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Julián CARRILLO (1875–1965)
Orchestral Works
Symphony in D major (1901) [32:57]
Theme with Variations for orchestra, Op. 2 (1899) [14:04]
Suite No.1 for orchestra, Op. 1 (1896-99) [15:33]
Orquesta Sinfónica de San Luis Potosi/José Miramontes Zapata
rec. Teatro de la Paz, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 2015
STERLING CDS1107-2 [62:48]

Though the violinist and composer Julián Carrillo became known for his acoustical experimentation with micro-intervals – a highly progressive course for a Mexican composer born in a small village in 1875: highly progressive, indeed, for anyone – this disc of orchestral music dates from the time when he was polishing his instrumental and compositional resources in Berlin. There he studied with Salomon Judassohn, who himself has escaped from history’s cloak with some excellent recent recordings to his name.

The First Symphony dates from 1901. It’s a verdant, spry work with lowing wind writing and horn calls that summon up Austro-Germanic landscapes rather than anything South American. Rooted deeply in late-Romantic musical soil it does however admit some hints as to Mexican colours and rhythm though these are very slight in the first movement. For the most part Carrillo shows that he has listened to the latest from Strauss but is more rooted in Schumann. The slow movement flows and rises to an apex very attractively, poetic woodland winds once more to the fore, an ascending and winding solo violin attractively adding to the sonic panorama. It’s in the paso doble insinuations of the scherzo that one hears a more personal stamp, as in the delightful series of instrumental soliloquys that follow, whereas for the finale Carrillo piles on the orchestral weight, lower brass powering away, building up vast climaxes and ending the work in a blaze of surging majesty. Hardly an unconfident work, the First Symphony served notice of real talent.

The Theme and Variations was composed two years before the Symphony, its ethos being broadly that of Leipzig-meets-Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. Each of the variations is helpfully tracked allowing one to enjoy their felicitous warmth and variety. The highlight is the slinky Habanera, a touch perfumed, and immensely evocative, though the concluding Tempo di Polonesa is a truly stirring way to end things. The First Orchestral Suite, which occupied him from 1896 until 1899, was his official Op.1. In four movements it exemplifies the high standard of lighter orchestral music to be encountered at the time, with an easy-going waltz, a strong Gavotte and a suitably (lightly) serious Andante Religioso.

This disc shines rewarding light on Carrillo’s embryonic composing years, a process helped by the excellent and valuable notes. The recording is generally good, though the orchestra’s percussion can sound a bit tinny in the Symphony. No matter; the performances are all committed and strong and certainly worth a listen or three.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett



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