Kirk Trevor / Slovak National Symphony Orchestra

Florencio Asenjo: The Batrachomyomachia: Palm-of-the-Hand-Tales; Basile's Pentameron

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Genuinely novel in an age where it's been said that all the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks, the three pieces by Argentine-American composer Florencio Asenjo recorded here are generally similar in style. They're tonal, or at least not particularly dissonant, and they're written for conventional orchestral instruments. Each is based on a work of literature, which it follows closely, in the time-honored manner of program music. So what's the novelty? Asenjo's music follows a unique principle that he names maximalism, although what he means by the word is very different from the way serial composers have used it as a pejorative contrast to "minimalism." Asenjo's maximalism entails, as far as possible, an avoidance of repetition, but that doesn't mean his works have a pastiche-like effect. Instead he derives each new theme or passage of music from the preceding one, much as the second theme of a Classical sonata forms a contrast with the first but also follows naturally from it. The themes are often linked by a short motive or some other common element, and each work or section might be described as a chain of musical statements successively linked to one another but never repeating or circling back to a starting point. The tonality is almost irrelevant. The conception is original, and this album may present Asenjo's work in the best light of the various recordings of his music that have appeared: the literary program interacts with his style in a very intriguing way. Each of these pieces -- based on an ancient Greek satirical poem called the "Batrachomyomachia," a set of short stories by Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata, and tales from the Pentameron of Italian Renaissance writer Giambattista Basile -- has its own quite detailed character to which Asenjo's fixed procedure is tailored. The result is music with an uncanny narrative sense that's not quite like anything else out there, sympathetically interpreted by the Slovak National Symphony Orchestra under Kirk Trevor. Strongly recommended.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:13
2 2:36
3 1:47
4 2:44
5 3:00
6 3:45
7 2:55
8 3:25
9 2:50
10 4:26
11 9:33
Basile's Pentameron
12 3:08
13 2:41
14 3:17
15 3:35
16 4:43
blue highlight denotes track pick