Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

JOSE SEREBRIER (b. 1938) Partita (symphony No. 2), Fantasia (string orchestra), Sonata for solo violin, Winterreise (orchestra)   * Gonzalo Acosta London PO/composer REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-90CD [60:14]

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 Partita (symphony No. 2) (1958) [28.26]
Fantasia (string orchestra) (1960) [12.08]
Sonata for solo violin (1948) [7.30]*
Winterreise (orchestra) (1999) [6.59]

Reference Recordings have a long-standing relationship with José Serebrier as conductor. That relationship has brought us some extremely fine discs. Apart from their obvious technical accomplishment RR's choice of repertoire with Serebrier is more than creditable. I have already reviewed their Rimsky (RR89), Janacek (RR 65 and 75) and Chadwick (RR64 and 74). The Chadwick and Rimsky discs are outstanding.

The RR team now offer a selection of Serebrier's own works and they do so in their accustomed splendid sound. The symphony No. 2 is more of a suite than a symphonic statement. It comprises four varied orchestral movements with little in the way of organic linkage. The incidents are often attractive and extremely colourful (well caught here) and can be rewardingly appreciated as a suite hence the primary title of 'partita'. The first movement's pot-pourri of Latin-American figures and rhythms prompts thoughts of one of Serebrier's benefactors and influences: Aaron Copland (El Salon Mexico). The finale is bright and ends in percussive salvoes.

The Fantasia is an extremely fine work of romantic demeanour. Its song-orientated approach prompts thoughts of Arthur Bliss in his most athletic vein of lyricism (Music for Strings). This is certainly a work you will want to hear again. The more forbidding format of a sonata for solo violin is always a challenge. Violinists may listen to such recordings in technical appraisal but what of the general listener? In fact this work is of a riper vintage than you might have feared. Overtly virtuosic, its cartwheels and high-voltage gymnastics have a compulsion of their own. Certainly it is not a desiccated work and in my judgement more instantly attractive than say the Frankel or Bartók solo sonatas.

The Winterreise violin concerto was written as a partner for a 20th century collection of concertos each taking the seasons as its subject: Milhaud Spring Concertino, Rodrigo Concierto di Estio (a deeply attractive work - too easily eclipsed by Aranjuez) and Chaminade's Autumn. The project was unable to locate an extant 'Winter' concerto so Serebrier was approached. Serebrier based Winterreise on this concerto which has some rather frenetic slavonic desperation alongside recollections of Glazunov's Winter movement from his ballet The Seasons. This is a pretty clamorous score and when it isn't loud it is gloomy as in the Dies Irae at 5.40 and or licked by Walküre flames as at 6.24.

Two works stand out in this company: Winterreise and the Fantasia. Both feature compelling invention and I would like to hear more by this Uruguayan composer/conductor. The recording quality and documentation is typically of high quality although I regretted the absence of recording date and venue details (perhaps I missed them?).


Rob Barnett

As for the future at Reference Recordings:-

They have just recorded a program of orchestral music by the American composer Dominick Argento with Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra -- all world premieres -- including "Valentino Dances," which feature an accordion.

At the same sessions, they took down a miscellany of short works including "Les Preludes" by Liszt, Ravel's "Bolero" and rarities by Klemperer, Jarnefelt, Deems Taylor and others. Both will be out in the first quarter of 2000.


Rob Barnett

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