As those who already
know Guridi's orchestral music (Claves, EMI and Naxos) and his opera Amaya (see
review) we are in the company of a melodic nationalist.
I am not sure how he would have greeted a recording under the
banner of 'Spanish Classics'. He was after all a proud Basque
first and foremost and his solo piano music is not out of character
with his melodic nationalist reputation.
The Ancient Dances
are by no means self-consciously 'antique' or arty. Their
elements mix Ravel (Danses Sacrees et Danses Profanes)
with folk material - on this occasion from Spain. Other parallels include Moeran, Warlock and Bax in
their most folksy balladic style. The Muerdago (tr. 2)
is extremely touching. The Cantos populares vascos are
in much the same unassuming and graceful vein. They may be better
known to us from their orchestral versions on Naxos, Claves and EMI - the latter conducted by Arambarri.
Most of these pieces are dreamy, seemingly gazing out from the
mountains into the aquamarine green Atlantic and the Bay of
Biscay. The eighth and
final piece breaks the mould with a bright dance. Vasconia
frames the substantial seven minute blue-eyed Medtnerian
Leyenda between two vigorous pieces - a Viejo carillon
and a Tocata festiva. The Ocho apuntes (Eight
Sketches) are from 1954 and have an antique neo-Handelian
accent. Flecks of nationalist-romanticism take us back to certain
works by Bax (Hill Song and Burlesque) and Moeran
(Mountain Song). The Lamento e imprecacion de Agar
introduces a degree more toughness falling short of out-and-out
dissonance. Victoria Aja touches in the lights and the half-lights
with joyous subtlety rising to a statement of considerable grandeur
at 5.00. The Vals is from his 'Basque operatic idyll'
Mirentxu. This is gentle but not especially memorable.
The trembling Amenecer is pleasant as is the promisingly
titled Nostalgia - both are among Guridi's earliest works.
Victoria Aja studied
with Craig Sheppard, Benjamin Kaplan and Murray Perahia. She
has a velvety touch and is particularly good at the mezzo-tints
which Guridi uses to such touching effect in these poetic and
gentle sketches. There’s no heaven-storming here but gallons
of nationalist atmosphere and smiling romance.