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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Chamber Orchestra Works
Soleriana (1953) [25:51]
Tres Viejos Aires de Danza (1929) [10:25]
Dos Miniaturas Andaluzas (1929) [5:22]
Zarabanda Lejana y Villancio (1926) [10:54]
Orquesta de la Comunidad Valenciana/Joan Enric Lluna
rec. 2019, Sala Sinfónica,Palau de les Arts Reina SofÍa, Valencia
Booklet notes in Spanish and English
IBS CLASSICAL IBS82020 [52:38]

Rodrigo is best known for his perennially popular Concerto Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. As composer of over 170 works there is much yet to be explored from this composer’s output. The programme of chamber orchestral works on this CD was chosen for a concert in Valencia which commemorated the twentieth anniversary of his death in 2019. These are the first recordings of these works and the sessions occurred immediately prior to the concert, which occurred on April 13, 2019.

The first of the pieces on the CD is Soleriana which was first performed by the Berlin Chamber Orchestra in 1953. Rodrigo paid tribute to the Spanish Baroque-era composer Antonio Soler (1729-1783) by using a series of Soler’s keyboard sonatas as the basis of a suite of eight dances, five of which are performed on this recording. The dances are elegantly garbed in some elaborate orchestral writing which falls in line with the neoclassical leanings of composers of the day such as Stravinsky with his Pulcinella suite. On listening to it I find it has a great deal in common with Sir Thomas Beecham’s adaptation of Handel pieces for his ballets Love in Bath and The Gods Go a Begging; it has much the same feel of antique-style excess. The Fandango movement in particular has a series of rising semiquavers for the violin section which adds a sense of ebullience to it. Rodrigo also added some interesting leaps for the French horns in the final Passepied.

The Tres Viejos Aires de Danza was a musical triptych which features a similarly colourful orchestration in what seems to be an even closer embodiment of neoclassicism in music than Soleriana. The dances in this work have a greater sense of directness of musical line than the Soler pieces.

The Dos Miniaturas Andaluzas is a relatively brief work which lay forgotten in a drawer until its first performance in 1999. Despite its brevity it is to my ears the most striking work on the disc. Composed for a string orchestra, it begins with a prelude in a darkly mysterious manner before erupting into the dizzy rhythms of the Danza.

Zarabanda Lejana y Villancio is Rodrigo’s adaptation of one of his most familiar works for solo guitar, which he completed in 1926. He returned to it 4 years later to produce this orchestral version. His grasp of conveying atmosphere through the orchestration is quite remarkable especially in the Villancio which concludes the piece.

Throughout the disc the sterling work of the Valencian orchestra under conductor Joan Enric Lluna is a real pleasure to encounter. The sound has been captured with great immediacy with the orchestra quite forwardly placed before the listener. The accompanying booklet has a nicely informative essay by César Rus. It would have been possible to add another work to the CD as the 52 minute duration seems a bit sparse for a new release.

Ultimately this is a pleasant and colourful sounding release despite not reaching anything that approaches emotional depth. Each of the works on the CD should find a place on concert programs as a secondary attraction rather than the main event.

Mike Parr