Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Revueltas's Final Masterpiece

From June 17, 2010:


Silvestre Revueltas left the ballet La Coronela unfinished when he died in 1940. There's a complicated story about how the version recorded here was reconstructed, explained in the valuable liner notes by Ken Smith and the conductor Gisele Ben-Dor. But it's clear that the final results are worth any amount of trouble.

La Coronela is billed as a World Premiere Recording, and it is, though this CD is actually a re-release of a recording made in 1998 for Koch International Classics. I missed the disc then, but am so pleased to have picked it up on the rebound on the more accessible Naxos label. I know Gisele Ben-Dor and the Santa Barbara Symphony from their superb 2000 Koch disc of Villa-Lobos's Symphony #10, a revelation at the time. This music is just as dramatic, and this performance just as convincing.

The programme of Revueltas's ballet provides a powerful forward movement to the music. After a witty and scornful portrayal of Los Privilegiados in the first section, Revueltas paints a pitiful picture of Los Desheredados (The Disinherited). He then shows a relentless disintegration of the former social order in the third part, Don Ferruco's Nightmare. The battle of the revolution ushers in The Last Judgement, whose middle piece (The Fallen) is too sad and wistful to make the final piece (The Liberated) any kind of positive apotheosis. Revueltas's musical portrait of the revolution shows more pessimistic rage than any feeling of the inevitability of victory. It's a sad, but still a musically satisfying, ending for a great composer's much too short life.

Two additional symphonic works round out the CD: the solemn Itinerarios from 1938 comes from the same California session as La Coronela. The 1932 Colorines, a fine piece with complex rhythms, is very well played by the English Chamber Orchestra, under Ben-Dor's capable direction.

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