Classical Genre-bending souls

Genre-bending souls

An exhilarating sonic journey, Soul of Fire – a conceptual collaboration between Zanne Stapelberg (soprano) and Kathleen Tagg (piano) – more than explores the music of Spain and Latin America; it enters into the vortex of the style. Ably supported by a trio (Piet de Beer, violin; Charles Lazar, double bass; and and Joseph Avergel, percussion) that conjure the tastes, smells, and sounds of Andalusia, the Basque country, Madrid, Catalonia, Mexico and Argentina, Stapelberg and Tagg’s Latin fire never wanes in this performance.

From the opening A la Nanita Nana, where Moorish-styled incantations felicitously entwine with flowing melodies, Stapelberg’s gentle evocation, carefully wrought inflections, and tantalising tone colour mesmerizingly capture the imagination. So immersed is Stapelberg in this musical style that she traverses the idiom, from the gentle rumba catalana (so expressively portrayed in  Montsalvatge’s Cradle Song) to the lightning-fast staccato delivery demanded in Giménez’s Zapateado, with ease and complete understanding. Her theatrical flair and hand clapping, such as in De España Vengo by Luna, add authenticity to the presentation. Unfortunately, her delivery of lyrically operatic passages was marred through the intrusion of an uncontrolled vibrato that blurred intonation, especially noticeable in Lagrimas mias by Marqués.

However, it is Tagg, the ever consummate professional that emerges as the real star of the show. Her artistic integrity and musical reliability remain undimmed throughout as she coaxes an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colour from the piano where languidly sensuous moments intertwine with flashes of tempestuous fire and eloquently spaced silences. Grippingly executed martellato passages, offset against arpeggio flourishes and chord punctuations in El Vito by Obradors, display Tagg’s complete mastery of the flamenco idiom. Here Stapelberg’s nuanced, expressively shaded contribution added to an ensemble performance that glittered with interpretative panache.

Also, Tagg’s assured, confident style was to the fore in De España Vengo, where her insightful direction of recitative passages displayed finely honed musicianship. She emerges as the epitome of the incisive tango musician, especially apparent in her stylistic identification with Piazolla’s La meurte del angel.  However, in Montsalvatge’s Black Song Tagg needed to judge the tonal balance with more care, as Stapelberg’s lower register was barely audible above the clatter of the virtuoso-styled piano part.

Tagg’s alluring drawl entrances as she introduces numerous of her arrangements with her setting of De Falla’s Nana displaying the full extent of her provocative musical imagination. Unfortunately, in arranging Pixinguinha’s Carinhoso insufficient care was taken when considering suitable sonic space for each instrument within the music’s gentle texture. Here, Stapelberg performed with insight and integrity in characterising the music’s lament laden phrases.

De Beer’s not insignificant contribution was especially commendable in Quiero ser tu sombre where complete immersion in the style, replete with expressively performed slides, harmonics, double stops, pizzicato playing, and tempo flexibility led to a thoroughly enjoyable performance, despite some unexpected blemishes in continuity. Stapelberg’s simple, untrammelled projection of melodic phrases and Tagg’s inventive, magical appropriation of musical atmosphere made this one of the highlights of the programme.

In Piazolla’s Oblivion De Beer displayed his mettle where controlled emotional restraint mingled with clean melodic strata in a performance that reached the core of the style. Special mention must be made of Lazar’s consistency in providing nuanced bass phrases, and Avergel’s evocative illumination of stylistic moments.

This was a show that delivered much dramatic flamboyance, artistic poise and musical steadfastness.  I do though  though wonder if Sarie Marais can credibly be repositioned within a Latin metier. -Jeffrey Brukman-


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