Joaquim Serra (1907-1957) was apparently "extremely popular" in his native Catalonia. That seems to be an exaggeration, and I don't think it would affect the success or not of this disc to admit that it contains music of one of the most obscure of obscure composers. It is very attractive music, however; Spanish to the core, generally rather light, well-orchestrated and tuneful. Stylistically, Albeniz looms large, of course, but I was most reminded of Turina's orchestral works (even though I readily admit that Serra's attempts aren't quite as strong as Turina's).
The brief symphonic poem Puigoliu (orchestrated by Brotons) is in fact probably the most ambitious work here - it is also the least rewarding one, even though it is colorful enough to deserve a listen. It is followed by the longer but more diverting Variations for Orchestra and piano, a truly enjoyable and catchy work, full of atmosphere and color. No, it doesn't quite avoid predictability, but this generally sunny, evocative work deserves to be heard, as do the equally atmospheric, dreamy Rural Impressions. The latter might not generally sport the most memorable tunes, but it's wonderfully evocative, warm and beautifully wistful. The two symphonic sketches are very slight and even somewhat clichéd in their treatment of Spanish color; still, they are lively enough to warrant a listen. The warmly beautiful Romantica is a pretty filler.
Throughout the El Vallés Symphony Orchestra plays with warmth and color under the inspired direction of Salvador Brotons, even though they lack the last degree of tonal sheen and depth. Emili Brugalia handles the solo part in the Variations well, lacking just the last ounce of ebullience. Still, these are warmly effective performances of some very attractive if not overly profound music. The sound quality is good as well, and - especially given the price - this issue can be warmly recommended, even if it's hardly an essential release.
Was this review helpful to you?