Joaquin RODRIGO (1901-1999) Shadows and Light - Rodrigo at 90 [69:00] Concierto de Aranjuez [27:00]
Pepe Romero (guitar)
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
Two films by Larry Weinstein
rec. Watford Town Hall, London, July 1992 (concert performance)
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound formats: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese
Booklet notes: English, German, French EUROARTS DVD 2061118 [96:00]
Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez is engraved on the consciousness of many people. The guitar concerto's lissom delights figure everywhere: lifts, call-chimes, doorbells, commercials, travel shows and shopping mall muzak. It is blessed and blighted, doomed to be instantly recognised. That allowed, how many can name the work? Still fewer people can identify the composer by name. It is not, in my experience, encountered that often in concert yet it is one of the twentieth century's monuments in sound - a towering success and, to date, the world's most famous guitar concerto.
Among classical music enthusiasts the concerto and the composer's name are well enough known. Many are aware of the sightless Rodrigo from recording projects. These reveal that he is much more than just the Aranjuez concerto. His small yet substantial store of concertos has been issued wholesale in EMI and Brilliant box sets. Add to these a large number of individual discs as well as complete editions of the guitar music and vocal music from Brilliant. Naxos have at least eight volumes of his orchestral music all of which have been reviewed here: v1 ~ v2 ~ v3 ~ v4 ~ v5 ~ v6 ~ v7 ~ v8. If asked to recommend one Rodrigo volume it would be a contest between a generously inexpensive concertos double-CD on EMI (review) and a Mercury CD of the Romero family of guitarists in the Aranjuez and Andaluz concertos (review). Do try Rodrigo's multiple guitar concertos such as the Madrigal (jewel-like miniature movements), Andaluz and Fiesta.
The present DVD is fashioned around two full-colour films by Larry Weinstein: one of a studio performance of Aranjuez; the other a revealing 70-minute documentary. Pepe Romero is the soloist and beguilingly introduces the work and his performance in a five-minute talk to camera. The studio is in Watford Town Hall and I take this to be ancillary to a Decca recording fixture. It's not a simple film of a recording: there's none of the usual apparatus: no microphones, booms, trailing leads. The continuous performance is filmed in a variety of shots including glowing close-ups - some very close - of Marriner, Romero and the orchestra members. These are interspersed with longer shots of the whole group and oblique views of Romero's hands. Whole sequences of filming in and around the Palace of Aranjuez is sequenced in. These images are more effective when the scenes are external to the Palace; internal footage makes things rather dark. It's a typically warm production and each movement is separately tracked.
The documentary has some moments where the blind and elderly Rodrigo speaks and is seen with his wife at home and in various locations crucial to his life-story. Some of the most disarming and engaging moments are when he is seen outside among the trees and lawn-sprinklers oblivious to cameras and seemingly utterly happy to be talking with his two grand-daughters. I was a little disappointed that there was no archive footage of Rodrigo and Spain. I had expected black and white footage from the Spanish equivalent of Pathé News but there’s nothing. There is one chapter of home movies from the 1970s showing Rodrigo and his family at the seaside. Much of the film, in ten tracks, is taken up with modern day biographical filming delivered in an unforced leisurely fashion. Pepe Romero is seen in conversation and in performance with the composer at the piano. Romero is also a unifying presence alongside the composer's daughter, Cecilia, and the violinist Agustin León Ara; Ara is a champion of Rodrigo's Concierto de Estio, his violin concerto. Romero recounts the origins of the Aranjuez: the composer and his wife's honeymoon in Aranjuez and the tragedies that befell them in their early days. You hear some, but little, from Rodrigo directly. One has to rely on others for insights although his pleasure at having four concert sopranos singing 'Happy Birthday' to him is evident. His daughter, at various points, is filmed in conversation with him and her questions to him are by no means anodyne. We hear the bell carillon — an iconic and lengthy extract from the Concierto de Aranjuez — in the bright streets of the city of Aranjuez. The interviewer asks people in the street what the carillon is. Those who made it to film know what it is and who wrote it.
The picture and sound are good and there is a decent booklet.
Rodrigo's life and personality presented with evident affection.