by Walter Simmons
INVOCACIONES: Mexican Music for Flute and Piano • Dúo México con Brío (Evangelina Reyes [fl], Camelia Goila [pn]) • URTEXT DIGITAL JBCC-188 (67:27)
ZYMAN Sonata for Flute and Piano. LAVISTA Dance of Degas’s Ballerinas. CORAL Not So Short Sonata for Flute and Piano. ARMENGOL Divertimento. ARANDA Mnemósine. Cadenza. LUNA Six Fantasies for Flute and Piano. E. TOUSSAINT Bop Study #1 for Flute Solo
This is another one of those collections of miscellany that is so easily overlooked or dismissed—I would probably pass over it myself if I were just a reader of this magazine. But this recording offers fine performances of an extremely appealing recital program, with a repertoire that ranges from the truly superb to the merely pleasant. I will discuss the program in my own judgment of descending order of interest.
The most fully satisfying work is the 17-minute sonata by the Mexican-American composer Samuel Zyman, now in his late fifties, and a member of the Juilliard faculty for quite a few years. From my personal vantage point, Zyman’s music seems to have drawn little serious attention, but of nearly a dozen of his works that I’ve encountered over the years I haven’t heard one that failed to exhibit an irresistible sense of compelling creative urgency, vividly and expertly articulated within the general language of traditional modern neo-classicism. But unlike the neo-classical norm, often characterized by a cool detachment and lack of emotional commitment, Zyman’s music is always serious and expressive in tone, with a driving contrapuntal energy. I cannot imagine a flutist who wouldn’t relish a work like this, which grabs the listener intensely from the first moment and never lets go. The piece it most resembles is the perennially popular Sonata for Flute and Piano by the late Robert Muczynski, but Zyman’s 1993 sonata is somewhat more driven and edgy.
Also of considerable interest and appeal is the Dance of Degas’s Ballerinas, composed in 1992 by Mario Lavista. Born in 1943, Lavista seems to have the most cosmopolitan academic pedigree of the composers represented, having studied with a range of mentors from Nadia Boulanger and Gyorgy Ligeti to Karlheinz Stockhausen. But the short piece that we hear here is a consistently absorbing abstract work in a modern traditionalist style. Some listeners may find their imaginations stimulated by the title, but I heard no convincing musical connection to the suggested images, yet had no problem connecting with the piece as pure music.
Leonardo Coral, born in 1962, is a prolific composer whose music has been performed widely throughout Mexico. His four-movement piece, whose title may be translated as Not So Short Sonata for Flute and Piano, dates from 2003. It is a pleasant piece with an occasional reminiscence of Poulenc—pretty, straightforward, but with no plumbing of expressive depths.
Mario Ruiz Armengol (1914-2002) was a versatile figure in Mexican music, celebrated in the classical, light classical, and popular fields. His Divertimento in G (1979) for alto flute and piano is a gracious, warmly lyrical piece.
Alexis Aranda, not yet forty and the youngest composer represented here, has been hailed as a major talent within the Mexican music establishment. A student of Mario Lavista, noted above, he is represented here by two very short pieces. The first, Mnemósine, refers to the goddess of memory. Dating from 2002, it begins with striking dissonance, but quickly warms up to an appealingly tonal lyricism. The earlier Cadenza for unaccompanied flute is a rather late addition to a genre overflowing with mediocre pieces.
Armando Luna (b. 1964) received his graduate training under Leonardo Balada at Carnegie Mellon University, while his career has flourished actively in his native Mexico. The program notes accompanying his Six Fantasies of 1992 make all sorts of intriguingly colorful references, but the actual music does not bear them out and is rather ordinary if pleasant enough.
Like many of the composers represented on this recital, Eugenio Toussaint (1954-2011) was active in Mexico’s popular, jazz, and classical worlds. His Bop Study No. 1 (1994) was originally written for recorder, but Evangelina Reyes transcribed it for flute. As it stands, the short piece exploits a wide range of flute effects, both familiar and unconventional, many of them suggestive of “bop”-style jazz.
All the pieces are performed expertly by both Reyes and her accompanist Camelia Goila.