JAIME LEÓN (b.1921): Misa breve for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra, Pequeña pequeñita for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra, Songs for Soprano and Orchestra: Aves y ensueños, Cuando leejos, muy lejos, Siempre, Serenata, Canción de Noel, Algún día.
Catalogue Number: 04Q069
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0142
Description: Over the course of a long, varied career as composer, pianist, conductor and educator, Léon divided his time initially as student, then as professional musician, between his native Columbia and the United States. It may be significant that when studying composition at Juilliard in the 1940s, his teachers were notably conservative for their time; and subsequent conducting positions with ballet and music-theatre companies appear to have cemented a fondness for a readily accessible, thoroughly tonal idiom with no connection to any modernist trends of any kind. The composer's statement that he 'just like[s] nice music that reaches out to the heart and makes people feel better ...' suggests a naïvété that is not really present in the music, but there is certainly an emphasis on comfort, peace and consolation in the beautiful, thoroughly Romantic Mass, with its echoes of Romantic opera, American music theatre and an undemonstrative, classical expression of faith. Despite its title, the work is of substantial proportions, richly orchestrated and with beautifully expressive vocal writing, typical of the composer, much of whose output features the voice. The orchestral song-cycle 'Little girl, very little girl' to poems by Ecuadorean poets on themes of childhood has a gentle charm and popular idiom with Latin folk rhythms and speech inflections in settings that could easily be numbers from a musical. These scenes of innocence - with occasional shadows of poverty and hardship in text and music still seen through a child's eyes - are touching and heartfelt, gentle and genuine. The selection from Léon's many songs with piano accompaniment to texts by Columbian poets, beginning with his very first, from 1951, covers a wide range of emotional territory, again in a Romantic idiom with influences of impressionism, folk music, and a flexible, expressive melodiousness of line throughout. Spanish-English texts. Sarah Cullins (soprano), Gemma Corna-Alabert (mezzo), Tonos Humanos, Arcadia Chamber Choir, EAFIT University Symphony Orchestra; Cecilia Espinosa Arango, Mac McClure (Songs).