After a break due to the pandemic, the 70th edition of the San Sebastian Festival – Donostia Zinemaldia resumed in late September its traditional annual concert and screening event, conducted by the Euskadiko Orkestra – Orchestra of Euskadi under the baton of Juan José Ocón (read more).
Our colleague Asier G. Senarriaga attended the concert and leaves us this great summary of it.
After two years of impasse for pandemic reasons, and a different world, but one that has not lost any illusion for culture and the celebration of good film music, the symphonic concerts returned to the Bella Easo on the occasion of another edition of a new San Sebastian Film Festival – Donostia Zinemaldia.
Under the remarkable, elegant, and spotless direction of an excellent Juan José Ocón, with an outstanding Euskadiko Orkestra – Orchestra of Euskadi giving life to the scores chosen in this edition and a sumptuous choir, the Andra Mari Abesbatza, we were ready to attend, once again, in the Anoeta Velodrome, perfectly arranged for the occasion, the celebration of the Spanish Film Music.
The concert began with a lavish Suite from ‘While Ar War’, by Alejandro Amenábar, arranged to be performed to the rhythm of the images of a montage of the film, synchronized to the millimeter, even with a certain mickeymousing as the orchestra reflected the sound of Miguel de Unamuno knocking on a door with his cane, or the firing of pistols and rifles, in immaculate synchrony. The Suite, offered a selection of themes from the film, reaching the maximum emotion in the lyricism of the discussion between teacher and student, sitting by the side of the road, interspersed with the final decision of Unamuno at the University, giving his mythical speech. Moments in which Amenábar puts a lump in the throat with the final explosion of its central theme, with a precious protagonism of the strings.
Eva Gancedo‘s masterpiece for ‘Lucky Star’, the score that got her a Goya Award, continued the matinee, with elegiac beauty full of nuances, subtlety, elegant and heartfelt melodies, perfectly defining the interior of the protagonist trio, forming a peculiar family destined to tragic drama. Ocón’s direction, giving air to the melodic development, was superb.
The work of Carles Cases, was represented with his wonderful score for ‘El Portero’, and its Cantabrian western notes, its tension based on creative musical suspense and the beauty of its lyrical melodies, narrating characters, actions and a unique landscape, with a masterful hand. The orchestra shone particularly in the final part of this Suite, picking up the duel to penalties, without going into spoilers, which collects the climax of the story, with great delivery and splendid synchrony, serving as an immaculate tribute to this brilliant composition of the Catalan Maestro.
And then it was time for the classics of each edition, finding a tribute to the immortal Carmelo Bernaola, with his ‘Nueve Cartas a Berta’, and its baroque circular central theme and singular classicism, covering the sound spectrum of the velodrome with intense precision by Ocón at the controls of the orchestra, not being however the highlight of the event, lacking the strength that the rest of the works chosen to make up the program did reach.
With the exceptional work of Arturo Cardelús for ‘Buñuel in the labyrinth of the turtles’, the concert continued, and we must congratulate the editor of the images for reflecting in an excellent way each musical motif and each essential scene that accompanies them in the film, depicting the emotion of Buñuel’s adventure of creating, and the helpless sadness of poverty in the region of Las Hurdes. The appearance of the choir in the central theme along with the images really moved the audience, and the magnificent score was given a wonderful interpretation by the Euskadiko Orkestra and the Andra Mari Abesbatza, who truly brought out the sparks of the composer’s excellent creation, sincerely, the most moving moment of the morning.
We continue with the score by Aitor Amezaga for ‘La Sombra de Nadie’, which based on disturbing sonorities and dramatic tension, made the audience vibrate with the music of this horror thriller. Great piano work, measured tempo in the direction and darkness, in search of light while the protagonists drown in a mystery that threatens to kill them. A perfect precision in its union with the images in Ocón’s elegant direction and a very avant garde style, a la György LIgeti, give this work a unique personality.
And we arrived at the end of the party of unlimited creativity, overwhelming domain of the most classic symphonism, pure Golden Age, of overwhelming melodies and great epic scenes, of a Manel Gil-Inglada in fullness of successes, with his magnificent ‘Cher ami (The Aviators)’. The piece gave way to the orchestra to sweat, getting the performance out of this brilliant score, earning the final ovation with a Tour de Force of musical greatness and a very grateful lavish interpretation, after two years without being able to enjoy this annual event in Donosti-San Sebastian. All the themes got their moment, until the final full orchestra rendition and a sublime colophon to the concert of this edition.
And may many more editions await us, no doubt, just around the corner,
And may many other works of Spanish film music, both recent and classical, be reflected, paid tribute to and/or made known to new audiences, thus giving a complete response to that mythical quote by singer Luis Eduardo Aute,
“…because all life is cinema,
Article and pictures by Asier G. Senarriaga