Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 19, 2009

Music in the Time of Goya

Aston Magna, Great Barrington, MA
by Barbara Stroup

Deftly programmed by guest director and guitarist Richard Savino, the six musicians of this final Aston Magna Festival presentation played music that spanned early 18th to mid-19th century Spain while the audience simultaneously enjoyed large, projected images of Francisco Goya's art. Seven thematic sections of the program included whole and partial works by a variety of Spanish composers. These were supported by the artist's images of faith, tranquility, nobility, poverty, degeneration, celebration and finally, brutality and horror. The rhythmic catch of the Fandango that ended the first half was punctuated by the cellist's percussive beat while bullfighting images filled the screen.

The instrumental ensemble was tactfully expressive in both the dances that celebrated life, and the music of war, resistance, and resignation at the program's close, sometimes whispering with string harmonics and often using full dynamic resources.

Jennifer Ellis Kampani sang with strength, sensitivity and color throughout her wide range, and was an agile vocal match to the tumultuous range of emotions portrayed in the music and in the art. The program concluded with the music of Fran├žois de Fossa, a guitarist and composer who struggled to make art in a city under siege, and who, although lavishly praised for his work, was offered less than the cost of the music paper on which it was transcribed.

After a beautiful concert, the fortunate audience left this auditorium in the green Berkshire hills to find outside a sky as beautiful as Goya's best rococo masterpiece.