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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Piano Music - vol. 1

A l’ombre de Torre Bermeja (1945) [5:03]
Cuatro piezas para piano (1938) [12:16]
Pastoral (1926) [2:04]
Preludio de añoranza (1987) [3:30]
Deux Berceuses (1923-8) [4:47]
Bagatela (1926) [1:52]
Cuatro estampas andaluzas (1946-52) [14:19]
Sonada de adiós (1935) [3:57]
Serenata española (1931) [5:06]
Air de ballet sur le nom d’une jeune fille (1929) [3:08]
Zarabanda lejana (1926) [2:54]
Cinco piezas del siglo XVI (1938) [9:00]
Fantasía que contrahace la harpa de Ludovico [1:30]
Artur Pizarro (piano)
Rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk in February 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557272 [69:27]

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Rodrigo’s orchestral music is well represented by eight volumes in Naxos’s "Spanish Classics" series. Next up is the piano music and this is volume one, presumably of two. The pianist is Artur Pizarro, who won the Leeds International Piano Competition in 1990. For an artist of his talent, Pizarro is underrepresented in the catalogue at the moment (although he is recording Beethoven sonatas for Linn), a victim of the demise of Collins Classics. The main competition is from Sara Marianovich who recorded the complete piano music on a 2-CD set for Sony in 2001 (SK 89828).

Rodrigo composed for the piano throughout his career – the works presented here span more than sixty years and include his last in the genre - Preludio de añoranza (nostalgic prelude), which is definitely one of the gems. These compositions are very much written for the piano - as far as I am aware, they have not been orchestrated - and there is nothing large-scale about them. The longest work lasts less than a quarter hour and consists of four Andalusian pictures – pieces which would stand alone as well as making a satisfactory cycle. I particularly liked Sonada de adios (Sounding of farewell) which is a homage to Paul Dukas. But all this music is attractive, if perhaps less obviously Spanish in character or extrovert than the works of Albeniz or Granados.

Artur Pizarro gives excellent performances. Great virtuosity is rarely required but sensitivity to variations of mood is the key here and he captures the spirit of the music to perfection. Sara Marianovich studied these works with Rodrigo and her performances have been well-received. Pizarro is often slightly fleeter and usually advantageously so in my judgment. There is little to choose between them in terms of recorded sound - both are pleasingly natural, Marianovich is placed more forwardly in the aural image - and both issues are well-documented.

I would assume that Pizarro is going to record the rest of Rodrigo’s piano music although we may have to wait a while. Marianovich has two advantages – she is available now and the works are presented in chronological order. Pizarro has a price advantage and is, so far, a marginally finer exponent of the music. Two suggestions for Naxos - expedite the issue of volume 2 and sign up Pizarro for something else.

Patrick C Waller

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