Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*
- Both sides of this wonderful classical guitar masterpiece on lovely boxed Decca UK vinyl boast outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER
- The sound of the orchestra is as rich and sweet as would be expected from the Decca engineers, yet the guitar is clear, present and appropriately placed relative to the ensemble around it
- Glorious sound from the first note to the last, brimming with the wonderful qualities that make listening to classical music in analog on top quality audiophile equipment so involving and pleasurable
- Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs - there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
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*NOTE: There is a visible mark about 1/3 from the end of side 2 that plays 14 times at a moderate level.
If you were only to be allowed one Guitar Concerto recording, the Concierto De Aranjuez would probably be the one to own. You will recognize the main theme instantly; it’s the one Miles Davis appropriated for the astonishingly innovative Sketches of Spain album he did with Gil Evans.
The second picture in this listing is the original London, CS 6046, from which the piece is taken. It is a longtime member of the TAS List, and deservedly so.
This vintage Decca pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Guitar Concerto / Fantasía Para Un Gentilhombre Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1959
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The Sound of the Strings
On some copies of this album the strings are dry, lacking the full measure of Tubey Magic we expect the tape to have. If you have a rich sounding cartridge, perhaps with that little dip in the upper midrange that so many moving coils have these days, you will not notice this tonality issue nearly as much as we do. Certainly you are less likely to be bothered by it. Our 17DX is ruler flat and quite unforgiving in this regard. While it certainly makes our shootouts much easier, it does bring out the flaws in all but the best pressings -- exactly the job we require it to do.
What We're Listening For On Guitar Concerto / Fantasía Para Un Gentilhombre
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Powerful bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The guitar isn't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. It's front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put it.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Record
Guitar Concerto / Fantasía Para Un Gentilhombre is a recording that belongs in any serious Classical Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Concerto For Guitar And Orch. (Concierto De Aranjuez) - Joaquín Rodrigo; conductor - Ataúlfo Argenta
- Allegro Con Spirito
- Allegro Gentile
Fantasìa Para Un Gentilhombre – Joaquín Rodrigo; conductor - Rafael Frühbeck De Burgos
- Villano & Ricercare
- Españoleta & Fanfares Of The Naples Cavalry
- Hatchet Dance
Joaquín Rodrigo / Concierto De Aranjuez
Joaquín Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Spain, on November 22, 1901. In 1926, he moves to Paris, and becomes a student of Paul Dukas at the Schola Cantorum. From the French composer, Rodrigo learns the post-Debussy art of orchestration—the science of combining various instruments to create new sonorities, as well as the imaginative use of each instrument's particular color.
In the first movement of the Concierto, for example, the answer to the guitar's quasi-ostinato is given to the distinct and incisive attacks of the woodwinds, thus sustaining its rhythmic energy and vitality. In sharp contrast of mood, the characteristic rhythmic motion—alternating subdivisions of 2 and 3 beats per bar of the 6/8—is then picked-up, sotto voce, by the string's spiccato. Similarly, it is the natural melancholy of the English horn—reminiscent of Ravel's use of the instrument—that is chosen to answer the desperate chant of the guitar.
Apart from Paul Dukas, the general musical climate in France in the late-1920s—the neoclassical Six—also had an influence on Rodrigo's style. The typical pointillism of neoclassicism endows the orchestral texture with a much-needed transparency, without forfeiting the instrumentation's rich luster, thus ensuring the guitar's audibility.
Even though Rodrigo calls for a full orchestra—2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, trombones, and strings—rarely are all instruments used together. Certain only provide brief commentaries, darken or enlighten the palette (as if a mosaic), and Rodrigo chooses with care—according to the rhythmic impulse, the desire to produce a purely Spanish tone, or even to underline the color of a particular key—which instruments will accompany the guitar.
The Concierto de Aranjuez was premiered in 1940, and has since been, with the composer's Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre, one of the most appreciated pieces of the repertoire for guitar and orchestra.
Joaquín Rodrigo / Fantasìa Para Un Gentilhombre (Fantasia for a Gentleman)
- I. Villano y ricercar
- II. Españoleta y fanfarria de la caballería de Nápoles
- III. Danza de las hachas
... Rodrigo's second most popular work after the famous Concierto de Aranjuez.
The four movements were based on six short dances for solo guitar by the 17th-century Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz, taken from a three-volume work (1674, 1675, 1697) now commonly known as Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra española (Musical Instruction on the Spanish Guitar) (Donis 2005:75). Most of the movements retain the names that Sanz originally gave them. Rodrigo expanded on Sanz's themes to produce a work lasting more than 20 minutes.
Rodrigo composed the concerto in 1954 at the request of guitarist Andrés Segovia, who was evidently the gentilhombre referenced in the title. Segovia took the solo part at the premiere performance on March 5, 1958, in San Francisco. The San Francisco Symphony was conducted by Enrique Jordá.