Hard to Beat! Clara Rodriguez plays Moisés Moleiro (CD)

New review on Moisés Moleiro CD by Clara Rodríguez

by HOWARD SMITH

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‘Rodriguez’ generous programme touches on a diversity of moods: wistful, playful, tender, gentle, reflective, yearning, nostalgic, skittish, jocular, joyful, festive and exuberant spring to mind. For 1¼ hours of dazzling, undemanding musical enjoyment, this CD concert is surely hard to beat.’

Venezuelan-born pianist Clara Rodriguez has been resident in London since she was seventeen. She began serious studies at the Conservatorio Juan Jose Landaeta (Caracas) and subsequently trained at the Royal College of Music (London). Clara has toured in the Americas, Europe, Australia, China and the Far East.

Her tutors/mentors have been Paul Badura-Skoda and Phyllis Sellick. She was also influenced by Polska Nagrania recording artist, Regina Smendzianka (born 1924) while attending the Polish artist’s Chopin ‘masterclass’ in Caracas. Today, when not performing, Rodriguez is piano professor at the RCM (Junior Department). Her newly released CD — it first appeared on ASV CD DCA890 in 1994 — is devoted entirely to Moisés Moleiro’s enchanting, superbly crafted short works for piano. When he was six, pianist and composer Moleiro had just three months tuition with Manuel Sansón. In 1924, he began four years of music studies in Caracas with piano pedagogue Llamozas. He graduated in 1927 and presented his first recital in 1931. Moleiro founded Orfeón Lamas, where he made a valuable contribution as composer. In addition, he was professor of piano at the Caracas Musical Declamation Academy (today ‘José Angel Lamas’). His works have been performed in the United States, Europe and many Latin American countries.

Rodriguez begins her recital with five sonatinas (16’34”) followed by three toccatas (7’14”). ‘The Pequeña Suite’ has five items: ‘Dance Air’, ‘Waltz Time’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘The Gentleman with the Wig’ and ‘The Harpsichord’.

Tracks 14 and 15 are alloted (respectively) to ‘Preludio’ (1’29”) and ‘Fuga’ (1’42”). ‘Suite Infantil’ consists of tracks 16-18: ‘The knife grinder’, ‘The cradle’ and ‘The birds’. ‘Dos Miniaturas’ (tracks 19 and 20) are ‘The Girl from the Blacksmith’s’ and ‘The Blacksmith’.

To end Rodriguez adds six titled items including Estampas del Llano (‘Pictures of the plains’) — track 25, the longest separate item (9’05”) in the entire programme. Moisés Moleiro was a contemporary of Venezuelan musicologist, educator and composer Vicente Emilio Sojo (1887-1974) who became conductor of Orfeón Lamas. In addition Sojo was founder-conductor and tenacious advocate of the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra. In 1940 together with other composers he prepared the first song book for Venezuelan children. Sojo’s legacy is preserved in the Vicente Emilio Sojo Latin American Institute of Research and Music Studies (established 1978) to honour his role as founder (in the early twentieth century) of the Nationalistic School of Composition (also known as Escuela de Santa Capilla).

The five Sonatinos are largely bouyant, bustling, helter-skelter and consistently melodic. They’re not invested with any significant depth but scored instead for their pleasurable, playful exuberance. At times Moreiro’s inventions appear to be poised between eighteenth century classicism and something hovering on the brink of nineteenth century romanticism as in the G minor Sonatina, No 4 (track 3).

During his bewitching Pequena Suite (tracks 9-13), the dichotomy is perfectly illustrated by comparing ‘Waltz Time’ and ‘The Gentleman with the Wig’.

The third and final item of Suite Infantil titled Los pájaros (The Birds) has echoes of Balet nevylupivshikhsya ptentsov (‘Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks’) from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Serenata al estilo español (‘Serenade in the Spanish style’, track 23) with its easy ‘romantic’ mode, includes a short segment (2’04”-2’28”) in pure latin guitar style. Rodriguez is most decidedly an ideal Moleiro advocate; her performances are so alive with outstanding crystalline serenity and naturalistic pellucid phrasing.

In the second of two miniatures (1st: ‘The Girl from the blacksmith’s’ and 2nd: ‘The Blacksmith’), the busy workman briefly envisions ‘The Girl’ (0’39”-0’44”) as he toils. Estampas del Llano, a piece of contrasted folk-like moods, deserves to be a staple item far more in recitalists’ repertories than is presently the case. Here Moreiro’s open, unaffected hallmark character is leavened with the more sombre aspect of Venezuelan lore. (1’00”-4’14” and 7’47”-8’58”)

Though this programme has the bulk of its roots in aspects of European musical traditions Moleiro was a tireless proponent of (Venezuelan ‘joropo’), musica llanera from plains south and east of Caracas. In 1882 joropo became Venezuela’s national dance though hitherto the word joropo (Spanish) meant ‘a party’. Similarities may be found in (selected) works of Chabrier, Ravel, de Falla.

How appropriate then to conclude with Moleiro’s Joropo, an unflagging, propulsive, carnival piece to set toes tapping, heels clicking and skirts flying.

Rodriguez’ generous programme touches on a diversity of moods: wistful, playful, tender, gentle, reflective, yearning, nostalgic, skittish, jocular, joyful, festive and exuberant spring to mind. For 1¼ hours of dazzling, undemanding musical enjoyment, this CD concert is surely hard to beat.

Copyright © 9 June 2017 Estate of the late Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand

 

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