Evaristo Fernández BLANCO (1902-1983)
The Complete Orchestral Works
CD 1
Vals triste (1920) [5:18]
Impresiones montañesas (1921) [17:21]
Obertura sinfónica (1925) [9:48]
Pequeña suite (1929) [12:56]
Tres piezas breves (1930) [8:23]

CD 2
Dos danzas leonesas (1932) [8:30]
Obertura dramática (1940) [18:55]
Suite de danzas antiguas (1982) [23:01]
La voz de Evaristo Blanco (1990) [9:30]
Orquesta Filarmonica de Malaga/Jose Luis Temes
rec. June-July 2008, concert hall of Orquesta Filarmonica de Malaga. DDD
world premiere recordings
VERSO VRS2094 [53:37 + 60:00]

The twentieth century Spanish composer Evaristo Blanco’s style is romantic-melodic. There’s little trace of the avant-garde here.

The Vals Triste is a languorous yet soulful sigh – light music with a touch of the famous Sibelius piece but with a dab of melancholy from a Bernard Herrmann film score. From the following year comes the Impresiones montañesas – the work with which Blanco won the Royal Conservatory of Madrid Extraordinary Prize. This is a fulsome and romance-soused slice of Spanish village life. The music is in part reminiscent of Delius at his most heady with cross-currents from Franck and Massenet. There were moments when the music recalled the postcard pictorialism of Impressions d’Italie by Gustave Charpentier. Certainly if you are looking for a luxurious slice of Iberiana complete with castanets then look no further. The Obertura sinfónica is the only one of the composer’s works not to have been performed during his lifetime. Its orchestral tissue is not as dense as for the Impresiones montañesas. Although ideas are presented resourcefully and with considerable wit – note the use of profundo bassoon and gong at the close – this is a work written with a lighter hand. The 1929 Pequeña suite is in four touching miniature movements – similar in style to the romantic Frank Bridge. The Vals Lento reminded me of Strauss’s music for Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The next year he wrote another piece in a similar vein. The Tres piezas breves are by turns sentimental, for the first time ambiguous in their tonality (Serenata – Bridge evoked again) and peppery-exultant (Marcha). The latter movement is over and done with very quickly but has time to remind the listener of the Impresiones montañesas. These pieces recall the countryside style of the music we encounter in Claves’ Basque Music series and the orchestral suites of de Freitas Branco. The Dos danzas leonesas are two short dances from Leon in expert and lissom arrangements. These add lustre to the store of fine Iberian music with a Moorish sway. The Obertura dramática is a substantial score which the conductor relates to the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War. Certainly it is the most psychologically tense piece here with half hints of the Dies Irae, shimmering strings, blaring horns (eight of them) in relentless cinematic full cry and stomping Stravinskian assaults. It was a work that would not have endeared Blanco to the victorious Republicans and not surprisingly it had to wait until 1983 for its premiere. Its finale looks to a dazzling Hollywood sunset for its hope – dewy with harp silverpoints and glowing strings. As we know from many of Rodrigo’s works Spanish composers were often drawn to the spirit and letter of the Peninsula’s early music. In the Suite de danzas antiguas Blanco rises to the task with a soulful Pavana and a smilingly diaphanous and a long-lined Minué. The final ten minute track on CD 2 is of Blanco’s champion, Carlos de Castro, interviewing the composer. Clearly spliced together and assembled in a series of questions and answers, it would have been good if this had been translated for those of us who do not speak Spanish.

The invaluable notes are by the conductor.

I hope that Verso will do more of this sort of project. It has exposed music of virtue - modest yet pleasant and agreeably imaginative.

Rob Barnett

Music of virtue - modest yet pleasant and agreeably imaginative. In the case of the Obertura dramática we have something of grand ambition tackling the eternal verities.