Review of LNT130: Asonancias - Odaline de la Martinez: Chamber Works
Guy Rickards, Tempo
“…works by Odaline de la Martinez featured on Lorelt’s new disc one can hear the echoes of her native Cuba. Litanies (1981), for example, an atmospheric quintet for flute (doubling bass flute), harp and string trio, was written consciously as “a celebration of those simple days as a child in Cuba that are long gone.” The structure is basically a rondo, in which the sections alternate evocations of intoned church prayer and lively fishermen’s songs. There are similar resonances in the two pieces for solo violin, Asonancias (“Assonances”, 1982, which gives the disc its title) and Improvisations (1977). Both are cast in three movements, fast-faster-slow, where the central span is Latin in character and the finale quiet and “tender”. Yet the essential of the two works are quite different with Asonancias opening with a fiery Con bravura succeeded by an obsessive moto perpetuo in a specifically Cuban style, whereas the First Improvisation is marked Apasionado leading to the wild dance of the central Rustico. They are played with compelling virtuosity by Sophie Langdon and Caroline Balding respectively.
“… de la Martinez’s compositional impulse is sure .. and …secure even where she works in modest timeframes. Nowhere is this more clearly audible than in the two song sets, Canciones (1983), setting four early texts by Lorca, and Cantos de Amor (1985), using four poems by the less-well-known Gustavo Adolfo Becquer. In both, de la Martinez’s skill as a word setter is very evident, wringing every nuance from the relatively short, straightforward poems in songs of direct appeal and communicability, with the accompaniments adding additional dimensions. In Cantos de Amor these are enhanced by the orchestral contribution with extended introductions that turn these into miniature tone poems. Olivia Robinson is in rapturous voice for the love songs but Marina Tafur is no less persuasive in the Lorca settings with their folk-like musics1. Lontano provide excellent support to both as one would expect in a disc devoted to their founder. Completing the picture is Mark Knoop’s rendition of the four Colour Studies (1978), each of which starts from a basic pianistic premise, such as extremes of pitch or strummed shimmers of notes played directly on the strings or rhythmic charging. Collectively, they make a highly effective group, almost a compositional CV showing what de la Martinez can do with some basic, initially unpromising material. As one would expect, production values on Lorelt’s disc are superb, the sparseness of the booklet texts—written by the composer—aside. Most importantly, the performances and sound are first rate, as indeed are the compositions. This is to my mind the finest of the discs in this collection and, as a portrait of de la Martinez’s creative persona is long overdue.”