> Debussy - Turina [CT]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Ibéria from "Images" for orchestra (1905-1908)
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)

Danzas Fantàsticas Op.22 (1920)
Sinfonia Sevillana 0p.23 (1920)
La Procesión del Rocio Op.9 (1913)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Jesús López-Cobos
Recorded in Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, March 2001 DDD
TELARC CD-80574 [64:24]


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As one of the less frequently heard American orchestras I opened this disc interested to read a little about the history of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as well as their conductor, Jesús López-Cobos. Somewhat unusually however there was nothing in the booklet about either the man or his orchestra, despite extensive and informative notes on the music. A shame, as on the evidence of this recording at least, López-Cobos clearly has a very capable group of musicians at his disposal.

It is the music of Joaquín Turina that forms the backbone of the disc and it is also the Turina that comes off best. Debussy’s wonderfully colourful Ibéria, which opens proceedings, somehow fails to ignite. Even the characterful Le matin d’un jour de fête with its pizzicato string imitations of flamenco guitars (a slight but rather off-putting late tubular bell entry here) does not quite get fully into the excitement and exuberance of the holiday spirit as it could. In the central Les parfums de la nuit also, the playing is certainly assured but does not quite capture the fragrant, sultry atmosphere of those warm Spanish evenings in the country.

Turina’s Danzas Fantàsticas that follow the Debussy are immediately more potent, alive and in the case of the final Orgia, both dramatic and joyful. Manuel de Falla is present in much of this music although his undoubted influence does not detract from Turina’s natural melodic gifts. The opening Exaltación is delightful, even when, as at around 0’40", the principal theme could have been lifted straight from The Three Cornered Hat.

Written immediately after the Danzas Fantàsticas, Sinfonia Sevillana is not so much a symphony as a set of three symphonic pictures, all of which have strongly programmatic titles. The opening Panorama commences mysteriously, as if through the morning mist, before the principal theme, a unifying motto that is heard in various guises throughout the work, announces itself. The central movement, "On the Banks of the Guadalquivir", is an evocation of Seville’s river, opening with a melting violin solo, which soon gives way to the cor anglais, and complete with an undulating accompaniment reminiscent of the motion of the water. The finale, "Festival of San Juan Aznalfarache", is a lively dance-like impression of a village festival, opening with a joyful triple time tune and making considerable use of the readily recognisable motto theme from the first movement.

La Procesión del Rocio predates the Danzas Fantàsticas and Sinfonia Sevillana by some seven years and is the work that firmly established Turina’s reputation in his homeland when it was premiered in Madrid. Many of Turina’s works pay homage to his native Seville and here again the inspiration is drawn from a religious festival held every June, the "procession of the Dew". Cast in two movements the work evokes the gypsy dance inspired street festivities in the first movement whilst the second movement sees the arrival of the procession itself, announced by pipes and drums, before a patriotic announcement of the Spanish national anthem leads into a more reflective passage which in turn builds to the conclusion.

The recording is exceptionally warm and rich in sonority, perhaps too much so at times in that I found myself missing a degree of brilliance and immediacy at certain key moments, particularly from the brass. Nevertheless, much of the finer detail comes through with impressive clarity and the overall impression is a pleasing one.

Christopher Thomas

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