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MARCH 2017 | 'Secretos quiero descubrir': Spanish Music for Voice, Violin and Guitar

MARCH 2017 | 'Secretos quiero descubrir': Spanish Music for Voice, Violin and Guitar

By RAY PICOT

Secretos quiero descubrir (Secrets I Wish to Reveal) is the extraordinarily haunting album of Spanish song by the mezzo-soprano Gudrun Olafsdottir and the Roncesvalles Duo (Elena Jauregui, violin, and Francisco Javier Jauregui, guitar). This is their first recording together as a trio though they all have considerable international success individually and as two respective duos. The natural empathy between the trio is most perfectly distilled in this album, born of individual experience and performing together live. This recording conveys a wonderful lightness of touch, which makes it an absolute joy to explore.

The trio wear lightly their depth of understanding of the fascinating traditions that they explore, opening with two collections of music from the folk tradition, though each quite different. Colourful contrasts and characters are unlocked through the unstinting work of García Lorca in the five Canciones antiguas españolas, which sounds as fresh as ever, with a wide dynamic of songs and subject matters. The almost inward-looking, soul-searching poems from the extraordinary Hispano-Sephardic tradition come alive in the four songs which open the album, arranged idiomatically by Francisco Javier. Despite the trio’s clear respect for tradition, their approach, for me, seems to unlock the past and make it relevant today: the words and phrases may be old but the subjects are timeless. The violin and guitar provide a very articulate framework for the music that avoid overwhelming the emotional nuances of the songs. I watched several of the trio’s live performances online and was stuck by the naturalness of their balance and how this has been very cleverly translated to the album. I should add that Elena and Francisco Javier are not mere subjects of the wonderfully expressive Gudrun, an Icelander whose heart also beats for Spanish song, but each play their own parts with subtle virtuosity.

The next pieces build on the feeling of tradition, firstly with a lullaby, for which both the lyrics and music were written by Augustin Castila-Avila and arranged for these musicians, then an inspirational cycle of homages on Rodrigo, Mompou and de Falla by the composer-poet Eduardo Morales-Caso, written to a commission, and also premiered in this recording. Inspired by Jesús Mateo’s mural paintings, David del Puerto’s Prólogo is a substantial piece, and draws an imposing reading by the artists, who clearly connect with the composer’s intentions. These pieces may be unfamiliar to many listeners, but the musical language used is very approachable and it almost comes as a surprise to hear something that you recognise, though it will be the instrumental arrangement by Pau Casals. El cant dels ocells is of course a well-known Catalan folksong and veritably sings in this arrangement by Francisco Javier.

A purely instrumental interlude by John Barber, entitled Navarra Lullaby, evokes Spanish nights and, as the composer points out, takes time to live up to its title. It is a brilliantly evocative piece and shows how well this duo play on their own, particularly with such a well-written piece. The album ends by going back to Basque roots of the Duo's mother, with three attractive traditional folksongs which pay homage to her, and to ‘all mothers’, as the dedication reads. It may be the end of the album but I was left feeling the journey was just beginning for this beautifully balanced artistic trio. Each piece of music unlocks its own secrets which, once heard, you will want to return to. This album is a triumph, and I urge you to explore its beauties and catch the ensemble live! 

 

 

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