- A stunning copy of this London album from 1959 with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
- The sound here is glorious, full of all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving
- The presentation is shockingly three-dimensional, with an exceptionally wide and deep stage
- The sound of the orchestra is as rich and sweet as would be expected from the Decca engineers, yet the guitar is clear, present and appropriately placed relative to the ensemble around it
- Managing to balance, so effortlessly it seems, these two dissimilar elements, in 1959 no less, requires an enormous amount of skill and effort
- Fifty-odd years later, those of us with good turntables are profoundly thankful for their achievement, with respect to both performance and sound
This vintage London pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What Amazing Sides Such as These Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Incredible sound, coupled with such a famous performance, make this one a Must Own. Never harsh, thin, dry or shrill (the way some Londons can be), there is strong low bass and lots of space and dimensionality to the sound.
If you were only to be allowed one Guitar Concerto recording, this would probably be the one to own. You will recognize the main theme instantly; it’s the one Miles Davis appropriated for the astonishingly innovative Sketches of Spain album he did with Gil Evans.
Dynamic, rich and Tubey Magical with good space and a wide, deep stage. Unlike our other copies, the loudest string passages never get shrill from compressor or limiter problems.
The sound opens up and clears up here like practically no other we’ve heard. A Top London Whiteback!
What We’re Listening For on this wonderful recording
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
The Sound of the Strings
On some copies of this album the strings are dry, lacking the full measure of Tubey Magic we know the tape to have. If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do. Certainly you are less likely to be bothered by it. Our 17DX is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard. While it certainly makes our shootouts much easier, it does bring out the flaws in all but the best pressings — exactly the job we require it to do.
Joaquín Rodrigo / Concierto De Aranjuez
Joaquín Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Spain, on November 22, 1901. In 1926, he moves to Paris, and becomes a student of Paul Dukas at the Schola Cantorum. From the French composer, Rodrigo learns the post-Debussy art of orchestration—the science of combining various instruments to create new sonorities, as well as the imaginative use of each intrument’s particular color.
In the first movement of the Concierto, for example, the answer to the guitar’s quasi-ostinato is given to the distinct and incisive attacks of the woodwinds, thus sustaining its rhythmic energy and vitality. In sharp contrast of mood, the characteristic rhythmic motion—alternating subdivisions of 2 and 3 beats per bar of the 6/8—is then picked-up, sotto voce, by the string’s spiccato. Similarly, it is the natural melancholy of the English horn—reminiscent of Ravel’s use of the instrument—that is chosen to answer the desperate chant of the guitar.
Apart from Paul Dukas, the general musical climate in France in the late-1920s—the neoclassical Six—also had an influence on Rodrigo’s style. The typical pointillism of neoclassicism endows the orchestral texture with a much-needed transparency, without forfeiting the instrumentation’s rich luster, thus ensuring the guitar’s audibility.
Even though Rodrigo calls for a full orchestra—2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trombones, and strings—rarely are all instruments used together. Certain only provide brief commentaries, darken or enlighten the palette (as if a mosaic), and Rodrigo chooses with care—according to the rhythmic impulse, the desire to produce a purely Spanish tone, or even to underline the color of a particular key—which instruments will accompany the guitar.
The Concierto de Aranjuez was premiered in 1940, and has since been, with the composer’s Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre, one of the most appreciated pieces of the repertoire for guitar and orchestra.
Manuel de Falla / Nights in the Gardens of Spain
- I. En el Generalife (In the Generalife): Allegretto tranquillo e misterioso
- II. Danza Lejana (A Distant Dance): Allegretto giuso
- III. En los Jandines de la Sierra de Córdoba (In the Gardens of the Sierra de Córdoba): Vivo
“Without Paris I would have remained in Madrid submerged and forgotten, said Falla, who spent seven years in the French capital hobnobbing with the likes of Debussy, Dukas, Albéniz, and Fauré. In 1909, he began a series of solo piano pieces titled Nocturnes. Albéniz and pianist Ricardo Viñes convinced him to score the music for piano and orchestra.
Returning to Spain in 1914, Falla continued to work on what he now called Nights in the Gardens of Spain, first in Barcelona, and later at the home of Catalan painter Santiago Rusiñol in the coastal fishing village of Sitges. Some say the music was inspired by Rusiñol’s paintings of Spanish gardens.
Other possible sources of inspiration are poems by the French Francis Jammes or the Nicaraguan Rubén Darío. The influence of the impressionism of Falla’s French friends has been detected by more than one writer. The first performance of Nights in the Gardens of Spain was given on April 9, 1916 by the Madrid Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Enrique Fernández Arbós, with pianist José Cubiles.
Subtitled “Symphonic impressions for piano and orchestra, in three parts,” the work has three movements, each bearing its own subtitle. The first, “In the Generalife,” refers to the fourteenth century summer palace built by the Moors near the Alhambra in Granada.
“The mere enumeration of the titles should be sufficient guide to the hearer,” said Falla. “The music has no pretensions to being descriptive: it is merely expressive. But sometimes more than the sounds of festivals and dances has inspired these evocations in sound, for melancholy and mystery have their part also…. The composer has followed a definite design, regarding tonal, rhythmical and thematic material…. The end for which it was written is no other than to evoke places, sensations and sentiments…. The themes employed are based on the rhythms, modes, cadences and ornamental figures which distinguish the popular music of Andalusia, though they are rarely used in their original forms. The orchestration frequently employs certain effects peculiar to the popular instruments used in those parts of Spain.”
The opening germinal theme is virtually identical to a zarzuela melody by Amadeo Vives. Both musicians had lived in the same house in Madrid where an old blind violinist played the tune in the street below.
Biographer Jaime Pahissa describes the three movements: “The first is pure atmosphere–all soft and languid orchestral sounds with pleasing chords and a short simple melodic theme like the primitive songs which are so deeply rooted in man’s daily life, in his prayers, street cries, lullabies and childhood songs.
“The second and third both have a dance-like quality. The former, distant and dreamlike at the outset, develops and grows more animated, passing without pause to the latter, which is strongly rhythmical but which, even so, ends in a melancholy vein. These two dances and the first nocturne contain the two characteristic aspects of Andalusian music, for they alternate between a vague nostalgic quality and a brisk, exciting rhythm.”
The score calls for solo piano, piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, celesta, piano, timpani, triangle, cymbals and strings.
Concerto For Guitar And Orch. (Concierto De Aranjuez) – Joaquín Rodrigo
Allegro Con Spirito
Nights In The Gardens Of Spain (Noches En Los Jardines De España) – Manuel de Falla
In The Generalife
In The Gardens Of The Sierra De Cordoba