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Phillip Scott
Fanfare, January 2007

Lorenzo Palomo (b. 1938) writes in a bright, picture-postcard Spanish idiom: the melodic twists and modal tunes, the castanets, the guitar's flamenco strumming and its imitation by the orchestra are all familiar. The works on this CD show off Palomo's orchestral mastery-he is also a conductor-and bring to mind Frühbeck de Burgos's own arrangement of the Suite espanola by Albeniz, a hit light music record of the 1960s. Andalusian Nocturnes is a six-movement suite for guitar and orchestra written for Pepe Romero, who, like the composer, hails from the Andalusian region of Spain. Though titled Nocturnes, the six movements are by no means all soft and languid: these are the vibrant evenings in Falla's Spanish gardens rather than the hot, dry nights of Mompou's piano miniatures. The work is filled with many enjoyable and atmospheric moments, though I found a couple of the folk-like themes too simplistic to generate much interest. My favorite movement is the fifth, "Nocturne of Cordoba"; here the composer displays great delicacy and creates a mysterious nocturnal atmosphere which is genuinely compelling. The selection of Spanish songs consists of two cycles, An Andalusian Spring and Memories of Youth, plus two others, Tientos and Full Moon. They are original settings, not adaptations of existing traditional melodies; even so, they sound a lot like Iberian cousins to Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne. If you enjoy that ubiquitous work, you will certainly respond to these songs. (Texts are not provided but are available as a download from Naxos's Web site.) The Andalusian Spring cycle was composed at the request of Montserrat Caballe. Not only that, the great diva performed it several times. Maria Bayo is the natural successor to Caballe and Victoria de Los Angeles in the Spanish repertoire. She produces a radiant tone and a certain amount of heft when required. (On the last note of the final song she oversings and pushes herself slightly off pitch, a rare slip-up.) Pepe Romero and Frühbeck de Burgos, well-established musical stars with a vast number of recordings to their credit, maintain their high standards here. (Incidentally, will Universal ever issue Romero's 1980 performance of Moreno Torroba's elegant guitar concerto DiGlogos on CD?) The sound is spacious and full, not quite as in-your-face as in some other Naxos recordings. All in all, a distinguished issue of likeable music: a CD you could give as a gift without much risk of missing the mark. Palomo may not mine his Spanish sources with the elemental depth of Surinach or view them through the postmodern prism of Balada, but his music does what he intended it to do: beguile and entertain.

American Record Guide, October 2006

Lorenzo Palomo (b 1938) is a Spanish conductor who has recently achieved some renown as a composer. In this, the first recording of his music to cross our desk, we have three major offerings: two orchestral song cycles, Andalusian Spring (1992) and Memories of Youth (1987). and a 40-minute suite for guitar and orchestra, Andalusian Nocturnes (1996). Memories of Youth was first performed in a version for voice and piano at Carnegie Hall by Montserrat Caballe. The writing is not only beautiful and accessible, but the composer shows real understanding of the lyric possibilities of the human voice. Much the same can be said of the later cycle, and they both have an exotic atmosphere. The suite of Nocturnes is somewhat more sprightly than the songs. Palomo, aware of the difficult balance problems that affect guitar­and-orchestra pieces, scores alternately for the full orchestra and the guitar, the latter playing with only the most sparse accompaniment. His approach is very effective. The Nocturnes are played with considerable flair by the great Pepe Romero. The Seville Royal Symphony shows itself to be a fine ensemble under Frühbeck de Burgos's direc­tion. Maria Bayo, who seems to specialize in Spanish repertory (May/June 2003: 192, May/ June 2004: 224, etc.), is a fine advocate for the composer's work, turning in a first-rate performance. The sound is generally excellent, though the engineers have made Bayo bigger than life and have surrounded her with a different ambiance than the orchestra's. Note are informative, though texts and translations are not included and must be copied, assuming the listener has a computer, from Naxos's web site. These reservations aside, this is another very satisfying entry in Naxos's Spanish Classics series.

Evan Dickerson
MusicWeb International, June 2006

The Naxos Spanish Classics series continues to grow apace. The inclusion of contemporary composers, as here, raises the question of how such recent works as these acquire ‘classic’ status. General popularity and number of performances are two indicators, though they are not necessarily linked; however in respect of Lorenzo Palomo’s music there is some correlation. From first phrase to last there is no mistaking the overtly Spanish flavour of Palomo’s music, though more specifically it owes much to the characteristics of Andalusian composition with its Jewish and Moorish elements. Palomo’s idiom is rooted in an easily grasped tonality that displays a great interest in exploring the textures and rhythmic configurations that can be achieved by the instrumental groups at his disposal. This lends the outward appearance of an extended series of tone poems to the six movements that comprise the Andalusian Nocturnes. Given that each movement is titled (A Toast to the Night, Gust of Wind and The Flamenco Stage, for example) it is not hard to guess at the music’s approximate mood. In actuality this is a large-scale concertante work for guitar and orchestra, during which the soloist weaves a line into and against the wider textures employed. The solo part bears obvious references to the Spanish classical guitar school, both in terms of material and exhibition of technique. However Palomo also seeks to explore the impressionistic nuances of shade, shadow and darkness that the instrument possesses. Pepe Romero, for whom the work was written, gives an assured reading and Fruhbeck de Burgos conducted the work’s world premiere in 1996, here drawing playing of some sensitivity. The second work, Spanish Songs, is the one that first turned my attention towards Palomo’s music. Recently I found myself discussing the topic of repertoire with an up-and-coming Spanish soprano. Her response to the question of which recent Spanish works for voice and orchestra merit attention was that I should investigate Palomo’s Spanish Songs. Composed originally as two sets of songs for Montserrat Caballe the work exploits most of the qualities that were to be found in her voice during its prime years: a need for strong legato line, rich tone and a keen intelligence in handling words. That Caballe never recorded the work may be a minor regret for some, but for me Maria Bayo proves a persuasive advocate in her own right. That she seeks to exploit the drama in miniature aspect of each song helps in delivering involved and involving performances. At times there are clear elements of theatricality on display (La nina de blanco) but these are countered by evocations of atmospheres (Llueve, llueve) and a sense of intimacy between poet, composer and performer. The clear and detailed recording is supported by a succinct biography of Palomo and useful notes on the works. Song texts are downloadable as a PDF file from the Naxos website, as is the company’s usual practice. Warmly recommended if tuneful Spanish infused textures are your thing.

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