CUBAN SYMPHONIC MUSIC - National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba - Enrique Pérez Mesa (Conductor) - 760623187327 - Released: January 2015 - MDG 6011873-2

1} Alejandro García Caturla - Trois danses cubaines
2} Carlos Fariñas - Preludio para Penthesilea
3} Enrique González Mántici - Pregón y Danza
4} Guido López-Gavilán del Rosario - Rítmotiv
5} Alfredo Diez Nieto - In Memoriam. A mi esposa Lillian Acosta

What a pleasant way to begin a new year, especially if you live, as I do, in a climate where the temperature today is around -20º Celsius. Cuban music is warm and colorful, and has an infectious rhythmic pulse that will warm your heart and get your blood flowing no matter how cold it is outside. Add to this the fact that, if my research is correct, these are, if not world première recordings, the only presently available recordings of these pieces, which always adds an extra element of discovery to the listening experience.

The opening Trois danses cubaines by Alejandro García Caturla (1906-1940) is very much a typical example of Hispano-American musical culture, and would be right at home on a disc of music by Chavez, Villa-Lobos or Ginastera. Like Aaron Copland, he studied under Nadia Boulanger during a stay in Paris, and likewise seamlessly integrates old and new world techniques to great effect. Too bad he died so young. He was a lawyer by day, and it seems one of his clients was rather "disappointed" by his services. The following Preludio para Penthesilea by composer Carlos Fariñas (1934-2002) has, according to the liner notes, become a highly requested concert piece, and I can understand why. With its constant barrage of multiple percussion instruments adding layer after layer of cross-rhythms and powerful forward momentum, its hypnotic and almost ritualistic effect could certainly bring an audience to its feet. A quick change of gears brings us to the beautifully exotic Pregón y Danza by Enrique González Mántici (1912-1974) whose opening pages bring to mind a sound reminescent of Miles Davis around his "Sketches of Spain" period. The aptly titled Rítmotiv, first performed in 2002 under the direction of its composer Guido López-Gavilán del Rosario (b1944), is an orchestral tour-de-force as it introduces, overlaps and superimposes various rhythmic motifs and melodies to become a cornucopia of captivating sounds all assembled together by a craftsman. The final work on this CD, the deeply moving In Memoriam. A mi esposa Lillian Acosta by Alfredo Diez Nieto (b1918), once again demonstrates that grief is very much a universal human emotion and is expressed the same way regardless of nationality. It's the odd man out on this CD, simply because for that reason, it does not sound Cuban at all. It's a striking work, scored for strings alone, written to honor the loss of his wife in 2010. It's remarkable by its simple gestures and yet clutching emotion, with closing notes to ponder over.

If you enjoy discovering unusual composers and listening to hitherto unrecorded works, don't miss out on this excellent new MDG collection of fine Cuban music. It may be like that fine Cuban cigar you've been looking for.

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2015