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Juan Crisóstomo de ARRIAGA (1806-1826)
Obertura No.20 (1821) [12:02]
Herminie (1825) [15:01]
Air d’Oepide (1825) [8:43]
Duo de Ma Tante Aurore (1825) [5:55]
Agar dans le Désert (1825) [18:09]
Stabat Mater (1821) [9:17]
O Salutaris (1821) [4:07]
María José Moreno (soprano)
Joan Cabero (tenor)
Coro Easo Abesbatza
Euskadio Orkestra Sinfonikoa/Christian Mandeal
rec. San Sebastian, March and June 2006
CLAVES CD50-2614 [73:09]



The discography is rightly swelling with new Arriaga recordings. The fact of his witheringly early death necessarily invites speculation as to his future compositional direction, had he been spared, but the more pragmatic response is to savour what we have. Whereas other discs have, for example, focused on his highly impressive chamber works this one concentrates on vocal and choral accomplishments. 
 
The Overture No.20 was written when he was fifteen. It’s undeniably attractive and whilst the playing itself could be neater there’s no gainsaying the effective masculinity of approach. At nineteen – he died before reaching twenty – Arriaga wrote Herminie, a dramatic cantata of real promise. The soloist is María José Moreno whose light, bright and well-focused soprano has a welcome youthful expression. There are times when she overdoes her vibrato – especially on held notes – and this can overbalance the singing somewhat; as the cantata is set in French she’s also at a disadvantage linguistically when compared with Violet Serena Noorduyn on Fuga Libera – a Belgian production that is sharper on its toes all round than this one and contains many of the same works.
 
The aria from Oedipe was written in the same year as Herminie – in fact all the works date either from 1821 or 1825. Tenor Joan Cabero digs in with vigour and passion but is inclined to be a touch blustery – admittedly this is a strenuous and demanding aria but Robert Getchell, singing in the Paul Dombrecht-Fuga Libera recording, is considerably neater and more convincing. The duet from Ma Tante Aurore may only be six minutes in length but it’s one of the most impressive things here – a theatrically convincing and pertly laid out affair that makes one wish to hear the whole work to see if it’s on the same level. The Claves pairing make a good, bold but ultimately slightly untidy stab at it.
 
Conjecturally his last completed work Agar dans le Désert is fiercely dramatic and compelling – well paced in this performance and sung by Moreno with real flair. The choral pieces were the product of 1821 – the Stabat Mater is compact, rather like Cherubini in places and O Salutaris is rather more conventional, a rather by-rote motet that follows due procedure without evincing much traces of individuality. Still, he was only fifteen.
 
Of the two it’s the Fuga Libera that takes the palm when decisions have to be made in the case of substantial overlaps. But this is a well-documented disc, generously if not always neatly done.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 

 


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