Recently, I wrote about the extraordinary orchestral music of 20th-century Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999). In that piece, I lauded a collection of Rodrigo’s orchestral work, all conducted by the esteemed Mexican conductor Enrique Bátiz with three different orchestras. Today, I would like to share with you the best and most complete recordings of Rodrigo’s piano music, a two-disc set by Gregory Allen and Anton Nel (two piano and piano four hands works).
I wish other music CDs had as much detail about each of the pieces as the enclosed booklet by Gregory Allen and Linton Powell has, nicely indexed by CD track in the margins of the narrative. They write: “The present recordings represent the first complete collection of Rodrigo’s original piano music for two and four hands, omitting only a few transcriptions and lost early works.” In a footnote, they detail the works that are excluded. I am familiar with only one of these, the Cinco piezas del siglo XVI of 1937, which is worth seeking out.
At the end of the documentary Shadows and Light, made when Rodrigo was 90, there is a spellbinding performance of Zarabanda lejana (Distant Sarabande) of 1926. I’m pretty sure the recording they used was the one on these discs. The tempo and sensitivity of this performance is perfect. I have another recording that seems rushed by comparison, and it ruins the mood.
Here we have 2 hours and 33 minutes of delightful piano music composed by Joaquín Rodrigo, sure to increase your appreciation for this great 20th-century composer. Of course, I have a number of favorites.
- Zarabanda lejana (Distant Sarabande)
- Cinco piezas infantiles (Five children’s pieces), for two pianos
- Sonatina para dos Muñecas (Sonatina for two Puppets), for piano four hands
- Gran Marcha de los Subsecretarios (Grand March of the Subsecretaries), for piano four hands
- Atardecer (Dusk), for piano four hands
- À l’ombre de Torre Bermeja (In the Shadow of the Crimson Tower)
- Plegaria de la Infanta de Castilla (Prayer of the Princess of Castile), from Cuatro piezas para piano
If you need any more convincing that this recording is a “must have”, here are words written by Joaquín Rodrigo himself.
“Gregory Allen’s recording of my works for piano is excellent. His magnificent technique and his authentically fine interpretation satisfy me completely.”
—Joaquín Rodrigo, Madrid, 1991