I recently discovered this version featuring the phenomenal flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía. Now a favorite.
Many interesting things about this piece, in no particular order:
- Brilliant understanding of the guitar and the drawing out of several orchestral instruments in dialogue, especially in movement two. Composer Joaquin Rodrigo, though not a guitarist, captures the flavor and versatility of the instrument as if he were a player.
- Speaking of that second movement, it was “pirated” (Rodrigo’s wife Victoria’s term) by Miles Davis for the lp Sketches of Spain. Miles clearly understood the music too, having said, “That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets.” Señor Rodrigo eventually came to a degree of peace with the Gil Evans’ big band arrangement with Mr Davis, but Victoria never did.
- Continuing on that middle section, it later came out that the composer’s inspiration for the music was his honeymoon and his wife’s miscarriage. Perhaps that contributes to the understanding of the bitterness about the jazz version, plus the sublime presentation of the music.
- Paco de Lucía was not as steeped in the classical guitar methodology, but his experience in a more “folk/pop” style (How does one categorize flamenco as a genre?) adds so much more to the performance. I detect a bit of improvisation here too. Also, the tempo of this piece: I’ve never heard it quite this fast. After his collaborations with other guitarists, and the 70s emphasis on speed, Señor de Lucia came to move away from that kind of virtuosity in the 80s/90s, but this recording doesn’t mean he’s lost an edge.
- Perhaps the most telling commentary: the composer liked this soloist’s version better than any other he had heard.