New York-born Puerto Rican composer and guitarist Ernesto Cordero
may not be known to many. On the other hand performers Guillermo
Figueroa and especially Pepe Romero and I Solisti di Zagreb
are names that ought to grab the attention of any music lover.
No one purchasing this CD primarily to hear them play will be
disappointed by Cordero's warm, melodic music, let alone any
of the performances.
The programme gets off to a flying start with Romero, dedicatee
of the Concierto Festivo and two years older than Cordero,
proving that he still has what it takes as he swans with grace,
power and expression through Cordero's shimmering, alternately
intimate and energetic Concerto. Romero himself describes the
work, admittedly somewhat flamboyantly, as "a wonderful bridal
feast where the extraordinary knowledge of the guitar and the
divine inspiration of singular composer Ernesto Cordero wed."
Though there are certainly elements of Spanish folk music, the
work, against expectation perhaps, is not reminiscent
of Rodrigo, at least not his Aranjuez Concerto. The influence
of his Concierto para una Fiesta is more apparent, but
it is the two blue-sky Guitar Concertos of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
with which it has most in common.
Incidentally, this is not the first CD of concertos by Cordero:
one, for example, appeared well over a decade ago - perhaps
where Naxos got their idea for a title from! That disc featured
Cordero's Concerto for the Puerto Rican national instrument,
an ethnic lute known as a cuatro, the Spanish for 'four', after
the number of strings it originally had. On this recording Romero
plays a standard guitar, but like no one else. In combination
with Cordero's felicitous, imaginative writing, interpolation
of Caribbean ingredients, and tastefully restrained string-orchestra
scoring, the effect is more invigorating than a siesta.
Romero naturally gave the premiere in 2003 along with the Puerto
Rico Symphony Orchestra conducted by Guillermo Figueroa, which
provides a neat segue into the other two equally impressive
works on this disc, in which Figueroa stylishly sports his violinist's
hat. Ínsula ('Island') and Concertino Tropical
are quite similar to each other in length, mood and scoring,
with the former, as its full title implies, slightly less concerto-like
than the latter. The individual movements of both works deal
with Puerto Rican or Caribbean subjects, and there are consequently
dance rhythms aplenty. We also encounter reflective interludes
for textural and emotional contrast, in these harmonically colourful,
soulful pieces that often call to mind Villa-Lobos, pre-expressionist
Ginastera or, in Ínsula, Piazzolla. Ínsula
was dedicated to Figueroa, and he repays the honour with a blistering
performance in both works, impressively aided by the ever-dependable
Solisti di Zagreb.
Sound quality is good - perhaps a little over-reverberant in
the two violin works. Detailed notes on the works are supplied
by Cordero himself. The CD is disappointingly short, but that
is just about the only cause for complaint.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
See also reviews by Brian
Reinhart and Rob