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Arriaga: Symphony in D Minor, Los esclavos felices Overture, Etc / Solset, Mena, BBC Philharmonic


Release Date: 02/01/2019 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 20077  
Composer:  Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Performer:  Berit Norbakken Solset
Conductor:  Juanjo Mena
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Spanish music specialist and former Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Juanjo Mena continues the series La Música de España, which has seen the recording of some of the orchestral works of de Falla, Turina and Albéniz, with another important Spanish composer: Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga, nicknamed after his death as ‘the Spanish Mozart’.The orchestral overture to ‘Los esclavos felices’ (The Happy Slaves) is all that remains of the opera the child prodigy Arriaga wrote aged 14. When Arriaga moved to Paris to study under Fétis, Guérin and Baillot in 1821, he revised the overture, making changes to the instrumentation and removing a third theme group. It is the revised version heard on this Read more recording. Air from Médée and Herminie form parts of the autograph volume ‘Ensayos lírico-dramáticos’ (Lyric-dramatic essays) that completes this release, here sung by one of Scandinavia’s most sought after concert singers, Berit Norbakken Solset. Tonally ambiguous Symphony in D minor (which begins and ends in D major) alongside the Overture in D major, which was written ‘without having learnt the principles of harmony’ are proof that Arriaga’s premature death aged 19 was a ‘sad loss to Basque music’.

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REVIEW:

Arriaga has been called the ‘Spanish’ Mozart and not only because he was a boy genius. The two vocal works here give us a clue. The nearest we get to understanding what kind of an opera composer Arriaga might have made had the gods allowed is through the concert aria Air de opera Médée and the delicious cantata Herminie, sung with such modest simplicity, hiding the technical challenges, by Berit Norbakken Solset. The elegance of the lines and the word setting (all in French as they were composed in Paris) might remind the listener of the Mozart of ‘Così fan tutte’. The former with a text by Hoffmann is a plea for help to Hymen or Hymeneus, as used in Cherubini’s opera of the same name. Perhaps Arriaga set it as a personal exercise for himself to see how he might tackle the text compared with his famous contemporary. The cantata Herminie is divided into recitatives and arias, which Chandos have usefully tracked separately, in which she thinks that Tancredo has been killed but later realises that he is alive and in love with her. It was premiered exactly one hundred years to the day after the composer’s death.

It’s really good, then, to have these works put side by side. You might find the BBC Philharmonic a surprising choice, but Juanjo Mena, who has made a special study of the composer, coaxes from them a clear sense of idiomatic style and sophistication.

The texts are provided, as is an ideal essay on each of the pieces by Larringa Cuardo and ‘Remarks by the conductor’. The recording is up to the normal exemplary standard of the Chandos engineers.

– MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Los esclavos felices: Overture by Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Conductor:  Juanjo Mena
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1820; Spain 
2.
Erminia by Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Performer:  Berit Norbakken Solset (Soprano)
Conductor:  Juanjo Mena
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; Madrid, Spain 
3.
Overture, Op. 20 by Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Conductor:  Juanjo Mena
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Spain 
4.
Hymen, viens dissiper une vaine frayeur by Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Performer:  Berit Norbakken Solset (Soprano)
Conductor:  Juanjo Mena
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 19th Century; Spain 
5.
Symphony in D major by Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga
Conductor:  Juanjo Mena
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1825; Spain 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Excellent performances February 25, 2019 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "If you're not familiar with Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga, this release is an excellent introduction. Arriaga was dubbed the "Spanish Mozart," and with good reason. Like Mozart, he had a natural facility for the piano, and for composition. And like Mozart, he died young. Arriaga wrote his opera "Los esclavos felices" when he was fourteen. Although it was produced and launched his career, only the overture and a few fragments survive. Arriga extensively revised the score in 1821, which is the version recorded here. It has Mozartian lilt to it, bursting with energy and good spirits. Arriaga's 1824 Symphony in D shifts between major and minor. Here Arriaga seems inspired by Beethoven as well as Mozart. Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic give performances well-suited to the music. Even Arriaga's dramatic, 30-minute symphony has a lightness and transparency to it. Mena understands that essential nature of Arriaga and delivers on every track. Two vocal works are included: the cantata "Herminie" and "Air de l’Opéra Médée" The 15-minute cantata is, quite simply, a masterwork of vocal writing. It hints at what the operatic world lost with Arriaga's early death. Soprano Berit Norbakken Solset sings with a clear, pure tone that continually delights. Her delivery reinforces the stylistic similarities between Arriaga and Mozart. Arriaga's music is sometimes characterized as "Mozart with a smile." That's especially true with this release. Highly recommended for the beauty of the music and the sterling performances it receives." Report Abuse
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