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Rodolfo HALFFTER (1900-1987)
Don Lindo de Almería, Ballet suite Op.7b (1936)
La madrugada del panadero (The Baker’s Dawn), Ballet suite Op.12a (1940)
Paquiliztli, Op.46 (1983)
Obertura festiva, Op.21 (1952)
Obertura concertante, Op.5 (1932)
Orchestra of the Communidad de Madrid/José Ramón Encinar
NAXOS 8.557623 [58:00]

To complement their de Falla series Naxos have issued this disc of music by a lesser known Spanish composer. Halffter was born in Madrid and later moved to Mexico. He lived at a time when Europe’s experimental new forms of composition were at their peak. As a self-taught composer he had leanings towards de Falla (and Schoenberg probably), but The Three Cornered Hat couldn’t be further from my mind whilst listening to this disc.

The CD notes, which are in English, Spanish and German, describe Hafftner as evolving a style of: ‘clear-cut rhythmic and tonal contrast enlivened by off-beat accents recalling Stravinsky ... and inflections after Milhaud.’

To me much of the music is ‘triangular’, without any reference to a Three Cornered Hat. I find the thematic material scant. It shows no clear development with sections bolted together. Perhaps this is music more reminiscent of a cartoon soundtrack which only has proper meaning when accompanied by visuals. In fact the ballets may well be completely in place when heard in the context of the stage performances for which they were intended. Without a visual stimulus I find the material difficult to enjoy. The booklet surprisingly gives little clue to the nature of the plots of the two ballets within its meagre two page spread on the composer and his works. The additional pieces found on the disc were never related to visual material and are consequently even less assimilated.

The percussive opening piece, Paquiliztli would seem better placed as a later track as most of the others are better suited to serve as an opening track to ‘set the scene’. The small orchestra performs admirably, but the texture is thin by lack of integration of the instrumental sections in the compositions. This may well be deliberate, but sadly it gives little for the listener to get enthused over.

Raymond Walker

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