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JUNE 2016: Ray's Round-Up

JUNE 2016: Ray's Round-Up


Rather than dwell on you new releases, I thought it would be opportune to start an occasional series to shine a light on a some interesting recordings from over the past few years, that remain intrinsically interesting and may have passed unnoticed:

Golijov arr Grau: Nazareno (download)

Katia and Marielle Labeque commissioned Gonzalo Grau to arrange a suite from La Pasión de San Marco for 2 pianos, percussion and orchestra. Played by the pianists and accompanied by Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y Leon, c/w Ginastera and Revueltas. Golijov’s alternative mass setting hits the dance floor with a smile and some smart Cuban rhythms. Something to enjoy in a lighter vein.

Ramírez: Misa criolla and popular devotional Early Music

This is an album of distinctive early music from South America by the Dutch ensemble, Musica Temprana, complemented by the better-known Misa Criolla. This wonderful early music ensemble recreate this now famous folk-styled mass in a manner which you might expect to hear performed in towns and villages, avoiding the more operatic vocal style found in better-known recordings. It is a wonderfully earthy recording which looks back to the distinctive musical styles that developed during the post-conquest era, utilising an instrumental ensemble of mainly baroque instruments. The balance of the recital offers a broad perspective of church music, songs and instrumentals from these earlier times, played with a panache and commitment that make these pieces quite irresistible. Cobra Records COBRA 0044.

Ginastera: Concierto argentino, Piano Concerto No.s 1 & 2

Barbara Nissman, Kenneth Kiesler, University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra. Pierian 0048. World premiere recordings of the Piano Concerto written when composer was 19 (withdrawn but intended for revision later in the composer’s life) and the original version of the 2nd Concerto (with right hand part rather than left hand in the Scherzo). The Concierto argentino, though an early work, is most enjoyable and incorporates themes and phrases heard in more familiar early works (this piece is now appearing in the concert hall) and the two numbered concertos are given commanding performances by a pianist who knew the composer in person. Interestingly, she was the dedicatee of the 3rd Piano Sonata and is also an editor for the awaited new edition of the 2nd Concerto. If you enjoyed this do investigate her two disc set of the complete solo piano music and works written for piano and chamber ensemble also on the Pierian label.

Ginastera: Serenata Op. 42 for baritone, cello and quintet c/w Cello Sonata & Pampeana No. 2

Ricardo Sciammarella (vc), Dora Castro (pf), Victor Torres (bar) Quinteto Filharmonico de Buenos Aires, dir. Guillermo Scarabino. IRCO 332 / download. A hard-to-obtain Argentine CD with the only recording of the neglected Serenade based on poems by Pablo Neruda. A work of real distinction given an unforgettable performance and coupled with readings of two important chamber works performed with great warmth and distinction by Sciammarella and Castro.

Falla: Fuego fatuo c/w El sombrero de tres picos

Antoni Ros Marba, Real Filharmonia de Galicia, with Marisa Martins. Claves LC3369. In 1918, Manuel de Falla started work on a comic opera, Fuego Fatuo (Will-o’-the-Wisp) based on the music of Chopin, whom he had long admired, but with a very trivial plot. It was planned for staging the following year, and based on original pieces which he rearranged and orchestrated. Despite the composer’s efforts it was never staged and the piece was eventually abandoned. It is evident the work was no neo-classical styled pastiche but reworkings of original pieces done with great affection. It is now presented as an effective orchestral suite due to efforts of Antoni Ros Marba, who had to work with some pieces where the orchestration remained incomplete, and he also replaced some vocal parts with instrumental lines. Though not typical of the mature composer it is a a delightful ‘folly’ and presented in this recording with warm affection, coupled with a characterful interpretation of the better known work.

Lauro Guitar Concerto No. 1 c/w solo pieces

Alirio Díaz, Jascha Horenstein, Venezuela Symphony Orchestra. Doremi DHR-7997. I never understood the absence of this much-written-about but seldom-played concerto, which is at last available in its world premiere live performance from 1957. Despite constricted mono sound, it is given a virtuosic performance by the concerto’s dedicatee under the sure direction of a master conductor. This is a must for all guitar lovers and shows Lauro’s undoubted ability as an orchestrator and how capable he was when working with larger forms. The finale is delicious with its characteristic Venezuelan dance rhythms. The concerto is coupled with an interesting collection of solo recordings.

Latin American Classics

The catalogue abounds with these orchestral collections, and ones like Gustavo Dudamel’s Fiesta is outstanding. This is in fact my starting point as included on that album is Aldemaro Romero’s Fuga con pajarillo which starts on some solo woodwind and would benefit from an introduction, which is where we find the piece now titled Tocatta Bachiana y Pajarillo Aldemaroso on this Brilliant Classics disc (9262). The composer, who made his name in the realm of more popular-styled Latin music, actually wrote the piece as part of a suite for strings which was effectively expanded to encompass the grand Toccata, written as a clear homage to Bach’s famous D minor work. It sounds like something Stokowski would have played and it is a lot of fun, and, to my mind, more rounded as a piece. It is this form that Theodor Kuchar gives a brilliant treatment backed by an enthusiastic Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela. The piece ends on a joyful dance and a grand orchestral display, which is light years from its more popular incarnation Pajarillo en onda nueva with its Swingle-ish vocal gymnastics. An interesting new piece included is Yuri Hung’s Kanaima, a rhythm-dominated atmospheric evocation of the rainforest. You also get some very familiar favourites by Moncayo, Márquez, Revueltas, Ginastera and Fernández in what adds up to be very well-recorded disc, and at budget price a real steal!

Albéniz Rapsodia española Op. 70

Arguably the most overtly Spanish character piece for piano and orchestra that Albéniz wrote, but which version to choose? The work was written in 1886-7 for solo piano and published in Madrid for two pianos in 1187, and premiered that year, arguably influenced by Liszt’s piece of the same name, which Albéniz played. On tour with Tomás Breton the work was played as a piece for piano and orchestra, and it is assumed the composer, who had a reticent attitude towards orchestral composition, probably wrote the arrangement with Breton, who was on tour with Albéniz as conductor and pianist respectively. Two versions evidently exist in San Sebastián and Barcelona, where the work was performed, but there is no clear evidence over who was responsible for the orchestral parts since the orchestral version was never published. The San Sebastian version, which sounds the least complex orchestrally, was released by Melani Mestre on Hyperion CDA67918 last year and is an attractive, if understated work. Two years after Albéniz' death, Georges Enescu kept the work alive with an orchestration of the second piano part of the two-piano version, which is quite subtle and a widely used version, recently recorded in 1996 by Jean-Francais Heisser and available on Apex, and just recently by Martin Roscoe on Chandos (CHAN10897). Interestingly, Alicia de Larrocha's well-known recording of the work for Decca in 1984 (Eloquence 476 2971) used a characterful arrangement by Cristobal Halffter which has proved very popular. However, the final word lies with the renowned Albéniz scholar, Jacinto Torres, who in 1995 published a new edition based on the extant knowledge of the original orchestral parts from manuscript sources, premiered a year later by Antonio Ruiz-Pipo (who sadly died the following year). This version was given an authoritative reading in 2009 by Miguel Baselga for BIS (BIS-CD-1743) forming part of volume 6 of his complete survey of the composer’s work. For my part, and notwithstanding Alicia de Larrocha’s brilliant reading of the work, this latest version is superb, and given by a pianist who has a deep knowledge of the composer. However, I find all the versions historically interesting, and each has its merits, so the choice is yours!



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