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Josep Maria RUERA (1900-1988)
Empuries - Four Symphonic Poems for orchestra and coplas (1977) [40.52]
Ambients for string quartet (1929) [25.47]
Meditacio for flute and piano (1925) [4.00]
Orquestra i Cobla Ciutat de Barcelona/Antoni Ros Marba (poems)
Quartet Talia (Ambients)
Jordi Maso (piano)
Claudi Arimani (flute)
rec. Barcelona, Empuries (1977) other works 1990s.
COLUMNA MUSICA 1CM01058 [72.39]

This Spanish disc rescues from vinyl oblivion a major Spanish Columbia recording dating from 1977. The Catalan composer Ruera had been drawn to Greek culture since the 1930s.

As early as the 1936 ISCM he had a premiere of a three movement work Empuries. That was for 'big band'. Some of the Barcelona nightclub slickness of that time still shows through in the movement Danca en cercle. In 1977 he brought the work to completion in the version we hear now as four symphonic poems for orchestra. It is quite filmic - rather like a concerto for orchestra with various voices jostling for attention including Bartók and Ravel. The end of the third movement suggests a Delius-Tchaikovsky hybrid. The music is unashamedly definitely tonal (almost filmic on occasion) but without much in the way of development; plenty of spectacle and atmosphere to compensate.

The string quartet Ambients is in four movements Presentation, Danca popular, The Chapel in the Monastery and finally Esplai camperol. Its main forebear is Ravel with a patina of archaic feeling especially in the subdued third movement. The popular dance movement and parts of the finale recall the ‘dumky’ style of Dvořák and the dance sections of the Bax String Quartet No. 1. Only in the last movement does the composer's invention and treatment wear thin. Otherwise this is very attractive writing and with a performance to match. The lovingly rounded Meditation (also for clarinet) is said by the composer to ‘reflect some moments of a period in my life’. On this evidence those moments were idyllically joyous. Some meditations lean towards the lugubrious. This one banishes that element; Ruera must surely have been remembering a very happy time.

Columna Musica have now put Ruera on the map. He is of that generation swept aside by the 'false gods' of serialism and atonality. In other times, listening to this music might have been a guilty pleasure. No longer. While Ruera is on this showing no symphonist he is a most fastidious and resourceful melodist and orchestrator whose music will be well appreciated in today's more accommodating climate.

Rob Barnett


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