The Mexican expressionist composer Silvestre Revueltas, now well known for his incessant rhythms, wanted to change the state of authentic, Mexican-based classical music, from nationalistic folk-based sounds, to his more urgent and dissonant style of expressionism.
Revueltas' most famous work, Sensamaya, based on the poem Song to kill a snake, is evocative of his style. Constant rhythms, with authentic Hispanic percussion, and modern orchestrations, gritty melodies and harmonies, create an almost industrial sound. On this recording is the 1938 fully orchestrated version of near bombasticity. Two other works on this disk are also written for full orchestra: La Noche de los Mayas and Ventanas. La Noche de los Mayas is intended to evoke ancient Mexican tribal feelings from the Mayan culture. Almost in symphonic form, the four movements follow a classical structure, moderate first movement, scherzo, lyrical third movement, and a theme and variations for the final movement. The incredibly serene and melodic opening, with occasional majestic outbursts of brass and percussion, shows Revueltas' innate ability to combine Mexican culture with classical music. The scherzo second movement, subtitled Jaranas, is almost a classical Mariachi, with witty lightness; whereas the third movement, subtitled Yucatan, has a melancholy calm featuring lush strings, woodwind melodies, and folk-like elements. Extra-musical effects, extensive percussion, and variation technique, show Reveultas' capabilities of diverse compositional techniques as a 20th century modern composer. Interesting sounds and combinations make a very engaging conclusion. Much like Sensamaya, Ventanas is very rhythmical and industrious sounding, featuring in this case, the brass section and tuba solo. Angular melodies, sometimes folk sounding, other times classically based, and clashes of dissonance, along with perpetual motion (even during the subdued middle section), is evocative of expressionism and the influence of Stravinsky.
Three chamber works are also included on this CD: Ocho for Radio, Homage to Frederico Garcia Lorca, and Revueltas' set of two Little Serious Pieces. Each has a unique assortment of instruments and are in smaller proportions to the previously mentioned portions of the disk. Ocho for Radio is a musical answer to a mathematical equation. Featuring eight players, the music has so much going on, it nearly sounds Ivesian. The main idea prevails, however, including a mariachi trumpet and string section, along with two woodwinds and one percussionist. The Homage to Lorca, in three movements (Dance, Sorrow, and Sound) begins with familiar sounding Mexican ideas, with slightly humorous dissonances and motives, includes piano, piccolo, and tuba. The ambiguous sounds of the middle, give an uneasy feeling of impatient monotony, while the concluding movement is in a revelatory and joyous mood with occasional clashings of dissonance and jazzy inflections. The two Serious Little Pieces are charming miniatures: the first, a swift pointilistic whirlwind, the second, a slow waltz. Scored for wind quintet with baritone saxophone, a rustic sound is created.
I personally like to explore new music, and this all Revueltas CD seemed appropriate. The music is diverse, featuring classicism, Mexican folk attributes, expressionism, and tribal rhythms and modes, not to mention the diverse literary sources and instrumentations. The music is modern sounding with particular influences of Stravinsky, dissonance and polytonality are often used. The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles New Music Group under Esa-Pekka Salonen play admirably on some rhythmically virtuosic music. Salonen elicits very different sounds from work to work, making the CD varied. After listening, I am personally not astounded by the compositions, nor put off, but satisfactorily interesting. Make sure you like the music before purchasing. In any case, if you are looking for different and new music, this is a quality CD with a good performance, although, you may want to compare other compilations under conductor Eduardo Mata.