Paco's most popular work
Paul Magnussen | Campbell, CA USA | 11/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paco Peña has been a familiar to figure to British Flamenco-lovers for forty years, and to the flamenco world at large for almost that long. But the work that really brought him to the attention of the public in general, and which is still in continual demand for performances throughout the world, is his Flamenco Mass, first recorded (Nimbus NI 5288) in 1990.
Paco's was not the first Flamenco Mass: there have been several earlier attempts. The most notable was probably that from the 1960's featuring Rafael Romero, Pepe "El Culata" and others, with Serranito and Ramón de Algeciras on guitar (on CD with the Misa Criolla). But Paco's has certainly been the most successful.
There's no denying that these works are strange hybrids, injecting as they do choral interventions into flamenco cantes. And likewise, the lyrics are bizarrely different from those one would normally encounter in these styles. (This is not to deny, of course, that religious motifs play a prominent part in Flamenco; indeed, entire styles, such as saetas, are devoted to them.)
I have always felt that the success of the enterprise was due in no small part to Paco's choice of the artists, and in particular of La Susi, Dieguito and El Chaparro, all of whom appear on the DVD and likewise on the original CD. The wonderful smoky voice of La Susi is well known to aficionados, even though her recorded output of pure Flamenco has been small, considering the length of her career. Rafael "El Chaparro" is not as well known except through his long-standing association with Paco, but I have always thought him very effective and very under-rated. (El Chaparro's son, Rafael hijo, now plays guitar with Paco too.)
The inspiration for the Mass, and the problem of reconciling the thematic elements, are briefly discussed by Paco in a spoken introduction, which is visually interspersed -- as, very effectively is the whole work -- with scenes from Andalusian life. The camera work is varied and interesting (although, strangely, the choir is often heard but seldom seen, which must be annoying for the relatives of those concerned).
The Padre Nuestro features the dancer Raúl, who did not appear on the original CD (unsurprisingly, since it would have been pretty meaningless). Live, or on the video, it's a nice touch.
The sound is Dolby 2.0 stereo. The picture quality is generally good, but on my copy at least, there are some oddities, hard to describe. The picture in general is in the 4:3 aspect ratio of a standard TV, but in the Santo there is a part where the centre of the picture is in colour, but the top and bottom are in black-and-white! In the Padre nuestro, the picture returns to normal.
Also, at 44 minutes 30 seconds in, during a particularly quiet portion of the Canto Eurcarístico, there is a loud squawk of some sort -- due to quite what, I'm not sure.
These things happen on two different DVD players (by different manufacturers); whether they're specific to my particular copy of the DVD, the NTSC version only or the PAL version also, I don't yet know.
There are several spectacular misprints on the cover, from the names of the artists down to "NTCS" for "NTSC". Fortunately, the closing credits on the DVD itself are correct.
In general, though, a most enjoyable DVD."