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Tomás MARCO (b. 1942)
Concierto del agua (1993)a [25:04]
Oculto carmen (1995) [5:59]
Laberinto marino (2001)b [23:39]
Sinfonietta No.1 (1999) [23:31]
Gabriel Estarellas (guitar)a; Dimitar Furnadjiev (cello)b
Orquesta Sinfónica Ciudad de Oviedo/Gregorio Gutiérrez
rec. Auditorio Principe de Asturias, Oviedo, Spain, September 2003
VERSO VRS2032 [78:31]

Tomás Marco and his older colleague Cristóbal Halffter (b. 1930) are amongst the most prominent Spanish composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. In saying this I do not minimize the achievement of some other distinguished Spanish composers who have done much to put Spain firmly on the contemporary music scene. I think in particular of the late Francisco Guerrero (1951–1997) or Luis de Pablo, to mention but two.
In spite of his many academic and official appointments, Marco has composed a sizeable and varied output including several concertos and six symphonies. The present release offers four pieces written between 1993 and 2001, thus providing a fair sampling from his recent output. Earlier in his composing career, Marco’s music displayed a rather radical stance, much in tune with what was going on at that time on the international music scene. Even so it could not be easily ‘labelled’ because of Marco’s often idiosyncratic thinking. His earlier works were not always readily accessible because of the composer’s uncompromising vision. Over the years, though, his music has mellowed and, while still remaining strongly personal, is more accessible, as these four recent works generously demonstrate.
The earliest here is the Guitar Concerto Concierto del agua (“Water Concerto”) composed as a homage to Andrès Segovia and completed in 1993 on a commission from BWM Spain. The work, in three movements played without a break, is scored for guitar and strings. Each of the three movements bears a title more or less related to water, both as a natural element and as a symbol. In the first movement Almadabra, the orchestral strings are mostly used as a large strumming guitar through the exclusive use of pizzicati, whereas the second movement Acuario (“Aquarius”) is appropriately more flowing, with some mysterious harmonies as possible allusion to Aquarius as well as some richly melodic writing. The final movement Anadiomena is somewhat more troubled, with rather unsettling glissandi and percussive sounds propelling the music into a frantic dance bringing the work to its assertive conclusion. The music is free from any picturesque ‘Hispanicisms’ and goes its own entirely personal way. The end result is a splendid addition to the repertoire and a work that deserves wider exposure.
The short orchestral work Oculto carmen was written as a fiftieth birthday present for fellow composer José García Román. “Carmen” is the word usually used to suggest a Granada garden, which is why the music is “based on elements taken from Albeníz’s piano piece Granada”. The piece is laid-out in an arch form in which oriental-sounding arabesques underpinned by timpani and pizzicati are piled-up in layers of varying density building into a climax before dying away. A very fine concert opener.
Laberinto marino (“Marine Labyrinth”) for cello and strings is another work in which the symbolic image of water is again present although the music is not programmatic. The piece, in a single movement, unfolds in waves ebbing to and fro, and building towards the richly sonorous final section, abruptly cut-off. The often richly melodic cello part is almost always in the forefront, with short cadenza-like episodes and a big cadenza about halfway into the piece. Though mostly song-like in character, the music also has its more virtuosic moments: in the cadenzas and in the Scherzo-like sections. This is another marvellous piece of music, and this and Concierto del agua undoubtedly are the finest works in this selection.
Up to 2003 when these recordings were made Marco had composed six symphonies and two chamber symphonies. His Sinfonietta No.1 (incidentally the only one as at 2003) is scored for medium-sized symphonic orchestra. Hence the diminutive title. The work is longer than any of the first three symphonies - once available on Discobi D-2005 - that I know. It is in a single movement, in which various short fragments dart in and out underpinned by what the composer describes as “a sort of timpani continuo”. They sometimes seem willing to coalesce, often before disintegrating again. Only in the last stage is some sort of climactic “getting together” achieved. This is a complex work that I find rather puzzling and enigmatic. Not that the music is difficult to listen to; but it is difficult to see what the composer is really up to. Its typically colourful but ultimately unhelpful subtitle, Opaco resplandor de la memoria, does not really help to make things any clearer.
These performances appear really very fine, and so is the recording. As mentioned earlier, this well-filled release provides a fair overview of Marco’s recent works. There is much highly enjoyable music, and both Concierto del agua and Laberinto marino certainly deserve much more than the occasional hearing.
Hubert Culot





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