2012 is the centenary year of Xavier Montsalvatge’s birth.
This release, in Chandos’s Spanish series, with its eye-catching
Joan Miró cover artwork, notes the fact in considerable
style with exceptionally good performances of a range of music
by a composer who is too apt to be overlooked these days.
Partita 1958 manages to fuse Milhaudesque pungency with
neo-classical ebullience and in the Sarabande to evoke
allusive textures through delicate tapestries of string writing.
His Intermezzo is quite emotive and songful whereas the
finale is dramatic, fugal, and full of incident and colour.
Cinco Canciones Negras (Five Negro Songs) were originally
written in 1946 for voice and piano but the composer orchestrated
the songs in 1949, and this was the work that gained him his
first widespread recognition. Nostalgia, richly evocative swaying
rhythms and vitality mark out this Caribbean set. Their essence
is splendidly conveyed by mezzo Clara Mouriz, who is quite as
attuned to the resigned, withdrawn lullaby as she is to the
extrovert, cocky The Dandy. Juanjo Mena inveigles the
BBC Philharmonic to dig into the concluding yambo rhythm, a
near relative of the rumba, with considerable brio.
Montsalvatge wrote an unfinished ballet in 1955 called El
Angel de la Guarda later reworking it into an orchestral
suite called Calidoscopio. This score was then lost but
found decades later, revised and re-presented under its new
Catalan title Calidoscopi Simfònic, Op.61. It’s
in four contrasting movements ranging from coolly impressionistic
to scurryingly pantomimic. It all makes for an excellent, inventive
and typically brilliantly orchestrated quarter of an hour. Its
finale sounds like a cross between a Latino Sabre Dance
and Milhaud’s La Création du monde.
The final piece is the 1985 Simfonia de Rèquiem
with its six interleaving movements, hence its symphonic aspect.
The composer is on record as saying he meant no orthodox religious
message by it. It shares its title, but nothing else, with Britten’s
work. It builds incrementally, unleashing a terse, jagged and
glowering Dies irae and an immediately forlorn Agnus
Dei which ushers in music of reflective gentleness, amongst
the most beautiful in the whole piece. Immediately undercutting
one’s perceptions, the Lux aeterna brings some
startlingly scored swirling string writing which slowly drifts
away into a kind of stellar remoteness. This is the most remarkable
of the movements, and it makes soprano Ruby Hughes’s Libera
me all the more human and consoling.
The recorded sound has been perfectly judged throughout this
excellent disc. For those curious about the composer and his
very personal, diverse music this is an excellent place to start.
It has his most celebrated music and some of his best too.
See also review by Hubert
from The Classical Shop