|About this Recording
8.550729 - RODRIGO / VILLA-LOBOS / CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO: Guitar Concertos
Joaquln Rodrigo (b. 1901)
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 - 1959)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895 - 1968)
Joaquin Rodrigo wrote two small pieces for guitar solo in 1926 and 1938, but it was in 1939 that he 'struck gold' with the Concierto de Aranjuez, dedicated to the Spanish virtuoso Regino Sainz de la Maza. It has become, quite simply, the most successful concerto written for any instrument in this century and has even been rearranged for other instruments, by both the composer and others, but it remains most effective in its original form.
The Concerto bears the name of the site of a royal palace near Madrid, once the summer residence of Bourbon kings, but contains no musical allusion to it; rather is it an expression of Rodrigo's fascination with Spain's heritage-folk- and art-musical, and social. The first, sonata-form movement is brief: it develops from the material with which the guitar opens it, mainly in strummed chords, and is dominated by their rhythm - which serves as an accompaniment to the melody introduced by the violins. The juxtaposition of 3/4 and 6/8 times (the hemiola) has been typical of Spanish music since the Renaissance, and it is a hallmark of this movement.
The opening of the first movement has made the Concerto immediately recognisable but the heart of the work's popularity is the poignant melody of the second movement. The guitar begins by repeating the tonic chord of B minor (the home key of the work is D major) and the cor anglais enters, delivering the melody in two expansive sections, each repeated by the guitar with melismatic ornamentation. In this the cor anglais takes the part of a singer, heard in the Saetas of Holy Week. Whose nasal quality may itself echo that of the relative of shawm (an ancestor of the cor anglais) used in Spanish folk music. The guitar has two cadenzas, at the end of the second of which it spurs the orchestra to a passionate climax and a proud restatement of the opening melody. Finally the guitar leads the way to a quiet ending, illuminated by a tiercede Picardie (a chord of B major), a device which for centuries has brought musical passion to a radiantly calm conclusion.
The guitar is evidently content with the key of B major, maintaining it in its solo opening to the last movement; the orchestra, however, gently but firmly reminds it that the home key is D major. The movement is dance-like but, irregularly juxtaposing 2/4 and 3/4 times, hardly danceable! There is much brilliant writing for the soloist but, approaching the end, the music quietens and the guitar seizes the opportunity to flutter gently downwards, bringing proceedings to an unexpectedly soft conclusion. The orchestration lies down with the soloist's lamb.
It is uncertain whether the Concerto Op. 99 of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedescoor the Concierto de Aranjuez of Rodrigo was the first guitar concerto to be written in this century; both were started in 1938 and completed in 1939. However, the premiere of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's work (by Segovia, to whom it was dedicated) in October 1939 predated that of Rodrigo's by more than a year, which perhaps gives it the primacy. It was in fact the last work that Castelnuovo- Tedesco completed before he was driven by the Fascist regime in his native Italy to emigrate to the USA, and he later commented that "Strangely enough, although it was written at the most tragic period of my life, it is one of my most serene compositions".
The first movement, a declared tribute to Boccherini, defers to its classical sonata form in allowing the orchestra to present the first subject before the guitar enters - with a reminder that it opens with the interval of a perfect fourth, that which dominates the guitar's open-string tuning. The thematic material is clear-cut and lucidly developed. An affectionate exchange between the cello (Boccherini's own instrument) and the guitar precedes the recapitulation, and a brief cadenza leads to the movement's neat and precise ending.
The second movement, said by the composer to be a sad farewell to the Tuscan countryside he was about to leave, freely admixes bars of 4/4 and 3/2 times. The main theme, like that of the corresponding movement of Bach's Double Violin Concerto, is based on a descending scale, but it is the second one, gently rising and then falling, to which the soloist's cadenza refers. Canonic imitation, a distinctive feature of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's style, pervades the whole of this movement.
The final movement, about which the directive "ritmico e cavalleresco" (rhythmically and in knightly fashion) says so much, is, as the composer said "more Spanish in character, rhythmic and bold, in the mood of an old Ballad". A brilliant cadenza points the movement in the direction of a joyous conclusion, and with it that of a gracious, lyrical and luculent work, in which the deft scoring ensures that the small orchestra never covers the small voice of the guitar .
One could scarcely imagine a sharper contrast than that between the conservative (no 'ologies' or 'isms') and economical Castelnuovo-Tedesco and the colourful extrovert and largely self-educated Heitor Villa-Lobos, the blender of Brazilian folk elements with those of European art music. Of the three composers in this recording he was the only one who had some skill with the guitar, for which he had written a few small pieces before his meeting with Segovia in Paris in the 1920s. Though Villa-Lobos left comparatively few works for the guitar, the Twelve Studies (1929), Five Preludes (1939-40), the Suite (1908-1912) and the Guitar Concerto (1951) have become world-wide standard repertory for the instrument. The Concerto was written for Segovia, who premiered it in February 1956. He did so only after Villa-Lobos had added the cadenza - there was one in the Harp Concerto, written for Zabaleta, so why not one for the guitar? - and the original title of "Fantasia concertante" was changed. Villa-Lobos approved of the use of a microphone by the soloist, "in order that he may play with greater freedom"; Segovia never agreed with this, nor has Rodrigo ever done so - claiming it to be unnecessary in the performance of his works.
The orchestra briefly introduces the first movement before the guitar enters with the energetic, wide-ranging first subject. The second, somewhat slower, recalls (but does not quote from) the folksongs of north-east Brazil; here the guitar deploys chords and harmonics. Again after a short introduction (flute and clarinet) the guitar begins with the main theme of the second movement, a melody of 'popular' character in 3/4 time, which returns in varied form after the expressive central section (6/8 time) and before the coda.
Here the cadenza is interposed, a lengthy and virtuosic mulling-over of the Concerto's thematic material. The Finale has several time-changes (3/4, 2/4, 6/4 etc.), a variety of thematic material and a great deal of syncopation. The guitar is partnered by other solo instruments (clarinet, oboe, bassoon, viola and horn) in displays of contrasting tone-colours, and, once having begun, the soloist hardly pauses for breath before the end of the stimulating kaleidoscope.
This recording brings together three of the most important guitar concertos written in this century, by composers of three different nationalities -and in three very different styles.
© 1993 John W. Duarte
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it has received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community. With a series of recordings for Naxos the orchestra makes its debut on disc.
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