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Classical music

Review: Juan Carmona/City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong – flamenco flair

Spanish composer’s Sinfonia Flamenca gives each performer their moment to shine, and they didn’t disappoint, from the mesmerising singing of Noemi Humanes to Sergio Aranda’s dazzling dance and his own expressive playing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 6:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 9:27am

Spanish composer Juan Carmona’s Sinfonia Flamenca pits a chamber orchestra against a small group of performers – a flautist, flamenco guitarist, vocalist and flamenco dancer. Following flamenco tradition, the soloists employ improvisation that adds elaborate ornamentation to the work’s score.

The work takes listeners on an emotional journey through a series of compás, or rhythmic cycles, each with its own tempo and harmonic progression, that culminates in an energetic dance. They display a range of flamenco styles that are not ordinarily unfolded in such a progressive manner.

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Carmona, a four-time Latin Grammys nominee, played with assurance and clarity of expression. His guitar part presents much of the work’s melodies, and the strumming and tapping of the soundboard associated with flamenco is largely absent.

Given the limited projection of the guitar’s sound, especially when accompanied by an orchestra, Carmona relied heavily on the top string and his instrument’s upper register. He nonetheless displayed a naturalness of expression and impromptu flair.

The work gives each of the performers their moment to shine, much like a Baroque concerto grosso or, perhaps more fittingly, a jazz ensemble piece. Always with a brief nod, Carmona indicated to each of when to begin: Domingo Patricio (flute) improvised with dexterity and emotion; Noemi Humanes’ thin, nasal singing was mesmerising; and dancer Sergio Aranda, with his fast footwork, lent conviction to each and every gesture.

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At some points the orchestra provides background colour for the performers, at others it contributes to the work’s rhythmic vitality with strong bursts from the strings and brass. Any orchestra would be challenged by the work’s complex rhythms, but the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong fared well under guest conductor Chang Yin-fang, helped by her attention to detail and clarity of gesture.

The first half of the concert was devoted to Carmona’s Septet, a series of dance movements that were played with palpable energy.

City Chamber Orchestra Hong Kong with Juan Carmona, Sha Tin Town Hall. Reviewed: December 10