Pianist Clara Rodriguez is one of the most distinguished of the present generation of international pianists. Clara’s programmes have consistently contrasted traditional classical music with the output of South American composers. Since coming to London to study at the Royal College of Music with Phyllis Sellick, she has performed extensively as a soloist at Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and at St John’s Smith Square and has toured in Europe, India, Egypt, Tunisia and the Americas. In Caracas, aged sixteen she made her debut playing Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra under the baton of José Antonio Abreu.
Photography by Antolin Sánchez
” Clara Rodriguez makes the most of her innate feel for the exuberant and languorous, dispatching the toe-tapping cross-rhythms with panache and a light touch. This is a treasure chest from which to cherry-pick.” Gramophone
We didn’t have to travel as far as Caracas last night to experience the distinctive, atmospheric sounds, rhythms and textures of Latin American music. Bolivar Hall is attached to Venezuelan Embassy’s cultural complex in London’s Fitzrovia, a short walk from Goodge Street or Warren Street Tube stations. London-based Venezuelan-born pianist Clara Rodriguez has curated a short series of concerts at Bolivar Hall over the course of the last month, showcasing the talents of established artists as well as up-and-coming young musicians in concerts featuring the best of South American classical music and jazz. In the final concert of the series, she was joined by Efrain Oscher (flute), Cristóbal Soto (mandolin, cuatro, guitar), Gabriel León (double bass) and Wilmerr Sifontes (percussion) to present a musical journey from Argentina to Puerto Rico with a selection of Tangos, Joropos, Merengues, Waltzes, Salsas and Sambas. From the foot-tapping sambas and merengues of Brazil and Venezuela to the passion and pathos of the tango (most notably in Astor Piazzolla’s heartfelt ‘Adios Nonino’, a hommage to his grandfather), the musicians played with commitment and conviction, and a very palpable and infectious sense of pleasure and musical friendship. As a classically-trained pianist (she was a pupil of the late Phyllis Sellick at the Royal College of Music), Clara brings a deep understanding of musical shape and expression, phrasing, dynamic shading, texture and beauty of sound to her playing, even in the more raucous and rousing pieces. But her Venezuelan heritage shines through in her ability to handle with apparent ease.. Frances Magdalene Wilson
“This appears to be a reissue of a recital previously available on ASV (ASV CD DCA 890), and recorded, I believe, in 1994. It is good to have it back in circulation, as it offers a well-played representation of an interesting composer.
Moleiro was born in Zaraza in Venezuela and in the mid 1920s he studied piano in Caracas with a well-known teacher, Don Salvador Llamozas. He went on to make a career as a pianist, composer and teacher. This present CD includes the bulk of the work he wrote for the piano.
Most of the music here is not strikingly Latin American in manner, although there are a few distinctive touches here and there which speak of its geographical origins. For the most part Moleiro’s piano music has about it a kind of aristocratic grace, and works within mostly European models understood from a South American perspective. At times one senses a kind of nostalgia for European forms and what they might represent. One is not surprised to encounter ‘El senor de la peluca’ – the gentleman with the wig – or to find oneself listening to a charming Waltz.
Moleiro’s Sonatinas are written in the tradition of Scarlatti (though being far from mere pastiche); his Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor have more than a little of Bach about them; the Serenade in the Spanish Style speaks for itself; the Estudio de concierto has clear affinities with Chopin and the delightful La fuente registers its composer’s knowledge of Ravel and Debussy. But everywhere there is enough evidence of a personal sensibility at work to maintain the listener’s interest. At times Moleiro’s programmatic miniatures – such as La muchacha de la herrería (the girl from the blacksmiths), El herrero (The blacksmith) and Los pájaros (The birds) – are attractive additions to a familiar keyboard tradition.
The last two pieces on the CD are the most distinctive. Certainly Estampas del llano (Pictures of the plains) and Joropo are far more thoroughly infused with a sense of the composer’s native land, and without that nostalgic air mentioned above. Though the musical language of Estampas del llano is essentially European in nature, its evocation of the Venezuelan plains, in their contrasting fecundity and aridity, makes it music that no European composer would have written. The joropo music of Venezuela grew out of the fusion of ancient Spanish traditions, including the fandango and the malagueña (themselves incorporating Arabic influences) with the musics of African slaves and of native South American Indians. It is a heady mix and from it has grown some exciting music. A good deal of that excitement is captured in Moleiro’s Joropo for piano, played with considerable panache by Clara Rodriguez.
Throughout this recital the sureness of Rodriguez’ technique is evident, and her flexibility ensures that she can sound at home in all of the various musical idioms on which Moleiro’s piano music touches. This makes for a consistently entertaining programme – a CD that makes a case, without overstatement, for the music of a figure too little known beyond his native land.” Glyn Pursglove. Music Web International