REVUELTAS: Sensemayá.  La noche de los Mayas.  La Coronela.
Aguascalientes Symphony Orch. Mexico/Enrique Barrios, cond.
NAXOS 8.555917 (B) (DDD) TT:  67:25
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Several years ago, R.D. wrote a comprehensive review of a superb RCA/BMG 2-CD set that contained many of Revueltas' major works. This Naxos issue is particularly welcome as it contains only two works (Sensemayá/La noche de los Mayas) included in the RCA set. Noche was composed in 1939 for a film; in 1960 JosČ Yves de Limantour arranged and edited the film's score resulting in a four-movement suite (Night of the Maya, Night of Revelry, Yucatan Night and Night of Enchantment) which very loosely could be called a Mexican Rite of Spring. It's exciting music heavy on percussion as is the composer's best-known work, Sensemayá, a 7-minute ritual chant performed while killing a snake, the snake in this instance being a Princess who had been transformed by a magician into the reptile. La Coronela ("The Girl Colonel") is an unfinished ballet completed by Blas Galindo and orchestrated by Candelario Huizar (Revueltas had written only a brief piano score for the first three acts). After the 1940 premiere the score was lost.  Limantour again stepped onto the scene and arranged for a completely new orchestration by Eduardo Hernandez Moncada—who had conducted the original first performance. There are four movements:  The Privileged, The Disinherited, Don Ferruco's Nightmare and The Last Judgment. To complete the ballet, Limantour chose excerpts from Revueltas' music written for two films based on the Mexican Revolution.  The 31-minute concert suite was premiered in 1962 with Limantour conducting.

I've never heard of the Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra and was amazed by these performances. This orchestra was established in 1989 and is a superb orchestra by any standards. Revueltas' music is very tricky to perform. The Mexican orchestra plays not only with razor-sharp precision but tonal beauty as well under Barrios' knowing direction.  Recorded in Mexico in February 2001 and produced by Bogdan Zawistowski, this CD boasts stunning sound, just about as good as it gets today.  The CD is not identified as Volume I in a series; let us hope that it is.

R.E.B. (January 2003)