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Joaquin RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Piano Music – Vol. 1
A l’ombre de Torre Bermeja [5:03]
Four Piano Pieces [12:16]
Pastoral [2:04]
Preludio de anoranza [3:30]
Deux Berceuses [4:47]
Bagatela [1:52]
Four Andalusian Pictures [14:19]
Sonada de Adios [3:57]
Serenata espagnola [5:06]
Ballet theme on a young girl’s name [3:08]
Zarabanda lejana [2:54]
Five Pieces of the Sixteenth Century [9:00]
Fantasia in the style of Ludovico’s Harp [1:30]
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Recorded at Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK 3-5 February, 2003

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Recently I reviewed the first disc in a series devoted to the piano music of Joaquin Turina. Although I wasn’t terribly impressed by the music I was complimentary about the efforts of Naxos in relation to Spanish music in general and that country’s piano music in particular. At that time I knew I had this disc to review and was certain it would be a different story as far as the music was concerned, and so it has proved to be. In the same way as de Falla, Granados, Albeniz and Mompou did, Rodrigo made a significant contribution to 20th Century Spanish repertoire. I was surprised at the time I reviewed the Turina disc that the liner notes, whilst mentioning the above four composers, made no mention of Rodrigo.

I don’t know how many discs of Rodrigo’s piano music this series will comprise but this is only volume one. I was immediately struck by the supreme inventiveness of Rodrigo and his ability to paint a sound-picture that stamps itself onto one’s audio memory. All the works on this disc are miniatures lasting from a little over a minute to under six minutes, and yet each one is absolutely brimming with ideas. It’s all the more remarkable to me that the composer of the famous (and much ‘covered’) “Concierto de Aranjuez” was totally blind before his 7th birthday, having contracted diphtheria at the age of just four. Once totally blind he began attending the School for the Blind in Valencia where his natural musical gifts became apparent and where he began to play violin and piano, going on to attend the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris with Paul Dukas as his teacher.

The liner-notes tell how much Dukas influenced Rodrigo, especially concerning orchestration. However, it is the extent to which his writing encapsulates the very essence of Spain which I find so amazing in a blind man; nevertheless it is evident in every note. The very first piece on this record is the musical embodiment of things Spanish. The intensity of the sunlight with that dry heat and the shimmering that one sees on the horizon and the cool of the shadows comes through in every work here. The pieces are delicate, like the fine and intricate lace that old women make and sell in the markets. Each note is essential in the fabric of this music serving much the same purpose as that of the threads in the lace. However, it should be said that though delicate these works are extremely demanding technically. Artur Pizarro is a perfect choice respecting the writing and bringing out all the nuances. There is a sensuality in this music that is hard to describe but is immediately identifiable. When the passion breaks out Pizarro can be emphatic and dynamic and can also play so gently when called for that the notes seem like the merest brushing of lips against skin.

The composition of miniatures must be difficult – to make a complete musical statement, both full and rounded, as Rodrigo does over and over again in these pieces shows a mastery that few other composers for piano in the 20th century could match, though Satie, another of my favourite composers of piano miniatures was certainly one. Every one of these wonderful works is a gem and I couldn’t single out any of them as being more memorable than any other. This is a disc that can be listened to with lasting pleasure in its entirety or you can simply make a selection, but in any event I’m sure that, like me, you’ll be enchanted.

Steve Arloff

see also Reviews by Göran Forsling and Patrick Waller




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