Classical Music CDs, DVDs

Staff Reviews

Jose Fernandez Torres aka Tomatito, flamenco guitarist extraordinaire, has travelled a remarkable path from flamenco bar to concert hall. Most would know the names of Paco Peña or Paco de Lucia who are both internationally renowned for their ‘fire and grace’ on concert stages world wide . Tomatito, born in Almeria in Spain, is not a familiar name beyond the flamenco circuit but if you have seen the Tony Gatlif film Vengo, for which he won a César award (the best music written for a film 2001) you will have seen and heard him play. You may also know him from his collaborations with Camaròn de la Isla which garnered him a Grammy for his CD Paris 1987, and the groundbreaking La Lienda del Tiempo teaming with Paco de Lucia and Camaròn de la Isla. More recently he received another Grammy for his CD Aquadulce. Tomatito has also recorded with George Benson, toured with Michel Camilo and in 2004 premiered his Sonanta suite for guitar and orchestra which has now been recorded for Deutsche Grammophon (‘sonanta’ is Flamenco slang for guitar). Tomatito is joined on this recording by his daughter Mari Angeles Fernandez Torres on vocal, flamenco guitarist Christobel Santiago, himself a brilliant performer, and violinist Bernardo Parilla. This is a close knit and accomplished performing group; the seriousness of Tomatito’s intent extends even to including dance sensation Jose Maya solely to provide palmeros/hand claps. Orchestral arrangements are by Spanish composer Joan Albert Armargos, the multi-instrumentalist composer of operas and film music who is himself a connoisseur of flamenco as is reflected in many of his compositions. The Orquestra Nacional de España is conducted by Josep Pons, familiar from his many recordings of Spanish classics. This collaboration steeped in flamenco and Spanish classical music is a perfect setting for Tomatito’s wonderful guitar playing, ranging from the exquisite to the dramatic. He sums up the recording in an interview he did on the website de Flamenco: "I think that here the orchestra is more flamenco. I mean it’s hardly classical when they play my falsetas [flamenco riffs].We are not talking about simple backup to play along with. Here they actually play together with me ". Unquestionably, Tomatito is an essential listening experience for anyone interested in the music of Spain.