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Allen Gimbel
American Record Guide, July 2012

Leonardo Balada’s Caprichos are suites for various solo instruments. Lively and amusing, they supply a delightful virtuoso vehicle for the instrument sure to delight guitarists and their audiences. Mr Pietu meets the challenges with skill and infectious enthusiasm. The recent transformation pieces are enjoyable and worth hearing. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

MusicWeb International, April 2012

individual works are properly entitled Caprichos, not Capricho: the title refers in each case to a suite-like collection of ‘capricious’ movements. Caprichos no.3 was subtitled ‘Homage to the International Brigades’, and this programme turns up two further homages, though of a less political nature. The gorgeously Spanish Caprichos no.1 is a tribute to Lorca, its seven short movements borrowing material from the Andalusian folk songs the poet/dramatist himself arranged for piano and voice. Most listeners should recognise a snippet from the finale of Rodrigo’s Aranjuez Concerto in the very first section—but Balada is quoting Los Cuatro Muleros, not Rodrigo. Balada admits to using “aleatoric devices, tone clusters, atonality” in this work, but integrates the modernist elements so smoothly and tastefully, with the guitar always playing sunny or soulful Spanish melodies that some may find it hard to credit—the work is truly a child of Rodrigo’s concerto. It makes virtuosic demands of soloist and ensemble alike, and Piétu and the Iberian CO turn in some impressive performances. The terrific ‘neo-traditional’ zapateado that brings this quality work to a close is worth the entrance fee on its own.

Perhaps surprisingly, given its capacity for evocativeness, Balada puts down the guitar for his homage to Isaac Albéniz in Caprichos no.5 and takes up the cello: in fact, each of the four movements, which he calls ‘Transparencias’, is based on a piano piece by his great Catalan predecessor. Like the First Caprichos, the solo instrument waxes lyrical almost throughout, with sulphurous dissonance generally reserved for the ensemble strings. Again, Balada effortlessly conjures up thoroughly original, communicative music that, whilst predicated on semi-modernist idiom, will still move and entertain even audiences brought up on more traditional repertoire. All the performers here gave the world premiere in 2009, and their familiarity with the work’s considerable demands helps paint its colours vividly in this recording, which was made shortly afterwards.

the Iberian Chamber Orchestra, Madrid-born Spanish-repertoire specialist José Luis Temes and the three soloists are all making their debut recording for Naxos on this disc, which is part of the label’s ‘21st Century Classics’ series. Their highly commendable performances and Balada’s imagination and originality combine to present the public with works thoroughly deserving of that accolade. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, March 2012

“Caprichos No. 1”…is a homage to the poet Frederico Garcia Lorca and features Bertrand Pietu on classical Spanish guitar. It has vibrancy, much in the way of folk-dance allusion, a lively solo guitar part and the spicy tang of modern harmonic transformations. “Caprichos No. 5”…honors composer Isaac Albeniz, puts Aldo Mata's cello work into prominence and features well-wrought transformations/resituations of Albeniz's music. The string orchestra parts again have the tang of the present along with a “through the looking glass” treatment of Albeniz themes.

Both works show Balada as the master of string orchestral writing, with brightness and depth coming out of a solo-orchestral dialog more concerned with musical affect and expressive lyric/dynamic modernism than with displays of technical acrobatics…the players show a beautiful sense of form and dramatics in the performance of their parts.

These are extraordinarily appealing works that show Balada to be in full command of his own voice, characteristically adept at making the old and new his own.

As an added bonus there are two additional works, “A Little Night Music in Harlem”…and “Reflejos”…the latter featuring a solo flute part played with zest and enthusiasm by Tatiana Franco.

This is music of immense charm, played with joyful concentration and forceful dynamism by the Iberian Chamber Orchestra and the soloists under the masterful conductorship of Jose Luis Temes. This is a side of Balada that many will find nigh irresistable… © 2012 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2012

Three major and readily enjoyable 21st century works from the Spanish-American composer, Leonardo Balada. Born in Barcelona in 1933, his mature musical education comes from his mentors in the United States, included Persichetti and Dello Joio. Stylistically he began composing in the world of atonality, but, as this disc evinces, in more recent times has used orchestral colours as a way of creating attractive scores that are in keeping with the tastes of today’s audiences. It opens with a work for guitar and strings, Caprichos No.1, ‘Homage to Federico Garcia Lorca’, in which he uses thematic material on folk songs that will be familiar from their use elsewhere. It is, as the title suggests, a compilation of seven movements in highly contrasting moods that open with the vigorous strumming of Los Cuatro Muleros, before moving to more lyrical sections and an exhilarating Zapateado. The Fifth Caprichos ‘Homage to Isaac Albeniz’ was completed in 2008 with the solo role given to the cello. Using themes from Albeniz’s piano works, it is cast in four movements… Two peaceful central movements take us back to the opening with the orchestra in a dual with the cello before a peaceful ending. Using motifs from Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik create the unusual string sonorities in A Little Night Music in Harlem, a score that is far from sleep generating. Back to 1988 the two movements for flute and strings in Reflejos contrast sorrow and exuberance.The soloists, Bertrand Pietu, a fine French guitarist; the highly acclaimed Spanish cellist, Aldo Mata, and the flute of the Iberian Chamber Orchestra, Tatiana Franco, are all highly persuasive. The strings of the Iberian group are a very potent and well-balanced group. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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