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Joan GUINJOAN (b. 1931)
Clarinet Concerto (2003) [20:14]
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1983) [26:31]
Music for cello and orchestra (1975 rev. 1980) [19:46]
Joan Enric Lluna (clarinet)
David Abramovitz (piano)
Luis Claret (cello)
Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya/Ernest Martinez Izquierdo
rec. Auditori de Barcelona, July 2004. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMI 987056 [66:01]

Guinjoan, born in Tarragona, helped his parents in the fields until he was twenty. His musical talents first won him a place in Barcelona's conservatory then at the Ecole Normale in Paris. After a career as concert pianist, which ended in 1960, he turned to composition, studying in Paris and attending classes with Messiaen, concerts of Domaine Musicale and encountering Berio, Xenakis and Stockhausen. His first works until the mid-1970s were avant-garde - the stuff of London's Roundhouse.
Here the three single movement concertos are a product of his later more accessible style although they sometimes wave the shrouds of his earlier years.
The Clarinet Concerto is wild, woolly, unruly, effervescent, feral, jazzy, boisterous, percussion-riled and rapped ... even humorous. Parallels are going to be approximate as usual but the closest I can offer are late Bernstein and Panufnik in his most explosive vein.  Here it is played by the dedicatee. The Piano Concerto emerges from inky realms, grumbling deep in the bass and generating great churning whirlpools, jazzily metropolitan, confident, tense, dissonant, plangent, crystalline, ruthlessly violent and exciting. It is dedicated to Ernest Lluch who was assassinated by ETA.  The Music for cello and orchestra is also played by its dedicatee. It starts, as does the Clarinet Concerto, with the solo instrument alone. Here the cello is sinister, woody, resonant, motorically awesome, gritty, alive with virtuoso invention. It inevitably echoes the otherness of the Kodaly solo cello sonata. After some five minutes of soliloquy the orchestra joins in a tempest of motivic shards and shadows with some gamelan tattoos as at 10:04. This is in the further reaches and is closer to Guinjoan's 1970s avant-garde grounding. Nevertheless much of this is fascinating and as the work progresses the voices of disintegration are subdued if not completely stilled.
Guinjoan is now one of Catalan music's doyens. I hope there is some way to get to hear his well reported Second Symphony and his opera Gaudi.
Do get this disc - it's not an easy listen for most of the time but it is rewarding and will appeal to anyone already wedded to the constituency of Bernstein, Bolcom and Schuman.
Rob Barnett




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