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ClassicsOnline Home » VILLA-ROJO: Concierto plateresco / Serenata / Concierto 2
Jesús Villa-Rojo is one of the most dynamic figures on the Spanish music scene today. Almost all Villa-Rojo’s works of the last twenty years or more feature certain constants originating from Spanish musical tradition, some melodic or modal, others based in specific intervals or colours. In the Concierto plateresco, he filters these through the prism of the Renaissance, a high-point in Spanish cultural and artistic history. Written in 2004 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Reina Sofía Chamber Orchestra, the sparkling Serenata too has points of reference in musical history, both past and present. Concierto 2, for cello – here given in its revised version, with string orchestra – is a key work in Villa-Rojo's compositional career. Dating from 1983, the work is notable for its instrumental virtuosity and pent-up dramatic tension.
By David Denton
Jesús Villa-Rojo (b. 1940)
Concierto plateresco • Serenata • Concierto 2
Jesús Villa-Rojo is one of the most dynamic figures of Spanish contemporary music. His long endeavour as a clarinettist and his study of new concepts of the sonorities of his instrument, have inspired the creation of dozens of new works in Spain and abroad, premièred either by himself or by the Laboratory for Interpreting Music (LIM), the ensemble he founded in 1975 and has directed ever since. His research activities, especially in the area of graphic notation, have been explored in a number of publications. As a cultural director he has organized and co-ordinated a host of musical events, among them programmes for the LIM (Madrid), the BBK/Contemporary Music Festival (Bilbao) and the Alicante International Festival, as well as managing the Centre for the Diffusion of Contemporary Music.
Born in Brihuega, Guadalajara, in 1940, and educated in Madrid and Italy, Villa-Rojo's compositions, almost two hundred works, covering all genres, have been widely performed in Europe and America. His style, based during the 1970s on experiments with sonorities and certain forms of aleatoric music, has subsequently concentrated on refined expressiveness in which conceptual aspects assume particular significance. Throughout his career he has received many important accolades including the National Prize for Music, the Gran Premio Roma, and the Béla Bartók and Koussevitzky Awards.
Certain musical elements (intervallic, melodic, modal and also colour) from the Spanish musical tradition remain constant over two decades in almost all Villa-Rojo's works. In Concierto plateresco (1997) for oboe and string orchestra, these aspects take shape through reference to the Renaissance, one of the epochs of the greatest splendour not only in music but in all Spanish art. Composed as a single movement, the concerto derives its inspiration from the architectural style of the period known as plateresque (from platero, a silversmith), characterised by rich ornamentation. As is true of architecture, the concept of ornamentation in the concerto represents only an outward appearance, because ornamentation here is not antithetical to substance when in reality ornamentation and substance become one and the same. Stock examples of what might usually be regarded as ornamentation, such as fairly brief melodic and rhythmic gestures or simple melodic embellishments, achieve here a kind of continuum divided between soloist and orchestra, which brings about immense flexibility – the density of the music perpetually expanding and contracting, the internal rhythm speeding up and slowing down, its intensity increasing and decreasing, taking shape altogether as a single discourse, the very substance of the music.
Composed in 2004, the Serenata too finds reference points in the musical history of the past, whether long ago or more recent. But here there are no direct quotations, no shared indications or other ways of revealing the dialectic interplay between past and present. Villa-Rojo's intention in this score is to shatter that dialectic from within, using the characteristic, specific sound of a large string orchestra, those same sonorities that we hold in our memory as listeners, thanks to the predominant works of the repertoire. The Serenata unfolds in a single line, but is divided into three major sections. The first of these is an impulsive allegro ritmico, the second a dreamy, delicate adagio, while the third returns to the original rhythmic impulse but this time refined by the cantabile qualities of the second section. Drawing on tradition, La Serenata maintains its characteristics of spontaneous, brilliant, or 'light' music, entirely different from the dramatic tensions to be found in Concierto 2 and other works by Villa-Rojo. As such, it is ideally suited for the circumstances in which it was written, a commission from the Queen Sofía Chamber Orchestra to celebrate their twentieth anniversary.
Concierto 2, for cello (presented here in a revised version with string orchestra), is of tremendous significance in Jesús Villa-Rojo's development. Dated 1983, the aesthetic principles and stylistic characteristics that would distinguish all his subsequent work up till now, can be found clearly defined. The concerto consists of three movements where the relationship between soloist and orchestra is that of mutual independence with substantial amounts of instrumental virtuosity. This should not, however, be seen as just demonstrating the soloist's attributes but rather as a means of developing to the full the musical material inseparable from the instrument itself. This entirely idiomatic cello writing is what unerringly guides the music, like a compass, from beginning to end, containing within its depths an expressive content that Villa-Rojo desired to release. The concerto is full of dramatic tension, as if the notes actually sounding coexist in the score with something more profound, felt but not heard, tension which represents an impulse for the music to communicate on its own terms over and above the composer's creative intentions.
Translation: Graham Wade
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