Gerhard. Hoy 14 de Diciembre de 1967 se estrena la Cuarta Sinfonía de Gerhard "Nueva York" una de las obras más geniales de la música española.

Encargada por la Filarmónica de Nueva York y estrenada en Nueva York el 14 de Diciembre de 1967. Gerahrd nació en Valls, Tarragona el 25 de septiembre de 1896 y murió en Cambridge el 5 de enero de 1970.

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Escrita en 1966 por encargo de la Orquesta Filarmónica de Nueva York, la Sinfonía nº4 de Gerhard se estrenó en 1967 por la formación comandataria dirigida por William Steinberg. En esta obra el virtuosismo orquestal de Gerhard llega al límite y con la misma cierra su labor compositiva sinfónica. La obra muestra la gran sensibilidad poética del autor que de vez en cuando se ve interrumpida por diversos clusters orquestales, unas obsesivas intervenciones de la percusión que se atenúan dentro del entramado de la cuerda. La sinfonía es una verdadera obra maestra desde cualquier punto de vista y por ello la recomendamos plenamente como una de las obras más geniales de la música española.

The Fourth Symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for its 125th Anniversary. It received its world première on 14th December 1967 in New York given by the NYPO conducted by William Steinberg. The European première took place on 27th October 1968 by the Stockholm PO under Antal Dorati and the English première was on 4th December 1968 at the Royal Festival Hall with Colin Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at a concert of the Royal Philharmonic Society.

The symphony is one its composer's most massive statements and calls for a huge orchestra: 4 flutes (3rd and 4th doubling piccolos), 4 oboes, 4 clarinets in A, 3 bassoons, 1 double bassoon, 6 horns in F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 tuba, 2 harps, celeste, piano, 4 pedal-timpani, percussion and strings. The percussion section is huge even by Gerhard's standards:

Player one: glockenspiel, 2 suspended cymbals, 2 Chinese wood-blocks, 2 tambourines, 1 pair of antique cymbals

Player two: vibraphone, 2 suspended cymbals, Latin-American Timbale, Latin American Timbale and snareless Caisse Claire, 2 tambourines, triangle, 2 Chinese wood-blocks, large Chinese tom-tom, side drum

Player three: xylophone, 2 suspended cymbals, 3 chinese tom-toms, tambourine, Chinese wood-block, claves, 1 tubular bell

Player four: marimba, 2 suspended cymbals, large tam-tam, set of 11 tubular bells, 2 korean temple-blocks, tambourine, Chinese wood-block, bass drum

Gerhard's Symphony no 4 is a powerful one-movement structure which arguably carries on from where the composer's Concerto for Orchestra of 1965 left off: in many ways the Fourth is itself a concerto for orchestra and the score contains one of highest levels of virtuosity demanded by any symphonic work.

The work begins with a series of chord clusters which are dragged upwards by the clarinets (fig 1 and Track 1 of the Valois CD). A section with spiky, angular string writing follows (fig 4) and this is succeeded by a remarkable passage with Spanish fanfares and guitar-like strumming (fig 5). Here Gerhard remembers his Catalan roots but the Latin motifs are refracted through the avant-garde sounds of the 1960s as if memory has distorted something once familiar.

Echoing clusters of string harmonics appear at fig 10 before a striking section begun by a loping percussion figure initiated by the marimba (fig 11, Track 2). A scherzando episode lightens the atmosphere (molto vivace, con impeto: 2 bars before fig 21, Track 3). A ghost of a slow movement appears 8 bars before fig 25 (Track 4) as a deliberate series of resonating chords which anchor the piece to the pitch E.

This leads to a rich passage for divided strings that provides the work's slowly-beating heart (fig 28). An Allegro section bursts in at 1 bar before before fig 32 (Track 5), building to a piano cadenza which begins 1 bar before fig 38, leading to a brief moment of stasis at fig 39. A new episode, fantastic and fleet of foot, begins at fig 40 (Track 6), marked flessibile and a series of bell-like chimes appears at fig 46 (Track 7). An important de Falla-like trumpet fanfare motif cuts in at fig 52 (Track 8) and starts to dominate the texture. Timpani glissandi (fig 68, Track 9) lead to a passage where the oboes have a poignant duet on an ancient Catalan folksong (the same folksong which appeared in the first movement of Gerhard's "Homenaje a Pedrell" Symphony) (fig 70). Faster music begins (deciso at fig 73, Track 10). The tempo reaches an Allegro con moto (Track 11) and the symphony's expressive culmination takes place at fig 92 (Track 12) before the work proceeds smartly to a vehement conclusion (1 bar before fig 106, Track 13).

The Fourth Symphony was first recorded by Sir Colin Davis and the BBC Symphony orchestra on the Argo label for Decca (ZRG 701) on a now-deleted LP in 1972. To my ears there is a surprising lack of feeling and empathy with the music in this reading considering the forces involved had given the English premiere of the work. The quicker sections seem rushed and harried whilst the more reflective episodes do not dig deep
enough under the surface of this music as the Chandos version with Matthias Bamert and the BBC Symphony Orchestra do so splendidly (CHAN 9651). The Auvidis Montaigne CD version (Montaigne MO 782102) with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife is not so far behind in terms of interpretation, conductor Víctor Pablo Pérez turning in his most impressive reading of a Gerhard symphony with the Fourth. However, the limitations of the Tenerife orchestra are revealed even more in such a virtuosic work, the strings in particular seeming paper thin in comparison with the lush BBC section. Matthias Bamert reserves his most penetrating conducting for this very moving work and the superbly played Pandora Suite makes a delightful, if not over-generous, coupling.

In sum, the Chandos Gerhard Symphony series is almost self-recommending. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is perhaps a key to the success of the enterprise: the orchestra's involvement with Roberto Gerhard goes back to the first performances and recordings of many of the works on these CDs and Matthias Bamert makes a sympathetic and at times inspired conductor of these brilliantly orchestrated symphonies. The Auvidis Montaigne CDs are less polished and the playing is not in the same league as the BBC players for Chandos and yet there are occasional insights to be gained from the Tenerife versions of the works, not least an authentically Spanish flavour to the readings. Of the LPs, Antal Dorati's recording of Symphony no 1 is well worth tracking down from second hand shops: it exudes the excitement of new discovery and has the advantage of a world class conductor bringing all his intellect and flair to bear on the piece.

Chandos are to be congratulated on their excellent Gerhard Symphonies Edition

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