I cannot pinpoint what exactly drives me so strongly to write about Joana Gama's concerts. It may be the beauty of her sound, the repertoire she chooses to play or the often defying circumstances she accepts to perform it. Her rendering of Satie's Vexations was a recent, hard to describe tour de force that I will forever recall.
Today's concert at the National Pantheon in Lisbon was the new challenge to which she courageously submitted herself.
First off the magnificently selected and carefully ordered works. Satie's Quatre Ogives could very well be the National Pantheon official hymn, instead of that totally unacceptable Beethoven Muzak played through a despicable PA before the concert, maybe in an effort to "set" the mood.
I am also sure that Satie (had he been able to finally listen to his organ-piano today) found this particular version, played at this particular site, the very epitome of this work.
Cage's 4'33" was played exactly as originally requested by the composer without any tricks or in any strange versions. The National Pantheon, I am positive, never sounded like this!
Feldman's Palais de Mari closed the program. Satie's beautiful Quatre Ogives sketched and probed the place. Cage's classic responded echoing the still sounding acoustic signature of the Pantheon, while the shadow of the Ogives chords kept roaming the room. Feldman's Palais made use of all these collected materials and combined them. The listener could finally be able to find a narrative in all this, were one willing to listen.
The National Pantheon has a special significance, being the burial ground of some major figures of Portuguese history, along with some controversial others. There is a general atmosphere of respect albeit not of a religious nature. By enhancing its acoustic qualities in this non-sacred but also certainly non-profane way, this concert created an unexpected link between the elements that permanently inhabit this space and those that happened to have crossed it today.
Finally, Joana Gama has chosen to exhibit her qualities in this unquestionably challenging atmosphere, demonstrating yet again, apart from her obviously outstanding musical qualities, a courage and stamina that seem to be her trademark.