La Pasión Según San Marcos [UK premiere]
Jesus Reynaldo Gonzáles Fernández
Jazz Singer Luciana Souza
Capoeira Mestre Deraldo Ferreira
Anne-Carolyn Bird (soprano)
Schola Cantorum of Caracas
Orquesta La Pasión
Reviewed by: Edward Lewis
Reviewed: 24 February, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
And the success of “La Pasión Según San Marcos” is, in turn, due to the sheer artistic force created by the Schola Cantorum of Caracas – an amateur choir that devotes a large portion of energy to both working extremely closely with the composer and with poverty-stricken communities in the singers’ home country. I suspect that the vitality they bring to their performance stems from this grass-roots approach to their music.
In terms of sheer variety, an audience couldn’t hope for more. A basic chamber orchestra, huddled atmospherically in the centre of the stage, was augmented by assorted brass, more assorted percussion, a solo accordionist, and, best of all, (and top of my Christmas wish-list), a berimbau – a sort of Brazilian single-stringed bass instrument rather resembling a fishing rod. This ensemble, looking like something out of a Tim Burton film, was closely miked, but never too loud, with a mix favouring the bass instruments, especially the otherwise easily overlooked lone double bass.
In terms of musical style, this was a dazzling display of variety. Despite initial hints of Adams-esque tonal minimalism, it wasn’t long before Latin-American rhythms had picked the music up, got it drunk on tequila, and bounced it straight into Mambo. Recipe: throw in some mock-recitative, some beautifully performed jazz (I can hear the sound of cardinals keeling over at the very thought of Judas as a jazz-singer), and a thick layer of European romantic functional harmony; leave to bake in the Venezuelan sun for 90 minutes.
More memorable than anything else, though, was the all pervasive rhythm. Constructed of ostinatos, irregular compound time patterns and a host of Afro-Cuban beats, it was this that provided the magic emerging out of the initial blue haze.