- Performer: Ben-Dor; London Symphony Orchestra; Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; BBC National Orchestra of Wales
- Composer: Ginastera Alberto
- Audio CD (June 8 2010)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Ncl
- ASIN: B003IP2Y58
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
Popol Vuh: the Mayan Creation Import
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For the five works on this disc, Ginastera drew upon Argentine and other Meso- and South American subjects. Evocative of native influences, the life of the gaucho on the pampas, and influenced by the music of his time, they span the composer' entire cr
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As with the recently-released Naxos disc of Revueltas music, we have here a collection of fairly recent and older recordings from various orchestras, all conducted by the excellent conductor Gisele Ben-Dor. Naxos has packaged 1997-2006 recordings made in Wales, Israel, and Abbey Road, though there are unfortunate overlaps with other CDs. Still, at a bargain price this may not be a major disadvantage.
For me the most interesting work here is Popol Vuh: The Mayan Creation. The original commission for the work, from Eugene Ormandy & the Philadelphia Orchestra, goes back to 1957, though Ginastera didn't begin work on the piece until the early 1980s. It's interesting that Ginastera should have set Popul Vuh for his ballet, since this is the same text used by Edgard Varese in his avant-garde classic Ecuatorial (1933). While Ginastera's music isn't as cutting edge, these creation stories have called forth some of his most impressive orchestral sounds. That's saying a lot, since Ginastera is a master of the orchestral palette.
Once again we tip our hats to Gisele Ben-Dor, and hope that she's in the recording studio again soon, with more premiere performances of such great Latin-American music.
Stylistically, these pieces oscillate between athletic primitivism and a poignant, rustic lyricism à la Copland (with whom Ginastera studied). They are symphonic spectaculars in the true sense of the word, featuring an abundance of explosive rhythms and memorable tunes. What also strikes is Ginastera's fantastic mastery of the orchestra, even in his op. 1 which he wrote at the tender age of 20.
In addition to the ballet suites the CD includes three orchestral works that feature an interesting stylistic palette. The Suite of Native Dances op. 15 is very short and probably the least memorable of the package. Ollantay (A Symphonic Tryptich), op. 17, inspired by Incan lore, is much more substantial. Here the colours are muted and the symphonic argument more differentiated than in the suites. The most notable piece on this CD is the unfinished opus Popol Vuh: The Mayan Creation, op. 44. Allegedly this was a commission by Eugene Ormandy which Ginastera was very slow to take up and eventually he continued to work on it for almost 20 years. It was still unfinished by the time of his death in 1983. But 8 of the 9 planned sections were performable and the premiere took place in 1989 by Leonard Slatkin and the St Louis Symphony. Popol Vuh is a 25 minute orchestral fantasy that is a cross between, say, Varèse and Ravel. The Mayan creation is depicted as a sequence of expressionistic orchestral tableaux that ascend from the depths of The Everlasting Night to the Dawn of Mankind. There are no great tunes and punchy rhythms here, but there is no denying that this piece provides evidence of an unflagging creativity and an unbroken musical imagination.
Popol Vuh and Ollantay are very capably performed by the BBC Welsh Orchestra with Ben-Dor at the helm. Although the CD collates recordings with different orchestras and venues, the sonic picture is remarkably consistent. The sound is rather resonant, with fairly good bass and mid-range but a mushy top end. As a result in the most frenzied tuttis the orchestra tends to shrink into a blur. But I'm not complaining as this CD has given me a good deal of listening pleasure.