Asturias Symphony Orchestra

Orbón: Symphonic Dances; Three Symphonic Versions; Concerto Grosso

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There are lots of good reasons to familiarize yourself with the music of Spanish composer Julián Orbón. Orbón's music is brightly colored, rich in orchestration (he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood), intoxicatingly rhythmic, and tuneful. However, to date it doesn't appear that Orbón has had a disc all to himself; leave it to Naxos' Spanish Classics series to set the pace.

These orchestral works are all in a Spanish "populist" style owing very much to Copland's influence, dating from the 1950s or shortly after, and are light on folk derivations while heavy in atmosphere and color, yet largely avoiding a "travelog"-type ambience. Of the three, only Tres Versiones Sinfónicas has appeared on CD in the Western market, and that was a fairly formidable performance with the great Eduardo Mata and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. The playing of the Tres Versiones Sinfónicas here, by the Asturias Symphony Orchestra under Maximiano Valdes, is not as crisp and taut as under Mata for Dorian. But it is still quite a strong performance nonetheless, and the other works have the benefit of being completely unfamiliar, and are as enjoyable as they are obscure.

It is tempting to say this material is essential, and only the lack of a strong second opinion in this respect gives one pause; Grove's, for example, is not particularly charitable toward Tres Versiones Sinfónicas. But to other ears this music sounds terrific, and if you like Falla, Chavéz, or Villa-Lobos, you probably shouldn't avoid picking this up.

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