Federico RUIZ (b. 1933)
Merengue (1994) [3:45]
Pieces for children under 100 years of age (1982-94) [22:31]
Three Venezuelan Waltzes (1981-89) [7: 03]
Nocturne (1994) [8:32]
Micro-Suite (1971) [4:15]
Tropical Triptych (1993) [17:10]
Clara Rodríguez (piano)
rec. All Saints Church, Petersham, Surrey, no date given
Clara Rodríguez has been recognised for some time now as an ideal pianist to perform missionary work on behalf of Latin American composers. She has performed the works of Venezuelan Federico Ruiz with fidelity and has earned the dedication of some of them; Tropical Triptych and Nocturne were written for her.
The music in this recital reflects an interesting range of influences, dance patterns and stylistic affinities. Merengue, composed in 1994, establishes Ruiz’s penchant for rhythmic vitality and romantic refinement. There is a long cycle of small character pieces called Pieces for children under 100 years of age, written between 1982 and 1994. Droll as the title is, it wouldn’t matter much were the music dull. That, assuredly, is not the case. There are hints of a Latin Chopin in the opening Prelude, whilst he summons up the spirit of Chaplin (Charlot) in the second piece of the set. This turns out to be a touch of Ragtime, so it’s not properly Chaplin that’s being evoked, it seems to me, more the piano accompaniment provided in cinemas and movie theatres to some scenes from his films. Our Lady of Sorrow is properly wistful whilst there’s great charm to Magic Dream. It’s important that he establishes mood quickly in these pieces as they are all so short – none is longer than three minutes. The Dictator rides a moped is amusing for its out of control sequence; Dictators clearly can’t ride them. Debussy haunts the Encounter of Antonio and Florentino and there’s a laconic Cha cha cha further on in the sequence. Altogether this is a lively, imaginative and witty set.
The Three Venezuelan Waltzes, composed during the 1980s, are disparate but bound together by their origin in the waltz. The Nocturne is somewhat different, being rather chromatic and obviously effusive, and it’s played by its dedicatee with aplomb. Very different again, indeed the work of a much earlier Ruiz, is the Micro-Suite of 1971. The five succinct movements, more succinct indeed than the children’s pieces, are decidedly Webern-like, and suggest the journey Ruiz has undertaken from this rather formalised use of twelve-tone, to his later absorption of local models and rhythms.
We return, finally, to a more recent Ruiz in the shape of Tropical Triptych composed in 1993. When Ruiz conjoins rhythmic brio with lyrical intensity, as here, the results are idiomatic and exciting. His propensity for Ragtime, and a bit of Gottschalk, Ginastera and Milhaud certainly doesn’t hinder him either.
To these qualities and affiliations one can add that he writes, so it seems, with considerable pianistic affinity. The performances manage to get across this vitality in well defined recordings.

Jonathan Woolf
Performances alive with vitality in well defined recordings.