Gerhard: Portraits & Horoscopes: Libra; Gemini; Leo; Three Impromptus; Concert for Eight

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COMPOSERS: Gerhard
LABELS: Largo
WORKS: Portraits & Horoscopes: Libra; Gemini; Leo; Three Impromptus; Concert for Eight
PERFORMER: Nieuw Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 5134
Faith may not literally move mountains, but it can still work wonders. Largo is a record company which operates in complete defiance of the market: it produces scrupulously researched and handsomely packaged CDs of unfashionable 20th-century composers, in first-rate performances and recordings. This new CD contains five chamber works by the Catalan Roberto Gerhard, all written after the composer had fled from Franco’s advancing army and settled in Cambridge. The earliest pieces, and the ones most overtly evocative of his native Catalonia, are the witty piano Impromptus, played here with great élan. The four chamber pieces are very different, full of the tough angularity of Sixties modernism. First impressions are of a play of colours: a touch of brass here, a whiff of cymbal there, then a sudden violent piano flourish. But before long a pulse emerges, and suddenly we hear an echo of Catalonian melody. These apparently contradictory worlds are magically united in these extraordinary pieces, all splendidly played in a recording that is warm yet crystal-clear (it’s a shame the otherwise excellent booklet notes don’t give us the names of the performers). A marvellous disc in what is proving to be an invaluable series. Ivan Hewett

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