JESUS GURIDI (1886-1961)
Basque composer. Born in Vitoria in Northern Spain. Studied with DIndy
in Paris. Moved to Bilbao until a further move in 1939, this time to Madrid.
Wrote operas, zarzuelas, orchestral works, chamber music, piano music, film
and choral music. Died Madrid 1961.
INTRODUCTION This is a beautifully presented CD. Generous selection at more
than 70 minutes of music. Excellent recording and as far as one can tell
with such rare works: authentic and faithful performances. Tuneful, imaginative
music with a very strong and distinctive flavour. Nice open natural acoustic
with plenty of detail in the recording. There is a 52 page booklet in five
languages starting off with Basque.
DIEZ MELODIAS VASCAS (1941) FOR ORCHESTRA Of this suite of
ten Basque melodies, Grove V says: this is his most popular work which
is full of varied tunes and rhythms profoundly Basque in tone and richly
scored for modern orchestra. It comes as no surprise that Grove claims
he was more successful in this music than in works of symphonic aspiration
though I would like to be the judge of that especially in relation to his
Sinfonia Pirenaica. None of the movements is longer than four minutes of
this work and most are about 2 minutes. Just occasionally there is a hint
of the rich orchestration of the Canteloube Chants de lAuvergne.
Narrativa - A strongly rhythmic fast dance like a saltarello. The
use of toughly punctuating brass and woodwind has some overtones of Grainger;
Amorosa - A dreamy tender serenade for strings; Religiosa -
A Warlockian pavane for full orchestra richly used complete with a closing
harp flourish; Epitalámica - A calm tentative faltering song
for woodwind and strings; De Ronda - Again the raucously disciplined
celebratory Grainger element comes out but everything is somehow freer. Quite
a brash dance. Brass and percussion are heavily in evidence; Amorosa has
a long singing line. It is predominantly quiet and romantic for strings and
harp. Oddly reminiscent of Richard Rodney Bennetts film music. The
theme is given a full chance to expand. At almost 4 minutes this
Amorosa is the longest piece in the suite. It ends in magical quiet.
De Ronda - Here we return to what is for most listeners a Purcellian,
slightly portentous, atmosphere. Danza - An antique dance in spirit
of Walton of Henry V. Elegiaca - This is a serenade which opens with
solo violin. Festiva - This begins in almost silence but soon glows
high in celebration. Irresistibly projected on the strings then developed
through chattering woodwind and finally in full orchestra. A grand effect.
A wonderfully fantastic end to a colourfully varied suite.
HOMENAJE A WALT DISNEY (1956) FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA There
is nothing of Hollywood glitz or shallowness about this piece nor does it
use Disney songs. The sadness is that the title may have held the work back.
This is a substantial concert piece which opens in grey mists like the oceans
of rolling fog I recall cloaking the valley from my campsite high above Barcelona
in the early 1970s. The piano enters with a tune of Celtic inflection - calm
and with some of the simple splendour of Moeran. Not long after this Bax
is evoked in the filigree work for the piano and in the tune itself. After
a long mysterious introduction at 4:20 the piano chaffs away in a Baxian
figure. At 5.20 there is a more martial episode with barking horns. At 6:17
the merest hint of a plantation song. At 8:00 we have a decisive fanfare
dissolving into the shards of a that Baxian Celtic tune again. Clearly
Disneys films touched off something deep in Guridi. At 9:45 there is
humorous passage for piano, woodwind and percussion which, for the first
time, leans into the world of Mickey Mouse or perhaps LApprenti
Sorcier but everything here is beautifully balanced and delineated. At
11:00 the mystery of the opening returns transforming into a slightly creepy
interlude. At 12:00 a chiming dance. At 14:00 a warm-as-toast romantic tune
enters dissolving into calm. Guridi is never afraid of using instruments
to create points of light. There are many impressionistic touches. At 17:00
Stravinskian woodwind emerge and the piano, never far away, enters with a
complex slightly atonal figure. At 18:28 the orchestra is in glorious song
and how beautifully propelled this is by every instrument. From 20:00 onwards
Guridi resorts to a broad Rachmaninovian passage melting into a jazzy drumbeat
driven rush. Things conclude with a return to that Celtic tune played out
in sharply delineated steps and ending amid colourful splendour and complete
with a trombone raspberry!
UNA AVENTURA DE DON QUIJOTE (1916) Symphonic Poem. There is
nothing of Richard Strauss here. While this was being written the Great War
raged in France but there is little or no tragedy here. Its reference points
for a British audience include Vaughan Williams Pastoral Symphony.
The atmosphere and some of the passages are familiar from the Ten Basque
Melodies. At 3:10 there is a charging string-driven passage worthy of
Moeran. The brass contribute with a certain unihibited brashness (a mark
of Guridi). Just occasionally I wondered if he was a counterpart to the lighter
British figures like Coates but Guridi is his own man. His approach here
is certainly light and brightly colourful. From 11:00 onwards there is a
more serious air ending in an affirmative punch from the orchestra.
EUZKO IRUDIAK (1922) for chorus and orchestra By the time you
have heard the other pieces the first movement of these three Basque Images
seems extremely familiar and welcome. The first scene has the
boats pulling to sea with a wonderful fanfare topping off the movement at
4:02. The choir enter unison - momentarily pianissimo. Guridi has clearly
heard de Falla. Scene two depicts the violent sea with a much greater
contribution from the choir with antiphonal effects. A quieter section features
a hymn-like song and here a British listener is bound to think of Welsh choirs.
It must be accepted that this is not terribly dark or sharp. The last movement
has that carefree atmosphere of the Basque Melodies. A pipe and
tabor dance enters and above it the unison voices of the women of Orfeon
Donastaria sing joyously of the safe homecoming of the fishermen. Guridi:
the unihibited, sincere, sentimentalist with a tear in his eye.
From now on I will not think of Guridi as just a name I vaguely associate
with Zarzuela. He has a definite profile and is a treasurable melodist and
colourist in the Celtic vein which reaches from Sibelius to Klami to Bax,
to Moeran, to Ropartz to Cras to Guridi. The Disney work would make a fine
disc-mate for de Fallas Noches en las Jardines de Espana. There
are four string quartets as well! I now want to hear his orchestral Sinfonia
Pirenaica and the Estampas Vascas (Basque Sketches) for chorus
You will really like this disc if you enjoy tonal music with a distinctive
nationalist flavour and with primary colours. I can imagine anyone who enjoys
Uuno Klami, Malcolm Arnold, Ravel, Bax, Moeran or Coates taking very well
to this music. Claves are to be thanked for embarking on recording this
repertoire. I definitely want to hear more orchestral Guridi and Basque
orchestral music generally. The next CD in the series will be of music by
Jose Maria Usandizaga, born in Bilbao and who died of TB at the age of 28
in 1915. In the case of Usandizaga there are three operas, some symphonic
overtures and two string quartets; the latter would almost certainly make
a fine coupling for some of the Guridi quartets. I cant wait.
Congratulations then to the people of the Basque lands for this fine disc
and for the music of a composer whose bright-eyed nationalism deserves as
much exposure as possible. We would do well not to bracket this music as
Spanish/Castilian. It is fiercely special and separate like the Basque language.
In days when a deadening pan-nationalism has devastated the rich flavours
of music across the world Guridis stands as an example of someone who
drew something very distinctive from his homeland and offers it to the world.