Nelson Brenes

Platero y yo: Elegía Andaluza

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Nobel Prize-winning Andalusian poet Juan Ramón Jiménez is most remembered for "Platero y yo," his 1917 collection of tender reflections on his beloved little donkey. In 1960 Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote guitar accompaniments to be played with the recitation of 28 of the 32 short chapters. His music perfectly suits the character of the texts -- gentle, idyllic, pastoral, sometimes playful, and sometimes melancholy. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was astute in calculating the relationship between the words and the music, and they complement each other beautifully, without overwhelming each other, but the music is of enough interest that it could exist independently of the text. The alchemy of words and music in this recording of 17 of the movements with speaker Nelson Brenes and guitarist Frank Koonce creates a wonderfully complete experience. Both perform with a reserve and understatement that suit the text ideally, never falling into broad humor or pathos that could weaken the work's gentle impact. Brenes, an operatic baritone, delivers the text with directness and sensitivity, and he's well matched with Koonce's relaxed and expressive playing. The sound is clean and intimate. The CD is beautifully produced, with charming pen and ink illustrations from an early edition of the text. It should be of interest to fans of Spanish-flavored guitar music, and of spoken poetry with musical accompaniment.

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