Del Campo Divina Commedia (La)
Maybe because there are so few specifically Spanish flavours in his music‚ Conrado del Campo (18781953) has been virtually ignored outside Spain. Where his contemporary‚ Manuel de Falla‚ and others used the colourful music of Andalusia as basic material‚ he looked rather to German sources with his early music echoing Richard Strauss and Liszt. La divina comedia‚ one of his first orchestral works‚ written in 1908 and revised two years later‚ provides a fine example‚ leading to a revealing selection of works up to his last major piece‚ the ‘poetic overture’ of 1952 inspired by Campo’s love of windmills‚ Molinos de Viento‚ completed in the year before he died.
This is a disc that will delight those with an affection for lateRomanticism‚ wellplayed and very wellrecorded‚ bringing out the warm lyricism of Campo’s mature style. On this showing his music‚ far from losing its warmth as he grew older‚ became ever more passionate. La divina comedia‚ inspired by Dante‚ moves from Lisztian bogey music to a grand climax prompted by the Paolo and Francesca episode‚ with a ripe diatonic theme providing a satisfying resolution.
Similarly warm melodic writing marks all the other works even more strikingly where the kinship is closer with Respighi. Ofrenda‚ dating from 1934‚ is in four compact sections‚ an introduction and three contrasted dances‚ with a high soprano intoning a sensuous poem by the mystic‚ Fray Luis de Leon‚ in the middle one. At times this music‚ easy on the ear with its rich orchestration‚ seems to be anticipating the idiom of Hollywood film music of a few years later. If Campo‚ instead of remaining one of the most revered teachers in Spain‚ had gravitated to California‚ he would have made a fortune.
The Evocation‚ his last orchestral work‚ is even more sensuous in its kaleidoscopic sequence of colourful ideas‚ again leading to a passionate climax and a neat payoff conclusion‚ though the link with windmills remains hazy. At 17 minutes it is the longest single work on the disc‚ but the six ‘little compositions’ which make up the final item between them form a halfhour span‚ with four of the six linked movements introducing women’s voices‚ three of them involving quotations from the poet‚ Luis de Gongora.
The melismatic offstage chorus is most evocative in three of the pieces‚ while a soprano soloist in the fourth sings a lively setting of one of Gongora’s folklike poems about a girl celebrating a festival day. The final dance movement brings the only markedly Spanish writing‚ with exotic oriental inflections and the women’s chorus singing in unison. Since Campo was so prolific over his long life‚ writing operas and no fewer than 15 string quartets‚ I hope we shall have a chance before long to hear more of his music. Meanwhile‚ this revelatory disc is welcome indeed.