Review By Chris Hathaway,88.7 KUHF News,July 2009
The exquisite tenderness of 71-year-old Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo’s song cycles sets these works apart from much of what is being written today. Maria Bayo and Pepe Romero are most expressive partners. The style of writing is unmistakably “contemporary”, but tonal and accessible. The Sephardic songs are especially moving—the first two, especially: Penas de amores (The Pain of Love), which Palomo labels a madrigal, and Linda de mi corason (My Heart’s Beauty) are a perfect pair, leading into the other songs very smoothly. There is an underlying sadness about these songs, whose strong ethnic flavor probably has something to do with the fact that Palomo (who currently lives in Berlin) is a native of Córdoba, where
The Concierto de Cienfuegos, completed in Berlin eight years ago, was premiered by the forces heard in the recording. The first movement carries on the strongly Andalusian coloring of Mi jardin solitario and is superbly idiomatic. The second movement, which Palomo calls Canto a la noche (Song to the Night), is richly evocative, opening with the guitarists playing chords against high string harmonics. Soon, a lyrical melody for flute emerges; this movement closes with an even greater and penetrating tranquility. The problems of balancing the delicate voice of the guitar with a large orchestra are deftly handled. The finale is a percussion-happy, toccata-like piece (five beats to the bar) which, says the composer, says that “Cienfuegos never sleeps...the frenetic sounds of the bongos and congas can be heard until the break of day.”
Lorenzo Palomo’s “new romanticism”, for want of a better term, is a breath of fresh air in the early twenty-first century. As was the case with his spiritual forebears Albéniz and Tárrega, his music greatly benefits from the incorporation of native and ethnic elements. He seldom quotes folk material but evokes folk idioms in his work. It’s interesting that a Spaniard living in Berlin—like, to give one example of many, Frederick Delius (an Englishman living in southern France)—thinks more intensely of his native land than he did while a resident there. Naxos has already recorded several of Palomo’s compositions, as well as those of several other contemporary Spanish composers. One can only hope for more.