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Jesús Rodríguez PICÓ (b.1953)
Concerto no.1, for clarinet and orchestra (1989) [18:51]
Concerto no.2, for clarinet and orchestra (1990) [18:04]
Concertino, for clarinet and strings (2006) [11:41]
Josep Fuster (clarinet)
Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya/Manel Valdivieso
rec. Sala Pau Casals, Auditori de Barcelona, 6-7 October 2010. DDD
COLUMNA MÚSICA 1CM0261 [47:56]

Experience Classicsonline

There is some corking music on this disc of concerto-style works by Catalan composer Jesús Rodríguez Picó. This music bulges with creativity, colour and energy, communicated in a structured, attractively tonal language that is likely to have broad appeal - if only it can find its way onto the public radar.
Picó is a clarinettist as well as a composer. His writing for the instrument in these three concerted works leaves no doubt as to either his virtuosity or his love of rhythmic lyricism. Picó is also something of a master of the art of orchestration on this evidence. He writes imaginatively, intuitively and always light-handedly, never allowing the orchestra to undermine the star of the show. He also has a penchant for humour. All of which gives these three works a sometimes almost British pastoral-cum-neo-Classical sound that should resonate with fans of the clarinet concertos of Malcolm Arnold, Gordon Jacob or Jean Françaix, for example.
The First Concerto is a slightly more demanding listen - a bit more Hindemith or Nielsen, say - but the orchestral part is more in the nature of dialogue than argument. In the more evocatively orchestrated Second Concerto the soloist is melted into the tutti much more of the time. There is a prominent role for percussion and brass but in neither work does the clarinet abandon melody. There is always a charismatic sense of direction and purpose.
The notes say that Picó began to renounce the clarinet when he met the soloist, fellow Catalan Josep Fuster, in whom he recognised an even better advocate for his own music. Indeed he dedicated the Second Concerto and the Concertino to him. Fuster has made a fair few recordings, covering a broad range of repertoire and neglected Spanish composers, all on independent Spanish labels and the majority for Columna Música. He is comfortably urbane in these works, suave and expressive, and negotiates the bravura cadenzas of the Concertos with aplomb.
The stylish Orquestra Simfónica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya, or OBC as it is mercifully abbreviated, have been around since World War II and made numerous big-label recordings of predominantly Spanish music, not least a Leonardo Balada mini-series for Naxos. They are deftly guided here by the flamboyant Manel Valdivieso.
Sound quality is pretty good. After the last chord of music has died away, the disc ends in a rather unexpected way, with a loud electronic click that was presumably left there by mistake. There is also a strong suspicion of an editing join towards the end of the first movement of the Second Concerto, but it is barely noticeable.
In the final reckoning, however, there is no escaping the fact that this is a mightily short CD - unfortunately Columna Música have some past history in this regard. There is some compensation in the accompanying Catalan-Castilian-English booklet, which is neat and tidy, informative, well written and well translated. There are a few photos of composer and performers for good measure, including one of Valdivieso looking more casual than anyone would think a native of Barcelona would be capable of.
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