WORKS: Nonet; Hymnody; Leo
PERFORMER: Barcelona 216/Ernest Martínez Izquierdo
CATALOGUE NO: STR 33615
‘Roberto Gerhard Chamber music’, the cover proclaims, but the smallest band required here is nine instrumentalists, and a total of 17 players altogether, as well as a conductor, are involved across the three works played here. All are late Gerhard, pieces composed when he was living in Cambridge as a permanent exile from Franco’s Spain, and after he had made his own personal reconciliation between the 12-note technique he had learnt as Schoenberg’s pupil and the Spanish traditions and colours to which he imperishably harked back.
If the Nonet of 1957, in which the reeds of the accordion arbitrate between quartets of strings and winds, has a neo-classical, Stravinskian cut, cast in four tidy movements which glitter in a slightly routine way, then both Hymnody (1963) and Leo (1969), Gerhard’s last completed work, are single movements that have the high-energy panache and palette of bold instrumental colours so typical of Gerhard’s last years. The score of Hymnody is bracketed by quotations from the Psalms, though there is nothing devotional about its neatly dovetailed sectional structure, and Leo is one of three zodiacal pieces that Gerhard composed in the Sixties. It remains powerfully poetic, as its diamond-hard facets coalesce into the folksy lullaby with which the work ends, though this performance could do with more of that poetry and a bit more expressive flexibility in general. Andrew Clements