Interchange: Concertos by Rodrigo and Assad (CD review)

Rodrigo: Concierto Andaluz; Assad: Interchange. Los Angeles Guitar Quartet; David Amado, Delaware Symphony Orchestra. Telarc TEL-31754-02.

This CD from Telarc is a "first" of several kinds: It's the first recording of a concerto by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet; it includes the world-première recording of Sergio Assad's Interchange for Guitar Quartet and Orchestra; and it's the compact disc debut of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. Oh, and there's also Joaquin Rodrigo's celebrated Concierto Andaluz at the center of things.  Not a bad deal.

The program begins with Rodrigo's Concierto Andaluz, a work the composer wrote in 1965 expressly for the Romeros, the first family of guitar virtuosos. Naturally, I used their old Mercury (1967) and Philips (1978) recordings of the Concierto as comparisons and did not find the LAGQ's version lacking. The LAGQ are, if anything, even more intense than the Romeros in the opening movement, marked Tempo de Bolero. Although the tempo seems at first a little too fast paced, it quickly grows on you. Then the LAGQ attend to the charming Adagio that follows, lovingly molding and caressing it in a way that would make any of their mentors among the Romeros proud. Finally, they launch into the closing Allegretto with enthusiastic vivacity, again taking the music at a healthy clip.

After Rodrigo's Concierto, we get Brazilian composer Sergio Assad's Interchange, which he wrote expressly for the LAGQ and whose content exactly matches the composition's title; namely, it's about the casual meeting of people on a four-level L.A. freeway interchange, the movements themselves referring to various roads and driving. The piece interweaves different musical styles from Brazilian to Spanish to Asian and Jewish, from Hollywood to jazz and blues, all of it tailored to the individual members of the Quartet.

Interchange gets off to a rousing start with "Sephardic Passage," a movement that reminds one of something by Rodrigo with a kind of Hebrew overlay. Frankly, I was afraid that the new work was going to be one of those contemporary, atonal, cacophonous, avant-garde things, but it isn't. It falls squarely into the traditional classical framework and should be highly accessible to most modern listeners.

I loved the flamenco and percussion elements of the second movement, "Gypsy Slopes," suggesting, perhaps, the ebb and flow of traffic. The quiet central movement, "Pacific Overlook," brings a note of tranquility to the proceedings with a pleasantly lilting melody; and that's followed by an even more leisurely jazz-inflected segment, "Forroblues Detour," that picks up steam as it goes along with an infectiously pulsating beat. Interchange concludes with a brief, colorful finale, "Crossings," that combines thematic threads from the four preceding movements.

As I say, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet along with Maestro David Amado and his Delaware Symphony Orchestra play the music as affectionately as one could want, combining commitment with fluency, grace, and high good spirits. And Telarc's audio engineers do their part in bringing the affair to disc with sound that is at once warm and smooth yet rich and acceptably detailed. While the stereo spread unfolds widely between the speakers, the four guitars appear nicely integrated into the whole without being unduly forward or engulfed by the orchestra. Still, as sweet as the sonics are, I kept wishing the Telarc disc possessed the kind of transparency and air displayed by the old Mercury recording of the Romeros. Ah, well, we trade ultimate definition for a realistically ambient bloom. Fair enough.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa