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Jonathan Bellman
American Record Guide, December 2000

"This recording, from Marco Polo's Latin-American Classics series, is devoted to a 20th Century conservative. Castillo (1894-1966) composed minatures for the piano; these were often workshop pieces, either to be expanded into-or composed as afterthoughts to-other works. The earliest are tributes to earlier styles: Chopinesque barcarolles (with some Spanish inflections) and a Berceuse (with occasional quirky chromatics that hint at Ginastera!), late romantic water effects in 'L'Eau Qui Court' and 'Scéne Pastoral', and the openly Debussian inflections in the 'Poéme Pastoral'. This last seems to be something of a compositional style exercise, complete with a motive adapted from 'The Girl with the Flaxen Hair' and other impressionist calling-cards.

"The impressionist aesthetic survives in the later works. As his life progressed, Castillo took greater recourse to music folklore, dance-rhythm ostinatos, and imitations of indigenous instruments; but Debussian textures, sonorities and humor are almost always present. 'San Andrés Xecul', for example, begins with a colorfully dissonant repeated pattern, but before long motives seemingly from turn-of-the-century France return. And the sixth piano prelude seems to be based on the signature rhythm from 'Golliwog's Cakewalk'. It is as if the composer's nationalist role was somewhat at war with his impressionist propensities-or, perhaps more fairly, that we expect our nationalists (particularly those from peripheral countries) to rely more on folklore and primitivism than on impressionism, though there is no particular reason why they should."

Jed Distler

"The fourth volume in Marco Polo's survey of Guatemalan composers focuses on the piano music of Ricardo Castillo (1894-1966). Don't solely judge Castillo's aesthetic from the six lightweight, salon-ish sections opening the disc. Play these later. Go first to the evocative multi-movement Preludes, Poème Pastoral, or Guatemala, Serie de impresiones. It is in these works that Castillo's own voice emerges with gentle authority, running an accessible gamut from spartan, single-line thumbnail sketches to the fetchingly bitonal toccata opening the Suite en Re. Massimiliano Damerini plays best when his hands are kept busy, but his fidgety rubato in the two Barcarolles and three Nocturnes has a slightly hesitant quality that prevents the music from flowing as freely as it should. The recorded sound is full and resonant, if a little too clangorous for my taste. But don't take my piddling reservations to heart. If you have a yen to explore some delightful, unpretentious, and virtually unknown piano music, you'll certainly enjoy this disc. I know I'll return to it often."

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