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Pepe Romero + Frühbeck de Burgos + CSO = Perfect Collaboration

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 2, 2013 - 1:35:41 PM in reviews_2013

Pepe Romero (left) and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.

Correr no camine – “run don’t walk” in Spanish – to Music Hall tonight for the repeat of Friday’s Cincinnati Symphony concert featuring guitarist Pepe Romero and guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.

You will never hear a better performance of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.  For that matter, you may never hear a better performance of Manuel de Falla’s “Three-Cornered Hat.”  (Both works are by Spanish composers.)

With the Spanish maestro on the podium, every flavor, color and nuance was beautifully realized.  Not only did Frühbeck work hand-in-glove with his countryman Romero, but the CSO clearly loves their former creative director (2011-13) and they played their hearts out for him.

Rodrigo’s concerto was fully at home in the vastness of Music Hall. The well-loved work, with its heart-squeezing Adagio, pits guitar against orchestra, so balances must be carefully crafted and they were.  This made for some magical moments, as at the wisp-like end of the first movement, where the colors of the guitar and orchestra remained clearly distinct. The performance was a study in collaboration, with Frühbeck attending closely to Romero to achieve perfect synchronization between guitar and orchestra.

The Adagio was sublimely musical, with Christopher Philpotts delivering an exquisite statement of the principal theme. Romero was the soul of introspection in the intricate cadenza, which Frühbeck meshed just-so with the re-entry of the CSO. There was another magical moment in the finale, with the strings performing pizzicato against soft strumming by Romero. 

Frühbeck was equally at home in Suites No. 1 and 2 from Falla’s “Three-Cornered Hat,” a ballet about a miller and his wife and an official (the Corregidor) with designs on her.  The music simply sparkled in his hands, from fandango to farce, as the wife flirts with the Corregidor and mistaken identities lead to confusion and a final, good-natured resolution.

Principal bassoonist William Winstead was right on target as the buffoonish Corregidor, and Frühbeck reveled in shaping the jota (the final dance) in Suite No. 2.  The concluding blanket toss -- the punishment served on the Corregidor at the end of the ballet – was punctuated at the end with castanets, wielded by no less than three percussionists.

Frühbeck opened the concert with the Symphony No. 3 (“Rhenish”) by Robert Schumann.  It was an affectionate reading, by turns festive, buoyant (the Scherzo, suggestive of the Rhine River), solemn (the fourth movement, evocative of Cologne Cathedral) and joyful (the finale), with every note by the CSO in place.

The concert repeats at 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall.  Tickets begin at $12 at (513) 381-3300, or online at www.cincinnatisymphony.org 

(first published in the Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 2, 2013)