Notes and Editorial Reviews
Arturo Tamaya, cond;
Asier Polo (vc);
Frédérique Cambreling (hp); Basque Natl O
CLAVES 50-2817 (55: 29)
The music of Basque composer Luis de Pablo (b. 1930) is little-known outside Spain—this is only the third CD of his music I’ve seen—but
within that country, he is one of the pivotal figures in the cultural renewal that took place there near the end of the 1950s. Promoter of new music, a champion of Webern and Stuckenschmidt, de Pablo writes music that vacillates between atonality and traditional Basque rhythms and melodic fragments. It is also very atmospheric, lightly scored, and much more accessible to a new listener than the music he has championed.
is essentially a symphony, though not designated as such, with solo harp. Though it is dedicated to Giovanna Reitano, Frédérique Cambreling, the soloist here, gave its world premiere in 2008 under Arturo Tamayo’s direction. The opening movement, sans strings, is nudged rather than driven forward in an implied 3/8 beat in 4/4 time. Eventually, it evolves into a percussion ostinato (played on the idiophone) above harp arpeggios. The second movement, titled “Immobile,” is conversely dominated by the strings, exploring various trills and harmonies that accompany the harpist, who plays an uneven yet lyrical melody in the lowest register. The third movement, whose rhythm reminded me of Marius Constant’s
theme, is both rhythmically relentless and mysterious, written in toccata style. The final movement is very slow, based on material from the first but enveloping the soloist with polyphonic voices, the orchestra gradually thinning out until the ethereal ending.
a metaphor for death (the title comes from the poem
by Juan Gil Albert), is by contrast a series of seven movements linked by relative tonality and the interplay and contrast of mass and density between soloist and ensemble. This tonal structure alternates thirds and perfect fifths, a technique that de Pablo has used in many of his later compositions. It was premiered in 2003.
It opens with the violins playing a unison E, joined by the cellos. De Pablo plays with the idea of having the same tone played by strings without and with vibrato (historically informed fans, get your pencils out for the future), after which the initial mass of sound is altered and inflected by the soloist with a descending minor third (E-C?), which creates a small harmonic range into which the other instruments join. Despite this very clinical description, the music is fascinating, becoming quite busy and energetic (apparently, in the Basque region, death is a pretty lively fellow!), with the cello playing rapid bowed figures. At about the 5:30 mark in this first movement, an explosion of piccolos and high percussion (triangles, glockenspiel) adds color. The following sections of the work continue and build upon this material in a series of rapid exchanges excepting the fourth movement, a true adagio with a very lyrical melody played over an iridescent background.
Following the “Elegía,” however, an abrupt, agitated cadenza leads to an almost brutal massed orchestral explosion on a C that in turn leads to the final section. This, too, is evocative and lyrical, a succession of double harmonics by the solo cello played in a simple, translucent style. The music then fades and dissolves into nothingness—Iago’s “Nulla.”
For once, I appreciated the spacious sonics, which give an ambience without losing the slightest nuance or string vibrato. This is really spacey music, played with a perfect equanimity between the lyrical and the energetic, the result being a profound, emotionally involving experience. Both soloists, excellent musicians, give themselves completely over to the spirit of de Pablo’s aesthetic, and Tamayo conducts with loving care. If you love modern music, you must add this one to your collection.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
As if to confirm the dramatic variety of Basque music here is this disc of two concertos by Luis de Pablo. A prolific composer he has written three symphonies (though not labelled as such), five choral symphonic dramas, five operas, lots of chamber music and concertos for piano (3), violin, guitar, saxophone and flute. He founded the first Spanish centre for electronic music and has held distinguished academic posts in Spain, Italy, France and Canada. He has championed new music and has put his shoulder and commitment to the music of Stuckenschmidt and Webern.
Danzas Secretas is in four movements and is not designated a concerto. It is performed here by the harpist who introduced it to the world in Bilbao on 31 March 2008. It is scored with pellucid transparency - no smear, no haze, everything etched with a fine blade. The orchestra is used with minimalist craftsmanship as one might expect from an advocate of Webern. It is a work in which the two protagonists are in thoughtful competition in allowing the other to suggest ideas and limbs of discovery. After a hovering thoughtful
Escondida comes a slow dissonant sunrise of an
Inmovil. The lucid, biting and ruthless
Oscura third movement is followed by the makes dreamy play of the harp's liquid arpeggiation. Dissonantly impressionistic stuff.
The Cello Concerto
Frondoso Misterio has more about it that is mobile and forwardly projected. The title relates to a metaphor for death. It is a commission by the Madrid Symphony Orchestra and arose at the instigation of Asier Polo - the soloist here - for the orchestra's centennial. It is in seven shortish movements. The furious
Deciso is succeeded by a pitter-pat irritable little
Lesto and a dreamy chilly Bergian
Elegia has the cello playing its most soulful character to the hilt which becomes grim and blacker in mood in the
Ostinato with its dank orchestral piano and brass contributions. The splenetic
Riassunto is followed by a singingly soulful
Commiato in which the soloist reaches out yearningly to the listener.
Let me again put in a plea for a further recording of Guridi’s
Sinfonia Pirenaica. I do hope that this work when issued will be coupled with other Basque symphonies.
Two authoritative and indeed brilliant recordings of recent works by one of Spain's most gifted exponents of dissonance.
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Danzas Secretas, for harp & orchestra by Luis de Pablo
Frédérique Cambreling (Harp)
Euskadiko Symphony Orchestra
Venue: San Sebastián
Length: 26 Minutes 20 Secs.
Frondoso Misterio, for cello & orchestra by Luis de Pablo
Asier Polo (Cello)
Euskadiko Symphony Orchestra
Venue: San Sebastián
Length: 27 Minutes 43 Secs.
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