Jordi CERVELLÓ (b.1935) Clarinet Concertino (1933) [14:29]
Moisès BELTRAN (b.1967) Esguards silents (2003) [15:12]
Miquel ROGER (b.1954) Divertimento per a Cordes (1981) [10:12]
Josep Fuster (clarinet), Joan Carlos Martínez (guitar); Carles Fibla, Oriol Algueró, Maria Roca, Jordi Montoliu, Victor Calsamiglia, Cristian Torres, Ariadna Rodríguez (violins), Bernat Bofarull, Montse Vallvé (violas), Mireia Quintana, Joan Antoni Pich (cellos), Trent Hellerstein (bass)/Manel Valdivieso
rec. 16-17 November 2009, l’Auditori Roig i Torras de Santa Coloma, Gramenet
COLUMNA MUSÍCA 1CM0236 [39 :53]

This CD appears as the third in a series issued under the title of ‘Girona XXI: Catalunya i la fi de segle’ (Catalan and the end of the century). It’s a series which seeks to explore the condition of Catalan music at the turn of the century and to illustrate its stylistic diversity.

Jordi Cervelló, Barcelona-born, began as a violinist but turned increasingly to composition - having studied with Josep M. Roma in his native city. Widely performed in Catalonia, Spain and beyond, Cervelló is here represented by a Concertino originally written for violin and small string orchestra, but of which the composer soon made versions for flute and clarinet. It is a relatively lightweight piece, full of charm and grace, essentially classical in conception and execution. The opening movement (allegro burlesco) has a simple ABA structure and is characterised by some playful melodic writing for the soloist and an attractive sense of dialogue between clarinet and strings; the central movement (adagio cantabile) explores its ideas with a certain sense of leisure and ease, and with an engaging lyricism which has a pastoral air. The final movement knits together the musical material convincingly; its opening cadenza - played with sure technique and expressive tone by Josep Fuster - incorporates material from the adagio. The ensuing presto, which forms the main body of the movement, is built around a version of the initial theme of the allegro burlesco. The whole, while it may not be music of great profundity, has a real charm which rewards repeated listening.

The sound-world of Moisès Beltran’s Esguards silents (Silent Sights) is strikingly different. The work is a guitar concerto in all but name. Its three movements carry the titles Incertesa, Desconcert and Desolació (Uncertainty, Bewilderment and Desolation). Prompted by seeing TV images from the US invasion of Iraq, the composer describes the work as one which expresses the emotional state of a child forced to view - and experience - the disasters of war. On the whole the writing for the guitar is relatively conventional, full of characteristically ‘Spanish’ touches, whereas the writing for the strings is often quite fiercely expressive and tonally distorted. It would be an over-schematic reading, no doubt, to think that the guitar simply embodied the child’s reactions and the strings the surrounding horrors, but such a structure certainly seems to underlie the work. The sense of innocence lost – but not perhaps absolutely – pervades the work, the second movement of which is particularly striking. At the close hope seems not to have disappeared entirely; for all the context of desolation some bleak possibility of survival seems to exist. The juxtaposition of two rather different musical idioms produces some telling effects in this interesting work.

As composer, teacher - he is Head of the Department of Music Theory at the Conservatorí Professional de Musica de Badalona – and as the founder and director of the significant record label Anacrusi, Miquel Roger (full name Miquel Roger Casamada) is a significant presence in contemporary Catalonian music. His Divertimento inhabits the liminal territories on the border between tonality and atonality. It is perhaps a more serious piece than the title given it by the composer might lead most listeners to expect. But if one can adjust one’s experience it reveals itself as a thoughtful and subtle work of some substance, its harmonic language and its development of ideas challenging but accessible.

The performances recorded here are accomplished and committed. Josep Fuster’s playing of the Clarinet Concertino is particularly impressive, and the orchestra - which seems to have no name - under the direction of Manel Valdivieso, is precise in ensemble and appropriately forceful in expression. It would be wrong to claim that any of these three works is of such importance that it is likely to establish itself in the central canon of that repertoire played regularly in concert or repeatedly recorded. But all three of them are of interest; all three should certainly be heard by those with an interest in contemporary Catalan/Spanish music and those with less specialised tastes would surely find things to reward them here too. One has, though, to register one’s unhappiness at the playing time of this CD; less than 40 minutes does seem exceptionally mean these days.

Glyn Pursglove

Three interesting and diverse works, well played – but the CD offers rather short measure.