This CD is a real treat. It contains realisations of Spanish
classics together with two contemporary works, arranged or composed
especially for the
here represented. The Southern Cross Soloists are a Queensland-based group with
a very distinctive combination of instruments (oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn,
piano and soprano). They are joined here by virtuoso guitarist Slava Grigoryan
and they create a wonderful recital with a marvellous Spanish flavour.
Granados, Falla and Rodrigo are the more familiar names here. The Three-Cornered
suite is surprisingly successful in this arrangement. The syncopated
strumming that features in each movement sounds transparent and exciting and
immediately places the listener in the sunburnt world of Spanish passion and
languor. The cor anglais soloist is called on to do all sorts of contortions
in the Miller’s Dance, and the heavy chords that accompany his strutting
are followed by playing of delicacy and precision. It is quite lovely and deserves
to be heard by anyone who knows this music in other arrangements. The Granados
Tonadillas are songs inspired by Zarzuela intermezzi. They hover around two minutes
each but are distinctively different to one another. They are playful and light-hearted,
until the melancholy lament of the Sorrowing Maja and each are sung with authentic
colour by Margaret Schindler. She sounds entirely different in the 16th
Romances by Luis de Milan, something of a Spanish John Dowland. The first of
these courtly songs displays controlled flirtation, while the second is a poignant
dialogue between a courtly knight and a noble lady who has betrayed his love.
Rodrigo’s Castilian Lyrics are love songs by an anonymous 15th
poet. The singing is very beautiful, as are the intrinsically Spanish melodies,
poignant and searching in the songs of loss, playful and coy in the love songs.
Obradors’ Chiquitita La Nova
makes a great opener, full of flamenco-like
melismas and a persistent Castilian rhythm.
There is nothing intrinsically Spanish in the last two works by contemporary
Australian composers. The Verlaine songs are French poetry, densely allusive
and pulsating with passion, something like the Rimbaud poems set in Les Illuminations
However, the instrumentation and note-setting places them in a firmly Spanish
idiom, nowhere more so than in the astonishing guitar solo that opens the second
song. Throughout the words are set with hypnotic beauty, the rhythms and passionate
melodies conveying all the passion of the texts. No texts, but otherwise Rigney’s Chamber
has similar melodic invention. The first movement (Prelude) has
a prominent role for the guitar which gives it a similarly Spanish flavour, while
the finale forms over a guitar ostinato that drives it forward playfully. The
work was inspired by the birth of Rigney’s daughter and it carries all
the passion for life that such an event produces in any parent.
I didn’t know what to expect from this disc but it left me really enchanted
and excited by utterly dedicated playing of really fantastic music.