Dos Guitarras Malagueñas

Juan Martín and Chaparro de Málaga
The Capstone Theatre
9th May 2015

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

This concert was expected to be a rare treat. Internationally acclaimed flamenco guitar duo Juan Martín and Chaparro de Málaga brought an evening of Andalucian sounds and sensuality to a Capstone audience well up for some physical and visual fireworks.

Dressed for the occasion in back dress suit, dazzling white shirt and sporting a scarlet cravat, Martin, with jet black groomed hair and ramrod straight back, stared out at the audience over his renowned guitar. Chaparro, less tall and angular in stature, was in similar attire, and boasted a more flamboyant head of hair. His instrument at the ready he was happy to be introduced as the maestro's number two.

The first half evoked images of old Moorish and gypsy towns, cities and enclaves that have stirred the imagination of this sundrenched part of Spain, which tonight was captured in Martín's own idiosyncratic compositions.

A piece on mountain top Ronda's infatuation with bulls blood and the ardour of a matador's heart, got the evening under way.

The next captured Seville's gypsy outpost on a bank of the Guadalquivir river; both artists birthplace, Malaga. Cordoba and Jerez then all got an outing. The latter, Martin pointed out, has the British to thank for immortalising the local tipple, sherry. As their hands spun and wheeled the heat of relentlessly sun-baked earth under foot or the smell of orange or olive groves, or the salty sea air in the iridescent waves off Cadiz, all came to life, in dazzling clarity.

The music was not always intense but had tremendous tension, timbre, colour and tempo could and did erupt at any moment as the guitarists expressive strumming or hand tapping exploded into virtuosic solo bursts or a frenzy of feeding off each other; a menagerie of themes and melodies that effortlessly came and went . There were no programme notes, but it did not matter.

The playing often carried that dark element essential to the ethos of the flamenco genre and after the interval it would be given full rein. To clear the air first though there was a piece from the 'rain soaked' northern province of Galicia, before the southern intensity and passion of 'Malaguenas' took centre stage. Compiled by Martin from traditional 17th Century fandango origins, a more melancholic and reticent mood entered the music.

Lorca, the great Spanish poet from Granada, in his own poem Malaguena, invokes the concept of 'The Duende', that force beyond the darkly consuming spiritual essence of life and death in the Spanish psyche, that can move an audience in a collective visceral spasm. This the pair attempted, sometimes with a harsh, rasping intensity but harmony and light also had it's part to play, as in a tune on the fountains and shady pools of Granada's Alhambra Palace.

All too soon it was over. So, how did the entertainment go down? The standing ovation at the end said it all.

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