CULTURE: Confident Voice of a Dramatic Spanish Master

The Birmingham Post (England), October 11, 2003 | Go to article overview

CULTURE: Confident Voice of a Dramatic Spanish Master


Byline: Review by David Hart

Spanish and Portuguese Orchestral Music -Algarve Orchestra (Naxos 8.557207) Play the innocent ear on the opening track of this delightful budget-price release and it will identify Mozart (such melting warmth), Schubert (what a comfortable lilt) and the fizz of Rossini, all within a few minutes. In fact the composer is the Spaniard Juan Crisostomo Arriaga, and the music is the Overture to his opera Los Esclavos Felices, written when Arriaga was 13.

Arriaga's Symphony in D is a fine work, bristling with drama (with an anticipation of Mendelssohnian urgency in the outer movements, soothing with a gorgeous slow movement and whipping up the energy with a vigorous scherzo. Throughout we sense Arriaga's pride in his confident technique (he was assistant in counterpoint to Fetis, the renowned teacher at the Paris Conservatoire) -and wonder what else he might have produced had he lived beyond the age of 19. His dates are 1806--1826.

Works by other Iberian composers here are less substantial: a rococo Sinfonia in B-flat by the Portuguese Carlos Seixas (1704-1742); a colourful, busy Overture L'Amore Industrioso by his compatriot Joao de Sousa Carvalho (1745-1798); a tiny, charming Sinfonia (lovely tootling clarinets) from Carvalho's pupil Antonio Leal Moreira (1758-1819); and the Overture Il Duca di Foix, cramming muchpageantry into its equally tiny length, by another pupil, Marcos Portugal (1762-1830).

Alvaro Cassuto directs the lively Algarve Orchestra in spirited, responsive readings of these ingratiating offerings -and the Symphony is much more than merely easy listening. …

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