Juan García de Salazar was a Spanish Baroque composer from the Basque country who spent most of his career working at Zamora Cathedral; he is so obscure the entry for him in the New Grove doesn't even include a list of his works. Musicologist Manuel Sagastume Arregi has pulled together a number of Salazar's extant movements related to the Vespers service with additional material to create Juan García de Salazar: Complete Vespers of Our Lady in Naxos' Spanish Classics series. It is performed by the Basque ensemble Capilla Peñaflorida and features the period wind group Ministriles de Marsias and the fine baritone of Josep Cabré. There are no stars here, though – everything on Juan García de Salazar: Complete Vespers of Our Lady is done to the service of the music, which is outstanding. Sagastume Arregi's realization of García de Salazar's Vespers service incorporates appropriate plainchant sections taken from a Basque hymnal dated 1692, organ music by García de Salazar's contemporaries José Ximenez and Martín Garcia de Olagüe, instrumental arrangements of García de Salazar's motets, and an arrangement of Tomás Luis de Victoria's Vidi speciosam probably made by García de Salazar himself.
A year after the two hundredth anniversary of Gaetano Donizetti's birth (1797) and 150 years after his death (1848), the Teatro de la Maestranza de Sevilla chose to open its 1998-9 operatic season with four performances of Alahor in Granata, an almost forgotten opera by the composer. This is an event al a huge historical importance since it marks the first time that the opera has been performed in the XXth century. Alahor in Granata was first performed in the Teatro Carolino in Palermo on the 7th of January 1826 but, although the opera was again staged in the same city in 1830, it later passed into oblivion and has never been performed ever since. Up until now, as was the case with many of Donizetti's works, a hundred and seventy two years after its premiére, we had very little news about this beautifull masterpiece's original fate. Perhaps the fact that the music score was never published at the time of its creation, and the fact that Donizetti was to use some of its musical passages in some of his later works, lead us to assume that during his life, the composer gave little or no importance to this operas youthful score.
This superb disc of music by one of Spain's most talented early 16th century composers is exactly the sort of boost that the less well-known repertoire needs in its search for a place in today's CD collection. It is in every way a model of what a recording of Renaissance polyphony ought to be… The all male vocal ensemble sings with enormous conviction as well as firm control of rhythm and phrasing. Combining the voices with energetically played sackbuts produces a rich and dark-hued sound that feels authentically Spanish, and does full justice to this very fine music.
It's great to see the music of Nino Rota getting so much attention. He was a wonderful composer, and the ballet suite from La strada may be his orchestral masterpiece (just a quick note: the French language title identifies this as a suite from the eponymous film; it is in fact the more familiar arrangement of the later ballet). There are now four competitive recordings of this piece, the least interesting of which is on Chandos with the Teatro Massimo orchestra: not bad, but not as well played or recorded as either Muti's slightly stiff version with the excellent La Scala forces, or Atma's brilliant recent release featuring the Greater Montréal Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin. All of the couplings differ in various ways, though Muti also has the dances from Il gattopardo (The Leopard).