Manuel de Falla The Three Cornered Hat (El Sombrero des Tres Pucos) with Pablo Heras-Casado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra streamed HERE. Pablo Heras-Casado came up through the ranks of the Abbado group of orchestras, of which the Mahler Chamber Orchestra is an integral part, and was mentored by Pierre Boulez. There's a video of Boulez and the Lucerne Festival Academy with a very young Heras-Casado, still round with puppy fat. Soon, Heras-Casado became joint director of the Academy beside Boulez. Since then, he's become a big-time international name, conducting everywhere at the highest levels. Yet Granada, his hometown, remains part of his identity. He headed for some years the Granada Festival of Music and Dance at which this performance was filmed in July 2019 in the grounds of the palace of Charles V in Alhambra.
Flamenco, and indeed most dance, depends on precision, energy and discipline, well suited to the very high standards of the elite Mahler Chamber Orchestra. With Heras-Casado, this provides a foundation for a performance of extraordinary power, where the playing alone is so vivid that the music "speaks" without the need for dancers or staging, other than the backdrop of the palace coutyard itself and the abstract video projections in the background, designed to reflect the architecture. Listen to the detail in this performance : castanets, trumpets, piccolos, clapping, their purpose sharply defined amid the passionate, swirling textures. As in Flamenco, single gestures matter, where directions can switch on sudden pivot points. Heras-Casado reminds us that de Falla was a twentieth century composer, building on earlier traditions. He was a contemporary and friend of Stravinsky, and died as recently as 1946. The Three Cornered Hat was commissioned by Serge Diaghilev and choreographed by Leonid Massine in 1919, in co-operation wth de Falla and authentic Spansh dancers. It's relatively late for a Ballets Russe production, and the flavour of the 1920's is in evidence. It predates Ravel's Boléro by 10 years.
El Sombreo des Picos and El amor brujo on Harmonia Mundi, which was one of my favourites of 2019. I can listen to it again and again and still feel refreshed by its spotaniety and verve. When it came out some said it was "too fast" and not "romantic" enough. Too bad ! This music isn't mean to be soft-focussed. its a pity that listeners these days seem to approach music with a laundry list of preconceived assumptions rather than listening to what a composer might mean, or what a good performer can bring out in the music. It's the repertoire that counts !