Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A weighty symphony from Nashville

From January 9, 2014:

Roberto Sierra's Sinfonia no. 4 is part of the great Germanic symphonic tradition, as the composer himself states in his liner notes for this new Naxos CD. But even more so, I think, it follows the lead of great Latin American composers like Carlos Chavez, who wrote six symphonies, and Villa-Lobos, who wrote eleven, while never sounding like Brahms or Mahler. Alberto Ginastera comes to mind as well, though he wrote only Symphonic Movements and Estudios Sinfonicos, and not named Symphonies. Like these masters, Sierra's music is more rhapsodic; it evolves organically, rather than dialectically. This Symphony remains serious and vital music, and it's presented in a thoughtful manner by Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony. The rhythmic variety of Sierra's music serves a structural purpose, and is not only there to provide coloristic, "Latin" effects. It seems sometimes Bachian, in the manner of Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras.

Sierra took 18th Century music as the starting-off point for his Fandangos, making reference to Antonio Soler, Domenico Scarlatti and Luigi Boccherini, all of whom worked in Spain. This is lively music designed to show off the virtuoso capabilities of an orchestra. The Nashville musicians come through with flying colours, as they so often have in their Naxos recordings in the past decade.

Carnaval makes reference to Schumann's 'characteristic' piano pieces, but these miniatures of distilled character also bring to mind short, pointed, contrasting pieces from Latin America, such as the Prole do Bebe by Villa-Lobos, Camargo Guarnieri's Ponteios, or the suites and dances of Ernesto Lecuona.

Giancarlo Guerreo is having an outstanding time as Music Director of the Nashville Symphony, building it into one of America's finest orchestras, in live performance as well as on disc. This disc is another example of how important Nashville has become in classical as well as so many other kinds of music.

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