Monday, August 12, 2013

Carlos Chavez Piano Concerto: Muscular Music from Mexico

Carlos Chavez: Piano Concerto
Jorge Federico Osorio, piano
Sinfonica National de Mexico
Carlos Miguel Prietro, conductor

Cedille presents pianist Jorge Federico Osorio in an exciting program of Mexican composers. The centerpiece is Carlos Chavez's sole piano concerto. This massive work presents serious challenges to both soloist and ensemble, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

The work fairly crackles with energy, with mercurial changes in moods and timbres. Chavez had a unique compositional voice, one that doesn't neatly fit into the pigeonholes of 20th Century schools. So there are some spiky, atonal sections as well as some modernist tonality -- and running throughout (very subtly) the rhythm and pulse of Mexican traditional music.

This is a live performance by Osorio and the Sinfonica National de Mexico, and an extraordinarily clean one at that. The ensemble plays with pin-point accuracy, a must given the sudden changes and the percussive nature of the score. Osorio is in full command of the material. His phrasing gives logic and shape to the sea of notes before him, Osorio's restrained but heartfelt expressiveness in the slow movement is particularly moving.

The albums is filled out with solo piano works. Meditacion, an early work by Chavez, shows surprising maturity for such a young composer. Jose Pablo Moncayo's Muros Verdes is a spacious-sounding work that blends Mexican musical traditions with a Hindemith-like neo-classicism. Samuel Zyman's 16-minute Variations on an Original Theme is most contemporary work on the album -- both by creation date and sound.

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