Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez (CD review)

Also, Invocacion y Danza; Fantasia para un gentilhombre; Falla: Homenaje; Danza del Molinero. Milos Karadaglic, guitar; Yannick Nezet-Seguin, London Philharmonic Orchestra. DG/Mercury Classics B0020039-02.

Spanish composer and pianist Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999) wrote his Concierto de Aranjuez in 1939, and it has since become probably the most-popular guitar concerto in the world. As such, it is almost a written law that every classical guitarist worth his or her salt must record it at one time or another. In 2013 it became Montenegrin guitarist Milos Karadaglic's turn. Milos joins the ranks of such heavyweights as Narciso Yepes (HDTT, DG, Decca), Angel Romero (Mercury), Pepe Romero (Philips), Carlos Bonell (Decca), John Williams (RCA), Xuefei Yang (Warner), David Russell (Telarc), Julian Bream (RCA), Sharon Isbin (Virgin), Christopher Parkening (EMI), and about 800 other classical guitarists who have given us excellent performances of the work. Fortunately, Milos holds his own, and he will not disappoint his fans.

Milos's approach to the Concierto is notably romantic. Not that it's any slower or more sentimental than other player's have taken it; it just sounds a bit lusher and more luxuriant than most. There's nothing wrong with this approach; it rather fits the mood of the music. What Milos does best of all is to create a fine Spanish atmosphere for the music. We get a feeling for the ornate patios, sunlit terraces, and redolent gardens of the Aranjuez palace. What he does next best is present us with a lovely Adagio, haunting and evocative. This may not be the most thrilling or lively account of Rodrigo's work, but it is sweet and sensitive, and I think that's exactly what most folks would want from it, especially Milos's followers.

Next come two pieces for solo guitar by Spanish composer and pianist Manuel de Falla (1876-1946): "Homenaje," a homage to Claude Debussy, and "Danza del Molinero" from El sombrero de tres picos. Milos lends them an appropriately Spanish flavor, still well within the Romantic tradition but taking up the inflections and nuances of the landscape more than capably.

Then it's back to Rodrigo, starting with an appropriate transition, the "Invocacion y danza," a solo homage to Falla. It's one of the best pieces on the program, with Milos appearing greatly to savor the color and shadings of the music.

Milos Karadaglic
The album concludes with Rodrigo's Fantasia para un gentilhombre ("Fantasy for a gentleman"), which the composer wrote on commission for the great Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia and which Segovia premiered in 1958. It's essentially another concerto for guitar and orchestra, this time courtly and stylish, drawing its tunes from the seventeenth-century Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz. Milos handles it in a refined and stately manner, filling it with rich detail, without quite the romantic countenance he conveyed in the Concierto. The third-movement dances have a particularly zesty bearing to them.

Maestro Nezet-Seguin and the London Philharmonic know enough to stay out of Milos's way, lending a solid support without ever overshadowing the soloist's work.

Producer Sid McLauchlan and engineer Rainer Maillard recorded the music at Abbey Road Studios, Studio 1, London (Concierto, Fantasia) and Nikodemus-Kirche, Berlin (Homenaje, "Danza," "Invocacion") in August and September 2013. The recordists have captured a pleasingly agreeable sound, warm and comforting. In the orchestral pieces, the orchestra appears well spread across the front speakers, with the soloist centered in front of them. In terms of dimensionality, it isn't a particularly realistic sound, though, the guitar a bit larger than life and the orchestra somewhat lacking in depth. The transients are pretty soft, too, and in the solo numbers there's a fairly resonant environment, so don't expect audiophile-quality sonics. But, as I say, it's a pleasant enough sound, easy on the ear and matching Milos's romantic interpretation of the music.

Finally, and not that it matters, the folks at DG have chosen to include fully ten pictures of Milos on the packaging and in the accompanying booklet, plus a shot of his hands. And although Joaquin Rodrigo and Manuel de Falla are the featured composers on the program, there is nary a mention of them on the jewel-box cover. Just sayin'.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

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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.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa