This is an extremely
attractive release presenting what I understand is the only
Surinach orchestral anthology. It is not specially generous
in terms of sheer playing minutes but in artistic terms it presents
some fascinating music that engages at many levels.
Surinach was born in Barcelona and
his early studies took place there. He polished his art in Berlin, Dusseldorf and
Köln. In 1944 he left Berlin for his home city and there conducted the Orquesta Filarmonica.
He moved on to Paris in 1947 and a couple of years later to the USA and a sequence
of academic posts. While there he recorded a series of 20th
century works for MGM - would that his Hovhaness St Vartan
Symphony recording, amongst many others, would be reissued.
The works included
here are made up of short movements and concentrated ideas.
The invention has a starkness about it rather suggestive of
Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and of the terser statuesque
writing of Prokofiev.
It is intriguing to
encounter Surinach's intercession between typically Iberian
and Flamenco material and dissonant modernity. The natural attraction
of the Spanish gestures and themes leans back towards the lambent
lines and rhythmic punch of de Falla and Ravel blended with
the coarse cross-grain pungency of Stravinsky. For illustration
try the coruscating brilliance of the Melorhythmic Dramas
which tip into the mix every distinctive Iberian element
and allow it to radiate through pattering percussion (tr. 5),
grim brass and explosive percussion (tr. 6). For a work written
in 1966, the Melorhythmic Dramas has great attractions
without being a bland sell-out to the expected peninsular manner.
The Dramas end in an almost apocalyptic thundering triumph.
Dramas are in seven movements, each separately banded. A
similar generosity of tracking applies to the 1962 Symphonic
Variations across eleven variations. An exuberant and
boisterous grunted-out rhythmic attack has a red-hot merciless
high violin line coursing high above. The solo trumpet - part
Hovhaness, part high sierras - rings out offset by the song
of gleamingly aggressive percussion. Percussion instruments
are very important in these Surinach scores. The torero arrogance
of the sixth variation contrasts with the seventh where the
unremitting Stravinskian rhythm suggests ruthlessness. The recording
is absolutely outstanding.
The little Feria
Magica overture was mastered from an original LP. If you listen
carefully you can here the 'presence ' of the vinyl track and
the small rustling tick. However a lovely job has been made
of this modern España of a piece - a sort of Khachaturian
and de Falla on speed. Rather like the William Mathias Dance
Overture this would make a stunning concert opener anywhere
and anytime. Tired of Donna Diana, Colas Breugnon,
Festive Overture or España then look no further
and give Surinach a chance. You will not be sorry. This has
scrubbed up very well in sound terms.
Finally and from two
years before the sessions for the overture we come to the superb
Sinfonietta Flamenca. It is in four flamenco-suffused
movements spanning stomping ecstatic exuberance, cool dripping
nocturnal gardens, rattlingly explosive rhythmic triumphalism
and percussion-goaded dance. Whitney superbly captures the feral
wildness of Flamenco the essence of which Surinach was surely
intending to capture and render. The piece ends in a surprisingly
modest gesture snatched from the violence of the dance.
This fine disc is further
enhanced by Carlos Surinach's own notes for each piece.
All save the Melorhythmic
Dramas are conducted by Robert Whitney.
These four works were
recorded over the period 1954-1967.
Howard Scott presided
over all of the recordings and turns in some extremely attractive
and even gripping sounds. The original analogue tapes have been
very sympathetically transferred.