Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Sweet española

El Jaleo (detail), John Singer Sargent

It's hard to believe that Pepe Romero, one of the greatest living classical guitarists (if not the greatest) only made his debut at Symphony Hall this past weekend. (I guess the BSO just had too many piano and violin soloists to work through before they could get to him!) Romero made up for lost time, however, with a moving, meditative take on Rodrigo's famous Concierto de Aranjuez and an intriguing rendition of selections from Lorenzo Palomo's Andalusian Nocturnes (Palomo himself was on hand for the performance, and, clearly moved, came out to kiss Romero at its finish). The selections from the Nocturnes seemed a little slight until the gorgeous Cordoba, which was built around a haunting exchange between Romero and the string section. As remarkable as this was, however, it was nothing compared to the second movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez,which rivals Rhapsody in Blue as pop concerto of the twentieth century due to its aching call-and-response between guitar and woodwinds (a sequence so poignant it could make the angels weep). The rest of the concert was less compelling, though led with bright authority by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, the brilliant Spanish conductor (see my earlier post) whose own ripe arrangement of the Suite española by Albéniz led the program. Here, again, the swooning Granada movement - borrowed from Cantos de España - proved most gripping; night music seems to be Spain's specialty. The suite from Falla's Three-cornered Hat proved a glittering closer, but seemed shallow (as dance music often does) compared to the yearning depths of what had come before. Let's hope we get to hear Romero again - and let's hope James Levine picks up a trick or two from Frühbeck de Burgos; it's wonderful to see a conductor lean in toward individual players, guiding them with gentle intensity, rather than watching the players lean in toward the conductor in an effort to follow his tiny beat. Adiós, Rafael - we'll miss you till next year.

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