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Federico Moreno TORROBA (1891–1982)
Castillos de España (Castles of Spain) [30:54]
1. Turégano [2:22]
2. Manzanares el Real [1:04]
3. Alcañiz [1:43]
4. Sigüenza [1:55]
5. Alba de Tormes [1:41]
6. Torija [2:06]
7. Montemayor [1:30]
8. Olite [2:17]
9. Zafra [2:54]
10. Redaba [1:28]
11. Simancas [1:48]
12. Alcázar de Segovia [2:42]
13. Javier [3:57]
14. Calatrava [2:59]
Puertas de Madrid (Gates of Madrid) [15:19]
15. Puerta de Alcalá [2:44]
16. Puerta del Ángel [1:25]
17. Puerta Cerrada [3:10]
18. Puerta Hierro [1:29]
19. Puerta de San Vicente [1:36]
20. Puerta de Toledo [1:47]
21. Puerta de Moros [2:54]
22. Preludio [2:18]
23. Vieja Leyenda [2:20]
24. Jaranera [1:28]
Ana Vidovic (guitar)
rec. St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 22-25 September 2005
NAXOS 8.557902 [52:40]

 


The admirable Naxos “Guitar Collection” grows at a steady pace, mostly under the supervision of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver in Newmarket. They have now reached the important Spanish master Federico Moreno Torroba. He may not be a household name in the same way as Albeniz, Granados and de Falla, but contrary to them he was a prolific guitar composer. Alngside that part of his legacy there is a large oeuvre of choral and orchestral music, including nine ballets, piano works, songs and, most important of all, around eighty zarzuelas, of which Luisa Fernanda (1932) is arguably the best; certainly the best known. It was quite recently released on DVD with Placido Domingo among the soloists.

Torroba has claims to be the first composer of guitar music who wasn’t himself a guitarist. More or less by coincidence he met Andrés Segovia at the premiere of Torroba’s tone poem La ajorca de oro (The Gold Bracelet) in 1918. They became friends and Segovia asked if he would like to write a piece for him. Within a few weeks he came up with a Dance in E major, which has remained in the repertoire. I hope that it will appear in due time in this series.

The main composition on this disc is Castillos de España (Castles of Spain), which could be described as a series of sketches of some of the many ancient fortifications in Spain. Most of the fourteen pieces are very short. Primarily they are not picturesque illustrations of the buildings but rather evocations of the atmosphere of bygone eras and of the fantasies and legends that surround these castles. The suite was not written originally as one unit but in two groups: the first recorded by Segovia in 1969, the second, which is more complex, copyrighted in 1978. Montemayor (tr. 7) was previously known as Romance de los Pinos and was recorded by Segovia in 1961 but later incorporated into the suite.

I haven’t been able to find out which is the official order of the pieces – if there is one – but Ana Vidovic plays them on this disc in what can roughly be supposed to be the order in which they were composed. Segovia, who should be the authority, recorded the first seven in a different order and David Russell, whose Torroba disc is soon to be reviewed, has still another mix where early and late pieces are mingled. He numbers them with Roman numerals, but if this lends his order more authority it is hard to tell. Does anyone know?

The music is well-wrought and agreeable to listen to, there is a Spanish flavour rhythmically and he is a fine melodist, which anyone who has been in touch with his zarzuelas will know. Harmonically he is firmly rooted in tonality, even though he can stray into dissonance. He might be labelled an impressionist.

Puertas de Madrid is a similar sketchbook with seven images of famous gates in the Spanish capital, all of them with a history, which has inspired Torroba.

The remaining three pieces, all of them brief, represent the fairly young and the fairly old composer. First the Preludio from 1928, which is a delicate ternary composition with an elegant waltz surrounding a contemplative middle section, and then follow two pieces from around 1970.

The Croatian born Ana Vidovic has had an uncommonly impressive early career. She started playing the guitar at the age of five. When she was seven she gave her first public performance and by the age of eleven she was already appearing internationally. She has performed all over the world, won a great number of prizes and at 23 has given more than one thousand performances and recorded five CDs. With this list of merits it almost goes without saying that she is a highly accomplished guitarist with impeccable technique. Her playing is permeated with lyric feeling and musical phrasing. That said, interpretatively I have to express some reservations. She plays the Castillos de España beautifully, contemplatively and musically but there is also a feeling of “play safe”. Turning to David Russell his is a more dramatic reading, more overtly rhythmic and with stronger accents. He is also, in the main, faster - in some pieces considerably so. Overall there is more action in Russell’s playing. To put it more nicely one could say that there are two different approaches. Ana Vidovic sees the castles through a romantic haze, as a dreamscape, whereas David Russell sees the life and the people surrounding them. Both approaches may be valid but it is Russell who makes me listen and react.

The recording is everything one could wish for. Graham Wade gives deep background information about the castles and the gates in his extensive and well researched notes.

While I have some reservations there is still a lot to enjoy here and I look forward to further instalments in this series.

Göran Forsling

 

 

 


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