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Take two great Spanish artists, one assassinated by the Franco regime in 1936 -- the poet Federico Garcia Lorca -- and the other still very much alive - composer Vicente Pradal. The first left us his legacy of Romancero Gitano, the famous Gypsy Ballads. The latter put 12 of these 15 poems to music. The poems chronicle the Andalusian sorrow gypsies feel which isn't an earthly or individual pain but rather a more heavenly or cosmic type of sorrow, weltschmerz or saudade. The Andalusian sorrow is the kind in which the loving intelligence struggles with the surrounding mystery without being able to grasp and understand it.
Does this mean the CD is full of misery and unhappiness? Not at all. The CD is a recording of a performance wherein four singers including Pradal, four instrumentalists and two flamenco dancers pay homage to the late Lorca who in turn paid homage to them with his running subtext of permanent danger to the gypsies as outcasts of society. In his last poem, track 5 on the CD, the Guardia Civil forces raid an Andalusian gypsy village. Lorca's covering of this raid in his published poem led to his assassination by the very same Guardia Civil.
Composer Vicente Pradal is no gypsy himself but studied guitar with Pepe Habichuela who is a true gypsy guitarist par excellence. Pradal already showcased his flamenco guitar chops on Renaud Garcia-Fons' fantastic Oriental Bass album. In Romancero Gitano, Vicente wanted to establish two dialogues for Lorca's poem, one between the vocalists and instrumentalists, one between the guitars and percussion, cello and accordion. The compositions, for the most part originals, borrow here and there from popular Andalusian and Flamenco motifs while also incorporating traditional Mediterranean melodies like the rondeña and jabera. This means that the whole is not pure Flamenco though the compas patterns of the petenera, verdial and bulerias are present.
Lorca used the gypsies as an archetype for all peoples persecuted during the murderous Franco regime. Unfortunately, this persecution did not end with Franco's fall and continues to this day. The situation might even be worse now that the media have spread the notion of 'permanent danger' as being in the past. Therefore, the words of Lorca remain as valid today as during his rebellious lifetime.
Pradal's music for this project includes zambra, jaleo, vals, tangos, seguiriya, tiento, sevillana, rumba, buleria and two full cancions to render this recording varied enough even if the words are not understood. The palpable interactions between the voices and instruments and the instruments themselves make the project almost visible. And in the end, 'project' probably isn't the right word - Andalusian Opera seem far more applicable and descriptive.