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Enrique SORO (1884-1954)
Danza fantástica (1916) [4.29]
Tres aires chilenos (1942) [10.18]
Andante appassionato (1916) [4.32]
Sinfonía romántica (1921) [36.59]
Chile SO/José Louis Domínguez
rec. Teatro CEAC Universidad de Chile, Santiago, September 2015
NAXOS 8.573505 [56.15]

I had put this towards the bottom of my reviewing pile as it had already garnered two positive reviews from colleagues in previous months. I wondered what I might say that would be different and satisfy our 300 word minimum. As it turns out, I can find plenty of different words, as my opinion about the music diverges markedly. I would direct you to those reviews for biographical detail about this Chilean composer.

The short opening work is an orchestration of a movement from an early suite. Claims by the notes writer (more on that issue later) of a “Bartok- or Stravinsky-like primitivism” are on very shaky ground. I certainly don’t claim any great knowledge of Chilean folk music, so I am not going to contradict the assertion in the notes about Soro’s use of the structures, harmonies and rhythms of the tonada - a form of folk music - in Tres aires chilenos. All I can say is that what I hear in the first two movements is European dance music of the nineteenth century, though the final movement does have a Hispanic feel. However, it is all rather bland. The Andante appassionato contains the best music on the disc, and it is not surprising that Soro transcribed the piano piece into numerous different versions, including this one for full orchestra.

The symphony was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic in 1922 under the baton of the composer, certainly a feather in his cap. It could have been written half a century earlier; indeed, it sounds to me like rejected pages from Tchaikovsky’s notebook while he was composing the fourth and fifth symphonies. The kindest I can be is that the music is never less than pleasant.

I have already implied that the booklet notes fall into the trap of overstating the quality of this music. While this is not an uncommon occurrence, the writer here has marched into the realms of the patently absurd. Let me give you an example: it is suggested that the symphony is “the equal of any symphony produced in Europe at the same time, and in the period immediately before this”. Let’s consider what emerged in the decade either side of 1921: VW’s London and Pastoral symphonies, Sibelius 5, 6 and 7, Prokofiev 1, Nielsen’s last three … need I go on. However, I have no reservations about the sound quality, or the playing of the orchestra.

I wasn’t expecting any masterpieces, but the previous reviews led to me to expect rather more than I got. This does demonstrate the virtue of MWI publishing multiple reviews of the same recording. I don’t like being so negative about an unsung composer, but there’s no point gilding the lily - this will not be staying on my hard drive.

David Barker

Previous reviews: Rob Barnett ~ Michael Wilkinson



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