Review By Brian Reinhart,MusicWeb International,May 2012
Santa Cruz de Pacairigua (1954)…is a fully-fledged masterpiece. The best comparison might be An American in Paris: jaunty, broadly merry, with an episodic feel that is in fact deceptive. Like An American in Paris, Santa Cruz is in fact particularly well-developed, with most of the material deriving from the very first solo trumpet line (0:01-0:06); again like the Gershwin work, there are central slow episodes of more romantic character—the strings send up chills at 7:50. In these slower moments, Castellanos begins setting the stage for his grand finale: first, insistent drumming underlines the introduction of a proper hymnal tune, representing the actual church denoted in the title; then a wild, joyous dance erupts. By the end, the unbridled
El Río de las Siete Estrellas (1946)…builds very satisfyingly from a flute-dominated nocturne at the beginning to more clearly folk-influenced music, with splendorous brass and cymbal crashes by the end.
Rounding out this…selection is the Suite Avileña (1947), five movements based on pre-existing Venezuelan folk melodies, including the chants of flower vendors, children’s nursery rhymes, and even—briefly, in a fourth movement dance episode—‘Adeste Fideles’. The third, ‘Nocturno,’ is an especially striking combination of serenade on the cuatro (a Caribbean variant on the guitar), mournful noises from the woodwinds, and creepy night-time effects by the celesta.
Have I emphasized enough how excellent this music is? It’s not just good ‘nationalistic’ music; it’s plain old good music. Suite Avileña is an enchanting set of short works, and Santa Cruz ought to be a repertory staple of orchestras anywhere, skillfully crafted and intelligently developed underneath a thick, brash layer of dance rhythms and sheer orchestral exuberance. The orchestra has all the chops, character, and panache required…The recording is generally good, with an excellent sound stage… © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review