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Even more from Havana

I did spend the morning by the pool – or at least as much of it as I could take (lying in the sun takes a bit of getting used to) but it was great to have a day off. Another excellent lunch at the private restaurant we went to yesterday. Then it was back to the Teatro Marti for Andreas Scholl and Edin Karamazov. We were able to pass on our experience of the aircon and sound system so at least they knew what to expect. They also got the lighting right, having seen what we looked like apparently bathed in blood last night.

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It was a stunning concert. The two of them have worked together for eighteen years so there’s a very obvious rapport between them. The highlights for me were, appropriately enough, Leo Brouwer’s beautifully delicate El Cantar de los Cantares and his exquisite English folksong settings. Maestro Leo’s instinctive affinity for the countertenor voice, and Andreas Scholl’s extraordinarily subtle singing would be enough to convert anyone to the countertenor cause. Not that Andreas needs any help – he’s a kind of countertenor rock god, complete with scores of girls waiting for his appearance at the stage door. It’s the first time I’ve really enjoyed a classical singer singing folksongs. Not only were the arrangements subtle and intricate, but Andreas has the great advantage not only of being the great musician he is, but also being a countertenor he’s never going to encounter the RP/Vernacular texts conundrum that always fails conventional trained singers. This was real authenticity. Dinner afterwards was with Maestro Leo and Isabella, his charismatic and dynamic wife who is responsible for the impressive juggling act that keeps the festival running. The conversation ranged from tango (Brouwer orchestrated Piazolla) to the lack of state support the festival receives. Every young guitarist has at some point played Leo Brouwer’s exercises (including me in the dim and distant past when I thought I wanted to learn classical guitar) and huge numbers have gone on to play his music. That’s how the festival keeps afloat.

I awoke to something Iike silence this morning. I’m sure it’s never actually very quiet anywhere in Havana but at least the high-octane salsa beamed from the neighbouring hotel 500 metres away was turned off.  Then after breakfast (I can recommend guava quince and cheese) I’m afraid I succumbed to the pool for an hour, then some gentle work back in my room before being taken off to yet another wonderful lunch (ceviche and ropa vieja) . Tonight it’s the Hilliard tribute concert, and before that Ariel and I are going to do some exploring in old Havana.

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Not much doubt over who did the miserable programme and who did the happy one…

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