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August 2013
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Going Authentic: CSO and Flamenco

Marina Heredia, photo by Antonio Panizza

Marina Heredia, photo by Antonio Panizza

Sunday at 1:00 PM

See video of Marina Heredia below.

Spanish music was the ‘new black,’ when Cádiz-native Manuel de Falla came of age. All the best composers, starting with Lalo, then Bizet, Chabrier, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Ravel—they all scored hits writing Spanish music (sadly Bizet didn’t live to see it). When he took himself to Paris to refine his skills as a composer, Manuel de Falla was nonplussed; those guys weren’t Spanish. It sent him on a life-long odyssey to discover the essence of his national music.

“Truth without authenticity”

—Manuel de Falla

Falla became an outspoken advocate for the preservation of the art of flamenco, condemning diluted and commercialized versions of it, and bolstering the older, authentic styles he knew in his youth. Along with Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, Falla sponsored the festival El Concurso del Cante Jondo (Contest of the Deep Song) to celebrate the art of true flamenco: the music, the songs, and the dance.

Of course Falla, as a classical composer, was arguably an outsider himself; he had a scholar’s more global perspective of the genre, going so far as to write a treatise on the subject, El cante jondo. In it, he reached back into Spain’s history to uncover the foreign source material for flamenco: identifying the Byzantine church music coming from the eastern Mediterranean, Moorish music from North Africa and Arabia, and the music of India, which he traced through the “Gitanos,” the Roma or gypsies, who had lived in Spain.

Falla wrote a number of “Spanish” works, that is, music based on Spanish rhythms and harmonies. In El amor brujo, he used Andalusian Spanish, which is the dialect of the Gitanos for a commission by the famed flamenco gypsy dancer, Pastoria Imperio. El amor brujo generally shows up in the repertoire of operatic singers, particularly great Carmens, like Jennifer Larmore, Leontyne Price, Victoria de los Angeles, and Elina Garanca. When the Chicago Symphony performed El amor brujo recently, they took a different tack: they hired a renowned flamenco singer, Marina Heredia. The program is led by Pablo Hera-Casado and includes music by Ravel and Debussy. The broadcast starts at 1:00 PM on Sunday, August 18.


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