WORKS: Concierto de Aranjuez; Fantasia para un Gentilhombre; Elogio de la guitarra
PERFORMER: Charles Ramirez (guitar); Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Douglas Boyd
CATALOGUE NO: Signum SIGCD 244
For most listeners it is the great Adagio of Rodrigo’s Concierto that decides their view of a performance, and to them Charles Ramirez and Douglas Boyd will have delivered a must-hear. The initial cor anglais is eloquent; then Ramirez adopts a wonderful improvisatory freedom while holding a firm lyrical line, an attitude later taken over by the bassoonist.
The atmosphere smoulders and steadily intensifies, but the biggest orchestral statement retains its gravitas. A similar Spanish stoical melancholy runs through the Fantasia. In the quicker music of both works the stance is tonally light, expressively relaxed, and often quite deliberate in pace. It allows the orchestra to place accents delicately and to build some tense tuttis, as at the start of the Concierto, without forgetting the music’s quiet wit. The acoustic is matchingly detailed, although rather in-your-face at bigger orchestral moments.
There are so many excellent couplings of these two favourites, never mind individual recordings, that they would add up to the Building a Library assignment from hell. Ramirez’s distinctive way ought to reach the shortlist, but then you must weigh the pros and cons against Julian Bream (several times over), John Williams and – with a neatly assembled choice of extras – Pepe Romero. If it’s the extras that count for you, Ramirez strikes out with a fine, attractive and not-so-often heard solo piece which is something of a work-out for the player. Ramirez offers delicately voiced chords in the central cathedral evocation, precise counterpoint and cumulative
energy in the finale. Robert Maycock