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José Serebrier: Symphonic BACH Variations/Flute Concerto with Tango

Alexandre Kantorow (piano), Sharon Bezaly (flute); RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra et al/José Serebrier (BIS)

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José Serebrier
Symphonic BACH Variations*; Flute Concerto with Tango**; Laments and Hallelujahs; Tango in Blue; Casi un Tango; Last Tango Before Sunrise; Adagio; Tchaikovsky (arr. Serebrier): None but the Lonely Heart
Alexandre Kantorow* (piano), Sharon Bezaly** (flute); RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra et al/José Serebrier
BIS BIS-2423   76.40 mins

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José Serebrier’s dual talents as a conductor and composer are widely celebrated in the US, where many of his works have been commissioned and premiered (several led by Leopold Stokowski). His music is less ubiquitous in Europe – despite his enormous discography as a conductor. This collection of Serebrier’s recent works – including three premiere recordings – is therefore welcome.

The Symphonic BACH Variations (2017-18) was written for Alexandre Kantorow, winner of Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Competition in 2019, who is the pianist here. The percussive first movement splattered with off-beats has echoes of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, with rhythmic outbursts in both solo and orchestra parts giving way to more contemplative third and fourth movements. Both this work and the Flute Concerto (2008) hark back to mid-century use of orchestral colour with great effect. Sharon Bezaly, the work’s dedicatee, is reliably superb (this recording captured at the 2009 premiere in Sydney also features on Bezaly’s 2012 album Pipe Dreams). The catchy theme in the first movement becomes an earworm, while the second movement’s extended phrases – punctuated with flutter-tonguing – show off Bezaly’s seeming ability to never pause for breath. The appearance of the alto flute in the ‘Fantasia’ movement provides contrast, preparing the listener for the virtuosic final tango.

The operatic Laments and Hallelujahs (with the Echos Del Mar Choir heard ‘offstage’) and an expansive transcription of Tchaikovsky’s None but the Lonely Heart (both 2018) receive their first recording. The remaining miniatures largely draw on Serebrier’s Uruguayan heritage; the tangos bring inevitable comparisons with Piazzolla. Claire Jackson

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