Born in 1921, Jaime León is now the Grand Old Man of Colombian music. A vital figure in the development of Colombian art-music, León has been pianist (he is a grand-student of Clara Schumann), conductor, teacher, administrator and composer. His Misa breve has an innocent sincerity reminiscent of Poulenc's religious music, and although the word-setting in his songs is subtle and imaginative, they have the same melodic immediacy and uncomplicated appeal.
Sarah Cullens, soprano; Gemma Coma-Alabert, mezzo soprano; Tonos Humanos; Arcadia Chamber Choir; EAFIT Symphony Orchestra; Cecilia Espinosa, conductor; Mac McClure, piano
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Catalogue No: TOCC0142EAN/UPC: 5060113441423Release Date: 10.03.2015Composer: Jaime León Artists: Arcadia Chamber Choir, Cecilia Espinosa, EAFIT Symphony Orchestra, Gemma Coma-Alabert, Mac McClure, Sarah Cullens, Tonos Humanos
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Henry Fogel :
… there is much here to interest the curious. León has the craft of composition down thoroughly, and I found this disc a genuine pleasure, and one I will return to again. Missa breve is the major work here, a bit over a half hour in duration. The music is gentle, ethereal in places (particularly the opening Kyrie), but not lacking in variety of mood or color. … I would suggest that some influences on León include Puccini and other verismo operatic composers, and the annotator also notes the composer’s familiarity with Broadway musicals, and there are hints of that too—but never in a vulgar or cheapening way. The Mass’s serene conclusion is particularly lovely. Pequeña pequiñita is a cycle of six children’s songs (the title translates as “Little girl, very little girl”), but this is not music only for children to enjoy. … The six songs for voice and piano are settings of major national Colombian poets, and explore a wide range of feelings. The piano writing in these songs is not particularly complex, but it is more than simple accompaniment; the keyboard often helps establish the mood of the text. … The two vocal soloists are superb; they possess attractive voices, and sing with real insight and commitment. Nothing is a dutiful reading here. Choruses, orchestra, and pianist all contribute mightily to the positive impression of the music, and Toccata’s recording is extremely well balanced and natural in its perspective. This is a wonderful introduction to a composer whose music I shall be looking for in the future. —Fanfare Magazine, September 2015
Gerald Fenech :
“This invaluable CD concentrates on León’s choral music and some of his songs. The eclectic 1980 Misa Breve, one of the most important Colombian sacred works of the twentieth century, reflects the diverse influences and styles that León was exposed to during the course of his career. As in the rest of his vocal works, León displays a deep understanding of the voice, building expressive and often romantic vocal lines. … Performances are unerringly fresh and balanced, and each piece is dispatched with a detailed sure-footedness that exposes all the gentle warmth of the music. This typical evocative stuff from Latin America is worth investigating.” —Daily Classical Music, October 2015
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