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Lorenzo PALOMO (b.1938)
Andalusian Nocturnes (1995) [40.53] *
Spanish Songs (1986) [33.26] **
* Pepe Romero (guitar); ** María Bayo (soprano)
Seville Royal Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
rec. Sala Apolo, Seville, 29 August-2 September 2000. DDD.
NAXOS 8.557135 [74.19]


The Naxos Spanish Classics series continues to grow apace. The inclusion of contemporary composers, as here, raises the question of how such recent works as these acquire ‘classic’ status. General popularity and number of performances are two indicators, though they are not necessarily linked; however in respect of Lorenzo Palomo’s music there is some correlation.
 
From first phrase to last there is no mistaking the overtly Spanish flavour of Palomo’s music, though more specifically it owes much to the characteristics of Andalusian composition with its Jewish and Moorish elements.  Palomo’s idiom is rooted in an easily grasped tonality that displays a great interest in exploring the textures and rhythmic configurations that can be achieved by the instrumental groups at his disposal.
 
This lends the outward appearance of an extended series of tone poems to the six movements that comprise the Andalusian Nocturnes. Given that each movement is titled (A Toast to the Night, Gust of Wind and The Flamenco Stage, for example) it is not hard to guess at the music’s approximate mood. In actuality this is a large-scale concertante work for guitar and orchestra, during which the soloist weaves a line into and against the wider textures employed. The solo part bears obvious references to the Spanish classical guitar school, both in terms of material and exhibition of technique. However Palomo also seeks to explore the impressionistic nuances of shade, shadow and darkness that the instrument possesses. Pepe Romero, for whom the work was written, gives an assured reading and Frühbeck de Burgos conducted the work’s world premiere in 1996, here drawing playing of some sensitivity.
 
The second work, Spanish Songs, is the one that first turned my attention towards Palomo’s music. Recently I found myself discussing the topic of repertoire with an up-and-coming Spanish soprano. Her response to the question of which recent Spanish works for voice and orchestra merit attention was that I should investigate Palomo’s Spanish Songs. Composed originally as two sets of songs for Montserrat Caballé the work exploits most of the qualities that were to be found in her voice during its prime years: a need for strong legato line, rich tone and a keen intelligence in handling words. That Caballé never recorded the work may be a minor regret for some, but for me María Bayo proves a persuasive advocate in her own right.  That she seeks to exploit the drama in miniature aspect of each song helps in delivering involved and involving performances. At times there are clear elements of theatricality on display (La niña de blanco) but these are countered by evocations of atmospheres (Llueve, llueve) and a sense of intimacy between poet, composer and performer.
 
The clear and detailed recording is supported by a succinct biography of Palomo and useful notes on the works. Song texts are downloadable as a PDF file from the Naxos website, as is the company’s usual practice. Warmly recommended if tuneful Spanish infused textures are your thing.
 
Evan Dickerson
 
see also review by Göran Forsling


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