Nocturnos de Andalucia
Sometimes a work’s ubiquity blinds us to its brilliance. Familiarity breeds – albeit amiable, cosy – contempt. Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez could be considered such a work. But fresh juxtapositions yield fresh perspectives. And so it proves here with two highly enjoyable new recordings that provide attractive new settings for Rodrigo’s jewel.
Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo’s suite for guitar and orchestra Nocturnos de Andalucía might use an orchestra more than twice the size of Rodrigo’s, but Palomo’s writing exhibits the same kind of elegant restraint. This magnificent tone-poem, with its lush, flamenco-hued evocations of shifting passions beneath the stars, thus balances rather than overwhelms Rodrigo’s chamber-like atmosphere – a genuine conversation, especially in the hands of the superb Swiss-born guitarist Christoph Denoth and the LSO under Jesús López Cobos.
Denoth’s own arrangement of Joaquín Malats’s tuneful, ever-popular Serenata española (actually originally an orchestral piece before being arranged for piano and then solo guitar) is closer to the Concierto de Aranjuez in its economy of means and elegant colouristic flourishes, and makes for a satisfying encore or pendant to the previous two works. Throughout, Denoth again shows himself to be a thoughtful musician of considerable taste and technical prowess, and his recording of the Palomo suffers not one jot by comparison with that of the work’s dedicatee, Pepé Romero.
The second recording under consideration sees the Concierto de Aranjuez in the company of Concierto de Benicàssim, the ninth of 11 guitar concertos by the prolific guitarist/composer Leo Brouwer. Just as interestingly, the other work featured is Guitare, Frank Martin’s brilliant orchestration of his solo guitar suite Quatre pièces brèves.
As a whole, this recording makes for a more rounded listening experience than the above. The works are so different, yet still inspired by the same modest, six-stringed instrument. Where the Brouwer – a thrilling work that uses an amplified guitar and extended percussion passages which contrast with more elegiac episodes – fuses Spanish and Afro-Cuban elements, the Martin exhibits a certain Swiss coolness through which sudden gusts of warmer winds blow. Rodrigo’s historicism and refinement of earthier elements is thus more pronounced, more appreciated, than it might be on other occasions.
Trápaga’s playing is perhaps less assured than Denoth’s but he is highly attuned to the different sound worlds of the Brouwer and the Rodrigo and, together with the Real Filharmonía de Galicia under Óliver Díaz, creates another kind of musical conversation that is vibrant, exciting and revealing in equal measure.