Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre; Concierto para una fiesta

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COMPOSERS: Rodrigo
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasía para un gentilhombre; Concierto para una fiesta
PERFORMER: Craig Ogden (guitar)BBC Philharmonic/Sachio Fujioka
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9604
The Concierto de Aranjuez is so familiar that it is easy to forget just how daring it is. A guitar, short on resonance and limited in volume, can scarcely hold its own against an orchestra, let alone a large one. But Rodrigo has never let such supposed limitations inhibit his style. He has never even learned to play the guitar, precisely because an understanding of such difficulties ‘might interfere with my fantasy’.

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Rodrigo’s fantasy allowed him to compose one of the most popular concertos written this century, which he likened to the ‘hidden breeze that stirs the treetops in the parks’. For us, the heady blend of rhythmic vitality and serenity seems perfectly to encapsulate the spirit of Spain. But it remains a formidable challenge. The soloist must switch effortlessly from bristling chords to finely spun melodic lines. The conductor must allow the guitar to be heard without compromising the warmth and richness of the accompaniment.

Recording engineers can adjust the relative sound levels, but do so at risk of making it sound as though the soloist is on another planet. Here, the result is about as good as you could expect anywhere. The balance is impeccable. Craig Ogden has a clean, satisfying tone that never becomes harsh or fretful. The orchestral backcloth is detailed and luscious. Overall, it is a superbly competent performance but one which leaves little room for excitement and danger.

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Neither of the other two pieces on the disc has enjoyed such popularity. The Concierto para una fiesta is rather waspish, certainly, but the Fantasia is elegant and full of romantic sensibility. Christopher Lambton