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Carlos SURINACH (1915-1997)
Melorhythmic Dramas (1966) [21:54]*
Symphonic Variations (1962) [15:58]
Feria Magica Overture (1956) [5:12]
Sinfonietta Flamenca (1950) [12:41]
Louisville Orchestra/Robert Whitney
Louisville Orchestra/Jorge Mester*
rec. Louisville, 1967 (Melorhythmic Dramas), 1965 (Symphonic Variations), 1956 (Feria Magica Overture) and 1954 (Sinfonietta Flamenca)

What an engaging and invigorating composer Surinach was – and how enjoyable it’s been listening to these Louisville restorations courtesy of the voluminous First Edition Reissue series, as enticing a prospect in its own way as Lyrita. His writing is fervent and colourful, full of rhythmic excitement – and in his more voluptuous, Stokowskian moments he simply sweeps one up with the involving aural spectacle of it all.
Let’s start with the Melorhythmic Dramas – rather a Stan Kentonish name for seven character pieces of unimpeachable drama. The Festive second movement is bursting with rhythmic bite, brass surges, and cinematic voluptuary. Play this to keep the Blues at bay. To follow we have the terse Herrmann-Hitchcockian Poignant – though its urgency might be construed as more Pregnant than Poignant. The brass is to the fore in Tragic – richly layered and textured and intensely powerful. There’s something – how can one put this – almost Cleopatran about the Voluptuous movement. For Vehemence Surinach constructs a brusque brass-heavy argument full of rhythmic insistence. And to conclude with Mournful means more of the same and plenty more besides – an active, toughly terse mourning.
The Symphonic Variations, composed in 1962, was recorded three years later. The drama quotient is no less here and the seamless theatrical projection as inspired. There’s a certain Stravinskian dynamism to the writing and a big broad sweep of lush Iberian melody. The brassy summations are a crowning splendour as are the heavily striding ritual-sounding figures that conclude the work. Surinach here corrals rhythm, colour, melody, massed and solo lines (solo trumpet especially) and forges them all into an invigorating catalogue of pleasures. 
By some way the earliest work is possibly also the most sheerly infectious. Composed in 1950 Sinfonietta Flamenca serves up a heady tapas of an opening movement – full of vivacious flamenco and swirling dynamism. Yes, there’s a hint of danger too, a half glimpse of blade in the stocking in the Andantino but in little more than twelve minutes we are suffused in fiery chatter and riotous energy. Don’t worry – Surinach knows better than to go too far. And so too with his overture, which is draped in carnival vivacity.
Surinach is a cure for low spirits. There’s nothing fatuous or crude about his writing – it’s on the contrary excellently constructed; and the Variations illustrate how well. The Louisville Orchestra really digs into them. Despite the mono origins of two of the four works the sound stage is still wide enough to appreciate the broad colour and teem of these invigorating and exciting scores. Surinach splendour is guaranteed here.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett





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