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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Complete Orchestral Music - Volume 10: Songs and Madrigals
Cuatro madrigales amatorios (1948) [7:47]
Cantos de amor y de guerra (1968) [14:03]
Tríptic de Mossèn Cinto (1936) [11:21]
Romance del Commedador de Ocaña (1947) [6:01]
Cuatre cançons en llengua catalana (1935) [10:58]
Rosaliana (1965) [12:42]
Cántico de la esposa (1934) [3:49]
Raquel Lojendio (soprano);
Asturias Symphony Orchestra/Maximiano Valdés
rec. 25-28 August 2003, Auditorio Príncipe Felipe, Ociedo, Asturia, Spain
Texts and translations available online
NAXOS 8.555845 [66:42]

Volume 10 of the Naxos series of the complete orchestral music of Rodrigo, this CD brings together a selection of Rodrigo’s work for soprano and orchestra. In date the works chosen range from 1934 to 1968, but the innocent ear would, I suspect, have some difficulty in very confidently guessing which were the earliest and which were the latest works here – there is relatively little to be heard in the way of consistent stylistic development. Conversely, the quality is consistently high.
The Cántico de la esposa (Song of the Bride) was written for Rodrigo’s own wife Victoria, when difficult circumstances forced their temporary separation only a year after their marriage. It sets a text by St. John of the Cross – or, to be more precise, part of a text. What Rodrigo sets is the first four stanzas of a poem (Canciones entre el alma y el Esposo) of some forty stanzas. The chosen stanzas draw on imagery from the Song of Songs and, taken on their own, are, like a lot of the mystical poetry of the seventeenth century (and like a lot of the sacred poetry of the Spanish Islamic tradition), ambiguous in reference, it being unclear whether their primary reference is secular or sacred. The first stanza – I quote it in Roy Campbell’s fine translation rather than in the more functional version by Graham Wade which Naxos provides on its website – gives the exquisite flavour:
                        Where can your hiding be,
                        Beloved, that you left me thus to moan
                        While like the stag you flee
                        Leaving the wound with me
                        I followed calling loud, but you had flown.
This – like the stanzas which follow it – is full of imagery utterly characteristic of the Spanish baroque. Rodrigo’s beautiful setting, with a melodic line which is reminiscent of early Spanish sacred music and a (relatively) lush orchestration which draws on a very different set of traditions, characteristically relates to the Spanish musical tradition without settling for mere pastiche.
Relatedly, the Cuatro madrigales amatorios which open the CD (just as the Cántico de la esposa closes it) set anonymous sixteenth-century poems which were previously set for vocalist and vihuela in the Renaissance. Graham Wade’s helpful booklet note tells us that Rodrigo heard these early settings in Paris in the late 1930s; Rodrigo’s own versions adapt and (respectfully) vary the original melodies (save in the last of the four songs, ‘De los Alamos vengo, madre’ in which he uses the older melody ‘straight’). Rodrigo has a real genius for this ‘updating’ of earlier materials and both Raquel Lojendio and the Asturia Symphony Orchestra do full justice to the passion and drama of these brief lyrics.
Another such revisioning of earlier music lies behind the Cantos de amor y de Guerra, texts prepared by the composer’s wife Victoria Kamhi from sixteenth-century  cancioneros, romances of the wars between Moors and Christians. Again the original melodies are, in four out of five cases, varied slightly, while in one case (the fourth song, ‘Sobra Baza estaba el Rey) the original line is left unaltered. Throughout the five songs, Rodrigo’s orchestral accompaniment is spare and transparent. These anonymous texts touch on experiences and emotions central to the evolution of the Spanish psyche and Rodrigo has the good judgement to give them room to communicate in their resonant simplicity. The performance has an appropriate, and utterly unpretentious, dignity and the results are quite lovely.
In the Romance del Commedador de Ocaña Rodrigo’s text is taken (with some changes) from a seventeenth-century play by Lope de Vega, Peribáñez y el Commedador de Ocaña – adapted by Joaquín de Entrambasaguas and tells a tale of wifely fidelity in the face of a would-be seducer. The third-person narrative is interwoven with the wife’s own repeated affirmation of her fidelity, a verbal structure which Rodrigo effectively imitates in his richly coloured setting, sung with intensity and subtlety by Raquel Lojendio.
More modern texts – and more oblique relationships with earlier Spanish musical idioms – characterise the remaining works on the disc. The Tríptic de Mossèn Cinto sets some fine poems by the Barcelona-born Jacinto Verdaguer (1845-1902) a poet-priest usually thought of as a particularly important figure in the Catalonian Renaissance of the nineteenth century (de Falla also set texts by him). The three lyrics set here all contain clear hints to any composer inclined to set them, as their very titles suggest: ‘L’harpa sagrada’, ‘Lo violí [violin] de Sant Francesc’ and ‘Sant Francesc i la cigala [cicada]’. Without being unduly obvious, Rodrigo responds to such hints with a wit and inventiveness which never distract from the essentially simple sentiments of Verdaguer’s lyrics. The text of the second song, ‘Lo violí [violin] de Sant Francesc’ mentions a whole host of instruments by name and Rodrigo clearly relishes the possibilities; there is some delightful writing here, rhapsodically beautiful in some places, vivaciously rhythmic in others, everywhere sympathetic both to text and to the pleasures of the voice (for singer as well as listener I would guess).
The Cuatre cançons en llengua catalana are settings of texts by several poets and, again, they display Rodrigo’s skill in unforced word-painting, his real care and attention to text and his command of the orchestral palette, a command almost always subordinated to his desire to ensure that his music genuinely serves and illuminates the text. The orchestral ‘birdsong’ which opens the first of the four songs – the ‘Canço del Teuladí’ (‘The Song of the Sparrow’) is particularly delightful; so too – though very different – are the moving waters conjured up by the orchestral accompaniment of the final song, ‘Brollador Gentil’ (‘Gentle Fountain’).
In Rosaliana, Rodrigo turns his attention to the poems of the Galician Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885), musically capturing the often nostalgic melancholy that haunts much of her verse. The words of the four songs – even if that sense of nostos (the deep sense of home and homecoming) is never far away – actually encompass a fair range of moods, and Rodrigo responds to all of them (not least those of the emotionally upbeat last song), his melodies often having a folksong-like quality, though I am not sure whether any of them actually are traditional. That uncertainty of mine is, in a sense, the clue to what makes Rodrigo’s music so special to those of us who love it. He writes melodies which sound as if they are centuries old, - and sometimes they are. But then – in these orchestral songs, at any rate – he puts them in a context which, harmonically, is clearly the work of the composer who studied in modern Paris. The result is a particular kind of creative tension.
Maximiano Valdés is a conductor thoroughly at home in this music, as are his orchestra here. They play a full role in the success of this CD. The young soprano Raquel Lojendio doesn’t perhaps have a compelling music personality as yet, but she sings with obvious understanding of the idiom, excellent diction and an attractive variety of tone. All lovers of the Rodrigo will surely want this latest volume in a very valuable series.
Glyn Pursglove


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