Joaquín Rodrigo: Fantasía para un gentilhombre
Composed in 1954 for guitarist Andrés Segovia, Fantasía para un gentilhombre (Fantasia for a Gentleman) was premiered by Segovia and The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Enrique Jordá. Fantasía is Rodrigo’s second most popular work, after his beloved Concierto de Aranjuez.
Fantasía takes to representing four short dances originally penned by Spanish composer, Gaspar Sanz. Rodrigo keeps the same titles as Sanz, but adapts his music to create a substantial concerto for guitar and orchestra.
Movement I – Villano y ricercar
Opening with a sweet lyrical melody that is passed between the guitar and the orchestra. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. The passing around of the main theme is shadowed in future movements as a pertinent structural choice from Rodrigo. The quick passing of themes in unison creates unity between the soloist and orchestra, which then makes even more of an impact when solo lines are showcased.
The second half of this movement, called Ricercar, is a short piece that contrasts the Villano. Born from a two-bar phrase, the Ricercar is based around fugal movement. Rodrigo utilises the woodwind here, who supports the soloist in the first section of the Ricercar. As the excitement builds between the soloists repeated phrases and the decorative orchestra, the opening movement comes to a glistening close.
Movement II – Españoleta y fanfarria de la caballería de Nápoles
The somewhat haunting melody that starts the second movement brings back Rodrigo’s beloved lyrical style. By far the longest movement of the four, this movement is drawn out and developed at a much slower pace. The rich orchestral accompaniment elevates the solo lines as melody grows from within. The contrasting central sections, also known as ‘The Fanfare for the Cavalry of Naples, is much faster in tempo and sees the brass and percussion enter the mix. The energetic change is welcomed after the drawn out opening section, however this theme then returns to conclude the movement.
Movement III – Danza de las hachas
The energetic ‘Dance of the Axes’ is pushed forward by the quick dance beats. The intricate call and response figures between the soloist and orchestra creates a fizz around the music that is so exciting to hear. The shortest of the four movements, this dance acts as an interlude between two much heavier movements.
Movement IV – Canario
Based on a folk dance from the Canary Islands by Sanz, Rodrigo pays homage to birds and the island landscapes. The memorable melody is distorted at times due to the use of crunching dissonances, however these are then resolved. The tension is quite high during most of this movement, with the call and response figures once again playing into this structure. The jaunty melody and dissonant harmony work hand in hand to create a colourful take on this classic folk dance from the Canary Islands. The movement concludes the concerto with excitement and joy.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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