Haydn/Ginastera/Stravinsky Orchestral Works
This looks like an interesting coupling but it turns out to be no such thing, mainly because Popol Vuh is such a disappointing piece. Based on the Mayan creation myth, it was left unfinished at Ginastera's death in 1983. He'd been working on it for eight years (no other work of his had such a protracted gestation). It's a mixture of sound effects (great use of subterranean contrabassoon growls, mysterious crepitations from such exotic percussion instruments as the laiiiro and the cuica) and local colour (Latin American, perhaps also Amerindian rhythms), seasoned with outbursts of colourful uproar and of glumly dark, rather aimless melody. Its six mostly brief movements are spasmodic rather than cumulative, the overall effect being of unrelated events that might just as well be played in a different order; my guess would be that Ginastera simply got bogged down in the piece. His representation of primordial chaos is particularly static and uneventful, perhaps appropriately so (I don't suppose an awful lot happened while the world was without form and void) but Haydn, as Slatkin's performance effectively but tactlessly demonstrates, could make one tremble with his vision of the instability of un-created matter. Still, Slatkin is clearly fond of Popol Vuh (he gave its first performance) and takes great care over its best feature, its sequence of at times lurid but at others vivid, subtle or mysterious sonorities.
He's good at Stravinskian sonorities as well. His excellent Rite is a little deliberate at times, and has one or two eccentricities (the gravely chiming trumpets in the introduction to Part 2 are placed as though off-stage; the quiet bassoons towards the end of the ''Evocation of the Ancestors'' play tenuto and legato for no apparent reason) but for the most part obtains its effects by close observance of the score and exemplary balancing, not by specious velocity or exaggeration. The sound is big and rich yet transparent, and the recording has a huge dynamic range. A pity about the coupling.'