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Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999)
Invocación y Danca (Homenaje a Manuel de Falla) (1961) [7:36]
Tres pequeñas piezas: Ya se van los pastores; Por caminos de Santiago (1963) [6:13]
Tres piezas españolas (Fandango; Passacaglia; Zapateado) (1954) [12:55]
Por los campos de España: Entre Olivares (1956) [15:28]
Zarabanda lejana (1926) [4:58]
Sonata giocosa (1960) [11:05]
Junto al Generalife (1959) [6:02]
En tierras de Jerez (1957 [3:33]
Narciso Yepes (guitar)
rec. June 1986, Bamberg, Zentralsaal
Presto CD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 419 620-2 [57:50]

Presto Classics’ reissues, of which this is one, are valuable for restoring to the catalogue items that have slipped through the cracks. Despite Yepes having more than one DG boxed set to his name this particular disc, recorded in 1986, doesn’t seem to be available in any other format. And as Rodrigo invariably liked to point out, Yepes was ‘his’ guitarist. He never made the claim that Yepes was the greatest of the then living performers of his guitar music, but rather that he held special authority as an interpreter. A low-simmering war amongst mavens of the instrument has always existed regarding Yepes, a Manichean state of affairs beloved of a certain kind of record collector and, especially, critic.

Happily, the rest of us can enjoy Yepes’ recital of some of Rodrigo’s finest music unencumbered by such thoughts. He selected music written between 1954-61 with the exception of the much earlier Zarabanda lejana. He omits the third in Tres pequenas, which is Pequeña sevillana. In Por los campos de España he plays the third (Entre Olivares) but omits En los trigales (1938) and Bajando de la meseta (1954). Rodrigo sometimes made sets of what had been scattered items and it’s not always clear in DG’s track-listing.

His tremolandi in Junto al Generalife are excellent and the sense of legato proves evocative. Similarly, he plays the central section of Entre Olivares with gracious reserve where earlier he’d played the Allegro section with abundant clarity and virtuosity. This approach was almost bound to work in the Sonata giocosa with his trademark crispness of attack and whilst he invariably used a narrower range of colours than Segovia, he was always adept at highlighting salient phrasal moments where colour is most required; something that is clear in the central slow movement. Also clear and audible is his vivid strumming in the finale.

Yepes’ musical aims in playing Rodrigo were often radically different from those of, say, Segovia or Bream, to cite two obvious examples. Whilst he takes the same tempo as Segovia in Zarabanda lejana (in Segovia’s 1954 recording reissued in volume 5 of Naxos’s Segovia edition) Yepes is much stricter metrically and lacks Segovia’s coloured pliancy and sensual texturing. This approach is not at all sterile but it is discernably drier and less emollient. In the evergreen Invocación y Danca Yepes’ characteristic directness contrasts with Bream’s more measured and vastly more colour-conscious playing. Arguably, too, Bream’s technique enables him to vest the dance music with greater vivacity than Yepes. Yet these oppositions or contrasts afford much to intrigue. Should the Fandango, the first of the Tres piezas españolas, be courtly, as Bream plays it, or stylized and knowing, which is Yepes’ preference. Should the Passacaglia that follows be bracing and architecturally direct (Yepes) or pliant, full of affect and slow (Bream). Let’s be thankful that we have such divergence in performances of Rodrigo’s solo guitar works from three such eminent performers from their different traditions and schools.

As befits Yepes, DG’s recording is on the dry side. So was Yepes, from time to time, but this was Rodrigo’s guitarist, after all.

Jonathan Woolf

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