TORROBA: Guitar Con. No. 1 “Concierto en Flamenco”; Diologos entre guitarra y orquestra; Aires de La Mancha; Suite castellana – Pepe Romero & Vicente Coves, guitars/ Malaga Philharmonic Orch./ Manuel Coves – Naxos

TORROBA: Guitar Concerto No. 1 “Concierto en Flamenco”; Diologos entre guitarra y orquestra; Aires de La Mancha; Suite castellana – Pepe Romero & Vicente Coves, guitars/ Malaga Philharmonic Orch./ Manuel Coves – Naxos 8.573255 (1/13/15), 77:19 ****:  

Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982) made a reputation as a composer of zarzuelas, then as the author of some one hundred works for guitar, especially for noted virtuosos, Segovia and the Romeros. Highly nationalistic in color, Torroba’s music takes much of its syntax from Pedrell and Falla, imbued with an innate melodic gift and a rhythmic arsenal that well embraces the Iberian character.

The so-called Concierto en Flamenco in four movements (1962) here receives it debut recording, its not having had an inscription by its intended dedicatee, Sabicas. Pepe Romero (b. 1944) happily embraces both the classical and flamenco traditions, so his brilliant strums, glissandos, and knuckle-rapping-on-wood effects participate in a larger, architectural scheme in the opening Fandango. The exotic second movement presents a farruca in duple time that first soothes as it moves into lively riffs and high treble arpeggios over a romantic orchestral rhapsody. Most persuasive, the Algerias de Cadiz evokes a sultry, moody ambiance supported by a haunting cello line and castanet punctuations from the Malaga Philharmonic. The last movement, Bulerias offers an animated dance (palos) in true flamenco style, pulsating with graduated crescendos and fleet effects from Romero’s deft fingers.

Torroba conceived his expansive Dialogos entre guitarra y orchestra in 1962 for Andres Segovia, but its premier came in 1977 with Michael Lorimer. Romero protégé Vicente Coves (b. 1982) joins conductor brother Manuel Coves (2 July 2013) in the four-movement suite, alternating orchestral tissue with the solo guitar. Celesta and harp contribute to the light transparent coloration of the scoring. The Allegretto’s serenade-like first movement exploits symmetrical phrases, the secondary theme of the guitar in triple meter. More folk sensibility inhabits the ensuing Andantino mosso, with the percussive sounds of castanets juxtaposed with some inventive woodwind filigree. The rhythmic pulse suggests a seguidillas in contemporary harmony. Torroba recast his earlier solo piece for Segovia, Romance de los pinos, for the third movement Andante. A meditative theme and variations evokes dreamy Iberian landscapes. The last movement, Allegro, propels us with rocket figures and “Moorish” syncopations, and some attractive flute and woodwind riffs, all cast in a rollicking, bravura flamenco style.

Pepe Romero returns solo for the five-movement suite Aires de La Mancha (1966), conceived for Segovia, who had requested a work responsive both to Castilian folklore and to Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Each of the brief movements projects a definite character, opening with Jeringonza, a word game for children. Ya llega el invierno sings a winter song. Copilla lasts one minute, a melodic impulse or copia (song verse). The Pastoral episode from Cervantes – concerning the shepherdess Marcela – inspires La Pastora movement. A Seguidilla concludes the suite, a punctuated dance in triple meter that has Romero passionately articulate in agile figures.

Vicente Coves ends the Torroba tour with Suite castellana (1920), the composer’s initial exercise for the solo guitar, originally for Segovia. In three movements – Fandanguillo, Arada, Danza – the last movement came first. The Arada evokes the plowed fields of Castile. The middle section demands natural and artificial harmonics, a good example of the guitar’s potential for chromatic sonorities. The lyrical Danza (Vivo) moves in lively triple meter, but the Lento espressivo copla may provide the icing that takes this Iberian cake.

—Gary Lemco

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