Juanjo Mena, the Spanish conductor at the helm of the BBC Philharmonic, is taking us on a trip to Spain, blazing with colours, sounds, and fragrances. The programme opens with Danzas fantásticas (1919), the best-known work by Joaquín Turina. Although originally written for piano solo, it is the orchestral version that has become famous.
Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez takes us to the gardens of the royal palace in Aranjuez, which King Philip II had built in the sixteenth century. Rodrigo perfectly succeeded at evoking the sounds of nature through music. He describes the first movement as being “full of rhythm and energy”, the second movement is a dialogue between the harp and soloists in the orchestra on oboe, bassoon, English horn, and French horn. The third movement is an imitation of a courtly dance. The premières took place in 1940 in Barcelona and Madrid with solo guitar. It was not until 1974 that Rodrigo transcribed the work for harp at the request of Nicanor Zabaleta. Famous versions of the Concierto de Aranjuez have also been recorded by flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía and jazz trumpet player Miles Davis, who took inspiration from the slow movement.
Iberia from Debussy’s orchestral work Images leads us through the streets and the paths of Spain, the fragrances of the night, and the morning of a festive day. The concert will then conclude with one of the most famous compositions, Ravel’s Bolero. It would not have taken much and this classical “hit” might never have seen the light of day. At the request of Ida Rubinstein, Ravel had originally just wanted to orchestrate Albéniz’s Iberia, but he was long unable to acquire the rights to it. By the time he finally succeeded, Ravel already had a different plan: “Write a theme that lasts about a minute and repeat it for eighteen minutes.”