Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Sonidos Cubanos 2, An Anthology of Modern Works by Cuban Composers


One way you might gauge how the Contemporary music world is changing is to contemplate the contents of a recent anthology of Contemporary music. So today I do that with Sonidos Cubanos 2 (Neuma 133). Here we explore some five works by Cuban composers. Most interestingly it does not incorporate folk elements so much as it is resolutely "serious," examining rather dark possibilities, avoiding the "pretty" in favor of not always orthodox Modernity with a capital /M/. Regardless the music is often enough tonal with a pronounced "edge." This is dramatic fare, designed to evoke contemplation or stimulate your reflective, atmospherically reflexive listening self with alternating movement and relative stasis.

That said, none of these works resemble each other so much as they take up a slightly or pronouncedly singular space. And so much the better since one is continually moved along to successively "other" territories. There is nothing predictable or imitative about it.

These are not names you are likely to know well. But after hearing their work you may wish to know more, which is the adventuresome side of the new, of course, when  it works for us.

The program begins with a deeply outreaching moodiness from Flores Chaviano. His NiFe for symphony orchestra and voices marks the anniversary of a mining disaster and fittingly is an outburst of anguish, very marked in its despair, but very pronounced in its orchestrationally expressive poignancy.

A complementing work is "Memorial" by Ivette Herryman Rodriguez, marked by a sadness that pervades your very being. The lyrics are from Christina Rosetti, a copious weeping forth as soprano, cello and piano join together in a communal sorrow that touches yet consoles.

Odalina de la Martinez's "Litanies" gives us beautiful, somber and contemplative music for (bass) flute, harp and string trio. It proceeds to a beautifully round contrapuntal circle of yearning so to speak before returning to its long linger of a slow cyclical koan of tone, this second time with plaintive violin expressions overtop.

The dark and haunting "Libertaria Song Cycle" by Sabrina Pena Young stays in the memory and sounds better each rehearing. The final song movement "Rebellion" has a rather astonishing spot where motor string and deep metal guitar rise up--with rock drums sounding a tattoo--and brings you to an impressive ponder point. Rather unforgettable!

The final work, the chamber duo "Evolving Spheres" for bass clarinet and piano gives us dramatic and concentric High Modern musical clout, a testament to Eduardo Morales Caso's compositional capabilities. It ends the program like the works that came before it, with inventive and unexpected juxtapositions that ring true.

The recording is of good quality and the performers are all of the highest caliber.

This one is a bit of a sleeper but once you listen enough times it stands out as a happy milestone among the various possibilities in New Music emerging today. Check it out by all means.

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