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Posted October 28, 2010
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.