One of the greatest 20th century Spanish composers, Jesús Guridi’s Ten Basque melodies are exciting and highly accessible-skillfully, colorfully arranged, immediately appealing tunes of varied character, mood, and tempo; catchy, crisp, dancing rhythms in the faster pieces ("Narrativa", the Respighi-ian "De ronda", "Festiva") and warmly expressive string writing in the slower, more lyrical ones ("Amorosa", "Elegiaca"); and plenty of splashy, showy moments for the orchestra and principal players, providing more than enough excitement and symphonic revelry to capture and easily hold the listeners interest for 22 minutes. In one song, "Religiosa", Guridi’s rich-textured orchestration even attempts the flavor of a pipe organ, undoubtedly a reference to the composer’s work as an organist and organ teacher.
"Así cantan los chicos" (So the boys sing), is a beautifully imagined work for orchestra and children’s choir that's "based on Spanish children's folklore" and employs parts of popular songs among its many memorable themes. The last five or so minutes of this 13-plus-minute piece is an expertly crafted interaction between two choruses (with intermittent interjections by a soloist) that's reminiscent of some of Britten's similar conceptions. I am tempted to say that this is my favorite work on the disc, but then it's impossible as every time I revisit this gem of a recording, I fall for every single piece here time and again.
Guridi's symphonic poem "Don Quixote" builds in a Sibelian manner, then briefly tosses some Strauss-like fireworks before returning to a calmer, moodier temper before another burst of Straussian brass flourishes and leaping winds. The work has especially effective brass and string writing and relentless energy, evocative scene-painting, and a roaring, brass-and-timpani-led climax.
The symphonic poem "En un barco fenicio" (In a Phoenician Vessel) again takes its lead somewhat from Sibelius, with effects such as swirling upper strings above grumbling, rumbling low-register instruments, punctuated by brass and winds, and several gradual crescendos that build to powerful (if brief) full-orchestra statements. Musically speaking the thematic picture is finely and colorfully drawn, with-as in the Don Quixote-a logical and captivating flow from one episode to the next, with no let-up in energy or imaginative scoring.
The disc ends with the quite beautiful little song "Canta el gallo tempranero" (The early cock is crowing), which is very nicely sung by soprano Isabel Álvarez. Although this may seem rather anticlimactic after the preceding orchestral theatrics, it actually proves a perfect way to wind down, with Álvarez's genial expressive style enhancing and lending an effective personal touch to the song's decidedly Spanish character. This survey is, to my ears, 66 minutes of complete beauty start to finish.Enjoy!!