Silvestre Revueltas: Redes (DVD)
At the head of the PostClassical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordoñez is excellent in the quasi-religious aspect of this music, which he renders in all its radical beauty.Pierre Jean TribotCrescendo Magazine (Belgium)
(…) the real lure is the rich, pulsating score by Silvestre Revueltas, here dramatically recorded for the first time in stereo by the PostClassical Ensemble. It’s a pleasure to experience.Kenneth TuranLos Angeles Times
The classic 1935 Mexican film Redes with a newly recorded soundtrack of the score by Silvestre Revueltas and cinematography by Paul Strand. Named “Recording of the Month” by The Los Angeles Times.
This two-part podcast presents the music of “The Great Composer You’ve Never Heard Of” as author and music historian Joseph Horowitz, Maestro Angel Gil-Ordonez and Exploring Music’s Bill McGlaughlin host this program devoted to the life and music of the 20th-century composer Silvestre Revueltas. This broadcast includes PostClassical Ensemble’s recording that reconstructs the soundtrack Revueltas composed for the 1936 film Redes.
Berta Vias Mahou presents her book La mirada de los Mahuad, six stories of mysterious melody with a common narrative thread: identity, childhood, first wishes … In addition, music director Ángel Gil Ordóñez tells us about the restoration of the music that Silvestre Revueltas composed for the film Redes.
The magnificent score is by Silvestre Revueltas. For this release the entire score is heard in a superb digital recording with the PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, recorded in May 2014 at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Angel Gil-Ordóñez and Joseph Horowitz have long been dedicated to rescuing the lost memory of art, works that are not worth losing in amnesia. Gil-Ordóñez is a professor, musician and conductor of the Georgetown University orchestra; Horowitz is a musicologist. Both have now endeavored to remove from oblivion the historic Mexican film Redes, codirected in 1936 by Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, with cinematography by Paul Strand. The film chronicles the harsh working conditions of a fishing village in Michoacan in post-revolutionary Mexico.
The film, meanwhile, is universally recognized as a masterpiece of Latin American cinema of the early twentieth century. At the head of the PostClassical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordoñez is excellent in the quasi-religious aspect of this music, which he renders in all its radical beauty.
Gil-Ordóñez and Horowitz have for years spread in the United States a vision radically stripped of exoticism of the best Spanish music, Falla, Albéniz, Óscar Esplá, or vindicating such singular composers as Bernard Herrmann. In some of those adventures, in which the excellent pianist Pedro Carboné usually participates, I have been fortunate to see myself included. The most recent is another great rediscovery: the premiere and recording of the entire score composed by Silvestre Revueltas for a legendary Mexican film, Redes, directed in 1935 by photographer Paul Strand and exiled Austrian filmmaker Fred Zinnemann.
Interestingly, Revueltas’ complete score has never been recorded before, so the recording by the Post-Classical Ensemble under Angel Gil-Ordóñez – one of the most inventive, clever and high-quality groups of its type – is a world première. The music rarely overlaps film dialogue, instead enhancing the story line and helping propel the narrative in highly effective program-music fashion.
The DVD release under the Naxos label is Redes, a 1935 Mexican neo-documentary about the plight of impoverished fishermen. Though the film is co-directed by Fred Zinnemann and stunningly photographed by Paul Strand, the real lure is the rich, pulsating score by Silvestre Revueltas, here dramatically recorded for the first time in stereo by the PostClassical Ensemble. It’s a pleasure to experience.
Silvestre Revueltas’ score for the 1935 film Redes (Nets) remains one of his greatest works, full of captivating rhythms, vivid instrumental color, and characteristic melodic inspiration. It is splendidly performed here by the PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez, newly synchronized to a lovely restored version of the original film.
About this recording
—by Joseph Horowitz, Executive Director of PostClassical Ensemble
The most recent edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians—the major English-language, classical-music reference work—allots less than a page to Silvestre Revueltas (1899–1940). It is a safe prediction that future editions will find a lot more to say about him—not only because American audiences and musicians are belatedly getting better acquainted with Revueltas, but because of changing aesthetic fashions: Revueltas is no longer eclipsed by his Mexican contemporary Carlos Chavez, who was part of a modernist community (also including Aaron Copland) into which Revueltas did not fit.
Revueltas blazed a short and disordered path. A product of rural Mexico, he was educated in Mexico and Chicago, and early in his career played the violin and conducted in Texas and Alabama. Chavez recalled him to Mexico City to be assistant conductor of the National Symphony (1929–35). In spirit, he resembles the Mexican muralists of the same seminal generation (his brother Fermin was himself a muralist of consequence). Seized by creative demons, he could compose for days without food or sleep. He travelled to Spain to take part in an anti-fascist Congress during the Spanish Civil War. He died young, weakened by drink, depressed and disillusioned by Franco’s victory in Spain and by the failure of the Mexican Revolution to radically redistribute wealth and power. The Mexican poet Octavio Paz summarized: “Silvestre, like all real people, was a battlefield. Inside Silvestre lived numerous interlocutors, many passions, many capacities, weaknesses as well as refinement. …This wealth of possibilities, divinations, and impulses give his [music] the sound of a primal chord, like the first light that escapes a world in formation.”
Paz distinguished Revueltas from the muralists Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros: “All his music seems preceded by something that is not [simply] joy and exhilaration, as some believe, or satire and irony, as others believe. That element, better and more pure, …is his profound empathy with his surroundings which makes the works of this man, so naked, so defenceless, so hurt by the heavens and the people, more significant than those of many of his contemporaries. His music occupies a place in our hearts above that of the grandiose Mexican murals, that seem to know all except pity.”
It is significant that unlike Copland or Chavez, Revueltas was not seduced by Paris, from which city he once wrote to his wife: “I’d love to perform [my music] here, simply to see the expressions of disgust in their faces. It would be as if something obscene, or tasteless, or vulgar had been uttered.” The “objectification of sentiment” Copland found kindred in Chavez has no equivalent in Revueltas.
Revueltas’s output contains no symphonies or concertos. His distinctive symphonic palette found expression in shorter forms. Of Revueltas’s orchestral works, the best known are Sensemayá (1938) and Noche de los Mayas—the second of which (as Roberto Kolb Neuhaus explains in an interview on the present DVD) is not composed by Revueltas. He also scored 11 films—the most important of which, both musically and cinematically, is Redes.
The first major composer to write for film was Camille Saint-Saëns, who supplied music for L’Assassinat du Duc de Guise in 1908. In later decades, Aaron Copland in the United States, William Walton in Great Britain, Sergey Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich in the Soviet Union were important composers who also importantly composed for film. Silvestre Revueltas belongs in this select company.
Redes (1935) was the first film Revueltas scored. It was co-directed by Emilio Gomez Muriel and an Austrian emigre: Fred Zinnemann, later the Hollywood director of High Noon, From Here to Eternity, and A Man for all Seasons. The cinematographer was an American: Paul Strand, called by Susan Sontag “the biggest, widest, most commanding talent in the history of American photography.”
“Redes” refers to fishing nets. (In the United States the film was released as The Wave.) The story of this 60-minute film is of poor fishermen victimized by monopoly control of their market. It argues for organized resistance as a necessary means of political reform.
Redes has a tangled background. Strand had come to Mexico in 1933, attracted by the revolutionary government and its reformist program. Like Copland the year before, he had been invited by Carlos Chavez. With Chavez, Strand conceived what became Redes and engaged Zinnemann. But in 1934 a new government (under Lazaro Cardenas) came to power. Chavez was replaced as Director of Fine Arts by Antonio Castro Leal. Leal reassigned the music of the proposed film to Revueltas.
This bumpy history may partly account for other discontinuities. Redes sits uneasily between two genres: fiction film and documentary. Most of the actors are non-professionals. Long stretches (actually, the best stretches, here given the chapter titles “Funeral,” “Good Fishing,” and “Unity”) eschew dialogue. Curiously, the spoken word is almost never backscored—the music speaks when the actors don’t, and vice versa. And yet the contributions of Strand and Revueltas are indelible—and indelibly conjoined.
Visually, Redes is a poem of stark light and shadow, of clouds and sea, palm fronds and thatched huts, with Strand’s camera often tipped toward the abstract sky. Metaphor abounds: a rope is likened to a fisherman’s muscled arm. Pregnant, polyvalent, the imagery invites interpretation equally poetic: music. For a child’s funeral, Revueltas furnishes more than a dirge: his throbbing elegy combines with Strand’s poised, hypersensitive camera to fashion a transcendent tableau. The recurrent visual motif of nets that catch fish subliminally suggests the confinement of men: a metaphor underlined by a musical motif of massive tolling brass. At every turn, Strand and Revueltas elevate the film’s simple tale to an epic human drama.
Redes was first screened with live musical accompaniment in Mexico City, and subsequently given in this fashion by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and PostClassical Ensemble, among other orchestras. The logic of this practice is obvious—the 1930s soundtrack (hastily rehearsed, badly recorded) is as transformed as a painting restored from centuries of grime.
The relationship of Redes to American cinema is ponderable. The three classic American film documentaries produced by the politics of the thirties are The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1938), both scored by Virgil Thomson, and The City (1939), scored by Aaron Copland. (PostClassical Ensemble has reproduced these films with newly recorded soundtracks on two Naxos DVDs.) Paul Strand was a cinematographer for The Plow, and Copland was a known admirer of Revueltas. In a 1937 article for The New York Times, he hailed its American premiere as follows: “Revueltas is the type of inspired composer in the sense that Schubert was the inspired composer. That is to say, his music is a spontaneous outpouring, a strong expression of his inner emotions. There is nothing premeditated …about him. When seized with the creative urge, he has been known to spend days on end without food or sleep until the piece was finished. He writes his music at a table in the manner of the older musicians, and quite unlike the musical procedure of the modern composer, who, because he uses complex harmonics and rhythms, is as a rule forced to seek the help of the piano. I mention this as an instance of Revueltas’s extraordinary musicality and naturalness.”
“His music is above all vibrant and colorful. …The score that Revueltas has written for [Redes] has very many of the qualities characteristic of Revueltas’s art. …The need for musical accompaniments by serious composers is gradually becoming evident even to Hollywood. The Mexican Government, choosing Revueltas to supply the music for [Redes], is very much like the U.S.S.R. asking Shostakovich to supply sound for its best pictures.”
The Plow that Broke the Plains, The River, and The City, documentaries with narration but no dialogue, are purer and more finished films than Redes. And (whether fortuitously or consciously) their ingenious scores, with lean “black and white” timbre and sonority, are better suited to 1930s monaural reproduction than are the sonic heights and emotional depths of the Redes soundtrack.
As in the case of the Redes print it is not possible to separate the music from the dialogue, there is a substantial section of the film (beginning at 46 minutes) for which it is not practical to retain the spoken word—and so this stretch of Redes is “silent” except for the newly recorded music. The restored print utilized for the present DVD was created by the World Cinema Project.
Program / track
Redes (1935) was the first film Revueltas scored. It was co-directed by Emilio Gomez Muriel and an Austrian emigre: Fred Zinnemann, later the Hollywood director of High Noon, From Here to Eternity, and A Man for all Seasons. The cinematographer was an American: Paul Strand, called by Susan Sontag “the biggest, widest, most commanding talent in the history of American photography.” “Redes” refers to fishing nets (in the United States the film was released as The Wave.) The story of this 60-minute film is of poor fishermen victimized by monopoly control of their market. It argues for organized resistance as a necessary means of political reform.
Soundtrack recorded at Dekelboum Concert Hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, on May 11, 2014.
- Picture format: NTSC 16:9 (Original film in 4:3)
- Sound format: PCM Stereo
- Region code: 0 (worldwide)
- Subtitles: English
- Running time: 173 minutes
- Redes with the original soundtrack
- Introducing Silvestre Revueltas with Lorenzo Candelaria and Joseph Horowitz
- Revueltas and Film with Roberto Kolb-Neuhaus and Joseph Horowitz
- Revueltas and Politics with Roberto Kolb-Neuhaus and Joseph Horowitz
- Revueltas Beyond Cliché with Roberto Kolb-Neuhaus and Angel Gil-Ordóñez
- PostClassical Ensemble
- Angel Gil-Ordóñez, conductor
- Lou Harrison: Violin Concerto / Grand Duo / Double Music
Released in April 2017
- Silvestre Revueltas: Redes (DVD)
Released in May 2016
- Dvořák and America
Released in June 2014
- Xavier Montsalvatge: Madrigal sobre un tema popular / 5 Invocaciones al Crucificado / Folia daliniana
Released in January 2014
- Aaron Copland: The City (DVD)
Released in January 2009
- Virgil Thomson: The Plow That Broke The Plains • The River (CD and DVD)
Released in January 2007
- Los Sueños de Manuel de Falla
Released in September 2000
- Film Music by Manuel Balboa
Released in January 1995
- El Abuelo
Released in December 1998
- Música Contemporánea
Released in April 1996