- Winter Concerto, for violin & orchestra
- Tango in Blue, for orchestra
- Casi un Tango, for horn & string orchestra
José Serebrier: Symphony No. 1; Violin Concertoby José Serebrier
Because José Serebrier is much better known as a conductor than as a composer, one must avoid preconceptions of what his music sounds like, for it deserves judgment on its own substance, not on his fame. The works on this Naxos CD reflect their times, so listeners should be aware that Serebrier has been composing since the late 1940s, and he has evolved through the various phases of modernism, from a serious American contrapuntal style in his "Symphony No. 1" (1956); the use of experimental sonorities and atonality in his "Nueve: Double Bass Concerto" (1971); chromatic tonality in his "Violin Concerto, Winter" (1991); and dramatic scene painting in "They Rode Into the Sunset: Music for an Imaginary Film" (2009). Add to this the colorful "Tango en Azul" (2001) and "Casi un Tango" (2002), which display his affection for South American music, and Serebrier's portrait shows his great versatility in many musical idioms, as well as his non-doctrinaire approach to music. There is a common freedom of rhythm and lyrical feeling to his melodies, and he is quite fluid in his use of dissonances and tonal harmonies, so there is a consistency of technique in his music, if a less obvious continuity of style. Serebrier conducts his works with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and his passion and energy are almost tangible in their vivid playing. The sound of these recordings is excellent, with a wide frequency range and brilliant colors from the soloists and the orchestra, so all the performers are heard to their best advantage.
- Release Date:
- Naxos American
Performance CreditsJosé Serebrier Primary Artist
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Jose Serebrier is best known as a conductor, although he has been active as a composer since age nine when he penned a remarkable solo violin sonata (on Naxos 8.559303). His First Symphony dates from 1956, when he was a relatively mature 18 years old. It is, undoubtedly, the most satisfying work on this well-filled program. The symphony was hardly Serebrier's first orchestral score. Nonetheless, he clearly took full advantage of this opportunity to explore the rich timbres of the modern symphony orchestra. In the booklet, Serebrier claims not to have been familiar with the work of other classical composers of that era. Even so, I hear echoes of Hindemith, Shostakovich, Sibelius, and Roy Harris. Like the last two men on that list, Serebrier casts his symphony in a single, continuous movement that incorporates all the elements of the traditional four movement symphonic form. The result is compelling and often quite lovely-especially the haunting final bars. The Double Bass Concerto is a goofy relic of the 1970s that is notable for its use of aleatoric techniques, lack of bar lines, clarinets cleverly concealed in the audience, and a narrator earnestly reciting lines from "Prometheus Unbound". At one point he intones an ironically appropriate question: "What was that awful sound?" In truth the piece isn't quite that bad, though it's hardly a masterwork. Bassist Gary Karr sounds glorious, as always. The Violin Concerto (1991) is more "conventional", but perhaps even less appealing. By this point in the program, Serebrier's standard formula of alternating soft, flowing lines with ferocious, percussive outbursts has worn rather thin. The tangos are a pair of charming miniatures-especially "Casi un Tango" with its sweetly lyrical English horn solo. Lastly, the "Imaginary" film score was, in truth, composed for a real film that was never produced. Despite a hopelessly corny ending, the work is at least easier on the ears than most of Serebrier's recent music. Sound and playing are ideal. The composer could hardly hope for more satisfying realizations of his quirky, yet generally accessible orchestral music.