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