Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Lively, idiomatic performances of Rodrigo’s Chamber Music with Violin on a new release from Naxos

The Spanish composer, Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) was born in Sagunto, Valencia and lost most of his sight at the age of three after contracting diphtheria.  He began to study piano and violin at the age of eight before going on to study music under Francisco Antich in Valencia and under Paul Dukas (1865-1935) at the École Normale de Musique in Paris.

His first published compositions date from 1940 and in 1943 he received Spain's National Prize for Orchestra for Cinco piezas infantiles (Five Children's Pieces). From 1947 Rodrigo was a professor of music history, holding the Manuel de Falla Chair of Music in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, at Complutense University of Madrid.

His most famous work, the Concierto de Aranjuez, was composed in 1939 in Paris for the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. Of his other works, that ranged across orchestral, wind ensemble, concertos, chamber, instrumental, vocal and choral, none achieved the popular success of the Concierto de Aranjuez.  

Rodrigo was awarded Spain's highest award for composition, the Premio Nacional de Música and was given the hereditary title of Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez by King Juan Carlos I. He received the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award and was named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government. Joaquín Rodrigo and his wife Victoria are buried in the cemetery at Aranjuez.

Naxos have already issued a large number of recordings of Rodrigo’s music in their Spanish Classics series. Now comes a new release featuring the composer’s Chamber Music with Violin performed by violinist Eva León www.evaLeó , pianist Olga Vinokur  and guitarist Virginia Luque


Sonata pimpante for violin and piano (1965) was written for the composer’s son-in-law Agustin León Ara and was premiered in Brussels in 1966. In three movements it opens with a sparkling Allegro, full of spirited rhythmic bounce before the piano leads into a slower melody with an Iberian flavour. Eva León and Olga Vinokur weave some lovely moments before the music picks up again. Later the atmospheric slower melody returns to lead us through some very fine development passages before picking up again to find a lively coda.

In the Adagio - Allegro vivace - Adagio the piano introduces a lovely rippling theme to which the violin adds a melody, drawing some lovely harmonies before developing through some more intensely Iberian sounds. The music picks up vigorously in the striding Allegro vivace, full of incisive rhythmic chords before the piano brings a real gravitas and weight as the Adagio returns, the violin adding fine textures and harmonies, finding a sweet, gentle coda.

The Allegro molto brings one of Rodrigo’s typically riotous allegros, full of energy and dissonant harmonies with these two players throwing much spirit and life into the music with a real sense of abandon in the later stages.

The Set Cançons valencianes (Seven Valencian Songs) for violin and piano (1982) were also dedicated to Agustin León Ara and performed by him with the pianist Jose Tordesillas the same year. The piano gently picks out the theme of the lovely little No. 1. Allegretto, and is soon joined by the violin as this sad little melody moves forward. The violin brings a rich melody over piano chords in No. 2. Andante moderato, adding some lovely Sephardic inflections. No. 3. Allegro finds Rodrigo’s more obvious rhythmic style as the violin brings chords over a staccato piano line in this simple yet charmingly effective piece.

The violin adds a gentle, wistful melody to a flowing piano line in No. 4. Andante moderato e molto cantabile, developing some fine harmonies between instruments with two lovely little passages for piano. No. 5. Andantino brings an attractive rhythmic pulse as it gently flows forward, with some lovely little decorations from both instrumentalists. The violin alone introduces the slow melody of No. 6. Andante religioso with fine harmonies before the piano takes the theme. Both weave some slow stately harmonies before a hushed coda. The piano springs into life with the lively theme of No. 7. Tempo di bolero (Moderato) and is soon joined by the violin. All the while a sprung rhythm is maintained in this very Spanish piece.

Capriccio, ‘Ofrenda a Sarasate’ for solo violin (1944) was written at the request of Radio Madrid to commemorate the centenary of the great violinist Pablo Sarasate (1844-1908) and represents Rodrigo’s only piece for solo violin.

Eva León pushes quickly ahead in a fast moving theme that travels through some virtuosic bars. Brief pauses separate the ideas as they progress, this violinist bringing much sparkle and bravura, with fine harmonies and textures, developing some terrific passages.

The Serenata al alba del día (Serenade to the Dawn) for violin and guitar (1982) was dedicated to the Czech guitarist and composer Jiří Knobloch (1931-2012) but premeired in Los Angeles in 1983 by Agustin León Ara and Pepe Romero. In two movements, the guitar brings a really lovely theme in I. Andante moderato with some fine dissonant harmonies that spice up this piece, soon joined by the violin as more of a flow is achieved. In II. Allegro the guitar brings firm chords, responded to by the violin in this short, rhythmic piece, full of Rodrigo’s fingerprints.

Dos Esbozos (Two Sketches) for violin and piano (1923) are dedicated to the violinist and composer Abelardo Mus (1907-1983). The piano introduces a gentle idea in the opening of No. 1. La enamorada junto al peqeuño surtidor: Andantino (The Young Girl in Love beside the Little Fountain) to which the violin adds a flowing melody, moving through some quite lovely passages with the piano adding a trickling line over which the violin melody flows. No. 2. Pequeña ronda: Allegro (A little round) takes off quickly in a rhythmic theme with the violin developing a melody over an often dissonant piano line.   

Dedicated to the Spanish violinist Josefina Salvador (1920-2006), Rumaniana for violin and piano (1943) is based on Rumanian dance tunes. A slowly developed theme, full of Rumanian inflections, runs through some high passages for violin, exquisitely played here. There is a quiet, slow, atmospheric passage before the music picks up in a fast driving section before slowing toward the sudden coda. 

These are lively, idiomatic performances that bring a further view of this composer. They are rather closely recorded but the ear soon adjusts. There are informative booklet notes from Rodrigo’s biographer Graham Wade.

No comments:

Post a Comment