sun 14/07/2024

Sánchez, National Symphony Orchestra, Martín, National Concert Hall, Dublin review - Spanish panache | reviews, news & interviews

Sánchez, National Symphony Orchestra, Martín, National Concert Hall, Dublin review - Spanish panache

Sánchez, National Symphony Orchestra, Martín, National Concert Hall, Dublin review - Spanish panache

Flamenco song and dance matched to orchestral brilliance brings heat to a freezing city

Rebecca Sánchez in 'El amor brujo' with Jaime Martin and the National Symphony Orchestra Mark Stedman

Ravel’s Boléro, however well you think you know it, usually wows in concert with its disconcerting mix of sensuality, fun and violence. Context can make it even more powerful: in this case as the culmination of NSO Chief Conductor Jaime Martín’s brilliantly programmed Spanish fiesta, a cool and even customer at first after chameleonic Chabrier and fidgety-brilliant, fluid Falla.

The special guest was well known to many Dubliners. During lockdown, the orchestra’s programming of Falla’s El amor brujo (Love the Magician) came up against the 14-day quarantine rule for visiting musicians. Seville-born and flamenco-trained Rebecca Sánchez was working in a care home in Belturbet, County Cavan. Performing in a hall with orchestra but without an audience, she caused a sensation on the RTÉ Lyric broadcast. And righty so: such charm, beaming at the orchestra even when she wasn’t singing or dancing, and totally professional in the delivery of the cantaora’s role.

Since this was the original 1915 Gitaneria rather than the 1924 Ballet pantomimico, we also got the melodrama of the spells spoken by protagonist Candela to exorcise the persistent spirit of her dead husband. It would have been good to get the translations in programme or supertitles, but Sánchez is such a live-wire performer that the message got across. Jaime Martin and the NSOThe rapier thrust of Falla’s score, trumpet-led, came as an incisive contrast to the big glitter of Chabrier’s España, a curtain-raiser of masterly orchestration which put a sizeable audience in a good mood – further enhanced by Martín’s very likeable spiel as the platform was rearranged (the conductor with the orchestra pictured above by Stedman Photography). As well as offering a heartfelt tribute to Sánchez, he told us that he’s from Santander, where it always rains – not so different from Dublin – so wasn’t brought up in the fiery tradition of Andalusian flamenco. But his mix of focus and freedom did the trick, and explained why he’s such a popular figure in Ireland.

Standing (“Dublin”) ovations came not only after El amor brujo but also at the end of the two suites from El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat). And no wonder: the zany finale at the end of the second suite turns the screw on a ferocity which flared in this performance from the Miller’s Dance onwards. Colours throughout were fine-tuned, and it was the bassoons’ night, both collectively and individually, from España through to the moment in the sun in Boléro. There’s something oddly moving about Ravel’s woodwind solos in the early stages, at least in this performance when a certain restraint brought tears to the eyes. Percussionist Rebecca Celebuski, whose xylophone work in the previous work resounded with a special edge, was compellingly unflappable in that insanely demanding non-stop side-drum tattoo, and Martin’s urging of energy in the later stages showed us why a physically demonstrative conductor is so important in a work which might not seem to need one. Simply glorious.

Watch a short film on Sánchez's first Falla with the NSO

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters