Thursday, June 17, 2010

Naxos Reviews

Though I've fallen a bit behind in my Naxos reviews, I've gotten to the pile before it can fall and do any real damage.  I really enjoyed Xavier Montsalvatge's Piano Music, v. 1, with Jordi Maso, a Naxos disc recorded in Spain in 2008.  Volume 2 is already out, and I look forward to hearing it.

Another Naxos disc includes music by the amazing Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, who died much too young, and who was working on the ballet music for La Coronela when he did.  This is an amazing score, and it is presented beautifully by Gisele Ben-Dor conducting the Santa Barbara Symphony.  This is a World Premiere Recording, though it was released by Koch in 1998, and the Naxos version is a recent re-release.  I recommend this very highly!

Both Revueltas and Montsalvatge have much in common with Villa-Lobos.  Only 13 years younger than Villa, Revueltas unfortunately died in 1940, so his musical legacy isn't as long or as strong as the Brazilian's.  La Coronela shows the same dramatic impetus that we're beginning to discover in Villa-Lobos with the recent exposure of stage works like Yerma, Magdalena, and The Emperor Jones.  Both composers are masters of the large orchestral palette, and both are just as much at home in bombastic battle set-pieces as they are in more introspective and sparely written passages. 

Montsalvatge is from a younger generation, but there is much overlap in the influences of the the Catalan composer and the Brazilian: Debussy, Milhaud, Satie, Ravel, Messiaen.  Montsalvatge went farther afield into avante-garde music in the 1950s.  He experimented with 12-tone music, which Villa-Lobos carefully skirted during his career.  And Montsalvatge seems to have fallen naturally into a North American jazz idiom in the 40s and 50s, which Villa-Lobos mainly avoided, as much as he felt at home in various (especially Brazilian) popular music styles.  Some of Montsalvatge's piano music might share Latin American (and Caribbean) rhythms with pieces by Villa-Lobos, though it never sounds Villa-Lobosian.

Two more excellent discs from Naxos, and more to come!

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