Friday, September 07, 2012

CCC 044 - Juan Orrego-Salas

Juan Orrego-Salas is our choice for this installment of the  Consonant Classical Challenge. Orrego-Salas is a native of Chile, forced to flee at an early age for political reasons. He studied with Randall Thompson and Aaron Copland, and in the 1960's settled in the United States. Orrego-Salas was a long-time faculty member of Indian University, where he founded the Latin America Music Center.

Orrego-Salas never forgot his Chilean musical heritage, and used elements of it for his work. Like Copland, these elements give his music a regional flavor without sounded cliche. The majority of Orrego-Salas' works are for solo piano and chamber ensembles. However, a significant amount of his 125 compositions are orchestral. Orrego-Salas has written six symphonies, as well as two violin concertos, two piano concertos, and a number of shorter works for both full orchestra and chamber orchestra.

Unfortunately, most of Orrego-Salas' music remains unrecorded, so it's difficult to find examples of his work to share. One of the few Orrego-Salas works posted on YouTube is the Sextet for B-flat clarinet, string quartet and piano, Op. 38.

The second movement of this work shows the more lyrical side of the composer.

To my ears, Orrego-Salas has some of Copland's wide-open-spaces sound, mixed with some of Prokofiev's sense of humor, all blended with Chilean rhythms and basic harmonic movements. Here's an example of Orrego-Salas' more intimate writing, from the Duo Concertantes for cello and piano, Op. 41

Solo piano compositions often show the composer's style in its purest form. The Rustica, Op. 35 is one such work from Orrego-Salas' catalog.

Juan Orrego-Salas has a unique compositional voice, and one that's based on solid classical music tradition. Orchestras concerned with diversity in programming might want to consider his music. It has a fresh sound, it celebrates the composer's heritage, and it should be music that both traditionalists and newcomers to classical music can connect with.

I wish someone would record those six symphonies!

Recommended Recordings:
(Very few recordings of Juan Orrego-Salas' music were ever released. Currently, only a few works on some compilation albums are avaiable.)

Foote: Piano Quintet; Orrego-Salas: Sextet; Diamond: Quintet

Trinity University Wind Symphony
(includes Orrego-Salas' Fantasia Op. 95 for piano and wind orchestra)

Music for Saxophone
(includes a short alto saxophone work by Orrego-Salas)

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