El mozo de mulas – Prelude & Popular Dance
Concierto de Aranjuez
The Three-Cornered Hat – Suites 1 & 2
Mussorgsky, orch. Ravel
Pictures at an Exhibition
Craig Ogden (guitar)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 25 November, 2011
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall
Earlier, Craig Ogden has been amplified – nadir and anathema rolled into one – for Rodrigo’s guitar concerto. The guitar’s image became larger than life (rather like being too closely recorded) and sounded somewhat edgy. The composer may have sanctioned such action for larger concert halls, but in the Royal Festival Hall’s immediate and unencumbered acoustic the magnification was at-odds with the LPO’s naturalness (fine solos from cellist Timothy Walden and from Sue Bohling on cor anglais) and detracted from a stylish performance by all concerned.
Eduardo Portal is an impressive young conductor; he possesses a lucid technique used in service of the music and with a clear idea of what he wants. He also has an innate relish for what he conducts. Either side of Rodrigo were other Spanish pieces. The orchestral diptych from El mozo de mulas (The Muleteer) suggests that the death of short-lived Antonio José (1902-1936, he was shot in the first days of the Spanish Civil War) robbed music of a significant composer: Artur Rubinstein called him “a new Falla.” We were not told why his opera The Muleteer has never been performed (it seems to have been completed), for on the strength of the beautiful ‘Prelude’, with hints of Wagner and French Romanticism rising to a steamy climax, and ‘Popular Dance’ – suggestive of festive folk gathering for a colourful ceremony – then the stage-work itself seems well-worth investigating.
Portal and the LPO gave José’s lovely and exhilarating music with sympathy and panache; and in the ‘old’ Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat suites (just over half of the complete score) the conductor brought fastidious attention to orchestral detail and dynamics to leave in no doubt as to there being a narrative behind the notes. With nifty speeds that never seemed rushed, and with some malleability, the score was brilliantly brought off, the LPO incisive, deft and expressive.