Up to the challenge.


Byline: Richard Duckett

With a great piece of music comes great expectations.

"It's a very famous piece," Bryan Wrenn observed concerning Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez for solo guitar and orchestra. Indeed, Wrenn said he believes the Spanish composer's 1939 work is the most performed concerto in classical music. Certainly, the slow, evocative second movement is both instantly familiar and holds up as one of the most beautiful musical sequences ever written.

Which could make matters a little daunting for the guitar soloist playing the piece, as Wrenn will be this weekend as part of Symphony Pro Musica's "Spanish Serenade" concerts in Hudson and Westboro.

In fact, Wrenn, 26, of Grafton, has never played Concierto de Aranjuez in a public setting before. Furthermore, this is the first time he's performed a concerto with a full orchestra as a soloist.

"It's very exciting, absolutely," Wrenn said of the concerts. But he also sounded pretty cool, calm and collected when talking about the various challenges. The Assumption College and New England Conservatory of Music graduate gave a good accounting of things.

"The piece itself is very technically challenging, so there's that aspect. But one thing of it being popular - it's widely recorded, so there's no shortage of listening to get inspiration (from)," he said. "The fact that people are familiar with it is challenging. But the expectations people have, that also makes it easier to get them engaged with the piece."

Mark Churchill, Symphony Pro Musica's music director and conductor, said, "The Concierto de Aranjuez is nearly as much of a `household' classical piece as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. When it's performed, the soloist is really competing with the greatest guitarists of all times whose recordings have been heard over and over. That's a challenge, of course, but this work is so appealing and enduring that it never fails to excite and move every listener."

Wrenn was being interviewed recently shortly after taking part in his first rehearsal of the concerto with Symphony Pro Musica and Churchill. The session had gone "very well," Wrenn said. For his part, Churchill called Wrenn "a fearless player who brings a personal voice to this very familiar concerto."

The key to a successful performance of the shimmering second movement is that the soloist and orchestra be in sync, Wrenn indicated. The first and last movements are technically difficult, he said. So, too the second - "There's...

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