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La Nueva España
Memoria del Fuego
La Ruta de Cortés
El Encuentro
La Matanza del Templo Major
La Noche Triste

National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
Takuo Yuasa
Recording made in April, 2000
Naxos 8.555044 [71:33]
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The sleeve-note to this disc gives little information about the Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero other than that he was born in 1951, that he has had 'numerous works performed at major festivals and institutions' and that he writes in the 'so-called neo-Romantic style.'

La Nueva España is an ambitious work for large orchestra: a six-movement set of symphonic poems, composed between 1991 and 1999, which attempts to depict major episodes in the Spanish conquest of Mexico ('New Spain') in the early sixteenth century. This event was, of course, no mere conquest: it entailed the total destruction of Aztec civilisation. In a programme note, the composer makes it clear that he seeks above all to illuminate the tragic dimension of the story.

The arresting opening bars (with vivid, razor-sharp percussion, which is an outstanding feature of the entire disc) raise expectations of a work of considerable originality which in the event are largely unfulfilled. Ferrero displays a firm grasp of structure and orchestration, and if the style is indeed 'neo-Romantic' (there's not even a whiff of a single late 20th century 'ism'), there's no harm in that, so long as the resulting score matches the intensity of his vision. This, in my view, it does not. Ferrari is at his most convincing when portraying action (the climax of La Rita de Curtés, for instance, which depicts the Spanish expedition across the mountains and their arrival in Mexico) is stirring stuff; but the concluding La Niche Trieste suggests mere pathos rather than tragedy: in vain did I look for the quasi-Wagnerian sense of doom which the scenario demands.

Nevertheless this is in its way a colourful, impressive achievement, calling to mind the work of the great post-war Hollywood composers of film music; and on these terms, at any rate, the disc can be warmly recommended. Takuo Yuasa's work with the BBC Scottish and Ulster Orchestras has recently gained for him deserved acclaim in this country, and he conducts La Nueva España with evident commitment, drawing a splendid response from the excellent Ukraine orchestra. The recorded sound is consistently bright, weighty and well-balanced.

Adrian Smith



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