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Escenas Argentinas - A Symphonic Anthology
Carlos Lopez BUCHARDO (1881-1948)
Escenas Argentinas Symphonic Poem (1919-20) [14:55]
Julián AGUIRRE (1868-1924) (orch. Ernest Ansermet)
Due danze Argentine (1938) [4:52]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Tangazo: Variations on Buenos Aires (1968-69) [13:24]
Luis GIANNEO (1897-1968)
El tarco en flor - Symphonic Poem (1930) [11:48]
Carlos GUASTAVINO (1912-2000)
Las niñas (No. 1 from Tres romances argentinos) (1949) [7:22]
Oscar GIÚDICE (1906-1974)
Salmo al Paraná (1938) [5:46]
Orquesta Sinfonica de Entre Ríos/Gabriel Castagna
rec. Teatro Municipal, Parana, Provincia de Entre Ríos, Argentina, 19-21 June 1999
CHANDOS CHAN10185 [58:49]

Fiesta Criolla - Latin American Orchestral Works
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Milongón festivo [5:59]
Manuel Gómez CARRILLO (1883-1968)
Fiesta criolla (1941) [7:11]
Rapsodia santiagueña
(1922) [11:49]
Juan Jose CASTRO (1895-1968)
(1934) [9:26]
Theodoro Valcárcel CABALLERO (1896-1942)
Concierto Indio (1940) [18:47]
Francisco MIGNONE (1897-1986)
Congada (1921) [4:53]
Guillermo Uribe HOLGUIN (1880-1971)
Tres Danzas (1936 rev.1940) [8:05]
Alberto WILLIAMS (1862-1952)
Primera obertura de concierto (1889) [10:15]
Nora Chastain (violin) (Caballero)
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Gabriel Castagna
rec. Studio Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, 19 & 29 March 2010
CHANDOS CHAN10675 [77:10]

It was Lucio Bruno-Videla, that champion of Argentinean classical music, who first opened the door to me to reveal the breadth of music from that country and its adjoining states. Search under his name on YouTube. You can read reviews of his CD projects elsewhere on this site. Most recently he has carried through to fruition his most ambitious scheme: to record on CD the opera Chasca (1936-39) by Enrique Mario Casella (1891-1948). The score demands three medium-sized orchestras and includes 10 timpani, 8 saxophones, woodwinds, brass and no strings. I hope to review this in due course.

The following two CDs from the Chandos catalogue are separated by about a decade but the repertoire span is related and fresh. It’s the same conductor, Gabriel Castagna, in each case and he draws fluent, lively and at times sensuous results from his two orchestras. These peer at each other across the Atlantic: Entre Ríos, Argentina on the one hand and Reutlingen, Germany on the other.

CHAN10185 starts with Buchardo’s Escenas Argentinas. This is bright-eyed stuff in a far from ‘advanced’ idiom. The orchestration is clean and transparent. The sound and style lie roughly between lightly poetic Sibelius, wistful Binge, sultry Saint-Saëns, surgingly nostalgic Barber and playful Chabrier.

Aguirre's La huella has about it the poetic warm evenings of El Salón México but there are salubrious marine zephyrs at play here and no gales. El gato sports a sprightly tambourine.

Piazzolla's gloomy and severe Tangazo has a melancholia charged atmosphere with earnest surging Bergian strings. Then from 4.35 onwards there are lively impudent woodwind solos. These then fall away at 6:40 to a more starry-chaste nocturnal landscape. This rises into tensely happy music rather like Rodrigo's Aranjuez (8.40). The music rattles and develops guttural wooden abrasions and col legno rasps.

Gianneo's Tarco en flor (The dragontree in flower) is a poetic piece inspired by the flowers of Gianneo's home province of Tucuman. Brits will recognise the lachrymose beauty of this music, touched with pastoral Bridge, Hadley and Delius. There's bird-song too but underpinned by heaving Debussian surges and thunderous rhythms (4:37). It's a very impressive piece.

With smoochy strings Guastavino is more sentimental and filmic in Las ninas. This is light music with a lilt and seductive detailing. It makes an even sweeter contrast with the Gianneo.

Giudice's 1938 Psalm to the City of Paraná deploys a majestic image of the city's river. Solo violin and flute voices are joined by the bells ringing out contentedly. There's a flavour here of Respighi's Concerto Gregoriano. With sense of joyous arrival the string writing recalls similar moments in Finzi's In Terra Pax. The filigree of the solo violin trills the piece to its quiveringly mysterious ending. Another Vltava here? Not quite, but from same shelf.

The second collection - on CHAN10675 - runs close to CD capacity while the first has a duration short of an hour.

Again proceedings are directed by Castagna who sprints in at top speed with Piazzolla's Milogon Festivo, all rattling zest and piano-goaded pulsation. Carrillo's Fiesta Criolla, which gives the disc its title, is in four contrasted movements. The score moves through crashingly active, melancholy siesta-sleepy and gracious waltzes. It concludes in a blend of Reznicek's Donna Diana and Smetana's Vltava but with a South American accent.

Juan Jose Castro's Arrabal is the first movement of his Symphonia Argentina. By contrast with much else here it's ruthlessly dissonant and is in the best mechanistic manner of Mossolov, Honegger and Markevitch. It ends with the stutter of tango and a sourly intriguing descent into silence.

Carrillo's Rapsodia Santiagueña is a nuanced piece. Its mood is far from obvious and there are magical moments along the way including enchanted tinkling, boozy fantasy and the suggestion of haunted ballrooms. The haughtily heavy orchestration holds itself in self-conscious grandeur and the work ends with Beethovenian echoes.

Peruvian Caballero's compact neo-classical four-movement Concierto Indio has points of contact with the Finzi Violin Concerto and Holst Double Violin Concerto. It's all very precise with just a touch of sentimentality. The cobwebs are kept at a distance. It's nicely and neatly despatched by violinist Nora Chastain.

Now to Brazil for Mignone who has received some stylish attention from BIS. His Congada is a glinting Latino dance, alternately dreamy and jerkily active. The whole opera, from which this comes, The Diamond Contractor was conducted by Richard Strauss in Vienna in the1920s.

Colombia's Holguin, who wrote no fewer than eleven symphonies, presents us with the vivid little Tres danzas. The final track is by the Argentinean Alberto Williams. His Primera obertura de concierto (1889) is the earliest piece here - a souvenir of his studies in Paris. It has the flavour of early Dukas but boasts a stormy Beethovenian scherzo and a conventional sign-off. Williams, who lived in Buenos Aires, wrote nine symphonies of which there is a recording of the Seventh on Arte Nova.

Let's have some recommendations for as-yet-unrecorded further orchestral repertoire from South America. Nicolas Slonimsky's book "Music of Latin America" (1945) gives some signposts but many of the names listed there are still unfamiliar. Are there any other symphonists or tone poets to be discovered from that continent? Bis are good at such things and Chandos are up there in the same exalted league. We can hope. I plan reviews of Casella's opera Chasca and of two CDs on Bruno-Videla's Tradition label. One of these has rescued and digitised recordings made in 1955 of Argentinean orchestral pieces. That two-CD set opens up the prospect of works by Aguirre, Caamaño, Castro, Torrá, Guastavino, Gilardi, Gianneo, Morillo, Picher, Buchardo, Lamuraglia, Boero and Ginastera being given a new life or at least a chance of fresh appraisal.

These two brightly recorded and well annotated discs from Chandos serve as substantial samplers of Latin America's outpouring of varied and often colour-saturated classical music. There is far more to be experienced than just Piazzolla and Villa-Lobos.

Rob Barnett

Previous review (Fiesta): Zane Turner


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