Much of Arambarri's slender reputation rests
on his life as a conductor. Indeed after 1938 his direction of
the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra strangled off his activities as
a composer. As a conductor he recorded a selection of the music
of his teacher, Jesus Guridi. These analogue tapes have been kept
safe in the EMI Classics International catalogue and sound
well - vivid if a shade fierce. Apart from Guridi he also studied
with Dukas and Le Flem in Paris. His conducting mentors were Vladimir
Golschmann and Felix Weingartner - both in Switzerland.
The Orchestral Prelude carries
the same inflections as Britten's and Berkeley's Mont-Juic
dances from 1938. It is based on three Basque folk songs.
The music dances like that of Arambarri's Portuguese 'brother'
Freitas Branco but with the raucously salty breeze of Pulcinella
and the exuberant skill of Malcolm Arnold. There is some lovely,
lightly skipping, pizzicato playing along the way.
Whenever you see the name Maria Bayo you know
that you are in for a treat. Her way with the Eight Basque
Songs is cool, poetic, virginal, knowing and kindly. The
relationship with Canteloube's Auvergnat Songs and even with Netania
Davrath's unaffected joy and enchantment in the Auvergne songs
is clear. This is most notable in the lullaby of Anderegeya
and in Atea Tan Tan (tr.4) and Ainhoarra (tr.7).
If you appreciate the orchestral versions of de Falla's Siete
Canciones Españolas or Montsalvatge's Canciones
Negra you will warm immediately to the radiant quiet tension
of these songs. This shines through whether in quiet dance or
sharp or suggestive evocations of pristine Pyrenean mornings and
oceans of mist swirling around the high peaks. Those slow swirling
mists can be heard in Txalopin txalo and Nere Maitia
(trs. 2 and 3).
In Memoriam was written in memory
of Juan Carlos Gortázar. The music represents a meditative
quickening with sudden, though low-contoured, surges. There is
an orator's role for the French horn intoning the Dies Irae.
A transient fist-shaking dies away in a wonderfully peaceful
way over prayerful strings redolent of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique.
The ballet Aiko-Mako is in three
large continuous sections or Cuadros. These run for 20.46, 11.00,
16.53. The music bristles and ripples with colour. There is grateful
music for the woodwind. The reference is the music of de Falla
(especially the music for the Three Cornered Hat). Ravelian
influences are also plain. The music takes in many moods and scenes
including dignified and cool lament (Cuadro II), village celebrations
and peppery dance rhythms of the sort we know from the Portuguese
Alentejo courtesy of Luis de Freitas and Joly Braga Santos. This
is the sort of ballet that would have shone under Ataulfo Argenta.
Christian Mandeal does not project quite the same level of intoxication.
Arambarri has the charm and freshness of Guridi
and Canteloube even if the ballet is over-extended in relation
to its material. Worth hearing.
Another revealing and superbly packaged Basque
instalment courtesy of those Swiss guardian angels, Claves, the
Basque Government and the Mondragon Cooperativa.
CLAVES BASQUE MUSIC SERIES
Arambarri CD 50-2001
Escudero CD 50-2110/2111