Balada: Caprichos Nos. 6, 7 and 10 - Ensemble Col legno, Robert Ferrer (CD)

Current Stock:
Ensemble Col legno, Robert Ferrer

Acknowledged as one of the finest contemporary composers, Barcelona-born Leonardo Balada has written a series of Caprichos, suite-like pieces that illustrate the range of his invention. Fusing traditional and contemporary elements, they generate a symbiosis between the ethnic and the avant-garde, as in Caprichos No. 7: Fantasies of 'La Tarara' in which an Andalusian folk melody is transformed into a surrealist canvas, and in the vividly descriptive dissonance of Caprichos No. 6. Ballet City is a youthful work, reflecting Balada's early enthusiasm for neo-classicism.

Performers: Luis Fernandez-Castello (clarinet), Marcos Sanjuan (violin), Pere Joan Carrascosa (cello), Joan Sureda and Oscar Oliver (piano), Ensemble Col legno, Robert Ferrer

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Ballet City for chamber ensemble (1959, concert version 2013)

Caprichos No. 6 for clarinet and piano (2009)

Caprichos No. 7: Fantasies of ‘La Tarara’

Chamber concerto for clarinet and instrumental ensemble (2009)

Spiritual for cello and piano (2002)

Caprichos No. 10: Fantasy of ‘La Pastoreta’ for violin, cello and piano (2013)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


A unique mix of Spain, jazz, and Modernism.



Naxos continues its productive association with the American-based, Catalan composer Leonardo Balada in this chamber music addition to his Caprichos series. The received wisdom about Balada is that he began as a tough Modernist, then introduced folk, jazz and Spanish elements into his music while hanging on to some of his early avant-garde technique. The first work on this disc, Ballet City, suggests those popular elements have always been present, though maybe in a less obvious form. It is a 12-minute work for chamber ensemble in three movements, and the titles give the game away: 'On the Street', 'Idyll', and 'Fiesta'. Originally written in 1959, when the composer was 26 and still a student at Juilliard, it was revised in 2013 for a concert in Valencia where it was performed by the musicians who play it here.

Balada's three Caprichos are scored for diverse groups: No. 6 is for clarinet and piano; No. 7 for clarinet and instrumental ensemble, and No. 10 (the shortest of all at 6:21) for Piano Trio. 7 and 10 are constructed as fantasies on folk tunes: 'La Tarara' (an Andalusian melody) in No. 7, and 'La Pastoreta' (A Catalan folksong) in No. 10. All the music on this disc could be described as capricious, not just in its energy but in the technical demands: toneless glissandi in the clarinet part at the close of Caprichos No. 6, or the piano's cluster chord that opens No. 10 with a literal bang. Coming as a welcome contrast to the hijinks is the slow movement of Caprichos No. 7, Intimo, where a wide-ranging clarinet arioso wanders among quiet string textures to create an atmospheric piece of night music.

If the bluesy Spiritual sounds familiar, that is because it is based on the opening Lamento of Balada's Second Cello Concerto, 'New Orleans' (2001 - also available on Naxos). In Spiritual the cello is accompanied by piano only, sounding even more authentically jazzy as a result. This is an enjoyable caprice of a program, not quite so arresting as Balada's orchestral work but still reflecting his unique imagination, primary-color textures, and abundant good humour. The robust performances are recorded in the close-up house style.