Luís de Freitas Branco – Orchestral Works Vol. 4

«Luís de Freitas Branco’s symphonies, with their somewhat Franckian cyclical forms (and sometimes melodies), are more conservative than his impressionist, cutting-edge orchestral works from the turn of the 20th century. Vathek is one such, an amazing, luscious, exotic tone poem in the form of a theme and variations. Unperformed until 1950, just five years before the death of its composer, it is a masterpiece, and one of the most remarkable works of its era (there’s a variation written with something like 59 string parts, almost an anticipation of Messiaen or Ligeti).

In the Fourth Symphony (1944–52) Branco recaptures his youthful fire. The work mixes the modal melodies of Gregorian chant with tangy dissonances and supple, Latin rhythms. The result recalls the Hindemith of, say, Nobilissima Visione, though the scoring is quite different and the handling of form more traditional (save in the multi-sectional finale). Certainly this is the finest of the composer’s four symphonies, and a wonderful work by any measure. (mais…)

Maurice Ravel’s ‘Bolero’

RavelThis work was originally commissioned by Ida Rubinstein as a ballet. Ravel cheerfully labelled his Bolero ‘a piece for orchestra without music’. It was born of his frustration at finding the conductor Enrique Arbós had pre-empted him in orchestrating some movements from Albéniz’s Iberia, which Ravel had intended for a ballet for Ida Rubinstein. So instead, one morning Ravel picked out on the piano what he described as ‘a pretty emphatic kind of tune’ and declared that he was going to subject it to varying orchestral effects without any thematic development. (mais…)