September is the big month for Lucca; “il settembre Lucchese” is built around the Festa dell’Esaltazione della Santa Croce where the Volto Sacro or Holy Face – an ancient relic supposed to be a likeness of Christ and carved by St Nicodemus – is paraded within the walled city in a mammoth candlelit procession and where the whole evening is climaxed by a stupendous fireworks display. We gave it a miss this year. You can sometimes have too much of a good thing.
In “il settembre Lucchese” there are also funfairs, exhibitions, street markets, street entertainers, theatre and lots and lots of music of all shapes and sizes. It’s a truly great way to wean oneself from the holiday break and get back to work or school or the allotment!
The shape of our music last night was tango and the size was that of any alluring net-stockinged tango dancer’s high heels. Actually, there wasn’t any dancing at the concert which took place in that baroque fantasy mansion of pleasure, just within Lucca’s walls, called the palazzo Cortini-Pfanner and given by the Ensemble Hyperion. Instead, there was the most stunning and energizing jazz-tango I probably have ever heard to date.
The repertoire ranged from classic tango/milonga like” Derech Viejo” composed by bandoneoist Lorenzo Arola back in 1913, through to “Danzarin” by Julian Plaza to Garfagnino-restored (see https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/dont-cry-for-me-sassorosso/) Astor Piazzolla’s Nuevo Tango.
As if to emphasise that Tango is not just Argentinian- it’s the whole of the Rio de Plata and includes Montevideo and Uruguay as well – Uruguayan-born Horacio Antonio Castellanos Alves’ “La Punalada” was played with the participation of the Uruguayan-born Bandoneonist, Josè Luis Betancor.
Ensemble Hyperion (not to be confused with the Hyperion Ensemble!) was formed in 1992 as an ensemble interested in contemporary music. From the very beginning, it has been deeply interested in Piazzolla in particular and Tango in general. In fact, the musicians are classically-trained to a stratospheric level and can also provide renditions of Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale and Bach’s Art of Fugue among their concert offertings.
In its twenty years of activity the Ensemble Hyperion has played in over 750 shows, festivals and theatres all over Europe, offering a wide repertoire ranging from contemporary to traditional Tango and collaborating with various renowned bandoneonists such as Luis Stazo, Juan Josè Mosalini, Daniel Binelli, Alfredo Marcucci.
Ensemble Hyperion is regularly invited to the most renowned Tango Festivals all over Europe: Paris, Brussels, London, Barcelona (Sitges), Tarbes, Stockholm, Athens, Torino, Rome, Firenze, Genova, Mantova etc. It has played with famous international Companies and dancers like “Tango vivo” with Union Tanguera of Esteban Moreno and Claudia Codega, “Tango Metropolis” with Claudio Hoffmann and Daniel Binelli, “Conceptango” with the company of Leo Calvelli y Eugenia, “TangObsesion” with Leonardo Cuello’s company, and “Tango Nuevo” with Roberto Herrera’s company and many others.
Recently, I discovered there is an international Tango festival at Fivizzano which is in the Lunigiana province just north of us and, sure enough, Ensemble Hyperion made a welcome appearance there too this summer. Must go next year…
The Ensemble has often performed with famous dancers as Miguel Angel Zotto, Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes, Chicho Frumboli and Juana Sepulveda, Javier Rodriguez, etc. in several venues and Festival around Europe
The Ensemble Hyperion is a group truly at the top of its form. It doesn’t just play music – it plays with music. Every one of its musicians showed extraordinary virtuosity combined with extrovert invention.
Josè Luis Betancor, bandoneonist extracted every conceivable texture of sound from pungent percussive to waxing lyrical from his oh-so-expressive instrument. Valerio Giannarelli wasn’t just on the violin – he was on an original Stradivarius – I wonder what the Cremonese master would have thought of his instruments playing Piazzolla? Nicola Toscano, guitar ,was excellent and Danilo Grandi, double bass, was simply inspirational using every kind of technique on his giant from pizzicato to bowing to percussive. I don’t think Guido Bottaro, pianist, could have come up with a better way of enjoying himself than playing so brilliantly on the piano. Glissandi, cluster chords, cadenzas and ultimate improvisatory imagination combined with an earth-core-like sense of that infectiously permeating 2/4 tango rhythm. All was beautifully co-ordinated in this La-Spezia based group by artistic director and flautist Bruno Fiorentini
The enthusiastic audience in the exquisitely-frescoed surroundings of the palazzo’s piano Nobile left the concert joyously inebriated – a condition which was sustained by sips of an ancient Lucca Liqueur served afterwards in the fantasia-garden.
And all this for five euros a head? I would have gladly paid x times that amount to be present at such a superb evening’s entertainment – but then I might have been in a dream last night?
Anyway, here are some crumbs I’ve taken home for those mortals unfortunate enough to have missed that unmissable evening’s musical banquet table.