Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is the third Naxos disc to be devoted to the Puerto Rican
composer Roberto Sierra. It forms part of the ever-burgeoning
Naxos American Classics series. Sierra is a figure little known
in the UK although he did have a work, Fandangos, played
in the 2002 Proms. He’s also scarcely known in Europe but has
been consistently making a reputation for himself across the
Pond. For me this has proved to be my first encounter with him.
His Piano Trio No. 1 subtitled The Tropical is a good
place to start. Its rhythmic first
movement (En do - In C) was
inspired by “Latin Jazz elements of the music I heard on the
radio as a child”. The second movement is redolent of hot Spanish
climes and is a Habanera Nocturna – the mood is: drinks
on the balcony overlooking the cityscape at midnight. The third
movement is a brief Intermezzo religioso; the South Americans
are still very religious. This is connected to a Movimiento
perpetuo in which a rhythmic semiquaver ostinato is continuously
passed between the instruments under a jagged, jazz-like melodic
line. What I like about this Trio is that it has its own distinct
profile which gives the piece an individual character and ambience.
Again the next work has its own profile and character. As you
listen to the Piano Trio No. 2 of eleven years later you realize
what an eclectic Sierra is. This is a twelve-tone work with
the same untransposed row used in each movement. Don’t be put
off. The first is almost pointillistic but also highly rhythmic.
It is entitled Clave de mediodia and the clave
is the “underlying rhythmic background of the salsa”. The next
movement – Espejos - uses the row as a series of fascinatingly
overlapping mirrors like a “mirage”, the composer says. The
third movement acts as a very brief Scherzo; it is called, appropriately
enough, a Juego - a game. The finale is exciting and
the composer comments that the “three instruments join in rhythms
that resemble Afro-Caribbean drumming”. The work carries over
two characteristics from the First Trio: the ostinato patterning,
especially in the finale, and an element of modern jazz and
dance. It’s terrific stuff.
A brief work now fills the gap before the Third Trio. It’s a
sort of chamber overture. The Fanfarria, aria y movimiento
for violin and piano was written as part of the Copland centennial
celebrations and, according to the composer’s notes is “based
on the kind of open intervals and triads reminiscent of sonorities
that Aaron Copland favoured in his work”. I don’t hear these
sounds myself but I do hear salsa rhythms in the opening section
and found the final Movimiento perpetuo as evocative
of salsa music as one can imagine. It’s brilliantly played.
The Third Piano Trio, composed seventeen years after the first,
is subtitled Romantico and has four brief movements each
bearing a descriptive title. Sierra decided that he wanted to
write more lyrical and traditional work hence the opening movement
Con profunda being in sonata form. He follows this with
a Scherzo called a Veloz which is in unsettling 5/8 time.
Then follows a beautiful and finely-shaped movement Con gran
sentimento which is almost reminiscent of Romantic Spanish
music. Finally there’s an Agitado which Sierra says is
based on Puerto Rican folk-tunes. It reflects a 3+3+2 pattern
and rises to a stirring climax. Appropriately enough it was
first performed in Asturias.
Rather to my surprise, I have enjoyed meeting this composer
and his music more than I was expecting. The performances are
superb and the recording is of a fine quality and well balanced.
This is a disc I shall happily return to. No doubt I will look
further for this composer, perhaps the earlier Naxos CD of Sierra
(8.559623) entitled ‘New Music with a Caribbean Accent’ might
be the next place to go.
-- Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International Read less
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