Roberto Sierra is Puerto Rico’s finest composer and this is
the fourth Naxos CD
devoted to his work.
, which commences the programme, was
heard on the First Night of the Proms
and seems entirely suitable.
It has a clear Latin-American texture and utilizes a harpsichord works by
Antonio Soler, Boccherini and Scarlatti, all very effectively. It conjures
up the sensuality of this dance and the orchestral colour is most effective.
A measure of its success is that I wanted to hear it again before moving on.
This is very accessible music and most successfully performed.
is part of the great Symphonic tradition
but as Sierra writes in the excellent notes it changes from within its form.
The first movement starts with some foreboding before developing into more
pulsating rhythms with phases of dance and some tranquility. It’s a
disturbing movement with brass trumpeting and a powerful beauty. If one can
imagine a Latin-American Brahms updated to the modern day — not an easy
concept, I grant you — this might give you some idea of this movement.
follows and hints at material from the first movement. The
composer is using memory in a Proustian manner but it seems to me that only
some of the fabric is used. What is here is clearly more in the nature of
fragments which are sown effectively into something new. Perhaps it's
just me, but I thought I heard an allusion to the final pages of the third
movement of Beethoven’s Fifth just before the end. Bolero
although it’s more of a dreamlike sequence than capturing the propulsion of
Ravel’s piece. As in the previous movements there is a contrast between fast
and slow music although here there is a stronger feeling of fantasy. The
final movement has strong dance beats at times and a powerful
Latin-American feel. As with
although this was new to me I found it attractive and is
clearly a work of some substance. It would be really great to hear this
has five movements inspired by mythical
creatures but with a nod to Robert Schumann. The second movement
is derived from a Schumann motif but like all the pieces
here one is made aware of a Latin influence. Unicorns
starts with a
sublime melody and a feeling of tranquillity that is most beguiling. It
conjures up images of this creature as depicted in medieval tapestries. The
imagination of the composer, very strong throughout these works, is at its
height here. Dragons
is the penultimate movement and there is a lot
of heavy breathing of fire and menace conveyed in rather a short time. There
are some lovely menacing sounds at the end suggesting some creature’s sad
demise. A much happier movement follows with an inspired dance of the
. Again there are more, very subtle references to Schumann.
It was all too soon when the piece ended. This is true of all the works
here. Sierra is always very concise and never extends his material too
This a hugely enjoyable CD and my only regret was that although there was
room for another piece the selection finished with Carnaval
Sierra's work certainly deserves more public performances and I look
forward to hearing again from him.