In his booklet-note, legendary classical guitarist Pepe Romero, member of that great ‘first’ family of guitarists The Romeros, tells of visiting the Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba in his Madrid apartment and seeing a photograph of Richard Strauss on the wall. It bore an inscription by the great man himself, congratulating Torroba on his Sonatina, which Strauss had heard Segovia perform in Paris. It’s a wonderful story that adds an extra layer of history to this already history-laden programme, Romero’s first solo offering for DG and redolent of the guitarist’s Spanish childhood seen from the perspective of old age and a sort of exile (the Romeros left Franco’s Spain for the US in 1957). As Romero writes: ‘In this recording I have recreated the Spain I knew in my youth through the composers I have chosen, composers who
so masterfully depict that very Spain.’
All the works here, with the exception of Celedonio Romero’s sunny Suite madrileña No 1, which receives its premiere recording, are staples of the repertoire. And, while Pepe Romero is only in his late sixties, this is ‘late style’ playing, the tempi uniformly slower than one would normally hear, the tendency to focus on sheer beauty of tone more pronounced. Think Segovia in his eighties but without the rhythmic distortions.
Not that there isn’t fire: Romero is also a fine flamenco guitarist and there’s plenty of passion in Turina’s flamenco-inspired Sevillana. While Torroba’s Sonatina and Nocturno also receive fine, highly nuanced performances, it’s the powerful duende of the Passacaglia from Rodrigo’s Tres Piezas españolas that makes this recording a real event.