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“Last Tango Before Sunrise”
José Serebrier: Symphony for Percussion [1] ^ – Piano Sonata [2] ^^ – Danza [4] – Tango in Blue [4] – Candombe [4] ^^ – Almost a Tango [4] – Last Tango Before Sunrise [4, 5] – Samson and Buddah [4] ^^ – Colores Mágicos [3] ^^

Solène Le Van (soprano) [5], Nestor Torres, Gabriel Goñí-Dondi (flute) [5], Sara Cutler (harp) [5], Nadia Shpachenko (piano) [5], Gnessin Percussion Ensemble [1], Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra, José Serebrier (conductor)
Recording: Sala Carranque, Málaga, Spain (October 1-3, 2019) [4] and Red Dot Recording Studios at Peermusic, Miami, Florida (December 5, 2019) [5], The Gnessin Russian Academy of Music, Moscow, Russia (April 20, 2019 [1]), Los Angeles, California (February 16, 2020 [2]), Jungle City Studios, New York City, New York (October 23, 2019) [3] – 62’54
^ First Digital Recording ^^ World Premiere Recording
Reference Recordings FR-743 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English

With more than 300 recordings under his belt, José Serebrier’s accomplishments will never be completed. Driven forward with striking acuity in any sort of music he’s conducted, his excellence never fails, one example being the coruscating balletic passages from Verdi operas. On another dimension, however, is José Serebrier the composer, and, indeed, the compositions on Last Tango Before Sunrise take off on another azimuth. The CD’s predominant theme funnels around the tango, yet the creations lean towards thought-provoking aberrance...off-stream classical. Many of the selections are World Premiere Recordings.

Serebrier’s Symphony for Percussion acts like a case study, showing the importance of percussion (i.e. cymbals, snare drums, xylophone, gong, kettle drum, marimba) as a powerful framework in coloring and shading any composition. At times, bongos sing a melodic tune, framed by maracas, but the fracas generates more unsettling punctuation marks that come out of nowhere. Rhythmic reminisces turn to West Side Story which are addictive. It’s best to close the eyes, sit back and soak in the widely wizard remarks. The Gnessin Percussion Ensemble’s performance of the Symphony is played entirely from memory.

Pocketed throughout by Stravinsky-esque discords, the Piano Sonata is not without its lighter, genteel lines. Serebrier, however, tames his music inside the “Andante” with alternating contrasts of density and sobriety. The rollicking “Moto Perpetuo: Presto” puzzles and pleases simultaneously, a conversation which Nadia Shpachenko molds with firework frivolity.

Much of Serebrier’s Latin roots surface when turning to Danza and the wildly unpredictable flutters and unanswered completions of musical thought...freshly inventive. Candombe is super-inventive, electrified by kicks of crescendo intensity...there’s nothing like it. The flute, a predominant instrument in this album, rarely retreats especially inside the Tango in Blue. It is unpredictable.

A tamer side of José Serebrier reaches the ears when discovering Casi un Tango and its ironically softened nostalgic demeanor. Plaintive passages dominate, but a sudden breeze of hope is herded by luscious strings, only to be stifled by bringing back its original thought...alas, the word, casi!

Which brings us to the album’s title piece, Last Tango Before Sunrise, with its dramatic vistas of indirect reflections upon tango...even a bit Elgarian in nature, the canción is an hommage with a fabulous three note bass pizzicato closing.

For those pet-lovers, Serebrier’s Samson and Buddah is piercingly distant, akin to the enigmatic nebulousness found in music by Charles Koechlin. Nestor Torres’ and Gabriel Goñí-Dondi’s squeaky-clean flute duet weaves about, as if in a search of lost companionship. There is a certain “hollowness” to the entire piece, and M. Serebrier delicately slices through the layers of weighty cerebral conversation.

The most intriguing composition José Serebrier created is the Colores Mágicos and its eerie enchantment...much in line with Ligeti’s œuvres. Coming from all sides, integration of harp, voice, strings and sudden shocks of percussion provides the perfect imagery of a shamanistic ritual taking place. While a bit daring, this piece would hold fascination for even young children thirsty for exposure and technique to the wide range of instruments in the classical music canon.

Not for the lighthearted.

Christie Grimstad




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