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Aita MADINA (Francisco de Madina Igarzabal) (1907-1972)
CD 1

Concierto Vasco para 4 guitarras y orquesta (for four guitars and orchestra) (1969) [28:49]
Basque Rhapsody (1945?) [21:31]
Concertino Vasco para arpa y orquesta de cuerdas (for harp and string orchestra) (orch. Tomás Aragüés Bernad) [11:28]
CD 2

Aita Gurea * (1964) [4:37]
Basque Christmas Suite * ** [7:16]
La Cadena de Oro ** [10:59]
Agur Maria [4:32]
Basque Children Overture [4:23]
Christmas Triptych [10:00]
Danza (Dance) (1969) [4:07]
Orreaga (Basque Suite) [10:02]
Los Romero (guitars)
Xavier de Maistre (harp)
* Ana Salaberria, ** Elena Barbé, (sopranos)
Andoni Alemán, (narrator)
Orfeón Donostiarra/José Antonio Sainz Alfaro ***
Euskadiko Orkestra Sinfonikoa (Basque National Orchestra)/Cristian Mandeal
rec. San Sebastian, 6-18 June, 13-23 Sept 2005. DDD
Basque Music Volume IX
CLAVES CD 50-2517/18 [64:58 + 55:56]
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Francisco de Madina (Aita means ‘Father’) was born in Oñate, Guipuzcoa on 29 January 1907 and died in his home town on 30 June 1972. Ordained a Canon Regular of the Lateran in 1929, he studied music and theology at the Order’s seminaries in his native country before being assigned to a post in Argentina. Many of his early works composed during this period exhibit influences of his adopted home particularly gaucho music. He was reassigned to Albany (New York) in 1955, where his priestly responsibilities and work as organist left him little time for composition. Kalmus published several of his scores, Nicanor Zabaleta was an enthusiast of Madina’s harp music. The Romero brothers participate in this recording and frequently performed Madina’s guitar music. He returned to Oñate in 1971.

The Concierto Vasco for four guitars and orchestra is the most substantial work here. Make no mistake it is no piece of fluff. It is quite a dramatic stormy piece and full of eerie superbly contrived and atmospheric writing both for orchestra and the solo group. Grateful solo lines also emerge for the violin and for the woodwind. This is a melodically heart-warming and fresh piece of writing. The whispered drip-drop pavane style Eresia third movement is memorably beautiful and the whole would make a very welcome contrast to the Rodrigo or Ponce guitar concertos. The Fandango finale creaks a little but finales are notoriously difficult.

With the death of Celedonio on 8 May 1996 Los Romero now comprise Celin, Pepe, Lito and Celino (the players here). Madina wrote four concertos and five suites for Los Romero. I hope that there will be recordings of the other three concertos. On the present showing they will be well worth hearing. Incidentally this concerto was premiered by Los Romero and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler. Within six days the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos with Angel and Pepe Romero premiered Rodrigo’s Concierto Madrigal at the Hollywood Bowl.

The three movement Basque Rhapsody is another brightly-hued piece. The Zortzikoa first movement and Jaia finale are uproarious. There’s another tender Eresia as centre-piece incorporating the suggestion of marine scenery and the dazzling glittering waves. As with the Concierto the writing is highly coloured, sometimes impressionistic, never thorny, always melodic and accessible. As with the concerto the influence of Ravel, Debussy and Prokofiev can be felt but other parallels also occur including Vaughan Williams and de Freitas Branco.

The four movement Concertino Vasco for harp and orchestra is all plangency and fragile delight - a successor to Danse Sacré et Danse Profane. The second movement once again rocks the listeners’ worries away with its becalmed ‘pavane’ and gently singing strings. The movements are all fairly short - about four minutes on average - and never outstay their welcome. What a discovery!

The second disc collects together a number of Madina’s shorter scores. There’s the florid, almost operatic Aita Gurea, the light and folksy Basque Christmas Suite (comparable with Prokofiev’s Winter Bonfires suite), the pocket oratorio Le Cadena de Oro complete with breathy narrator - the story is one of poetic justice. The serenely hymn-like Agur Maria, like the preceding pieces on CD2, is for orchestra and chorus. The Basque Children’s Overture is for orchestra alone and uses Basque children’s songs in a manner similar to and to much the same effect as Quilter’s A Children’s Overture. Everything is bright and fresh and taut with rhythmic energy. English-speaking listeners will certainly recognise some of the tunes but under different titles. More grown-up is the three part Christmas Triptych - a sweet confection, serene throughout and delightfully sleepy in the Vagit infans. You might think of RVW’s Dives and Lazarus. The Danza whirls along and kicks up the dust with the leader’s solo violin adding zest to the stamping rumpus. It was premiered by the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969. Finally there’s the three movement Orreaga suite which is explosive, and folksy recalling wheezing village bands as well as Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole. Madina is a prince when it comes to slow movements and his Itun blooms slowly and quietly - a sort of sighing counterpart to Walton’s Touch Her Soft Lips.

The recorded sound is opulent with plenty of lively highs and stunning bass extension.

The set is typically well documented. Pity they could not have got the two discs and booklet into a single width case.

The Basque Ministry of Culture and the Mondragón Corporación Cooperativa should take a bow for their continuing support for this glorious series which carries the Basque lands and culture into households all over the world. By the way Claves, the Basque Ministry of Culture are not your principle supporter but your principal supporter. Got it right in all the other languages but not English. A trivial error in the face of such a generous hearted and fascinating production.

The next and tenth CD in the Basque collection will be dedicated to Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Rob Barnett


Vol. 1 CD 50-9709 Guridi
Vol. 2 CD 50-9814 Usandizaga
Vol. 3 CD 50-2001 Arambarri
Vol. 4 CD 50-2007 Isasi
Vol. 5 CD 50-2110/11 Escudero
Vol. 6 CD 50-2205 Sorozábal
Vol. 7 CD 50-2305 Donostia
Vol. 8 CD 50-2413 Garbizu

Sampler Sounds of the Basque Country



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