Music of the Americas. Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Gershwin: An American in Paris. Revueltas: Sensemayá. Piazzolla: Tangazo. Houston Symphony Orchestra/Andrés Orozco-Estrada. Pentatone PTC 5186 619. Total Time: 65:42.
One of these days some record company will issue a CD under the title “Music of the Americas” and actually include some Canadian music. But don’t hold your breath! While we Canadians never forget that we are part of ‘the Americas’, our good neighbours to the south seem to have a blind spot on this subject.
Another anomaly that struck me as I perused the cover of this album was that the Houston Symphony’s hugely talented music director, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, is from Colombia and yet his record company Pentatone didn’t think it logical or appropriate to include music by a Colombian composer on a CD titled “Music of the Americas.”
Generally speaking, whoever put together this “Music of the Americas” collection seems to be totally lacking in imagination: the Bernstein and Gershwin pieces have been recorded literally dozens of times and new versions are simply not needed; Sensemayá by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) is one of the most often played of any piece by a Mexican composer; even Tangazo, the only relative novelty on the album, has not lacked for recordings.
Unfortunately, on this recent release, unimaginative programming is coupled with mostly routine performances. The overplayed An American in Paris plods along and never really comes alive. The West Side Story suite, while it shows signs of life in the Mambo section, is otherwise workmanlike rather than inspiring. Although not a great piece, Piazzolla’s Tangazo does have an exceptionally beautiful horn solo, performed brilliantly here by the Houston Symphony’s long-time principal horn, William VerMeulen.
Overall, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, recently appointed principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony and in great demand all over the world, seems strangely out of his element with the repertoire on this new CD.