RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez; Invocacion y danza; GOSS: The Albeniz Concerto; ALBENIZ: Espana, Op. 165 (arr. Yang) – Xuefei Yang, guitar/ Orquestra Simfonica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya/Eji Oue – EMI 6 98361 2, 75:56 **** :
Guitar virtuoso Xuefei Yang (b. 1977) brings her considerable prowess–she is the first Chinese student to be awarded a full international scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London–to the music of Joaquin Rodrigo, a composer with whom Yang communed in 1991 after her Madrid debut. She plays the ubiquitous Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) with gusto and aplomb, the lines scintillating and the orchestral complement deeply intoned by way of Eji Oue. Having cut my own teeth on this piece with Narcisco Yepes, I can attest to Yang’s fluency and bravura musicality.
The big contribution to the repertory is the Yang commission of the 2009 Stephen Goss Albeniz Concerto, a four-movement work that incorporates pieces from Albeniz’s Iberia (1906) and the Op. 47 Suite Espanola of 1886. The “Concerto” opens with El Albaicin from Iberia, a gypsy quarter of Granada in which flamenco rhythms proliferate. Cataluna offers a lighter vein, a strumming serenade that occasionally grows somber and martial, only to return to its whimsical opening. The lovely Evocacion from Iberia forms the heart of the Concerto, here drawn out in gauzy, postcard colors and cante jondo. What follows is an expansive, four-minute cadenza that extends the Evocacion into harmonically audacious spaces in flamenco style, often striking up harp-like arpeggios and repeated notes. The last movement, Aragon, exploits seguidilla rhythms and strident harmonies in the manner of an ardent serenade, complemented by intricate runs from Yang amidst colorfully percussive effects.
Yang arranged the Albeniz Espana Suite, the Seis hojas de album, for her own guitar idiom. The Prelude sets the tone of a ballade, followed by the contemplative salon Tango we know well know from pianists as wide-ranging as Larrocha and Backhaus. The Malaguena takes a more aggressive stance, punctuating fandango rhythm with rapid arpeggios, staccati, and vibrato. Serenata strikes a playful, improvisatory tone, mercurial and rhythmically intricate. Capriche Catalan sings a tenderly delicate melody in gradually evolving periods, a reprise that ends with a bit of an epilogue. Zortzico employs a Basque sensibility with many intricate dance steps in five beats, no problem for the enthusiast Yang.
The 1961 Invocacion y danza by Rodrigo clearly pays homage to Falla, specifically his own Interlude and Dance from La Vida breve. The style, however, proves redolent of the moderns, Debussy and Mompou included. Darkly emotional and agitated, the Invocation alternates parlando and strummed effects, then it breaks off into a sunny Dance, playful as both Falla and Granados can be. Intense and lyrical, the piece makes a perfect vehicle for Yang’s naturally expressive instrument. The recording–from 12-15 July 2010 at Pau Casals Hall, Barcelona–involves us in Yang’s playing without intruding upon the mechanics of tablature and breathing.
— Gary Lemco