Both of these well-produced discs would make near-ideal introductions to this versatile composer’s output, featuring three of his finest orchestral inspirations. If the suite from his ballet Estancia (1942) remains his best-known work, and its malambo finale one of the most famous pieces in Latin American music, the Overture to the Creole Faust (1943) cannot be far behind. Both are outgoing, ‘popular’ items, whereas the ‘symphonic pastoral’ Pampeana No 3 (1954) is more obviously serious.
All three works receive committed performances on both discs. Castagna and the Berliners find a touch more magic in the Pampeana’s slower outer movements aided by Chandos’s sumptuous sound, but the Danish players, led by their Venezuelan-born conductor, often have the edge in the swifter sections. In Estancia, the resonance of Chandos’s recording works against the music: Bridge’s drier, cleaner sound in the Carl Nielsen Hall in Odense is more successful. And while some of Jan Wagner’s tempi seem a shade deliberate compared to Castagna’s, he mostly justifies them by the pacing of each work in toto. Both new versions of the Overture strike me as preferable to Hanson’s pioneering Mercury account or Valdes for Dorian. The Estancia suite and Pampeana are generally more securely played than they are under Matá, though there is no denying the sheer excitement he brings to both scores. The latter’s couplings still make his accounts eminently collectable, though Bátiz is also excellent.
If there is little overall to choose between the newcomers, the fourth item on each may decide the matter. On Chandos comes a scintillating account of the second, full-orchestral version of the more harmonically advanced Glosses on Themes of Pablo Casals, originally written for strings to celebrate the Catalan cellist’s centenary in 1976 and rescored a year later. Gisèle Ben-Dor recorded both versions in 1995 with the LSO for Koch, accounts which remain unsurpassed (and swifter), coupled with the brilliant Variaciones concertantes. In contrast, Bridge restores to the CD catalogue Ginastera’s Ollantay (1947), a darkly colourful and dramatic folk-triptych that could be thought of as an Argentinian Taras Bulba. As it stands then, both new discs are well worth hearing, but if you want only one version of these pieces my recommendation would be for the Bridge, coupled with Koch’s of the Glosses.