Gwyneth Wentink

Rodrigo: Complete Orchestral Music, Vol. 9

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The guitar is so closely identified with contemporary Spanish composition that it's easy to forget the harp has a much longer association with Spain and its music. The ambitious Naxos set of Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo here rolls on with a trio of harp-and-orchestra works, one of them a transcription of the most famous Rodrigo piece of all, the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra of 1939. Rodrigo himself made the harp version in 1974 for his Basque-born harpist friend Nicanor Zabaleta. In all three of these works, Rodrigo proves that his ability to write idiomatically for plucked strings was not restricted to the guitar; the harp lines consistently reveal new sonorities and moods. The central "Adagio of the Concierto de Aranjuez," which has already stood up to adaptations by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and other musicians outside the classical field, doesn't suffer at all when it's played on the harp, and the performance by Gwyneth Wentink and the Asturias Symphony Orchestra under Maximiano Valdés offers a quiet, rather murky reading that completely defamiliarizes a very commonly heard piece. The opening Concierto serenata for harp and orchestra of 1952 and, especially, the Sones en la Giralda (Fantasia Sevillana) for harp and orchestra of 1963 are both attractive as well; Sones en la Giralda is based on the flamenco rhythms familiar in Rodrigo's music, but they are assigned to the orchestra -- the harp, if you will, becomes the flamenco dancer, whirling around the cellos and occasionally contributing a percussive note of her own. In the outer movements of the Concierto de Aranjuez Rodrigo doesn't have this option, and especially in the opening Allegro con spirito the music loses some of its punch. Still, the quietly soulful performances here will appeal to listeners looking to explore Rodrigo's music beyond his handful of ubiquitous hits.

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