José Luis DOMÍNGUEZ (b. 1971)
The Legend of Joaquín Murieta, Ballet in Two Acts (2009)
José Luis Domínguez (conductor)
Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra
rec. Arrau Hall, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Santiago de Chile, 2-5 March 2015
NAXOS 8.573515-16 [38.46 + 56.53]
Great fun! A new full-length ballet, especially one as tuneful as this, with an exciting story, is always a welcome addition to both the ballet repertoire and to recorded music.
José Luis Domínguez, who also conducts on this set, is a significant figure in Chilean music as a conductor. This ballet is his first large-scale symphonic work. It is little surprise that, like many conductor-composers, he has such a sure sense of orchestral balance and capability, something evident throughout this work.
The ballet tells a simple story – with plenty of action, set in California – of Joaquín Murieta, a nineteenth century brigand, perhaps the inspiration for Zorro. His origins are obscure, but he has been adopted as something of a folk hero in Chile from where he might have originated. Pablo Neruda wrote a play about him, later turned into an opera by Sergio Ortega. Those works end with a gruesome finale as Murieta is shot and beheaded.
Domínguez ignores that, instead creating a tale set during the Gold Rush, in which Murieta and his men come to the rescue of a town under threat from the villainous Galgos. There is no decapitation but rather the happy outcome of reunion with the beloved Teresa. Think of this as a blend between Robin Hood and The Magnificent Seven.
The comparison is apposite, as Domínguez is quite specific that his music is inspired by symphonic soundtracks of composers such as Korngold, Herrmann and Williams. That is a clue not only to its style, but also to his idea that it should work as a stand-alone piece. This recording is a must for anyone who enjoys the great film-scores: all the virtues of sweeping themes, varied instrumentation and memorable tunes are here.
Performances are committed and in the best Hollywood tradition, with good recorded quality.
If a great ballet company such as the Royal Ballet were to take this into their repertory, one could imagine it quickly becoming a popular hit, rather in the manner of Khachaturian’s Spartacus. A fine ballet conductor, like Barry Wordsworth, would relish this score.
The town’s people [3.53]
The Galgos’ Entrance (The imprisonment of the innocent) [3.17]
Joaquín Murieta’s entrance [3.20]
Teresa and Joaquín (pas de deux) [4.48]
Exit of the town’s people [1.30]
El Caballero Tramposo (The drunk variation) [2.04]
Murieta’s entrance (The freeing of the prisoners – The battle) [6.27]
Murieta and Tresdedos [3.25]
The leader of the Galgos interrogates the disguised Murieta [2.37]
The bustling town [2.04]
The women’s entrance (Variation) [4.40]
The leader of the Galgos flirts with one of the wives [6.07]
Interlude (Teresa’s Song) [3.48]
The town’s festivities and the Nobleman’s Spanish Dance [5.07]
The toast and the people’s dance [4.26]
The disguised Murieta’s intrusion [4.36]
Entrance of Murieta’s men and battle [6.15]
Teresa and Joaquín’s reunion (Pas de deux) [11.17]