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Luis De Pablo

Danzas Secretas for harp and orchestra
Frondoso Misterio for cello and orchestra


Frédérique Cambreling (harp), Asier Polo (cello) & Orquesta Sinfonika de Euskadi & Basque National Orchestra/Arturo Tamayo


Basque Music Collection Vol. 11 Claves: 502817

Luis de Pablo (b. 1930) is one of the most iconic cultural figures of postwar Spain, a Spanish national treasure.

The disc comprises two substantial works for solo instrument and orchestra, the first a very recent composition for harp and orchestra, Danzas Secretas. It was composed in 2007 and was commissioned by the Basque National Orchestra. Frondoso Misterio was composed in 2001-2002 and was commissioned by the Madrid Symphony Orchestra.

De Pablo is a very prolific composer who has a natural, masterful talent for writing truly engaging and colourful orchestral music. Danzas Secretas is very elegantly scored & shows the composer’s great taste and eclecticism for colour. It is masterly in its precise relocation of colours, smooth changes of timbre, its controlled sense of music drama and meaningful dialogue between the harp and the orchestra.

The composer’s intent was very much for the two forces (harp and orchestra) to mirror each other. At times, the harp prescribes the orchestral material, and at other, it grows from it; sometimes it even appears as a separate entity, the grand soloist, so to speak, whilst at others, it merges with the orchestra to create one fused sound.

The composer uses the whole arsenal of technical means to achieve maximum timbral contrast; the work, in many parts, really feels more like an abstract post-Impressionism painting, partly due to the colourful lyricism.

Formally, it has a classical symphonic structure, but in places, it also feels like a reinvented concerto of some sort. Being able to orchestrate just enough and allow the sound of the harp to develop requires great skill, and Luis de Pablo does this magnificently. That is part of the rationale of using a mid-sized orchestra, but making full use of all the instruments available. The composer not only explores the harp’s rich timbral possibilities but also the ways that these sounds can blend with the orchestra. The accompaniment or interaction with the harp is always rich and complex but still allows for dynamic and register space for the harp to shine.

The imaginative and ever changing textures range from dividing the strings into 13 parts to using a plethora of technical devices to achieve maximum colour. One cannot but feel a sense of fulfilment towards the end of the work, when all rhythms, colours and textures merge into a strikingly repeated chord by the harp and percussion.

Frondoso Misterio, unlike the previous work, actually states in the title that it is a concerto for cello and orchestra.

A long sustained and repeated single tone is played first by the violins before the cellos join. The soloist then comes in on a lower minor 3rd. Intervals of 3rds and 5ths are extremely important in this work, and this becomes progressively obvious as the action unfolds. De Pablo’s preoccupation with colour is also evident here from the very start where the main timbral contrast is only provided with a varied use of vibrato.

In contrast to the previous work, nevertheless, this cello concerto has a more traditional profile. Here, the cello “sings” in accordance with many famous concerti for the instrument, but this song is of a richly enhanced quality; it has a lyricism that is appropriate and meaningful for a 21st century audience.

The cello here is certainly the protagonist and the roles of the orchestra and the solo instrument are always clearly demonstrated. Timbral and functional integration and fusion is, nevertheless, also evident at points, and it is especially so at moments of such integration where the composer creates some of the most strikingly unique textures and colours of the whole work.

Frondoso Misterio is certainly a work that will appeal to cellists regardless of background, and typical to the composer’s oeuvre, this is music that gets to you directly, regardless of training and background, simply because it is great music.

Harpist Frederique Cambreling gives a superb performance here. Her outstanding command of dynamics, colour and articulation, her sensitive approach to each sound and her refined interpretation of phrase development is central to the success of this piece and in showcasing the composer’s creative intention.

Asier Pollo shows the qualities of a great musician too as evidenced in this gripping performance. His controlled use of vibrato and drama as well as his eloquent fade ins and outs contribute much to communicating the music directly to us, even through a CD recording. His excellent classically refined technique makes him a musician able to interpret new music just as effectively as traditional.

Arturo Tamayo conducts the orchestra and soloists with extreme accuracy, vigor and attention to detail and sound perfection throughout. All the textures, all the sounds, all the phrases are excellently controlled; the tempi feel just right, and the orchestral balance is always first-rate. He manages to achieve a truly commanding sound from the excellent Basque National Orchestra, a very new orchestra indeed that deserves wider attention and recognition. The chemistry between the music (composer), the conductor, the soloists and orchestra is incomparable and seems like the perfect partnership. The orchestra’s playing is clean and transparent, and productions like these will certainly help lift the orchestra’s artistic profile worldwide.

Evis Sammoutis