> Joaquim Serra - Orchestral Works[HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Joaquim SERRA (1907 – 1957)
Puigsoliu (1957, orch. Brotons)
Rural Impressions (1927)
Variations for Orchestra and Piano (1931)a
Two Symphonic Sketches
Emili Brugalla (piano)a; El Vallès Symphony Orchestra; Salvador Brotons
Recorded: Auditorio del Centro Cultural de Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, September 2000
NAXOS 8.555871 [57:31]


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The Catalan composer Joaquim Serra wrote prolifically for cobla, the typical eleven-strong Catalan band. These works and his concert output are completely unknown outside Catalonia. This is why the present release is most welcome. All the works here clearly show that Serra’s music, though often typically Catalan in tone and mood, bears the imprint of French Impressionism and, to a certain extent, of Respighi and – of course – of early de Falla. This is quite obvious in the delightful Impressions camperoles of 1927. This colourful work opens with a lovely Albada ("Dawn"). A lively Scherzo ("Children Playing") is followed by a beautiful Pastorale ("Beneath the Pines") and "The Valley of Echoes" in which tune fragments are tossed around the orchestra. The last movement is an exuberant Fiesta.

The Variations for orchestra and piano (and not the other way round!) is the most ambitious and substantial work in this selection. It often brings d’Indy’s Symphonie cévenole to mind. It is a beautifully crafted piece of music in which Serra’s unquestionable orchestral mastery is fully displayed.

The Two Symphonic Sketches (no date given, but most likely dating from the same period) are lighter in mood and character, but again quite attractive; as is Romántica (again no date given).

Puigsoliu, Serra’s last completed work, was originally written for cobla, but is heard here in Salvador Brotons’ excellent orchestral transcription. Another engaging piece of music of great charm.

When listening to these attractive works, I often thought of some early 20th Century French composers, of Respighi and of early de Falla, though Serra’s music has some welcome unpretentious freshness of its own which is one of its most endearing qualities, besides his remarkable orchestral flair.

Brotons and his players obviously enjoy themselves very much and their committed performances serve the music well. A minor master, maybe, but there is much to enjoy in this delightful and colourful music.

Hubert Culot

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