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CATALAN CONCERTOS (1967-1995) SALVADOR BROTONS (1959-) Trombone Concerto (1995) (Ricardo Casero - trombone) 23:54 XAVIER MONTSALVATGE (1912-) Concerto Capriccio (1975) (Magdalena Barrera - harp) 25:55 Serenade for Lydia de Cadaques (1973) (Magdalena Martinez - flute) 10:19 LLUÍS BENEJAM (1914-68) Saxophone Concerto (1967) (John Harle - saxophone) 15:11 Barcelona SO/Lawrence Foster recorded in Barcelona, 14-18 June 1997 CLAVES CD 50-9808 [75:33]

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Claves have not registered all that strongly on the international stage. This Swiss, Thun-based, company has a rich catalogue with a number of adventurous entries in the rare repertoire lists. Their Basque series is notable and the highly attractive Guridi and Usandizaga discs are worth seeking out if you appreciate lyrical nationalistic impressionism.

To date the Basque series has centred largely on orchestral works from the turn of the century. The present disc brings us four contemporary Catalan concerto-format works. While the Basque discs are agreeably blazoned with the logos of those sponsoring the recordings there are no signs betraying sponsorship for this disc.

Three composers are represented. There are four works. Montsalvatge has two: the others one each. The flanking works are extremely approachable; surprisingly the Montsalvatge ones have their challenging moments though nothing of Boulezian or Cage-ian negation.

Montsalvatge is likely to be known to an audience outside Catalonia and outside Spain. Montsalvatge has had various international successes and recordings. By two years he is the elder statesman amongst the trio. Montsalvatge's 'Cinco Canciones Negras' (1946) have carried his name across the world. He has however written far more than this including concertos, symphonies and operas. He is also still alive whereas Benejam died thirty years ago. Benejam's Saxophone concerto dates from the year before his death. All four works can lay claim to being ‘modern’.

Brotons begins positively - very driven and threatening. This relaxes into a lyrical episode with the warbling trombone as the romantic singer rather like the middle movement of the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto. The style is approachably raucous, - populist film music; a touch of Malcolm Arnold, perhaps. The realism of the recording is startling with every burr and raspberry registering strongly and unusual effects like the nasally snarling caprice at 4.40 (track 1) conveying not only an inventive approach to the instrument and the virtuoso skills of Casero but also an unsuspected warm cantilena from this usually blurting, bullying and belligerent instrument. The following lento espressivo sings quietly with just a little work for the trombone. The following allegro mixes the influences of Weill and Shostakovich with a wailing song for the soloist. The presto brillante ends in fireworks but there is time for a romantic aria or two; sentiment and not sentimentality. A work well worthy of the company of the Jacob or Sandstrom concertos and refreshingly unobsessed by coaxing outlandish noises from this stentorian singer.

Montsalvatge's two works are from the 1970s. The Concerto-Capriccio is of the 'plink-plunk' modern school but the harp remains the singer. The serene atmosphere is redolent of the royal court of some elfin queen. In the long andante, delicacy and swirling veils of sound suggest the court both in its heyday and many years later while walking among cobwebbed decay and dust. A cadenza for solo harp ushers in the final allegretto which at first chatters and shouts loudly before providing some silence for the pearly display of the harp. The work should be well attended to by harpists and listeners alike not least for the dream-fiesta which develops and blooms into a raucous finale.

The brief serenade for Lydia de Cadaqués was written for Jean Pierre Rampal. It is not typical flute idyll material though you cannot for long hold back the natural tendency to sing long lines. The piece holds a few violent surprises. This Lydia must have been an unpredictable woman of some character. There are some grimly atonal moments mixed into the tonal portrait.

Finally saxophone fanciers get the chance to hear Benejam's quarter hour concerto played by the world's leading saxophonist. The work is in explosive and sinuously romantic song from the first moment. Galvanic percussion and brass explosions punctuate this song of the Catalans. The orchestration is excitingly Coplandian and with enough typically Hispanic ticks and tricks to orientate the listener. The Andante is a moody song of shimmering afternoons where the solo is predominantly accompanied by the strings and harp. The final allegro appassionato opens with a gust of activity but soon settles into a fast serenade with more hammered spasms from full orchestra.

The notes are in five languages (Catalan, Spanish, English, French, German) and the orchestra is more properly known as Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya.

The music, booklet, cover and the whole ensemble are pleasingly presented as well as being informative. Recording is powerful and refined. Generous timing. Considerable thought has gone into all aspects of this production. More please. Recommended.


Robert Barnett


Robert Barnett

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