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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Zarabanda lejana (1926/1930) [5:29]
Villancico (1930) [4:27]
Cançoneta (1923) [3:12]
Dos miniaturas andaluzas (1929) [4:57]
Fantasía para un gentilhombre (1954) [20:23]
Aria Antigua (1960) [3:13]
Soleriana (excerpts) (1953): Entrada [5:09] Pastoral [4:46] Passepied [2:49]
Tres viejos aires de danza (1929): Pastoral [2:24] Minué [3:46] Giga [4:48]
Juana Guillem (flute), Augustín León Ara (violin)
Orquestra de Cámara Joaquín Rodrigo/Augustín León Ara
rec. 2000, Institut Valencià de la Música de la Generalitat Valenciana, Valencia
EMI CLASSICS 57116 [65:41]



Composers born on St. Cecilia’s Day…?  Benjamin Britten, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Gunther Schuller and, no doubt, others I can’t remember. But one I don’t forget is Joaquín Rodrigo, born on St Cecilia’s Day, 22nd November, in 1901; he was born in Sagunto, in the province of Valencia, and this reissued CD, is an apt celebration of his lyrical talents and, for that matter, an apt ‘local’ tribute, recorded in Valencia as it is. It pulls together a number of works for chamber orchestra, ranging in date from 1923 to 1960, many of them attractively illustrative of that always creative relationship Rodrigo had with earlier Spanish music, whether in terms of a response to specifically Spanish genres and musical idioms or in terms of a reinvention of a particular work by an earlier composer.
 
The earliest work here is the Cançoneta, a touching miniature for violin and strings, a beautifully shaped piece of nostalgic lyricism, with little or no sense of youthfulness about it, though the work of a composer in his early twenties. Rodrigo found his distinctive musical voice very early. The Zarabanda lejana was originally written for guitar (along with a piano version); it was then arranged for strings in 1927. It pays homage to Luis de Milá, and the ‘distance’ of the work’s titular adjective no doubt registers both a gap in time and a gap in cultural conditions. This string version has a restrained gravity and refinement which make it a thing of genuine, if simple, beauty. The Zarabanda was originally planned as an independent work, but in 1930 Rodrigo chose supplement it with the Villancico, in which Rodrigo surely remembers the later sacred form of the villancico, rather than its secular forerunner. It captures delightfully the feeling of simple religious reverence, with the strains of folklore melodies not too far in the background.
 
The Dos miniaturas andaluzas, though written before the 1920s were out, remained unplayed (and forgotten amongst Rodrigo’s papers) until it received its première on (here comes St. Cecilia again) on 22nd November 1999. This CD contains the first recording of the piece – I use the singular because the ‘Preludio’ and the ‘Danza’ are effectively run together to make a single composition. It captures both the characteristic Andalusian melancholy and the equally typical dance rhythms.
 
Of the Tres viejos aires de danza the ‘Pastoral’ was written, for piano, in 1926, while Rodrigo was still in Valencia. In 1927 he began studies in Paris with Dukas at the École normale de Musique; it was there, in 1929, that he orchestrated the ‘Pastoral’ and added a ‘Minué’ and a ‘Giga’. The calmness of the ‘Pastoral’ is succeeded by the more piquant wit of the two later movements, and for all that one might be able to hear echoes of some of the music he must have been hearing in Paris, the whole has the whole has a characteristically ‘Rodrigoesque’ quality – to quote Rodrigo himself, “My cup may be small, but it is from my own cup that I drink”.
 
With Soleriana Rodrigo pays tribute to another of the Spanish composers who helped to provide the contents of that personal cup. In the present recording, a little disappointingly, we are offered only three of the eight movements of the suite. We get to hear the ‘Entrada’ which opens the full suite, along with the ‘Pastoral’ and the ‘Passepied’ which form the fourth and fifth movements of that suite. Rodrigo’s adaptations of Soler’s harpsichord sonatas are charming, but perhaps not much more. They lack the incisiveness of the originals, Rodrigo’s orchestration generally giving them a rather smooth homogeneity.
 
The Fantasía para un gentilhombre was, of course, originally written for guitar and orchestra; it was written, indeed, at the request of Segovia. Here it is heard in a version for flute and orchestra made by James Galway, with some touches by Rodrigo himself, in 1978. In general the transcription works quite well, though I continue to prefer the original. This is another of Rodrigo’s variations on an earlier Spanish composer. His sources come, this time, from the work of Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710), as contained in his Instrucción de música sobre la Guitarra Española, published in 1674. Rodrigo’s Fantasia has its roots in the Spanish guitar tradition and for all the elegance of Galway’s adaptation, there is an undeniable loss involved in the switch from guitar to flute, even if the flute relishes the lovely melody which dominates the ‘Españoleta’ which forms the first part of the second movement. The closing ‘Canario’ undoubtedly loses something of its vigour in the version for flute. But, even if it is less completely satisfying than the original version for guitar, this transcription makes generally pleasant listening and gets, like everything else on the disc, a convincingly idiomatic performance.
 
The latest composition on the disc, the Aria Antigua, was originally written for flute and piano (with an alternative version for flute and guitar). What is played here is an arrangement for flute and orchestra made by the flute player Bernard Wystraëte and first performed in March 1999. The piece is a rather formal adagio with, as so often in Rodrigo (even when he is not reworking a specific piece by an earlier composer), more than a hint of the Spanish baroque about it. No more than a miniature, it has an attractive elegance to it.
 
The charm of Rodrigo’s music owes much to the way in which his indebtedness to older Spanish traditions finds personal expression within an idiom which shows inescapable evidence of his familiarity with the music to be heard during his years in Paris. The combination allows him to present a musically distinctive idea of Spain.
 
This excellently played collection complements the extensive Naxos series of discs devoted to Rodrigo’s Orchestral Works.
 
Glyn Pursglove
 



 


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