The technical challenging of balancing a choir singing at full volume and a guitar, renowned for its gentle sound, has tended to discourage composers from pairing these resources. Handled sensitively, however, the combination yields a seductive sound-world, full of mystery and imagination, tending in this trio of works to evoke a reassuring feeling of familiarity: there is balance, a sense of form, awareness, and respect for a past that is renewed while it nourishes the present. At the peak of his maturity in 1959 and in a burst of creativity, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco set to music seven poems by Federico García Lorca as a cycle, Romancero Gitano Op.152. The vocal writing is limpid, capturing the colours and contrasts of Lorca’s text, whether it is representing the placid flow of three rivers (Baladilla de los Tres Rios) with an incessant stream of semiquavers, or depicting Carmen’s dance through the streets of Seville with an elegant and slightly grotesque “Tempo di Seguidilla” (Baile). Everywhere, what shines through, to quote the composer, is a sense ‘of the Spanish lands: the parched Castile, the pale olive groves, the scent of the orange orchards in Andalusia and, along the coast, the sea which breaks at the shore with vibrations, almost, of a guitar.’ Receiving their first recordings here are Nulla Sors Longa Est by Nicola Jappelli (b.1975) and Materna by Nicola Campogrande (b.1969). Jappelli’s chosen text was written by the Roman philosopher Seneca, and addresses the concept of happiness, ending with a bitter reflection on human frailty. Campogrande’s piece has a more positive outlook, celebrating motherhood in a commission from the guitarist on this recording, Nicolò Spera, to mark the birth of his daughter. Campogrande has set four texts – also in Latin – by the contemporary poet Marco Vacchetti, who was in turn inspired by Renaissance-era nativities painted by Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, Luini and Solari.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s soulful settings of the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca are the most affecting songs of the lot. Nicola Spera, Professor of classical guitar at the University of Colorado, is a fabulous guitarist, so with his flamenco-inspired playing, the orange trees and olive groves of Andalucia sound fragrant indeed.
– American Record Guide