Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Reviews from other months
ALBERTO WILLIAMS (1862-1952) Symphony No. 7 in D major Op. 103 Eterno Reposo (1937) 38:48 Poema del Iguazu Op. 115 (1943) 35:11   Orquesta Filarmonica de Gran Canaria/Adrian Leaper recorded 10-13 June 1996 Gran Canaria ARTE NOVA Classics 74321 43329 2 [74:08]




These are world premiere recordings of works by a composer whose name I knew of but whose music was, until now, a complete unknown. Williams was known to me from a reference in a battered copy of Slonimsky’s 1940s book on South American composers.

The notes for this valuable CD are rather sketchy but they do provide some detail. They point out that Williams, a native of Buenos Aires, wrote music falling into three phases: 1862-1890 reflecting the strong influence of European models; 1890-1910: an approach to more nationalistic language. 1910-1952 back to more cosmopolitan models. The works on this disc fall into the last period and are provocative for their musical language in a time of world conflict. Perhaps some of that sorrow and tragedy appears in the flanking outer movements of the symphony.

The Seventh Symphony, like its disc-mate, is in four movements. The middle two are dance-lead, betraying the influence of the ballet. The outer movements are more apocalyptic. The first is clearly striving for great things. The language has something of Scriabin and even more of Miaskovsky. Its quietly chanting music in La Piramide seems to suggest an enigmatic smile. The next is a fantasy dance movement making quite a relaxation after the first. The spirit is of a grand age ball in a sophisticated Edwardian hotel. At 3:50 comes a clearly delineated rhythmic theme of Baxian (Symphony No. 5) accent. By contrast, next follows a solo violin serenade in which concert master Anatoli Romanov takes up the chattering Baxian theme and spins it into a counterpart of Vaughan Williams’ Concerto Academico. The breezily vigorous Joueuses De Crotales (a crotal is a rattle or small spherical bell) is in much the same spirit as the second movement. The finale gives the symphony its title. Whether Williams had eternity in mind I do not know. It has some of the enigmatic dreaminess of the first movement. Chant-like, the theme conjures up the image of some great pagan cathedral. The mood is not too far away from Janis Ivanovs’ impressionistic Atlantis symphony no. 4. It is also the longest movement at 13:27. This music tells tales of a world where cold saps the warmth. The spell of these notes testifies to a composer of concentrated inwardness, of mood and of imagination. This concentration is interrupted at 8:33 by a disruptive brass intervention which impacts like a comet-strike on this chaste but vaguely threatening world. Then a gust of wind blows the curtains followed by another militaristic miniature fanfare at 9:35. A stern resolute theme emerges with a remorselessly marching tread. The symphony ends in jubilant uproar. Some of these mood-shifts are unnervingly jarring but the moods themselves are quite captivating.

The Poema del Iguazu is a picture-suite of the river Iguazu. The first movement is Las selvas dialogan con las cataratas (The forest converses with the waterfalls). The movement is low key; rather light-spirited with snatches of Beethoven, D’Indy and Tchaikovsky. It is propelled along by a patterned rhythmic theme of cheery Brahmsian/Straussian character. The regally flowing Barcarola sounds decidedly French. It offers a superb long-breathed tune. Here the strings sound less than luxuriant but, my, what a lovely theme. Next comes La Luna Ilumina Las Cascadas - a Nocturno. This has an impressionistic magical feeling paralleling the enigmatics of the first and last movements of the symphony. The shades and colours are very gentle - pastel darks and shades. I wonder if his apparently famous Rancho Abandonado sounds like this. The finale depicts a great waterfall (The Devils Throat) with vigorous panache. The mood is hunting and chivalric (like an Argentinian Froissart) with a full bow in the direction of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

According to the notes Williams has nine symphonies to his name. His second dates from 1910. I would like to hear more please. Does anyone have tapes of these?

Good to see Adrian Leaper figuring so strongly in the Arte Nova lists. He is well known to me from his BBC Radio Three broadcasts. His repertoire in broadcast is quite breathtaking: Arnell Symphony 6, Holbrooke Ulalume, Bridge, Krein (symphony 1), Leigh, Moeran, Somervell’s Thalassa Symphony, Veale and Lauricella.

This is an excellently filled disc. The music is never less than interesting and often more than that. It is definitely worth the very small investment. I have not seen any reviews of the disc; such is the focus of the magazines on the great and the good. No doubt Fanfare have covered it?

The notes, which could with advantage have been longer, are in German, French and English.


Rob Barnett

FastCounter by LinkExchange


Rob Barnett

Return to Index