Leonardo Balada's Early Birthday Treat: New Naxos CD
The Spanish-American composer Leonardo Balada, whose 80th birthday will be observed in less than a year (September 22, 2013), is enjoying an early birthday present. The ongoing recording series on the Naxos label of Balada's compositions in various musical media now includes a new and brilliant CD (Naxos 8.572625) featuring the Caprichos Nos. 1 (Guitar and String Orchestra) and 5 (Cello and String Orchestra). Rounding out the new disc are A Little Night Music in Harlem for String Orchestra and Reflejos for Flute and Strings. Performances are by the Iberian Chamber Orchestra, José Luis Temes conducting with soloists Bertrand Piétu (guitar), Aldo Mata (cello), and Tatiana Franco (flute).
The unanimity of reviews tells the whole story. MusicWeb International reports: "The gorgeously Spanish Caprichos No. 1 is a tribute to [Federico Garcia] Lorca, its seven short movements borrowing material from the Andalusian folk songs the poet/dramatist himself arranged for piano and voice." In the Caprichos No. 5, his homage to Isaac Albéniz, "Balada effortlessly conjures up thoroughly original, communicative music that, whilst predicated on semi-modernist idiom, will still move and entertain even audiences brought up on more traditional repertoire."
Grego Applegate Edwards echoes the sentiment: "These are extraordinarily appealing works that show Balada to be in full command of his own voice, characteristically adept at making the old and new his own. . . . This is music of immense charm. . . a side of Balada that many will find nigh irresistible."
Chris Hathaway (Houston Public Radio) singles out Balada's "unusual flair for writing for stringed instruments." He shares the prior critics' enthusiasm for both Caprichos, adding about A Little Night Music in Harlem and Reflejos: "Exploration is what Balada's music is all about. There is great ingenuity, frank enjoyment of the compositional adventure and a great deal of humor in this music.... For this writer, it's music that's fun to listen to."
All above titles are published by Beteca Music. Perusal score and CD are available to performing organizations from Music Associates of America.