Arriaga: Overture to 'Los esclavos felices'; Herminie; Symphony in D minor; Air from 'Médée'; Overture in D major

Arriaga: Overture to 'Los esclavos felices'; Herminie; Symphony in D minor; Air from 'Médée'; Overture in D major

by Juanjo Mena


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The Spanish (actually Basque) composer Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga died at 19, and by then it was already clear, not only that he had mastered Classical forms (he was known as the "Spanish Mozart"), but that he was finding innovative ways to go beyond them. Consider the "Symphony in D major" at the end of the program here, large parts of which are not in D major at all. The album provides a good sampling of Arriaga's surviving orchestral works; many of the most intriguing, such as the opera "Los esclavos felices" ("The Happy Slaves"), have been lost. Three "String Quartets" are generally thought to be his best, and you don't get those, but the substantial "Overture in D major, Op. 20," as well as the French vocal cantatas "Herminie" and "Médée," given brisk performances by soprano Berit Norbakken Solset, are not commonly played and certainly will hold your attention. The biggest attraction is the work of Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, leading the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra; he gets the fetching, really nearly Mozartian melodic genius that must have so struck Arriaga's Parisian teachers. Sample the "Overture to Los esclavos felices," the only part of that work that has survived. Recommended, with clean sound from the MediaCity studio.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/01/2019
Label: Chandos
UPC: 0095115207727
catalogNumber: 20077
Rank: 115850

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Arriaga: Overture to 'Los esclavos felices'; Herminie; Symphony in D minor; Air from 'Médée'; Overture in D major 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
RGraves321 More than 1 year ago
If you're not familiar with Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga, this release is an excellent introduction. Arriaga was dubbed the "Spanish Mozart," and with good reason. Like Mozart, he had a natural facility for the piano, and for composition. And like Mozart, he died young. Arriaga wrote his opera "Los esclavos felices" when he was fourteen. Although it was produced and launched his career, only the overture and a few fragments survive. Arriga extensively revised the score in 1821, which is the version recorded here. It has Mozartian lilt to it, bursting with energy and good spirits. Arriaga's 1824 Symphony in D shifts between major and minor. Here Arriaga seems inspired by Beethoven as well as Mozart. Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic give performances well-suited to the music. Even Arriaga's dramatic, 30-minute symphony has a lightness and transparency to it. Mena understands that essential nature of Arriaga and delivers on every track. Two vocal works are included: the cantata "Herminie" and "Air de l’Opéra Médée" The 15-minute cantata is, quite simply, a masterwork of vocal writing. It hints at what the operatic world lost with Arriaga's early death. Soprano Berit Norbakken Solset sings with a clear, pure tone that continually delights. Her delivery reinforces the stylistic similarities between Arriaga and Mozart. Arriaga's music is sometimes characterized as "Mozart with a smile." That's especially true with this release. Highly recommended for the beauty of the music and the sterling performances it receives.