World-renowned Spanish classical and flamenco guitarist Pepe Romero plays Asturias (Leyenda), a musical work written by the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz; and Fantasia, by Celedonio Romero (2 March 1913 – 8 May 1996, the father of Pepe Romero), the guitarist, composer, and poet, perhaps best known as the founder of The Romeros guitar quartet. This performance was recorded on March 16, 2014, during the Tucson Winter Chamber Musc Festival. A really good performance, enjoy!
Albéniz’s Asturias (Leyenda)
Asturias (Leyenda) was originally written for the piano and set in the key of G minor, and first published in Barcelona, by Juan Bta. Pujol & Co., in 1892, as the prelude of a three-movement set of the composer, entitled Chants d’Espagne. Many have attributed the first transcription for guitar to the Spanish composer and classical guitarist Francisco Tárrega (21 November 1852 – 15 December 1909) who put it in its most recognizable key, E minor.
The name Asturias (Leyenda) was given to the piece posthumously by the German publisher Hofmeister, who included it in the 1911 “complete version” of the Suite española, although Albéniz never intended the piece for this suite.
Despite the new name, this piece is not considered suggestive of the folk music of the northern Spanish region of Asturias, but rather of Andalusian flamenco traditions. Leyenda, Hofmeister’s subtitle, means legend in English. The piece is noted for the delicate, intricate melody of its middle section and abrupt dynamic changes.
Albéniz’s biographer, Walter Aaron Clark, describes the piece as “pure Andalusian flamenco” with the main theme that mimics the guitar technique of alternating the thumb and fingers of the right hand, playing a pedal-note open string with the index finger and a bass melody with the thumb. The theme itself suggests the rhythm of the bulería – a song from the flamenco repertoire. The ‘marcato’/’staccato’ markings suggest both guitar sounds and the footwork of a flamenco dancer.
The piece sounds as though it is written in the Phrygian mode which is typical of bulerías. The second section is reminiscent of a copla – a sung verse following a specific form. Clark states that it is written in typical Albéniz form as it is “presented monophonically but doubled at the fifteenth for more fullness of sound. The music alters between a solo and accompaniment that is typical of flamenco.
The short middle section of the piece is written in the style of a malagueña – another flamenco-style piece. The malagueña borrows two motives from the previous copla and builds on them. The piece returns to its first theme until a slow “hymn-like” passage ends the piece.
Many have attributed the first transcription for guitar to Francisco Tárrega who put it in its most recognizable key, E minor. But, according to guitarist and guitar scholar Stephen Yates, the first guitar transcription of the piece was probably by Severino García Fortea, although Andrés Segovia’s transcription is the most famous and most influential. The piece has become one of the most important works of the classical guitar repertoire.
Pepe Romero (born March 8, 1944, in Málaga, Spain) is a world-renowned classical and flamenco guitarist. He is particularly famous for his outstanding technique and colorful musical interpretations of the instrument.
Since his first recording (at the age of 15) he has recorded over 50 solo albums and 30 albums as part of the famed guitar quartet The Romeros. He has played for Presidents Carter and Nixon, the Queen of the Netherlands, the Prince of Wales, and Pope John Paul II. He has numerous international recording awards to his credit and has received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of Victoria.
Pepe Romero’s contributions to the field of classical guitar have inspired a number of distinguished composers to write works specifically for him, including Joaquín Rodrigo, Federico Moreno Torroba, Rev. Francisco de Madina, Lorenzo Palomo, Michael Zearott, Enrique Diemecke, and his father, Celedonio Romero.
Pepe Romero is the second son of Celedonio Romero, who was his only guitar teacher. His first professional appearance was in a shared concert with his father when Pepe was only seven years old. In 1957 Celedonio Romero left Franco’s Spain for the United States with his family.
Celedonio Romero (2 March 1913 – 8 May 1996) was a guitarist, composer, and poet, perhaps best known as the founder of The Romeros guitar quartet. He was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, while his parents were on a business trip to the island. He began playing the guitar at the age of 5 and eventually studied music theory, harmony, composition, and counterpoint at the Conservatory of Málaga and at the Madrid Royal Conservatory, where he was taught by Joaquín Turina.
Celedonio never studied with a guitar teacher. Although he made his concert debut at the age of 22 and was well known in Spain, the Franco government refused to permit him to give concerts abroad, keeping him unknown from the rest of the world. His wife, Angelita, was a singer and stage actress who had studied at Málaga’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
After secretly obtaining an American visa, the family secured permission to visit an ailing relative in Portugal in 1957. However, rather than returning to Spain, the family settled in Southern California, and Celedonio and his three sons Celin, Pepe, and Angel started a guitar quartet, The Romeros, and also began to take on guitar students. Celedonio Romero was Christopher Parkening’s first teacher, and then Pepe also taught Parkening. Angelita Romero can be heard playing castanets on some of the quartet’s recordings.
Celedonio made a large number of recordings, both solo and with the Romeros, which appeared on the Delos and Philips labels. He also wrote over 100 compositions for guitar, including a dozen concertos.
Romero died of lung cancer at the age of 83 in San Diego, California. He was inducted into the Orden de Isabel la Católica by King Juan Carlos I. He was also made a “Caballero del Santo Sepulcro” (“Knight of the Holy Sepulchre”) by Pope John Paul II.
Los Romeros, The Romero Guitar Quartet, is a guitar quartet, sometimes known as “The Royal Family of the Guitar” – their personnel consists entirely of members of the Romero family.
The quartet was founded in 1960 by Celedonio Romero, who grew up in Franco’s Spain. All three of his sons, Angel, Celin, and Pepe, had made their performing debuts by the time they were seven. In 1957, the Romeros moved to the United States, where they continue to reside. In 1990 Angel left the quartet and was replaced by Celin’s son Celino. Celedonio Romero died in 1996 and was replaced by Angel’s son Lito.
The Romero Guitar Quartet
- 1960-90: Celedonio Romero, Celin Romero, Pepe Romero, Angel Romero
- 1990-96: Celedonio Romero, Celin Romero, Pepe Romero, Celino Romero
- since 1996: Celin Romero, Pepe Romero, Celino Romero, Lito Romero
- Asturias (Leyenda) on Wikipedia
- Pepe Romero on Wikipedia
- Celedonio Romero on Wikipedia
- The Romeros on Wikipedia
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