Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra (1939) [21:30]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Homenaje pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy (1920) [3:51]
El Sombrero de tres picos: Danza del Molinero (farruca) [3:02]
Invocación y danza [9:13]
Fantasía para un gentilhombre for guitar and small orchestra (1954) [22:26]
Miloš Karadaglić (guitar)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, 8-9 January 2013 (Aranjuez and Fantasía); Nikodemuskirche, Berlin, September 2013 (rest)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4810652 (International) MERCURY CLASSICS 4810811 (UK) [60:06]
This is Miloš Karadaglić’s third recording for DG/Mercury but he was already so well known by the time that he made the first (The Guitar: 4779693) as to be recognised by his first name alone. His second album, Latino, issued to considerable acclaim (4790514 - review), was so successful that it was reissued in a gold edition (4791421 - review).
Leslie Wright, reviewing Latino, expressed the hope that Miloš would record some more substantial repertoire, ‘even the ubiquitous Rodrigo’. Here now is the fulfilment of that wish - not just the familiar Aranjuez concerto but also the slightly less well-known Fantasía para un Gentilhombre (for a nobleman, not a gentleman).
The Concierto de Aranjuez is justly popular. It certainly evokes the spirit of Spain, though I’m not sure that it does much to recall my sole visit to the Palace of Aranjuez fifty years ago. I’m forgetting, however, that Rodrigo had been blind from childhood, so it’s the sounds and smells of Aranjuez, where he spent part of his honeymoon, rather than the images of the place that he is evoking.
Perhaps that is no bad thing: I’m sorry to say that my most abiding memory of the place is of the crowd of disabled beggars who swarmed towards tourists as they approached. The despot of neighbouring Portugal, Salazar, tried to hide poverty from tourists to the extent of attempting to legislate against it with laws against going barefoot, but Franco seems not to have cared.
There are more recordings of Aranjuez than you could shake a stick at and I’ve heard a good many of them. The surprise is that I can’t recall hearing a poor performance - it almost seems that the music plays itself, given a competent soloist and orchestra and a sympathetic conductor. It certainly receives that here and though there are no special virtues that I can point to, it joins my list of the top versions alongside the likes of Yepes and Argenta from 1957 (Beulah 2PD88, with Falla Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Turina Danzas fantasticas - 2014/2 DL News) and the Bream/Monteverdi Orchestra/Gardiner (Sony, download only or stream from Naxos Music Library, with Lennox Berkeley Guitar Concerto) to name just two classic recordings which have recently been reissued.
That Bream/Gardiner recording can be obtained for a mere £3.99 from iTunes or the CD of Bream/CoE/Gardiner, coupled with Fantasía para un Gentilhombre (RCA 88697715022) for not much more. Opt for one of these whatever other versions you may have. One reviewer of an earlier Miloš recording spoke of his understated virtuosity and I believe the two halves of that definition - equally applicable to Julian Bream, I would add - to be the secret of the success of this recording.
The alternative later Bream/Gardiner version of Aranjuez from the 1980s comes with two of the other works on the new DG recording: Invocación y danza and the Fantasía, with the RCA Symphony Orchestra and Leo Brouwer. In these works, too, Bream is my benchmark and here again Miloš challenges his supremacy.
I enjoy the Fantasía almost more than Aranjuez. Like Respighi’s The Birds and Ancient Airs and Dances and Walton’s The Wise Virgins it re-imagines the music of the past. It’s easy to recognise the works which the composer has mined, since Rodrigo makes no attempt to disguise his borrowings from Gaspar Sanz - they are acknowledged in the titles of the movements - and yet you hear it all completely transformed. It’s pastiche but good pastiche and the recurring theme which links the music is blissful. As throughout the recording, soloist, orchestra and conductor convince the listener without trying to gild the lily.
The solo Falla Homenaje (homage) was composed in memory of Debussy. It’s followed by a slightly understated guitar transcription of the Miller’s Dance from El sombrero de tres picos and Rodrigo’s Invocación y danza. All these short solo pieces receive good performances.
Some online sites advertise two short extra tracks by Sor and Lennon/McCartney arr. Takemitsu. I’m not sure what happened to these - presumably they ended up on the cutting floor.
The version which I received for review from Mercury Classics came in 16-bit CD-equivalent sound (wav) and it sounds fine. The least expensive download that I could find was from 7digital.com - costing slightly less than those from amazon.co.uk and iTunes and at the full mp3 bit-rate of 320kb/s. Universal’s own site, deutschegrammophon.com, usually offer mp3 and lossless downloads of their own recordings but on this occasion they referred me to iTunes, so the only lossless option that I can find for you is at prestoclassical.co.uk.
There are two versions of the cover - one with the DG logo for international use and one without for the UK. As I received my review download from Mercury, I presume that the UK version will appear on that label.
Fans of Miloš Karadaglić will need no urging to obtain this third album. Others may do so with confidence, even if they have other versions of one or both of the main works.
Masterwork Index: Concierto de Aranjuez
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