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.
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.
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.
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.
see also Reviews by Göran
Forsling and Patrick