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Jesús GURIDI (1886-1961)
Piano Music
Danzas Viejas (1939) [5:42]
Cantos populares vascos (1917) [7:40]
Vasconia (1924) [13:18]
Ocho apuntes para piano (1954) [15:38]
Lamento e imprecación de Agar (1958) [8:30]
Vals de Mirentxu (1915) [3:19]
Tres piezas breves (1910): Amenecer [2:35]; Nostalgia [3:05]
Victoria Aja (piano)
rec. 30-31 July 2001, Estudio L'Auditorium de Anacrusi. DDD



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As those who already know Guridi's orchestral music (Claves, EMI and Naxos) and his opera Amaya (see review) we are in the company of a melodic nationalist. I am not sure how he would have greeted a recording under the banner of 'Spanish Classics'. He was after all a proud Basque first and foremost and his solo piano music is not out of character with his melodic nationalist reputation.

The Ancient Dances are by no means self-consciously 'antique' or arty. Their elements mix Ravel (Danses Sacrees et Danses Profanes) with folk material - on this occasion from Spain. Other parallels include Moeran, Warlock and Bax in their most folksy balladic style. The Muerdago (tr. 2) is extremely touching. The Cantos populares vascos are in much the same unassuming and graceful vein. They may be better known to us from their orchestral versions on Naxos, Claves and EMI - the latter conducted by Arambarri. Most of these pieces are dreamy, seemingly gazing out from the mountains into the aquamarine green Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay. The eighth and final piece breaks the mould with a bright dance. Vasconia frames the substantial seven minute blue-eyed Medtnerian Leyenda between two vigorous pieces - a Viejo carillon and a Tocata festiva. The Ocho apuntes (Eight Sketches) are from 1954 and have an antique neo-Handelian accent. Flecks of nationalist-romanticism take us back to certain works by Bax (Hill Song and Burlesque) and Moeran (Mountain Song). The Lamento e imprecacion de Agar introduces a degree more toughness falling short of out-and-out dissonance. Victoria Aja touches in the lights and the half-lights with joyous subtlety rising to a statement of considerable grandeur at 5.00. The Vals is from his 'Basque operatic idyll' Mirentxu. This is gentle but not especially memorable. The trembling Amenecer is pleasant as is the promisingly titled Nostalgia - both are among Guridi's earliest works.

Victoria Aja studied with Craig Sheppard, Benjamin Kaplan and Murray Perahia. She has a velvety touch and is particularly good at the mezzo-tints which Guridi uses to such touching effect in these poetic and gentle sketches. There’s no heaven-storming here but gallons of nationalist atmosphere and smiling romance.

Rob Barnett




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