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<<  -- 4 --  Malcolm Miller    FASCINATING FUSIONS

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The music spoke for itself in the expressive and eloquent selection by Monica Acosta clad in a colourful exotic dress and accompanied by her ensemble Mauricio Giordanelli and Steve Homes, guitars, and Ulises Diaz-Ropero, percussion. This evoked the soundworld of the originals, where possibly Oud or Bouzouki would have been used, as well as a simple drumbeat. The Alhambra effect was enhanced by some atmospheric lighting by John Hill.

The authors point out that the modal and even microtonal qualities of some of the melodies make a modern harmonic arrangement problematic: the melodies are presented without any implication of accompaniment, which are left to the performer's discretion and taste, though in several of the songs there are rhythmic patterns given. Monica Acosta's singing was entirely in the style, with elegant focused tone, and delicate ornamentation, fluctuations of light and shade in the voice and impeccable diction in the Ladino texts. Though song texts were given it would have been useful to have some spoken introductions before the songs.

The selection was well contrasted: the initial fast one followed by several slow songs, and alternating in mood, with plenty of zest and rhythmic energy. The unaccompanied songs were especially intense, while in each accompanied song, the guitar would improvise a stanza lending a unifying form to the collection. The set ended with the zestful 'Dicho me habian dicho', its highly contoured melody spiced with ornamental patterns.

The whole evening was a moving testimony both to the resilience of a music publisher renowned for the continued quality of its editions, as to the power of Jewish music to reach out and appeal to a wide, multi cultural musical community. With interest in world music across the classical and popular genres, this collection will be of value for composers aiming to adapt and incorporate music from diverse sources, to specialist performers of Ladino song and to those looking for fascinating fusions.

Copyright © 27 March 2006 Malcolm Miller, London UK

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