RODRIGO: Piano Music, Vol. 1 (Artur Pizarro) (Naxos: 8.557272)
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Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999)
Piano Music 1
Throughout his long life Joaquin Rodrigowrote more than two hundred compositions,creating a prolific variety of orchestral pieces,concertos, songs, and instrumental music forguitar, piano, violin, cello, and other instruments,now increasingly in demand and appreciatedworld-wide. This recording presents some of thefinest examples of Rodrigo's piano works. Thecomposer was a virtuoso pianist who played manyrecitals at various periods of his life, featuringboth his own compositions and representativeselections of Spanish keyboard masters from thesixteenth century onwards. His formidablememory and brilliant technique ensured that hewas soon established as an impressive performerwho also wrote for the piano with insight andpanache.
Joaquin Rodrigo was born on St Cecilia'sDay, 22nd November, 1901, in Sagunto,Valencia. In 1905, an outbreak of diphtheriaimpaired his vision and within a few years he lostevery vestige of sight. From the age of seven heattended the School for the Blind in Valencia,where, with his musical gifts becomingincreasingly apparent, he played the violin andpiano. Later he took composition lessons withFrancisco Antich Carbonell, renowned organistand maestro at the local parish church. In theautumn of 1927 the young composer travelled toParis, enrolling at the Ecole Normale de Musique.
His teacher, Paul Dukas, one of the masters ofearly twentieth century French music, greatlyinfluenced Rodrigo, especially in aspects oforchestration. In 1928 the French Presidentawarded Manuel de Falla the National Legion ofHonour. Rodrigo performed his own piano piecesat the ceremony, thus extending his reputation ascomposer and pianist.
Around the same time Rodrigo met VictoriaKamhi, a young Jewish pianist from Istanbul, thedaughter of a businessman. Despite variousdifficulties, financial and otherwise, theyeventually married in January 1933. But a yearlater, hardship enforced separation, a dilemmaresolved only when Rodrigo was awarded aprestigious Conde de Cartagena Scholarship,enabling him to be reunited with his wife in Paris.
In 1936 disaster struck again when the SpanishCivil War began and the Scholarship fund was nolonger available. Eventually Rodrigo and his wifefound refuge for eighteen months at the Institutefor the Blind in Freiburg, Germany. In 1938 hevisited Spain briefly to lecture and perform at theSantander Summer School but, failing to obtainsuitable employment in his native land, wascompelled to live for another year in Paris. In1939 Rodrigo completed the Concierto deAranjuez, a work which soon becameinternationally famous.
Rodrigo returned to Spain at the beginning ofSeptember 1939. Life was difficult, but with helpfrom colleagues, including Falla, Rodrigo wasoffered various salaried appointments and afteryears of deprivation, the tide began to turn withthe premi?¿re in Barcelona of Concierto deAranjuez on 9th November, 1940. On 27thJanuary, 1941, Rodrigo's daughter, Cecilia, wasborn. Rodrigo's reputation as a great Spanishcomposer now began to gain international esteem.
A l'ombre de Torre Bermeja (In the Shadowof the Crimson Tower) was written in tribute onthe death of the great Spanish pianist RicardoVines (1875-1943), and first published in amemorial album in Madrid. Rodrigo commentedthat 'it was a kind of paraphrase of Albeniz'swork, of his first phase, entitled Torre Bermeja'.
Albeniz's music is reflected throughout in rapidarpeggios and the tolling bell of the old tower.
Cuatro piezas para piano (Four Pieces forpiano), written between 1936 and 1938, evokemoods of Spanish life from the animation ofdance to nostalgia for past glories. Caleseras is ahomage to Federico Chueca (1846-1908) whocomposed forty zarzuelas (light operas) andvarious lively waltzes, echoes of which can beheard. The title refers to the calesa, the horsedrawncarriage popular in early twentieth-centuryMadrid. The rhythm and slightly off-beat melodycertainly evoke the trotting of horses. Fandangodel ventorrillo (Fandango of the Inn) may usefullybe compared in terms of brilliance and colour withRodrigo's guitar piece En los trigales (In theWheatfields).
Plegaria de la Infanta de Castilla (Prayer ofthe Princess of Castile) opens with a sarabandelikemood recalling Rodrigo's admiration forRenaissance music. After a gentle beginning,however, the work develops into a technicallydemanding and passionate example of twentiethcenturypianism. A letter from Joaquin Nin-Culmell indicates that this composition possiblyrepresents a poignant prayer for peace during theSpanish Civil War. Danza Valenciana providesone of Rodrigo's rare references to the traditionsof his native Valencia, drawing inspiration fromthe popular theme 'el u i el dos' (the one and thetwo) in the manner of the Levantine jota, a circledance. The varied material includes two-partwriting, brilliant ornamental arpeggio patterns andanimated interchanges between bass and chords.
Pastoral, one of Rodrigo's apprenticeshippieces, has been compared to the cancion style ofMompou but also possesses a tender Mozartian orSchubertian atmosphere. Rodrigo described thework as 'written in terms of the 18th centuryeclogue...inspired more or less by springtime,which, as you know, has inspired composers towrite a great deal'.
Preludio de anoranza (Nostalgic Prelude) hasa special significance, being the last piano pieceRodrigo ever wrote. Commissioned by theAlbeniz Foundation to commemorate thecentenary of the birth of Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982), it was first performed in Madrid by JoaquinSoriano on 21st March, 1988. The compositionevolves between three motifs, poignant arpeggiopatterns, a melodic passage counterpointed in thebass with a downward scale and chordalinterludes. A short coda fades away into silence.
Berceuse de Printemps (Spring Lullaby),written during Rodrigo's first spring in Paris(1928), recalls childhood, musical boxes andspring's gentleness rather than any rush of activityor rejoicing after winter. Its companion, Berceused'Automne, (Autumn Lullaby) (1923), is a sombrepiece involving the multiple repetition of a singlechord some seventy times. In 1957 DeuxBerceuses would become the symphonic tonepoem, M??sica para un jardin.
Another apprentice work, Bagatela (1926)combines light dexterity and an abundance ofhumour. Dedicated 'To my friends, EduardoChavarri and Enrique Goma', the compositionrepresented a final retrospective gesture toRodrigo's Valencian years. Bagatela contains thatelement of sardonic humour in its impetuousrhythms and moods which Rodrigo neverrelinquished, as well as a delight in his ownkeyboard mastery.
Cuatro estampas andaluzas (Four AndalusianPictures) 1946/52), were written, as the composercommented, 'under the sign of the Andalusian',but do not feature 'the popular themes of thatregion'. Here Rodrigo created his own melodies tocelebrate Spain's south. El vendedor dechanquetes (The Whitebait Seller), is a livelyportrait of a street vendor offering chanquetes, akind of fried fish much loved in Malaga.
The mood changes in Crep??sculo sobre elGuadalquivir (Twilight over the GuadalquivirRiver) to evening in Seville, heralded by darkrecurrent patterns in the bass before the night lifeenters in brilliant array. Seguidillas del diablo(The Devil's Seguidillas), written at the request ofthe Spanish dancer, Udaeta, enacts Rodrigo'simpressions of the satanic dance, a genrespectacularly deployed by various composersincluding Paganini and Liszt. Barquitos de Cadiz(Little Boats of Cadiz), dedicated to the Britishpianist, Harriet Cohen, begins with an Adagio,evoking a sense of stillness at sea. The secondpart, marked Allegretto, takes the form of the pologaditano, a popular song and dance from Cadiz.
Beginning with rolling arpeggios, this sectiongro