Pepe Romero calls Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba the Puccini of Spain.
“You should just close your eyes and let the music take you where it wants to,” the famous Spanish guitarist said last week from his California home. “Enjoy the ride and enjoy the feeling.”
For those who’ve never heard of Torroba, Romero and the Romero Guitar Quartet are about to make introductions at a special concert with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, March 9, at Centennial Hall. A cornerstone of their concert with the TSO — the quartet’s first with the orchestra since 2009 — will be Torroba’s Concerto Iberico.
“You are going to hear Spanish music at its best,” said Romero, who has played with his brother Celin in the family’s guitar quartet since his father formed it in 1960; nephews Lito and Celino joined in the 1990s. “Spanish music is very famous for its melodic and very romantic and exuberant music, and this concerto represents that beautifully.”
The Romero Guitar Quartet is making good on its promise not to let a lifetime pass before it returned to the TSO. It’s been eight years since their 2009 concert, which ended a 25-year absence from a TSO marquee.
“We are looking forward very much to it,” he said, his Spanish accent softly pronounced after years of living in the U.S.
Thursday will mark a first for the TSO — times three. It will be the first time the orchestra will perform the Iberico Concerto and the first time it will play the Vivaldi Concerto in G major, the two pieces the Romero Quartet will perform. Then there’s Verdi’s Overture to “I vespri siciliani” (The Sicilian Vespers), another orchestra premiere. And all these firsts make for one big, exciting night of music-making, Romero said.
“This is one of my favorite Vivaldi concertos. Vivaldi was magnificent ... an amazing composer and this was a concerto for two mandolins originally,” he said, adding that he and his nephew Celino will play it on two guitars. “It just lays in perfect with two guitars. We don’t have to do anything but play it.”
Torroba, who composed music for the Romero Guitar Quartet in the 1960s and ’70s, wrote the Iberica Concerto for four guitars in 1976.
“This is truly a gorgeous, melodic, very Spanish, very romantic piece,” gushed Romero, who turned 73 on March 8. “It’s very exciting for us (to play it for the first time with the TSO) and it should be very exciting for the Tucson audience.”