Xavier Montsalvatge

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COMPOSERS: Xavier Montsalvatge
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Xavier Montsalvatge
WORKS: Partita 1958; Cinco canciones negras; Calidoscopi simfonic, Op. 61; Sinfonia da réquiem
PERFORMER: Ruby Hughes (soprano), Clara Mouriz (mezzo-soprano); BC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena


This year sees the birth centenary of the Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge, who lived to the age of 90, so this orchestral anthology is a timely reminder of a fastidious artist who managed to compose colourful and individual scores of high quality, even during the dangerous Franco years. Though owing something to a range of French composers from Milhaud to Messiaen, Montsalvatge’s works always bespeak an Iberian orientation. They also reflect influences from further west: he made a special study of Cuban music, especially the habanera, reflected in the delightful and sometimes defiant 1948 cycle of negro songs (Canciones negras), beautifully sung here by mezzo Clara Mouriz. The orchestral Partita and the suite Calidoscopi simfònic (from an unfinished ballet, The Guardian Angel) confirm Montsalvatge’s gifts as a fixer of vivid musical images, bright in colour and seductive in rhythm. But it’s the Sinfonía de réquiem of 1985 that approaches nearest to a major utterance: a rivetingly scored, purely orchestral meditation on the texts of the Requiem Mass until the final moments of the concluding ‘Libera me’, where Ruby Hughes’s solo soprano emerges with ecstatic effect. This is a wise and moving work. Juanjo Mena directs admirable, wholly idiomatic performances. A valuable disc for anyone interested in Catalan music of the 20th century.


Calum MacDonald