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Kertsman: Early Works / Davies, Schulz, Bruckner Orchestra Linz

Kertsman / Schulz / Bruckner Orch Linz / Davies
Release Date: 10/09/2012 
Label:  Gramola   Catalog #: 98959   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Miguel Kertsman
Performer:  Katarzyna DondalskaChrista RatzenböckWolfgang Schulz
Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bruckner Orchester Linz
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KERTSMAN Chamber Symphony No. 1, Acorda! 1 Sinfonia Concertante Brasileira. 2 Amazônia Dennis Russell Davies, cond; 1 Katarzyna Dondalska (sop); 1 Christa Ratzenböck (alt); 2 Wolfgang Schulz (fl); Bruckner O Linz Read more class="ARIAL12"> GRAMOLA 98959 (60:05)

Miguel Kertsman wasn’t even a name to me before this CD arrived in preparation for our interview, but I am very glad to have made the acquaintance of his music. Even if his approach has broadened, as he says, since he composed these three pieces, they should still win him many new friends. The First Chamber Symphony (1995–96), a single span of just over 11 minutes, is subtitled Acorda! , which means ‘Wake up!’ in Portuguese, and the work certainly will have that effect on its audience. It starts with percussion evoking the sea and sounds of people setting about their daily business, with overlapping ideas in different parts of the orchestra (a “dark” orchestra, as the composer explains, “without violins or higher range woodwinds”) and vocal exclamations; a string chorale suggests that a point of repose has been reached, but instead a soprano and contralto begin a vocalise a tad reminiscent of Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. It, too, soon disappears, and the chorale resurfaces, eventually reintroducing the singers, with the music oscillating between these evocative elements until the opening material returns, and a shout of “Acorda!” brings the work to a close. The Sinfonia Concertante Brasileira for flute and orchestra (1989) is much more open-hearted than the First Chamber Symphony: The sly humor of the later work was preceded here by an innocent enjoyment of the richness of orchestral sound and the first movement unfolds broad melodies in the orchestra over chugging Brazilian rhythms, with the flute dancing merrily above it. There’s an expansiveness in the writing and a natural dramatic touch that suggest Kertsman’s movie scores must be quite effective; a modal flavor to the harmony contributes a dignified spaciousness. The disappearance of the flute during the more grandiose passages comes as a reminder that this is a symphony, not a concerto. The heartwarmingly lyrical slow movement incorporates a song Kertsman heard sung by his father, who died before the Sinfonia Concertante was composed, and it doesn’t require too active an imagination to hear this gentle nocturne as a grateful tribute to someone special—especially when intermittent notes from the tubular bells add another layer of suggestion. The finale is overtly comic in tone, with big-band and jazz elements to the fore in the orchestral writing. Adrienne Lentz’s booklet essay talks about a stubborn donkey as the central image in the movement, but it doesn’t need such specific realism—although if you had asked me unawares to suggest the subject, I might have guessed it to be a later model of Villa-Lobos’s “Little Train of the Caipira.” And it would likewise make an orchestral showpiece in its own right. The three movements time in at one of 16 minutes and two of eight.

The symphonic poem Amazônia , which dates from 1987, is another 16-minute span. As in the opening movement of the Sinfonia Concertante Brasileira, Kertsman paints with a broad, neoromantic brush, marrying the long-breathed serenity of the rainforest with the dramatic violence of the threats to its existence. It thereby reminds me of another environmental-protest piece, Rokkomborre (1967) by the Norwegian composer Ragnar Söderlind—oddly enough, given the difference in temperature between the two worlds depicted. As the work evolves, an epic quality pushes its way to the foreground, although the violent attacks continue their attempts to halt its progress.

The performances strike me as entirely authentic: Dennis Russell Davies’s Austrians sound convincingly Brazilian to my Scottish ears; more importantly, given the composer’s involvement in the project, one imagines that he is happy with the performances as well. Wolfgang Schulz is a dazzling soloist in the Sinfonia Concertante . The recorded palette is both broad and detailed, with plenty of power in the climaxes. Lusty music, in short, lustily played.

FANFARE: Martin Anderson
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Works on This Recording

Chamber Symphony no 1 "Acorda!" by Miguel Kertsman
Performer:  Katarzyna Dondalska (Soprano), Christa Ratzenböck (Alto)
Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bruckner Orchester Linz
Sinfonia Concertante Brasileira by Miguel Kertsman
Performer:  Wolfgang Schulz (Flute)
Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bruckner Orchester Linz
Amazônia by Miguel Kertsman
Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bruckner Orchester Linz

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