Pablo Urbina | The Smell of Music
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The Smell of Music

I do not often write about concerts I attend, not because I do not have plenty of things to say about them, but because I believe there are professionals that can probably do a much better job! Having said that, the Philharmonia´s concert last week at the Royal Festival Hall deserves a special mention in one of my blogs. 

I must admit that with the topic of Brexit still present on everyday media coverage, and with an ever more present latent feeling of divide in British society, attending a concert in London that breathed Spain all over its pores was a delight. Beyond the obvious national affinity that I share with the conductor and soloist of that night, the concert reminded me (and hopefully a few more people) how music does not divide based on country of origin, race or colour. When you are on your seat, your everyday worries and issues should, hopefully, cease, and for those hours of listening, the whole audience without exception seems to gather around the fire (metaphorically speaking of course), to carefully absorb the tales, stories and feelings narrated to them. They listen regardless of the nationality, language and origin of the person telling them; and for those moments, it appears as though everyone is not only paying attention, but excited to hear what these wonderful story tellers have to say. 

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Last Thursday, I had an epiphany: you do not have to be Spanish to conduct Falla or Finnish to conduct Sibelius, but there is something beautiful about the innate ability of a musician to identify the sounds that emanate from their own homeland. I say this perhaps because when Maestro Heras-Casado and pianist Javier Perianes performed ´Night in the Gardens of Spain´ by De Falla, I felt as though for a moment I had been transported to the south of Spain. My body could feel the warmth of the Andalusian breeze and the distinctive smell (of course not of garlic…) of that region. When the last three chords of the piano and the lower strings (superbly together may I add) signalled my return to the Royal Festival Hall, I was feeling as re-energised as after each one of my holiday trips to Spain. It is with this ability to transcend borders and countries with the touch of a key, the stroke of a bow, the breath through an instrument and the gesture of a baton (or of bare arms in this case), lays the mastery and beauty of classical music. And I am sure no one in the audience was expecting anything less when joined with a world class conductor, pianist and orchestra. As I prepare to conduct Sibelius First symphony at the end of this month, I can only hope to understand the vision and intention of Sibelius to the best of my ability and work so that the audience can hear that shout of patriotism in his music, and feel the cold of the North Wind.

I could spend hours writing about the other two pieces on programme, Ravel´s Alborada del Gracioso and Stravinsky´s Firebird; the sublime symbiotic relationship of one of the conductors I most admire and an orchestra which never fails to excite me and keep me on the edge of my seat. If I can add something that the critics have not already mentioned about that concert, it is that I had the opportunity to learn that both Pablo Heras-Casado and Javier Perianes have not lost their connection to their beginnings; both polite, friendly and obviously extremely gifted, showing on and off the stage great humanity, humility and respect for the orchestra, of course reciprocated by the Philharmonia Orchestra. Joyce di Donato comes to mind, as she has mentioned in many of her master classes that only when you enjoy life and the process of music making can you truly understand the deepest of human emotions, those which music attempts to communicate. For someone like myself at the beginning stages of their career, to watch all of these musicians interact in this way is not only reassuring but also comforting, and for that I must thank all of them.

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