The sun is raised to its lofty zenith, more or less now. Dazzling, when we do sometimes see it here in Scotland. The nights up at this latitude are brief and twilit. Almost white, in fact.
It’s just the time of year when Alexander meets Katerina.
Among my many favourite songs is one with a wealth of sterling versions. Malagueña is a Cuban song, from what I gather. No doubt it has its Latin fire. I’ve always had this, of all music, in mind, for when Katerina pulls her eager eyed fool away from his nightmare and into a montage of whirlwind romance. They deserve it, given what’s to come. As its end is our own beginning.
Today I happened to be in the mood to hear the song again, as the daytime’s gloomy stranglehold of clouds melted away, come the evening’s afternoon. I put on two of them, back to back. Two of the very best of all.
The first was Julio Gutierrez in fine form on Progressive Latin. You can tell it’s good with a cover like that. (I always had my doubts in 1980s childhood about the intent of those retro Modern chairs. But they were perfection in 1960.) He leads a great Afro-Cuban ensemble into the charge with dizzying verve and pinpoint precision on piano. A great, great listen. I highly recommend it. He put me into the ideal mood for the next one.
But it was Klaus Doldinger who got to me. His Malagueña from Doldinger in Süd Amerika, just five years after Gutierrez, is so painfully perfect I can scarcely contain my praise. He slides around on tenor sax in a style as distinct from the first as is his instrument from the piano. But, again, it’s the way the whole group plays the composition that you hear, fronted by his plaintive, earnest, haunting horn. I can barely describe how it rolled over me like a tempest and a truckload of bittersweet bricks. I should have known to expect this by now. His is one of my precious few reliably teary songs.
Doldinger’s Malagueña evokes for me that excessive, desperate kind of love that we living mortals only tend to see so long. Like Daedalus and his fondness for the height that would kill him, the closer you get in that kind of relationship, the more burned you will be. It’s the hedgehog’s dilemma. (And one of my favourite episodes of Evangelion.) The way we deal with it is to leave. You have to when your mutual destructiveness is as strong. But as the writer of this story, I have a power that I don’t in my own reality. I can balance the pair’s desperate needs and crushing faults just perfectly. I can design the perfect wrong. I can make theirs the ideal, sick love.
One track is dazzling rhythm, one is painful delicacy, yet both are the same song. That’s music writ large right there. How I love it. And I’m forever in debt of its gifts to me. There is no better narrative inspiration.
I heard the Gutierrez version a few years before I found Doldinger’s. For a while, it was the one I pictured using, in my imaginary soundtrack. You may well imagine what happened when the score was evened. Not only is Doldinger’s a more compelling song, it even fits the troubled destiny my characters were born to see. There was no Alexander or Katerina without Malagueña. And there’s nothing to the story without the two of them at its maddened heart.