, April 2008
This is a good showcase for Villa-Rojo, presenting as it does three works written over three decades in performances that sound as authoritative as could be, are well recorded and intelligently presented. The music itself is ingeniously rooted in a kind of harmonically modernised Renaissance style, to which we could adduce elements of flamenco influence and a fair amount of decorative ornament.
Concierto plasteresco dates from 1997. There are moments during its sixteen-minute length when one is reminded briefly, melodically, of Rodrigo though I wouldn’t suggest that you would find this a remotely pervasive current of influence. The oboe’s evocative and extensive curling lament has its full measure of song and it’s gilded with incident and decorative writing, a mosaic of influence. There is a slow section from around 7:00 and an arresting string unison figure at 10:50 – moments that perhaps, with their effusive string writing and delight in sonority will perhaps have one thinking of Tippett.
The Serenata is the most recent of the triptych of works here, having been written in 2004. Textures here are light and there’s an intense slow section from which an intensely lyric theme gradually emerges. The Concerto grosso type affiliations again suggest Tippett. He handles the drooping figures with great assurance and ends the work as if enveloped in sleep.
Concierto 2 (Version B) was written for cello and orchestra and is the most complex of the three works. Version B was revised just for string orchestra; I’m assuming that the original version can be heard on Marco Polo 8225135 played by the same soloist here, Asier Polo, but I haven’t heard that recording so can’t be definitive on the point. It is a terse, tense and difficult work to appreciate. The close recording accentuates the opening Lutosławski-like attacks, and Polo’s big vibrato and strenuous chording serves to accentuate and increase the portentous drama of the writing. It’s a mosaic of brittle, brusque and withdrawn writing, full of orchestral suspensions and swingeing attacks, short lived, and terse. The work ends tantalisingly in mid air, unresolved.
Throughout the three works the well-known violinist Nicolás Chumachenco directs with real power and sensitivity and the Orquesta de Cámera Reina Sofía responds with verve. If you’re unfamiliar with the composer don’t start with Concierto 2, which will probably serve as “kill or cure” material for the unwary. At his best Villa-Rojo has a mosaically refined musical imagination, and uses string sonorities with highly effective, sonorous eloquence. But he’s also knotty and that side of him can be felt in the Cello Concerto.