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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