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Symphony No.1 Violin Concerto


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"When Naxos suggested making a new recording of my music, the idea was to give a full panoply and to emphasize the changes in style that occurred over time, from the very early First Symphony, through the experimental years , the lighter side with two sho

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excellent introduction to an American trained conductor-composer Sept. 27 2010
By Daniel R. Coombs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Jose Serebrier, a native of Uruguay, has been a well known conductor for many years now. Originally trained under George Szell in Cleveland, Serebrier has conducted since the age of 19 all over the globe, including his current post with the Bournemouth (UK) Symphony. What is most revealing about this disc - and the others by Naxos devoted to Serebrier's music - is that Serebrier, as a composer; probably, and unfortunately, is much less known. Serebrier's music has been played frequently and recorded many times, earning the composer two Guggenheim fellowships. The works on this disc are a very nice introduction to his music. The "Symphony #1" is a very solid work to open the set. Written in 1956 (by the eighteen year old composer!), it is a brief, taut and dramatic work, reminiscent in places of everything from Milhaud to Virgil Thomson. The work begins and ends dramatically and contains the elements of movements and shifts in tone wrapped up in its single movement form; a very fine work! The "Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra" - 'Nueve' is an interesting but somewhat strange piece. Written for the well known virtuoso, Gary Karr, this work contains a narrator, a chorus and various "jazz" soloists and some orchestral members scattered throughout the audience and the balcony (according to Serebrier's own package notes) The narrator (in this case, the fascinating and talented English actor, Simon Callow) intones some poetry and the chorus is wordless and used in a coda, niente, manner (it does sound just a little like "Neptune" from the Holst "Planets") Serebrier explains the title as a literal reference to his flat in New York at the time; on the 9th floor, on 99th St. All in all, this is an interesting piece and Gary Karr remains amazing, yet, the effect is a bit contrived. The sound is almost a forced "profundity". For me, one of the best pieces on the album and, maybe, in Serebrier's output is his "Violin Concerto" ('Winter') (1991). Serebrier seems to write short and concise works. In this case, the piece is intended as a product of reflection and inspiration from Chaminade's "Autumn". In addition to the inspirational reference to Chaminade, Serebrier quotes briefly from the 'winters' of Haydn, Glazunov and Tschaikowsky. The work begins with a dramatic cadenza and ends boldly and with attention drawn to the soloist (in this case, a very fine performance by the young virtuoso, Philippe Quint) The last piece in the set is "They Rode into the Sunset - Music for an Imaginary Film" (2008). This work was intended as a film score for an Indian film that never got finished. The story, of a young Mumbai composer who has to dictate his symphony from his deathbed is poignant and one can imagine what the film would have seemed like. The "imaginary film" score is almost another small symphony with strong writing that, apparently, depicts scenes from the fictional composer's life. This a very interesting work. The program also contains two short "tangos" intended to be played on a program with other symphonic tangos, by Piazzola, Kurt Weill and Stravinsky. Both the "Tango in Blue" from 2001 and the "Casi un Tango" form 2002" are attractive, easy to listen to and clever (especially the use of an English horn solo in the "Casi". The main reason to check out this collection is to get to know Serebrier as a composer (I intend to also investigate the Naxos recordings of his Symphony #2 and Symphony #3) Even without the curiosity factor, I still think any listener interested in contemporary classical music would like the "Violin Concerto" and the "Symphony #1" to be sure.
Quirky, accessible contemporary music Oct. 28 2010
By Tom J. Godell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
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.

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