Weíve already had excellent recordings of the first
six of Guarnieriís seven symphonies. Rob Barnett warmly welcomed the
Second and Third (review)
while I myself enjoyed the coupling of the First and Fourth (review)
and, subsequently, the disc that paired the Fifth and Sixth (review).
All these were full priced Ė and excellent - CDs from BIS and I hope
that label will eventually complete the cycle. In the meantime itís
excellent news that Naxos has issued this disc, which couples the first
three of the composerís six piano concerti.
My colleague, John Phillips, has already explained
that the First concerto, which here receives its première recording,
was nearly lost. (review)
I think the reconstruction work that was done to restore the work was
very worthwhile. Like its two companions included here (and, indeed,
like all six of the symphonies that Iíve heard) the work follows a three-movement
pattern. In this case the three movements play without a break. The
first is big and confident, even brash. As early as 1í31" the music
relaxes a bit and here I detect the first of many resonances of Gershwin,
a trait that John Phillips picked up also. The movement features some
buoyant Latin rhythms and plenty of exuberant scoring. sample
The slow movement sounds like a gently swaying nocturne. sample
Itís in the finale where the Latin American idiom really comes to
the fore, emphasised by the inclusion of some exotic percussion instruments.
Itís a riotous, toccata-like movement in which all is colour and drive.
Arguably the festivities are a little overdone but itís all very exciting.
The Second concerto is described in the notes as "vibrant
and exciting." That it is, but itís not as frenetic as its predecessor
was at times. Amid the passages of brilliant passagework for the soloist
in the first movement one notices more stretches of repose. Also the
orchestral scoring, while bright, is not quite so "in your face."
sample The slow movement starts
in sultry vein. sample The music
has a slight air of melancholy but this is interrupted by a skittish
episode (from 3í24" to 5í05"). The return of the opening mood
is delightfully scored with the piano applying some very effective decoration
to the subdued palette of the orchestra. The movement draws to a rather
lovely tranquil close. The finale, which follows without a pause, is
another brilliant toccata. Might I characterise it as "Prokofiev
wearing a sombrero"? This is a movement of tremendous drive but
one doesnít feel that the composer is throwing in everything but the
kitchen sink, which tended to be the impression left by the corresponding
movement of the First concerto. sample
The Third concerto is a bit more overtly dissonant
than its two predecessors. The first movement is, once again, percussive
and energetic for the most part. sample
The slow movement is quite substantial in length, occupying 11í45"
in this performance. An extended, plaintive oboe solo is heard at the
start and from this much of the movement derives. For much of the time
the music is rather sparingly scored. sample
Itís atmospheric but I did wonder if the piece was a little too long
for its material. The work concludes with a trademark finale in that
the movement is predominantly boisterous in tone. sample
The BIS discs featured a Brazilian orchestra, who were
certainly au fait with the music of their fellow-countryman.
Here we have a Polish orchestra, directed by an American conductor,
accompanying a US-born pianist who was raised in Brazil. To my ears
the results sound perfectly authentic. The Polish players sound completely
at home with the idiom and give convincing and committed accounts of
music with which they can scarcely have been familiar. Max Barros is
a prodigious soloist, seemingly making light of the technical demands
of these scores. He has the measure of these scores and puts them across
with relish. Thomas Conlin gives him sterling support. The performances,
though recorded at different times, enjoy a consistency of sound and
that sound is very good, allowing plenty of detail to register in what
are often teeming scores.
I think John Phillips has it right when he points out
that Guarnieriís melodic material is not, perhaps, the most memorable.
Thatís a characteristic of the symphonies also, Iíve found. However,
like the symphonies these scores are packed with incident, vivid colour
and strong rhythms. This is a CD that is as attractive and enjoyable
as it is enterprising and at the Naxos price itís an excellent way to
be introduced to this composer. I hope Naxos will follow up this release
by giving us the remaining three piano concerti. For now this disc will
see also review
by John Phillips