Wednesday, July 13, 2005



We arrived in Salamanca at ten o' clock on a Saturday night. After a twelve hour day of rehearsal and travel it was time to untwist the contorted limbs, abandon the fears about an ill-prepared programme and wander in to town for tapas.

I had never seen images of Salamanca and so as we walked I watched a rose miracle unfold around me. The baroque steeples, sensitively up-lit and each sporting it's stalk and nest, did not pierce but rather seemed to caress the night sky. The day's light radiating from the stone seemed to illuminate the architectural flourishes making them tender rather than ostentatious; spontaneous gestures in space. As my feet floated down sandstone streets called 'Silencio' and 'El Arco', past the Casa de las Conchas, La Clerica, the Casa de las Muertas and the La Purisma monastary, the baroque sunrises, butterfly airs and sailor dances we were trying to paint in sound started to make sense:

The next night our chef appeared from the wings as an angel, her halo of Salamancan gold hair glinting in the stage lights. A rainbow had crept in from the streets and was nestling in the folds of her white organza skirt as she invited us to join her in her voyage through Rameau's 'Les Indes Galantes'.

The simple opening phrase touches the silence, violins and oboes lonesome and reedy as the first sun-ray touching the tip of the basilica's dome. Slowly the light penetrates through to the violas, and by the time the cellos enter the stage is floodlit with vibration. The magical scene is set.

(Don't worry. It's not all purisma. Much of this sublime music seems to be about baroque bondage.)

The celli rest up and listen much of the time, as Rameau conceals the bass line in other sections. "Enchaines-moi" sings the soprano, a lone flute decorating her plea. Just underneath her the 'bass' line floats in the violins like my feet suspended in disbelief on the soft Castilian streets. Her prayers appear to have been answered as out come the chains, shaken rudely by the percussionist, to introduce us to the raunchy 'Air des Matelots' and it's partner 'Air de la Matelotte'. Then the bossy violins are telling the 'Papillons Inconstants' to 'fixer leurs amours'; to behave themselves, settle down with one other butterfly and not be such tarts. There are two 'Airs pour les Fleurs', constructed from miniature phrase-petals which we stroke lovingly, a sunrise made from solo rising scales and heart-breaking 'Voix Bulgares'- style accents which makes me want to weep, and the infamous Rondeau which has to be where swing-time was born. Here bows are abandoned in favour of jazzers fingers flipping as they pluck the walking bass line. Heads are shaking, bums are bouncing and toes are curling up in joy. The cello section can hardly contain itself and the joint is swingin'.

After the concert we eat Ibérica jamon, drink rioja and dance in a sixteenth century courtyard to hip hop. I sleep one and a half hours and return home still floating.



Anonymous millie said...

Met a young couple from Madrid on a trip to Denmark, who told me that jamon Salamanca was something one must have at least once in one's lifetime. Wonder if the jamon you had the same?
Somewhere in your writings an electronic device called 'concert companion' appears, and sounded all too horrible. Instead I must say how your own asides and entres to the world of musicians and music enhance the total enjoyment of the subject for this reader. That it takes place in the afterglow of performance, and not during, is only one reason it is far superior to a lap-borne electronic music coach. Brava!

7:53 AM  
Blogger granny p said...

We spent three days in Salamanca once waiting for a broken-down truck to be fixed. It was midwinter, foggy, raining, cold. We were fed up. But it was still one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Summer and Indes Gallantes would have been welcome - thanks for this addition to the glorious buildings. By the way the French makes 'chief' sound wonderfully edible. Much nicer than the English. Look forward to more good musical cooking,

11:56 AM  
Blogger Jean said...

Playing baroque music in Salamanca in the midst of all that that baroque architecture, how wonderful. And how wonderful to be seeing the city for the first time. I used to go to Summer School there when I was a student studying Spanish - long, dreamy, golden summers of my silly, confused youth, oh my... Must go again some time - I would appreciate it much more now.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous ppc said...

viva espana!!!

2:25 AM  

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