Carlos Surinach was born in 1915 in Barcelona, spent formative years in Berlin and Paris, and has lived in the USA since 1951. In his music, however, at least as far as the works on this disc are concerned, he has never left Spain. At first hearing you may be reminded of Joaquin Rodrigo, but there are two differences. Firstly Surinach tells us that he very rarely uses genuine Spanish folk melodies: “Once I hear a theme, I digest it and dissolve it into powder, so that when it comes back from my mind, it’s something else”. Secondly, so far as one can tell from a group of chamber works, his music simply uses fewer notes than Rodrigo’s: it is sparer, simpler in texture and, as often as not, having stated an idea it will forego repeating it: there are 24 short movements in the 50 minutes of music collected here.
Gentle, simple lyricism is his forte, rising at times to melancholy eloquence but not to anything more violent. The sound of his carefully chosen instrumental ensembles (the graceful Tientos, for example, are scored for cor anglais, timpani and piano; the catchy Ritmo Jondo for three melody instruments, timpani, percussion and three hand-clappers) is often brilliant, always clean. ‘Clean’, too, is the word for his melodies: the lazy rocking and florid vocalises of the second of the Cantares, for example, are instantly memorable; it could easily become a popular encore piece. There is no great music here, but much that is charming, sunlit and fresh. The performances are on the whole excellent, though I found Rachel Rosales’s vibrant, edgy soprano rather restless. I could make little of Hollywood carnival, a series of fragmentary brief epigrams. Texts are provided only for the Cantares, but the English versions supplied are very free paraphrases. The recordings are admirable, as neat, clean and undemonstrative as the music.'