WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Montsalvatge: Simfonia De Requiem; Manfred; Bric A Brac / Perez, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra

Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573077   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Xavier Montsalvatge
Performer:  Marta Mathéu
Conductor:  Victor Pablo Pérez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $12.99
CD:  $11.49
In Stock

Notes and Editorial Reviews

MONTSALVATGE Manfred. Bric à brac. Simfonia de Rèquiem 1 Victor Pablo Pérez, cond; Barcelona SO; 1 Marta Matheu (sop) NAXOS 8.573077 (61:07)

This disc combines one of the earliest orchestral works of the Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge (1912–2002) with his last, along with one of his better-known pieces. Montsalvatge did not spring into the musical world fully formed; his early works tend to be Read more derivative of older models and it was not until his maturity that a taut and individual blend of Spanish-inflected, 20th-century neoclassicism began to emerge. His Simfonia Mediterranea of 1948, for example, while it contains many touches of piquant scoring, is diffuse and unfocused compared to his later orchestral pieces. The even earlier Manfred (1945) was the composer’s first commissioned ballet score, and is barely identifiable as his work. Again, while the orchestral writing is assured, stylistically it is nothing more than a straightforward pastiche of 19th-century ballet composers: Tchaikovsky, primarily, but also Adam and Delibes. A rollicking polonaise at mid-point is clearly designed to showcase the premier danseur. Manfred is a thoroughly competent piece of work, but only of passing musical interest. (I am not dismissing Adam and Delibes, by the way: They were very fine and deservedly popular composers.)

Bric à brac, a short suite of four movements, was written in 1993 when Montsalvatge was 81. While considerably more pointed, succinct, and individual than Manfred , it is a minor part of the composer’s oeuvre , with something of a sense of tidying up loose ends. The opening “Evocador” and the following “Sesgado” are austere pieces of Impressionism, but while the other movements provide some harmonic spice and dramatic tension (in the third) and festivity (in the fourth), overall this divertimento feels rather subdued. It is the nature of the music itself rather than the performance, which is as colorful as possible and suitably atmospheric in the quiet passages.

The main reason for getting this disc is the 1985 Simfonia de Rèquiem . Lasting just over 20 minutes, this is a six-movement suite of orchestral impressions of the Requiem Mass. A soprano soloist sings at the close of the last movement, the Libera me. The Symphony displays Montsalvatge’s distinctive mastery of orchestral color, and his oblique references to the Dies irae theme are skillfully integrated. The score is less dramatic and more contemplative than Britten’s similarly named Sinfonia da Requiem.

In Fanfare 36:4 I reviewed another recording of the Symphony, by Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic (one of their vibrant Spanish series on the Chandos label). The accompanying works on that disc are the Partita 1958, Calidoscopi Simfònic, and the popular Canciones Negras : a substantial program and certainly more representative of Montsalvatge’s style for first-time listeners. Mena’s performance of the Simfonia de Rèquiem is beautifully balanced and polished, but somewhat detached––and there’s the rub: I prefer Victor Pablo Pèrez and his Barcelona orchestra on the Naxos disc. Pèrez has had vast experience in this area of the repertoire, and remains a longstanding champion of Montsalvatge’s music. (In fact, these artists premiered Bric à brac. ) His pacing of the Symphony shows greater variety. In the rare moments when the tempo quickens (such as the scurrying strings in the “Lux Aeterna”), Pèrez finds urgency, whereas with Mena it is all part of a lush orchestral tapestry. Both performances are excellent, as are both soprano soloists in their brief but telling appearances. The quality of the Naxos recording is not as spectacular as the Chandos, but is extremely good nonetheless.

Since Pèrez has the edge in the Symphony, your best option is to get both discs. Otherwise, be patient: Knowing Naxos, this probably won’t be the last disc of Montsalvatge’s orchestral music from them. They have already released collections of his piano and chamber music, and there are plenty of the composer’s orchestral works left to fill a second and indeed a third volume.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Read less

Works on This Recording

Simfonia de Requiem by Xavier Montsalvatge
Performer:  Marta Mathéu (Soprano)
Conductor:  Victor Pablo Pérez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; Spain 
Manfred by Xavier Montsalvatge
Conductor:  Victor Pablo Pérez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945 
Bric à brac by Xavier Montsalvatge
Conductor:  Victor Pablo Pérez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Symphony and Catalonia National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 A Decidedly Mixed Bag June 9, 2014 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Of the 3 works comprising this Naxos recording, excerpts from Xavier Montsalvatge's ballet Manfred struck me as being the most conventional, and frankly the most effective of the bunch. Bric a brac, composed in 1993, is a 15 minute long piece of four sections, seemingly designed to portray a variety of moods and emotions, judging from the titles of the individual sections. The problem with this work, in my view, is that the short length of each section does not give adequate time for thematic development, and I couldn't identify a unifying idea linking the sections. Finally, there is the 20 minute Sinfonia de Requiem, surely one of the oddest requiem masses I've encountered. With the exception of a short wordless soprano passage in the final section, this rather austere composition is entirely orchestral- no choral parts, no other soloists. Indeed, as the listener hears this work for the first time, he/she might even be tempted to characterize some sections as minimalist in nature. The sound of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra is just fine, as it plays these works with obvious understanding and empathy. As you can probably tell, however, my overall reaction to Montsalvatge's work on this recording is decidedly mixed. I liked the Manfred ballet music just fine, but I may be showing my inherent bias toward tradition and conventional classical music. Perhaps it's best to recommend that you try this disk and form your own conclusions, especially with regard to the mass and Bric a brac. These two works lack something, in my view, and this disk won't be on my 'Desert Island Disk' list, unfortunately." Report Abuse
Review This Title