COMPOSERS: Jimmy López
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Jimmy López
WORKS: Perú Negro; Synesthésie; Lord of the Air; América Salvaje
PERFORMER: Jesús Castro-Balbi (cello); Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907628
Peruvian Jimmy López’s years at the Helsinki Academy seem to have given him a cool perspective on his native musical world (see ‘Background to’). This programme suggests an individual language, which expresses Latin potency via highly-accomplished orchestration. What depths lie below the polished surface might emerge more clearly in his first opera, Bel Canto, opening at Chicago Lyric Opera this December.
América Salvaje (2006) opens with the extraordinary pututo, an Andean ceremonial instrument, whose sound hovers between siren and conch shell. López gradually generates energy from within the orchestra as Peruvian modes and Western tonality converge: but there’s a sense of marking time.
Six years on, Perú Negro is tighter, a tribute to conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who conducts the Norwegian Radio Orchestra with vivacious precision throughout. This martial proclamation has an obsessive dynamism, interspersed with some haunting brass writing. More interesting still is Synesthésie, which evokes the senses via five kaleidoscopic miniatures, each placing orchestral sections under a microscope to reveal teeming life.
The entertaining Cello Concerto Lord of the Air opens with soloist as rugged scrambler in a theatre of percussive exclamation, a slow movement of swooning, musical-saw-like harmonics and a moto perpetuo of rising pizzicato scales which culminates in a blaze of pyrotechnical display. Fiercely spirited Jesús Castro-Balbi is first to rise to its challenge, and surely won’t be the last. Helen Wallace