Joaquin RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) [23:03]
Concierto Pastoral for flute and orchestra (1978) [24:57]
Fantasia para un Gentilhombre (1954) [21:25]
Carlos Bonell (guitar); Jennifer Stinton (flute)
English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
rec. Abbey Road EMI Studio, 1988-89. DDD
ALTO ALC1090 [69:50]

Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez has risen rapidly from its 1940 premiere in Barcelona to become as iconic of the last century as Barber's Adagio and Orff's Carmina Burana. It's pretty much indestructible. It has enjoyed a myriad recordings and will enjoy a myriad more. It is known well beyond the classical music community and parts of it haunt lifts/elevators and shopping malls across the world.

So what marks out the present guitar-dominated collection from so many others? Firstly it is all Rodrigo. Secondly it is not all guitar. Thirdly it is solo instrument with orchestra when other collections have drafted in other guitarists for the composerís multi-guitar works.

This Aranjuez is a sheer pleasure and Bonell is at no disadvantage in comparison to Bream or Williams or Romero. The presence of Jennifer Stinton's Concierto Pastoral - originally written for James Galway - makes for a welcome centrally-placed contrast with its impudent birdsong and Faurť-like melancholy.

By the way, if you are an admirer of Rodrigo's Aranjuez and need more then by all means go for the Fantasia as featured here, though itís not a patch on Aranjuez. Make a note also to try the Concierto Madrigal and the Concierto Andaluz. Also don't overlook the absolutely wonderful Concierto del Sur by the Mexican Manuel Ponce.

I find that I have been a shade hard on the Fantasia which here shines as one of the most winning versions I have heard - if anything wins you over to this Rodrigo meets Pulcinella meets Capriol example of neo-classicism this will be it.

The recording tends towards the close-up and direct so no detail is left unexposed. Ates Orga provides the helpful liner-notes for this winning and inexpensive Rodrigo collection.

Rob Barnett