Silvestre REVUELTAS (1899-1940)
La Coronela (The Lady Colonel) (1940) [33:38]; Itinerarios (Travel Diary) (1938) [9:25]; Colorines (1932) [7:21]
Santa Barbara Symphony/Gisèle Ben-Dor; English Chamber Orchestra/Gisèle Ben-Dor (Colorines only)
rec. 12 January 1998, Oxnard Performing Arts Center, California and 19 December 1997, Lyndhurst Studios, London (Colorines only). DDD
re-issue of KOCH 3-7421-2H (1998)
NAXOS 8.572250 [50:24]
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.
This music is compelling.
see also the review by Len Mullenger of the original Koch release and a review of another Naxos release of the music of Revueltas