José Luis Domínguez: The Legend of Joaquín Murieta


We’ve been enjoying this dramatic double CD of music, a romp written in the style of a classical symphony.

Domínguez is one of most sought-after Chilean conductors, conducting opera, ballet and symphony, and for ten years has been resident director of the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra (who play on this CD).

He wanted to write a full symphony set to a ballet, but wanted it to stand alone as a piece of music, too, so wrote it as if it was a soundtrack; it would be somewhere between Star Wars and a Spaghetti Western.

The ballet is set in California and tells the tale of Joaquín Murieta, known as the Mexican Robin Hood or the Robin Hood of El Dorado, a famous figure in California during the gold rush of the 1850s. Rather like our own Robin of Sherwood, he was a bandit or a patriot depending where you stood. Don Diego de la Vega — better known as Zorro — is reportedly based on him.

Domínguez’s tale is set during the gold rush, when Murieta and his men come to the rescue of a town, threatened by the villainous Galgos. (In the real world, Murieta is believed to have killed up to 28 Chinese and 13 Anglo-Americans, though they did rape his wife). It’s a cross between Robin Hood and The Magnificent Seven and the music reflects this.

Domínguez wanted the music to make sense even without the story and it does, a sweeping collection of tracks that goes from the romantic to the stirringly adventurous. It’s excellent and accessible, and whether you like film scores or more serious symphonies, you’re pretty well guaranteed to like it.

Out on Naxos 8.573515-16.

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