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Garcia • Ponce • Rodrigo: Guitar Concertos, etc

Junhong Kuang (guitar); Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice/Darrell Ang (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Garcia • Ponce • Rodrigo
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Ponce: Concierto del sur; Gerald Garcia: China Sings!
Junhong Kuang (guitar); Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice/Darrell Ang
Naxos 8.579053   57:46 mins


Since its 1940 premiere in Barcelona, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez has become so central to the classical guitar repertoire that it is virtually a prerequisite for aspiring soloists. Yet other, equally enchanting, concertos languish in relative obscurity – like Ponce’s Concierto del sur (Concerto of the South), premiered just a year later in Uruguay, 1941. On his second recording, 21-year-old Chinese guitarist Junhong Kuang pairs these works, showcasing a dazzling technique and a musicianship sensitive to the melodic sweetness underpinning each concerto.

Both are richly evocative of Spain: the Rodrigo composed in Paris and titled for the royal palace near Madrid, and the Ponce composed in Mexico for Segovia in an affecting homage from that nation’s classical music founding father. Kuang negotiates their fandango and flamenco-inspired outer movements and contrasting inner movements with aplomb; the one soulfully yearning, the other delicately poised, and with both concertos efficiently supported by the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice under conductor Darrell Ang.

Kuang’s readings are impeccably clean, bright and graceful enough to satisfy Rodrigo’s wish that his concerto be ‘no stronger than a butterfly’. If there are elements of sensuality not quite tapped in the rapid-fire rasgueado and flickering harmonic-minor swerves, there are surely depths to come from this exciting young player. Recognising his brilliance at age 12, Gerald Garcia dedicated China Sings! to him: a two-part concerto rhapsody based on traditional Chinese melodies, it lightly closes the album.


Steph Power