Carlos Bonell / Jennifer Stinton

Rodrigo: Concertos for Flute & Guitar

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Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, almost an icon of Spanish music, has been recorded more often than almost any other classical composition, and the small Long Island, NY-based reissue house Alto deserves major credit for unearthing this gem among the clutter. The recording was originally made in 1989 at Abbey Road studios, for the Collins Classics label. The sound is transparent and pleasing, placing the guitar in the foreground without an unnatural effect. The Gramophone blurb quoted on the back cover praises flutist Jennifer Stinton and merely designates guitarist Carlos Bonell as "very acceptable." Stinton indeed is confident in handling the treacherous technical issues of the Concierto pastorale for flute and orchestra, composed in the late '70s for James Galway; the work, especially in the finale, could almost be said to fall into the realm of extended technique. But the real innovation here is accomplished by Bonell, who sacrifices a bit of the crowd-pleasing forward momentum of the Concierto de Aranjuez in favor of exposing hidden aspects of the soloist-orchestra relationship. A lot of the credit goes to the English Chamber Orchestra and conductor Steuart Bedford, who ideally cooperates with Bonell and finds all kinds of orchestration details in a concerto whose orchestral parts are too often phoned in. The Fantasía para un gentilhombre is equally effective, and it's easy to imagine that you are hearing an early performance by the work's dedicatee, Andrés Segovia, with the composer himself conducting. The performances live up to the claim by producer/annotator Ates Orga that Stravinsky might be numbered among Rodrigo's influences; they're full of taut, precise details that nevertheless do not impede the warm Spanish flow of the music. Strongly recommended, even for those looking for their first recording of the Concierto de Aranjuez.

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