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Bella España: Music Inspired by Spain
Georges BIZET (1838-1895) (arr. William Kanengiser) excerpts from Carmen Suite [8:35]
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
rec. Studio A, O’Henry Studios, Burbank, California, 11-14 Dec 2001.
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) excerpts from The Three-Cornered Hat [5:52]
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Jesús López-Cobos
rec. Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 31 Jan-1 Feb 1987.
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916) Jota (Rondo Aragonesa) [4:24]
Angel and Celedonio Romero, guitars
rec. Mission San Luis Rey, San Luis Rey, California, 20-22 Mar and 23-25 Jul 1990.
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez [9:40]
David Russell, guitar
Naples Philharmonic Orchestra/Erich Kunzel
rec. Philharmonic Center for the Arts, Naples, Florida, 29-30 Apr 1997.
Anonymous Romance [4:19]
Angel Romero, guitar
rec. Mission San Luis Rey, San Luis Rey, California, 6-8 Mar 1989.
RODRIGO/Andrew YORK (b. 1958) En Aranjuez con tu amor [4:08]
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
rec. Studio A, O’Henry Studios, Burbank, California, 11-14 Dec 2001.
Ernesto LECUONA (1896-1963)/Morton GOULD (1913-1996) Malagueña [4:17]
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel
rec. Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 21 June 1998.
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909) Málaga from Iberia: Book IV [5:45]
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Jesús López-Cobos
rec. Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 11-12 May 1997.
ALBÉNIZ Asturias from Suite española, op. 47 [6:18]
Francisco TÁRREGA Capricho Arabe [5:13]
David Russell, guitar
rec. The Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for the Performing Arts, Owing Mills, Maryland, 5-7 Mar 2001.
TELARC CD-80662 [59:26]

 

This is a collection extracted from previous Telarc recordings. The CD insert makes this clear by including pictures and catalog numbers of the original recordings should one become inspired to buy and explore further. Luckily, Telarc has an excellent catalog to draw upon, making this a good first introduction to “music inspired by Spain”. This CD is mid-prices, about $10 in the US.

Telarc is particularly well-served by the guitarists represented here. Angel Romero and his father Celedonio are part of the “first family of the guitar”. David Russell would make most people’s lists of best guitarists who still have much of their careers ahead of them. Finally, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) is without any serious rival for top spot in the world of contemporary guitar ensembles. Considering the importance of the guitar to Spanish musical life, it is fitting that it is featured in most of the works here.

The two most recognizable pieces of “Spanish music” were actually composed by Frenchmen. Ravel’s “Bolero” is not included, but the LAGQ plays their arrangement of excerpts from Bizet’s opera about the Gypsy temptress Carmen. They also perform an original composition by Andrew York (one of their members), based on the most famous of guitar concertos, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. It is a worthy composition, though I prefer Rodrigo’s original. Luckily, we also get the adagio from that. David Russell whets one’s appetite for the complete concerto, as do his unlikely accompanists, Erich Kunzel of pops fame and the Naples (Florida) Philharmonic.

Russell performs two solo guitar pieces that are essential parts of the instrument’s repertoire: Albéniz’ Asturias - originally for piano, it has always seemed as if it were written for guitar - and Tárrega’s Capricho Arabe in beautiful, flawless performances. Romeros, father and son, play a jota by Granados. Angel solos in an anonymous Romance. That latter sounds typical of late nineteenth or early twentieth century solo guitar compositions, but no further information regarding its provenance is provided.

Jésus López-Cobos brought Spanish and Latin American music to the Cincinnati Symphony, represented here by a bit of de Falla and an orchestration of Albéniz. That orchestra is better known for its Bruckner. In these performance they do a good, but not perfect, job of minimizing their Germanic sound. Erich Kunzel, however, succeeds again with the Cincinnati Pops, in producing an authentic Latin sound for a Malagueña by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona.

A lot can go wrong in assembling a sampler collection, especially in a market with a million-and-one versions of “Mozart for Babies”. Telarc has created a quality product. Only two quibbles: they could have provided some text to introduce these compositions and performers to newcomers, and as a compilation of previously released material the price could be lower.

Brian Burtt

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