The Spanish (actually Basque) composer Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga died at 19, and by then it was already clear, not only that he had mastered Classical forms (he was known as the "Spanish Mozart"), but that he was finding innovative ways to go beyond them. Consider the Symphony in D major at the end of the program here, large parts of which are not in D major at all. The album provides a good sampling of Arriaga's surviving orchestral works; many of the most intriguing, such as the opera Los esclavos felices (The Happy Slaves), have been lost. Three String Quartets are generally thought to be his best, and you don't get those, but the substantial Overture in D major, Op. 20, as well as the French vocal cantatas Herminie and Médée, given brisk performances by soprano Berit Norbakken Solset, are not commonly played and certainly will hold your attention. The biggest attraction is the work of Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, leading the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra; he gets the fetching, really nearly Mozartian melodic genius that must have so struck Arriaga's Parisian teachers. Sample the Overture to Los esclavos felices, the only part of that work that has survived. Recommended, with clean sound from the MediaCity studio.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony in D major|