About this Recording
8.573542 - BROUWER, L.: Concierto de Benicàssim / RODRIGO, J.: Concierto de Aranjuez / MARTIN, F.: Guitare (Trápaga, Real Filharmonía de Galicia, Díaz)
English  Spanish 

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939): Concierto de Benicàssim
Joaquín Rodrigo (1901–1999): Concierto de Aranjuez
Frank Martin (1890–1974): Guitare


The earliest origins of the Concierto de Aranjuez can be traced back, in my opinion, to the Toccata that Joaquín Rodrigo (1901–99) dedicated to Regino Sáinz de la Maza in 1933 and whose technical difficulties turned out to be too much of a challenge for the guitarists of the day. Rodrigo reused certain features of the Toccata in the Concierto de Aranjuez—in the second-movement cadenza, for example—but particularly drew on it when constructing the first movement of his Concierto de estío for violin and orchestra (1943).

The original score of the Toccata lay forgotten in a drawer in Sáinz de la Maza’s study, probably not far from the Sonata written for him in the same year, 1933, by Antonio José Martínez Palacios. The latter piece came to light in 1990, whereas it took until 2006 for Rodrigo’s Toccata to be heard for the first time. Both, it seems, like certain other key works in the guitar repertoire, were music written for the future.

Another twentieth-century guitar masterpiece composed in that annus mirabilis of 1933 and destined to endure a similar fate to that of Rodrigo’s Toccata and Antonio José’s Sonata, is the Quatre pièces brèves by Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890–1974). It was written for Andrés Segovia, but was greeted by him with a complete lack of interest. The work only began to gain currency among guitarists when it was published in 1959 by Karl Scheit as part of the “Musik für Gitarre” collection he was curating for Universal Edition. Prior to that, Martin did what Falla had done with his Homenaje a Debussy (1920)—the work seen as launching the modern guitar repertoire—and immediately transcribed the score for piano, entitling it Guitare. Suite pour le piano, portrait d’Andrés Segovia. Then, in 1934, at the request of Ernest Ansermet, he created an orchestral version, entitled simply Guitare, the world première recording of which appears here. Despite the composer’s own doubts about this version, perhaps because of the level of interference he had to put up with from Ansermet, now that the original is recognised as an undisputed masterpiece of the guitar repertoire (of any era), it is fascinating to hear the extraordinary colours and immense power of the orchestral version which, to some extent, must reflect the fantastical vision of the guitar that first inspired Martin.

A similarly unusual instrument loomed large in the imagination of Joaquín Rodrigo when he was composing his Concierto de Aranjuez, which he saw as following in the quintessentially Spanish musical tradition of Albéniz, Granados, Falla and Turina—he described the instrument as phantasmagorical, gigantic and multifarious, with the wings of a harp, the heart of a piano and the soul of a guitar… And, just as it took years for works such as Rodrigo’s own Toccata, Antonio José’s Sonata or Martin’s Quatre pièces brèves to become well-known, the Concierto de Aranjuez too went through a period of neglect: for the first decade of its existence it was largely unknown outside a politically isolated Spain. Furthermore, it posed such formidable technical challenges that it lay beyond the reach of most guitarists. Segovia himself stubbornly refused to include it in his repertoire, a decision based, in my view, purely on technical considerations. Although it received its première in 1940, therefore, the Concierto only began to make a name for itself on the international stage in 1950 when Narciso Yepes gave a performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris with the Orquesta Nacional de España conducted by Ataúlfo Argenta. Since then, it has become the best reason for a guitarist to join forces with an orchestra. More than that, the Concierto de Aranjuez—and above all the Adagio—has become a true phenomenon in the history of western music, its impact felt more or less throughout the world. Even today, 75 years on from its première, it is the perfect accompaniment for a concerto new to disc, such as Brouwer’s Concierto de Benicàssim, in which certain echoes of the Rodrigo can be heard—details such as the petenera (rather than guajira) rhythms that appear in the first movement, or the oboe melody at the start of the second.

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) wrote the Concierto de Benicàssim in 2002 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Romantic guitarist Francisco Tárrega (1852–1909). There are, however, only a couple of nods to the latter’s own music. These occur in the final cadenza—the tremolo, which is completely uncharacteristic of Brouwer’s guitar writing, and a brief “tempo di mazurka lenta”—although a kind of very cinematic ultra-Romanticism does also hover over the work as a whole. In fact, the central Lento features a reworking of music Brouwer wrote in 1968 as part of the soundtrack to the award-winning Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment (Memorias del subdesarrollo). This very characteristic theme, which in the film is heard on the flute, with guitar accompaniment, and is used to evoke memories of happier times, here appears at the end of the second movement, amid atonal orchestral ritornellos.

The ninth of Brouwer’s guitar concertos, and described by the composer as “a panorama of my own ideas”, the Concierto de Benicàssim was first performed in 2002 by Gabriel Estarellas. After the première, the concerto disappeared again for a decade until, in 2012, it was taken up by Miguel Trápaga, who performed it with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar under the baton of the composer himself, in Caracas’s Teatro Teresa Carreño. On the occasion of its “rebirth”, Brouwer, in discussion with the soloist, made the decision to take out the second- and third-movement repeats, leaving just one repeat in the opening movement. The work has therefore gained in concision, without losing any of its essential density or breadth; and it has also gained a certain fluidity by incorporating an amplified guitar capable of holding its own when in dialogue with substantial and unrestricted orchestral forces—an instrument whose full potential can be exploited, in other words, rather than the fantasy guitar the composers of the first half of the twentieth century could only dream of. Given, however, that a decade of silence was to divide its première and its second performance, and that several more years have gone by before this, its world première recording, we must see the Concierto de Benicàssim, like the other works on this album, as music for the future. Let us hope that it too is destined for greatness.

Javier Suárez-Pajares
English translation by Susannah Howe

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