Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999) Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) [22:34]
Stephen GOSS (b. 1964) The Albeniz Concerto [28:28]
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909) España op. 165 (arr. Xuefei Yang) [17:24]
Joaquín RODRIGO Invocacion y danza (1961) [7:29]
Xuefei Yang (guitar)
Orquestra Simfonica de Barcelona I Nacional de Catalunya/Eiji Oue
rec. 12-15 July 2010, L’auditori, Pau Casals Hall, Barcelona.
EMI CLASSICS 50999 69836121 [75:56]

Xuefei Yang and EMI ring the changes on the usual merry-go-round of core guitar works. Here they deploy two works with orchestra and two without. Before they do they treat us to a fine version of Rodrigo’s iconic Concierto de Aranjuez. The guitar is recorded throughout with thrummingly immediate proximity. It’s a delight but one hopes that captivated listeners hearing the work in the concert hall will not be disappointed when a real world balance has the guitar stepping back ten paces towards the orchestra. That said the orchestra is not effaced and some touching soft details emerge sensitively – for example in the Adagio. Xuefei Yang clearly has the Aranjuez well under her fingers.

The Albéniz piece, as created by the composer and guitarist Stephen Goss, is a concerto for guitar and orchestra “after the piano music of Isaac Albéniz”. The origins are the piano pieces: El Albaicin, Cataluña, Evocación, Cadenza and Aragón drawn from Iberia and Suite Espanola. The sumptuous spectacular flights of orchestral fancy. This is more of a fantasy for orchestra with guitar and certainly a Very pleasing example of Iberiana. The work was commissioned by EMI for Yang and the Barcelona orchestra to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Albeniz’s birth. It was premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on 24 October 2009 at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool when the conductor was Shi-Yeon Sung and Xuefei Yang was the soloist.

Yang’s España sequence allows her the solo spot without orchestral distractions. She evades duplication with Goss and selects six other movements: Preludio, Tango, Malagueña, Serenata, Capricho Catalán and Zortzico. These are magnificently done and emerge fluently with technical challenges well subdued. The Tango is very effective indeed. The guitarist's tone on occasion comes across rather like that of a zither – it’s very alluring.

Rodrigo’s Invocacion y danza is a brilliant and incident-packed tribute to de Falla. Rodrigo’s hand is unmistakable and includes glances back towards Aranjuez.

All credit to EMI for recording this collection in Barcelona using that great city’s own orchestra. Eiji Oue directs; he used to be a denizen of Reference Recordings discs but who can now be found on CPO as well. (Kabalevsky) and DG.

Rob Barnett

Thrummingly immediate …. a delight.