Maybe 3 1/2
Todd Montgomery | Wilmore, KY USA | 02/19/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The guitar concerto here is excellent--fine performance by all, excellent production and balance for the solo instrument against the orchestra. The same is true for the piano concerto, except that it is not one of Ponce's better large-scale works. Again, the quality of the recording is very good on the violin concerto, but the performance is somewhat flat and lacking in expression. It has beauty, no doubt, but not nearly what it could. I imagine that a violinist more sympathetic to Ponce's soundworld might produce better results. If this had been a bargain CD, I would have given 4 stars out of gratitude for the effort, but the guitar concerto is the only one here given the attention it deserves on a full-priced recording."
Essential Concertos by the Father of Mexican Classical Music
goodmusicman | USA | 06/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD contains the three concertos of Manuel M. Ponce (1882-1948), the acknowledged father of Mexican classical music. (Carlos Chavez said as much.) These are his most important orchestral works since, aside from several short tone poems, the bulk of his music is solo piano as well as solo guitar music (all excellent, of course). The performances featured here are outstanding in every class: Enrique Batiz, the conductor, is the outstanding living interpreter of Mexican classical music, period (certainly after the tragic death of Eduardo Mata in a plane crash in 1995). The State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra has this music in its veins, so to speak, and they perform the Piano and Guitar Concertos. The soloist for the former is Jorge F. Osorio, the greatest performer of Mexican piano music. Although the Piano Concerto is not as good as the other two concertos, it is still very enjoyable, an old-fashioned Late-Romantic virtuoso showpiece, with exciting outer movements and a lovely, lyrical inner movement.
The Guitar Concerto is given the most compelling performance I've ever heard by Alfonso Moreno, who imbues it with a vibrancy and rythmic drive that is lacking in Sharon Isbin's otherwise excellent account. This performance may convince you that Ponce's is the greatest of guitar concertos. The Violin Concerto from 1943, Ponce's last major work, and a true masterpiece, is played by its dedicatee, Henryk Szering. This is his fourth (and last) recording of this work (from the mid-1980s--the notes don't give an exact date) and he has clearly internalized its every nuance. He has neither the purity of tone of Hilary Hahn, nor the expressive warmth of Jennifer Frautschi, but he still plays this piece like it's something that he loves. I simply do not agree with the reviewer who says this is a slack performance: Szering may not be a flashy virtuoso but his devotion to the work is undoubted. The faster sections are very exciting while the lyrical inner movement is played beautifully. The only other recording of this work in print is that of Miranda Cuckson, which I have not heard, but according to classicstoday, she produces lovely sounds and purity of tone, but the orchestra she worked with wasn't quite up to the task. The orchestra here, the Royal Philharmonic, one of the world's greats, plays with fiery conviction and delivers thrilling climaxes.
The sound quality throughout the CD is pitch-perfect and the performances are as good as they get, so if you like Ponce, or if you wish to explore the major orchestral works of the father of Mexican classical music, do not hesitate to buy this CD."