Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Reviews from other months
Silvestre REVUELTAS Homenaje a Federico Garcia Lorca, Sensemaya, New Philharmonia Orchestra: Eduardo Mata  Ocho X Radio, Toccata, Alcancías, Planos London Sinfonietta: David AthertonLa Noche de los Mayas  Orquesta Sinfónica de Jalapa: Luis Herrera de la Fuente   Catalyst 09026 62672 2



Revueltas hailed from Mexico as a child prodigy and, in the early years of this century, moved to Chicago where he survived Al Capone but not the booze. He was assistant conductor of the Mexico Symphony Orchestra for six years and his last three years he spent travelling Europe and he supported the Spanish Civil War. He suffered spells of mental illness and was dead by 40. He was a nationalist composer reflecting his country's folk music and song. The rhythm and sharpness of his music reflects the sounds that local villagers produce with their small discordant bands of instruments, as found in any Spaghetti Western.

The present album appears to be a compilation of from earlier BMG sources with three orchestras and conductors. The earliest is from 1975 but the sound on all is stunning. If you are at all aware of this composer's work it will be Sensemayá which is based on Nicolas Guillen's poem describing a ritual dance used during the killing of snakes, here presented in its later scoring for 27 wind instruments and 14 percussion instruments.. This was taken up by Leonard Bernstein and a recording released in the UK in 1964. This opens with soft gong strokes, a stomping Latino-indian dance rhythm and distant calls imitating the sort of sound that comes from a conch shell. Trumpets and trombones enter, followed by chugging strings as the dance becomes more and more frenzied. Great stuff!

This is performed by the New Philharmonia conducted by Eduardo Mata who also opens the disc with Homenaje a Frederico Garcia Lorca written in 1937, in memoriam. It has a most peculiar construction - a short arpeggio on piano, a haunting lament on trumpet and then a chirruping piccolo leading full tilt into a rude dance rhythm with sneering trumpets and discordant trombones cocking a snook. Similar episodes alternate; trumpet lament again and a more sorrowing, dragging dance rhythm; then Mexican Tijuana rhythms leading to an energetic conclusion.

The London Sinfonietta conducted by David Atherton then takes centre stage with four shorter pieces for small ensemble. Ocho X Radio was written for a radio play and is a short chamber piece for eight instruments with a lovely central swaying section. Toccata is a short ,vigourous piece played furiuosly, reminiscent of neo-classical Stravinsky. Alcancias is in three movements, the central one slow and lyrical the outer being more vigourous. Tim Page ( Executive Producer for Catalyst and obvious Revueltas enthusiast) declares that these sound like El Salón México on mescal. The final piece is Planos which I mistook for pianos, particularly as a piano plays the central role in the opening which is both hesitant but expectant. In fact planos means planes or layers.

The final work is La noche de los Mayas played by Orquesta Sinfónica de Jalapa conducted by Luis Herrera de la Fuente. It is a suite in four movements drawn from the film of the same name. No details of the film are given by Tim Page. The opening movement (La noche de los mayas) has more than a hint of stereotype, opening with loud gong crashes and brass fanfares before introducing a gentle string melody. The second movement (La noche de Jaranas) will sound familiar if you are acquainted El Salón México with its bright, fidgety dance rhythm. If there was a love interest in the film it is expressed in the beautiful La noche de Yucatàn. The finale, La noche de encantamiento, has stamping percussion and screeching brass, twisting, whirling , writhing and routing in wild abandon. Revueltas might be on one of his benders but from the booklet illustration it seems that he is calling the dead from their graves; less a carnival., more a Dance Macabre. The CD packaging is unusual. In place of the booklet is a large poster which is folded into a booklet. One side contains the track details and the notes by Tim Page. These too are unusual in that the English script has alternate lines with the Spanish; novel but difficult to read. This is a pity because what he has to say is well worth reading. The reverse is taken from a mural in the Hotel del Prado, Mexico City, entitled Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda by Diego Rivera who is present as a boy holding hands with a skeletal lady. Her skull forms the central, CD-sized, square of the poster and is not reproduced in colour as is the rest of the mural, but in black and silver. This is what you see when folded and in the CD case. This could not be adequately reproduced as a graphic for this page. No matter, as the coloured counterpart is present as a backing piece to the disc and that has been reproduced here. An enlarged silver and black version of the skull is also printed on the CD. This is packing as imaginative and startlingly original as the compositions contained within. Full marks to catalyst who are distributed by BMG


Len Mullenger

There is more information on the composer in an article "Silvestre Revueltas: Tale of an Unforgivable Oblivion" by Roberto Kolb Neuhaus see website


Len Mullenger

Return to Index