Gerhard: Symphony No. 2 (Metamorphoses); Symphony No. 4 (New York)

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COMPOSERS: Gerhard
LABELS: MO
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Metamorphoses); Symphony No. 4 (New York)
PERFORMER: Auvidis Montaigne
CATALOGUE NO: 782102
Inhibited by a sense of responsibility to its distinguished lineage, Roberto Gerhard took to the symphony late, typically turning it to his own personal and, in the strictest sense, highly symphonic ends. Not for him the tired sonata-form rehashes favoured by most British symphonists of the Fifties and Sixties, but instead a total refit, in which traditional motivic and tonal processes are replaced by driving, Spanish-inflected motor rhythms, abrupt changes of mood and colour, and an idiosyncratic use of serial techniques.

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Listeners familiar with the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra’s disc (Auvidis Montaigne MO 782103) of No. 1, one of his best works, and No. 3, an ambitious but somewhat dated amalgam of taped and live sounds, will know what to expect. It’s significant that towards the end of his life Gerhard substantially revised No. 2, retitling it Metamorphoses and clothing it in the bold orchestral chiaroscuro of his final period which doesn’t really suit its rather puritanical, dog-chasing-tail discourse. The difference between it and No. 4, where colour and drama are a vivid and integral part of its space-age material and matched to surer and more arresting ends, is palpable. Antony Bye