Jesus Guridi (1886-1961) was born in Vitoria but left Spain in 1904 to study in Paris, where he honed his compositional skills while retaining his innate response to Basque and Spanish folk song. The range of music offered by Bilbao pianist Victoria Aja traverses a period 1910-1958, of which many are rustic dances or character pieces. Both diatonic and vocal, his simple melodies prove attractive if not terribly memorable, mere shades of the grander melodist, Falla. The Basque Folk Songs (1917) are brief, modal pieces, maybe a corollary to Bartok’s transcriptions of Roumanian and Magyar tunes. Vasconia (1924) steals a riff from Debussy (Gardens in the Rain) to begin; Guridi is less experimental than his French influence. Along with Hagar’s Lament and Curse (1958), the Leyenda section of Vasconia is the longest piece in the recital, a ballad-nocturne. Its simple, refrain-like progression reminds one of Debussy’s Pour le Piano, only arpeggiated. The last section, En el chacoli–Tocata festiva, is a minor instance of bravura, mostly moving 16th notes and some staccato riffs.
The Eight Sketches (1954) begin with Dawn, a sort of Scriabinesque evocation in pianissimo. Rustic Dance suggests Bartok for a moment at least. Romance might owe something to Schumann. Funeral cortege, Flowing Water (hints of Ravel’s Fireworks), and Humorous March convince me that Guridi is a salon composer in the manner of Mendelssohn. Hagar’s Lament and Curse (1958) has a deliberately dry sensibility to conform to the desert story. We can hear Debussy’s Footsteps in the Snow. If someone told me the Vals de Mirentsu was by Satie, I would not argue. Dawn and Nostalgia are two parts of Tres piezas breves (1910), and why the last of these would not fit on this CD remains a mystery. Gentle, tepidly colorful, mostly derivative, these works bespeak an academic talent, a nice guy who wrote music.
— Gary Lemco