I remember, when much younger, reading somewhere that Revueltas
had died from “over exertions and an irregular life”.
This thrilled me because we all want our heroes to die in some
romantic way, and the composer of such colourful and exciting
music deserved to have had such a fate, if fate it was, befall
him. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Revueltas
was an alcoholic and that is what led to the pneumonia which
ultimately killed him.
I discovered Revueltas through Bernstein’s seering recording
of Sensemaya - still available on Sony 5099706057123,
coupled with music by Chavez, Copland, Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez,
Mozart Carmargo Guarnieri and Villa Lobos - essential listening.
I was hooked.
In a composing career which spanned about 16 years Revueltas
left a large body of work in all genres except opera. His music
gets right to the point immediately; there’s never a note
wasted, and he speaks the Mexican vernacular. Paul Bowles called
him “The Mexican Falla” but his music is far too
Rabelaisian for that. Falla was fastidious in everything he
wrote. Revueltas is manic; one feels that he barely has time
to get one idea on paper before another comes into his mind
that must be used. It’s easy to see why he has been compared
to Charles Ives for, at first hearing, one might think that
here is someone who has little idea as to what he is doing.
Further knowledge of the music - and this is also true of Ives
- shows a strong hand and a strong musical mind at work.
Colorines, the earliest work here, is scored for a small
orchestra and is full of Indian drumming, bird-calls, screams
might be a better word, and it sings of the country villages
and their people. You can hear all the subsequent cowboy film
scores here, but this is the real thing, not an ersatz
Mexico. Itinerarios is more serious. Huge chords for
full orchestra lead to a saxophone lament, with the chords now
reduced for a few instruments. Quite how the title relates to
the music is beyond me, but that isn’t really important
for here is a landscape, empty of people, which has a surprising
ending considering what has gone before.
La Coronela is the most important piece here. The notes,
in the inlay, give the full story so I won’t dwell on
it here beyond pointing out that it is a ballet involving skeleton
characters based on the engravings of José Guadalupe
Posada and a revolutionary plot around the theme of a workers’
coup against an oppressive régime. The work is in four
episodes: Society Lady of Those Times; The Disinherited;
Don Ferruccio’s Nightmare; The Last Judgement.
Left incomplete when Revueltas died the first realisation fell
to Blas Galindo with orchestration by Candelario Huizar. This
was premiered in Mexico City in 1940 after which the score promptly
disappeared. The ballet is heard here in an edition by Eduardo
Hernández Moncada (who had conducted the 1940 premiere)
and José Limantour. Limantour conducted the premiere
of this version in 1962 in Mexico City. It’s a very exciting
piece, having all the usual Revueltas fingerprints and it leaves
you wanting more.
This is a fabulous disk, well worth having for the marvellous
music it contains and the fact that here is a true wild card
of music. Good notes, great sound. The sheer earthiness of this
music is compelling, which makes it all the more fascinating
that Revueltas’s attractive music should still be looking
for an audience.
see also the review by Len
Mullenger of the original Koch release
and a review
of another Naxos release of the music of Revueltas