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Jesús GURIDI (1886-1961)
Sinfonía Pirenaica (1945) [49:14]
Espatadanza (from Amaya Act II Scene 4) (1920) [3:28]
Bilbao Symphony Orchestra/Juan José Mena
rec. 17-21 Feb 2003, Euskalduna Concert Hall, Bilbao. DDD
NAXOS 8.557631 [49:14]


A real pleasure to welcome this first recording. As long ago as 1998 in one of my first reviews (Claves Guridi orchestral collection) for the site I recommended this work for recording and now here it is on the world’s most inexpensive label.

Guridi wrote his Sinfonía Pirenaica in 1945 and it was premiered in 1946 by the very same orchestra, then conducted by Jesús Arámbarri.

The work’s three movements can be thought of as three days in the mountains. The portrayal is achieved through music that has a Slav caste both ecclesiastical and dancing. Indeed the Symphony is influenced by the inspirational voice that runs from Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin via Biarent and d’Indy. If Rimsky’s Russian Easter Festival might be somewhere in the ‘weave’ then so is the sighing awesome mystery of the world’s high places. Delius (Song of the High Hills), Karlowicz (Eternal Songs) and Novák (In the Tatras) all quarried a similar vein. While those three composers distilled their psyche into nature poems no longer than thirty minutes each, Guridi allowed himself more space. His approach is rhapsodic and discursive and accommodates a greater variety of mood including vigorous tambourine-punctuated dancing (tr. 1 16:30). At 13:20 (tr. 1) a major and memorable melody appears, part-Elgarian in its nobility but with a Franckian sensuousness as in Psyché. Towards the end of the movement there is a Baxian determination about the writing which recalls his Northern Ballad No. 1.

The second movement is just as varied but with textures thinned and more space for solo instrumental gestures of Ravel-like delicacy. Even so this is not a conventional central andante. The moods are almost as varied as in the first movement. These rise to a Sibelian tempest at 11:20. The finale is exuberant with furious squalls coming and going in these high realms. Then again Guridi can be playful: at 7:43 there is a sanguine Nielsen-like surge with harp notes neatly captured in the foreground of a massive climax. Bombast gets a look-in for a moment at 10:20 but for the most part Guridi sustains a grandeur that harks back to the first movement.

The Espatadanza is taken directly from Marco Polo’s complete recording of the opera Amaya.

The Bilbao orchestra are in very good form; certainly much better fettle than for their recording of Isasi’s Second Symphony on Naxos 8.557584. I see that four session days were allowed. The investment of time has paid off. Orchestra and conductor revel in the fantasy of this rhapsodic work.

This is an extremely attractive complement to the earlier Guridi Naxos collection.

Rob Barnett

see alos reviews by Jonathan Woolf and Hubert Culot


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