Naxos have been tending quite generously to their “Classics from Spain” line. The present release will be the only commercially available CD dedicated entirely to Romero Asenjo’s work, which has been described by Spanish composer Tomás Marco as neither “in the vanguard nor beyond it”.
Despite the front cover, there are four string orchestral works here. The String Symphony is, across its three movements, an example of lyricism under springy tension leavened with a dash of mildew and marmite. It also has a slightly breathless pulse that often reminded me of early Tippett (Concerto for Double String Orchestra and Corelli Fantasia) and of Rawsthorne (Symphonic Studies). The Divertimento from almost a decade earlier is also in three movements. Its severity, shades and occluded light belie its title and place it in parallel course with the Bartók work of the same name and specification.
The single-movement Cello Concerto also exists in a later version with full orchestra (premiered in that form in 1996, conducted by Noseda). We hear the original with string orchestra. The music is unrelentingly concentrated, earnest and streams with unglamorous song. The cello is adeptly placed so its presence is not lost in the orchestra. I suspect both soloist and conductor have also been attentive to this tricky balance. Interestingly, this single span of music is also the longest on the disc. The central Lento of the Concerto for Two Violins has the air of a composer at reverential prayer. The work is in part founded on Bach’s Double Concerto. There are three short movements: Allegro - Lento - Allegro. Two busy and airy Allegros, the last of which is a special delight, frame the Lento which is not averse to dipping judiciously into sentimentality. Bachians who are curious should hear this. They would be well-advised to brace themselves for some very agreeably emotional curves that coast close to the film music of Alfred Schnittke.
The liner-notes by Hertha Gallego de Torres are in Spanish and English.
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