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Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, April 2001

"Balada's First Violin Concerto (1982) is an attractive three-movement work based on Catalan folk songs (my wife informs me that III is based on 'Fum, fum, fum', a well-known Spanish Christmas carol, not to be confused with 'Fun, fun, fun', the famous Beach Boys anthem). The tunes drift through the dreamy textures, often interrupted by extraneous and frankly unnecessary "avant-gardisms", but the piece is nicely turned out and would make an effective concert piece for an enterprising violinist in search of fresh repertoire. Andres Cardenes plays it with sympathy and virtuosity.

"Sardana (1979) alternates two Spanish dance themes-the accompaniment of the second one hints at Shostakovich (!). I found the Fantasias Sonoras (1987) more ingratiating-its ideas are more concentrated, giving the work the feel of a Mediterranean Sibelius. Finally, Balada expands his ethnic horizons in Folkdreams (1994-8), actually three separate pieces arranged here as a suite. II is still based on Catalan materials, but I is Latvian and III is Irish. As a whole, I get the impression of a latter-day Debussy Images, with III surely indebted to that composer's Gigues'.

"Balada is a superb orchestrator, and these colorful works show him off to good advantage, listeners attracted to well-adjusted Spanish dreamscapes will find much to enjoy here, given in attractively engineered sound by a fine orchestra and at budget price."

Catherine Nelson
The Strad, January 2001

"Spanish composer and conductor Leonardo Balada has a striking voice, combining Spanish nationalism with elements of the serial techniques he gained from his study at New York's Juilliard School; there is also more than a hint of the influence of his former teacher, Copland.

The Violin Concerto (1982) lays bare these diverse influences, with transformations of Catalan folk melodies forming the structure for the first two of its three movements: in the first, the violin unfolds the melody as the movement progresses; in the second, the violin presents another Catalan melody in full, lyrical voice, over a resplendent diatonic accompaniment, then cluster chords emerge from the orchestra to cloud it as the theme begins to fragment. The third movement is more nervy and fretful, with brash percussion and racing virtuosity from the soloist.

Violinist Andres C6rdenes gives a warm, tender and finely characterised performance and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, under Matthias Aeschbacher, responds with precision. Yet for all its colour and panache, the concerto is oddly unbalanced, terse dissonance always vying for attention with the most traditional of harmonies, Balada seems to be at his most fluent In other works on the discs, the modal and lush-textured Folk Dreams and the vivid and unashamedly Coplandesque Sardana. "

Paul Cook

"Leonardo Balada (b. 1933) is a contemporary Spanish composer heavily influenced by native Catalan folk music who also manages to transcend the imposing presence and influence of his countryman Manuel de Falla. Witness the extraordinary Violin Concerto of 1982, most of whose 26 minutes is devoted to the pyrotechnics of the soloist, in this case Andres Cardenes, whose skill easily matches the temperament of this beautiful--and decidedly original--work. Folk Dreams shows influences that range beyond Spain's borders--Latvia and Ireland, to be specific. The Latvian melody, called "Line and Thunder", is particularly striking. Sardana of 1979 evokes more of a western Mediterranean mood than a specifically Spanish one, with all sorts of playfully shrill violins and dance motifs. Flamenco rhythms inform the Fantasias Sonoras (1987), which is something of a concerto for orchestra that highlights not only each instrument and orchestral section but also Balada's ear for common melodies and his ability to incorporate them in a wide range of rhythmic structures. The Barcelona Symphony Orchestra takes to this music quite well and the sound quality--typical for Naxos these days--is rich and full. Give this one a listen."

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