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Spanish Romantic Violin Concertos
Tomás BRETÓN (1850-1923)
Violin Concerto in A minor (1909) [30:01]
Jesús de MONASTERIO (1836-1903)
Violin Concerto in B minor (1859 rev. 1880) [30:26]
Ara Malikian (violin)
Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León/Alejandro Posada
rec. June 2006, Auditorio de la Feria de Muestras de Valladolid (Breton); Jan 2006, Teatro Lope de Vega de Valladolid (Monasterio)
TRITÓ TD00071 [61:53]

Ara Malikian has put in several appearances on this site over the years. The two I know of were associated with the Non Profit Music label. Vividly forthright address, full-spectrum fruity tone and an unwavering pulse are his hallmarks. There's plenty of evidence of this in his Piazzolla and Khachaturian CDs. He is of the Kogan and Oistrakh schools - an impressive player, then, and it is a wonder we do not hear more of him.

Bretón we know of from his zarzuelas but there are operas, three symphonies (1873, 1883, 1905), an oratorio El Apocalipsis (1882), orchestral miniatures, two tone poems (Los galeotes after Cervantes (1905) and Salamanca (1916)), four string quartets, a piano quintet and a sextet for piano and winds. His Piano Trio in E minor (1887) can be heard on Naxos, a label that has also brought out a selection of his orchestral pieces including En la Alhambra (1888) and Escenas Andaluzas.

What appears to be his only concerto, the Violin Concerto in A major, is dedicated to the memory of Pablo de Sarasate. It is heard here in Rubelio Groba's resplendently opulent orchestration. This brings out a surging Brahmsian tide especially in the rip-roaring Allegro. The sleepily glowing sheen of the Balada - Quasi adagio provides a contrast with the strongly Iberian finale. Those winningly sultry ways, an irresistible 'smooch' and a proud strut relate this work to Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen and the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole. The orchestra is no mere cipher to Malikian's vibrantly coloured violin which at the close indulges some delicious staccato. There is some tastily triumphant writing for the French horns in the Allegro. This Concerto would make an apt companion to the Glazunov and Schoeck concertos. Bretón's melodies are golden and his Spanishry - especially in the finale - make it a stepping stone towards de Falla and then Rodrigo.

I had never before heard of Jesús de Monasterio whose life overlapped with that of Bretón but who was very roughly two decades his senior. His half-hour concerto in three movements is more classical and restrained than the Bretón. Its stately ways bear similarities to the Brahms and Mendelssohn; the latter especially in the sweetly avian Adagio cantabile. There is a chirpy snap and chuckle throughout the good-hearted Wieniawski-style Polaca finale. Malikian makes positively singing capital out of the demands placed on him - demands which he shrugs off with confidence. This concerto has precious little Iberian accenting beside the nationalistic Bretón but it is just as brilliant. This is de Monasterio's only violin concerto but for violin and orchestra he also wrote two fantasias on Spanish airs, Adiós a la Alhambra and Sierra Morena.

Tritó tell us that this disc takes its place as part of the project of Ara Malikian with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León "to recover and record concertos for violin and orchestra by Spanish composers". I hope that there will be more and that the fidelity and skills of this orchestra and conductor will be rewarded so that they will again be heard alongside Malikian's gorgeous advocacy.

Malikian lays bare the heart and sinew of these two concertos - discoveries both but especially the Bretón.

Rob Barnett



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