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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Concert review: Soundstreams' Reimagining Flamenco lifted by inspired arrangements

By Margaret Lam on November 14, 2013

Grisha Goryachev
Classical guitarist Grisha Goryachev was central to Soundstreams’ Wednesday concert titled Reimagining Flamenco.

By the end of Wednesday night’s “Reimagining Flamenco” concert at Trinity-St Paul’s Centre, presented by Soundstreams under the artistic direction of Lawrence Cherney, I was left with some serious cravings for more of Grisha Goryachev’s guitar playing, Antonia Contreras’ vocals and Serouj Kradjian’s musical exploration of classical and flamenco music.

The first half of the program featured original piano-guitar arrangements by Kradjian and Goryachev of well-known 20th century Spanish music. It was a rare treat to hear the music performed by the arrangers themselves, both of whom are masters of their instruments and musical traditions beyond the Western idiom.

There was a wonderful build-up from three popular pieces to an imaginative interpretation of Isaac Albéniz’s Asturias, originally composed for piano, as a musical conversation with the guitar. The introduction of Conteras’ commanding vocal presence through a selection of Manuel de Falla’s Seven Spanish Folksongs gave the evening a great injection of flamenco spirit.

No flamenco-inspired concert would be complete without the music of flamenco guitar master Paco de Lucia, through new arrangements of his Monasterio De Sali and Zyrab featuring Jeffrey Beecher on double bass, Jamie Drake on percussion, and Annalee Patipatanakoon on violin.

Unfortunately, almost all of the pieces suffered from the guitar being overpowered by the piano or the ensemble. Even though midway through the duo seem to have finally found a good balance, Goryachev’s musical presence appeared too often as an accompaniment to the piano rather than an equal partnership.

The ensemble of piano and guitar can be difficult to balance, which may be why it doesn’t appear often in performance. The arrangements are a musical conversation in the truest sense of the word — between two performing artists, exploring commonalities and differences across times and traditions.

Regardless, the ease with which Goryachev used a variety of strumming techniques, also known as rasguedos, and the obvious joy he took in the music, were some of the highlights of this concert.

Kradjian’s full range of pianism was also on display through his expressive yet controlled performance of arrangements that were no walk in the park. There is no doubt his performance was an audience favourite.

After the intermission, I was looking forward to the reappearance of Contreras’ pristine and powerful voice, but found myself searching for some connection between the theme of the evening and André Ristic’s Boiling Song.

While it was a fine work given its world premiere by a chamber orchestra conducted by Joaquin Valdepeñas, it stuck out in this particular program as neither here nor there.

It made my experience of Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician), a lyrical suite featuring dramatic narration capped by songs at the beginning and at the end, also a bit musically disjointed.

While thematically fitting as well as brightened and energised by Contreras’ voice, I longed for something as stimulating as the Goryachev-Kradjian arrangements. I also wished for the sound of something celebratory, but perhaps not a classical orchestra.

I secretly hoped for a Goryachev-Kradjian encore, but alas, I will have to rely on the live recording of the concert. It won’t replace being there, but any opportunity to listen again to those inspired arrangements is a golden one (and I think I can hear Goryachev better on the recording).

Margaret Lam
is the founder of BeMused Network

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