ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES: MUSIC OF THE AMERICAS / Del AGUILÁ: Wind Quintet No. 3. LUSSIER: Dos Tropicos. LAVISTA: Cinco Danzas Breves. MUELLER: Veni Variationes. VERDIÉ: Tangoescente. D’RIVERA: La Fleur de Cayenne. Aires Tropicales / Lyrique Quintette / Mark Records 52787
The composers on this CD represent various countries in the Americas: Uruguay (Miguel del Aguilá), Canada (Mathieu Lussier), Mexico (Mario Lavista), the United States (Robert Mueller…I did a double-take on that name!, and Adriana Verdié), and Cuba (Paquito d’Rivera, who is also a famous jazz saxophonist). From a certain standpoint, this seems like an Identity Politics Album (I don’t see chamber groups making CDs of various European composers under the title “Music of the EU”), but happily most of the music is interesting.
Del Aguilá’s wind quintet is a moody, lyrical piece with a few interesting harmonic twists, and in the slow first movement a surprising double-time passage for the clarinetist (Nophachal Cholthitchanta) in the low of chalumeau register of his instrument, later moving into the upper range, which gives a spikier harmonic edge to the piece. The second movement, titled “Bright and Dark,” features a medium-tempo theme played by four of the winds while flautist Ronda Mains twitters brightly above them. This quintet has a wonderful ensemble blend, with the rich tone of French hornist Timothy Thompson the glue that holds their sound together. Del Aquilá has a fine sense of construction; the music goes somewhere, and thank goodness it doesn’t rely on edgy, jagged sound effects from the ensemble to make its point. The “Giacoso” finale features the quintet in jolly counterpoint, yet with unusual pauses and alternate themes to hold one’s interest. An excellent piece of music.
Lussier’s Dos Tropicos may seem an odd choice for a Canadian composer as it is obviously Latin music; indeed, in style and form it sounded like an extension of del Aguilá’s piece; but it, too, is well-constructed if somewhat blander in sound, with few surprises in its lyric flow until we reach the faster section towards the end. The Latin contingent then continues with Lavista’s five Danzas Breves, light but intriguing pieces with plenty of counterpoint for the ensemble. I particularly liked the loping theme of the second, slow piece (“Lento, flessible”) and the strange-sounding “Adagio.”
Mueller’s Veni Variaciones, again Latin-oriented, nonetheless contains some elements of old-style polyphony. It’s a fascinating work due to the composer’s strong emphasis on a continuing structure. The final variation is especially complex, pitting a slow tempo in the main tune against syncopated figures played by the flute and clarinet. Verdié’s Tangoescente continues the Latin theme in an edgier-sounding piece, although the music has very little resemblance to a tango beat. Rather, it features a sort of ground bass played by bassoonist Lia Uribe against a lyrical theme by the oboe and syncopated figures by the others.
We then get the first of two pieces by d’Rivera, La Fleur de Cayenne, initially played out of tempo in the introduction, then introducing Cuban jazz rhythms which the quintet plays fairly well for a classical ensemble. This features a heavy amount of counterpoint in a quasi-Latin rhythm but still with an asymmetric beat. It eventually becomes very complex rhythmically, so much so that without a score I found it difficult to follow the beat! The Aires Tropicales are harmonically complex but rhythmically a bit simpler, although in “Dizzyness” d’Rivera throws in the famous opening lick from Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia. Complexity returns in the “Contradanza” with its jazz-oriented backbeats played against Cuban rhythms.
A fascinating disc, and I especially comment the engineer who balanced the recording. Every instrument was perfectly placed to achieve maximum clarity and a perfect ensemble blend!
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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