This is a collection of music for string orchestra by three Catalan composers one of whom - Toldrà - was central to the orchestral concert life of Barcelona for many years.
Typically vivid recording choices from the Nimbus team bring us nose to nose with an orchestra that lacks nothing in virility of tone. Its reserves of sweetness have been replaced by a far from disagreeable savoury edginess – definitely umami. This is brought forcefully home in the first movement (La ginesta) of Toldrà’s Vistes al Mar suite for string orchestra. The suite is based on poems by Joan Maragall. That first movement is a suavely singing piece with a racingly dazzling line in exuberant writing. There is a romantic central episode (Alla les llunyanies de la mar) followed by a euphoric finale (La mar estava alegre). This succinct suite will appeal to anyone who has a taste for the sort of romantic tonal string writing to be found in the Wirén Serenade, the Bridge Suite and Elgar Introduction and Allegro. The Quartet en do menor 'Per l'art' is a rather different piece emulating the style of Mozart with musculature and fluency although with a refreshingly zestful nineteenth century spirit emerging in the finale. Casals’ Sant Marti del Canigo is a grand Sardana – a sort of dignified ring dance which forms the national dance of Catalonia. Its moods are smoothly varied with an antiquarian Capriol-like accent putting in the occasional appearance. Montsalvatge’s Concertino 1 + 13 is a piece in three movements for solo violin (Claret) and strings. The orchestra’s vinegar-bladed tone suits this gazelle-leaping music well with folk-Bartók surely an influence and just a sprinkling of mordant atonality in the solo line. Tres postals il-luminades (La Provenca; L'Havana; Nova York) is a shade sweeter and more engaging still with subtle Iberian overtones. The L’Havana movement is a predictable but still succulent havanaise and the Nova York finale does not resist the blandishments of sentimentality. Will appeal to those who love their 1940s vintage Copland and 1920s Honegger.
An original and completely unhackneyed collection of Catalan music for string orchestra. It is supported by well judged notes by Xavier Casanovas Danés.
Rob Barnett, Musicweb-international.com