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Lyrita New Recording
Sarah Beth Briggs
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901–1999)
Piano Music Vol. 2
Danza de la amapola (Dance of the Poppy) (1972) [2:03]
El Album de Cecilia (Album for Cecilia) (1948) [7:00]
Tres danzas de España (Three Danxes of Spain) (1941) [4:29]
Sonatas de Castilla con toccata a modo de pregón (Sonatas
from Castile, with Toccata in the Style of a Proclamation)
Suite para piano (1923) [9:31]
Cancíon y danza (1925) [7:12]
Preludio al gallo mañanero (Prelude of Dawn Cockerel) (1926)
Tres Evocaciones (Three Evocations) (1981) [12:45]
rec. Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK, 1-3 July 2005
NAXOS 8.557923 [72:02]
This is the second and last volume of Naxos’s complete music
for solo piano by Rodrigo. It is played by the superb Artur Pizarro.
I was enthusiastic about Volume 1 a couple of years ago
even chose it as one of my recordings of the year. I wasn’t
alone in admiring it: both my colleagues Steve Arloff and
Patrick Waller praised it and it was Editor’s choice in Gramophone.
I have no reason to be less enthusiastic this time. Pizarro’s
playing is certainly second to none, combining clarity with
warmth and being unfailingly rhythmically alert. The music
in itself also has much to offer being mostly written in
a highly attractive tonal idiom with catchy melodic invention.
It would have been a better idea to present the works in
chronological order, making it easier to appreciate Rodrigo’s
development over a time-span of almost 65 years. But this
is a minor complaint and quite possibly the chosen sequence
is more satisfying for pure listening without historical
The opening Danza de la amapola, which marked Rodrigo’s return
to composing for the piano after a break of twenty years,
has unmistakable Spanish atmosphere and would make a nice
encore. It is dedicated to the composer’s grand-daughter
Cecilita. A generation earlier, in 1948, he composed El
album de Cecilia for his daughter, who premiered it at
the age of eleven in 1952. He called it ‘six pieces for small
hands’ but it is far from easy to bring off with advanced
polyphony and intricate rhythms. It is melodically attractive
music, filled with pleasant surprises, as in the last piece,
where the ‘little donkeys in Bethlehem’ trot along energetically
on a path strewn with dissonant thorns. The three dances
from Spain, composed in 1941, are also entertaining as well
as delicately lyrical.
Sonatas de Castilla is a major work, lasting
almost 25 minutes, and the opening Toccata is bravely dissonant.
The five sonatas that follow allude to earlier epochs in
music history: the first to Scarlatti, the dreamy No. 2 to
the 16th century while the lively No. 3 is bolero-like
and refers to the 19th century. After an excursion
back to the Renaissance again the final sonata in A is a
virtuoso piece in the tonadilla mould. Rodrigo, who was a
virtuoso pianist, premiered this work in 1951.
Back to 1923 and the Suite para piano has a bitonal Preludio followed
by an impressionist Siciliana. It is rounded of by
a harmonically and rhythmically intricate Rigodón:
a real virtuoso cracker!
An odd piece is Canción y danza, written in 1925 but
never published or played until the premiere on the composer’s
95th birthday on 22 November 1996. It is easy
to realize why. Rodrigo here experimented with dissonances,
clusters and complex rhythms in the then modern style. However,
since his natural tonal language was tonal and melodic he
abandoned this idiom and left the music in the drawer. Large
parts of the composition are sparse with few notes sprinkled
seemingly at random, hesitant but in between giddy chords
and breakneck somersaults.
The Preludio al gallo mañanero, also an early piece,
imitates the morning cockerel. It is interestingly written
in a kind
of bitonality where the right hand plays on the white keys
and the left hand on the black. It is a down-to-earth, even
burlesque composition, which also became a stepping-stone
for Rodrigo to public attention when he performed it in Paris
in 1928. Not only did his career as a concert pianist blossom,
he also became friends with Manuel de Falla, to whose honour
this occasion was held when he received the Legion of Honour from
the French Government.
The Tres Evocaciones were commissioned for the centenary
of Joaquin Turina’s birth and here Rodrigo wanted to evoke
impressions of Seville: the light first movement showing
the dark second illustrating Night on the Guadalquivir and
the third depicting the joy and vitality when Triana wakes
up in the morning.
The disc is filled with constantly invigorating, inspiring
music, played in masterly fashion. It is a pity that Rodrigo
compose more for the piano. A plea to Naxos: sign up Artur
Pizarro for more recordings!
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