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DECEMBER 2016 | A Selection of Stocking-Fillers

DECEMBER 2016 | A Selection of Stocking-Fillers


With the festive season fast approaching I have collected a handful of releases not reviewed by us this last year that seem to me that little more special, and well deserving of your attention.

I start with a selection music from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Mexico. A DVD of a film with a social comment and great music is given a surprise release from Naxos (2.110372). This is the classic 1935 Mexican film Redes to which Silvestre Revueltas wrote the score. Today the only recorded music from this film is a 16-minute suite arranged by Erich Kleiber, which, when compared with a film which lasts just over 58 minutes, means there is much to rediscover. This release offers us the world premiere recording of the full score set against a cleaned up version of the black and white film, performed by the PostClassical Ensemble under the inspired direction of Angel Gil-Ordoñez. It is an extraordinary film, which is part-documentary and part-story, set in a fishing community and telling a simple tale which is very much of its time, with cinematography by the American, Paul Strand. It is a little-known fact that in his early life, during the time of civil unrest in Mexico, the composer studied and worked in the United States, including a period directing a silent-movie-theatre ensemble. This experience must have been invaluable to Revueltas when he was commissioned to write the soundtrack (his first) to Redes. It is a hybrid of silent film with musical score, and dubbed dialogue (they used no actors) with subtitles interspersed. One can see why the film marries so well with the music, which on its own would work less effectively. The package also includes the film with scratchy OST and 55 minutes of interviews covering a variety of related subjects, and also serves to open our minds to the sheer originality of this composer. The release is very reasonably priced at under £10.

I’ll stay with Naxos for a trio of releases, which have been nicely packaged, and can be bought for under £15, entitled Villa-Lobos: Complete Guitar Manuscripts (8.503289). The project is the brainchild of the exceptionally-talented Italian guitarist Andrea Bissoli, who presents us with what is described as rare and recently discovered works for guitar, solo, accompanied, and ‘inspired-by’. Of the well-known works you just get the Twelve Etudes in the original 1928 version with its detailed fingerings (not widely recorded), the Guitar Concerto (ably supported by Fabio Mechetti and the Minas Gerais Philharmonic), introduction to the Choros and Choros No. 1 (solo guitar), Choros No. 6 (orchestral), Sextet mistico (played by Ensemble Musagete), the 'Aria' from Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 (guitar and voice) and the kite-inspired orchestral piece, O papagaio do moleque. The last is a real rarity and only available in a 1950s recording conducted by the composer. Add in some completions of some interesting teenage works, songs and arrangements from various sources, including an inspired recreation by Bissoli of a selection of the piano miniatures, Guia pratica, for a small folk ensemble with guitar (Ensemble Cirandinha) taking the music back to its source of inspiration. Bissoli, who has made Villa-Lobos something of a speciality, is the lead interpreter in this series, and is excellent throughout, having a very natural approach to these works. This project in all its variety is a success, with excellent all-round contributions from all the musicians in very well balanced recordings. If the set is not for you, the three discs are available separately.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Argentine pianist Valentín Surif again this summer, when he played at St James’s Piccadilly, following which he kindly gave me a copy of his latest recording, Todo tango 2. I have collected his recordings over the years, and apart from the series he recorded for Naxos of music by Alberto Williams, most are available as imports or downloads. Between Valentín and his equally-talented colleague Estela Telerman, these two have been producing a wonderful collection of ‘classical tango’ recordings, showing the sheer variety in this genre. In the first album Todo tango (2010), Surif mainly explores music by Juan José Ramos (including the excellent Seven Variations), Juan José Castro, and Astor Piazzolla, covering past masters and more contemporary contributions. He follows this approach in his latest album featuring Juan Angel Ciurleo, Pedro Saenz, as well as Solare and Piazzolla. We even get a tango written by the pianist’s father. The overall feel of the album is relaxed, with the immeasurable subtlety and nice rhythmic touches that come from a pianist who is steeped in the knowledge of this repertoire. This collection has been well chosen, and includes some utterly delightful and memorable pieces. My highlights of this second volume are Pedro Saenz’s suite Aquel Buenos Aires, and the last pieces Piazzolla wrote for piano, the Three Preludes of 1987, in perhaps one of their best-recorded performances. The tango comes out of the shadows and joins mainstream classical, delivered with understated virtuosity on these two editions. The recording details are Todo tango (Acqua AQ266), and Todo tango 2 (Acqua AQ467).

My final choice from South America really comes with some Latin zest. This is not a new release, but having heard the young Cuban guitarist extraordinaire, Ahmed Dickinson Cárdenas, perform live I decided to delve into his back catalogue. On this disc, ALC004, released by Cubafilin Records, he joins up with the Santiago Quartet to produce an album named, rather appropriately, Latin Perspective. This release deserves to be more widely known as the musicians, who all have excellent Latin-American credentials, take us from Cuba on a whistle-stop international tour and deliver some fabulous rhythm-driven classics and a popular potpourri. We start in Cuba with Brouwer’s very approachable Quintet, which shows how well the musicians play together, with a well balanced acoustic. The curiously-titled Beatlerianas is the final form of some pieces Brouwer wrote over the years, inspired by songs of the popular writing duo of Lennon and Mc Cartney, delivering the 7 songs in the styles of individual international composers. These pieces are complimented by two short pieces for string quartet, the classic Metro chabacano by Javier Alvarez, and the brilliant tango-inspired Presto II by Miguel del Aguila, which round off a most accomplished recital. It is worth noting that Del Aguila is a thoroughly individual and interesting composer whose music is worth getting to know, though recordings are not plentiful.

We travel to Spain for my last two discs, with music by Granados and Mompou. The final release in a trio of albums covering the orchestral music of Granados, on Naxos 8.773265 (Orchestral Works Vol. 3). Once more, Pablo González gives most-assured direction to a very well-recorded Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, joined by the pianist Dani Espasa. This is a recital that brings some real surprises to this under-explored side of the composer, with music of great charm and invention with some piquant orchestration. Written at the time of Goyescas in 1911, Liliana provides a seductive and charming opener, in a four-movement suite which is peopled by gnomes and flowers. The great Pablo Casals was very impressed with this music and after the composer’s death he arranged this suite, noting now there is no complete orchestral score available. Going back over two decades, we have the picture post-card Suite oriental, which shows that even at an early stage in his career Granados had an unerring ear for melody and creating atmosphere in his music. We have to thank Douglas Riva for a modern performing edition of the final piece, Elisenda which was written about the same time as Liliana, and premiered by the composer. This is a concertante work in three movements that evokes nature at its most charmingly pastoral. Atmospheric and impressionistic, the music is not specifically Spanish but beautifully evokes the scenes created by the poem. Though the final movement has been lost, the remaining three stand alone very well, and are given a gently nuanced performance by Dani Espasi with his orchestral colleagues, making this one of my finds of the year.

Federico Mompou’s music has been receiving more attention in recent years but only a few releases stand out. One of these is the second release in a series of selected works performed by Clelia Iruzun for Somm (SOMMCD 0155). Though the central work is Book 1 of Música callada, we open where we left off on the first album (SOMMCD 0121) with the continuation of the delightful Canción y danza. These pieces epitomise Iruzun’s approach, which is quite unforced and allows the music to speak for itself in all its subtle shadings. Continuing to sample music from different compositional eras, we are given a joyous rendition of the early Scenes d’enfants which contrasts with the more withdrawn world of Música callada, which has a stark simplicity, and is played with such understatement that you almost feel we are intruding into the composer’s inner-most world. Before ending on the composer’s homage to the leading composers in post-First-World-War Paris, in the Trois variations, we are treated to two recently published works based on the folk tune Au clair de la lune, and a Tango. Perhaps not top-drawer music from this most idiosyncratic of composers, but delivered with real affection on this outstanding recital disc.  



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