BEVIÁ Symphony No. 1.1 Dónde el viento nos lleve.2 3 Enigmas.3 Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp4 • Vit Micka, cond;1 Moravian SO;1 Arielle (hp);2,4 Tomoya Aomori, Chihiro Shibayama (pc);Read more class="SUPER12">2 Noriko Suzuki, Ferdy Tumakaka (pn);3 Gloria Huh (fl);4 David Clausen (va)4 • MSR MS 1239 (69:53)
José Beviá is a young composer (b. 1972) who graduated from the Valencia Conservatory of Music as a pianist and composer, then went on to secure further music degrees in the United States. With a foot in both the classical and jazz camps, he has won a number of prizes for his compositions in America and also internationally. This program consists of music written between 2006 and 2009.
Two of the works are played by the performers who gave the premieres. No bios are provided, but as Dónde el viento nos lleve and the trio were recorded at Juilliard I think it is safe to assume that these musicians are students or recent graduates from that institution. Vit Micka and the Moravian Symphony Orchestra are quite well known from labels such as MMC: They are a recording band for hire, used by many composers who have found the necessary money through donations and/or competition prizes. While the Moravian players’ musical standards are high and their sight-reading exceptional, it continues to amaze me that young American composers have to go all the way to Eastern Europe to get a recording of their orchestral music while back home there is at least one decent orchestra in every city.
It is always interesting to hear what young contemporary composers are rewriting. In Beviá’s case, I find no trace of his jazz roots in this program, though his music remains well within the boundaries of early-20th-century tonality. Bartók is a primary influence, most obviously in the Three Enigmas, a suite for two pianos that takes Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion as a starting point. Descending chords in the third movement also recall Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony. The Trio for Flute, Viola, and Harp is specifically cited as a tribute to Debussy’s late work for the same instruments, although the vigorous sections of the work are closer to the chamber music of Albert Roussel. However, the important question is not one of identifiable influences, but of where the composer takes them. He has a solid sense of structure and is able to replicate and elaborate Bartók’s atmospherics perfectly, but my feeling is these musical influences need to be more fully digested before he produces a recognizable Bevián sound. He certainly has the technique and imagination to do it.
The symphony of 2007 is the major work on this disc. In four movements, it lasts almost half an hour. After a promisingly mysterious introduction, the first movement launches into an angular symphonic Allegro, until it changes course and ends becalmed in soothing harmonies. A Bartókian “night music” movement follows, with tension maintained through a continuous high tremolo from the violins. The third movement returns to a vigorous style, with more counterpoint and dissonance (except for one unexpected hiatus). Finally, the episodic fourth movement sums up the varying strains of Beviá’s symphonic argument, closing once again in a calm major key.
The booklet notes, which seem to be by the composer although they are uncredited, describe the symphony as a struggle between positive and negative forces. The problem is, the so-called negative moments are the most interesting musically. The “positive” music is too simplistic harmonically and melodically to work as a counterbalance; the endings of the first and fourth movements seem weak as a result. On a moment-to-moment basis, the composer’s skill in instrumental writing provides many ear-tickling sonorities; so, in spite of my criticism above, this symphony is well worth hearing.
The orchestra and conductor manage the notes well enough, but in matters of ensemble, intonation, and blend their lack of familiarity with the score tells. The performers of the other works seem better prepared, especially Huh, Clausen, and the enigmatic harpist known only as Arielle in the highly attractive trio.
An interesting release, then, showcasing the work of a talented composer whose full potential has yet to be realized.