ZYMAN / ROLON - Mexican Piano Concertos

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ZYMAN / ROLON - Mexican Piano Concertos - Claudia Corona (Piano) - Gregor Bühl (Conductor) - Nuremberg Symphony - 4250702800248 - Released: July 2013 - TYXart TXA13024

What draws me back again and again, what pulls me in like a mermaid's call and urges me to "want" to listen to this CD over and over again, is the strangely evocative and haunting Adagio middle movement of the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra by Samuel Zyman (b 1956). It reaches far back in time to the roots of Mexican culture and evokes strong images of Aztec rituals combined with stylistic gestures of today. It may take a full three minutes before the piano makes its entrance in this movement, but when it does it serves to reinforce the haunting quality of its main melody. It ends in a mood of regret that the memories of the Aztec way of life have dissipated through the mists of time. This captivating movement is sandwiched between two boisterous and rhythmically driven outer movements that certainly keep the soloist busy, and everything ends with a solid and masterfully crafted recap of the work's main ideas. Samuel Zyman is considered one of the leading Mexican composers on the international scene today. Until hearing this new recording, I had never heard any other pieces from this composer, even though he's written two symphonies and many chamber works. A situation I plan to rectify.

The other main work on this CD is the Concerto for Piano and Large Orchestra by José Rolón (1876-1945). It differs quite a bit from the Zyman in the sense that it draws more on the folkloric elements of Mexican culture to make its point. Finished a year before Aaron Copland's El Salón México, it certainly fits well within that stylistic period (mid 1930s) when the collision of European, North and South American influences was deeply felt throughout the musical landscape. Rolón studied music in Paris for a while, and the modernist ideas of Ravel and Milhaud are also present in his writing. Had it not been for the Mexican government's request for music of a more nationalistic nature, this concerto may well have ended up sounding more like something strictly from the old continent. Even though it pulls together elements from the Mexican spirit, you would be hard pressed to qualify it as a Mexican composition. Along with the Zyman, it is presented here in a world première version recording, and it certainly is nice to see them both enrich the piano concerto repertoire.

Sandwiched in between the two main works, is the El Festin de los Enanos (Feast of the Dwarfs) by José Rolón. It's a charming symphonic Scherzo that somewhat brings to mind Respighi's La Boutique Fantasque or, even more so, L'apprenti Sorcier by Paul Dukas. Not surprising when you consider the fact that Rolón studied composition under Dukas during the 1920s. It serves as a very pleasant diversion from the two serious Piano Concertos that bookend it. It displays Rolón's ease of imagination and subtle but effective orchestration skills.

Only one year old, and the new music label TYXart has already released its share of very good recordings presenting "new" works, and this so far is one of the best. Don't be skeptical as to the relative obscurity - as far as recordings are concerned - of pianist Claudia Corona and conductor Gregor Bühl. They can spar with the best. The booklet notes point out that Claudia Corona sees herself as ambassadress of the music of her native country, and is always on the search for works of neglected composers. She actually revised and edited segments of the orchestral material from the Rolón concerto, so that it could be performed. And Gregor Bühl has already built a strong reputation as a formidable opera conductor.

If you're always on the lookout for good, unheard pieces of music worth discovering, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2013