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This newest release on Naxos is perhaps the best single-disc sampling to yet come out. The title track is one of his most famous works, Guernica (1966), inspired by the famous painting of Pablo Piccaso. The work has the dark and brooding energy that one would expect and was inspired by the 'sounds of war' which Balada heard while growing up as a young boy during the Spanish Civil War. It is one of Balada's most well-known pieces for good reasons since the horror and drama are conveyed so palpably.

The finest work on the disc, however is Symphony No 4, Lausanne. Originally commissioned by the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland, Balada uses Swiss folk music as the source material for this composition. Knowing the Swiss folk source material is not at all important to enjoy the vivid landscape of the piece. Previously only available in a live recording from the première on the Albany label, this new studio recording of Symphony No 4 is most welcome. The work is in a single movement for chamber orchestra -- beginning quietly and atmospherically [listen -- track 4, 0:00-0:30] and building to a joyous and ecstatic conclusion. It has a compelling trajectory that cannot be ignored [listen -- track 4, 18:00-18:28].

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Copyright © 3 November 2004 Carson P Cooman, Rochester, NY, USA


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