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Music by
Leonardo Balada -
reviewed by

'... a choral composer of flair and creativity.'

Leonardo Balada: No-res (Nothing); Ebony Fantasies. Orchestra and Chorus of the Comunidad de Madrid / José Ramón Encinar. © 2005 Naxos Rights International Ltd

A variety of background information on the Catalan composer Leonardo Balada (born 1933) is available from my review of the Naxos CD Guernica, released in 2004.

This newest disc in Naxos's ongoing Balada series is the first disc to involve voices. The CD contains two creative cantatas for chorus and orchestra. In the booklet notes, Balada talks of how choral music was an important and formative musical influence during his youth. Indeed, Balada has written a number of highly regarded cantatas throughout his career, and nearly all of his operas have significant roles for the chorus. To listeners who are only familiar with the previous orchestral releases, this disc reveals that Balada is a choral composer of flair and creativity.

No-res (Nothing) dates from 1974 and is subtitled 'a symphonic tragedy in two parts, for narrator, chorus, orchestra, and tape'. The work is based on a text by the French poet Jean Paris. The text is a 'collage' in numerous languages of small original phrases, single line extracts from other poetry, and 'nonsense' phrases in languages invented by the poet.

The work is Balada's 'answer' to the subject of death. It was written shortly after the death of his mother and deals with the ideas of death within his own rather atheistic world view. The piece is cast in two large sections. In the first part, the narrator provides numerous descriptions and images of death. The chorus and orchestra comment on his words -- focusing particularly on the universality of death and how not just humans, but indeed everything will die [listen -- track 1, 9:45-11:21].

The shorter second part is an extended 'raging commentary' against death. The phrase 'I will not yield ... Never ... Never ...' returns as the poet and composer speak out against what they see to be the unfairness of death [listen -- track 2, 0:00-1:10].

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Copyright © 3 November 2005 Carson P Cooman, Pittsburgh USA


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