The Ebony Band is a collective of musicians from Holland under the direction of its creator, Werner Herbers. The ensemble assembled for this recording numbers 22 members including vocalists Marjanne Kweksilber and Juan Carlos Tajes. The program consists of works written during the Spanish Civil War by composers as varied as Silvestre Revueltas, Conlon Nancarrow, Hanns Eisler, and Rodolfo Halftter. Also included is poetry by Garcia Lorca and a number of traditional songs from the era sung by participants in the conflict. This is an ambitious project. To interpret Revueltas alone would be a feat for an orchestra that plays together only sporadically, but to include Nancarrow and Eisler too? Who ever heard of such a thing? Thus, points are given for sheer audacity. The performances are not quite virtuoso, though they are very good. One has to assume that Herbers knew what exactly he was after in trying to create a portrait of the West, Spanish and non-Spanish speaking, and the way in which that particular conflict offered opportunities creatively for a number of composers. The standouts are the Nancarrow "Piece for Small Orchestra, No. One," and Revueltas' six-work selection, which includes his famous "Homage a Frederico Garcia Lorca" and "Mexico en Espana." On the rest the orchestra feels locked in to an academic reading -- particularly the vocalists who are clearly unfamiliar with this material. It happens. Sound is another issue in that everything here seems EQed to the same level, leaving the strings buzzing in the background. This is a noble effort, and overall the result is revealing of a particular place in time where war once again provided artists with grist for the mill.
Share this page