> RODRIGO Orchestral Works 1 [DB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901 - 1999)
Complete Orchestral Works 1

Soleriana: Suite para orquesta (1953)
Zarabanda lejana y Villancico (1930)
Cinco Piezas Infantiles (1925)
Asturias Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maximiano Valdés DDD Stereo
NAXOS 8.555844 [60:56] Superbudget


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What is one to make of Joaquín Rodrigo? Everyone knows the Concierto de Aranjuez and the Fantasia para un gentilhombre and thatís it. Naxos has embarked bravely on the complete orchestral works with a recording by the Asturias orchestra of three suites, all of tuneful and short dance movements. The Zarabanda lejana y Villanico is a two movement suite, a dreamy sarabande followed by a lively and very pretty rondo. Both pieces were originally for guitar and were arranged for string orchestra in 1930. The Asturias strings sound a touch scrawny here, but throughout the rest of the programme they show themselves a very respectable band. Prospective purchasers need not worry on this score.

The second short suite is the Cinco Piezas Infantiles (Five Childrenís Pieces). This is much more interesting musically and I found it significant that, as the notes revealed, this was the period when he made contact with "a group of avant-garde composers in Madrid." For these are really very imaginative and, as noted at the time, "curious", pieces. Rodrigo shows here what he might have become had he not failed to make an impression on the judges of the national music prize in 1925 and moved to Paris. All the movements are good but particularly impressive is Después de un cuento where for just over three minutes Rodrigo creates a truly magical sound picture quite unlike the popular works noted above. The bulk of the disc is taken up with Soleriana an eight movement suite derived from sonatas by the remarkable Padre Antonio Soler (whose music so enthralled me in another recent Naxos release 8.555031). Soleriana is the sort of thing Respighi did so well in The Birds and the suites of Ancient Airs and Dances. Sadly I have to report that beyond being very easy to listen to, Rodrigoís efforts seem to miss the bite and originality of his compatriot Solerís brilliant compositions and he just doesnít orchestrate as imaginatively as Respighi. Soleriana is charming and tuneful indeed, but unlikely to make one return to this disc.

I regret that on the strength of this, Naxos have done nothing to answer my question at the start. However did Rodrigo manage to write one of the best tunes of the 20th century, the slow movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez, within one of two brilliant and justifiably popular guitar concertos, and yet produce apparently nothing else of note? The liner notes are a mixture of interesting history and oddly incomprehensible commentary for which I am uncertain whether to blame the author or the translator. The cover picture is called Christmas Nights and is absolutely nothing to do with the music so perhaps the producers had the same trouble as me getting excited about this issue. An excellent website exists at http://www.joaquin-rodrigo.com/indexfen.html and I would urge the Rodrigo enthusiast to visit it.

Dave Billinge

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