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Reviews and dispatches from Montreal #FIJM 2022 (6): Hamilton de Holanda at the Maison Symphonique

Hamilton de Holanda

(Maison Symphonique de Montreal. 3 July 2022. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

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Hamilton de Holanda. Phone snap

This is going to be more than a bit embarrassing. And I apologise to the critic in the next seat. The Brazilian musician Hamilton de Holanda has the capacity to turn me into a totally besotted fan-boy. How am I supposed to breathe normally when I’m trying to inhale every phrase? I have heard de Holanda do one of his solo bandolim recitals once before. It was in the Great Hall of the Mozarteum in Salzburg back in 2016. That night, the audience couldn’t quite believe that Festival Director Tina Heine had managed to let them into their city’s most glamorous and exclusive 800-seater hall for free, but once they were in, nobody left. That night, a full house was still braying for more after more than 100 minutes.

Hamilton de Holanda is one of the most joyously complete musicians I have ever had the privilege to hear. He is from the choro tradition, but has transformed it into his own art form.

And last night he did something which I can’t get out of my mind: he shifted the tuning of a couple of the ten strings of his bandolim down a few notches…while keeping a joyous pulse going. So I’m thinking: Hamilton de Holanda has just turned the act of re-tuning a stringed instrument into music. Why can’t the rest of the human race do that? Because, as Rilke once said, only a God can do that.

De Holanda plays his bandolim with harmonic richness and an infallible sense of pacing and phrasing. He has a stance which sometimes makes him look like a bad-boy rock hero. I do wonder quite why he has been called the “Jimi Hendrix of the bandolim”, it’s a remark which I have never really understood. Yes, he can look and play like the bad boy of rock, but the Hendrix analogy probably has more to do with hairstyles than with music. Better read a fuller description/ biography HERE.

He addressed the crowd last night in heavily accented but faultless French. He did one thing he said he’d never done before, and sang Rogers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” in honour of his father’s birthday. This was a half-hour warm-up set. I was in rapture. But I did notice that the Montreal crowd gave him the standing ovation he deserved.


Just a nice photo from one of the festival’s official snappers to capture a bit of summer atmosphere:

Summer in Montreal. Photo credit Victor Diaz Lamich/FIJM

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