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Salvador BROTONS (b. 1959)
Symphony No. 5 Mundus Noster Op. 117 (2010) [34:32]
Oboe Concerto, Op. 115 (2009-10)* [19:40]
Four Pieces for String Orchestra - Suite, Op. 14 (2010) [16:28]
Orquestra Simfònica de Balears ‘Ciutat de Palma’/Salvador Brotons
rec. Auditori del Conservatori Superior de Música de les Illes Balears, Palma de Mallorca
NAXOS 8.573163 [70:41]

I am glad to return to the music of Salvador Brotons after the elapse of eight years wince I reviewed a disc of his concertos in 2005. This Barcelona-born composer counts Antoni Ros-Marba (conducting) and Xavier Montsalvatge (composition) among his teachers. The liner-note by Brotons himself tells us that he has written more than 125 works. His list of music director appointments includes Vancouver, Valles and Balearic Islands while his guest conducting roster is wide indeed and international.
 
There are at least five symphonies of which the Fifth, Mundus Noster was written in 2010. The first of the four movements Power, Poverty, Ambition immediately declares Brotons a symphonist with its clarity of expression both vertically and horizontally and its melodious brilliance. Think in terms of the Malcolm Arnold of the symphonies with enriching tributaries from Lambert, the dynamic virility of William Schuman and a slightly acetic edge from Alban Berg. Meditation - Hypocrisy follows. How can one portray such things through music? Best to take the music at its heard value and not agonise over the titles. This music is subdued, fantastic, soloistic and dazzling cleanly expressed. The third movement is Meditation 2 - Violence. It recalls Panufnik in its quiet determined progress with an at first sweetly shaped solo violin theme unfolding at a leisurely pace over a trembling bed of strings. It's a very touching effect with an irresistible melancholia at play as there is in Lambert's Music for Orchestra. I mentioned Panufnik but Brotons’ emotional plot progresses at a faster pace than those adopted by the Polish-English composer. True to the parallel the quiet violins’ dominated episode is succeeded by a percussion-heavy 'shock assault'. This gives way to a sort of elegiac pavane for the brass (5.06) which surrenders to a final percussion expostulation. The last movement is titled Depressive Lament, Hope, Elevation and Excelling. Gaunt brass contrast with violins describing curves of swaying tonality. This is the aural equivalent of an image swaying in and out of focus. I heard a similar effect recently in the solo line in the Swedish composer Tobias Broström’s Trumpet Concerto (Håkan Hardenberger, BBCNoW, Cardiff, Oct 2013). This episode paves the path for a very touching theme for the strings. This inhabits a melodic world similar to the Mahler Adagietto and Arnold's own Fifth Symphony. It's a quality tune most beautifully spun and orchestrated. The effect is seraphic indeed, complete with delicate harp underpinning. The gleaming world reminded me also of Silvestrov’s Symphony No. 5 though presented without such dense orchestrational extravagance. The final pages include gruff reminders of the more negative moods referenced in the earlier movements as if to remind the listener that victory is not a facile win. It is fascinating again to discover a composer who can express himself freshly through a familiar idiom and form.
 
The three movement and twenty minute Oboe Concerto is also in an easily assimilable idiom with Arnold and Lambert again being style parallels. I would also mention the Fauré of the Pavane and of Pelléas et Mélisande. There’s a slow-pulsed hypnotic and also terpsichorean overture most tenderly shaped by soloist Javier Arnal Gonzalez. Then comes a dreamy Berceuse - Fauré to the fore - and a flightily balletic and sparky Tarantella.
 
Like the other pieces here the Four Pieces for String Orchestra date from 2010 and play for 16 minutes. The Elegy is suffused with gloom and this allows the harmony to drift into dissonance. At times it recall Tod und Verklärung. The Humoresque is faintly Bartókian - dissonant and spiky. The Nocturne, by contrast, is more melodic, a companion to the equally mellifluous theme in the finale of Brotons’ Fifth Symphony. The final  Dance exudes desperation and athleticism like similar writing in the Waxman and Herrmann serenades for string orchestra.
 
The playing of the Orquestra Simfonica de Baleares Ciutat de Palma is admirable - their principal conductor is Brotons so they will know each other very well.
 
More Brotons would be welcome. Meantime do not allow this Naxos CD to disappear into the label’s hugely rewarding and massive schedule. It is easy for releases such as this to sink from view. Amid a continual landslide of CDs it deserves your attention and will reward you strongly. What do the other Brotons symphonies and concertos sound like? I’d like to know.
 
Rob Barnett
 


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