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David Hurwitz, May 2008

The Concierto serenata for harp and orchestra is Rodrigo's finest concerto, the one best suited to its solo instrument, with tunes and timbres that reveal the composer's gracious lyricism (and disguise his near total lack of dramatic tension) to best effect. A harp, of course, sounds sort of like a guitar, and more so--much wider in range, dynamics, and sonorous potential. So it should come as no surprise that the Concierto de Aranjuez works even better in this, the composer's own transcription. The problem with the original version is that the guitar is usually inaudible unless the orchestra is kept down to the point where you wonder why it's there at all. Today of course, amplification helps, but it can't entirely conceal the basic mismatch of timbres.

These performances are splendid. Gwyneth Wentink commands a lovely, liquid tone that doesn't thin out excessively in the instrument's upper register, and she's perfectly balanced against the larger ensemble. Conductor Maximiano Valdes accompanies with spirit, and the orchestra plays this never very difficult music with the sweetness and purity Rodrigo's melodies require. I'm sure some listeners will disagree with me here (particularly guitar enthusiasts) about the relative merits of the two versions of the Concierto de Aranjuez, but Rodrigo's music with harp permits an additional touch of textural opulence otherwise missing in his orchestral writing. This disc is pure pleasure, plain and simple.

Phillip Scott
Fanfare, June 2007

This is the ninth release in Naxos's very fine series of Rodrigo's complete orchestral works, and it is one of the most attractive. The great Spanish composer had a feel for the harp, inspired as he was by the playing of his fellow Catalan, the virtuoso harpist Nicanor Zabaleta. Both the Concierto serenata of 1952 and the 1974 adaptation of the famous guitar concerto were written for Zabaleta; the shorter but similarly piquant Sones en la Giralda was composed for another renowned Spanish harpist, Marisa Robles. Whether in the sprightly outer movements of the larger works or the impressionistic "Sevillana" night-scene that opens the Sones en la Giralda, his light touch in scoring and memorable melodic motifs exemplify Rodrigo's best work.

You may be wondering how the ubiquitous Concierto de Aranjuez fares on harp. Inevitably, something of the flamenco feel is lost, both in the strumming rhythms of the first movement and the quasi-improvisational inflections of the famous melody in the second. On the other hand, listen to the sensitivity with which Gwyneth Wentink shapes and colors the solo cadenza further into that movement. Originally from the Netherlands, Wentink won first prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York in 1999 (when she was 17!) and a swag of other international awards. No wonder, as she is a superb musician.

Of the nine Naxos issues so far, those of the cello and violin concertos (8.555840) and the one under review are mandatory acquisitions.

Christopher Latham
Limelight, April 2007

This disc contains the wonderful transcription of [Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez] which he made in 1974, as well as two earlier works for harp and orchestra, the Concierto serenata and the Sones en la Giralda (Fantasia Sevillana). Both of these works are joyful, bright, with beautiful melodies and loads of Iberian charm.

It is difficult to write joyful music in the modern world—too often it can be wrongly interpreted as banal—curiously composers from sunny climates seem to produce more joyful works than their “greyer” northern cousins. Certainly it is not an issue of skill. Rodrigo stated that he “attempted in these pieces to accomplish a very difficult thing—to make the works light, clear and joyful, revealing the harp’s child-like soul”.

The more I listened to this disc, the more charming it became to me. Wentick’s harp playing throughout is unusually beautiful.

American Record Guide, April 2007

"Up to now I have treasured the performances of these same works by Isabelle Moretti, Edmon Colomer, and the Seville Symphony on Valois (4815, Sept/Oct 1999). But, in making comparisons, I've come to prefer this Naxos recording (Volume 9 of Rodrigo's complete orchestral music). While Moretti, Colomer, and the Valois engineers are elegant and smooth, 25-year-old Dutch harpist Gwyneth Wentink has a range of expression from mysteriosa to ebullient that is the perfect match for the bright upbeat rhythms, lilting lyricism, and depth of orchestral detail that Maximiano Valdes elicits from the excellent orchestra he's led since 1994."

"Wentink certainly has a flow and feel for rubato that matches the "bird-like twitter" freshness Valdes brings to the outer movements of the Concierta Serenata. They also are able to better relax into II's Adagio moodiness than Moretti and Colomer. And Wentink's cadenza leading into III is quite a tour de force. Wentink and Valdes are also superior in Sounds of the Giralda as they create truly eerie, haunting textures in the first half."

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