The Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös (Odorheiu Secuiesc, present-day Romania, 1944) did not have atmospheric inclemency in his sound portrait of the Alhambra. After eleven minutes of the premiere of his Third concert for violin, subtitled with the name of the palatine city of Andalusia, an incipient storm forced to interrupt the music in the Palace of Carlos V. But the storm just unloaded a few drops and the evening of closing of the 68th Festival of Granada, with Pablo Heras-Casado front of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and that counted among the public with some authorities, as the new president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, could be resumed, in part, after half an hour of forced intermission.
They were ideal minutes to discuss the new work with the composer. "My composition is a musical tour through the different rooms, courtyards and gardens of the Alhambra, but also from the Palace of Charles V, through Google Maps, because until yesterday I did not have the opportunity to visit them," Eötvös acknowledged to EL PAÍS. It is a commission from Pablo Heras-Casado, as director of the Granada Festival, which has been joined by the BBC in London, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Paris Orchestra. A new concert that will be heard again this summer both at the Proms, on July 24, and at the Philharmonie in Berlin and Paris, at the beginning of September. In front of the orchestras will alternate the composer, who is also an outstanding conductor, and Heras-Casado, although the soloist will always be Isabelle Faust. "The work is also a portrait of this German violinist, as my first two concerts were in the past: Seven (2006) that I wrote for Akiko Suwanai and DoReMi (2012), which I did thinking about Midori ", continues the composer," although this time I have also added the director Pablo Heras-Casado, because the work is dedicated to both ".
The violin, more than a soloist, is the real factotum of this concert. It was also in the two previous concerts of the Hungarian composer, but now the instrument acts as a guide in this virtual tour, while the orchestra contributes the architectures, adornments or environments of each room. Another ideal example of this sound photographer, who is Eötvös, but also of the composer who exploited, from his youth, in the sixties in Hungary, all the creative possibilities offered by film music. He combined it, later, with the influences of Stockhausen and Boulez. And today the result acquires that ability to elicit the enchantment of the listener through sound.
Use, of course, a special orchestral palette, which includes a mandolin in scordatura. And it establishes its habitual games as structural elements or musical cryptograms, where it transfers in melodies and chords the word A-L-H-A-M-B-R-A and the names and surnames of the two dedicators of the score. But he also uses the note sol (G in the German solmisación), as a symbol of the city of Granada, to open and close the concert. "Actually, I have changed the end a bit and the work now ends with a sustained sun," the composer comments in front of the score provided to this newspaper by the Schott Music publishing house. But the work also betrays a certain pantheistic attitude. Eötvös establishes empathy with beings and objects that come alive in their staves and that manage to move us to a seemingly different world in each new composition. "It is curious that the work has stopped, because of the rain, just in the passages where he evoked what the stones of this Palace of Carlos V tell me," Eötvös added with a smile before saying goodbye.
The evening was resumed with caution after midnight. And we listen, finally, the twenty-four minutes without interruption of the new concert. The violinist Isabelle Faust inhabited the work as if it were a tailor-made dress. And it unfolded, with an amazing delivery and musicality, all the dynamic, timbre and articulation details. We speak of a score populated by all kinds of traps in the form of bow strikes, pizzicatos, double strings, harmonics, trills, tremolos and glissandos. The work combines episodes of bravery with other contemplatives, such as the indicated "senza misura", where time seems to stop between harmonics of the violin and flashes of the triangle, the vibraphone, the harp and the celesta. But the solo of violin that opens the work stands out, with that opposition between the solidity of the foundations, in the grave register, and the beautiful arabesques of the ceiling, in the acute register. The same passage returns several times and we hear it at the end, with the aforementioned sun held alone that, after being extinguished, continued to resonate in our imagination for 30 seconds of a magical silence. Heras-Casado exhibited her ideal rapport with the German soloist, with whom she recorded the concerts of Schumann and Mendelssohn. And he got an exceptional Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO), which had 15 Spaniards among its 63 members, innumerable nuances and sound flashes from this sound photograph of the Alhambra.
The concert began at 10:30 pm with the suite of Pulcinella, by Igor Stravinski, that we already discussed in these pages, last April, on the occasion of the tour of the MCO with Heras-Casado entitled Magic!. But now the version we heard was quite different. The slight problems of balance, on the string, between the set of soloists or concertino and the filling or ripieno, they were now serious, although the violinist Meesun Hong Coleman played again with aplomb. The tarantella and tocata derived, this time, in some hubbub. And in the gavotte, which was affected by the breeze that moved some scores of the music stands, only flutist Júlia Gállego shone. The bass player Rick Stotijn raised again the humor of that Stravinskian elaboration of a Pergolesi symphony. And Heras-Casado retained all the tension, at the end of the minuet, to spill it on the finale, that sounded frantic but also tangled. Fortunately, in the work of Eötvös, then, it seemed that another orchestra had come on stage.
But the other event of this closing concert of the Festival of Granada was the commemoration of the centenary of The Three-Cornered Hat, by Manuel de Falla, in the second part. For the occasion, the Festival commissioned a visual band to Frederic Amat. And the Catalan scenographer evoked, in the background of the Palace of Carlos V, between the columns of its two floors, the music of the ballet with the movements of his brush and the ink marks of his hands. A beautiful accompaniment for the music that also arranged for the soprano soloist on the top floor. But it was truncated by another storm, something more important than the previous one, before the end of the first part of the ballet. It was almost one o'clock in the morning and it was decided to close the concert.
Until then we had heard an excellent version of The Three-Cornered Hat, full of that claim of Heras-Casado to delve into the vitality and modernity of Falla. We proved it in the verve of the fanfare and in the brilliant intervention of the Valencian soprano Carmen Romeu. But also in the famous fandango de la molinera, which was among the best of the night, although the rain got worse in "Las uvas" and the orchestra dissolved in a few seconds. The commemoration of Falla's centenary was interrupted before reaching half. Heras-Casado intervened, shortly after, to announce the end of the concert and officially close the Festival. But the setback can be corrected, at least in part, by the recording made by the Mezzo channel of the general rehearsal of the full ballet, the previous day. And also by the recording of the same interpreters, which will officially launch Harmonia Mundi in September, along with The love wizard.
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