Very accessible, with plenty of melody and sonorities.
On the evidence of the works on this disc, Naxos have once again done music-lovers a good turn by giving them access to fine, memorable music by a gifted composer.
Balada is Catalan by birth, but has been living and working in the USA for the last fifty years; he has been Professor of Composition at the Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh since 1975, and it is there that the
Caprichos were recorded. Various aspects of sound quality have been an issue in some of these previous reviews, but most of those discs were recorded in Spain, where technical quality has traditionally been variable. The sound on this disc is immaculate.
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Balada's earlier works belonged to the avant-garde, but from 1975 he turned to a more listener-friendly melodic style, often of a nationalistic (Spanish/Catalan more than American) colour, and the
Caprichos continue in this vein. The booklet notes include an interesting short essay by Balada himself on both the
Caprichos and his compositions in general. In the notes, he says that a "symbiosis of the avant-garde with the folk-traditional" has "become my stamp", but anyone anxious with regard to the extent of any expressionist element in the
Caprichos need not fret - these are very accessible works, with plenty of melody and sonorities not that far removed from, say, Prokofiev.
Each work on this release is properly entitled
Capricho: the title refers in each case to a suite-like collection of 'capricious' movements. The
Caprichos no.2 is - or are - written for solo violin, string quintet and harp. This is a set of three Latin-American dances - a samba, tango and jarabe - given a persuasive 20th century make-over. The playing is excellent, as it is throughout the disc - hardly surprising, given the experience and credentials of the soloists, many of whom are leading members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
As is evident from its subtitle,
Caprichos no.3 'Homage to the International Brigades' is a more sober, serious work. Dedicated to the memory of the volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War, the plaintive second movement, 'In Memoriam', and the fourth, a haunting 'Lament', are particularly moving. If 'Lament' sounds rather Gaelic, that is because it comes from an old Irish folksong - in fact, all five movements are based on folk material, a reference to the songs the multinational Brigades sang to keep up morale. The work is written for chamber orchestra and solo violin, ably performed by the Cuban-born Andrés Cárdenes - who, as dedicatee, gave its première under Lawrence Loh in 2005.
The subtitle of
Caprichos no.4, 'Quasi Jazz', is apt. It’s splendidly written for double-bass and strings, with a further prominent role for clarinet and a minor one for piano. This work is an amazingly imaginative, almost uproarious, twenty-four minutes of pumped-up, jazz-dunked fun and games. That holds good even in the third movement, 'Entierro' ('Burial')! According to Balada, "aleatoric devices" and "avant-garde harmonies" are employed in this work, but wherever they lurk, they are generally well disguised among the deep, pulsing rhythms of the double-bass and the extrovert bursts of high-pitched melody from the clarinet. Stravinsky certainly comes to mind, particularly in the finale, but this is no pale imitation. As with the 3rd
Caprichos, the superb soloist, Jeffrey Turner, is the dedicatee and gave the première performance under Andrés Cárdenes in 2008 in Pittsburgh.
Caprichos no 4by Leonardo Balada Performer:
Jeffrey Turner (Double Bass)
Caprichos No. 2: I. Samba
Caprichos No. 2: II. Tango
Caprichos No. 2: III. Jarabe
Caprichos No. 4, "Quasi Jazz": I. Tan-ta Ta, Tan-ta Ta
Caprichos No. 4, "Quasi Jazz": II. Down, down, down
Caprichos No. 4, "Quasi Jazz": III. Entierro (Funeral)
Caprichos No. 4, "Quasi Jazz": IV. Swing and Swing
Caprichos No. 3, "Homenaje a las Brigadas Internacionales": I. En la plaza de mi pueblo (In my town square)
Caprichos No. 3, "Homenaje a las Brigadas Internacionales": II. In memoriam
Caprichos No. 3, "Homenaje a las Brigadas Internacionales": III. Si me quieres escribir (If you would like to write to me)
Caprichos No. 3, "Homenaje a las Brigadas Internacionales": IV. Lamento (Lament)
Caprichos No. 3, "Homenaje a las Brigadas Internacionales": V. Jota
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
The second time is the charm...February 28, 2013By James Carleton (Port Hueneme, CA)See All My Reviews"I bought this title pretty-much as a gamble. At Naxos sale prices, it wasn't much of a gamble; I could always donate it to the local library if I despised it. At my first listen, I was not convinced that the music deserved the accolades it had gotten. A few interesting moments, some clever passages here and there, but it just didn't "grab" me. But I had transferred it onto my computer, so it was always there, should I care to try it again. And there it sat for a year. Today, I chanced upon the file, and thought, "Why not?" Amazing what a year can do to one's sensibilities. This is very good stuff! Oh, it is angular, at times, but no more so than Ruggles, and far less than Ives. In the more somber moods, the solo voices are quite lyrical; in the livelier movements, the melodies fly dart around here and there like so many swallows at sunrise. I will likely pick up the Naxos companion disc to this one. FWIW, the sound samples don't really help a whole lot; they are snippets that do no favors to the long phrases that Balada seems to favor. You really will need to take it on faith that you might enjoy this. It's a reasonable gamble."Report Abuse
Imaginative, light pieces from a modern Spanish mSeptember 25, 2012By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"Naxos has previously issued several recordings by the contemporary Spanish composer Leonardo Balada. This disk includes 3 'caprichos', or suite-like compositions, each of which uses a distinct mix of orchestral resources. (By the way, another Naxos disk contains Caprichos # 1 and 5). Capricho #2 contains likable dance themes, #3 is based on jazz, and #4 uses ideas from songs which were part of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's. The work is in fact titled 'Homage to the International Brigades', which fought on the side of Spain's Republican government against the Fascist forces of Franco. I found the general tone of all material to be light and easy to follow, and yet demanding due to Balada's effective use of near-dissonance and varying rhythmic patterns. The works are played by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and they do a great job with this material. Sound quality is excellent. I think you will have a pleasant listening experience with this recording."Report Abuse