Music review: Capricho Arabe

A guitar concert in a 16th century church, announced months in advance, – yet an audience seemed not welcome. After crossing a busy road, tape cordoned off practically the complete pavement. Only a small entrance of about 50 cm had not been taped off. It was merely blocked by a Belgian car, advertising it belonging to a tv gutter-press channel.

It got worse. I wriggled through the tiny space between the gutter-press car and everything-is-forbidden tape. The entrance to the church was flanked by hideous purple-pink bouquets. A gutter-press photographer wanted a closeup of it all, so an assistant closed the doors.

It looked like a murder-scene, though the only victims were flowers. When the closeups of these victims finally pleased the gutter-press idiot, the doors were opened again for the music fans who had turned up for a classical guitar music concert.

Inside, party tables in ghastly pink-purple cluttered what once was the entrance to this Dominican church. On the foldable plastic tables stood the usual party stuff: tiny plastic glasses filled with peanuts in sickly colours and undoubtedly dubious tastes.

I managed to swirl through the steeple chase without accident and filed into one of the pews. There were at least fifty people who had managed to conquer the blockade and survive the steeple chase. Caterers continued to tweak and fiddle and rearrange what obviously was no reception for classical music lovers.

Finally, the regular church hostess walked up the podium, in front of the altar, holding a microphone. Everybody expected the usual welcome: no. She rattled off instructions. The church was being readied for Rohyalteeeh, the usual hangers-on, press, and various underlings.

Rohyalteeh was going to open the annual open-air summer exhibition of modern sculptures. These modern sculptures had found their places weeks ago in front of the church and other period buildings and been littered throughout the city. It must have taken a real, sincere effort: the sculptures were even more hideous than in preceding years.

Of course, the local Rohyalteehs own over a billion Euros, part of which is spent on what they deem suitable art. They are among the richest in the world. Their homes and at least one yacht are maintained on taxpayers’ money.

So as caterers, security, what not, had to prepare the venue for Rohyalteeeh, could we all not linger after the concert and file out asap. Ah: audience and musician were flotsam to be gotten rid of asap. Any music lovers, fans of the musician, admirers of Gothic and other church architecture would be escorted off the premises straight after the concert – and unceremoniously dumped outside.

Of course, these concerts are a fortnightly event, planned months in advance. But Rohyalteeh prefers modern sculptures and usually trots up to open this summer exhibition. And Rohyalteeh still takes precedence over everything here. So the 16th century Dominican church had been confiscated and the concert – well – barely tolerated.

Fortunately, the pieces played by Frans Brekelmans were of the kind to obliterate such a welcome. Moreover, the pieces were performed so brilliantly, they obliterated the plastic and other sculptures outside and the modern and much Photoshopped pictures exhibited on the church walls. This classical guitar music concert belonged to another world.

Mr Brekelmans’ guitar belonged to another era. It was as special as the music played on it. It dates back to 1927, and is based on models by Manuel Ramirez and others. It is also strung like guitars used in the twenties and thirties.

Mr Brekelmans tried to introduce his instrument and the selected Spanish pieces. The bad vibes preceding Rohyalteeeh ensured, he had not been handed any microphone. Fortunately, the bad vibes did not affect the music which filled the church.

This small church is the perfect background and environment for early music concerts. Provided no caterers drop cases of cutlery, nor crash too many glasses. Most of the audience and tourist who entered while the concert was in progress, listened quietly and awed to music made popular by Andres Segovia.

“La Frescobalda”, transcribed by Segovia and composed by Girolamo Frescobaldi was the first piece and one of this concert’s best. Two pieces by Francisco Tarrega followed: his Prelude nr 1 and Capricho Arabe. As far as I’m concerned, this Capricio Arabe was one of the best pieces I had heard for ages. It was played so well, its sensual seductiveness made one imagine dancers quietly creeping from behind the broad Gothic pillars to start dancing in the path between the pews.

It was followed by Isaac Albeniz‘ “Mallorca”. Like so many pieces transcribed for classical guitar, it was originally written for piano. The concert’s brochure stated Albeniz wrote it as an homage to the island where Chopin and George Sand had lived. Of course, the couple spent the winter of 1838 at a monastery on Mallorca, but as George Sand’s book makes perfectly clear: they were not happy there and the climate worsened his illness. Fortunately, Albeniz wrote a dreamy barcarole-like piece, which does not evoke unhappiness, illness and morbid emotions.

The concert ended with the Sonatine Meridional of Manuel M. Ponce. Though all the selected pieces were beautiful, this one was the least so. Mr Brekelmans kindly performed Jose Munoz Molleda’s Diferencias sobre un tema “Al gran guitarrista, Andres Segovia” as an encore. This was greatly appreciated by his audience.

Mr Brekelmans’ latest CD was on sale close to the exit of the church. However, with the welcoming instructions to the audience before his concert was introduced, sales can’t have been as successful as on other concert days – when Rohyalteeh does not cause upheavals.
YouTube Segovia playibng Capricho Arabe
Frans Brekelmans
“Un Hiver en Majorque”, George Sand, can be downloaded for free through Project Gutenberg and is also available in translations through Amazon

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