Jesús RUEDA (b. 1961)
Mephisto (1999) [5:33]
Piano Sonata No. 1, ‘Jeux d’eau’ (1991) [9:02]
Invenciones (excerpts) (2003) [6:22]
Piano Sonata No. 2, ‘Ketjak’ (2005) [9:13]
24 Interludes (2003) [32:46]
Ananda Sukarlan (piano)
rec. February and July 2007, Conservatorio de Amaniel, Madrid
NAXOS 8.572075 [62:56]
Rueda has an extensive catalogue to his name, embracing all the expected byways and highways, ranging from solo piano to large-scale opera - and stops in between. This particular disc focuses on some of the piano works, which range from 1991 to 2005.
Mephisto clearly evokes Liszt linguistically and it does so too musically. This is a daemonic opus that spends its five minutes in a battery of unremitting demands, all of which Ananda Sukarlan meets with sangfroid. Exciting though it is it’s also somewhat exhausting. The Piano Sonata No. 1, ‘Jeux d’eau’ is entirely different; a complete contrast. Written eight years earlier it offers instead Ravelian textures and glinting impressionistically-derived hues and colouration. True, there is the occasional gruff and bad-tempered chordal outburst but these act to break up the limpid suggestibility of the writing generally. The final section is more barbarically engaged however, scampering and explicit.
Back in 2003 Rueda wrote Invenciones, for children, a selection of which is presented. I’m not sure how many he has written in total - at least 29 because we get that one here, though it’s teasingly called To be continued. In any case Sukarlan plays nine. They’re tiny, delightful affairs, half a minute long, full of ‘insistent’ chords or lyric surprise (such as the punning Inner Piece [No.24]). Of sterner stuff is the Second Piano Sonata that follows. It’s very different from the 1991 sonata in its muscular trajectory and means, and in its absorption of non-European music - Balinese in this case. The notes talk of jazz influence as well but I can’t hear much - maybe some, half way through in its more staccato-obsessed moments. Textures are busy, though not unremittingly so, but watch out for a grandstand finish. He certainly has a gift for the theatrical and driving.
The final work was written in 2003, a couple of years before the Second Sonata; the 24 Interludes. They are 24 character studies, brief in the main - not one breaches three minutes - that make their mark with precision. They range from wistful and refractory to ebullient and assertive. Some are clearly song based or song derived, whilst others have geographical associations (Bali again, amongst others). We can enjoy the slow harmonic drift on the Canción de cuna or the funky Chopin-meets-Nancarrow heroics of No.10 - called, not inappropriately, Chopin. Balinese music is evoked by treble trills, there’s elsewhere delicate tracery, as well as a pop song sensibility [No.20 a Berceuse]. Prokofiev stalks the final one, a Toccata. Influences; Scriabin, Nancarrow, and Prokofiev.
Rueda’s piano works cover something of a spectrum; driving, pliant, terse, elliptical, embracing Bali and Scriabin, as well as powerhouse pianism. Sukarlan, well recorded, is equal to all challenges.