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Conjunto Iberico/Elias Arizucen
Spiritual Spanish music for Cello Octet
Cristobal Halffter Attendite, Jose Maria Sanchez-Verdu Architecture of absence, Luis de Pablo Eleison (all works composed in 2003)
etcetera KTC 1268

This is the first release from a projected series of commissions by Conjunto Iberico to composers from totally different parts of the world and cultural backgrounds, with religion or spirituality as its source of inspiration; "New Spiritual Music - - music that's not about proving something or showing off, but about gently soothing the listener".

Little of the gently soothing in this first offering, I am glad to find! Here is contained the latest recording to be released of music by the leading Spanish composer Luis de Pablo, who is enjoying a prolific Indian summer in his mid-seventies, with international commissions and premieres in all genres. Whilst the CD is marketed by etcetera under the rubric Spiritual Spanish Music from the XXI Century, de Pablo takes the wind out of those sails by writing "... I felt the need to ask for mercy, but from whom? That's why I left out 'Kyrie' and just called it Eleison".

Luis de Pablo describes Eleison's structure as like lacework - 'detailed, precise and subtle', 'a maze of doubts' which combines complex rhythmic patterns with a huge expressive power. No call for mercy required, it is one of this great composer's finest and most stimulating and enjoyable recent works, the second he has composed for the great Amsterdam-based cello octed Conjunto Iberico, founded by Elias Arizucen (sample the first, Ritornello, at the link below). The cello octet is a marvellous invention, its range so wide that it really is self-sufficient and, whilst playing, makes you wonder whether we really need symphony orchestras!

I found the other works far less involving. Halffter's Attendite (a plea for more understanding to combat isolation) is an insistent piece of 'improbable virtuosity', superficially exciting and rather like those of MacMillan's which enjoy success because of the assumed 'spirituality' signalled in their titles and programmes. Sanchez-Verdu's Architecture of absence has a pretentious programme which he links to famous painters, Arabian art, Sufi mystics etc, 'mystical mirroring of musical materials - - attracted by geometry and spirituality'...... The nebulous quality of 'spirituality' was not evident to this listener, but it is a concept that can be all things to all men?

However, judgement should be delayed on the project as a whole, and this CD should be acquired (together with others from Conjunto Iberico) by all college strings departments for their cellists to study.

See my extensive article about Luis de Pablo, whose music first fired my enthusiasm when it used to be played at the Almeida Festival, but rarely in UK since those days. For reviews of some of his other works follow these links to Music on the Web (Homage to de Pablo at San Sebastian) and Musical Pointers (Zurezko Olerkia), and contact his publisher ESZ (Milan). There is now a vast discography on CD, but unfortunately scattered and mainly, as for Eleison, single works in composite releases, many of them by minor companies, not to speak of numerous CD trasfers from concerts and broadcasts not available commercially (e.g. concertos for cello and for guitar).

Spanish Modern Music

L. de Pablo, C. Halffter, T. Marco, J.L. Turina

CG 9428

Fragment of Ritornello by Luis de Pablo


© Peter Grahame Woolf