Apollo and Dionysus in Havana

Two extremes marked by a flute and a harp, in dialectical vibration since Latin-Greek antiquity, coincided in the concert halls of the former Casino Español located on Havana’s Paseo del Prado.

Jorge Fiallo

Two extremes marked by a flute and a harp, in dialectical vibration since Latin-Greek antiquity, coincided in the concert halls of the former Casino Español located on Havana’s Paseo del Prado.

With the hands of Mirtha Batista on the strings and those of Floraimed Fernández on the silver keys and her breath, the Camerarpa Project held its second public presentation in the same hall of its debut only a few months ago, and to which it returned. It was as if they wanted to stress their intention to be systematic, something praiseworthy in the sphere of concerts, much more in line with chamber music as suggested by the name adopted by the duet.

And the stumbling blocks they had to overcome were not few, because an original repertoire for this format is scarce and not only in Cuba. In this case the musicians alternated solos with duets and included certain versions of music written for other instruments.

There are also few halls properly adapted with acoustic insulation to promote the seduction of attentive listening and the reception of proposals which appeal to a higher musical intelligence. What are needed are halls with much more than architectural beauty and helpful and diligent personnel.

In the musical sphere itself, this duet stands out for its fine mixture of mere sound elements – a material base molded by a master’s hands almost into a body with weight and extensions - and spiritual refinement. It’s a mix of stimulating energy and a very subtle sense of levitation.

Thus, they took us from early British Renaissance (Greensleeves, well-known variations believed to be anonymous) to Jacques Ibert’s contemporary France in his Piece for a solo flute or his Interlude for flute and harp which ended the program. Included were also Classic Italian and German Baroque (two sonatas, one originally for a solo harp by Giovanni Battista Pescetti, and the other originally for flute and harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach, in a version by Mirtha Batista herself) and a Concert Study for harp by Marcel Tournier.

It was, therefore, a well-structured program, like a journey through the history of Europe’s academic musical repertoire. It was also a journey through different expressive characters, fullness in the handling of timbres, harmonic conceptions and musical architecture, as if we were facing an image of the Universe during the expansion of its sounds.

It was also a special opportunity in another sense, because it is a luxury in these times, and more so in Caribbean lands, to hear musical combinations of flute and harp in both solo and chamber formats, played by two masters from Cuba’s National Symphony Orchestra. As an extension of their best professional performances, these two soloists and concert musicians added to their stature behind the music stand with their projection as a duet.

And it’s not only due to the fact of it being a rare occasion, but rather because they also proved to be solid members of their deep culture in styles and sounds, thanks to which they achieved an indispensable match and balance along with coherent control of elements between components of the melody. It’s as if to say: the best diction and meaning given to each phrase to make the musical discourse more eloquent.

For an even greater impression, the duet transmitted a sense of composed confidence in the midst of sound and conceptual balance typical of their presentation, even when, captivated, we heard a version of Bach’s sonata. While originally written for the harpsichord, they managed to obtain a new quality on the harp, while conserving much of its original intention. This, in spite of – lest we forget — the so-called Musical Baroque, more interested in plot and the intertwining of melodies and texture than in the sound sources from which they come.

Likewise extraordinary was the duet’s performance, as a duet or in alternating solos, in other shades of the European repertoire. They reached contemporary sounds in a broad expansion of a very rational and restrained language, and all this to the strokes of music marked by descriptive tones of actions and situations which increased their loquacity. In a combination of the strictly emotional, they stressed that quality which from the very beginning began to be revealed: the famous dichotomy between Apollo and Dionysus which is present in all art, more so in the blend of brain and heart which is inherent in all music.

Translated by Julián López
Revised by Susana Hurlich

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