August 29, 1998
In spirit if not in accomplishment, doomed genius Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) was Mexico's Bartok - that is, he refracted his affection for national folk idioms into music of nearly overwhelming vitality and originality. And in that way, "La Coronela" (The Lady Colonel) is Revueltas' "Wooden Prince," a dark-hued ballet that combines local color with supra-Romanticism of tremendous visceral strength. Conductor Gisèle Ben-Dor is a real find, as she whips her California band into a controlled frenzy in these world premiere recordings. Her feeling for the "Day of the Dead" dynamic at the heart of Revueltas' music is especially evident in the Latin expressionism of "Itinerarios." And if the more typically skewed folklore of "Colorines," with the English Chamber Orchestra, isn't as compelling, it is only because the two previous pieces set the bar so high. Let's hope the commemorations surrounding Revueltas' 100th birthday next year include more from Ben-Dor. Albums programmed and performed with such imagination are just what classical music needs.