This is part of a new Naxos educational CD package series – all double CDs of selections from the label’s immense catalog plus a sizeable illustrated booklet on the particular composer represented. The pricing is just slightly more than most single CDs. The narratives are well-written and readable, and the selections are chosen to make you want to further explore the particular composer’s music. I was surprised to discover in this set, for example, how many works in varied styles Rodrigo composed with which I had heretofore been completely unaware of.
The composer, who lived nearly 100 years to 1999, is of course most famous for his lovely Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra, which brought modern Spanish orchestral music to a wide public internationally. The seventeen works excerpted on presented in their entirety here are just a taste of the 200 he wrote during his life. They include works for solo piano, solo guitar, violin and orchestra, cello and orchestra, for soprano and orchestra and for chorus and orchestra, as well as straight orchestral works. Performers include several different Spanish orchestras, guitarist Jeffrey McFadden and Ricardo Gallen, pianist Artur Pizarro and violinist Mikhail Ovrutsky.
The first CD ends with the Adagio slow movement from the Concierto de Aranjuez, and a highlight of the second disc is his complete 1976 symphonic poem In Search of What Lies Beyond. The work’s title alludes to space exploration and it was dedicated to NASA. A familiar-sounding theme is heard early on in the spacey work, which reminded me of one of Rodrigo’s guitar-and-orchestra works. The sense of mystery which has been a quality found in other Rodrigo works here is put in the service of the mysteries of outer space. The piece struck me as a very appropriate, more sophisticated and tasteful score for a Star Trek adventure.
Rodrigo’s place as one of the greatest Spanish composer of the past century should be solidified by this fine musical biography.
TrackList, Disc 1: (English translations)
Canconeta for violin and strings
Five Children’s Pieces – Suite
Song & Dance
Prelude to the Dawn Cockerel
Canticle of the Wife
For the Flower of the Blue Lily
Concerto de Aranjuez: Adagio
TrackList, Disc 2:
Summer Concerto for violin and orchestra: Movt 1
Concerto in Galant Style for cello and orchestra: Rondo Giocoso
Three Spanish Pieces for solo guitar
Fantasia for a Gentleman: Movt 4
Invocation and Dance, Homage to Manuael de Falla
Adagio for Wind Instruments
In Search of What Lies Beyond
Canticle of Saint Francis of Assisi
– John Sunier