Joaquin Turina, a native of Seville, Spain, is the featured composer on this fine Telarc SACD hybrid disc, which is playable on any CD player. As great as Debussy is, with these compositions and Lopez-Cobos' excellent readings of the scores, you'll understand his top billing (quantity-wise) and at least on par quality-wise. Maestro Lopez-Cobos first directed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in recordings for Telarc starting in 1987 with music of another Spanish composer, Falla. This long lasting collaboration has now culminated after twenty-six recordings with these fine performances.
Turina was about twenty-two years old when he went to Paris to study with a well-known German pianist and with the not quite so well known composer, Vincent d'Indy for a number of years. I threw in this bit of trivia because d'Indy composed one of my personal favorite, rarely heard compositions, which is known or listed under three titles. The most common two in the U.S. and U.K. are Symphony on a French Mountain Air and Symphony Cevennole. Keep an eye out for it; at used record stores it is a bargain with Ormandy on Columbia or Munch on RCA with the legendary recording duo Mohr and Layton. Following some chamber works, his first orchestral composition, La Procession del Rocio premiered after his return to Spain in 1913 and is the last one featured on this disc. It was inspired by an annual religious festival held in his native Seville. Quotes and the score's preface are, "The Procession of the Dew" and "Every Year in June". A little bit of most everything is found in this relatively short work's two sections.
Included are Gypsy dances and melodies, pipes, drums and religious excerpts punctuated with bells and an excerpt from the Spanish national anthem. The recording is outstandingly good; this has become increasingly common with Telarc's hybrid SACD-CD recordings and the drum strokes are not overly emphasized. They do go down powerfully and solidly to the bottom octave (25Hz to 50Hz). It is difficult to know exactly how bass drum strokes naturally sound in any given concert hall unless you (or I) have been there. Some halls sound very similar in their presentation of bass drum strokes and others differ greatly. I've never been in Cincinnati's Music Hall, but famed mystery writer, reviewer and music critic Jonathan Valin knows its sound intimately. He and his fictional detective both still reside in the Cincinnati area as far as I know. If you run across one of his reviews describing the sound of, or sound in Cincinnati's Music Hall, believe it; it will be accurate. I've reached the conclusion that in most respects, including those drum strokes, music-loving audiophiles should be very happy with the overall sound quality on Turina's Procession as well as his other works here. These are all beautifully recorded with no highlighting of the string sections; they're all very atmospheric and if you think of Debussy's Images as impressionistic music, then you darn sure better conclude that these three Turina compositions are also!
The Danzas Fantasticas were later transcribed by Turina for solo piano. With some composers it's vice-versa; they or another composer will take a solo piano piece and transcribe or orchestrate it for a full symphony orchestra. It has three movements, each with a descriptive title and I find the titles (English translations) very suitably descriptive of my audible impressions of each one. They pretty much speak for themselves. First is "Ecstasy", next "Daydream" and the final movement is "Revel", which closes with an impressively loud and rigorous variation of flamenco music. Again, audiophiles and music lovers will be impressed. Lopez-Copos is certainly in his nationalistic idiom. His performances will not be easily surpassed.
The Sinfonia Sevillane is really more of a three-movement tone poem than the entitled implication of symphony. Here again are descriptively titled movements, all appropriately apt. First is Panorama, which introduces a recurring motto theme, first played with just flute and oboe. The quiet coda features the theme played by a solo violin and the closing final chord very loudly and surprisingly shatters the quiet closing measure. The second movement Guadalquivir is the name of Seville's river. There is a song played by the English (not French) horn which is interrupted by the strings reintroducing that motto theme from the first movement, but then the English horn returns. The English horn is a double reed instrument (not related to the French horn) between the oboe and bassoon in range, a "baritone" oboe if you will. Near the ending are passages with four cellos plus a solo violin which again includes the previously mentioned motto theme. The last movement, Fiesta has a bit of everything including Flamenco variations, other dances, that motto theme and a rousing climax to the movement and composition in which that motto-based theme again is heard.
Debussy's rightfully famous Iberia is the second of his Images for Orchestra. It very ably stands alone and is usually not heard with the other two Images. Debussy (Iberia) and Rimsky-Korsakov (Capriccio Espagnol) composed the two most famous and popular depictions of Spain every written "by others". The well-known Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla writing about Debussy's Iberia said, "The entire piece down to the smallest detail makes one feel the character of Spain". This famous and excellently realized evocation of Spain was created by a composer who had spent less than a full day there attending a bull fight. Could he have done any better if it had been an entire week? As with Turina's aforementioned compositions, Debussy's Iberia pretty much runs the gamut from folk songs through martial rhythms and nocturnes ultimately culminating in a brilliantly extroverted holiday festival atmosphere including church bells. The similarities with Turina are many. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the music.
If you like or even think you might like, Spanish music for full orchestra, you're in luck. Excellent, idiomatic performances from a conductor probably near the height of his career with a long-term relationship with an ever-improving orchestra. Frost it all with Telarc's consistently fine hybrid recording and the result is an all-around-winner.
Addendum of miscellaneous recorded choices includes the following: A few fine piano recordings of most of the above compositions do exist. Lopez-Cobos recorded the Danzas some time back for Decca with the Suisse Romande Orchestra and it has been available on CD for those who care to compare. Long-time audiophiles may enjoy hearing how this outstanding new recording fares against sentimental favorites from the " golden age of LP recording" and later available on CD. Iberia enjoyed surprisingly good performances from Reiner on RCA and Paray on Mercury, both fine sounding as typical for each company's best from that well-known early stereo recording time period. This last CD/SACD hybrid for the triad of Telarc, Lopez-Cobos and Cincinnati Orchestra however, is now my first choice for listening pleasure. The result is a top recommendation to music lovers and audiophiles... enough said.