Classical CD Reviews

“Venezuela” – Clara Rodríquez, piano [TrackList below] – Nimbus Alliance

Many of the pieces on this recital will have currency as crossover music, for those attuned to its charms. I just want to hear what Clara Rodríguez can do with a meatier program.

Published on March 13, 2011

“Venezuela” – Clara Rodríquez, piano [TrackList below] – Nimbus Alliance

“Venezuela” – Clara Rodríquez, piano [TrackList below] – Nimbus Alliance NI 6122 [Distr. by Allegro], 74:24 ***:

Pianist Clara Rodríguez, a resident of London since she won a scholarship to the Royal College of music at seventeen, has stayed true to her Latin roots and can be credited with enlightening and entertaining England and indeed the rest of the world with the piano music of her native Venezuela. She’s frequently heard in recital and concert halls, as well as on the BBC and Classic FM. Being behind the curve sometimes even as regards my own instrument of choice, I haven’t caught up with one of her recordings until now. My reaction: On the plus side of the ledger, her pianism is all that it’s reported to be—colorful, sensitive, technically secure. On the debit side, as a Londoner might say, the program on this CD is “much of a muchness,” so the generous timing can’t be placed on the plus side of the ledger either.

The disc features the many faces of the joropo, the national dance of Venezuela. Or rather, that’s the problem: the joropo doesn’t really have many faces. It is generally a fast, syncopated dance with roots in the ancient dances of the Iberian Peninsula such as the fandango and jota. Rodríguez adds that it also gained Arabic influences during Moorish rule and during Spain’s colonial period took on influences of Africa, as well as “indigenous elements of in the Orinoco Basin and its savannas.” Actually, the first of the joropos that she offers, Pajarillo by Luisa Paesano, has a minor-key focused seriousness about it not typical of the other joropos on the disc, which are true to the bouncy dance-party norm. Since the joropo is also related to its generally slower and more genteel cousin the waltz, Rodríguez includes a number of those as well, which adds some variety, but again not much. We are still firmly rooted in the salon, where stylized dances are stock in trade.

In the middle of her recital, Rodríguez includes music that stands out for me in terms of both difference from the norm and overall quality. Antonio Lauro’s Canción and Vals criollo made me sit up and take notice, as did Modesta Bor’s lively Latinate Fuga. This is music that puts a new spin on old forms, and as I say the quality of invention here is more than a cut above. In the same vein is Ricardo Teruel’s dissection of the waltz titled Destilado de vals. It follows its own strange logic melodically and harmonically, scattering its basic waltz melody to the four winds before the final ironically sedate cadence.

Rodríguez includes a pair of merengues by Francisco Pacheco and Pablo Camacaro. The merengue is also a national dance, of the Dominican Republic. It, too, is vigorous, jumpy in rhythm; to the untutored it doesn’t sound a heck of lot different from many of the joropos on the program. From Simon Diaz, we have Caballo viejo, a pasaje llanero, which Rodríguez describes as “a slower kind of joropo that has been performed by singers like Julio Iglesias, Oscar D’León and the Gipsy Kings.” Like many of these pieces, Diaz’s Caballo viejo will have currency as crossover music, for those attuned to its charms. However, the whole program just makes me want to hear Clara Rodríguez in more interpretively demanding repertoire.

Antonio Lauro: Canción, Seis por derecho (Joropo), Waltz "Vals criollo"
Federico Ruiz: Aliseo (Joropo), Zumba que zumba (Joropo)
Federico Vollmer: Jarro mocho (Joropo), Waltz "El atravesado"
Luisa Elena Paesano: El porfiao (Joropo), Pajarillo (Joropo)
Modesta Bor: Fuga, Waltz "Juangriego"
Pablo Camacaro: Diversión (Ritmo Orquídea), Don Luis (Merengue)
Pedro Elias Gutiérrez: Alma llanera (Joropo)
Ramón Delgado-Palacios: Waltz "La Dulzura de tu rostro"
Manuel Yánez: Waltz "Viajera del río"
Francisco Delfín Pacheco: El cumaco de San Juan (Merengue)
Heraclio Fernández: El Diablo suelto (Waltz-Joropo)
Evencio Castellanos: Waltz "Mañanita caraqueña"
Juan Carlos Núñez: Waltz "Retrato de Ramón Delgado Palacios"
Luis Laguna: Waltz "Creo que te quiero"
Maria Luisa Escobar: Nocturne-Waltz "Noche de luna en Altamira"
Miguel Astor: Waltz "Adriana"
Ricardo Teruel: Waltz "Destilado de vals"
Simon Diaz: Caballo viejo (Pasaje Llanero)

–Lee Passarella

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