SEPTEMBER 2014, 'Josť Serebrier: Symphony No. 2 (Partita), Fantasia, Violin Sonata, Winterreise' Naxos 8.559303 (B)SEPTEMBER 2014, 'Josť Serebrier: Symphony No. 2 (Partita), Fantasia, Violin Sonata, Winterreise' Naxos 8.559303 (B)
Reviewed by Ray Picot
This CD is a fine companion to the composer's previous release for Naxos 8.559183, on their American Classics series, which featured the elegiac 3rd Symphony. Serebrier afficianados may already have this recording in its first incarnation on the 1999 release for Reference Recordings, but in this reissue Naxos will give the magnificent Partita a wider circulation, and in excellent transfers. The only point to note is the duplication of the Fantasia for Strings, but this version with the sonorous LPO strings, is very stirring.
In many ways this CD is the perfect introduction to José Serebrier's rich harmonic palette, though I strongly recommend seeking out the rewarding Winter Concerto (ASV CDDCA 855) for violin and orchestra which has strong connections with some of the music on this recording, and showcases his outstanding ability to write in the concertante form. The Partita contains some stunningly recorded percussion and brass, though I feel the 'Funeral March', which is only remotely redolent of Mahler, in temperament reflects more closely its subtitle, 'Poema elegiaco'. Serebrier's orchestral writing is very rich and varied and in this work, and though it is scored for large forces, he only uses them selectively. The tantalising and subtle Latin elements, which appear in the outer movements remind us this fine musician was born in Uruguay. Overall, this is a thoroughly fresh, original and intense American symphony written by a self-assured 20-year-old composer, and it comes as no surprise to read that amongst its supporters were Copland and Stokowski.
The Fantasia comes as a welcome relief, and it features some excellently varied string writing, which makes me wonder why more string ensembles don't take it up. It gives way to the beautiful Sonata for solo violin, which works well a companion piece. It is given a suitably intense and focussed reading by Gonzalo Acosta and interestingly this work later became a springboard to the Winter Concerto, which is also connected thematically to the final piece, Winterreise. This is no palid winter reverie, but to quote the composer, 'is like a train ride, when one rides backwards and all images fly by slightly distorted, never to return...'; this viscerally exciting piece rounds off a glorious programme.
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