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Margarida Mota-Bull
MusicWeb International, December 2010

Lorenzo Palomo’s cantata, Dulcinea, is based on Miguel de Cervantes’ magnificent and influential literary masterpiece “Don Quijote de la Mancha”. The novel has been adapted countless times into a ballet, a symphonic poem and many others genres: You name it and you will almost certainly find it! So, do we really need one more adaptation? I must say that at first, even before listening to the CD, I thought that we did not. Add to this the fact that I am not a great fan of contemporary music - I continue to prefer the great classics - and I dislike the Spanish language, which I find generally harsh and unpleasant to the ear. I convinced myself that I was in for a couple of hours of disappointment. Well, I was wrong!

Dulcinea, a “Cantata-Fantasy for a Knight in Love”, as the composer calls it, was indeed a pleasant surprise right from the beginning. Even before track three finished, I had been completely won over. The work is divided into ten scenes and although based on Cervantes’ novel, it differs slightly from it. Palomo’s music is rather visual; he uses the orchestra and choir to give us the images that emerge from Murciano’s rich poetry. For example, the first scene of the Cantata, Los molinos de viento, effectively evokes the windmills through whistling whispers of the chorus to resemble the noise of the wind on the sails. For the scene where Don Quijote attacks the windmills, Palomo cleverly uses only the orchestra. He gives a very powerful depiction of the scene, inviting the listener to use the imagination and become creative too. The score is full of originality though deeply rooted in Spanish musical tradition, with all its vibrant colour, rhythm and passion. Imaginative though Palomo’s music is, to my mind, the cantata becomes a truly great piece due to Carlos Murciano’s exquisitely beautiful poems. Though based on the original Cervantes’ novel, they exist as independent texts in their own right. Murciano keeps to the source but gives it a new, fresh dimension not only by the sheer beauty and rhythmic flow of his words but also by daring to deviate from the novel and go his own path. He nearly silences Teresa Panza - who talks too much in the original - and gives a voice to Dulcinea; in the novel, she only exists in Don Quijote’s imagination. Murciano thus creates what I think is the jewel in his elegant poetry for this piece: the Canto de Dulcinea (Ballad of Dulcinea). If you understand Spanish, ignore the translations; good though they are, the full glory of Murciano’s poems can only be truly appreciated if one reads them in the language in which he wrote them.

This Naxos CD is a live recording of the world premiere, which took place at the Konzerthaus Berlin, Germany, on 15 May 2006. The performance was led by distinguished conductor Miguel Angel Gómez Martínez with the excellent orchestra and chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and a quartet of outstanding singers. I was a little doubtful about the casting of Armenian bass Arutjun Kotchinian as Don Quijote, purely because I think that Kotchinian is a stage “animal”. I saw him as Count Rodolfo in Bellini’s La Sonnambula, at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, in 2006, and he was magnificent. He stole every scene he was in even when superstar tenor Juan Diego Flórez was present. Kotchinian is an exceptional singer with an incredibly charismatic presence on stage and a superb actor. Although live on stage, he would be the perfect Don Quijote, I wondered if he could bring the same kind of charisma in a purely audio recording. As I truly admire his artistry, I am rather happy to say that I was completely wrong. His performance as Don Quijote is totally captivating. His delicate phrasing, the poignant singing and the dramatic power, which he gives every word, make Don Quijote’s lament very real and completely expresses the tragic, pathetic characteristics of the Knight. Kotchinian is outstanding and must have been magnificent on stage.

In Cervantes’ novel Dulcinea is an ideal of perfection, a vision in Don Quijote’s dream. In this cantata she is accorded a voice which is unusual but rather enriching for the harmony of the piece as a whole. It is sung by the lovely Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta. Her voice is beautifully sweet and delicate and her diction is very clear. Possibly because she is a native Spanish speaker, the intonation of the words is better than most and she also demonstrates a deep feeling for the text in the way she sings her ballad, Canto de Dulcinea. This gives the listener the impression that Dulcinea is an ethereal being - Don Quijote’s unattainable love ideal.

Mezzo Cheri Rose Katz, as Teresa Panza, and German tenor Burkhard Ulrich, as Sancho Panza, though assigned minor roles, play them very effectively, perfectly fitting in with the lead singers, choir and orchestra.

I liked Miguel Angel Gómez Martínez’s direction of the orchestra. He truly understands the characteristics of Spanish music; its strong rhythms and vivid sounds. Palomo uses many orchestral colours to depict core scenes such as La llamada del Caballero (The Knight’s Fanfare) or Batalla de los molinos de viento (The Battle of the Windmills). In the hands of a lesser conductor, the vibrant musical images could easily have been lost but Gómez Martínez gives them life and injects passion, making these scenes highly effective. At the same time, he is able perfectly to sustain the singers, without interfering with the voices, in the sensitive lines of the beautiful Canto de Dulcinea and the poignant Canto de Don Quijote. The orchestra follows his lead with gusto and deliver a satsifying performance. The chorus is simply outstanding and their three major pieces – Canción del alba (Dawn Song), Seguidilla and Abracadabra! – were to me the best, most effective parts of the score.

Overall, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this recording. Lorenzo Palomo’s Dulcinea is indeed a rare piece: A beautiful work and an exquisite merger of text and music.

Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, December 2010

A live recording of the 2006 premiere of a work its composer describes as a ‘Cantata-Fantasy for a Knight in Love’; it is based on poems by Carlos Murciano derived—of course—from Don Quixote. Ainhoa Arteta is an entrancing Dulcinea and Arutjun Kotchinian an heroically bewildered Don Quixote. Humorous, profound and beautiful by turns (and frequently more than one of these at any one moment).

Joshua Rosenblum
Opera News, December 2010

For a stimulating, alternative musical take on the Don Quixote legend, I highly recommend Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo’s Dulcinea, subtitled “Cantata-Fantasy for a Knight in Love,” which Palomo (b. 1938) created from eight poems by Carlos Murciano. Skilled at pastiche, Palomo infuses his orchestral textures with snappy Spanish rhythms, in the tradition de Falla and Revueltas, then adds to the mix John Barry-style cinematic sweep and Carmina Burana-influenced choral incantations. For the most part, it’s a winning combination; Palomo has enough dramatic flair and originality to weave it all into something successful and enjoyable.

Starting the disc with sixty seconds of a whispering chorus imitating the sound of wind was an unwise decision, but the orchestral and choral build that follows is characteristically kinetic and gripping, and this level of engagement rarely flags. Bass Arutjun Kotchinian introduces the famous knight-errant with “Canto de Don Quijote,” a haunting, exotically tinged ballad, which he delivers with depth and quiet yearning. This unflashy but wholly absorbing number unfolds deliberately over the course of ten minutes yet never overstays its welcome. The subsequent orchestral interlude, “The Battle of the Windmills,” kicks the proceedings back into high gear with its driving rhythm and orchestral swagger. The choral “Seguidilla” features another breathless, relentlessly building crescendo, and it’s hard to resist getting caught up in the excitement.

Kotchinian’s richly-timbred bass, which he deploys with delicacy and ease, implies that this Quijote contains multitudes; in this quality, he is well-matched by the Sancho of smooth-voiced tenor Burkhard Ulrich, who reveals a similar level of natural expressivity and subtle characterization. Sancho’s scene with Quijote is underlaid with hints of humor but allows Ulrich remarkable stretches of lyricism. Soprano Ainhoa Arteta, as the title character, doesn’t appear until Part Nine (out of ten). This section alternates dance-like instrumental passages with Dulcinea’s floating, lyrical melodies, in which she describes her origins in “sun-drenched castles, in the chambers of dreams,” and welcomes the love-besotted Quijote—who only wants to hear her speak his name—into her realm. Arteta’s gentle vocal shimmer is perfectly suited to the iridescent textures and otherworldly harmonies in the orchestra. Cherie Rose Katz makes a brief but effective appearance as Teresa Panza, Sancho’s wife.

Conductor Miguel Angel Gómez, leading the Orchestra of Deutsche Oper Berlin, emphasizes the contrasts decisively and drives the proceedings with panache. The Deutsche Oper chorus sounds hazy and thus does not make as much of a dramatic impact as it might. That’s a forgivable flaw, however; Palomo’s Dulcinea is colorful, fun, accessible but unexpected, and generally quite gratifying to listen to.

Robert A Moore
American Record Guide, September 2010

This imaginative and spirited cantata-fantasy in ten scenes is a setting of poems by Carlos Murciano based on the Don Quixote story. The work opens with a whispering chorus suggesting the sound of windmills that builds dramatically with pulsating rhythms as Don Quixote is rebuked for being a defeated dreamer, whose enemies are merely windmills. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza each sing of their love, the Don for his Dulcinea and Sancho for his Teresa. Dulcinea appears as the chorus in a movement called ‘Abracadabra!’ conjures her. As the notes describe it, she “appears in a vision as a princess filled with love and tenderness for Don Quixote. She tells us her name is dulcet and comes from deep in the mirror where he saw her image, transformed into a lady fit for a noble knight. She goes on to say that her name is warm and tender because it comes from sun-drenched castles and the chambers of dreams. She is the princess of his desires, mistress of his thoughts. Dulcinea ends her ballad by bidding him welcome to her realm.” The work ends with the chorus singing a hymn to love and freedom and with Dulcinea repeating, “May he be welcome in my realm.”

Lorenzo Palomo’s musical language is in the tradition of Rodrigo and Turina, with vivid orchestral colors and rhythms. This performance is both enlivening and enchanting. The singers are all excellent; Arteta in particular brings a serene spiritual quality to her solo. The chorus and orchestra are up to the challenge, and the recorded sound is first-rate. Each hearing brought new delights. The liner notes supply the composer’s description of the work, but texts must be obtained online from Naxos.

Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, August 2010

Born in Córdoba, Palomo now lives in Berlin, having been a member of the music staff of the Deutscher Oper Berlin between 1981 and 2004. For all his residence in Germany, his music never forgets its Spanish or, more specifically, its Andalusian roots.
In Cervantes’ great, and profoundly influential work, Don Quixote, Dulcinea - whose ‘real’ name was Aldonza Lorenzo del Toboso - is an all-pervading, but unspeaking and invisible presence. She is the ‘muse’ of all Don Quixote’s activities, his creative transformation of an ordinary peasant girl (it seems), into an inspiring figure of beauty and goodness. The reader never meets her, and she has no voice of her own. Like so much else in Quixote’s life she is the product of his reading and yet transcends all that has been previously written. In Chapter Thirteen of Volume One, Quixote affirms that “all the impossible and fanciful attributes of beauty which the poets apply to their ladies are verified in her; for her hairs are gold, her forehead Elysian fields, her eyebrows rainbows, her eyes suns, her cheeks roses, her lips coral, her teeth pearls, her neck alabaster, her bosom marble, her hands ivory, her fairness snow, and what modesty conceals from sight such, I think and imagine, as rational reflection can only extol, not compare”. She is a hopelessly unattainable ideal who inspires all of Quixote’s hope.
In many of the almost numberless reworkings of Cervantes’ text - as novel, play, musical, symphonic poem, opera, poem and much else - Dulcinea has been given visible body and audible voice. That is the case in this intriguing and rewarding piece, built upon poems by Carlos Murciano (b.1931). From the CD’s documentation it isn’t clear whether Murciano’s texts were specifically written for what the composer describes as a ‘Cantata-Fantasy for a Knight in Love’, or whether they were previously published. Either way there is a clear unanimity of vision between composer and poet.
Dulcinea is in ten sections, two of which are purely orchestral. Music and text seek to represent many conflicting points of view, contrasting judgements of this strangest of knights errant. In the first section (Los molinos de viento / The Windmills), the chorus - at this stage no more than commonsense observers, as it were - judge Quixote to be merely a self-deluded dreamer with a limping nag, a “defeated fighter, leader of none”, a man of “valour overblown” (quotations are from Susannah Howe’s translations of Murciano’s poems). In the third section (Cancíon del alba / Dawn Song) that same chorus at least recognises Quixote as “fearless”, as a knight with “His buckler held close, his lance secure”, who “hears a lark sing a song of hope”; now the chorus can recognise some value in the way “his gaze travels across the wide plain / his captive heart yearns for Dulcinea”. It is in the fourth section (Canto de Don Quijote / Ballad of Don Quixote) that we first hear the knight’s voice itself, as he dedicates himself and his life to Dulcinea (“I travel with my squire, / travel for you, my lady, / my hope and my destiny”) and seeks her blessing upon his soul, his helmet and his sword. In the sixth section the Chorus comes to a realisation of the necessary mutuality between Alonso Quijano (the ‘real’ name of that reader of romances who now imagines himself Don Quixote) and ‘Dulcinea’. Only she can truly give him his new name, and conversely, it is he who has given her her fame: “Alonso Quijano wishes / Aldonza to speak his name, / that is, he wishes Dulcinea / to recognise Don Quixote / as the valiant knight / who has made her fair and noble”. In the seventh section a dialogue between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza contrasts their feelings about their two ‘ladies’, Sancho praising his wife Teresa: “when I’ve a raging thirst, / she’s my jug and my water”. In the next section the Chorus has come to sympathise with Don Quixote and to admire him, to have wishes for him: “Let the word / of such a fair princess / be his abracadabra / […] / May the Knight / never open his eyes / and may he continue to follow / the path of his dreams”. In the ninth, penultimate section, Dulcinea (un-Cervantes like) has her say. She has, it seems, become that Dulcinea Quixote imagined her to be (“Aldonza is but a memory now, / I come from sun-drenched castles, / from the chamber of dreams”), now she is, indeed, Dulcinea (“My name is musical and sweet / as honey, as lavender”). She gives him her blessing, confirms his name: “All honour to Don Quixote. / May he be welcome in my realm”. Dulcinea closes with all the soloists, and the chorus, speculating on the nature of reality itself, of its relationship to dream, and of its embodiment, for men, in women.
I have summarised Murciano’s text at such length partly because of its own intrinsic interest but primarily because it is a prerequisite to any understanding of what Palomo’s work is about - this is no mere programme piece, no creation of incidental, pseudo-film music as it were, for Cervantes’ great novel. Murciano’s texts, though dependent on Don Quixote for their very existence, are no mere paraphrases either; they are adventurous ‘translations’ and Palomo’s music needs to follow their lead not that of Cervantes himself.
Still, as my summary will have indicated, some of the most famous episodes of the original novel remain, even if their significance has been somewhat transformed. The first section’s representation of the famous windmills begins with a wordless whispering from the chorus, evoking the wind, succeeded by an oboe solo which suggests the plains of La Mancha, before fiercely energetic rhythms from the orchestra build to a climax and the chorus enters. This is music which has its quasi-pictorial elements, but which also articulates the many conflicts (psychological, emotional, social) implicit in Murciano’s poems, and in the originating novel, conflicts which are often overlooked in more sentimental or merely humorous versions of the story of Don Quixote. Palomo’s use of orchestral colour, and the blending of choral voices with those orchestral colours, is particularly impressive in this first section. There is much else to admire too. The ‘Ballad of Don Quixote’, with its earnest plea that Dulcinea should utter his name just once, so that “all will become finer, / and all will be more pure”, is touching and grave, both in its vocal lines and the woodwind commentary on them. Palomo finds musical language to respond to the profundity of Murciano’s text, notably in Alonso Quijano’s / Don Quixote’s plea to Dulcinea to “Speak the name I have put / letter by letter above my own, / and I shall become Don Quixote, / the highest-born of men, / the noblest of knights / that ever did live”. The orchestral and choral Seguidilla contains some crisply rhythmic writing for both instruments and voices and in the dialogue which forms ‘Don Quijote y Sancho’, Palomo’s love lyric for Sancho Panza, in praise of his wife Teresa, is exquisite, the music in creative tension with the down-to-earth nature of the words in which Sancho expresses his feelings. The ‘Canto of Dulcinea’ is remarkable, a sustainedly lyrical traversal of a range of past and present experiences and emotions, moving towards Dulcinea’s ecstatic recognition that she is “princess of his desires / and mistress of his thoughts”, the point at which she can declare “all honour to Don Quixote” and affirm that he is “welcome in [her] realm”. Palomo’s music rises to almost mystical heights here and becomes a powerful expression of the power of beauty and imagination. The ‘Canto final’ which closes the work brings together all the soloists, with chorus and orchestra. In Don Quixote it is Dulcinea who has no voice; in Dulcinea it is, ironically, Teresa Panza who has no voice until this final scene, a final scene which, after some well-structured interplay of ideas, fades away, musically speaking, into “a dream / of love and freedom”.
Dulcinea is the best single work by Palomo that I have so far heard. The interest and quality of Carlos Murciano’s poems has clearly brought out the very best in Palomo. This recording was made at the world premiere of the work and the performance is consistently excellent. Ainhoa Arteta makes a captivating Dulcinea and Arutjun Kotchinian gives a memorable performance as Don Quixote; in their relatively minor roles Burkhard Ulrich and Cheri Rose Katz do all that is required of them, and do it with assurance and conviction. The work of chorus and orchestra is exemplary and conductor Miguel Angel Gómez Martínez draws from them all a committed and utterly convincing performance.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2010

The cantata-fantasy by the Spanish-born composer, Lorenzo Palomo, views the Don Quixote story through the response of people to the gorgeous, Dulcinea, the beautiful woman of Quixote’s imagination. Palomo’s musical language continues, more or less, where Rodrigo left off, and is shaped around an unusual rhythmic content and his fresh and ingenious orchestral colours. Though originally active in Spain, Palomo now lives and works in Berlin, where this performance took place. He uses the poems by Carlos Murciano, for a score completed in 2006, and calls for four soloists each taking one of the protagonists, while the chorus comment on the action. The long orchestral opening sets the scene in Castilla-La Mancha, the chorus then relating the common belief that this supposed Knight is nothing but a dreamer riding a lame horse. Having made his initial appearance, Palomo then gives Quixote the most substantial ballad in the score, the Armenian bass, Arutjun Kotchinian, singing the woeful love song with warmth and affection as he looks forward to Dulcinea greeting him, if only he can find her. That is his problem, but first  Quixote’s battle with the windmill comes in an orchestral interlude, the chorus again taking up the story, leading to a short duet for Quixote and Sancho Panza. Fact and fiction become merged as Dulcinea appears in the final scene welcoming Quixote to her realm. The sweet and beautiful voice of Ainhoa Arteta is ideal for Dulcinea in her ballad, and joins the remaining singers when ‘reality’ is questioned by all. Taken from a concert performance in 2006, and excellently recorded by German radio, the orchestral playing, under the Spanish conductor, Miguel Angel Gomez Martinez, is outstanding.

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