New South American Discoveries: The Norwegian Radio Orchestra performs works by Agudelo, Errázuriz, Vega, Fernandez, Florez-Estrada, Grossman, Luzuriaga and Vergara

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COMPOSERS: Agudelo,Errázuriz,Fernandez,Florez-Estrada,Grossman,Luzuriaga,Vega,Vergara
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: New South American Discoveries
WORKS: Works by Agudelo, Errázuriz, Vega, Fernandez, Florez-Estrada, Grossman, Luzuriaga and Vergara
PERFORMER: Norwegian Radio Orchestra/ Miguel Harth-Bedoya
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907670

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Whether by accident or design, the title ‘New South American Discoveries’ holds certain ironies: over 500 years since the conquistadors’ so-called ‘discovery’ of the Americas, and despite a long tradition of musical cross-fertilisation with the USA especially, today’s South American composers remain little known outside their immediate spheres. Yet many are producing music of potentially wide appeal, often based on European models.

Continuing their own, fruitful Old World/New World partnership, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Miguel Harth-Bedoya, chief conductor since 2012, showcase with panache eight such composers from five countries: Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Peru. That most of the eight were born in the 1970s – and all post-1955 – speaks to an encouragingly vibrant, youthful scene. That all are male is disappointing, and raises its own questions regarding cultural trends.

The works themselves prove stylistically uncontentious. Each is an orchestral showpiece bursting with colour and drama; together they explore a range of local stories and/or sonorities, from the piquantly suggestive (Vega’s modern/pre-Hispanic soundscape, Música Muisica) to the overtly programmatic (Agudelo’s El Sombrerón, whose titular Colombian hero rides a clip-clopping horse). Folk rhythms and instruments are deployed (drums and piccolos in Luzuriago’s Responsorio, for instance) from a broadly post-Romantic core. Most striking is the flamboyant expressivity that unites the composers, conductor and musicians regardless of national origin.

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Steph Power