‘Los Ambulantes’ Launch Classical Guitar Magazine – Review

Classical Guitar Magazine – Review
Morgan Szymanski and Machaca – Purcell Room, South Bank Centre. Thérèse Wassily Saba.

27th April 2010 ‘Los Ambulantes’ CD launch.

In this very vibrant and visually exciting concert, the Mexican classical guitarist Morgan Szymanski was mostly performing in various ensemble formations with the members of his ensemble called Machaca, as well as some guest artists. The Machaca ensemble includes Morgan Szymanski on guitar, the ODuo on percussion, marimba and vibraphone – a percussion duo with Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox, who were both students at the Royal College of Music, Lizzie Ball on violin and voice, Gemma Rosefield on cello, Al Mobbs on double bass, Phuong Nguyen on accordion, the flautist Adam Walker and special guest Galo Cerón on guitar and cuatro.

Adam Walker and Morgan Szymanski gave a fine performanceof Villa-Lobos’s Distribuicao de Flores and Gemma Rosefield’s cello playing had a beautiful tone quality and was full of feeling in the Bachianas Brazileiras No. 5 which she performed with Morgan Szymanski.
Machaca played some excellent Piazzolla, including his Libertango and two of Piazzollas pieces which have been arranged by Sergio Assad: Fuga y Misterio and Escualo. The combination of instruments in the arrangement, which included the marimba, was very rich and the ensemble was close and exciting. Four of Antonio Lauro’s waltzes were played on guitar, cuatro, bass and percussion, which also worked very well.  The rhythmic and timbral additions by the ODuo, who seemed to leap from one instrument to another within pieces, really added to these pieces. Equally so in Celso Machado’s pieces from Imagens do Nordeste.

The concert featured the première of Los Ambulantes by Stephen McNeff, which was especially written for the full ensemble. Los Ambulantes is the name of the Mexican street vendors, who walk around selling packets of chewing gum, tissues and other small items. The piece is modern and Morgan Szymanski says it ‘describes the chaos of Mexico City’, so you can imagine the sounds that are found in this work, which also features the whistles which los ambulantes blow as they walk the streets.  The ‘chaos’ does die down towards the end of the piece, when we are left with eerie night sounds and a calm zone before the next drama.

Another première in this concert was James Pearson’s Zacapu also written for Machaca. This had a more classical-based style, which referenced more popular music such as French chanson with the sounds of the accordion. Al Mobbs had a short passage of belly-growling on his double bass which added some humour to the composition as well. The concert ended with a further première of Stephen McNeff’s Inevitable End of the Affair, a beautifully light piece of writing with a Latin feel, which one could float home with after the concert, happily humming.

This concert which was part of ‘La Linea 2010’ Latin Music Festival celebrated the launch of Machaca’s latest recording which takes it’s title from McNeff’s piece called Los Ambulantes.  Machaca’s first album, Mano a mano, was released during La Linea 2007.

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