Revueltas died young, of alcoholism at the age of forty, but
increasingly he is regarded as the most gifted among the Central American
composers of the 20th century. The music on this bargain-priced CD does
much to encourage such a view, even if the longest item, the thirty-minute
ballet score La Coronela (The Girl Colonel) is largely the work
of arrangers and orchestrators.
There is little need to worry, however, for the work
of Jos‚ Yves de Limantours of Eduardo Hernandes Moncada, makes the music
sound as fresh as the day it was written. Even so, the inspiration seems
less vital than it does in the two other pieces on this skilfully played
and well recorded collection. Revueltas is always successful in bringing
colourful orchestral sounds to the fore in his scores, and he also had
the ability to create a compelling rhythmic vitality out of relatively
meagre means - a rare talent indeed. Of these various characteristics
there is probably no finer example than Sensemaya (1938), a short tone
poem inspired by the writing of the Afro-Cuban revolutionary Nicolás
Guillén. The subject is the almost ritualised killing of a tropical
snake, and the musical results are at once entertaining and compelling.
The music is tuneful while rhythmically repetitive, after the style
of The Rite of Spring (Stravinsky). There is also a certain dissonance
in the sometimes complex textures, which serves to intensify the effect..
Here, as elsewhere, Enrique Barrios and his idiomatic
orchestra deliver committed and convincing performances. The recorded
sound is vivid and packs the necessary punch. The most spectacular of
the three pieces is probably the concert suite from the film music,
La Noche de los Mayas, which made such an impression when it was brought
to the Proms at the Albert Hall this summer. Originally written for
a film, this follows the achievement of the best of film music in working
perfectly well out of context in a concert setting. The orchestration
is at once colourful and natural, while in the finale the rhythmic vitality
brought by the array of exotic percussion instruments recalls and even
transcends the celebrated Sinfonia India of Carlos Chavez.
With some typically informative Naxos documentation,
this disc of music by a little known but immensely gifted composer can
be recommended with much enthusiasm.