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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
12 Spanish Dances Op. 5

Minueto; Oriental; Zarabanda; Villanesca; Andaluza; Jota (Rondalla Aragonesa; Valenciana; Asturiana; Mazurca; Danza Triste; Zambra; Arabesca

Angel and Celedonio Romero (guitars). Recorded in Mission San Luís Rey, California, USA, March and July 1990
Telarc CD-80216 [59.12]

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century the guitar passed through a period of neglect on the international musical scene, and leading Spanish composers were cautious about writing for it. Even Fernando Sor (1776-1839), celebrated throughout Europe as a player and composer, wrote little specifically Spanish-sounding music and it was a relatively minor composer, Tarrega (1852-1909), who prepared the way for the 20th century restoration of the classical guitar. Maybe it was thought that only Spaniards and gypsies would appreciate its possibilities, or possibly before Segovia arrived to change things there were simply not enough proficient classical guitar players to go around. Nevertheless its voice resonates through this set of dances, and how could it be otherwise since many of them stem from places where the guitar has so long been revered. Originally written for piano, and later partially orchestrated by Juan Lamote de Grignon, it is therefore entirely appropriate for them to be arranged for two guitars.

Granados took the easoer option of writing ‘picture postcards’ rather than traditional works full of traditional rhythms and colour. The Romeros seem so determined not to sentimentalise them that their playing often sounds uncommitted, and in places almost superficial. The technique is there in abundance, but these delicate études call for a more relaxed approach. Though there are moments of pure poetry, for example in the Villanesca, we are left with a feeling that this respected duo has failed to enter into the spirit of the music. These are, after all excellent salon pieces and call for a relaxed and intimate approach.

A faster tempo is required in several dances, such as Andaluza and the Jota, Rondalla Aragonesa, where (despite a certain amount of sotto voce encouragement from dad) brisker tempi and stronger rhythms are needed to bring out their innate vitality. It all adds up to a curiously pallid performance from players with so high a reputation for interpreting their country’s music.

Roy Brewer


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