Garcia, Ponce, Rodrigo - Junhong Kuang. © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Magic and Mystery

GERALD FENECH listens to music for guitar and orchestra played by Junhong Kuang, Darrell Ang and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice

'An attractive assortment of guitar music from both sides of the Atlantic, marvellously executed and recorded, with some well researched notes thrown in for good measure.'


The guitar concerto has fascinated composers and the public for many years. The reason for this is simple to comprehend, for when the softer sounds of the classical guitar are combined with the power and strength of the orchestra the resulting sound world is one that conjures up the passion and romance of the Latin peoples, creating an aura of magic and mystery. Since the first part of the twentieth century a number of such concertos have been written, performed and recorded. Some of them, even by eminent composers, have been neglected, for various reasons, after a handful of performances. But a few others have remained in the repertoire and, of these, none more than Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez.

Joaquín Rodrigo was born on 22 November 1901. In 1905 he contracted diphtheria and by 1907 he lost his sight completely. Despite this huge setback, he went on to live to the ripe old age of ninety-eight, becoming a famous composer along the way. His output is considerable and in many genres, but his most famous work will always remain the Aranjuez Concerto of 1939. Indeed, this piece was destined to be the most celebrated guitar work of the twentieth century. Since its premiere it has received hundreds of performances and a myriad of recordings, and has also been arranged to fit in film music and jazz concerts as well as a ballet sequence. Although just over twenty minutes long, the concerto is a whirlwind of colour, excitement and passion in the outer movements, while the memorable 'Adagio', which takes half the time of the whole work, is the real heart of the concerto. Intricately ornamented themes, a soulful and reflective 'cadenza' and a superb climax resolving out of passion into serenity are all unforgettable ingredients of this quite captivating movement.

Listen — Rodrigo: Allegro gentile (Concierto de Aranjuez)
(track 3, 0:00-0:54) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Manuel Ponce (1882-1948) is the founding father of twentieth century Mexican music. In 1923 the legendary Andres Segovia and Ponce met in the latter's home country, and from that time onwards, the composer devoted himself to writing many pieces for the guitar, nearly all of them dedicated to Segovia. The latter, on his part, was full of admiration for Ponce's works, and his judgement is proof enough of the mastery of the composer. Segovia has written: 'Large or small, they are all of them pure and beautiful'. The Concierto del Sur (Concerto of the South) was composed throughout 1940 and completed in January 1941. It is a work of grandeur and substance, though the orchestration is light and transparent. Sevillian dances and melodic richness are also vivid aspects of this work.

Listen — Manuel Ponce: Andante (Concierto del Sur)
(track 5, 0:00-0:54) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

The programme is completed by China Sings by Gerald Garcia (born 1949). The work is a rhapsody inspired by two popular Chinese tunes. Originally written in 2013 and dedicated to the then twelve-year-old prodigy Junhong Kuang and his teacher Professor Xu Bao, the piece is highly virtuosic despite its modern oriental soundings and short playing time.

Listen — Gerald Garcia: Dark Sky, Silver Clouds (China Sings)
(track 7, 4:51-5:42) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

An attractive assortment of guitar music from both sides of the Atlantic, marvellously executed and recorded, with some well researched notes thrown in for good measure. A must for all guitar aspirants and aficionados.

Copyright © 17 September 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta





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