Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912-2002)
Partita 1958 (1958) [16:40]
Cinco Canciones Negras (1946 arr. orch 1949) [12:14]
Calidoscopi Simfònic Op.61 (1955 rev.2001) [15:59]
Simfonia de Rèquiem (1985) [22:38]

Ruby Hughes (soprano) (simfonia)
Clara Mouriz (mezzo soprano) (canciones)
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Juanjo Mena

rec, December 2011, MediaCity, Salford
CHANDOS CHAN 10735 [68:00]

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 Their essence is splendidly conveyed by mezzo Clara Mouriz, who is quite as attuned to the resigned, withdrawn lullaby as she is to the extrovert, cocky The Dandy.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.
Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Hubert Culot

His most celebrated music and some of his best too.

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