admirable Naxos “Guitar Collection” grows at a steady pace,
mostly under the supervision of Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver
in Newmarket. They have now reached the important Spanish master
Federico Moreno Torroba. He may not be a household name in the
same way as Albeniz, Granados and de Falla, but contrary to
them he was a prolific guitar composer. Alngside that part of
his legacy there is a large oeuvre of choral and orchestral
music, including nine ballets, piano works, songs and, most
important of all, around eighty zarzuelas, of which Luisa
Fernanda (1932) is arguably the best; certainly the best
known. It was quite recently released on DVD with Placido Domingo
among the soloists.
has claims to be the first composer of guitar music who wasn’t
himself a guitarist. More or less by coincidence he met Andrés
Segovia at the premiere of Torroba’s tone poem La ajorca
de oro (The Gold Bracelet) in 1918. They became friends
and Segovia asked if he would like to write a piece for him.
Within a few weeks he came up with a Dance in E major,
which has remained in the repertoire. I hope that it will appear
in due time in this series.
main composition on this disc is Castillos de España
(Castles of Spain), which could be described as a series of
sketches of some of the many ancient fortifications in Spain.
Most of the fourteen pieces are very short. Primarily they are
not picturesque illustrations of the buildings but rather evocations
of the atmosphere of bygone eras and of the fantasies and legends
that surround these castles. The suite was not written originally
as one unit but in two groups: the first recorded by Segovia
in 1969, the second, which is more complex, copyrighted in 1978.
Montemayor (tr. 7) was previously known as Romance
de los Pinos and was recorded by Segovia in 1961 but later
incorporated into the suite.
haven’t been able to find out which is the official order of
the pieces – if there is one – but Ana Vidovic plays them on
this disc in what can roughly be supposed to be the order in
which they were composed. Segovia, who should be the authority,
recorded the first seven in a different order and David Russell,
whose Torroba disc is soon to be reviewed, has still another
mix where early and late pieces are mingled. He numbers them
with Roman numerals, but if this lends his order more authority
it is hard to tell. Does anyone know?
music is well-wrought and agreeable to listen to, there is a
Spanish flavour rhythmically and he is a fine melodist, which
anyone who has been in touch with his zarzuelas will know. Harmonically
he is firmly rooted in tonality, even though he can stray into
dissonance. He might be labelled an impressionist.
de Madrid is a similar sketchbook with seven images of famous
gates in the Spanish capital, all of them with a history, which
has inspired Torroba.
remaining three pieces, all of them brief, represent the fairly
young and the fairly old composer. First the Preludio
from 1928, which is a delicate ternary composition with an elegant
waltz surrounding a contemplative middle section, and then follow
two pieces from around 1970.
Croatian born Ana Vidovic has had an uncommonly impressive early
career. She started playing the guitar at the age of five. When
she was seven she gave her first public performance and by the
age of eleven she was already appearing internationally. She
has performed all over the world, won a great number of prizes
and at 23 has given more than one thousand performances and
recorded five CDs. With this list of merits it almost goes without
saying that she is a highly accomplished guitarist with impeccable
technique. Her playing is permeated with lyric feeling and musical
phrasing. That said, interpretatively I have to express some
reservations. She plays the Castillos de España beautifully,
contemplatively and musically but there is also a feeling of
“play safe”. Turning to David Russell his is a more dramatic
reading, more overtly rhythmic and with stronger accents. He
is also, in the main, faster - in some pieces considerably so.
Overall there is more action in Russell’s playing. To put it
more nicely one could say that there are two different approaches.
Ana Vidovic sees the castles through a romantic haze, as a dreamscape,
whereas David Russell sees the life and the people surrounding
them. Both approaches may be valid but it is Russell who makes
me listen and react.
recording is everything one could wish for. Graham Wade gives
deep background information about the castles and the gates
in his extensive and well researched notes.
I have some reservations there is still a lot to enjoy here
and I look forward to further instalments in this series.