A RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)
Danzas fantásticas Op.22 (1919) [15:45]
Poema en forma de canciones Op.19* (1917) [10:58]
Saeta en forma de salve a la Virgen de la Esperanza Op.60* (1931) [3:34]
Farruca from Triptico Op.45* (1928) [3:01]
Ritmos Op.43 (1927-8) [15:04]
Sinfonía sevillana Op.23 (1920) [22:26]
Clara Mouriz* (mezzo)
BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena
rec. MediaCity UK, Salford, England, 9 December 2011 (Danzas); 27 January 2012 (Sinfonia); 21 June 2012 (all other works)
CHANDOS CHAN 10753 [71:27]
This is one of the most sheerly beautiful Chandos recordings that I have heard in a long time. It is the first disc I have encountered recorded in the BBC Philharmonic's new home at MediaCity UK in Manchester. It strikes me that this venue seems to have an ideal amount of 'bloom' to the sound without being overly resonant. Chandos' tried and tested team of Brian Pidgeon and Mike George producing with Stephen Rinker engineering have created a disc of extraordinary sonic beauty. They are helped in this no end by the orchestra's virtuosic and sympathetic interpretation of Turina's beautiful scores. I am struggling to avoid hackneyed descriptions of this kind of music as atmospheric or sensuous or colourful because, well ..... they are just that! The triumph of this disc is the subtlety of the detail that is achieved and credit for that must go to conductor Juanjo Mena. A curiosity checking Turina's output - reaching Op.104 according to the official website - is given how masterly is his handling of a large orchestra how little he chose to write with orchestra. Even less exists for orchestra alone. That being the case it is no surprise that the music presented here is mainly available in other versions on Naxos, RCA, Telarc and Regis to name but four. I know the Regis disc - conducted by Enrique Bátiz and engineered by Brian Culverhouse. The Danzas and the Sinfoniá overlap programmes but that is enough to crystallise the differences. To maintain the painting analogy Bátiz/Culverhouse use primary colours emphasising dramatic contrast and maximum impact. Mena/Chandos use a more graded palette with a wider variety of subtle shadings and nuance. It has to be said that music of this type responds to both approaches and pleasures are to be found in each. However, this new disc seems to be such an ideal meeting of technical, artistic and musical minds that any comparison seems foolish – on its own terms this disc is an outstanding success.
Listening to the opening Danzas fantásticas it seems all but impossible that Turina ever harboured a wish to be like César Franck rather than the great Spanish Nationalist composer he patently is. The three dances were written in 1919 to celebrate Turina’s native city of Seville. The extraordinary atmosphere achieved on this disc is apparent in the first minute – it’s a triumph of presence and perspective. The subtlest brush on a suspended cymbal or gentlest triangle register as does the brilliantly effective harp writing. When the music does need power, all swaggering brass and arrogant dance figurations the soundstage accommodates it comfortably. None of which would count for much if Mena and the magnificent BBC Philharmonic were not as one in being so alert to the ever-shifting soundscape. They sound like they are loving every minute. The closing orgia is another orchestral showpiece – but as much as the sheer energy of the performance impresses it is the languorous sensuality that lingers in the memory.
For the collector concerned that too much duplication might not be an option the inclusion of the vocal works including the delightful cycle Poema en forma de canciones Op.19 is a major inducement. The young Spanish mezzo Clara Mouriz is the highly impressive singer. She does not have the earthy guttural quality that one associates with some Spanish singers but instead she brings a wonderfully wide-ranging voice fully able to convey the passion that burns in these songs. The texts (all included in Spanish with English, German and French translations) for this four song cycle – plus an orchestral prelude – are by Ramón Maria de las Mercedes de Campoamor y Campoosorio (1817-1901). Although both music and text contain elements of the folk tradition they are wholly original. Passion is the central emotion: “With all my soul I forgive those whom I have always hated. You, whom, I have deeply loved, I will never forgive!” goes part of the text for the opening song. There is something of the colour and spirit of the Canteloube Songs of the Auvergne but Turina is the more consistently impressive orchestrator and he wrote his cycle in 1917 some six years before Canteloube published the first set of his. Again it is the range of musical colour and emotion that resonates in the memory. The closing the extremes of love is a tour de force extolling love and lust.
Juxtaposed against that is the Fervent Prayer. The orchestral version dates from 1930 and is scored – according to the Turina website mentioned before – for just 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 trumpets and 12 strings. It sounds as though Mena uses full strings here but whatever the truth of that Turina’s effective orchestral economy is beyond doubt as is Mouriz’s impassioned plea to the Virgin of Hope. What an absolutely gorgeous miniature. The last of the vocal items is an excerpt from the cycle Triptico Op.45. This group of songs was written for Conchita Supervia in 1927 for piano and voice. Sadly, Turina orchestrated the opening song only. The text is by the same poet as the earlier cycle and again explores love and longing. Turina chooses a more overtly Spanish character here right down to castanets and the swaying rhythms of the Farruca flamenco dance from which it takes its title.
Mentioning dance links neatly to the next piece in this well-planned programme: the Fantasia coreográfica – Ritmos Op.43. This was a score for an abortive ballet which the composer described as “a gradual journey from darkness into light”. Turina wrote a continuous sequence of six dances from the gloom of the opening Preludio through to the explosively exciting Danza exotica. At just fifteen minutes I cannot understand how this has not entered the repertoire as a Latin La Valse. Although not dominated by waltz rhythms as the Ravel understandably is, they share a similar sense of gradual awakening and gathering energy and abandonment. In no way is Turina’s work overshadowed by the Ravel – which also was conceived as a ballet albeit nearly a decade earlier. This is an orchestral showpiece in the best sense of the phrase and also one of the works that displays the range and quality of this recording – demonstration if not award-winning class, I would say.
If all of this were not enough the disc closes with the work often cited as Turina’s orchestral masterpiece; the Sinfonía sevillana Op.23 of 1920. Concision of duration again applies – not a wasted gesture or extraneous musical phrase in its sub twenty-three minute duration. Gerald Larner rightly points out the Debussyian influence in the opening Panorama – it would be impossible to do otherwise, but the melodic shapes and emotional landscape is something quite different. Mena’s particular skill here is to bond this kaleidoscopic landscape of shifting moods so effectively together – the listener is wholly unaware of any ‘gear-changes’ in the music so seamlessly do the sections flow together. Again credit to the BBC Philharmonic for being so sensitively attuned to every twist and turn – again harp and percussion are caught by the Chandos engineers with tangibly thrilling dynamism. The central panel is a musical picture of the river Guadalquivir – lovely solos from leader Yuri Torchinsky and the unnamed cor anglais player in particular. The closing movement opens with a near-cinematic riot of Spanish-inflected orchestral colour. Again, why this is not regularly featured in concert programmes around the world is a mystery – exciting, appealing and accessible. The massed strings of the BBC Philharmonic are by turns rich and full or dynamic and virtuosic; clearly they were having the proverbial ball. The closing minute of the work with resplendent brass crowned by spectacular percussion and soaring string lines bring both this work and the disc as a whole to a triumphant close.
My only sorrow is that there is not much much more Turina for this team to record. There are three concertante works; for piano, violin and harp, quite a number of orchestral songs, some film scores and perhaps another half dozen orchestral works. Volumes two and three are a necessity surely! An early contender for one of my discs of the year and if this does not feature in other similar lists and awards I will be surprised. Simply magnificent and a must-hear for all those with a penchant for all things Spanish and ripely orchestrated.
Simply magnificent and a must-hear for all those with a penchant for all things Spanish and ripely orchestrated.
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