Julian Bream / John Eliot Gardiner / Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre

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Compiled from recordings made in 1959, 1983, and 1987, this RCA reissue of Julian Bream's performances of works by Joaquín Rodrigo is hampered only by its uneven sound quality. Fortunately, the Concierto de Aranjuez is not a casualty of faulty engineering, and it is decidedly the most successful offering. Bream plays this perennially popular guitar concerto with his characteristic charm and bravado, and John Eliot Gardiner leads the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in a vivid orchestral accompaniment, recorded with clean digital sound and realistic depth. The other short works, however, are less satisfying for their problematic reproduction. Bream is flawless in the solo works, Piezas (3) españolas, Invocación y danza, and En los trigales, and by itself, his playing is quite enjoyable. But the sound is hazy and not intimate, most likely due to distant microphone placement and overly resonant acoustics. Rodrigo's Fantasía para un gentilhombre, as performed by Bream and the RCA Victor Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Leo Brouwer, is played with feeling and rich coloration, and it will please the casual listener. But audiophiles may find the sound questionable because it has signs of studio enhancement. Tape hiss has been removed, and the orchestra has been boosted, but the separation is far greater than early stereo could offer.

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