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Valentín de ZUBIAURRE (1837-1914)
Symphony in E Major (1874) [41:57]
Don Fernando El Emplazado - opera prelude [4:10]
Ledia - opera prelude [3:58]
Ecos de Oiz [6:35]
Roman Jablonski (cello)
Basque National Orchestra/Juan José Ocón
rec. 8-10 Sept 2009, Basque National Orchestra Concert Hall, San Sebastian, Spain.
Basque Music Collection Vol. XIII
CLAVES CD 50-1012 [56:40]

This review completes the site’s coverage of Claves’ unique series of CDs covering a selection of the orchestral music of fifteen Basque composers; one composer per CD or set. The primary focus has been on the late nineteenth century and on the last century but there have been exceptions such as CD 50-2614 (Arriaga).
Zubiaurre began his musical life as a chorister in Bilbao. 1852 saw him moving to Venezuela for an eight-year stay. There he spent his twenties travelling widely and teaching music. Three years after his return he was awarded the Concours National de Musique for his opera Don Fernando El Emplazado – a lyric tragedy in three acts. With a grant from the Académie des Beaux Arts he toured France, Italy and Germany in 1873. He became Second Kapellmeister of the Capella Real two years later and First Kapellmeister in 1878. These positions he held in parallel with his academic activities at the Madrid Conservatory. Among two hundred works there are three operas written between 1869 and 1874: the first of which is Don Fernando El Emplazado and the last Ledia. Other works range across zarzuela, masses, orchestral, chamber and vocal ensemble music.
Zubiaurre’s Symphony in E Major is a serious-minded, four-movement, forty-two minute structure and is the main event here. It’s his only symphony and was written in Rome. If there was a constituency between Schubert’s Great C major and Brahms’ last two symphonies then this symphony would occupy it. The performance, as with all of the works here, is polished and concentrated. It emerges as a sturdy piece that for all its length holds the interest with clear orchestration, incisive ideas and dynamic contrast. All of this is attended to with some zeal and communicative engagement by a well-prepared orchestra and conductor. Zubiaurre clearly has a penchant for smoothly polished long lyrical lines for the upper strings and these dominate. After an agitated and sometimes irritable Allegretto (III) there’s a final unfailingly smiling Allegro ma non troppo. There is more tempest to be heard in the prelude to Don Fernando El Emplazado as befits the overture to a full-scale tragedy encompassing all the usual extremes of the opera-house: death, betrayal and lovers triumphant. The Ledia prelude also has its stormy episodes but this aspect is relieved by a gentle predominance. The little charmer that is Ecos de Oiz is for cello and orchestra. It’s seemingly the only example of Zubiaurre engaging with solo instrument and orchestra. This is roundedly romantic music in the pattern familiar from the short lyrical solos by Tchaikovsky, Bridge and Saint-Saens. A nostalgic and sentimental piece, this is evocative of the composer’s home town of Garay and the surrounding mountains although their drama is not what we hear from Zubiaurre.
The booklet notes are by Patricia Sojo. The booklet is in Basque, Spanish, English, French and German. The font is of a sensible size and the design favours legibility over mere design novelty. Black characters on a white ground works: you can read it.
Throw your boinas high in the air for a series our coverage of which is now completed with this review of a CD of otherwise unknown, confidently romantic music.
Rob Barnett

Vol. 1 CD 50-9709 Guridi
Vol. 2 CD 50-9814 Usandizaga
Vol. 3 CD 50-2001 Arambarri
Vol. 4 CD 50-2007 Isasi
Vol. 5 CD 50-2110/11 Escudero
Vol. 6 CD 50-2205 Sorozábal
Vol. 7 CD 50-2305 Donostia
Vol. 8 CD 50-2413 Garbizu
Vol. 9 CD 50-2517/18 Madina
Vol. 10 CD 50-2614 Arriaga
Vol. 11 CD 50-2817 de Pablo
Vol. 12 CD 50-2906 Pagola
Vol. 13 CD 50-1012 Zubiaurre
Vol. 14 CD 50-1109 Sanjuan
Vol. 15 CD 50-1214 Bernaola

CD 50-2201 Sampler - Sounds of the Basque Country
CD-50-2101 Ravel Piano Concertos (Achucarro)