Platero makes his way around the world

Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco / News /

In 1960, after a student gave him a copy of Juan Ramon Jimenez’ prose poem masterpiece Platero y yo [Platero and I], Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco chose 28 of the work’s 138 chapters and set them as a melologue for guitar and narrator. Platero tells the story of a poet and his faithful donkey in the Spanish village of Moguer in Andalusia, and this touching work has become one of the composer’s most beloved. Mario set his Platero y yo to both the English translation by Elise Roach as well as to the original Spanish text. As Jimenez’s poems have now been translated into more than 100 languages and dialects, Mario’s musical setting has been adapted and performed in dozens of countries. The composer believed that the cycle was also effective as a solo guitar work, without narration, and it is also often performed this way. Recently several artists have been in touch with us about their Platero projects, which we are happy to share in this article.

Christian Lavernier, an Italian guitarist based in Paris, and Ugo Dighero, an Italian film, television and theater actor, have created a show that includes 16 pieces from Mario’s Platero cycle,  which they have performed more than 50 times on Italian stages. Their moving performance, which allows us to deeply experience the magic of this universal tale of friendship and life,  is now available for the first time in a recording distributed by EMA Vinci, with narration in Italian as well as in a version for solo guitar, performed without narration.

Born in Romania and now based in Italy for many years,Roxana Morcosanu distinguishes herself by performing not only the very demanding guitar music, but also the narration (in English), as well as singing: a feat that few artists before her have dared! Her two CD set features eleven movements from the cycle that she felt were most representative of “the great diversity of the Moguer territory,” which she offers to the listener both with and without narration.

Yukihisa Miyayama of King Records in Japan kindly sent us a copy of the exquisite CD box set of the complete Platero y yo  performed by guitarist Yasuji Ohagi, with narration in Japanese by the mezzo soprano Mutsumi Hatano. Mustsumi Hatano was also responsible for translating the work from the original Spanish for the project. Matching the refined performances of this recording is the magnificent graphic design of the project, featuring etchings by renowned artist Yoko Yamamoto. Yamamoto’s original copperplate prints were also used in a published edition of Hatano’s Japanese translation of Platero and were featured in an exhibition at the Mitsumasa Anno Art Museum in Tokyo from June – September 2023. You can see the artwork in this article.This recording is not currently available on digital platforms but those interested can order the box set directly from the King e-shop.

Last year, Dutch guitarist Jos Durkstra recorded 19 pieces from Platero for solo guitar, and he tells us he is working on a narrated version in Dutch. His innovative touch: he includes sound “snapshots” of nature to enhance the atmosphere such as gurgling water, birdsong and of course,  a braying donkey! You can find his work on Bandcamp.

Which recordings are your favorites?