Sinfonia Argentina – Arrabal
O contratador de diamantes – Congada
Primera obertura de concierto
Nora Chastain (violin)
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen
Recorded 19 & 20 March 2010 in Studio, Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen
Reviewed by: Greg Harvey
Reviewed: August 2011
CD No: CHANDOS CHAN 10675
Duration: 77 minutes
This is high-octane stuff – gauchos, pampas, coffee (not decaffeinated). There’s a gaudy start to this Latin-American disc, Astor Piazzolla’s Milongón festivo, its exhilaration enough to make Bernstein’s ‘Mambo’ (West Side Story) seem tame! Passion abounds. The piece is not as left by its composer, for this date-uncertain music is arranged for large orchestra by our conductor, Gabriel Castagna, the credit making clear that this version is without bandoneón, Piazzolla’s own instrument, and a feature of other versions of this piece. This is music at once suggestive and thoroughly diverting through its own diversions, a steamy and seductive six minutes’ worth. It also shows that Castagna is a dedicated conductor of the sort of rhythms and colours that we expect – demand! – from Latin-American orchestral extravaganzas. What might surprise is how ‘native’ the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen is!
This programme is entirely of premiere recordings – sure thing, none of this music has been recorded before (which seems to be our loss up until Chandos’s initiative). The album’s title-piece, Fiesta criolla (1941), by Manuel Gómez Carrillo, enjoys a lighter and festive touch in these orchestrations by the composer of piano-solo originals. However, four vignettes lasting seven minutes do not the listed Symphonic Suite make! Juan José Castro’s Arrabal is fascinating – Bernard Herrmann’s music for Hitchcock’s Psycho meets Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. It would be interesting to hear the rest of Sinfonia Argentina. More Argentina-related music follows, and more from Carillo, his Rapsodia santiagueña (1922), another orchestration, another piano original, but this time with a title-change for it used to be known as Rapsodia Argentina; rather nice though, quite waltzy, quite European too, almost a composer visiting South America rather than someone indigenous to the region.
Dare I mention that Concierto indio of 1940, by Theodoro Valcárcel Caballero, is an arrangement of Suite indigena for violin and piano of 1930? But such information doesn’t tell you about the sexy and slinky nature of the first movement or the easy melodiousness of the following ‘Cantabile’. There are four movements altogether, all charming in their different ways, even with some Elgarian wistfulness and Dvořákian folksiness; Nora Chastain is a lovely violinist. Congada by Francisco Mignone (1897-1986) is an entr’acte from an opera; it’s lively, pointed and even a little spectral; insinuating without being insistent. Guillermo Uribe Holguin (1880-1971) wrote eleven symphonies and three-hundred piano pieces. Tres Danzas is easy listening yet the pieces seem curiously form-less and unmemorable while also being delightfully courteous. Finally, the oldest music on the disc, from 1889, Alberto Williams’s Primera obertura de concierto, a product of this then young man’s studies in Paris including with none other than César Franck. With not a note suggestive of Buenos Aires, but not because of that, this is an impressive Concert Overture. How good it would be to hear Williams’s nine symphonies – yes, the magic/superstitious nine! – the last composed in 1939.
This is a rather good collection, varied and stimulating, with conductor and orchestra doing the music proud – the strings can sound a little thin at times though – with maestro Castagna clearly having a bent for the music of South America (he himself is Argentinean) and this is his fifth Chandos release of this type of thing. He is clearly in his element and takes his Baden-Württemberg musicians flying along, too. The recording is vivid if a little synthetic, courtesy of a three-in-one man, Reinhard Geller, who is producer, engineer and editor. Musically, there is a great deal of pleasure to be found here fun, sentiment, siestas and fiestas.