Rodrigo Centenary Concert – 7 October

El hijo fingido – Suite
Concierto de Aranjuez
Música para un códice salmantino
Triptic de Mossèn Cinto
Cántico de San Francisco de Asis

Emily Bauer-Jones (mezzo-soprano)
Gerard Quinn (baritone)
Ángel Romero (guitar)
Exeter Philharmonic Choir

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Raymond Calcraft

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 7 October, 2002
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

Nearly the Rodrigo 101 concert. Joaquín Rodrigo was born on 22 November 1901. He died in 1999 having been blind since the age of three. Grove’s description of his music as “tuneful and smoothly colourful Hispanicism” sums it up.

This concert looked beyond the guitar concerto that keeps Rodrigo’s name alive. Its performance here was perfunctory and rendered null and void by the soloist being amplified! With Romero sitting in one place and his sound emanating from another – high-positioned loudspeakers – the guitar dominated to an unnatural degree. A big-image guitar with a natural-acoustic orchestra made for perverse changes of perspective – an insult to Rodrigo’s lucid scoring and to intelligent listening. Romero’s encore, a Fantasia by his father, was on an altogether different level, amplification or not.

While one or two of Rodrigo’s other concertante pieces are performed, and a couple of his large-orchestra works make an impact (and are quite original), the selection tonight opted for smaller forces mostly with choir and vocal soloists. Eighteenth-century pastiche and folk-derived material more than played their part; maybe performances less literal and careful than these seemed to be would have helped lift the music off the page. The RPO’s professionalism couldn’t disguise that more work was needed, not least on balances. The choir was good and appeared au fait with its role; both singers were excellent, the mezzo especially.

The music itself, while not without vivacity or expressive curves, and with occasional striking harmonies and touching refrains, was enjoyable for Rodrigo’s unpretentious and warm communication, yet naïve and trite ideas and repetition of them palled. Certainly, in these renditions, there was nothing to remove the feeling that Rodrigo is a one-work composer.

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