The age of internet music streaming is beautiful. One can go from never hearing of a musician to playing their lifetime greatest hits in moments. As I write this, I have “Concierto de Aranjuez” at full volume. Pepe Romero, last week only a name, is this week a permanent member of my Spotify playlists.
If only streaming music could recreate a live performance of Pepe and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. He played this past Saturday at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, backed by our CCO. A living legend as a classical guitarist born in Málaga, Spain, Romero has been playing for live audiences since 1951, when a gallon of gas cost 19 cents.
The Saturday performance of “España” featured a wide ranging exposure to Spanish music. A highlight of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra’s Summermusik Festival, “España” exposed the audience to dance, singing and music. CCO conductor Eckart Preu, in bright red shoes and his moppish hair, led us through an orchestral journey of Spanish music. The youngest piece, by Carlos Surinach, was from the early 1950s. Spaniards have had flair for centuries.
Flamenco dancer Arleen Hurtado, in a burning red dress, stomped across the stage and my heart in equal distance. Blood-red fan in hand, she lived the music on stage. If this is every performance in Spain I’m packing my bags and writing for whatever the ArtsWave equivalent is in Barcelona.
Pepe Romero himself, as noted by CCO oboist Mark Ostoich, is the real deal. I consider myself a fan of the modern guitar hero: shredding solos and fretboard acrobatics by rock ‘n roll and metal bands. Pepe is like that, except at a level that takes 7 decades of professional classical musicianship to achieve. At times he was so laid back during fretwork that could make grown men openly weep, he seemed to be asleep. I found myself closing my eyes as well, giving myself to the music.
His music sounds like it could explain every heartbreak that every lover has ever experienced. Indeed, he played a piece his father had written his mother early in their relationship.
The CCO is a great group to take in because of its relatively small size. At times there were as few as 6 musicians on stage, two of whom were dedicated to only clapping. The show started with trumpeter Ashley Hall teeing us up to be enchanted for the next 1.5 hours. Only with a chamber group do you get such a bang for your buck with a handful (at most) of each instrument. The dueling acrobatics of oboists Chris Philpotts and Mark Ostoich was specifically a treat.
Summermusik continues on August 24 at 7:30 p.m. at SCPA with “Blissful Mozart.”
John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.