Wednesday, 13 September 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, September 2017)

LALO Symphonie Espagnole
MANÉN Concierto Español
Barcelona Symphony / Darrell Ang
Naxos 8.573067 / *****

There is a long-standing joke that the best Spanish music was written by French composers. The most famous work titled Symphonie Espagnole (Spanish Symphony) was composed by Édouard Lalo (1823-1892) - a Frenchman - in 1875 and was actually a violin concerto dedicated to Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo Sarasate. 

On this disc of Spanish violin concertos, one gets the complete five movement version, including the fiery central Intermezzo which is occasionally omitted, as in Jascha Heifetz's famous RCA Victor recording.

Its coupling is the Concierto Español (Spanish Concerto) by the now-forgotten Joan Manén (1983-1971), who was a prodigy on both violin and piano. His 1897 three-movement concerto was dedicated to Fritz Kreisler and has every bit the Mediterranean flavour, infectious rhythms and charm of the Lalo. The central Lamento is particularly beautiful, book-ended by two spirited movements of hot-blooded Hispanic drama. 

The supreme irony is that Manén was from Barcelona, in the state of Catalonia that is seeking to break away from Spain. The excellent Barcelona Symphony supports the Chinese wunderkind Yang Tianwa, who had recorded Sarasate's solo and concertante works to great acclaim, and Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang. Whoever says music is not universal should listen to this and ponder.

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