Arriaga, Rodrigo, Sanz, Albéniz, Falla, Montes

The second night of the Royal Philharmonia of Galicia‘s visit to Salzburg’s Great Festival House with guest conductor Pablo González allowed the orchestra to confirm that it does indeed play with a full palette of warm Spanish colors.

Tonight’s program provided a wider sweep of Spanish music than yesterday.  The concert opened with the Symphony in d by Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga.  This was a curiosity, in the same sense as works on the Mozarteum Orchestra’s concert two weeks ago: a rarely-performed work by a little-known composer who made a splash in his own time (indeed, this same symphony is on the Mozarteum Orchestra’s next Thursday subscription concert program, which I would miss even if I were in Austria as it falls on the night of the second Seder).  Arriago, a child prodigy known as the “Spanish Mozart” (incorrectly according to the program, as he did not bloom as young as Mozart and was a contemporary of Schubert, whose early career he paralleled, meaning the program thought he should be known as the “Spanish Schubert”) wrote the work when he was about 18 years old – and he died 10 days shy of his 20th birthday.  The work was pleasant enough and may have been better than the curiosities on the Mozarteum Orchestra’s program last month (except for the Schubert “Unfinished” which this did not come close to matching).  What Arriaga might have accomplished if he had lived even as long as Schubert (who died at 31 years old), we can only guess.

Joaquín Rodrigo‘s Concierto de Aranjuez followed.  The orchestra once again provided full color.  Unfortunately, they miked the solo guitarist, Enrike Solinís.  What is with the microphones?  Granted the guitar does not project as much as some instruments, and must perform here with a full orchestra, but González seemed to be in control on the podium, so could and should have managed the balance.  Instead, at points the sound came across as very electric (and not in a good way).  We had a similar problem for the solo guitar piece Solinís provided as an encore (Canarios by Gaspar Sanz).

After the intermission came two excerpts from Iberia by Isaac Albéniz, in a new (and utterly terrible) orchestration by Jesús Rueda.  Rueda combined the instruments in dreadful ways, seemingly wanting to stress dissonance and combinations of sounds that did not quite go together, while jumping among instruments to break up all flow in the dancing lines.  If this orchestra had been prone to more errors elsewhere in the concert, I would almost believe the orchestra itself was a chaotic mess – but since the orchestra was consistently good everywhere else, with wonderful lines even when individual instruments were exposed, then I can only conclude that Rueda’s orchestration was a mess.  What a shame.

The final scheduled work repeated El Amor Brujo by Manuel de Falla that we heard last night.  It was once again a great success for the orchestra… but not for the soloist María José Pérez.  She was miked once again.  And while she understood the specialized style of Spanish Gypsy singing, the tinny twang from amplification just did not work.  I’ve heard better Spanish Gypsy singing anyway in my many years spending time in Spain, even in smaller spaces, but if she cannot fill a concert hall then she should go back to Almería to some small venue more her size.

She gave us a solo encore (a traditional Flamenco number) – but even here, singing solo without needing to project in front of an orchestra, she still used the microphone.  That’s just poor.

González came back out to lead the orchestra in a final encore Negra Sombra by Xoán Montes, the evocative Galician piece which they also performed last night, and which sent the audience out into the night inspired to make a pilgrimage to Santiago, perhaps.

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