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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) [23:46]
Sones en la Giralda [9:38]
Concierto para una fiesta (1983) [30:09]
Kaori Muraji (guitar)
Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia/Victor Pablo Perez
rec. 18-20 July 2007, Palacio de la Opera, A Coruna. DDD
DECCA 4780076 [63:33]
Experience Classicsonline

Of all the music that Joaquin Rodrigo wrote, nothing ever reached the same lofty heights as his Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. Written in 1939 its inaugural performance, by dedicatee Regino Sainz de la Maza, was held on 6 November of the following year in Barcelona.
It remains the best known and most revered of all guitar concertos. This concerto has been recorded countless times but the magnificent adagio movement has attracted most attention. It has crossed genres to jazz, and was played by a brass band in the 1996 movie, Brassed Off. Used in other numerous formats, including TV ads with Ricardo Montalban, it was also employed by Rod McKuen to accompany a poem, the text of which was inspired by the same music.
The adagio movement is about the same length as the other two combined and contains the most hauntingly beautiful melody and recurring motif. For those of appropriate disposition, it may be described as ‘heavenly music’.
Concomitant with the composing of this music Rodrigo’s wife was expecting their first child but she had a miscarriage. According to guitarist Pepe Romero, the entire second movement was Rodrigo’s musical expression of his emotions- in conversation with Deity. The melody is first rendered by the cor anglais, then the guitar and recurs with different instruments using the same motif. All the intense emotions and feelings of the composer are expressed. The movement ends with the ascension of the infant.
On the review disc the Concierto de Aranjuez is coupled with Concierto para una fiesta and Sones en la Giralda. ‘Sones’, a less known work, stands chronologically halfway between the two concertos. Originally written for harp and small orchestra, it was inspired by the city of Seville, and its emblematic cathedral bell-tower, the Giralda. Interestingly the ‘Aranjuez’ has been arranged and recorded for harp and orchestra. Commissioned by a multi-millionaire American couple for their daughter’s debutante party, Concierto para una fiesta was first performed in March 1983 with Pepe Romero as soloist.
As a nation, few outside the Spanish-speaking world have embraced the classical guitar with such alacrity as the Japanese. Kaori Muraji exemplifies that dedication towards the guitar. Born in Tokyo in 1978 she commenced lessons at age three with her father Noboru Muraji and subsequently studied with Shinichi Fukada and Alberto Ponce.
Her achievement in major guitar competitions is impressive: she was the youngest guitarist to win the Leo Brouwer International Guitar Concours and the Tokyo International Guitar Concours in 1992. In 1993 she gave her first recital at Tsuda Hall in Tokyo, soon followed by her debut CD, Expressivo. The review disc is her second recording of the Concierto de Arnajuze; the first was made in March 2000.
Given the numerous alternative recordings of these two concertos, any new addition must be an exceptional offering to stand out. Certainly the prodigious powers of Kaori Muraji imbues one with optimism.
On this occasion the guitar playing is masterful, and even the most technically challenging passages are executed with seemingly consummate ease. The orchestra part is well recorded and the emotional intensity of the ‘Aranjuez’ adagio movement ending, memorable. For all its virtues there is one aspect that is distracting: in some of the recording, particularly the Aranjuez, the guitar sounds as though it was recorded in a tunnel. This muffled sound may be a result of inappropriate microphone placement or tonal characteristic of the particular instrument used. It is the excellent sound of the orchestra that further highlights this deficiency. The better the sound reproducing equipment, the more obvious it will become.
It is interesting to note that although comprehensive acknowledgements are included, even of the hair and make-up artist, no mention is made of the luthier who constructed the guitar used in the recording. Comparatively loud, some modern lattice-braced guitars have a rather nasal, almost ‘honking’ sound in the trebles. Should the guitar used here be of that design it may, in part, explain the sound on this particular recording.
This is beautiful music, impeccably played by a master guitarist. Her orchestral support is most complementary and well recorded. Had the recording of the soloist been of comparable sonic quality, this particular release would qualify as a favoured recording. Given a little time to adjust to this deficiency, its virtues will ensure more replays than the average recording of these works.
Zane Turner


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