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Paul COLES (b. 1952)
Imágenes de España [16:10]
Two Lullabies Chanté [4:12]
Theme, impromptus and Conclusion [20:51]
Habanera [4:29]
Fantasia No.1 [9:42]
Mazurka No.1 [1:16]
Waltz No.1 [1:26]
Las Aventuras de un Caballero Errante [24:03]
Craig Ogden (guitar)
rec. 20-21, 30 October 2006, 4 May, 2007, Wyastone Leys, U.K.
NIMBUS NI5811 [77:54]

Experience Classicsonline

There is by now a well-established tradition of non-Spanish composers appropriating the idioms of Spanish music and putting them to their own creative uses. The most obvious and familiar instances are French - Paul Coles is surely the first Welsh composer to do so extensively?

Coles was born in Pembrokeshire and his earliest musical life was as a brass player in school bands and orchestras, before he took up the guitar, going on both to perform and teach on that instrument. Though his compositions are various in genre and subject, there is a strong Spanish thread running through many of them. In addition to the pieces for solo guitar featured on the present CD his other compositions include La Fiesta de Pamplona (a concertino for flute and guitar) and the suite Evocaciones de España, for cello and guitar, a piece written for the Jones-Mauri Duo and recorded by them on the Spanish label Emec (see review).

Craig Ogden is an accomplished advocate for the attractions of Coles' solo guitar writing, writing which is obviously the work of a composer thoroughly-steeped in the music of the great Spanish composers for the instrument but which contrives, at the same time, a degree of individuality and a refusal to settle for mere pastiche. Coles' work here is particularly impressive when responding to literary texts, appropriately Spanish in nature. Thus the four pieces which make up the suite Imágenes de España - 'Song of the Rider', 'Spilt Blood', 'The Gypsy Nun' and 'Lola' - are responses to poems by Lorca, and are splendid evocations of the pictorial colour and emotional contrasts to be found in the poetic texts. In 'Spilt Blood', for example, Coles' writing captures much of the power of a passage from Lorca's 'Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías' (Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías), in which the poet celebrates what he sees as the mingled fierceness and tenderness of the great bullfighter's art:

¡Qué gran torero en la plaza! What a great torero in the ring!
¡Qué buen Serrano en la sierra! What a fine mountaineer in the sierra!
¡Qué blando con las espigas! How gentle with the ears of grain!
¡Qué duro con las espuelas! How fierce with the spurs!
¡Qué tierno con el rocío! How tender with the dew!
¡Qué deslumbrante en la feria! How dazzling at the fair!
¡Qué tremendo con las últimas bandilleras de tiniebla! banderillas How tremendous with the last [barbed darts] of darkness!

With its repetitions and its contrasts, with its oppositions of dazzle and darkness, ferocity and tenderness, the passage (like so much in the writing of the poet-musician Lorca) invites musical interpretation and Coles gives us a fine 'translation', as clearly structured in rhetoric as Lorca's lines but also as vividly expressive.

Elsewhere, we have a suite of nine pieces - Las Aventuras de un Caballero Errante - based on Don Quixote. Here particular pleasures include the somewhat madcap momentum of 'The Adventure of the Wind-Mills' and the sad, delusional devotion of 'A letter to Lady Dulcinea', a lovely and haunting piece of hesitant melodic inventiveness.

Not everything else on the disc is so obviously Spanish - the Mazurka and the Waltz, for instance - but, more importantly, there isn't a single piece that isn't rewarding in its own way. Craig Ogden's playing throughout is technically immaculate and resourceful, his readings sensitive and tender, flashing and tumultuous, as the music requires.

Glyn Pursglove 


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