Homenaje a Ramón Montoya
Text: Pablo San Nicasio Ramos
Guitar: Agustín Carbonell “El Bola”. Cante: Juan Pinilla. Dance: Lola Greco
It only seemed right to program a monographic show dedicated to Ramón Montoya. A live performance to honor the father of modern flamenco guitar. That was the least anyone could do. And in the year of Sabicas, another of the kings all but forgotten around these parts. The Palacio de Oriente was witness to the presentation. Although it wasn’t a multitudinous affair, the setting for the “Tribute to Don Ramón” couldn’t have been more beautiful.
It’s not easy to recreate the assortment of original pieces the Madrid maestro left us. Another gypsy from the Madrid Rastro, “El Bola”, took on that chore, and some others as well. The first being the audience. It’s clear that straightahead flamenco guitar, without window-dressing and guest artists, just doesn’t sell. At least nowadays. That’s how it is folks. More intimate venues will need to be found, and then bigger ones little by little, but in the land of the guitar, in a tribute to one of the greatest guitarists of all time, led by a Madrid favorite, never was the saying about “no one is a prophet in his hometown” more applicable.
The next job at hand was the playing. Outstanding. It was a welcome surprise to see a guitarist who just made a record (“Rojo y Rosa”, from which he only included three pieces), but honors the old maestros. And doing so means being up to the task without trivializing. From the granaína to the final rondeña, the clean technique and richness of his playing, the generosity and concentration were impressive. “El Bola” became interpreter and composer all in one, although we guitar freaks were clearly enjoying it the most, the sublime flashes of great playing were more than evident to all those present.
Like in the old days, with the guitar held nearly upright on the right leg (it’s really hard to play in this position), and wearing a bow-tie, the aesthetic was pure eighteen-hundreds. And Lola Greco, a combination of bolero and Goyescas, with an arrangement of the unpublished Farruca Gitana that was premiered this night after so many years in the attic, with the detail of Juan Pinilla making the music sound like Chacón, the genius from Jerez so often accompanied by Montoya. Caracoles, taranta, soleá and malagueña.
And the strings of a quintet ended to the piano of Pablo Rubén Maldonado, with the violoncello Lucía Otero being noteworthy. It was the resurrection of an aesthetic and of a concept.
Perhaps on a different stage it would have been amazing. But at the immense grounds of Sabatini, this was not meant to be. Nevertheless, good intentions were in place. And Rosita Montoya, grand-daughter of the great Ramón made it clear. Last night traditional old-style flamenco guitar-playing was resuscitated.