This disc is part of Naxos' Latin-American Classics series, and it presents music that is mostly neglected. Well, Sensemayá isn't exactly neglected, though it is hardly a standard repertory piece either. As one will notice from the headnote, it is also the only work not arranged or otherwise adapted by someone else. A note on the back of the CD jewel box claims La noche de los Mayas, originally a film score, is the composer's most popular work, but I doubt you'll ever encounter any version of this piece in the concert hall, though Salonen recorded it with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Sony (with Sensemayá and other works), a recording I have not heard. The other work here, La Coronela, is an unfinished ballet score, completed by José Yves de Limantour, who used music from two film scores by Revueltas to fill out the piece. He also engaged the services of Eduardo Moncada to do the orchestration of the entire work, Revueltas having written out the music only in piano score.
Despite the involvement of so many different hands here, all of the music on this disc is attractive, especially Sensemayá. It opens like a Latin version of Mars, from Holst's The Planets, building from dark rhythms and working up to a fever pitch. But the two works actually have little else in common, though Sensemayá might better be compared with Honneger's Pacific 231, since both make use of motoric rhythms, a nearly constant roiling manner and colorful, powerful percussion.
But the other compositions here are quite interesting, as well. The four-movement La noche de los Mayas brims with a colorful savagery in its nocturnal moods. La Coronela, also a four-movement work, is a multi-hued piece, with the grafted-on portions from the film scores blending nicely with the ballet music. Those interested in the byways of 20th-century music, or in music by Latin composers, will find this disc much to their liking. Enrique Barrios gets committed and fully idiomatic performances from his Aguascalientes-based players, and the Naxos sound is excellent.
Copyright © 2003, Robert Cummings