Works for Guitar and Orchestra
Eduardo Fernandez both understands and relishes every facet of Arnold's Guitar Concerto as is clear from his annotation. It is a work of quicksilver emotions, the soloist's responses to which call for both sensitivity and, in the outer movements high technical mastery, things that Fernandez has in abundance. The second movement is a threnody for Django Reinhardt, in which Fernandez's genuine empathy with the jazz idiom is shown in his laid-back, rubato phrasing and use of 'blued' notes—the first at 2'04''. Orchestras react to soloists and here the ECO plainly does so with the utmost acuteness; the tautness of their entry at 4'54'' in the slow movement is just one of many instances. Forward balance enables Fernandez's splendid tone and flights of virtuosity to be comfortably heard throughout. Conn's Pickwick recording, until now the only other CD version of the work, is the antithesis of Fernandez's in every respect: his thin sound is almost submerged and, when the going gets tough, his fight for survival is patent. The only possible verdict is one of 'no contest'.
Leo Brouwer now returned to the romantic/ impressionist fold, was a virtuoso guitarist (he no longer plays) and he remains a resourceful and imaginative composer, and a master of the orchestra. His Rerrars Catalans (portraits of Federico Mompou and Antoni Gaudi) are as enchanting as they are unusual, the guitar virtually becomes a leading member of the orchestra, contributing to a variety of lovely sonorities—as does also the piano. There is more to come: Herbert Chappell's is arguably the most dynamic, colourful and explosive guitar concerto of the last half-century. It exploits every conventional resource of the guitar in a kaleidoscope of mood and texture laced with tunes that stick in the mind, and the contrast between its rhythmic energy (aided by plenty of appropriate percussion) and its passages of lyricism is as vivid as that of the colours of Caribbean ladies' dresses. There is just one thing that might deprive it of ubiquitous popularity—it is intensely difficult to play, though this might not deter those who think they are Eduardo Fernandez!
A record of worthwhile guitar concertos, none of which has already been exploited to the point of tedium and all of which are superlatively performed, is a delight that comes but rarely. Thus is one such. I have never been more serious in urging you to waste no time in getting to your nearest dealer, money in hand.'