Nationalistic tendencies in politics can also throw up artistic bonuses.
The assertion of national/regional identity may well bring about a renaissance
in music and a reassessment of composers who have fallen into neglect. Take
a parallel case. The growing number of recordings over the last ten years
of Scottish composers' works has coincided with Scotland's growing pride
in its nationhood and its commitment to a Scottish Parliament with a measure
of devolved powers.
This patriotic movement has been seen in many countries: France with Brittany
and Spain with the Basque and Catalan peoples. Extremists have sadly accompanied
such a drive with violence but where music is concerned the world's listeners
have been the beneficiaries. The international attraction of the CD and the
availability over the internet of CDs which in years gone by would have
languished as local products has made this music far better known.
Dans La Mer (note the French title) opens in whispered
mystery from the violins. Shadows of storm and passion cross the scenery.
The imprint of Rimsky, Debussy and perhaps D'Indy (with whom Usandizaga studied)
also register. The brass chorale which arches over the chanting strings sounds
quite Russian. The atmosphere reminded me of Bax's Garden of Fand and
The Cello Fantasía , although just short of quarter of an hour,
is a more substantial piece. It is an impassioned essay which in its tinkling
theme reminded me of Ketèlbey of all people. Asier Polo plays the
piece without hesitancy, forthright and ardent.
The Hassan piece contains reminders of the Islamic insurgency
of the peninsula although it is about as exotic as Holst's Beni Mora
perhaps a little less so. The Irurak Bat rhapsody
is a pleasant sequence of predominantly string-textured tunes presented without
complexity. Not riveting.
The Symphonic Overture dates from the same year as Dans la
Mer. Usandizaga the singer and writer of Zarzuelas is to the fore.
The woodwind, both unison and solo, are a delight in an open Debussian way
with unknowing pre-echoes of Finzi and some intense Tchaikovskian touches.
The four movement suite is about the same duration as the Fantasía
. The first movement has a caressing theme which reminded me a little of
Mozart and more often of Dvorák and a little of the acres of British
light orchestral music produced during the first two decades of the century.
The reflective Sarabande reminds me of the views looking down from the heights
above San Sebastian into the high hills and mountain ranges which march back
from the coast. The final Gigue is playfully adept light music suggesting
nothing so much as a dance on a very British village green.
It is a pity that another Usandizaga piece could not have been added. There
The orchestra is well directed and enthusiastic. Their string section could
do with a deeper tone but is vivid. The sound quality, which is very upfront
and bright is of the very best.
I look forward to the next instalments and hope that if Claves do not plan
another Guridi volume they will give us an anthology of Basque symphonies
which must, most urgently, include Guridi's Sinfonia Pirenaica.
While we are on the subject of nationalistic tendencies I hope Claves will
record Josef Marx's lyrical and brightly imagined Herbstsymphonie
and his Castelli Romana (piano and orchestra). I have not heard the
symphony but know the piece for piano and orchestra.
The booklet is pleasingly designed in every aspect. The notes are supportive
as they need to be with music of this obscurity. They are in Basque, Spanish,
English, German, French.
Another recommended disc although the quality of the music is not up to the
Guridi selection. Still very well worth having such piquantly nationalistic
and enjoyable music.