Spanish Classics - Rodrigo: Complete Orchestral Works Vol 4

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RODRIGO Piano Concerto (rev. Achúcarro). Preludio para un poema a la Alhambra. Música para un jardín. Homenaje a la tempranica. Juglares • Max Bragado-Darman, cond; Castile and León SO; Daniel Ligorio Ferrandiz (pn) • NAXOS 8.557101 (60:17)

This is the fourth volume in Naxos’s series of “Complete Orchestral Works” by Rodrigo, but it is the first one to come my way. (I see no record of Volumes 1–3 having been reviewed in Fanfare, either.) My initial impression, though, is that this is yet another worthwhile series from a label that seems determined to leave no work unrecorded.

The glittering Piano Concerto is derived from a 1942 Concierto heroico, also for piano and orchestra. Pianist Joaquín Achúcarro revised the Concierto heroico “to achieve a better balance between the solo instrument and the orchestra, and to avoid some of the original repetitions,” in the words of annotator Enrique Martínez Miura. (Apparently, two “extremely virtuosic” cadenzas have been removed from the Largo too.) The new work was premiered in 1996, three years before Rodrigo’s death. What Rodrigo thought of all this is not indicated here, nor can I comment on the original work, as I have not heard it. I can say that the newer work is an attractive one, colorful to the point of being garish, and dramatic to the point of being hyper-emotional. Rodrigo’s original intention was to reflect on his hometown’s survival of the Spanish Civil War. If most of the Piano Concerto seems more like a marvelous circus than a commentary on war and the human spirit, it is hard to know whether to lay blame at the feet of Rodrigo or Achúcarro. That doesn’t make the work less enjoyable, though.

Música para un jardín (“Music for a Garden”) is Rodrigo’s own orchestration of two piano berceuses from 1935 (one for autumn and one for spring). When he orchestrated it, he added berceuses for the other two seasons, and a brief prelude. The finished work was used in a film documentary about Madrid’s El Retiro Park, but no visual assistance is necessary; this wistful and charming music stands on its own. The life of plants evokes an appropriately innocent response from the composer.

The other three works are less ambitious. Juglares, composed in 1923, was Rodrigo’s first orchestral work. After a brief drum tattoo, there is an attractive Allegro with an appealingly monotonous melody, a passionate slower section, and then a return to the opening section—short and sweet. The gorgeous Preludio para un poema a la Alhambra was written in 1928, while the composer was studying in Paris. The score is headed, “At twilight a guitar sighs, and beyond, almost within the Alhambra, ring out the rhythms that drive the dance.” That Ravel’s influence can be felt in this music is no surprise. Homenaje a la tempranica, from 1939, is another Parisian work, but more typical of the mature Rodrigo. “La tempranica” means “precocious girl,” and it is the name of a popular zarzuela by another composer. This was Rodrigo’s homage to that composer’s work, not to feminine precocity, per se (although the Homenaje was premiered by an all-female orchestra).

None—the conductor, the soloist, the orchestra—is familiar. Nevertheless, I have no complaints about the technical quality or the spirit of the performances. Ferrandiz, in fact, seems like a pianist worth hearing more from. The sound engineers have wrapped this gift with a bright and brilliant ribbon.

Do you like the Concierto de Aranjuez? (Who doesn’t?) Naxos and I ask you, each in our own way, to explore more of Rodrigo’s music. He was most definitely not a “one work” composer!

-- Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8557101

  • UPC: 747313210121

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Joaquín Rodrigo

  • Conductor: Max Bragado-Darman

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Castille and Leon Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Daniel Ligorio Ferrandiz