- Posted by Jonny hough
- On September 20, 2014
A memorable tribute concert to El Greco
By our social affairs correspondent
A large and expectant audience filled the imposing central aisle of one of London’s most distinguished Churches on 16th September for the BritishSpanish Society’s tribute to El Greco, and they were not disappointed.
A “lleno hasta la bandera,” or full house, gave a standing ovation at the end of a memorable evening in words, painting, and music, with commentary and slide-show by the eminent Spanish art expert Dr Xavier Bray, and songs and instrumental music from the time of El Greco by the Coro Cervantes.
In his introduction, Dr Bray said the event, in the magnificent Church of St James’s Spanish Place, represented one of El Greco’s central aesthetic ideas – that the most sublime sacred art should be a combination of various forms , including painting, music , and other iconic imagery such as sculpture.
He then went on to chart El Greco’s life from his early beginnings in Crete to Toledo where he lived for nearly four decades and died in 1614- each stage of his inspired commentary leading to a similarly uplifting selection of choral music conducted by Carlos Aransay.
The Coro Cervantes’s impressive repertoire ranged from an early Greek chant to music by some of the great Spanish 16th century composers including Rodrigo de Ceballos, Alonso de Tejeda, Cristobal de Morales, and Tomas Luis de Victoria.
Along with Bray and Aransay’s masterly grasp of their subject, what made the event-Music from Toledo in the Age of El Greco- particularly memorable was the quality and versatility of the choir, with an n extraordinary instrumental solo on vihuela by the young musician Pedro Alcacer Doria.
In his welcome address, the Society’s chairman Jimmy Burns Marañón noted that while the Society’s musical events had always been popular, the El Greco evening in St James Spanish Place was of a special nature because of the subject and the venue.
The Church building has a long history of association with the Spanish embassy and the British-Spanish community in London symbolised by the personal standard of King Alfonso X111’s which is in a frame over the sacristy door.
“This four hundredth anniversary of El Greco offers an opportunity to refresh our perspective on an artist who was only half understood in his own lifetime and completely misunderstood for two centuries and yet has become universally recognised not only as a religiously inspirational figure but also a forerunner of modernity- from the impressionists to the present day- an ‘artist’s artist’, Burns said.
Recalling his own childhood in his grandfather Gregorio Marañón’s home overlooking Toledo , Burns spoke of the enduring memory he had of “ the magnificent rays of sunset breaking through the dark clouds over the town” , and of The Burial of the Conde de Orgaz in the Church of Santo Tome, two of the many transcendent scenes depicted by El Greco in his unique work.
The fund-raising event was supported by the Spanish Embassy’s Office for Cultural & Scientific Affairs, with His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador Federico Trillo-Figueroa as Guest of Honour.
Other collaborating organisations helped promote the event including The Iberian & Latin American Music Society, ARTES, the Anglo-Latin American Foundation, the Anglo-Chilean and Anglo-Argentine Societies, the Stonyhurst Association, and the Association of European Journalists.
Following the concert, the Society held a reception in the Church crypt where guests were treated to a wonderful array of wines kindly donated by TheOneWine Co and Rodriguez de Vera, and some delicious pinchos provided by Bilbao Berria.
The event was made possible thank to the selfless commitment of Lucia Cawdron’s organising committee: David Hurst, Carmen Young, Beatriz Gago, Maria Soriano, Marian Jimenez, Virginia Cosano, Harriet McKenzie, Paul Pickering, Sarah Galea, and Lady Brennan- and programme sellers The Hon Kidge Burns and Julia Burns.
With thanks too to the Clergy at St James’s Church for their kindness in hosting the event: The Reverend Christopher G.Colven (Rector), The Reverend Nicholas Kavanagh, The Reverend David J.Irwing, the Very Reverend Monsignor Francis C. Jamieson as well as to Sue and Chis for their help with the practical arrangements.
“I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate you and all your team for a magnificent evening yesterday. The venue, the music, the high caliber of the speakers…all made for an unforgettable experience”
Enrique Ruiz de Lera Director Spanish Tourist Office
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