New South American Discoveries
Jorga Villavicencio GROSSMANN (b.1973)
Wayra (2011) [4:37]
Victor AGUDELO (b.1979)
El Sombrerón (2009) [9:07]
Sebastian VERGARA (b.1978)
Mecánica (2005) [7:22]
Diego LUZURIAGA (b.1955)
Responsorio (2000) [8:44]
Diego VEGA (b.1968)
Música Muisca (2009) [5:47]
Sebastian ERRAZURIZ (b.1975)
La Caravana (2003) [9:04]
Agustin FERNANDEZ (b.1958)
Una Musica Escondida (2004) [14:05]
Antonio GERVASONI (b.1973)
Icarus (2003) [6:18]
Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya
rec. NRK Store Studio, Oslo, October 2014/December 2015
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907670 [65:04]

These comparatively brief orchestral works written in the 2000s by unfamiliar (to me) composers from South America here receive their first recordings. The disc embodies the pleasure principle and provides introductions to composers all of whom were born post-1950. They and we benefit from the attention of rising star conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya. The location of the orchestra might perplex but that's no obstacle to raising the curtain on the music of these composers.

Grossmann was a Peruvian student of Foss. His Wayra is something of a sand-devil sprint which has the listener casting fearful eyes over the shoulder. Its style is more Rawsthorne than avant-garde. By the way, Wayra means 'wind' in the Inca Quechwa language. Victor Agudelo is from Colombia. His El Sombrerón radiates a remorselessly rising sense of cataclysm. The idea of the music lies in a traditional folk character who scares drunkards and gamblers. Along the way we get whistling and clip-clop hoof sounds - a metronomic tick-tock. Vergara's Mecánica piles the tension high over an evolving solid ostinato. This work establishes a good foot-tapping impulse culminating in a deceleration that vies with Honegger's Pacific 231. Ecuadorian Luzuriaga's Responsorio makes use of a traditional highlands melody from the Salasaca community. It's just as foot-tapping as the Vergara with fine scoring including high-piping woodwind. Quite a varied piece, its figures slash through a fixed rhythm - one can imagine Grainger loving this; think of his Green Bushes. Luzuriaga extracts the maximum and there's an unmistakable and joyous wink to end.
The Vega piece, Música Muisca returns us to Colombia but this time to the country's pre-Hispanic times. It is the composer's fantasy on what the music of those ancient people might have been like but informed by contemporary flashes; there’s a touch of exhibitionistic Bernstein in this with growling brass and wails. Errazuriz is Chilean. La Caravana refers to the 'death caravan' of soldiers responsible for the murder of supposed dissidents resisting the military regime. It rolls, growls and erupts. Agustin Fernandez contributes the only multi-movement work here in the shape of Una Musica Escondida. The first two movements are mysterious and tense with the last one faster. Peru's Antonio Gervasoni is represented by Icarus. It’s a work of long and wide-screen lines and gentle dissonance. The liner-notes are valuable and the sound good and clear.

There we have it - a pain-free sampling of the Southern American continent's music-making. I do hope that this conductor and orchestra will now look to revive these countries' forgotten symphonies and concertos from earlier decades.

Rob Barnett

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