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Cedille Records

Manuel PONCE [1882–1948],
Canciones Mexicanas: "Estrellita...." [2:36]; "La barca del marino...." [2:28]; "Cuiden su vida" [4:14]
Estudios de concierto: No. 7, "Juventud" [2:09]; No. 12, "La vida sonrie" [5:07]; No. 3, "Hacia la cima" [3:36]
From "Trozos romanticos": Souvenir [1:50]; Quimera [2:07]; Deseo [1:55]; Hoja de album [2:39];
Legende [5:38]
Mazurcas: No. 3 in A-flat Major [2:31]; No. 8 in C-Sharp Minor [2:46]; No. 9 in G Minor [2:49]; No. 11 in A Minor [2:57]; No. 13 in F Minor [2:22]; No. 14 in D-Flat Major [2:27]; No. 16 in B-Flat Minor [3:18]; No. 23 in A Minor [3:27]
Suite cubana [12:27]: 1. Serenata marina [3:06]; 2. Plenilunio [4:11]; 3. Paz de ocaso [5:03]
Deux études pour piano [à Artur Rubinstein] [3:52]: I. Allegretto mosso ma espressivo [2:43]; II. Allegro non troppo [1:09]
Jorge Federico Osorio (piano)
Recorded: 12-13 July 2005, WFMT-Chicago
ÇEDILLE CDR 90000 086 [74:40]
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The Mexican composer Manuel Ponce was born in Aguascalientes and studied in his home town and Mexico City before continuing his education in Europe in 1903. He established a good name in his homeland when in 1912 in Mexico City he premiered his Piano Concerto. However when he tried to launch his career in 1916 in New York's Aeolian Hall political fate loured. It was the same day that Pancho Villa attacked Columbus in New Mexico. The whole of his US tour was promptly cancelled - Ponce as a Mexican became persona non grata. His Concierto del Sur for guitar and orchestra and his Violin Concerto, taken up by Segovia and Szeryng respectively, are well worth seeking out. I am sure that there is more to discover and this disc provides yet more encouragement .

Old-fashioned his piano music may be but it still displays great assurance and a confident stylistic hand. There is the elusively nostalgic and winsome Estrellita. This is the first of three Mexican Songs (1911) - a call to arms for Mexican nationalism. Osorio is suitably unhurried and allows ‘world enough and time’ for its slow pulse to quietly beat. Estrellita was arranged by Heifetz and recorded by him. Here it is heard to wonderful effect without flashy showmanship.

There are three Estudios de Concierto in which the hallmarks are Liszt and Tchaikovsky. The music is shot though with grand dances from the ballrooms of Mexico City and with a brazen Lisztian stormy of notes.

The Trozos Romantico or Romantic Sketches of 1910-1911 are in keeping with the Canciones Mexicanas, especially Estrellita but much more prone to the vapours and lace handkerchief sentimentality.

The Legende is more restrained and even modestly dissonant in much the same way as the 23rd Mazurca. It is a querulous little piece from which emerges romantic melodies alongside grotesque episodes. It seems to reflect picaresque Manfred-like adventures.

There are eight Mazurkas here from the twenty that survived the depredations of the Mexican insurrection. They are gentle Chopin-like miniatures - not especially Mexican in flavour. Polished gems shot through with popular dances but maybe slightly bland overall. No. 16 has a raindrop elfin personality.

The three movement Suite Cubana is a souvenir of Ponce's many visits to the island. Indeed from 1915 to 1917 he made Cuba his home to avoid the mayhem of the revolution. He premiered the suite in Havana in 1914. Once again popular dances pervade this work and they do so with great elegance and a warm smile. After two movements that ingratiate the final movement Paz de Ocaso suddenly takes us on to another plane. This is music of delicacy and spun lunar light. It is subtle and elusive in the manner of Sorabji and Medtner though without quite their complexity - a highlight for sure.

The two études for piano are from 1930 and were written for Arthur Rubinstein. They represent a rapprochement between the grand manner romanticism of the late nineteenth century and the delicate hand of impressionism. Also in the mix are touches of the gamelan exotic and of Prokofiev's grotesquerie. .

The front cover of the disc reproduces "Recolección de cosecha" ("Taking in the Harvest") by Inocencio Jiménez Chino (Oapan, Mexico), 1994

This is a fascinating disc and will please the adventurous with a taste for the romantic legacy to the twentieth century and its mediation with nationalism and sentimentality.

Rob Barnett



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