by Don Macica / from Arte y Vida Chicago
Jorge Federico Osorio performs Carlos Chávez’s Piano Concerto
To anyone even somewhat familiar with Mexican pianist Jorge Federico Osorio’s previous recorded output, the new CD from Cedille Records, his fifth, will come as a bit of a shock. To begin with, all of the releases up to now have been solo piano recordings. Secondly, Osorio has a tendency to select compositions that come out of more delicate traditions: Debussy, Liszt, Ponce, Albeniz, Soler. Last year’s terrific Salón Mexicano presented 20 elegantly played musical gems: waltzes and mazurkas, the kind of music suitable for quiet gatherings of friends.
The music of Carlos Chávez is another thing altogether. Considered the father of the nationalist movement in Mexican classical music, mentor to José Pablo Moncayo, Silvestre Revueltes, Blas Galindo and others, Chávez’ music was born out of the revolution and an emerging Mexican arts identity. It’s aggressively modern, a Mexican analogue to Stravinsky, Bartok or Copland. His Piano Concerto premiered to critical acclaim in 1940, but has not been played or recorded much in the last several decades.
For this new recording, Osorio is joined by the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de México (which Chávez founded in 1928 and led for 21 years) conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto. Osorio navigates the dynamically structured and rhythmically complex work with intensity and aplomb. In the first movement, a stately and dramatic opening suddenly explodes into rapid piano runs and interspersed with massive chords. The second slowly builds in intensity from a quiet opening, but maintains a measured pace. The final movement comes roaring out of the gate, then finds several moments of reflection before finishing with a dramatic flourish.
The concerto is complemented on this recording by solo piano pieces from Chávez and Moncayo plus a third from what might be considered the new generation of Mexican composers, Samuel Zyman. His 2007 work Variations on an Original Theme starts and ends quietly but goes through several shifts of tempo and intensity in between, clearly owing a second generation debt to Chávez as it recalls some of the passages from his concerto.
While it is somewhat startling, it is also refreshing to hear Osorio in this context, and this recording makes a solid case for ranking him among the world’s finest classical pianists.