforting embrace of a cello and the playful colored doodles of the metallophone. A Leão happens a little like Pink Martini: risk little, whether in English, Portuguese, French, Spanish or Russian, but anyone can feel comfortable under his coat.
There is some conservatism in all that architecture, we know. Rodrigo sounds advanced as a pop artist with a bow tie and a bow tie (Ascensão, wonderful rescue of the times of Sétima Legião, seemed arranged by Michael Nyman), and instead he seems like a composer of music for short films in instrumental format. But it manages to make almost two hours pass in a sigh. And he gathers around his figure half a dozen young musicians who look at him with little eyes of veneration. Let another 25 years come; With intergenerational complicity, the path will be more adventurous.