This is an interesting
CD with movements from the Brandenburg concertos and Orchestral
suites deploying a superb Cuban percussion section. It was devised
by Emilio Aragon (b. 1959), a Cuban composer who now lives and
works in Spain. Aragon has a love for Caribbean and classical
music and here aims to blend the two genres. The Tenerife Symphony
Orchestra play with three acclaimed Cuban percussionists - Jaime
Udicio Vasquez, Juan Aramis Viera and Pedro Pablo Rodriguez.
Alain Perez replaces Bach's traditional bass line with a Cuban
'Tumblao' salsa bass below the violin, oboe or cello parts.
The first two tracks
- the first movements of Brandenburg Nos. 3 and 5 - receive
a fairly conventional treatment (although Track 2 is shortened).
The string playing is tight and dry but dominated by the percussion
who play in a much more resonant setting. The electric bass
more or less uses Bach's rhythms but in a Cuban style.
Tracks 3 and 4 feature
the famous Aria and Badinerie from the Orchestra Suites 2 and
3. Here the percussion is used in a more accompanying role and
is less persuasive. Track 4 has a good flute solo by Catherine
Mooney. The next track (5) starts and ends with a guitar solo
on the Venezuelan cuatro played by Thao Raiz and promises something
different. However it soon settles into much the same as before
with the percussion playing a purely subsidiary role. Much the
same happens on Track 6 with the percussion keeping the beat
throughout and a welcome relief from it at the end!
One would hope that
with the introduction of another Brandenburg - that of No. 4
on Track 7 - we may be treated to something different. However,
despite some good recorder solos from Mooney and Tamsin Cadman,
and a decent violin soloist in Jarolim Ruzicka, we are offered
much the same again.
Tracks 8 and 9 feature
some fairly bland string and wind playing with the occasional
syncopated rhythmic interjection from the percussionists. It
appears that the percussion often find little to do apart from
purely 'accompanying'. Maybe this is because Bach's music does
not need to 'swing' or be jazzed up!
What should DG offer
by way of the grand finale on Track 10? Their choice - the Gavotte
from Suite No.2 - leaves us slightly bewildered and perhaps
wishing there was more of this on the CD. This version of the
Gavotte begins and ends with percussion solos which appear to
be in a world of their own and playing badly out of time. At
least it is something different and original and there is an
interesting vocal at the end.
Overall this is
an interesting and worthwhile project which although it can
become rather tedious at times is a good 'fun' treatment of