Sensemaya: Music of Silvestre Revueltas Import
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Tellingly, classical albums whose liner notes are translated into Spanish--in addition to the traditional English, French, and German--tend to be those that contain music by Spanish-speaking composers and ensembles. This distinction goes to the heart of the "discovery" of the music of composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) during the mid-to-late 1990s, evidenced by a steady series of releases after decades of near silence. And silence does not suit Revueltas, who favored enthralling, brash, maximalist symphonic expression, and whose work will not sound entirely new to new audiences, even though his clout as a major cultural figure stops at the border of his native country, Mexico.
This sort of d�j� entendu familiarity is generally the case with any composer who absorbs "folk" material (think B�la Bart�k or, especially, Aaron Copland). To hear regional military horns bellow through Revueltas's large-scale Ventanas for Large Orchestra is to have dozens of western films flash through the mind's eye. And to hear subtle mariachi motifs inform the arrangement of the same composition, or in the countless set-piece segments of the highly varied Ocho por Radio, is to hear a thorough imagination at play. Revueltas understood foremost that simple themes magnified to an orchestral scale require additional detail to fill the space, and he achieves his goal with richly embroidered counterpoint, overlays of dissociated themes, and strong writing for single instruments, as with the woodwind patter in First Little Serious Piece. That said, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen's renderings seem a bit removed from Revueltas; he can unnecessarily reinforce the film-music-like quality of some of the material. This is lively, at times volatile, and often humorous music, and should be played as such. --Marc Weidenbaum