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Cordero: Insula; Concertino Tropical

Cordero / I Solisti Di Zagreb / Figueroa
Release Date: 01/31/2012 
Label:  Fleur De Son   Catalog #: 58015   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Guillermo Figueroa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti di Zagreb
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

E. CORDERO Insula. Concertino Tropical Guillermo Figueroa (vn); I Solisti di Zagreb FLEUR DE SON 58015 (DVD: 30:02) Live: Zagreb 2/17/2009

Violinist Guillermo Figueroa and I Solisti di Zagreb demonstrate that firmly tonal and modal harmonies enlivened by folklike rhythms can make a strong impact. Their concert, filmed in Zagreb’s Croatian National Institute Hall on February 17, 2009, contains two violin concertos by Ernesto Cordero, both, in fact, tonal and modal and both reflecting the musical spirit of Read more Puerto Rico. The first of these, Insula (dedicated to Figueroa), falls into four movements, beginning with an atmospheric one titled “Paisages” (Landscapes), which alternates quicksilver patterns and soaring melodies interrupted by playful figuration. Figueroa, standing in the middle of a semicircle of 13 players, sounds the way his position suggests, yet he projects brilliantly in the upper registers and strongly but richly in the lower ones. In this movement, as throughout the program, he occasionally suffers slight but noticeable lapses in intonation. The haunting harmonies and mellifluous lyricism of the second, “Jájome” (named after a central mountainous ridge), takes perhaps even greater advantage of the violin’s timbres, and his 1686 Stradivari meets all the challenges the violinist and the music place upon it. The third movement, “Indieras de Maricao” (inspired by the town of Maricao), beginning with a brief cadenza, passes through slides and pentatonic melodic fragments, returning to the cadenza-like passage with its brilliant virtuosic devices, including off-the-string arpeggios. Cordero explains in his notes that the fourth movement, “Fantasia Salsera” (Salsa Fantasy), reflects the Afro-Caribbean influences on Puerto Rican musical culture, and its jaunty rhythms bring the work to a vigorous conclusion.

The second of the two concertos, Concertino Tropical , dedicated to violinist Henry Hutchinson, seems at the same time as strongly influenced by Caribbean folklore and as virtuosic as the other. The first of its three movements, “Yerba bruja” (Witch-Herb), opens and closes with strongly rhythmic sections in marked 3+3+2 rhythm and features at its center an overtly virtuosic recitative-like cadenza. In this movement, once again, intonation becomes spotty, although in the last analysis both soloist and ensemble make a strong case for the work. The second movement, “Los caobos” (The Mahogany Trees), its liquid melody poured over a firmly tonal or modal pizzicato foundation, leads to the finale, “El colibri dorado” (The Golden Humming Bird), which, though brief, demands a pyrotechnical brilliance unexampled in the other parts of the program.

While Insula may be more evocative (and, to be sure, that’s a moot point), the Concertino Tropical is more brilliant (and, to be sure, that isn’t), so the program makes a balanced diet. Violinists will note that Figueroa plays without a shoulder rest, making his relationship to his instrument appear flexible and natural as well as elegant. Viewers who aren’t hell-bent advocates of avant-garde harmonies, timbres, and textures should find both the music and the performances highly appealing. Warmly recommended, despite the program’s brevity.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Insula by Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Guillermo Figueroa (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti di Zagreb
Period: 21st Century 
Written: 2009 
Concertino Tropical by Ernesto Cordero
Performer:  Guillermo Figueroa (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Solisti di Zagreb
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998 

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