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Pablo SOROZÁBAL (1897-1988)
Euskalerria for chorus and orchestra (1963, instr. 1978) [3.45]
Suite Vasca (1923) [12.49]
Maite, Eguzki Eder (1954, instr. 1978) [3.23]
Gernika (1976) [5.13]
Dos Apuntes Vascos (1925) [7.08]
Siete Lieder (1929 instr. 1956) [18.30]
Variaciones Sinfónicas (1927) [25.02]
Maite Arruabarrena (mezzo)
Bilbao Choral Society
Basque National Orchestra/Cristian Mandeal
rec. San Sebastian, 13-15 June, 2-6 Sept 2002. DDD
Basque Music Collection Vol. 6
CLAVES CD 50-2205 [71.33]

Sorozábal was born in San Sebastian but moved to Madrid to establish himself as composer as well as being a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra. His 1920s were spent in Germany (with summer holidays every year in San Sebastian) and many of the works on this disc were written there - in fact in Leipzig where he studied conducting with Hans Sitt and counterpoint with Stephan Krehl. His 1930s and 1940s had him concentrating on stage works including various zarzuela. After that his creativity moved back to orchestral works.
Euskalleria is a version of the song he wrote in 1966, Ay, tierra vasca!. It is squarely in the nationalistic lyric cantata tradition with some disorientatingly Beethovenian touches along the way. The Basque Suite also for chorus and orchestra is quite varied with Verdian leading parts for the woodwind, brilliant and playful Beethovenian episodes and a lightness reminiscent of Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien. The Kunkun movement has the women's choir singing very quietly to magical effect. The choral tendency continues with the late Gernika (1976) a work of public cortege pomp. It does not stir or explore any depth of grief. The title and subject refers to the town of Guernica slaughterously carpet bombed by Hitler's Condor Legion Dorniers in Spain's 1930s Civil War - a limbering up for the civilian death toll of Warsaw, Amsterdam, Valetta, Coventry, Plymouth and London. The same tragedy also prompted Picasso's cubist canvas and Escudero's musical piece of the same name.
The Dos Apuntos Vascos is the first work on the CD for orchestra alone. This is deeply attractive and refined music in a subtly-shaded vein similar to Grieg (Holberg) and Bridge (There is a Willow). The Seven Songs with orchestra are delightfully done by Arruabarrena. Do not expect the tang of De Falla or Nin or the subtlety and colouration of Ravel. Instead these songs are touched with the playful wand of zarzuela. Highlights include Lotoren lorak and the chattering liveliness of Eres dagie txilibituek. The songs are to Basque translations of one of Sorozabal's favourite poets, Heinrich Heine, no doubt a taste picked up during his Leipzig years. Each song is dedicated to a Basque friend. The Variaciones Sinfonicas were regarded by the composer as of symphonic stature. Its theme is the traditional melody Xoriñoa, norat boa. Frankly I remain unconvinced of the composer's symphonic claims. The Variations do however have some highly attractive touches including the subtle impressionism of the Andante lamentabile (tr. 20) inevitably reminiscent of the first of the Dos apuntos and the irresistibly joyous Allegro scherzando with its feria role for tambourine and Basque drums.
Claves and their stalwart sponsors deserve praise for their steadfast commitment to this richly rewarding project, for their exalted production values and for their perceptive choice of repertoire. I hope that at some stage this will stretch to a disc of Basque symphonies including Guridi's Sinfonia Pirenaica.
Another fascinating volume in the Basque series. Not the equal, musically speaking, of the Isasi, Arrambari or Guridi discs but with much attractive music to discover. Sample the highlights (the first of the Apuntes, Kunkun, Lotoren Lorek and Eres dagie txilibituek).

Rob Barnett


Guridi CD 50-9709
Usandizaga CD 50-9814
Arambarri CD 50-2001
Escudero CD 50-2110/2111
Isasi CD 50-2007

see also review by Chis Howell with a complete discography

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