What: New South American Discoveries (Harmonia Mundi, through Ode Records)
Rating: 4/5
Verdict: Norwegians find more to Latin music than just Ginastera and Piazzolla

Miguel Harth-Bedoya is best known in this country as Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's music director from 1999 to 2004. During that time, the Peruvian-born American regularly included Latin American composers on concert programmes.

He's continued to do so all over the world, including on his guest appearances with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and, most recently, on disc, with his Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

The eight composers on New South American Discoveries hail from Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia, proving that music from that continent is not limited to Brazil's Villa-Lobos or Argentina's Ginastera and Piazzolla.


Those expecting hearty, dance-rhythm romps, ready made for encore time, will be disappointed. If fact, when familiar rhythms underpin Sebastian Vergara's Mecanica, they are fused with the same minimalist drive of Steve Reich's Different Trains.

Many of these composers, ranging from their thirties to fifties, use a dark, burnished palette that sometimes recalls the noted Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. This influence certainly comes out in Diego Luzuriaga's Responsorio which makes for compulsive listening as its snake-like theme weaves and winds over ominous drum-strokes.

Seven of the works range in running time from four-and-a-half to just over nine minutes, the exception being the brooding three movements, for piano and orchestra, of Agustin Fernandez's Una musica escondida. Alas, you'll have to search out your own translation of this (and some other titles) to find how beautifully this composer catches the mysteries of this "hidden music".

Talking words and translations, the four-paragraph introduction to this project is woefully inadequate, along with notes on the eight composers that read like CVs, with a few lines at the end on the music being played.

Finally, it does seem odd in this day and age that this CD is a resolutely all-male affair. Happily, there's no gender imbalance in the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, judging by their photograph in the booklet.