About this Recording
8.557135 - PALOMO: Andalusian Nocturnes (Nocturnos de Andalucia) / Spanish Songs (Canciones españolas)
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Lorenzo Palomo (b. 1938)
Nocturnos de Andalucía (Andalusian Nocturnes, 1996)
Canciones españolas
(Spanish Songs, 1987-1994)


Linked by friendship and by his Andalusian and musical roots to the guitarist family of the Romeros, Lorenzo Palomo, responding to a request from Pepe Romero, composed for him a full Suite concertante for guitar and orchestra (lasting approximately forty minutes) entitled Nocturnos de Andalucía (Andalusian Nocturnes). It unfolds in six movements, each with an expressive title: 'Brindis a la noche' (A Toast to the Night), 'Sonrisa truncada de una estrella' (Shattered Smile of a Star), 'Danza de Marialuna' (Dance of Marialuna), 'Ráfaga' (Gust of Wind), 'Nocturno de Córdoba' (Nocturne of Córdoba) and 'El tablao' (The Flamenco Stage). The suite was first performed in Berlin on 27 January 1996, naturally enough with Pepe Romero performing as soloist and with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. It received such fervent applause that the artists had to perform an encore of the fifth movement: 'Nocturno de Córdoba'.

The Córdoba in which the composer spent his childhood, the Andalusia of which he forever dreamed, with its poetic echoes of Juan Ramón Jiménez - 'Danza de Marialuna' takes its inspiration from the poet's verse 'La niña de blanco' (see Una primavera andaluza) - and musical echoes of flamenco, provide a constant inspiration for this very original work, which is both colourful and very deeply felt. Palomo shows great compositional skill in writing for groups of instruments. Although a large orchestra is used, consisting of pairs of woodwind, four French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and a rich array of percussion, the problem of the balance between orchestra and the smaller sound of the guitar has been resolved. The orchestra is often heard tutti, but the sound diminishes progressively, giving way naturally to the guitar. Conversely, in the passages for solo guitar, instruments and orchestral sections are added gradually to enable the transition from the guitar's dialogue with woodwind, strings or percussion to full orchestral outbursts to be realised in the most seamless of ways. Echoes of Spanish folk-melodies, rhythms of Andalusian song and dance, lyricism and light, are the characteristics of this unique work. Somewhat reluctantly, but with understanding for the request of performers, who often encounter difficulties in programming such a long concertante work, Palomo offers the option of omitting some movements in order to present an abbreviated version, a sort of "suite de la suite".

Since its première in Berlin, Nocturnos de Andalucía has been performed on fifty occasions in Germany, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Japan, the United States (in eleven different cities), and Cuba. The official Spanish première took place at the National Auditorium on 11 October 1996, during the Madrid Autumn Festival, with Pepe Romero, the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and the conductor Frühbeck de Burgos. The same soloist and conductor won the greatest acclaim for this work in the course of the American tour of the Spanish National Orchestra in 2001.

During his years in San Diego, California, from 1976 to 1981, Lorenzo Palomo attended a concert in Los Angeles, given by the famous Catalan soprano Montserrat Caballé, whom he already knew from his days in Barcelona. She encouraged him to compose some songs for her voice and he set to the task immediately. This was, in fact, the origin of the vocal cycle Del atardecer al alba (or Recuerdos de juventud). Two years later they met again, this time in Berlin, and she told him that she was interested in the songs that she had received from him.

Finally, in a recital at New York's Carnegie Hall on 27 February 1987, Montserrat Caballé, accompanied by Miguel Zanetti, gave the first performance of the songs, to warm acclaim. The composer, who was present, enjoyed this exceptional success, which proved to be of key importance for his career, since it had a highly positive influence on the New York music critics. This success was repeated soon after at London's Covent Garden, and the International Music Company of New York arranged to take charge of the publication and world distribution of Palomo's vocal works.

As could be expected, the composer did not take long to return to the concert song genre and in 1992 he wrote the cycle Una primavera andaluza (An Andalusian Spring), a set of six songs, all based on verses by Juan Ramón Jiménez: 'Los álamos del río'; 'La niña de blanco'; 'Sólo tú'; 'Llueve, llueve'; 'Alborada' and 'Eres tan bella'. The première of this new song cycle took place at the Berlin Opera, with the soprano Karan Armstrong and the pianist Hans Hilsdorf. Not long afterwards, at a suggestion from the conductor Miguel Ángel Gómez Martínez, Lorenzo Palomo orchestrated both these song cycles. In their new symphonic version, Del atardecer al alba and Una primavera andaluza were first given in Málaga by Marussa Xyni and the City of Málaga Orchestra under Gómez Martínez on 15th April 1994.

The Málaga concert included the première of two more songs by Lorenzo Palomo, 'Tientos' and 'Plenilunio', both of which had been written for Montserrat Caballé a short time before and are based on poems by Antonio Gala. The same artists would perform them with notable success in Hamburg (October 1995) and Madrid (February - March 1996), while María Bayo would win success in Bilbao with her first public performance of Palomo's vocal music. The two cycles were published in New York and the two songs based on verses by Gala were published by SEEMSA in Madrid.

It is very interesting to observe up to what point Palomo's close contact with opera has left its mark on the character of his songs. Indeed, in many of these pieces miniature dramas or, more exactly, small 'scenes', can be perceived, rather than concert songs in the traditional sense. This is the case in the cycle Del atardecer al alba, with the song entitled 'Madre, cuando yo me case' (Mother, when I marry), in which the orchestral accompaniment has a clearly narrative rôle, or in 'Canción de la adelfa y el río' (Song of the Adelfa and the River), which is approached as a theatrical dialogue between the two 'characters'. Even 'La puerta entornada' (The Door ajar) could be said to be influenced by opera, with its highly contrasting alternation between the orchestral part (lively and light) and the vocal part (very lyrical and expansively sung); the same result may be heard in the masterpiece 'La niña de blanco' (The Maiden in White), in the cycle Una primavera andaluza, in which an evocative harp seems to sparkle and the almost ecstatic lyricism of the song is energized by the orchestral interludes. Lastly, expressive and poetic intimacy reign in such pieces as 'La muntanya d'amatistes' (The Amethyst Mountain) in the first cycle or 'Los álamos del río' (The Poplar Trees by the River) in the Juan Ramón Jiménez cycle, while in 'Llueve, llueve' (Rain, Rain) the composer writes music that is in a certain sense impressionistic, with its almost pictorial expressivity. 'Serrana' (Song of the Mountain), before reaching its impressive treble ending, is nearer to folk-music than any other of these songs.

The body of Lorenzo Palomo's concert vocal music shows him to be one of the most successful composers in upholding the genre of Spanish song expressed in a contemporary language. These pieces by Palomo are distinctively Spanish without recourse to traditional melodic turns of phrase and stereotypical harmonies or rhythms. All his music is, moreover, graced with an unquestionably personal and distinctive orchestration.

José Luis García del Busto
Spanish author and music critic (Madrid, Spain)


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