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Jesús GURIDI (1886-1961)
Sinfonía pirenaica
(Pyrenean Symphony) (1945) [49.14]
Bilbao Symphony Orchestra/Juan José Mena
Espatadantza (Sword Dance) from Amaya  (1910-20) (Act II Scene IV) [3.28]
Bilbao Choral Society/Bilbao Symphony Orchestra/Theo Alcántara (Sword Dance)
Recorded at the Euskalduna Concert Hall, Bilbao, February 2003 and at the Teatro Arriaga, Bilbao, June 1997 (Espatadantza (Sword Dance) from Amaya)
NAXOS 8.557631 [52.42]


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Guridi’s Sinfonía pirenaica was written in 1945 and premiered by this orchestra. It’s a loquaciously colourful work teeming with textual incident and density and a three-movement symphony of great character and imagination. The opening Andante sostenuto is actually quite deceptive; the level of impressionism evoked here is not one greatly sustained throughout but instead leads to fresh air and plenty of incident, rich in folkloric dash. These are tinged with baroque varnishings and plenty of detailing from the winds and especially from the bassoon. There are Straussian and Elgarian parallels (I was reminded of the latter’s Falstaff more than once) but the over arching parallel I suppose – and unavoidably – is with Vaughan Williams. Little ceremonial brass calls course throughout as do processionals and there’s a strong sense of celebration and sheer warmth – as we find in the skirl of the orchestration as the first movement makes its final ascent at the end.

Dance is another major component, as is encountered in the bipartite second movement – a Presto leading to an Andante sostenuto – very attractively orchestrated and winningly performed by the expert band and their excellent conductor Juan José Mena. There is a particularly expressive moment when the viola theme enters, which it does with the serene force of a hymnal – unexpected and very beautiful – though it’s soon followed by some tensile and ominous writing. The finale is briskly rhythmic, lush, vibrant and full of some big, bold and very attractive moments. I have to say I found this slightly diffuse for all its clear charms, that the climaxes reappeared here and elsewhere with a degree of regularity that sometimes imperilled the structure. I think one can hardly but feel that there are some repetitious moments along the mountain journey. And that, finally, renders the work problematic. But I wouldn’t suggest you pass by; there’s plenty of luscious melody and evocative writing to be encountered and this is certainly a work more talked about than heard. Here’s a fine chance to put right that injustice. The performance certainly makes the best case for it.

There’s a small extra item – the exciting Sword Dance (all three minutes of it) from Amaya. This is extracted from the complete work on Marco Polo 8.225084-85 and recorded back in 1997.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Hubert Culot



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