Spanish-born American composer and conductor Carlos Surinach was one of the key movers in contemporary American concert music in the 1950s and early '60s. His music -- lively, dramatic, tart, and highly rhythmic -- was distinctive; and gained more than a few converts during Surinach's heyday, among them Martha Graham, who commissioned several ballet scores from him. In the years when Surinach was most active, one could find his recordings mainly on two record labels; Surinach's own conducting was heard on the now long-defunct classical label once run by MGM Records, and Robert Whitney and Jorge Mester also featured Surinach's music on the Louisville Orchestra's high-quality mail order subscription concern. It is from recordings that appeared on the latter that provides the material for First Edition Music's Carlos Surinach, Louisville Orchestra. Although on the surface it appears that four long works are featured here, the five-minute Feria Magica Overture is the only one cast in a single movement. The remainder is made up of very short pieces similar to ballet cues, the longest lasting just 4:42 and the shortest a mere 40 seconds. Producer Matt Walters has wisely divided them into single tracks, a luxury that would not have been had with the original Louisville Orchestra LPs. Nonetheless, Surinach packs an awful lot of music into these short pieces, all of them feeling like complete statements unto themselves.
These recordings represent some of the key turning points in the history of the Louisville Orchestra label. Melorhythmic Dramas is one of Jorge Mester's very first recordings with the orchestra, and it does not sound as though he has them fully under the control of his baton, but overall it gets the job done. The Sinfonietta Flamenca, recorded in 1954, is one of the very first recordings made by the Louisville Orchestra, and the sound is notably inferior to the rest of the disc. Yet once the piece gets going, it is engaging enough that you forget about the sound quality, which elsewhere on this release is frankly stunning.
If one likes vibrant, exciting twentieth century music that has a little bit of bite, yet never wanders too far into the briar patch, then there is every reason to enjoy First Edition Music's Carlos Surinach, Louisville Orchestra.