Vicente Pradal has written - and performed on - two previous albums
which take their inspiration from Lorca: Llanto por Ignacio
Sánchez Mejías and Romancero Gitano. Now the trilogy
is completed by El Diván del Tamarit. This third album
takes its title from Lorca’s poetic sequence written between 1931
and 1934, and published posthumously in 1940; Lorca having been
murdered by Nationalist militia on 19 August 1936.
In the poems of
his Diván del Tamarit Lorca meditates
on love and death and the perceived inevitability of the interconnection
of the two. He does this through imagery - and to a degree
poetic forms - derived from the poetry of the Arab-Andalusian
poets of earlier centuries. His ‘Divan’ - the word designates
a collection of Arabic or Persian poetry, by a single author,
arranged in a particular fashion – which Lorca makes no attempt
to imitate - contains twelve poems. He gives these the title
gacela - usually called a ghazal in English. To nine
of them he gives the title quasida (the same term is
used in English). It is the moods and themes of these oriental
poems that Lorca imitates and intensifies more than their
precise forms. For the most part, Lorca seems to use the title
gacela when his lyric is most directly concerned with
the experience of love, and that of quasida when his
poem is more philosophical in emphasis – though this is not
a hard and fast distinction.
connection with Lorca and his work goes even beyond his obvious
admiration of it. Pradal is the great grandson of Don Antonio
Rodriguez Espinosa, who was actually Lorca’s schoolteacher
in Fuentevaqueros, the village some seventeen kilometres west
of Granada in which the poet, dramatist, composer, pianist
and visual artist was born.
Given that these
are some of Lorca’s most vividly ‘oriental’ poems, Pradal’s
settings here make surprisingly little use of explicitly eastern
musical materials – nothing so pronounced as, for example,
the Prologue which opens his version of the Llanto
por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías: Lorca’s great elegy
for a torero gored to death in the bull ring. Rather
he uses essentially European forms such as the waltz (Gacela
del amor imprevisto), specifically flamenco
forms such as the jaleo (Casida de la muchacha dorada)
and the siguiriya (Casida de los ramos) as well as
‘foreign’ forms such as the rumba (Gacela de la raiz amarga)
and tango (Gacela del mercado matutino).
All the music is given a flamenco flavour. Sometimes this
is far more than a mere flavour. It is mingled with some jazz
inflections and a dash of the Moorish.
forces here are not identical with those on the earlier albums,
but the replacements generally acquit themselves well. Albert
Garcia is a particularly fine vocalist and a number of Hélène
Arntzen’s saxophone solos are especially memorable. Emmanuel
Joussemet makes some striking contributions on the cello.
In truth nobody lets the side down and the results are intriguing
and enjoyable listening, in which the different voices and
instruments are used in many different combinations.
Having said that,
I don’t find this present CD quite as compelling as its two
predecessors. Pradal’s music is eloquent and passionate, but
doesn’t quite succeed in finding musical idioms fully expressive
of the darkness of some of Lorca’s words and sentiments here,
except perhaps in the very last track, ‘Gacela del niño muerto’
in which Albert Garcia’s voice is accompanied by cello alone.
This is poetry
that speaks of how “He cerrado mi balcón, / porque no quiero
oír el llanto / pero por detrás de los grises muros / no se
oye otra cosa que el llanto” (I have closed my balcony window
/ because I do not wish to hear the weeping / but from behind
the grey walls / nothing but weeping is heard”) and how “El
niño herido gemía / con una corona de escarcha” (“the wounded
child groaned / with a crown of white frost”). For all their
skill and intensity, Pradal and his performers don’t quite
find means to do full justice to the fierce and ominous ambiguities
of Lorca’s verse. Perhaps it is asking the impossible to imagine
that they or anybody else could quite do so.
If you don’t know
this series of CDs, but want to investigate them, then Llanto
por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías is probably the place to begin.
But if you know the other two, you will surely also want to add
El Diván del Tamarit to your collection.
also Review by Rob Barnett