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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Silvestre REVUELTAS (1899-1940)
Sensemaya (1938)
La noche de los Mayas (arranged Limantour) (1939)
La Coronela (orchestrated Moncada; arranged Limantour) (1940)
Stephen Coombs (piano)
Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra, Mexico/Enrique Barrios
Rec 1-8 February 2001, Teatro Aguascalientes, Mexico
NAXOS 8.555917 [67.25]


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Revueltas died young, of alcoholism at the age of forty, but increasingly he is regarded as the most gifted among the Central American composers of the 20th century. The music on this bargain-priced CD does much to encourage such a view, even if the longest item, the thirty-minute ballet score La Coronela (The Girl Colonel) is largely the work of arrangers and orchestrators.

There is little need to worry, however, for the work of Jos‚ Yves de Limantours of Eduardo Hernandes Moncada, makes the music sound as fresh as the day it was written. Even so, the inspiration seems less vital than it does in the two other pieces on this skilfully played and well recorded collection. Revueltas is always successful in bringing colourful orchestral sounds to the fore in his scores, and he also had the ability to create a compelling rhythmic vitality out of relatively meagre means - a rare talent indeed. Of these various characteristics there is probably no finer example than Sensemaya (1938), a short tone poem inspired by the writing of the Afro-Cuban revolutionary Nicolás Guillén. The subject is the almost ritualised killing of a tropical snake, and the musical results are at once entertaining and compelling. The music is tuneful while rhythmically repetitive, after the style of The Rite of Spring (Stravinsky). There is also a certain dissonance in the sometimes complex textures, which serves to intensify the effect..

Here, as elsewhere, Enrique Barrios and his idiomatic orchestra deliver committed and convincing performances. The recorded sound is vivid and packs the necessary punch. The most spectacular of the three pieces is probably the concert suite from the film music, La Noche de los Mayas, which made such an impression when it was brought to the Proms at the Albert Hall this summer. Originally written for a film, this follows the achievement of the best of film music in working perfectly well out of context in a concert setting. The orchestration is at once colourful and natural, while in the finale the rhythmic vitality brought by the array of exotic percussion instruments recalls and even transcends the celebrated Sinfonia India of Carlos Chavez.

With some typically informative Naxos documentation, this disc of music by a little known but immensely gifted composer can be recommended with much enthusiasm.

Terry Barfoot


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