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The flow of interesting new CD recordings has been disappointing but I have picked out a few highlights albeit of mostly new premiere recordings of relatively modern music which has been well-received critically and are worth exploring.

Cristobal Halffter has established an envious reputation in Spain and his music remains as challenging and interesting as ever. The Italian label Stradivarius have issued Homo electricus (STR33946) which is a tantalising exploration of the electro-acoustic genre through 3 significant compositions scored for electronics and orchestra played by Gregoria Garcia Kerman with Jose Ramon Encinar directing the Madrid Communidad Orchestra.

Jimmy Lopez hails from Peru and is a rising star among young South American composers. A collection of four orchestral pieces is featured on a new Harmonia Mundi recording (HMU90 7628) and whilst stylistically his music is quite varied, he integrates elements of his national musical legacy without sacrificing his contemporary outlook. One piece, Lord of the Air is a cello concerto (Jesus Castro-Balbi is the soloist) which takes its inspiration from the flight of the condor. Directing the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya gives authoritative accounts having first introduced this young composer on the album Inti: Three Centuries of Peruvian Music.

Solo guitar music is represented on two quite diverting releases. I shall briefly mention an outstanding release by Morgan Szymanski on his Sarabande Records (SASACD005) entitled Nuevo Mundo. I say this as I am busy preparing a review but rather than delay your listening pleasure I urge you to explore a very well-balanced recital of mainly new (and approachable) music written for him. The second is an unusual disc from the Argentine guitarist Pablo Marquez intriguingly titled The Well-tempered Pig on ECM New Series (481 0972). In this he has arranged music written by his countryman Gustavo ‘Cuchi’ Leguizamon, who is better known for his major contribution to folk music in the 1960s - so not strictly ‘art music’ but the arrangements of the songs are varied and worth exploring.

I return to Spain, or more specifically to Catalonia, with a reiteration of two excellent releases by Naxos that I’ve now had a chance to explore in more detail. Firstly Leonardo Balada (8573298), who has already an impressive catalogue of releases on this label. Now we have the cleverly written Concerto for 3 Cellos and Orchestra which features some striking sonorities, accompanied by two symphonies, No. 3 'Steel Symphony' and No. 6 'Symphony of Sorrows'. Written respectively in 1972 and 2005 there is quite a stylistic difference between these pieces though both are quite satisfying in their achievement of very different aims. The orchestral writing and level of invention is of a consistently high standard and the release is a collects recordings taken over 5 years with different directors and orchestras. Salvador Brotons hails from a later generation and has an impressive international catalogue both as conductor and composer, and on the latest CD he directs a satisfying selection of music written for wind band (8 573361) which delves into the Catalan traditions of the cobla on a symphonic scale. From 2011 we have his 6th Symphony - appropriately titled 'Concise', it is very directly written with five evocative short movements. This is balanced with three pieces written between 1982 and 2008, the symphonic poem Rebirth, Obstinacy and the attractively-written Glosa de l’Emigrant which is based on a well-known Catalan folksong. The music is delivered with great aplomb by the Barcelona Symphonic Band. 



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