Pasajes - Mexico
Gabriela ORTIZ (b. 1964) Trifolium (2005) for violin, cello and piano
Arturo FUENTES (b. 1975) Lawine (2009) for viola and pre-recorded CD
Alejandro CASTAÑOS (b. 1978) Intersecciones for violin, alto saxophone, percussion and electronics (2009) [12.19]
Georgina Derbez ROQUE (b. 1968) Non piu infelice for violin, cello tenor saxophone and percussion (2009) [10.26]
Aleydo MORENO (b. 1982) Night Music for electric violin, alto saxophone, piano and percussion, pre-recorded CD and live electronics (2009) [16.10]
Juan José BÁRCENOS (b. 1982) Un Rancor Vivo for electric violin, cello, tenor saxophone, percussion and electronics [6.27]
rec. 5-8 April 2009, Deutschlandfunk, Sensaal, Cologne
NEOS 11047 [67.47]
This CD consists of six compositions by six Mexican composers each of whom is pictured within the attractive booklet. Six members of Ensemble Intégrales are pictured on the cardboard casing. So the presentation is pleasing and indeed quite lavish. The notes on all of the pieces are rather brief. That may be good or bad depending on your view, but for me a touch more information about the music is, I feel, always helpful. But what about the music? We’ll take the pieces in the order presented.
Gabriela Ortiz is in her late 30s and now lives in the USA. Her Trifolium is for a conventional piano trio format. This work is in a clear ternary form in which the ideas nicely overlap and make a satisfactory structure. The essay says that the composer draws upon the tonality and rhythm of “salon music” in her native Mexico whilst “blending influences of the Western avant-garde”. The outer sections are lively and exciting, the inner, quiet and nocturnal, and a happy contrast, which works well.
Arturo Fuentes studied with Ferneyhough and Donatoni. His Lawine (Avalanche) inhabits a hinterland between what might be viola sounds and electronic ones. The former are transformed electronically as if in a diaologue with the pre-recorded CD. Apparently the composer is “concerned with probing the spiritual and philosophical dimensions” between computer music and philosophy. The frenetic sound-world is indeed an avalanche of coruscating, scratching and clamour and is curiously fascinating. At less than ten minutes it makes its point with compact bravura.
In Alejandro Castaños’s Intersecciones there are, say the notes, four protagonists. The violin, which has an extraordinary cadenza at about nine minutes in, the cello and the saxophone. The electronics, “with the wink of an eye” can alter the texture and colour of a work which “juxtaposes static and sharply contrasted blocks of sound”. Listen for instance to the violent opening followed by the utterly still consequent minute or so. This is a seriously avant-garde work with an element of modern jazz and a witty allegro section in which vocal noises are inserted.
We have already noted how these young composers use Western tradition to suit their own artistic aims. Georgina Roque, who also studied with Donatoni, describes herself as a ‘musical archaeologist’. She deliberately bases her work Non piu infelice on a piece from the late 14th Century the period of the ‘ars subtillior’ by the little known Paolo da Firenze. At no point does the original really rear up in front of you but occasional phrases seem to relate to medieval cadences and melodic contours. It is gently appealing and even nostalgic music with its use of saxophone and wispy percussion. I would like to hear more of her work.
Juan José Bárcenos has worked mainly in the multi-media arts-world. As a video artist he is a member of a group called “Colectivo Kaoss” who work in experimental electronic music. His Un Rencor Vivo (A lively rancour) attempts to “find musical parallels for Paradise, hell and Purgatory as found in Juan Rulfo’s novel Pedro Páramo, in which he sees a reflection of present-day Mexican Society”. Sadly I can only detect Hell in these wild, scrambled six and a bit minutes. If there was a prize for the most unmusical experience of the year it could, as far as I am concerned, be awarded to this piece. Let’s move on to the last work. It’s the longest here.
Aleyda Moreno’s Night Music is for electronic violin, alto sax, piano and percussion. She studied piano, composition and electronic music in Mexico City and is a member of ‘Noiztrik’, an improvisational group. This Night Music alludes possibly to Bartók but one is reminded not only of animal murmurings and the natural environment but also of how the darkness itself is frightening and intimidating. Moreno flirts occasionally with tonality as instrumental splashes of melody float across the soundscape and then returns to an electronic smear. It’s quite fascinating and brings the disc to an intriguing conclusion.
The Ensemble Intégrales are well known throughout Europe. Although based in Germany they have been promoting new music from all over the world in recent years. For example in 2007 they worked with Asian composers. There is no doubt about their commitment, expressive abilities and virtuosity. These composers are fortunate indeed to have them working for them with such flair.
Commitment, expressive abilities and virtuosity. These composers are fortunate indeed to have these musicians working for them with such flair.