Album (& Book!) Review: Danzas Puertorriqueñas – Juan F. Acosta by Hermelindo Ruiz Mestre & Friends

If you swung by the blog last week you’ll know that I posted up a Q&A with Puerto Rican guitarist Hermelindo Ruiz Mestre.

If you missed it, click here and check it out.

Well, today I have for you a review of Hermelindo’s project, comprising a CD and accompanying sheet music book, of the music of little-known Puerto Rican composer Juan F. Acosta (1890 – 1968) – Danzas Puertorriqueñas.

As the name suggests this project presents a series of Acosta’s Puerto Rican dances, ten in all, each with a slightly different flavour. The decision to choose which of the dances to present in this project must have been a tricky one as Acosta apparently wrote 752 of them!  Without knowing any of the other pieces, mostly written as study type pieces for piano in their original form, I’d say that Hermelindo has selected well.

Each of the dances, as I said, has it’s own flavour and feel. They’re all fantastic little pieces around 3 to 4 minutes in length – a great length of piece to probably actually dance to funnily enough! And just enough to snare your interest, have you tapping your toe along, before rounding off and heading into the next tune. Seriously good Latin American melodies and dance rhythms. The sort of stuff I really love.

One of favourites on the album include album opener Ojos de ensueño. A lovely tune that leads you in oh so gently, before leading us into a wonderful dance that I defy anyone not to sway their body to (or least tap their toe!). Another top choice for me from the album is Rosarito y Luis, a lovely piece with just the slightest bittersweet melancholy flavour to it, lulling us along before launching headlong into a lively pulsating dance. And you can listen for yourself here:

My favourite track (after much deliberating and serious amount of listening!) is Bajo la sombra de un pino. It’s a little bit sultry, swaying and and dare I say, just a little bit sexy (ooh la la!). I can imagine myself in the Caribbean just sitting back listening to it!

In selecting the pieces to present on the album and the book Hermelindo says that “I noticed that the writing for this instrument is fairly simple and limited of pianistic effects. What I deducted from this was that the composer, as a teacher and conductor, always thought of these works as small studies that he could later orchestrate for other musical ensembles.

And this is precisely what Hermelindo has done with this project, transcribing each of the ten dances as a duet for two guitars. Wonderful! I shall certainly be taking a look at a few of these (especially the Bajo la sombra de un pino) with my duet partner!

In all of this I’ve neglected to speak of Hermelindo’s playing. Well, I can confirm it’s absolutely top of the class. Hermelindo works a beautiful, full and rich tone from his 2011 Garrett Lee guitar.

An absolutely wonderful offering from a very fine player, presenting the world music that would otherwise remain buried. Bravo Hermelindo!

And don’t forget to head over Hermelindo’s website to pick up your own copy of this fantastic album and duo transcriptions: