Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
It’s always interesting to listen to music sung in a language you don’t understand because while the words may pass you by, you can still glean so much from the tone, emphasis and evident emotion of the singer. Such is the case with Rocío Márquez’s 75-minute concert, Recital, which pays tribute to the classic flamenco sound of Pepe Marchena, which Márquez presents for the first time in the UK as part of Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival.
The songs are taken from her 2014 album El Nino and she opens with Milonga whose title references the Argentine tango, while guitarist Miguel Angel Cortes adds rounded flamenco sounds. Márquez’s voice has a soft folk feel in the early numbers as her voice emphasises the simplicity of the music which becomes even more apparent in the second number Tangos which mixes the dream-like quality of the opening guitar solo with the gentle urging of Márquez ’s vocals. And much like a tango, the song mixes periods of high speed with virtual stillness, a distinctive high and low rhythm that holds the audience’s attention.
While this is certainly Márquez ’s concert, it is often Cortes who astonishes with his dextrous performance that sets the scene for each song whether it is the more melodious pieces or the upbeat tunes. He begins each song with a 60-90 second instrumental section which showcases his ability to utilise tone and drama, while giving his vocalist the perfect base to create the combination of sound necessary to convey the meaning of each piece.
This works most effectively in the penultimate number Cantinas which runs at an impressive speed created by Cortes’ skilled manipulation of the guitar, matched by Márquez ’s vocal control that allows her to deliver a full-voiced performance while elongating particular notes for effect and exploring scale and trill in her vocal range. Combining the two to emphasise different pitches and tones makes this one of the more enjoyable songs of the night.
Even without knowledge of the words, there is considerable variation in this set as songs like Seguiriya and Levante offering a dark, almost sinister sound that has a mood of building anxiety, while Petenera is an intimate and imploring song that gives Márquez ’s voice a haunting quality. Changing tone again, Buleria has a nice rolling upbeat rhythm while Marquez’s inflection and gestures seem to offer instruction to the audience like an old love song.
Like Santiago Lara earlier in the Festival, Márquez offers relatively little chat in between the songs but manages to cram nine of them into a 75-minute set that mixes a traditional flamenco feel with the softer, potentially more widely commercial, tone of her voice. Whether or not you can understand Spanish, Recital is full of storytelling about life and love, a single voice and a guitar – which is the very essence of modern flamenco.
Runs until: 26 February 2017 | Image: Contributed