Prolific Spanish composer Tomás Marco has a formidable
musical and intellectual pedigree. He has published many books,
including a Spanish-language history of 20th century music and
the Spanish avant-garde. His teachers include Maderna, Boulez,
Ligeti, Adorno and Stockhausen.
On that basis, the would-be listener could be forgiven for expecting
to be thrust into the thick of avant-gardist ruminations in
this, the first CD from Naxos to feature Marco's music. Certainly,
there are no truly hummable tunes on offer here, least of all
in the oceanically noisy Symphony no.9, Marco's latest. That
said, the memorably punchy Symphony no.8 at least should appeal
to anyone with a taste for Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
Its three movements are titled Gondwana, Laurasia
and Pangea, giving an indication of the almost primeval
earthiness of the pan-continental dance elements that constitute
the fundamentals of this work.
Marco states, however, that the "aim of the work is not to portray
any of these dances in a kind of recognisable entirety". Instead
the Symphony resembles the first-born from a marriage between
the opening of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite and Alexander
Mossolov's Iron Foundry, particularly in the final section,
which consists of an insistent series of machine-rhythmic ostinatos.
From the Eighth Symphony it is a fairly easy step - all right,
plunge - into the claustrophobic melodies, inscrutable harmonies
and swelling rhythms of the other two. The early Second is in
effect rather like a 'softcore' precursor to the Ninth.
The Málaga Philharmonic have been around for twenty years
or so and formed some admirable associations with conductors
and soloists throughout that period. Here the string ensemble
seems occasionally hesitant, but in general there is a good
sense of rehearsal and unity. The musicians dig deep to meet
Marco's frequently quite strenuous technical requirements.
Apart from the ongoing obloquy of having his surname widely
pronounced as if he were French, José Serebrier is still
something of an under-appreciated conductor, despite his many
successful recordings. He is also rather scandalously neglected
as a composer, again despite the long-standing availability
of several CDs of his music. For Naxos he has combined both
jobs on at least four occasions to date, making recordings of
his First, Second and Third Symphonies, the lattermost a second
time for DVD indeed (8.559183, 8.559303, 8.559648, 2.110230).
For the Málaga Philharmonic he does a sterling job at
the front, guiding them through the candle-lit labyrinths of
Marco's scores towards greater illumination.
Spain-originated recordings are not always immaculately engineered,
and it must be said that sound quality here falls more into
the "all right" category than anything higher. A look at the
audio track waveforms reveals the 'sliced-off' peaks and troughs
typical of pop-grade microphones or zealous codec application.
The 'damage' is most noticeable in the loudest passages, but
whilst it is undoubtedly an annoyance that should have been
prevented, it does not detract overly from the main thing, which
is Marco's stirring music. The English-Spanish booklet notes
are by Marco himself, well written and informative. There is
a photo of the whole Orchestra, but so small it turns every
player into a black-and-white blob. Serebrier's biography is
bigger, reflecting his long, illustrious career to date.
Those who find their appetites whetted by Marco's inventive,
provocative Symphonies can turn to another recent release, this
time on the Dynamic label: a valuable collection of Marco's
surprisingly rare guitar music - altogether more accessible
than the Symphonies too - splendidly performed by Marcello Fantoni
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
see also review by Paul