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Cordero: Caribbean Concertos For Guitar & Violin / Romero, Figueroa, I Solisti Di Zagreb

Release Date: 12/13/2011 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572707  
Composer:  Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Pepe RomeroGuillermo Figueroa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti di Zagreb
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 52 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CORDERO Concierto Festivo. 1 _?nsula. 2 Concertino Tropical 2 1 Pepe Romero (gtr); 2 Guillermo Figueroa (vn); I Solisti di Zagreb NAXOS 8572707 (51:33)

This highly impressive CD features the music of Puerto Rican composer Ernesto Cordero (b.1946), which strikes me like a Read more ton of bricks. The Concierto Festivo, written in 2003 and dedicated to the wonderful guitarist Pepe Romero, is here played by the dedicatee, and a spectacular piece it is. The first movement almost sounds, like the first movement of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, as if it starts in the middle, so vibrant and febrile is its musical material, so charged and syncopated are its rhythms. It’s almost hard to believe that the composer felt from the start, in writing it, that he was “doomed to fail.” The second movement begins with dazzling string tremolos, perfectly executed by I Solisti di Zagreb, which then move into an alternation of solo guitar figures with the strings. (Romero, by the way, loves this concerto, calling it divinely inspired, “filled with a virtuosity which is always there to serve the music.” I completely agree.) The harmonic progression is almost minimal, yet fascinating in that it’s more a study in parallel harmonies than show-offish atonalisms, and when Cordero does push the envelope, as in a marvelously dramatic guitar break in the second movement, it is always (as Romero puts it) to enhance the music, to give it form and structure, not just to impress the listener that Cordero can actually do such things. Again to quote the composer, “aligned with this Afro-Antillean music we find echoes of old Spain, spattered with strums and touches of Flamenco music.” The third movement, despite being marked Energico , actually starts with slow half-notes and more string tremolos before the guitar takes off in a whirlwind moto perpetuo that is then accompanied by short, sliding glissando figures, though a slow-tempoed break comes in before the guitar again ramps up the tempo.

?nsula, a violin concerto inspired by aspects of Puerto Rico, was dedicated to Guillermo Figueroa, violinist and conductor of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. He is the soloist here along with I Solisti di Zagreb, with which he premiered the work in Croatia in 2009. Each movement has a pictorial title as well as a tempo indication. The first, “Paisajes” ( Andante con anima ), is an imaginary trip looking at different portions of the island’s geography using a modal and Minimalist style. The violin solo, though wide-ranging, is built around scales and arpeggios, and from the outset Figueroa shows himself to be a fine violinist with a sweet yet bright tone and fluid technique. The second movement, “Jájome” ( Andante affabile ), is named after a mountain ridge that apparently fills Cordero with serene peace. The music certainly reflects that, as I Solisti play with their strings muted as Figueroa weaves a simple yet charming melody around their rhythmic figures. Cordero admits that this movement was influenced by Satie’s Gymnopédies. The third movement, “Las Indieras de Maricao” ( Andantino misterioso ), reflects the composer’s impression of the town of Maricao, so remote that it was the last refuge for the Taino Indians, and is built around a minor pentatonic scale—as Cordero puts it, “five sounds without semitones.” He also uses several quarter tones, glissandi, and trills in the solo violin part to get, as he puts it, “closer to the indigenous aesthetic,” though to my ears the energetic interlude in the middle almost makes the music sound Chinese. The last movement is “Fantasía salsera” ( Allegro ritmico ), and is based on Afro-Caribbean rhythms, though in the middle of the movement the feeling changes as the musicians move into a section marked lento giocoso where the violin plays on the open strings before moving back into Afro-Caribbean rhythms for the final section.

Concertino Tropical is the earliest piece on this disc (1998), and in some ways it is more energetic and uninhibited than the preceding two works. Inspired by elements of nature in Puerto Rico (the Witch-Herb, mahogany trees, and the golden hummingbird), it was dedicated to violinist Henry Hutchinson, and premiered by him in Puerto Rico in 1998. Again, Cordero’s music combines ostinato rhythmic figures of great urgency with modal harmonies; one might define this as his musical signature. Figueroa plays a remarkable, virtuosic cadenza at the end of the first movement. In the second, depicting the mahogany trees, Cordero again falls back (as in the second movement of ?nsula ) to sparse orchestral textures and muted strings, here (as he describes it) imitating European Renaissance music. The brief last movement, less than a minute and a half long, really puts pressure on the soloist, who runs with tremendous speed and no breaks through all the registers of the violin while the string orchestra provides harmonic support.

The jewel-box insert claims that these are not the first recordings of the first or third concertos, but it is the world premiere version of ?nsula. I would wager that this version of the Concierto Festivo is the same one also available on DVD (Mel Bay 22202), since the soloist and orchestra are identical; I cannot find any other recording of Concertino Tropical so I have no idea what other one exists. Regardless, this disc is very highly recommended!

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Concierto festivo for Guitar by Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Pepe Romero (Guitar)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti di Zagreb
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 2003 
Insula by Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Guillermo Figueroa (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti di Zagreb
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 2009 
Concertino Tropical by Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Pepe Romero (Guitar)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti di Zagreb
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Great CD August 4, 2012 By norma s green (los angeles, CA) See All My Reviews "Great Cd - Pepe Romero is always good, together with the violin is beautiful. Glad I purchased it." Report Abuse
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