Sensemayá, 1938 .* & *** Redes, 1935 (Suite by
Erich Kleiber, 1943).* Itinerarios, 1938.* Caminos, 1934.*
Homenage a Federico García Lorca, 1936.* Danza
1934. * CuauhnŠhuac, 1932.* Janitzio,
1933, rev. 1936.** Alcancías, 1932.** El renacuajo paseador,
1933.** 8 x radio, 1933.** Toccata (sin fuga), 1933.** Planos,
1934. ** La noche de los mayas, 1939 (Suite by Jos» Yves Limantour,
1960). **** Cinco canciones de niños y dos canciones profanas,
1938-1939.(Version for soprano and orchestra)(with Margarita Pruneda,
(*)New Philharmonia Orchestra/Eduardo Mata, cond.
(**) London Sinfonietta/David Atherton, cond.
(***) Leopold Stokowski and His orchestra.
(****)Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa, Luis Herrera de la Fuente, cond.
RCA 63548 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 75:40 & 73:54
All of these recordingswith the single exception of Stokowski's Derby-raced Sensemayá, recorded in New York with "His Orchestra," during December 1947are treasures from the Golden Age of analog stereo. And all, except Stoky and two major works on disc 2 conducted by Herrera de la Fuente in 1980, were produced in London by the late Charles Gerhardt, with Kenneth Wilkinson as his engineer for the eight that Eduardo Mata taped in November 1975. The seven more that David Atherton made in November 1979 with the London Sinfonietta evidently were engineered as well as produced by Gerhardt.
Ventanas and Esquinas are notably missing from the Mexican tone pictures composed between 1930, when Revueltas tamed his singular talent, and his death on October 5, 1940. But those remastered and collected here are eloquent testimony to a mastery of means and unique ear for the colors and rhythmsespecially the rhythmsof M»xico's heterogenious heritage. For most of the 20th century he was libelously labeled as a primitive, whereas in fact Revueltas' musical education in Mexico and later in the U.S. was thorough and sophisticated. In Chicago he studied composition with Felix Borowski, and violin with Paul Kochanski (before the latter moved to the Juilliard School in New York). Revueltas conducted, too, as Carlos Chávez's associate with the Orquesta Sinfónica de M»xico from 1928-35, and taught at the latter's National Conservatory.
He also lived his years to the hilt. Chronic alcoholism combined with pneumonia killed him, but then most of Mexico's first generation, nationalist composers had short lifespans. In that regard Chávez was an exception. Revueltas went to Spain in the mid-'30s as a Loyalist, passionately against Franco's Falangists (whom Hitler used to fine-tune the war machine unleashed throughout Europe in 1939). He met and was charmed by Federico GarcÍa Lorca, whose murder in 1936 he commemorated in a three-movement Homage based on the latter's poems.
Revueltas wrote for chamber ensembles (his four string quartets were recorded on a New Albion CD by the Cuarteto Latinamericano), for the ballet, for filmshe was protean. He was also a keenly imaginative composer who resisted assimilation into Stravinsky's neo-Classic cult between wars. He had the rare gift of humor in musiclisten to 8 x radio (a.k.a. Ocho por radio), which is the Mexican reply to Mozart's Ein musikalischer Spass, and Beethoven's rustics in the last movement of the Pastoral Symphony. His film scores were epical, which conductor Erich Kleiber realized early on: he made a posthumous concert suite in 1943 from the 1935 Redes (Fishing Nets), which Mata recorded and is restored here.
But the most famous cinema music remains La noche de los Mayas (The Night of the Mayas) from 1939. The suite that Herrera de la Fuente recorded in 1980 with his Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa was assembled in 1960 by Jos» Yves Limantour. This is the same that BMG featured in its Catalyst tribute, where white-on-black graphics confounded the reading of Tim Page's program essay on a fold-out sheet. Andrew Kazdin produced it originally in Mexico City's celebrated Sala Nezahualcóyotl (where Brian Culverhouse has recorded performances by Enrique Bátiz for ASV, including a modern version of Ventanas to replace the pioneering Louisville Orchestra version on a mono LP).
You aren't likely to sit down and play both discs straight throughthe contents are both too heady and too concentratednor should anyone try. It's like tequila or pulque; a little goes a long way, and a lot can give you a week-long hangover. But collectively this remains the most finely calibrated and personable music produced south of the Rio Grande, and is matched in the Southern Hemisphere only by Alberto Ginastera's subsequent output. Only the Cinco canciones de niños y dos canciones profanas (Five Songs for Children and Two Profane Songs) is new to stateside discswonderfully sung 20 years ago by Margarita Pruneda with Herrera de la Fuente and his orchestra. (Whatever happened to her, one wondersan artist of international gifts if we can base judgment on this performance?).
Justice has been served. Now let more justice be served. In 10 years, Revueltas produced some 60 works. That's a lot of music we don't know. The program book for this collection is a veritable trove of information, excellently organized and written. Thank you, RCA/BMG!
R.D. (Jan. 2000)