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Pepe Romero

Dates 28 May 2005, 8pm Venue: Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer John Jane


 

 

Rossini Overture from L'Italiana in Algeri Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez Richardson GO! Beethoven Fifth Symphony in C minor, Opus 67


Conductor Michael Christie Guitar Pepe Romero

Pepe Romero
Pepe Romero

Virtuoso classical guitarist, Pepe Romero may be wondering why he doesn't visit Vancouver more frequently. His concerts at the Orpheum and the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver were entirely sold-out and scalpers outside the Orpheum on Saturday evening were asking inflated prices for tickets.

Everyone wanted to hear the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo, perhaps the most famous guitar concerto ever written. Rodrigo wrote it in 1939, when he was living in Aranjuez, a Spanish summer resort. The celebrated second movement has been arranged by everybody from Miles Davis to television commercial arrangers.

The story of how the movement originated was touchingly told by Pepe Romero in an interview with guest conductor, Michael Christie and screened prior to the artist's performance. Rodrigo wrote the melody at a tragic time in his life. Living with his wife Victoria in Paris in the 30s, they discovered that Victoria was pregnant, but when she miscarried, Rodrigo became deeply saddened. He exorcised his grief by creating the melody on the piano.

The work opened with the solo guitar and the dancing strings of the violins introducing introducing the basic motif of the first movement. The third movement was light and airy, with a constantly changing rhythmic pattern. The tone of the second movement was dramatically distinct from the others, beginning with a haunting oboe solo impeccably played by Beth Orson, introducing the melody.

The Concierto de Aranjuez is one of the best loved of all concertos. The combination of Pepe Romero's mesmerizing but subtle playing, and instinctive grasp of the Spanish musical idiom ensured that this would become one of the most memorable performances seen on The Orpheum's stage this year.


 

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At the conclusion of the full-length concerto, the audience responded with a well-deserved standing ovation, pressing the guitarist for a double encore. Romero obliged with one of his personal favourites, Fantasia, composed by his father and mentor, Celedonio Romero, followed by Francisco Tarrega’s well known Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra).

Michael Christie
Guest conductor, Michael Christie

The VSO rounded out the program with Gioacchino Rossini’s overture to L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) at the beginning of the evening and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at the end. Rossini's opera is getting more and more peformances in these days of the Rossini revival, and the overture is a staple on symphonic programmes. The orchestra under the baton of the vivacious Michael Christie offered a zestful interpretation of the overture, whose lustrous orchestration seemed weightless. His version of the Beethoven 5th was rousing and sweeping, with the symphony's large gestures and tensions conveyed with maximum enthusiasm.

Also featured on the programme was the world premiere of English composer Abigail Richardson’s “GO!” Commissioned for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the 3-minute piece is an ode to an individual athlete preparing for the big event. The piece was convincing as music for listening in a modern idiom.

The VSO could hardly have ended the “Musically Speaking” series on a higher note. With classical concert patrons clamouring to hear marquee musicians, how long before Vancouver needs a top class concert hall or opera house?

2005 John Jane

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