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Enrique SORO (1884-1954)
Danza fantástica (1916) [4.29]
Tres aires chilenos (1942) [10.18]
Andante appassionato (Version for orchestra) (1916) [4.32]
Sinfonía romántica (1921) [36.59]
Chile SO/José Louis Domínguez
rec. Teatro CEAC Universidad de Chile, Santiago de Chile, 22-25 Sept 2015
NAXOS 8.573505 [56.15]

This is an excellent discovery, which will give many hours of pleasure. Hats off – not for the first time – for making this unfamiliarand very enjoyable music readily accessible.

Soro is not well-known outside Chile but was a major figure in the development of the musical culture of his homeland. His father was Italian, but when very young, Enrique was supported by the Chilean government to study at the Milan Conservatory. Some of his early works were performed in Paris. He was clearly a precocious talent – by the age of 21, when he returned to Chile, he had composed more than 70 works. In Chile he worked as composer, conductor and teacher – he had charge of state school music education and for eight years was director of the National Conservatory.

The present CD gives a cross-section of his orchestral works though none from his final years when his music took a melancholic turn as he wrestled with the death of his wife and his own vivid awareness of mortality.

The major work here is the Sinfonía romántica of 1921. It was apparently the first Chilean symphony, but its interest is not simply historical – it is a significant work in its own right. On paper it looks quite conventional, with the four usual movements in their usual order. Yet the voice is distinctive, from the stern opening bars which lead to a rather dark passage before becoming more elegantly pastoral. The highlight is perhaps the intense Adagio, very much dominated by rich string tone with significant and lovely solos for flute and oboe. If the last two movements are more conventional, they are never dull but full of interesting and distinctive passages.

The most striking of the remaining works is the lovely Andante appassionato, which seems to have had a place in the composer’s heart in the way that The Holy Boy did for John Ireland. Given its beauty, one can hear why. It was originally written – following a dream about love – for piano. At different times, Soro developed it for different ensembles and instruments – as well as the orchestral version, it has (among others) versions for string quartet, cello and organ.

Tres aires chilenos draws on Chilean folk music for its structures and rhythms, though the themes are original. Soro was not ‘another folk-inspired composer’, like so many from the early twentieth century. His music rarely uses these resources, and is perhaps more universal than that.

Danza fantástica is a rousing piece which would be a terrific wake-up concert opener if enterprising conductors outside Chile were to take it up.

Performances throughout are excellent, idiomatic and committed to the music. This is a fine disc – perhaps we might hear more from him. It is extraordinary, given the excellence of these works, that the recordings of the Sinfonía romántica and Andante appassionato are world premieres.

Michael Wilkinson
 
Previous review: Rob Barnett


 

 



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