Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Spanish Fiesta!

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The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Here Come the Classics series focuses on pop highlights of the orchestral repertoire. This installment, entitled Spanish Fiesta, features Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, de Falla's Nights in the Garden of Spain (with pianist Roderick Elms) and second suite from The Three-Cornered Hat, and Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez with guitarist Mark Ashford. The program begins with Rimsky-Korsakov, the only non-Spanish composer to be heard; Capriccio Espagnol is a piece that thrives on sass, bravura, and panache. In this particular instance, however, the RPO goes beyond just being showy and instead sacrifices a good deal of clarity and accuracy. Balance throughout the orchestra is quite problematic as the percussion and brass in particular dominate over the meager sound of the strings. Articulation is often sloppy between sections as conductor Nicholas Cleobury fails to hold the orchestra together as a cohesive whole. The same lackluster, somewhat lazy playing permeates the rest of the program; in these later works, however, balance proves less of an issue as the role of percussion and brass diminishes. By far the best performance on the disc comes from guitarist Ashford, whose playing is wonderfully stylized and precisely articulated. The well-known, sorrowful central movement of the Rodrigo concerto is accompanied by an equally sensivtive accompaniment from the gentle strings and mournful oboe.

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