José Serebrier: Symphony No. 1

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COMPOSERS: Serebrier
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Double Bass Concerto (Nueve); Violin Concerto (Winter); Tango en Azul; Casi un Tango; They Rode Into The Sunset – Music for an Imaginary Film
PERFORMER: Simon Callow (narrator), Garry Karr (double bass), Philippe Quint (violin); Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559648

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José Serebrier, best known as a conductor, has also been composing throughout his long career. His First Symphony, indeed, was written in 1956 when he was 17: it’s a single-movement work, perhaps too prone to chopping and changing between tempos and moods, but with muscular Roy Harris-like counterpoint, and confidently orchestrated.

The double bass concerto Nueve (1971) is very much of its time, a set of variations including outbreaks of jazz, orchestral players spread round the hall, spoken passages of Shelley for the soloist (taken here by a subdued Simon Callow), and a wordless chorus. The violin concerto Winter (1991) is more consistently atmospheric, and hardly needs its seasonal quotations from Haydn, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky.

Two moody tangos, harking back to Serebrier’s Uruguayan roots, precede They Rode Into The Sunset (2009), written to represent the final opus of a dying composer in a Bollywood film that didn’t happen, and surprisingly serious in tone until it goes over the top in a choral apotheosis.

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It’s all well played by the versatile Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the composer, with committed contributions from the veteran bassist Gary Karr and the outstanding violinist Philippe Quint, and clearly recorded. Anthony Burton