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Latin American Classics
José Pablo MONCAYO (1912-1958)
Huapango [8:11]
Arturo MÁRQUEZ (1950)
Danzón No. 2 [9:26]
Aldemaro ROMERO (1928-2007)
Toccata bachiana y pajarillo aldemaroso [9:21]
Silvestre REVUELTAS (1899-1940)
Janitzio [7:32]
Alberto GINASTERA (1916-1983)
Four dances from Estancia [11:38]
Yuri HUNG (1968)
Kanaima [4:47]
Oscar Lorenzo FERNÁNDEZ (1897-1948)
Batuque [4:09]
Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela/Theodore Kuchar
rec. July 2011, presumably in Venezuela

This is as good as a Latin American hits collection gets. The Venezuela Symphony Orchestra is on superb form, at least as good and as spirited as the more famous Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra; their American director, Theodore Kuchar, leads energetic performances that really get into the music’s ethnic spirit. What of the music itself? Moncayo’s sizzling Huapango, which spins an endless stream of crazily catchy tunes in a salsa-dancing romp; Ginastera’s brilliant dances from the ballet Estancia; Oscar Lorenzo Fernández’s Batuque, a favorite encore of Toscanini and Bernstein; Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2, which has to be at least nominated for the title of Most Fun Classical Music Ever.
Mixed into the hit parade - which, I notice, is missing a few of the usual suspects: Sensemayá, Sobre las oas, anything by Villa-Lobos or Piazzolla - are a few works that were new to me. Take Aldemaro Romero’s Toccata bachiana y pajarillo aldemaroso. Those familiar with Spanish will recognize aldemaroso as the adjectival form of the composer’s own name; it’s as if Beethoven had written a piece called Scherzo ludwigoso. It’s unclear to me whether or not Brilliant Classics insists on spelling the title “tocatta” because Romero spelled it wrong, or because Brilliant spelled it wrong. Yuri Hung, a Venezuelan composer born in 1968, contributes a work, Kanaima, which evokes the sounds of the tropical jungle.
It’s all a boatload of fun. Played with swagger and excitement, conducted totally idiomatically, recorded well, and sold for dirt cheap. I only wish there had been more: at 56 minutes. There was plenty of room for a few more gems. That is, indeed, probably a good reason to prefer Gustavo Dudamel’s album Fiesta: you get a lot of the same music, plus the brilliant Santa Cruz de Pacairigua, which I’ve called the Venezuelan version of American in Paris. If you buy this, you should next investigate the Venezuela Symphony’s CD of music by Evencio Castellanos - which includes Pacairigua, and is so nice we reviewed it twice - and track down Revueltas’ glorious La noche de los mayas.
One final thought: if you’ve never heard Márquez’s Danzón No. 2, and you enjoy having fun, you need to listen immediately. It’s worth the price of any CD it’s on.
Brian Reinhart