Carlos Prieto / Doris Stevenson

Seven World Premieres

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Seven World Premieres Review

by James Manheim

Mexican-born and American-trained cellist Carlos Prieto indeed delivers the promised seven world premieres on this disc, and all of it was written between 2005 and 2007. It was recorded in New York and released on the Mexico City label Urtext, but it isn't really a product of either of those locales. Instead, it centers on the music department of the University of Texas at Austin, where three of the seven composers represented are on the faculty. The rest are Mexican or Latin American composers of some renown. The close temporal focus is matched by a stylistic unity; the pieces all use the cello and piano (except in Samuel Zyman's Suite for solo cello) in conventional ways, and all are in extended Romantic idioms with at least fairly stable grounding in tonality. The Latin aspect of the music is present but subtle; there is little here to interest those exploring the influence of Piazzolla on the contemporary Latin American scene. Probably the most "Latin" piece is Robert X. Rodriguez's Tentado por la Samba for cello and piano (tracks 5 and 6), where it is Doris Stevenson's piano that draws the cello into the Brazilian rhythms. Donald Grantham's Son of Cimetière for cello and piano (track 1) refers to a figure from Haiti's voodoo religion, but one would be unlikely to intuit that without prior explanation. Prieto's warm, unforced style actually is more suited to the pure lyricism of a work like Russell Pinkston's Summer Rhapsody. The notes are in Spanish and English, and the English is sloppy enough that you'd wonder whether it might actually be difficult to find people who can translate between these two languages well. The recording, as usual with Urtext, is quite good, and the tight focus of the album really brings the purchase decision down to whether listeners think they'll be interested in this corner of the musical universe.

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