An Encore and More… and More and More

May 19, 2016
 
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They were guitar heroes long before many whose names you might bring to mind. In fact, they were on the Ed Sullivan Show as a foursome a few years before The Beatles made their first appearance on the show.

They began performing as a guitar quartet in 1960. That was rather unusual in classical music at the time. What made it especially unique was that all 4 players were members of the same family. Los Romeros featured Celedonio Romero and his 3 sons: Pepe, Celin and Angel. Celedonio was an accomplished guitarist and composer who taught the instrument to his sons. On some of their recordings over the years, they would be joined by Celedonio’s wife Angelita, a singer and actress, who provided the percussion of castanets.

May 10th marked the 20th anniversary of the passing of Celedonio Romero. The legacy of Los Romeros continues with Pepe and Celin joined by Celin’s son Celino and Angel’s son Lito. Pepe’s daughter Angelina is a pianist who performs with her father on occasion. Pepe Jr. is a guitar builder whose instruments are played by the quartet. He must have inherited some of the gifts of his great grandfather, who was an architect from Màlaga, Spain. The story is told that he and his wife were in Cuba for the construction of a concert hall when Celedonio was born in 1913.

A number of years ago, I had the chance to sit at a table and conduct an interview with the original members of Los Romeros. As you might imagine, I was somewhat in awe. It was around the time that they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. Much of the interview was with Pepe and Angel. Celin was rather quiet and Papa Romero didn’t seem to be all that comfortable conversing in English, though he did respond to a couple of questions by simply complimenting his sons. He then walked around the table and during the rest of the interview proceeded to hug them and place kisses on their heads.  

Recalling the interview, I imagined he would have wanted me to remember him not as a soloist, but performing with his sons. On the Classic Morning Prelude on May 10th I played the opening of the Concierto Andaluz by Joaquín Rodrigo, which was written for Los Romeros in 1967. They recorded the work twice. The earlier recording was in 1967 with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, led by Victor Alessandro (Mercury 434369). The original LP cover as well as the re-issued CD booklet photos remind us of how young they were at the time. Their second recording of the work was done with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 1975 (Philips 400024). By then, the concerto had their name on it in more ways than one.

Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky decided not to keep his father’s family name. Though he was born Gennady Nikolaevich Anosov, he knew he would have been recognized simply as the son of the famous Russian conductor and teacher Anatol Anasov. Instead, he chose a variant of his mother’s family name. His mother, Natalya Rozhdestvensakya, was a soprano. Gennady Rozhdestvensky still managed to become a famous conductor in his own right. Rozhdestvensky, who is married to pianist Viktoria Postnikova, celebrated his 85th birthday on May 4th.

May 8th marked the 25th anniversary of the death of pianist Rudolf Serkin, the best-known member of the musical Serkin family. Serkin, whose father was a singer, married Irene Busch, the daughter of violinist Adolf Busch. Serkin performed with Adolf Busch for many years, from the time he lived with Busch’s family in Berlin. His son Peter is a pianist and his daughter Judith, a cellist. His grandson, David Ludwig is a composer.

Rudolf Serkin holds the record for one of the longest encores in music history. I came across a story he told about his debut performance in Berlin at age 17 as related by Donal Henanan of the New York Times. Serkin had performed in one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with an ensemble led by Adolf Busch. Afterwards, Busch encouraged him to play an encore. Serkin asked Busch what he should play. Busch jokingly said: the Goldberg Variations. Serkin innocently took his advice. In case you’re not aware, the complete Variations by Bach can last as long as 90 minutes, depending upon the player. Serkin said that only 4 people were left by the end of it all: Busch, pianist Arthur Schnabel, musicologist Alfred Einstein and Serkin himself.

Hopefully if you join us for Classic Mornings, you’ll be able to stay until the very end! Tune in Monday through Friday from 9 am to noon, and for the Classic Morning Prelude just before at 8:50 am on FM 90.9 and online at will.illinois.edu.


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