C1924. ATALUFO ARGENTA Cond. Spanish National Orch.: Don Juan (Strauss); Symphony #5 in c (Beethoven); El Sombrero de tres picos (de Falla); w.NARCISO YEPES: Concerto de Aranjuez (Rodrigo). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1218, Live Performance, 7 May, 1950, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Relatively little-known today outside his native Spain, during his short life Ataúlfo Argenta did more than anyone to put Spanish music on the musical map, yet his life was dogged by cruel misfortune. In the space of only 20 years he was fêted as a national hero, almost executed by military firing squad, imprisoned (where he contracted typhus), and died bizarrely in his own car.
The son of a railway official in the northern coastal village of Castro-Urdiales, Ataúlfo Argenta was born on 19 November, 1913. As a child, Argenta showed considerable talent for the piano and was admitted to the Madrid Conservatory at the age of only 13. In 1931, he won the Kristina Nilsson Prize which enabled him to study piano in Belgium.
At the start of the Spanish Civil War Argenta was conscripted into the army, but somehow got himself arrested as a spy. Imprisoned, he managed (just) to establish his innocence and escaped execution, but the prison conditions left their mark, affecting his future health. In 1939 he returned to Spain, but making a living as a musician in that ravaged country was very hard. Life now decided to deal him another blow. He married and his wife bore him two children. At only a day old, the younger child died whilst the new father was giving a piano recital. Argenta was told during the interval but had to continue with the second half of the concert knowing that his child was dead.
In 1941, Argenta went to Germany, teaching piano at the Kassel Conservatory and studying conducting with the great teacher Carl Schuricht. Two years later, when the Allied bombing of Germany made life once again very uncomfortable, Argenta and his family returned to Spain, where he managed to get work as a keyboard player with la Orquesta Nacional de España. His conducting debut with that orchestra soon after was a spectacular success, and in 1947 he was appointed as their principal conductor and musical director. Over the next ten years, Argenta transformed the orchestra and became Spain's leading conductor, establishing music festivals at both Granada and at Santander, in his home province of Cantabia.
Argenta's international career was launched in London in 1948, when he was invited to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra. Subsequently he was a guest conductor of a number of European orchestras, including L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, where he earned the respect of its founder and conductor Ernest Ansermet, and both the Paris Conservatoire and French National Radio orchestras.
In the early 1950s, Argenta made a series of significant recordings of Spanish and French music. His recordings of about 50 zarzuela, with truly great singers, enabled the genre to survive at a time when its popularity was in severe decline. The zarzuela is a distinctive Spanish theatrical genre that involves spoken dramatic scenes alternating with songs, choruses and dances.
In the mid-1950s Argenta developed tuberculosis - his weakened state of health was a legacy of his imprisonment. The illness was brought on by his heavy performance commitments, and he was obliged to rest completely for several months. Having recovered, he began a series of magnificent recordings, the last of which, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique with the Paris Conservatoire, recorded only two months before he died.
On 21 January, 1958, Argenta's performing and recording career was cut short by his early and bizarre death, aged only 44. The Madrid police incident report stated that he and a student were sat in his car in the garage with the door closed and the engine running, apparently in an attempt to warm up. Argenta died of carbon monoxide poisoning; the student survived. Argenta's funeral was a national event, and a day of mourning held throughout Spain. He is buried at the Cementerio de la Almudena in Madrid; a monument to him stands in the Plaza de Los Jardines in Castro-Urdiales.
Argenta was succeeded as principal conductor of la Orquesta Nacional de España by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.”
“Narciso Yepes was one of the finest virtuoso classical guitarists of the twentieth century, generally ranked second after Andrés Segovia. Despite a strong interest in music from the Baroque period, his overwhelming preference was for the serious compositions of Spanish composers from the early twentieth century, though he also showed interest in flamenco music. He displayed a special fondness for the works of Joaquín Rodrigo and was instrumental in the rediscovery of many previously neglected Baroque compositions. He also achieved distinction as a composer, especially in the realm of film music.
Narciso Yepes was born in the small town of Marchena, Spain, located near Lorca. He showed musical talent in his pre-school years, prompting his peasant father to give him his first guitar when he was only four. He soon played with great proficiency and his father arranged for young Narciso to take lessons in guitar and solfeggio in Lorca from Jesús Guevara. Yepes enrolled at the Valencia Conservatory at age 13 and was instructed (though not in guitar) by composer/pianist Vicente Asencio. He gave his first public performance in Valencia at the Teatro Serrano, then returned with his family to Lorca. There he played for Ataulfo Argenta, conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra, who was so impressed by his skills that he convinced Yepes to travel to Madrid to launch his career. There, the young guitarist met some of the most influential musicians in the country, including Joaquín Rodrigo, who had completed his guitar masterpiece, the Concierto de Aranjuez, several years earlier. Yepes found the work most attractive and decided to play it for his official concert debut in 1947, for which he was partnered with Argenta, who led the Orquesta de Cámara. His further performances of the work during the early years of his career are now seen as crucial to the current popularity of the Rodrigo concerto. Yepes' concerts were well-received and he quickly became one of the most highly regarded guitarists in Spain. He gave a successful tour of Europe in 1948 - with notable success in Geneva, Switzerland - then two years later relocated to Paris for further study with Georges Enescu and Walter Gieseking. He also spent time with Nadia Boulanger, though apparently never became a student. Yepes wrote and performed the music for the 1952 film JEUX INTERDITS, which garnered awards at Cannes, Venice, and Hollywood. Yepes met his wife - who was of Polish origin - in Paris, and they were married in 1958. Their union produced three children, one of whom, Ignacio, became a conductor, and another, Ana, a choreographer with the Paris Opéra. In the 1960s, Yepes was especially active as both a guitar soloist and composer. He achieved acclaim for his score of the 1961 film LA FILLE AUX YEUX D'OR. In 1964, Yepes developed and thereafter played a ten-string guitar, which he asserted was superior to the six-stringed guitar especially in the realm of the transcription. In the 1970s and 1980s, Yepes remained active in all facets of his career, but made fewer concert appearances. He received many awards during this period, including an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Murcia, and various artistic, radio, and television citations. In 1980, he made his highly praised recording of the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by García Navarro. In 1993, Yepes was forced to sharply curtail his concert activity owing to his declining health. He gave his final concert in Santander, Spain, in 1996.”
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com