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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Concierto pastoral for flute and orchestra (1978)
Dos miniatures andaluzas for string orchestra (1929)
Adagio para instrumentos de viento (1966)
Fantasía para un Gentilhombre (1978) arranged for flute by James Galway
Joanna G’froerer (flute)
Asturias Symphony Orchestra/Maximiano Valdés
Recorded at the Auditorio Principe Felipe, Asturias, June 2002
Complete Orchestral Works Volume 8
NAXOS 8.557801 [62.36]

It has often been said that the best Spanish music has been written by non-Spanish composers, music that is quintessentially Spanish in feeling, temperament and sheer exuberance. It makes one wonder if those who agree with this sentiment have ever heard Granados, De Falla or Albeniz let alone Rodrigo. After all what could bring the sights, sounds and colours of Spain to mind more readily than the famous Concierto de Aranjuez? It’s all the more amazing then that Rodrigo began to lose his sight after the age of 4, following an outbreak of diphtheria. Within a few years he was totally blind, yet those precise elements that go towards making a Spanish composer write music that is probably more easily identifiable with a country than any other in Europe, were elements that Rodrigo absorbed like blotting paper despite being able to see nothing of what we see that makes Spain so unique.

This disc from Naxos, part 8 in their laudable series of the complete orchestral works of this wonderful composer, comprises four works, the first of which is "Concierto pastoral", written in 1978 for flautist James Galway. It is a work typical of Rodrigo’s writing, combining as it does the imposition of fearsome technical difficulties on the part of the soloist with tunes that are musically descriptive of a given region – Valencia in this case, in the second theme of the first movement. This concerto has proved perennially popular with audiences and soloists alike, drawing the greatest flute virtuosi to take on the challenge of the exceptional demands Rodrigo places upon them.

"Dos miniaturas andaluzas" for string orchestra, was composed in 1929, yet inexplicably they had to wait until 1999, the year of Rodrigo’s death for their premiere! The phrase "short and sweet" came to mind as I listened to these two pieces that last a mere 5 minutes, the second of which includes a theme he used later in the "Concierto de Aranjuez".

The "Adagio for wind instruments" of 1966 is another gem, in which the fact that no strings are involved goes unnoticed , so skilful is Rodrigo’s writing for winds.

The disc finishes with James Galway’s repaying of Rodrigo’s tribute to him with his arrangements of Rodrigo’s guitar concerto "Fantasia para un Gentilhombre", written for Segovia in 1978. Rodrigo readily agreed with Galway making his arrangement though he made sure he paid attention to what Galway had done with it and made pertinent suggestions where he felt it would be helpful. It certainly works equally well with the flute as soloist. I think that speaks volumes for Rodrigo’s compositional skills. I own versions of the "Concierto de Aranjuez" for harp as well as guitar and also Miles Davis’ version from his classic album "Sketches of Spain" and each of them could have been written for any of those instruments. Joanna G’froerer, a Canadian who became principal flautist of the National Arts Centre of Canada when only 20, is an exceptionally gifted player who makes the most of the opportunity to give Rodrigo’s music for flute a thoroughly musical interpretation. This is a delightful disc that will repay repeated listening.

Steve Arloff

See also review by Jonathan Woolf

 

 


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