Ginastera/Villa-Lobos/Evangelista Works for Strings
Stylistic diversity is a conspicuous feature of this splendidly played (and equally splendidly recorded) disc. The most curious work here is the collection of 15 Spanish folk-tunes of various kinds (more than half lasting less than a minute each) arranged by Jose Evangelista, now a resident of Canada. He has added no harmony apart from an occasional bass note or drone, but instead treats the melodies with an often out-of-step ornamented heterophony which gives the whole an oddly East European flavour. The most intriguing item of the set is the irregular-rhythm No. 6.
Villa-Lobos is represented by two works separated by 30 years in his output. The early (1912) Suite for Strings, unusually lucid in texture for him, has an endearingly lyrical, nostalgic first movement, based almost entirely on its first four notes, a mysterious, heart-searching Andantino, and a restless, agitated finale that was later re-used in a ballet about the evolution of the aeroplane. The Ninth (and last) of the Bachianas Brasileiras cycle probably best justifies its Bachian reference: after a brief but beautiful prelude comes a vigorously argued and ingeniously complex fugue, whose syncopated 11-beat rhythm is crisply handled by the Montreal players. They particularly demonstrate their virtuosity, however, in Ginastera’s masterly 1965 Concerto for Strings. This begins with a series of solo variations for the section leaders (that for double-bass of scarifying difficulty) on a cadenza-like theme, incorporating quarter-tones, expounded by the first violin; a scherzo fantastico lives up to its name by all kinds of outlandish effects; an anguished and passionate Andante filled with a sense of desolation leads to a violently energetic finale that is an absolute knock-out. Recommended with enthusiasm.'