Having been very favourably impressed recently with a disc of
Spanish and Spanish-influenced music from Deutsche
Grammophon, here is another excellent example from Naxos,
using substantially the same musicians in a nearby venue. It was
recorded only 2-3 weeks after the premium priced disc.
The present issue
is however perhaps even more interesting and valuable since
it contains no cod Spanishry but only the genuine article.
All the composers are natives, two indeed are still with us.
By far the best
known of the five is the creator of the first work on the
disc, Joaquín Rodrigo. Premiered in April 1948, “Ausencias
de Dulcinea” won first prize in a competition to mark the 400th anniversary
of the birth of Cervantes, and was performed at the end of
the year-long celebrations. Unusually it is a symphonic poem
with parts for baritone and four sopranos.
an arresting “wide-screen” opening of fanfare figures there
emerges a most beautiful, wistful theme on the lower strings,
punctuated by more vigorous sections, depicting the Don’s
exploits or perhaps the struggles within his own mind (?).
Rodrigo’s accompanying text is in three groups, sung by the
baritone, with the sopranos interpolating toward the end of
each stanza the phrase “Dulcinea del Toboso”. Rodrigo later
remarked: “I saw that by setting four voices around that of
Don Quixote I could establish contrasts between the chivalrous,
the ideal and the burlesque. While the Don is deadly serious
throughout, the orchestra provides comic touches and so the
different facets of the poetry are captured..”
a very affecting work; my notes were peppered with admiring
comments. Lopez sings evenly, although not all the solo sopranos
are quite together or on the note all the time (!)…but I didn’t
find this distracting.
Garcia Roman’s contribution is one of two rather more “modern”
in cut. In his own words the composer is trying to convey:
“…a way of expressing in music…the desire to see ride again
all those heroes whose very madness might just offer hope
to our rather disillusioned society.”
The idiom reminded
me of Bartók, even with passing references to the Hungarian’s
“insect music”. Pizzicato figures often alternate with bowed
repetitive figures in the bass, with eerie high harmonics
in the upper strings. If this sounds forbidding…it isn’t.
In fact I felt the alternations, depicting, I suspect, the
plodding of the Don’s donkey across the Spanish plains alternating
with his frenzied imaginings, very imaginative. Later in the
work (at about the 13 minute mark) there is a more lyrical
section featuring the solo violin – perhaps the Don musing
on his state of affairs?
meanwhile comes from a different age, and it shows. The ballet
has a delightful Offenbachian feel to it, whilst the chorus
reminded me of the sort of works the likes of Méhul or Le
Sueur would have produced for a Napoleonic occasion.
work provides a further link - apart from the performers and
the recording chronology - with DG’s offering. There Carlos
Alvarez performed songs written by Jacques Ibert, consisting
of settings by Pierre de Ronsart and Alexandre Arnoux, which
form part of a 1932 score for a film about Cervantes’ hero.
Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, the film features Fyodor
Chaliapin, no less, who both played Quixote and sang the songs
for the soundtrack.
de Don Quichotte” meanwhile, composed in late 2004 and
early 2005, is a suite drawn from a much longer score newly
commissioned to accompany the same film. Although the composer
explains the three movements were selected because they made
greater sense as an independent entity, he does not rule out
a “proper” suite being assembled in the future.
Finally the disc
is completed by Gerardo Gombau’s tone poem. More obviously
“attractive” perhaps than the Guerra, it reminded me of Korngold
or Arnell in film-score mode, and was none the worse for that.
Since it is virtually
impossible in UK concert halls to encounter music such as
this - even Rodrigo’s outings tend to be limited to two or
three very popular scores - discs like this are a godsend.
There is a great deal of attractive and interesting music
here which deserves a wider audience … indeed I found the
Rodrigo very affecting and I can imagine returning to this
often. Performances meanwhile are well up to the standard
of the DG issue, although the recording location isn’t quite
so yielding. The orchestra here appears closer in focus than
on the earlier disc, with the sound appreciably drier and
more immediate. Texts and translations are included.
All in all a very
enthusiastic welcome and a fascinating companion disc to DG’s
“Quijotes”. Go and buy!
see also Review
by Glyn Pursglove