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Sensemaya - Music Of Silvestre Revueltas
Silvestre Revueltas, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
Sensemaya - Music Of Silvestre Revueltas
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Soundtracks, Classical
 
Tellingly, classical albums whose liner notes are translated into Spanish--in addition to the traditional English, French, and German--tend to be those that contain music by Spanish-speaking composers and ensembles. This d...  more »

     
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Tellingly, classical albums whose liner notes are translated into Spanish--in addition to the traditional English, French, and German--tend to be those that contain music by Spanish-speaking composers and ensembles. This distinction goes to the heart of the "discovery" of the music of composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) during the mid-to-late 1990s, evidenced by a steady series of releases after decades of near silence. And silence does not suit Revueltas, who favored enthralling, brash, maximalist symphonic expression, and whose work will not sound entirely new to new audiences, even though his clout as a major cultural figure stops at the border of his native country, Mexico. This sort of déjà entendu familiarity is generally the case with any composer who absorbs "folk" material (think Béla Bartók or, especially, Aaron Copland). To hear regional military horns bellow through Revueltas's large-scale Ventanas for Large Orchestra is to have dozens of western films flash through the mind's eye. And to hear subtle mariachi motifs inform the arrangement of the same composition, or in the countless set-piece segments of the highly varied Ocho por Radio, is to hear a thorough imagination at play. Revueltas understood foremost that simple themes magnified to an orchestral scale require additional detail to fill the space, and he achieves his goal with richly embroidered counterpoint, overlays of dissociated themes, and strong writing for single instruments, as with the woodwind patter in First Little Serious Piece. That said, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen's renderings seem a bit removed from Revueltas; he can unnecessarily reinforce the film-music-like quality of some of the material. This is lively, at times volatile, and often humorous music, and should be played as such. --Marc Weidenbaum

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CD Reviews

Magnificent
G.D. | Norway | 01/16/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you do not know Revueltas's music, you should, and this disc might be just about the ideal place to start. His most famous works, such as Sensemayá, are notable for the elemental power and fire they unleash, but you also get some superb examples here of the quirky, darkly humorous and poetic side of this utterly original and masterly composer.

The latter is not the least exhibited in the two serious pieces, with their almost cartoonesque business and scathing humor, unpredictable tunes and eccentric scoring (the effective duet between piccolo flute and tuba being a case in point). The Homenaje a Federico García Lorca displays some of the same qualities, bizarre, mocking melodies and never quite doing what one would have expected. The more famous Ocho por radio is something altogether different, but is still generally quirky and humorous, with colorfully, syncopated and very Mexican melodies. The opening theme is played without much variation, but the shifting scoring and textures create an almost kaleidoscopic effect. The secondary theme uses a sunny melody with a hint of solemnity suddenly jumping back into the brighter, brasher textures of the first theme. This is overall a smiling, effectively constructed work of charm, humor and poetry.

Turning to the other side of the composer, the well-known Sensemayá receives a grimly determinate and smolderingly powerful performance. The work is, in effect, one extended orchestral crescendo towards an almost volcanic climax and Salonen draws some almost dizzyingly urgent and fervent playing from the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Ventanas is written in much the same primitivistic style, exploiting faux, bizarrely twisted folk tunes clashing together like bobbing icebergs, darkly and violently. The surprise on this disc, however, was the extensive, stirring and evocative suite La Noche De Los Mayas, from a late film score; superbly scored, darkly atmospheric and dramatic, variegated but heaving with elemental power and culminating in a Sensemayá-like, percussion-heavy final section.

Throughout the performances are quite excellent, whether it is in the quirky chamber textures of the Homenaje or the frenzied, craggy power of Sensemayá; rhythmically incisive and with an - as far as I know - unmatched forward momentum. The sound is excellent, and this release is recommended with enthusiasm."
Reviving Revueltas
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 01/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Few composers of the 20th century had such a short life as the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas, who died a mere three months shy of his 41st birthday. And had it not been for conductors like the Los Angeles Philharmonic's (now outgoing) music director Esa-Pekka Salonen, Revueltas' work might never have seen either the light of the day or the concert stage. Fortunately, Salonen, like such maverick conductors as Pierre Boulez, is as interested in the complex music of the 20th century as he is of the great music of the previous three centuries; and in Revueltas' canon, he has found a goldmine, as can be gauged on this 1998 recording of Revueltas' greatest pieces.

Revueltas' music is heavily influenced by Mayan and Aztec musical styles, and, on more than a few occasions, that style that would soon come to be known as Mariachi. These sounds produce a very sensual rhythm that really could have only come from Latin America. Whether it's the intense jungle rhythms of "Sensemaya" (its similarity to John Williams' JURASSIC PARK scores is uncanny), the mariachi sounds of "Ocho Por Radio", the gestures of his score to the 1939 film "La Noche De Los Mayas", or the Mexican folk sounds of "Ventanas", Revueltas was a thoroughly underappreciated composer of 20th century music. And thanks to the superb performances by the L.A. Philharmonic under Salonen's superb direction, they are justifiably being heard and appreciated as truly revolutionary music from south of the border."