This is a good showcase for Villa-Rojo, presenting as it does
three works written over three decades in performances that sound
as authoritative as could be, are well recorded and intelligently
presented. The music itself is ingeniously rooted in a kind of
harmonically modernised Renaissance style, to which we could adduce
elements of flamenco influence and a fair amount of decorative
Concierto plasteresco dates from
1997. There are moments during its sixteen-minute length when
one is reminded briefly, melodically, of Rodrigo though I
wouldn’t suggest that you would find this a remotely pervasive
current of influence. The oboe’s evocative and extensive curling
lament has its full measure of song and it’s gilded with incident
and decorative writing, a mosaic of influence. There is a
slow section from around 7:00 and an arresting string unison
figure at 10:50 – moments that perhaps, with their effusive
string writing and delight in sonority will perhaps have one
thinking of Tippett.
The Serenata is the most recent
of the triptych of works here, having been written in 2004.
Textures here are light and there’s an intense slow section
from which an intensely lyric theme gradually emerges. The
Concerto grosso type affiliations again suggest Tippett. He
handles the drooping figures with great assurance and ends
the work as if enveloped in sleep.
Concierto 2 (Version B) was written for
cello and orchestra and is the most complex of the three works.
Version B was revised just for string orchestra; I’m assuming
that the original version can be heard on Marco Polo 8225135
played by the same soloist here, Asier Polo, but I haven’t
heard that recording so can’t be definitive on the point.
It is a terse, tense and difficult work to appreciate. The
close recording accentuates the opening Lutosławski-like
attacks, and Polo’s big vibrato and strenuous chording serves
to accentuate and increase the portentous drama of the writing.
It’s a mosaic of brittle, brusque and withdrawn writing, full
of orchestral suspensions and swingeing attacks, short lived,
and terse. The work ends tantalisingly in mid air, unresolved.
Throughout the three works the well-known
violinist Nicolás Chumachenco directs with real power and
sensitivity and the Orquesta de Cámera Reina Sofía responds
with verve. If you’re unfamiliar with the composer don’t start
with Concierto 2, which will probably serve as “kill or cure”
material for the unwary. At his best Villa-Rojo has a mosaically
refined musical imagination, and uses string sonorities with
highly effective, sonorous eloquence. But he’s also knotty
and that side of him can be felt in the Cello Concerto.