In just over two months, Washington has been treated to two of this century's finest guitarists--Andre's Segovia in early February and Carlos Montoya Saturday evening--at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Both are native Spaniards, and both men's names have become synonymous with their respective artistries. But here the similarities end.
Segovia, paragon of the classical guitar, eschews any sort of amplification in live performance. Conversely, Carlos Montoya uses the microphone to accentuate the many decorative effects that Flamenco guitarists have developed since their humble beginnings as accompanists to singers and dancers.
Flamenco music springs from Andalusia, land of the Spanish Gypsies. By nature, it is restrictive, with its reliance on repetition of phrases, tonal centers and ornamentation. To succeed in a guitar recital, the performer must possess flashy technique, and it doesn't hurt to have at least a touch of Gypsy heart. Montoya satisfies these demands with ease.
Throughout, he creatively explored the Flamenco tradition in arrangements that were vital and fresh (Montoya never plays a piece exactly the same way twice). The Jaleo, which means excitement, was just that, as Montoya's sudden melodic shifts and repeated tapping of the guitar with his right hand suggested the clicking heels of a Gypsy dancer. For the Zambra, with its Moorish influences, he imitated tambourines with hammer-on phrases executed first with only the left hand, then altered by tapping the strings with his cupped right hand.
Montoya generated such excitement that he returned for two encores. In the second piece he created a martial effect when he dampened the strings while he strummed to simulate a drum tattoo, before establishing a drone in the lower strings set against high plucked notes resembling a trumpet call.