Symphony in D; Granados: Tres danzas españolas; Eugenio Arrios:
Yasmín (pasodoble); Caballero: El dúo de La africana (selection);
Chueca: Agua, azucarillos y aguardiente (selection)
One of Madrid's most pleasant summer traditions is that of band music in the Parque de el Retiro. The Banda Sinfónica de Madrid gather in the handsome bandstand close to the Calle d'Alcala every Sunday lunchtime between late May and early October (see Performances) to present varied repertoire extending from Albéniz and Granados through Shostakovich to zarzuela selections and popular pasodobles. It's free, and it's delightful.
The 2006 season opened under mild skies with an all-Spanish programme under the Banda's distinguished artistic director, Enrique García Asensio, who together with Juan Foriscot Riba conducts the lion's share of the concerts. What odds against finding Richard Hickox or Sir John Eliot Gardiner doing a similar Sunday jobshare in Regent's Park? The superlative quality of the Madrid Municipal Banda - all full time professionals - was evident from the first soundings of Arriaga's Symphony in D, arranged by Julián Menéndez with such skill that the upper strings were scarcely missed at all. With sensitive solos, virtuoso passage work and all the rhythmic and dynamic precision necessary for an outdoor arena this performance easily transcended its raison d'etre, celebrating the Bilbao composer's 200th birthday in some style.
If Granados' quiveringly sensual Tres danzas españolas fought something of a rearguard action against yelping dogs and church bells, everything in Part II of the concert registered most enjoyably. Miguel Linares' selection from Agua, azucarillos y aguardiente covered nearly the entire score (including the lusty hawkers' cry familiar from Chueca's overture, delivered by the entire band fortissimo at the climax!) Joyous music-making, and a reminder that for a century this outdoor fiesta has been the only way for many from the Madrid barrios to hear "their" music live. I fancy the bust of Chueca, a little deeper into the park, was smiling inwardly at the thought that such a tradition continues into the 21st century. It is surely in safe hands.
© Christopher Webber 2006