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Torroba: Guitar Concertos Vol 1 / Romero, Coves

Torroba / Romero / Coves / Malaga Phil Release Date: 01/13/2015
Label: Naxos Catalog #: 573255 Spars Code: DDD
Composer:  Federico Moreno-Torroba Performer:  Pepe Romero ,  Vicente Coves Conductor:  Manuel Coves Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Stereo Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins.

Federico Moreno Torroba (1891-1982) is known today for billions of little guitar pieces that dot just about every Spanish guitar collection. You might assume from this that he was either a composer of little consequence, or one of those guys who lived forever but wrote only a tiny amount of music. He was neither. In Spain he is best known as the composer of Luisa Fernanda (1932), one of the greatest and most popular of Zarzuelas. You might call it the “West Side Story” of Spain. He also wrote operas and concert works, including ten concerted pieces for guitar and orchestra, all of which Naxos proposes to record in this new series.

Now I have to confess, the very thought of more guitar
Read more music CDs makes me want to scream. We get solicited to review at least a dozen new ones every month, but this is different. Torroba was a major composer, a far more interesting creative personality than, say, the better known Rodrigo, and it’s not as though we suffer from a glut of good modern guitar concertos (other than those of Leo Brouwer). So the prospect of three discs devoted to the Torroba guitar concertos is an exciting one, and this disc marks an auspicious beginning.

You would expect Pepe Romero to excel at the Concierto en Flamenco–he knew the composer and he is fully at home in both classical and Flamenco guitar. The piece is gorgeous, the performance vibrant and passionate. Here and in the following Diálogos entre guitarra y orquesta, it’s great to be able to forget about classical forms (each piece has four movements instead of the usual three) and simply revel in the bold contrasts and captivating melodies with which Torroba festoons both works. Writing for guitar and orchestra isn’t easy–the two really have no business together–but Torroba’s scoring masterfully supports the soloist while never denying the orchestra the opportunity to assert itself boldly and colorfully.

The soloist in Diálogos is Romero’s gifted pupil, Vicente Coves, who plays as well as his mentor, and whose brother leads the orchestra vividly and sympathetically. Both guitarists also offer a solo piece. Romero presents Aires de La Mancha, and Coves the Suite Castellana, which dates from around 1920 and contains the composer’s first essay for solo guitar (Danza). The engineering, happily, is uniformly excellent, with particularly well-judged balances between solos and the orchestra. Even if you think you’ve heard it all when it comes to guitar music, you will want this disc and, I suspect, the whole series.

-- David Hurwitz,
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