The music of Joaquín Turina, written between the world wars and largely tonal, fell into disfavor during modernist rule and its associated ideology of linear historical development. But, although tonal, it is not really conservative: it merges French Impressionism and Spanish folklore in a thoroughly blended medium, and its colorful Spanish scenes conceal extremely artful orchestration and sequences of events that only seem joyously spontaneous. It is good to hear it being programmed with increasing frequency by major orchestras outside Spain, and this release by the BBC Philharmonic under Spanish veteran Juanjo Mena offers a fair sampling of his talent. The two major works, the Danzas fantásticas, Op. 22, and the Sinfonía sevillana, Op. 23, are close in time and similar in style. Neither title is literal; Sinfonía is not really a symphony, but rather offers music evocative of Spanish places and forms of expression (the "Orgia" final movement does not, the booklet assures you, mean what you think it means, but you don't learn exactly what it does mean). Its lovely lyrical episodes are perhaps a bit longer than those of the other pieces. Instead, both works are beautifully constructed little tone poems with a great variety of Spanish materials; the flamenco sound with which Turina is often identified is there but is not dominant. The Poema en forma de canciones, Op. 19 (Poem in the Form of Songs), begins with an orchestral rendition of a guitarist's flamenco prelude and in general is the most flamenco-influenced of the music on the album, but even here Turina plays the full-throated Spanish idiom against Debussy's pastel colors. Some might prefer a thicker sound from mezzo soprano Clara Mouriz, but her voice fits both shades of this mixture. The same is true of Mena's readings: they won't put you in the bullring, but they're wonderfully alert, and the orchestra plays precisely. Chandos' digital studio sound is very well matched to the recording's aims.
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