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David Jacobsen
American Record Guide, September 2011

I am most impressed with the guitarist, Miguel Angel Jimenez, from his vibrant, pure, and clean sound to his magnificent “subito pianos”. Also extraordinary is the playing of harpist Beatriz Millan; the Tres Piezas Breves, Op.13a, are perhaps the best on the program. The Divertimento, Op. 7a, is a masterly work…

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Jack Sullivan
American Record Guide, July 2011

Rodolfo Halffter was a Spanish composer who spent a great deal of his life in Mexico, creating a fascinating modernist fusion of folk motifs from both cultures. In some pieces such as the lively and beguiling Piano Sonata 1, we find a hint of Scarlatti and Falla as well. This is attractive music, sometimes plaintive and restrained, sometimes hot and uninhibited, unmistakably modern yet for the most part melodically and rhythmically inviting.

Players from the Orquesta de la Communidad de Madrid—oboist Vicente Fernandez, violinist Victor Arriola, flutist Cinta Verea, and pianist Francisco Jose Segovia—perform with loving intensity. They all make big, operatic sounds, enhanced by Naxos’s close-up recording.

Hallfter does not suppress his Latin affinities but works them into expressive abstractions. Even in the predominantly grey and recondite Sonata 3 from 1967, he can’t resist bringing in snatches of Spanish color and syncopation. The earliest piece, a tuneful, bittersweet Pastorale for violin and piano, comes from 1940; the latest, an Ecologue for oboe and piano, from 1982. The latter is lyrical and pleasant given that it uses serial techniques. Most charming of all is the 1951 Sonata 2, dedicated to Carlos Chavez, a light-textured exercise in Mexican neo-classicism full of bright spirits. Maria Elena Barrientos plays both this and the other sonatas with subtlety and authority, demonstrating considerable stylistic range. This is Volume I in what promises to be a welcome entry in Naxos’s Spanish classics series.

Staff Writer
Winnipeg Free Press, March 2011

Halffter is a key name in Spanish music. A pupil of Manuel de Falla, Ernesto Halffter’s music resembles his mentor’s attractive Spanish hues and rhythms. Ernesto’s less famous brother Rodolfo (1900–1987) adopted a wider range of musical styles, from Scarlatti-like tang right through to 12-tone and avant-garde esthetics.

This collection is all about Rodolfo Halffter and includes his three stimulating and well crafted Piano Sonatas. The first two have a fine mix of traditional Spanish and modernistic elements with the Second Sonata punctuated with diverting polytonal harmonies. The Third (1967) is an involving serial piece in four movements. Pianist Barrientos’s technique is clearly taxed in the first two but she gets around the Third suitably.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2011

Born in Spain in 1900, Rodolfo Halffter became the leading 20th century musical figure in his adopted Mexico, and it was here that most of his major works were composed. His three sonatas was spread over twenty years, the First, from 1947, following in the harmonic footsteps of Falla, its tonality immediately likeable. Lasting little over ten minutes, the quirky outer movements have a sense of fun, particularly in the finale where melodic strands are rhythmically out of kilter. The Second moves to the conventional four movements, its opening continuing in mood where the First left off, and becomes increasingly bizarre as the score progresses. The scherzo dances around in a whimsical mood, its central section jerky, a feeling that often overtakes the final Rondo. Sixteen years elapsed before the Third appeared, during which time he had embraced atonality and twelve-tone techniques. You would surely have to deeply absorbed in that idiom to gain much pleasure from the work, though the final Impetuoso has activity to commend itself. These modernisms appear in the work for flute and piano, Huesped de las nieblas, though here, and in the Egloga for oboe and piano—both dating from the early 1980s, he often retreats into the audience comfort zone with a discernable melody. The disc is completed with a gentle Pastorale for violin and piano. The Mexican pianist, Maria Elena Barrientos, attended the class of Halffter in her student days, and is equally at home in all three sonatas, the remaining pieces, all short in length, find compelling performances for the enigmatic composer. Recorded in 2006 the sound is good.

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