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Celso GARRIDO-LECCA (b. 1926)
Danzas populares andinas (Andean Folk Dances) (1983) [13:08]
Retablos sinfónicos (Symphonic Tableaux) (1980) [19:02]
Suite peruana (Peruvian Suite) (1986) [8:21]
Laudes II (1994) [13:43]
Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya (Retablos sinfónicos)
rec. NRK Store Studio, Oslo, Norway, 4 December 2015 (Danzas); 30 April, 4 September 2015 (Peruvian Suite); 11 March 2016 (Laudes II); live, Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas, USA, 29-31 October 2010 (Retablos). DDD
NAXOS 8.573759 [54:14]

The Peruvian born composer Celso Garrido-Lecca is, amazingly, now in his tenth decade and yet his music has been completely overlooked in Britain and probably Europe. He has had a varied compositional career. First he studied in Lima then, significantly for his later development, in Santiago in Chile, where his teacher Fré Focke introduced him to serial technique. He won a scholarship to go to Tanglewood to have lessons with Copland. By 1965 he was back in South America, first in Chile and then at the National Conservatoire in Lima. From this point on he took an especial interest in the folk music traditions of these two countries.

The CD opens with the Andean Folk Dances, a set of five contrasting pieces. As Marino Martinez comments in his elucidatory notes, the composer “captures a flavour of the dramatic and celebratory aspects of life in Andean villages”. I would defy anyone not to vigorously tap their foot during the middle movement, simply marked ‘ritmico’. Whether actual folk melodies are used I’m not entirely certain, but the atmosphere is perfectly captured.

Of a similar bent is the Suite peruana, a work of six very brief movements scored for string orchestra which uses dance rhythms and melodic inspirations from the music of the composer’s homeland. Indeed the last movement, called ‘Tondero’, refers to a traditional dance from the composer’s own northern region of Peru. If you know Bartok’s Rumanian Dances then these pieces will appeal equally.

Another side of the composer’s character is obvious in the other two works. Laudes II was written twenty-two years after Laudes I. The word, of course, means ‘Praise’, but this sensation is mainly manifest in the third of the three movements, marked ‘Vivo, jubiloso’, which comes out rather like modern hoqueting. The other two are more meditative, even spiritual. This is atmospheric music, colourfully orchestrated and using glissandi and even a few quarter-tones, but it is never abrasive on the ears. The score is headed by an enigmatic quote from Lao-Tzu, a Chinese philosopher: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao, the name that can be named is not the eternal name”. This line inspired the entire work, the composer states.

There are two orchestras involved in this recording. The Fort Worth Orchestra tackle Retablos Sinfonicas (Symphonic tableaux). This is a sort of symphonic development of the folk-based pieces mentioned above and the longest work on the CD. There are four movements. The first, which the composer marks as an Introduction, is full of character but leads quickly into a ‘Dansak’, which is not a curry dish, but a traditional scissor dance explained in more detail in the notes quoted from the composer by another annotator, Jan Vial Jaffe. The ensuing slow ‘Triste’ which leads into another ‘Tondero’ makes up what amounts to the second section of the work. This last named movement uses much percussion, including a curious ‘cajon’, a wooden box-drum played with the hands. The exciting rhythms are based around the one used by Bernstein in ‘America ’i.e. six quavers followed by three crotchets. I find that this piece is less vividly recorded than the other three – more boxy one might say.

It seems odd that it should be largely the Norwegian Radio Orchestra that are entrusted with this rarely encountered music, but Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who is himself Peruvian, is their chief conductor and clearly grasps the nuances of passion and excitement that the composer generates. The orchestras work enthusiastically for him. My only regret with this CD is that it weighs in at less than an hour and nowadays, even at budget price, that makes one feel rather deprived.

Gary Higginson

Previous reviews: Rob Barnett ~ Michael Wilkinson



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