españolas comprise two groups of songs - song cycles
may not be the proper word - plus two separate songs. However
the majority of the disc is covered by the Nocturnos
de Andalucia, a composition for guitar and large symphony
orchestra. The Nocturnos was premiered by the same
soloist and conductor as late as January 1996 in Berlin.
Since there is no indication of a world premiere recording
of either of the pieces I suppose that it has been recorded
before, since Naxos are usually very keen on laying a claim
where there is one to be made. Anyway the Nocturnos seem
to be Lorenzo Palomo’s greatest success, having been performed
on fifty occasions around the world. This is impressive
for a fairly newly written work. Truth to tell it isn’t
extremely modernistic, even though there are some daring
harmonic turns. It is an approachable composition, tonal
and even romantic. Some of the movements are full of rhythmic
life, inventively and colourfully scored. Through the whole
composition there is an unmistakable flavour of Spain.
Structurally it is rather rhapsodic. The weakness, if that’s
what it is, is a predominance of slow tempos and restrained
dynamics. It is also obvious that the range of colours
is limited. Mr Palomo likes brass choirs and that not
only applies to the Nocturnos. The songs are pretty brass
heavy as well.
solo guitarist mostly plays on his own or with sparse orchestration
surrounding him. Every now and then the orchestra grows organically
out of a guitar phrase, prolonging it and expanding it dynamically.
titles of the six movements are evocative, as can be seen
from the heading, and of differing length. The third movement,
almost a symphonic poem in its own right, is almost 14
minutes long, while the fourth is hardly more than a “Gust of wind” at
just over two minutes. Mr Palomo also, according to the booklet
text, “offers the option of omitting some movements in order
to present an abbreviated version, a sort of ‘suite de la
suite’”. And it is a long work, which through its
nocturnal character can for long stretches feel rather
subdued. There are, to be sure, more powerful outbreaks,
but the prevailing
mood is dark. Though I admire much of the music a composition
of this length needs much more dynamic contrast. I am fully
aware that it is a collection of nocturnes, but forty minutes
of rather recessed music is a little too much. There are
some powerful moments but they are few and far between.
The final movement, “The Flamenco Stage”, is generally
the most outgoing and also the most immediately catchy.
though: it starts almost inaudibly and only gradually gains
have no complaints concerning the execution of the music.
The Seville Royal Symphony Orchestra play well, steeped
in the tradition. Veteran conductor Rafael Frühbeck de
Burgos wrings the most out of the score. Pepe Romero, as
expected, is an ideal soloist, the music written with him
in mind. I have several of his recordings in my collection
and of course music from his native Spain must be close
to his heart. The technical demands are considerable and
overcomes them superbly.
of the songs on this disc were composed for Montserrat
who also premiered the cycle Del atardecer al alba (or Recuerdos
de juventud) at a recital in Carnegie Hall in February
1987. They are beautiful songs and Maria Bayo, although
the possessor of a voice quite different from Ms Caballé’s, makes
the most of them. As a matter of fact hers is an even more
Spanish voice, expressive, vibrant, sometimes excessively
so, but of great beauty and closer to the traditional Flamenco
singer than Caballé’s more creamy sound. Much of this music
she also sings in an exquisitely shaded half-voice, very
touchingly indeed. Most of these five songs are slow, probably
written to suit Montserrat Caballé in her Indian summer.
The other cycle, Una primavera andaluza, comprises
six songs, written a few years later and premiered by Karan
Armstrong. These are actually more multi-faceted and here
Bayo is even more at an advantage, singing really beautifully
in Sólo tú (Only You) (track 9), not to be confused
with The Platters old hit song. This is probably my favourite
reaction to the disc as a whole may seem a bit luke-warm.
Although I admired the playing of Pepe Romero and the orchestra,
I didn’t take to the Nocturnos as I had hoped. Further
acquaintance may make me more positive. Anyway I liked some
of the songs very much and I will certainly play several
of them again in the future.
sound and an informative booklet note by José Luis Garcia
del Busto but the sung texts are only available on-line.