Federico Moreno Torroba was one of the most important Spanish composers
during the twentieth century. Spanish folklore permeates most of his works
and he contributed to most genres. He achieved great popularity in his
native land with his many colourful zarzuelas, the Spanish form of operetta.
Best known is, I believe, his masterwork Luisa Fernanda
which there is a delightful DVD recording, featuring José Bros and Plácido
). But for international audiences his name is
synonymous with compositions for guitar, nearly one hundred of them, most
written for Andrés Segovia, among them ten concertos. Three of the works on
this disc were also composed with Segovia in mind.
The one that wasn’t is the Concierto en Flamenco.
This is a
tricky hybrid – or let us call it cross-over music. The problem is that it
requires a soloist with exceptional capabilities. Flamenco guitarists in
general do not feel at home in the classical world and classical guitarists
are not often familiar with the flamenco idiom. The Concierto
written for and dedicated to the legendary flamenco virtuoso Sabicas
(Agustín Castellón Campos 1912–1990). Naxos claim that the present recording
is a world premiere, which I wouldn’t doubt, but googling the title I found
information of a 1962 Decca LP recording with Sabicas including
Concierto en flamenco
. Looking at details I became confounded,
because the LP accounts for three movements while the work we hear on the
present disc has four and the titles of the movements are differently named.
I wouldn’t like to spend a night trying to dig deeper but wonder whether
there is someone out there reading this review who can clear up the
Anyway there does exist one guitarist with roots in both traditions and
that is another legend, Pepe Romero. At 69 when the recording was made,
Romero plays as marvellously as ever. He appeared on the concert stage for
the first time aged 7 and since then has played innumerable concerts as
soloist and as part of Los Romeros (review
), the quartet founded in 1960 by his father Celedonio
and his two brothers Angel and Celin. Melodious, rhythmically enticing and
colourfully orchestrated this is a valuable addition to the concerto
repertoire – in case there are guitarists out there who are masters of both
styles. I am no specialist in flamenco music but to my unschooled ears Pepe
Romero’s playing sounds totally idiomatic. His formidable technique as well
as his sense of rhythm and sensitive musicianship should win over even
listeners with little or no knowledge of or interest in this kind of music.
I admire all kinds of professionalism, whether the pro is an artist or a
Formula 1 driver. Pepe Romero’s professionalism is on a par with the extreme
sensitivity of, say, a Formula 1 driver for whom even a microscopic mistake
can be the difference between life and death.
Thirty-three years before the present recording, in 1980, Romero was the
first to record Torroba’s Diálogos.
It was originally composed for
Segovia in the early 1960s but later revised and premiered by Michael
Lorimer in 1977. It is here allotted to Vicente Coves, who was not even born
when that first recording was made. Diálogos
is lighter in texture
than the Concierto
, more chamber music in character and more
lyrical. It is beautifully played and the Andante
is a piece of
rare inward beauty. The finale is
outgoing but still permeated by an autumnal haze. Torroba was 86 when he
revised the work.
The two suites for solo guitar were composed circa 45 years apart but with
a common denominator: Andrés Segovia. The five short pieces constituting
Aires de La Mancha
from 1966 have caught the flavour of the folk
music of La Mancha in central Spain. This was also the province of Don
Quixote. He is evoked in La Pastora
, recalling the shepherdess
Marcela. Pepe Romero plays the suite with his usual flair.
contains Torroba’s first composition for guitar,
to which he later added the two other pieces. Segovia
premiered the suite, published it and recorded it. Vicente Coves plays the
suite with loving care and intimacy. Compared to David Russell on a Telarc
CD from some years ago (review
) he is considerably slower in both Arada
. Russell’s more muscular approach may be more in line with
the original. He and Segovia (in 1944 as well as 1949) take Arada
in identical tempos. However, Vicente Coves’ more contemplative reading is
valid in its own way.
The Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra, a body founded as recently as 1991,
turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The recording is excellent and the
informative liner-notes were written by Walter Aaron Clark and William Craig
Krause, co-authors of Federico Moreno Torroba: A Musical Life in
Acts (Oxford, 2013).
Constantly inspired and inspirational music lovingly performed by devoted
musician: this should be a source of delight for many listeners – even those
unfamiliar with Torroba.