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Joaquim HOMS (1906–2003)
Orchestral Music Volume 2
Simfonia breu (1972)a [12:15]
Invenció (1964)b [9:58]
Derivacions (1990)c [9:40]
Díptic (1973)d [19:03]
Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya; Eiji Ouea, Antoni Ros Marbàb, Franz-Paul Deckerc, Sian Edwardsd
rec. (live) L’Auditori, Barcelona, February 2004 (Simfonia breu), January 2005 (Invenciò), February 2002 (Derivacions) and January 2006 (Díptic)
COLUMNA MUSICA 1CM0168 [52:33]

Volume 1 (1CM0169) of this Columna Musica series was reviewed here some time ago. That consisted mostly of orchestral versions of works for piano; the exception was the impressive Biofonia (1982). Volume 2 on the other hand offers purely orchestral works composed between 1964 and 1990:. the years of Homs’ full maturity.

The earliest work here is Invenció completed in 1964, by which time Homs had fully mastered his own personal approach to twelve-tone writing. The title aptly suggests an orchestral study. A slow, dark-hued, rather ominous introduction leads into the main section of the work, alternating quickly changing moods with shortened re-statements of the introduction. This concise work is packed with invention, and brilliantly demonstrates Homs’ orchestral mastery.

The somewhat later Simfonia breu ("Short Symphony") is not unlike Invenció. Invenció might – to a certain extent – be considered a try-out for the symphony. The Symphony opens with an arresting, rather dissonant gesture followed by some brief melodic fragments that spell out the basic material which is to be more fully developed. The music unfolds in a quick succession of highly contrasted textures, with considerable tension and some highly charged, explosive episodes of great strength. The generally short melodic fragments eventually coalesce in a grand climax played by the entire string section; and, after a silent bar, the tension is finally released in the beautiful, ethereal coda. As in much of Homs’ mature works, the music is rather austere, often rather dissonant, but never at the expense of strong expression. Simfonia breu is a concise, compact work packed with incidents and arresting orchestral textures, sometimes bringing Roberto Gerhard’s mature music to mind.

Homs composed several works in the form of diptychs. Just think of Díptic I for harpsichord or piano (1975) and Díptic (for Frederic Mompou) also for piano. Then there’s Dos Soliloquis (1973), another diptych in all but name, that also exists in different instrumental versions, including one for orchestra recorded in Volume 1. Finally we come to the Díptic per orquestra recorded here. The first panel Boires ("Mists") is a beautifully impressionistic tone poem (one may think of Debussy’s Nuages, at least superficially), and clearly a rarity in Homs’ output. The second panel Gradacions stands in full contrast to its predecessor. The music now moves at greater speed, almost capriciously so, although it is tightly knit in spite of the apparent improvisatory character of much of the music. This is clearly a substantial work.

Derivacions, one of his last orchestral scores, is based on the last movement of Nou apunts ("Nine Sketches"), a piano suite composed in 1925. As in the other panels of his final orchestral triptych - although each work may be played separately - Homs deals with various aspects of memory, artistic and personal. He briefly quotes from several of his earlier works. I hasten to say that one need not to know these early works to appreciate the music; it speaks for itself. What comes clearly through, is that Homs is in full command of his aims and means which results in a greater freedom in handling of his twelve-tone technique and in some greater expressive warmth. In this, Homs’ mature orchestral works are often quite close to those of his near-contemporary Dallapiccola, in that the music is considerably warmer and strongly expressive while remaining as strictly organised as before.

These excellent, strongly committed performances were recorded live between 2002 and 2006, with some not-too-obtrusive audience noises. The sound is quite fine.

With the recent Naxos release that I reviewed recently (Naxos 8.570306), Volume 1 is to my mind the best possible introduction to Homs’ highly personal sound-world, in that the four works span some forty years of his busy composing life. Volume 2 offers four substantial works from the composer’s mature years and these clearly demonstrate that Homs was an important and entirely personal composer. I hope that Volume 3 will soon follow, for there are still a few substantial works that await recording, such as Homenatge a Webern and Memoràlia. At the risk of repeating myself, I will say (again!) that Homs’ music is definitely too good to be ignored.

Hubert Culot





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