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Vicente Amigo at the Festival de Músicas Sagradas de Fez

Paquito Gónzalez, percussion. Orchestre Sinfónica Harmonium, directed by Aziz El Acchab.
Fez, Morrocco. 20/05/2017
May 26, 2017
José Manuel Gómez GUFI
Photo: R. Fornos

“Beautiful and unnecessary”

Vicente Amigo with a Moroccan orchestra at the Fez festival of holy music?  You instinctively think of the recordings of Lebrijano, or the first big hit of Vicente with El Pele “Vengo del Moro”.  Neither one thing nor the other.  A European-style symphonic orchestra at a venue, Bab Makina, apparently upper-class, a place that can become torture for the spectator, depending on where you sit, and how the people next to you behave.

If all goes well, and they watch what’s happing on stage, you get to see the concert on the screens of their cell phones, with surprising clarity by the way.  But if they get bored, they might take phone calls and video chats, without any sort of scruples.

Vicente appeared on his own, playing melodies and abstractions that appeared to reference the Concierto de Aranjuez, and drawing intermittent ovations with moments of fury, something which the local audience saw as normal, as if they were more interested in the explosion than the fireworks.  Vicente has amazing technique, dynamics and harmonic concepts, perhaps that’s why I feel incapable of remembering the compositions from his most recent recording, “Memoria de los Sentidos”, a work that warrants being delved into, without preconceived ideas.  So listening to it along with another flamenco guitarist can be torture.  “That’s Paco’s picado…and that one too”.  Readers are fully aware that Paco de Lucía has been copied even in his silences, you really have to be serious about copying him in order to do that, and that’s how the battle of the guitar giants goes, without anything to light the way.  And Paco offered one of his last concerts at this very same venue.

“This is the first time I’ve played in this city, and I hope it’s not the last” said Vicente at the outset; the day before he stood up Spanish journalists who had come specifically for the festival, because he hadn’t been happy about the rehearsal with the orchestra.

Vicente has a peculiar sense of humor, and was particularly laid-back in the first part of the concert which he shared as a quartet with singer Rafael de Utrera.  After the first part, they retired to the dressing-rooms, and the orchestra appeared.  That’s when the smiles vanished.

Flamenco with symphony orchestra is like bell-bottom pants; there are people who look good in them for a time, but then it becomes necessary to change styles.  Vicente Amigo solved the problem of presenting a work he’d performed intermittently in Spain with texts of Rafael Alberti.

As Eduardo Punset says, “music serves a purpose, almost everything else is worthless”, and Vicente Amigo’s concert had some brilliant moments, there’s always something worthwhile for the listener, but the reviewer is left with the feeling that it wasn’t necessary to travel to Fez to hear it.

Hours earlier, singer-actress Claire Zalamansk presented “La Petenera” at an Andalusí palace with songs recuperated from Lorca, as well as some Sephardic ones in a luxurious setting.  Disappointing compared with the adventure of being dropped off by a taxi-driver at one end of the Medina, and then having to cross the entire Medina on your own.

 

Vicente Amigo - Fez

 

Vicente Amigo - Orquesta Sinfónica de Fez