Although it isn’t very evident in modern American pop culture, Spanish classics from the 1700s are very much a part of the history of music. Despite its growing unfamiliarity today, this centuries old genre of music and dance still elicits a sense of awe. The Department of Music here at UCR, in cooperation with the Center for Iberian and Latin-American Music, has asked Luisa Morales and Cristobal Salvador—a pair of internationally respected musician-scholars—to perform various pieces from classical Spanish composers.
Luisa Morales has made a name for herself internationally as a keyboardist. Amidst her intercontinental concerts (i.e. Europe, Canada, Morocco, Mexico, Costa Rica, South America, etc.) she has managed to return to UCR for a second appearance (her first being in 2005). She began the evening’s performance with various sonatas, composed by Antonio Soler, on the harpsichord (a smaller piano with a much higher timbre). The harpsichord itself was a gorgeous work of art with a beautifully painted scene of what looked to be a baroque castle surrounded by hills and a flowing river elegantly showcased on the exterior of the instrument. As Morales played it quickly became clear that works of the 18th century might be dated, but they were far from simple; her control over dynamics and timing shone unmistakably.
Garbed in traditional Spanish clothing in hues of maroon, purple, green and gold, Cristobal Salvador joined her onstage with a humble smile. He accompanied her recital before and after the intermission with a performance of classical choreography and percussion. When “Sonata in D Major” (Mateo Albeniz) started up, the audience’s attention shifted from Morales to Salvador’s brilliant mastery over the castanets. Whether the focus was on his intense precision or the cunning use of accents, it became evident that few if any in the audience had heard castanets like this before.
The first half of the evening concluded with various sonatas composed by Domenico Scarlatti. Morales and Cristobal often collaborate in presentations of historic dances to the sonatas of Scarlatti, Soler and many other composers whose works clearly evoke the essence of Spanish dances such as the fandango, bolero and seguidilla. After the intermission, Morales dazzled the audience with a solo performance of assorted compositions by Antonio de Cabecon. Again, her musicianship was apparent through her dramatic interpretation of the music and the subtle yet vivid exaggeration in technique.
Salvador later joined Morales once again as they performed more traditional pieces. Salvador’s understanding of classical Spanish dance, in conjunction with Morales’ skillful presentation, created a breathtaking atmosphere for the audience. To conclude the evening, the musician-scholars performed two more sonatas composed by Scarlatti.
Going into the concert, I had my reservations about classical music and had originally not expected to be entertained. However, after the impressive display from Morales and Salvador I must admit that they were not only musicians and performers, but they were first and foremost educators. Even enveloped in the melody and dance, I couldn’t shake the feeling of the deeper significance in the music and its history. I couldn’t have asked for a better rendition of Spanish classics than that which I attended at “Boleros, Fandangos and More!”