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Muzyka 21 [Polish Music Magazine], November 2007

Naxos' American music series has really grown by adding music by Jose Serebrier, born in Montevideo, a composer of Polish-Russian origin.- To music lovers he is mostly known as a brilliant, virtuoso conductor.

The Serebrier Solo Violin Sonata was written when the composer was nine years old and it's a virtuoso composition, a great challenge to soloists.-Uruguayan violinist Gonzalo Acosta stood up to that challenge.

Most interesting, written by Serebrier 40 years later is the Winter Violin Concerto, which relates thematically to the early violin sonata. Same as the later work from 1999, Winterreise, the last composition of this CD, which also quotes from his opus 1.

Fantasia for Strings was originally written for String Quartet is a very beautiful, mysterious composition with remembrances of the past.

The most important composition of this disc is the Second Symphony, "Partita", written by the composer at age nineteen.- The composition starts with a Latin-sounding Prelude, while the following movements show the Slavic roots of the artist.- The third part is an Interlude, followed by a final Fugue, a Jazz improvisation based on the same topic as the first part.- A very impressive, interesting and exhilarating composition.

Distinguished recording, with good, spatial sound are the further merits of this CD.

Maestro Serebrier has great knowledge and sure knows how to conduct everything, including of course his own works.



Muzyka 21 [Polish Music Magazine], November 2007

Naxos’ American music series has really grown by adding music by Jose Serebrier, born in Montevideo, a composer of Polish-Russian origin—to music lovers he is mostly known as a brilliant, virtuoso conductor.

The Serebrier Solo Violin Sonata was written when the composer was nine years old and it’s a virtuoso composition, a great challenge to soloists—Uruguayan violinist Gonzalo Acosta stood up to that challenge.

Most interesting, written by Serebrier 40 years later is the Winter Violin Concerto, which relates thematically to the early violin sonata. Same as the later work from 1999, Winterreise, the last composition of this CD, which also quotes from his opus 1.

Fantasia for Strings was originally written for String Quartet is a very beautiful, mysterious composition with remembrances of the past.

The most important composition of this disc is the Second Symphony, “Partita”, written by the composer at age nineteen—the composition starts with a Latin-sounding Prelude, while the following movements show the Slavic roots of the artist—the third part is an Interlude, followed by a final Fugue, a Jazz improvisation based on the same topic as the first part—a very impressive, interesting and exhilarating composition.

Distinguished recording, with good, spatial sound are the further merits of this CD.

Maestro Serebrier has great knowledge and sure knows how to conduct everything, including of course his own works.



Phillip Scott
Fanfare, October 2007

“As you would expect from a Serebrier recording the sound is stunning, and the performances could scarcely be bettered”.

Aside from making new recordings, Naxos occasionally reissues performances from other sources. This program appeared in 1999 on the Reference Recordings label and, to all intents and purposes, that CD seems to be still available. It was highly praised by Bernard Jacobson in Fanfare 23:3.

Serebrier is best known as a conductor, but has been composing all his life. The earliest work on this disc, the accomplished Solo Violin Sonata, was written at the age of nine. The main works, the Second Symphony and the short Fantasia for Strings, come from 1958 and 1960 respectively. The symphony, subtitled “Partita,” was recorded under that name, minus the second movement, by the Louisville Orchestra conducted by Robert Whitney. That missing movement (“Funeral March” or “Poème elegaico”) makes quite a difference, as it is heavier and darker in tone than its companions. A Latin flavor may be heard in the first and last movements—Serebrier was born in Montevideo—but nevertheless this is a serious work, symphonic in scope. Serebrier is a master of orchestration, and a lover of the spectacular gesture: note the frenzied percussion cadenza in the symphony’s final movement. The Fantasia is a tight piece, full of close counterpoint and Bartók-influenced string sonorities.

The newest work, the 1999 tone poem Winterreise, surges along like an icy river. It maintains volatility throughout its seven-minute duration, relaxing only for a brief uneasy episode at the five-minute mark. Winterreise is an orchestral reworking of material from Serebrier’s “Winter” Concerto for violin and orchestra (1991), which was recorded as part of a four-seasons program on ASV with soloist Michael Guttman and the composer conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The concerto is twice the length of the tone poem, opening with a lyrical introductory section which has been jettisoned in the later work. To me, the piece is more impressionistic and less diffuse in its new form, and it certainly packs more of a punch. Once again, percussion plays a dominant role, especially in Keith Johnson’s vivid, spacious recording.

As you would expect from a Serebrier recording the sound is stunning, and performances could scarcely be bettered. At the price, this reissue is well worth investigating, as is Naxos’s own recording of Serebrier’s Third Symphony (8.559183).



Tom Godell
Fanfare, October 2007

“Clearly inspired by the presence of the composer on the podium, the LPO plays as if possessed, and the recorded sound is of demonstration quality”.

Like it or not, we tend to put our fellow human beings into carefully selected pigeon holes. This is especially true when it comes to musicians. Thus, when a famous composer turns to conducting, we find it difficult to take him or her seriously in their new role. And when a conductor dares to compose, the situation is even worse. When was the last time you listened to a Dorati Symphony or a Paray Mass? How many recordings of music by Klemperer, Szell, or Weingartner do you have in your collection? Even Leonard Bernstein could not overcome this prejudice during his lifetime. Only now, more than 15 years after his death, are his concert works beginning to get the attention they so richly deserve. Like Bernstein, José Serebrier began composing several years before he started to conduct. Also like his great predecessor he has, from time to time, taken advantage of his position on the podium to champion his own orchestral music. In the late 1990s Serebrier made two recordings of his orchestral music for Reference Recordings. Both have recently been reissued at a bargain price on Naxos.

One consistent criticism of composing conductors is that they simply can’t get the music of other composers out of their heads when they write their own music. Thus, Furtwängler’s symphonies often seem like (slightly) updated Bruckner, Dorati’s Symphony owes a tremendous debt to Bartók, and Bernstein sounds like whoever he was conducting shortly before he wrote the piece in question. In the first movement of Serebrier’s Symphony No. 2, I detect hints of West Side Story, some of the Latin dance music of Copland, and even influences of Stravinsky and Mahler. Yet with its spirited syncopations and sparkling colors, this music has a most definite personality all its own, which is even more remarkable given that the composer was 19 years old at the time. The second movement is a disturbing, horrific funeral march that’s punctuated by thunderous outbursts from the percussion beginning at around 2:20. A brief third movement, “Interlude,” serves as an effective transition to the jazzy, fugal finale that returns us to the more “popular” style of the Symphony’s opening movement. Say what you will about composing conductors, at the very least they know how to orchestrate effectively and brilliantly. This colorful symphony is no exception to that rule. It’s a “classic”.

According to the composer’s booklet essay, he considers his Fantasia to be “a kind of homage” to Walt Disney’s beloved film. Be that as it may, the music has none of the movie’s light-heartedness or sense of humor. A few years before this score appeared, Serebrier composed Elegy for Strings. That title would also suit this somber, yet often restless and unsettled music. Here again the scoring is wonderfully rich and sonorous.

Serebrier’s thorny, uncompromising solo-violin Sonata was written when he was just nine years old and had taken only a few violin lessons. Although it is not the most profound work in this genre, you’d never guess the composer’s age from hearing this music. Indeed, it sounds like the sort of thing the middle-aged Bartók might have written. Violinist Gonzalo Acosta gives a strong, thoroughly committed account of this complex and obviously difficult work.

Serebrier’s brief, seven-minute Winterreise was composed in 1999 specifically for this recording. It’s a wild, nightmarish train ride through a wintry landscape that’s populated by post-modernist quotations from Haydn, Glazunov, and Tchaikovsky. As you might expect, the scoring is once again stunning, though the frenetic music is quite strident.

Clearly inspired by the presence of the composer on the podium, the LPO plays as if possessed, and the recorded sound is of demonstration quality. Just listen to the entry of the percussion near the beginning of the Symphony’s second movement, and you’ll see what I mean. I haven’t heard the original Reference CD release, though it was reviewed in these pages by Bernard Jacobson, and he also noted that the sound was exceptional. According to ArchivMusic.com, the Reference disc is still available, though at one-third the price, this Naxos release is certainly the most economical choice.




Christopher Lathan
Limelight Magazine, October 2007

Jose Serebrier…likely will be seen in time as one of the great South American composers to succeed Villa-Lobos, Revueltas and Ginastera. The major work on this disc, his Symphony no. 2, dates from 1958, but sounds far more recent. There is a massive sense of power in the climactic sections, especially in the brass and percussive writing which is stupendously loud at times. Just when you think you have the piece pigeon-holed, it evolves into something else, and the Funeral March music is especially beautiful. It has large sections where its Latin roots show through and ends with a large-scale conga. Of the other works on the CD, the Winterreisse is the other stunner, being a dazzling re-orchestration of a violin concerto, originally the Winter portion of a Four Seasons project…This Cd really surprised me. I still can’t think of another composer he reminds me of, which surely must be a good sign, and the performances sound amazing. If you want to give your speakers a serious workout, then check this disc out—it will certainly pin your ears back. I suspect we might be hearing more about “Serebrier the composer” soon in this country.



Jay Batzner
CD Review, June 2007

Symphony No. 2 (Partita), Fantasia for strings, Sonata for Violin Solo, Winterreise, José Serebrier, conductor (of course!).

This disc presents a number of significant early compositions from Maestro Serebrier’s output as well as a newer work (Winterreise dates from 1999). With these recordings, Mr. Serebrier demonstrates a wonderful sense of passion and intensity in his composing as well as in his conducting.

The flagship of this recording is his Symphony No. 2 (Partita) dating from 1958. This four movement work has all of the brash, brazen, and forceful energy that one wants from a 19 year old composer. The opening movement, “Prelude,” is graceful, sultry, explosive, and a general dynamo. The “Funeral March” second movement is powerful, dark, and somber. The brief “Interlude” is quirky, thin, and captivating. The final movement, “Fugue,” is grumbling, raucous, yet still fleeting and graceful. There are Latin American elements in the first and last movements and these elements fade in and out with skill. At times, Mr. Serebrier sounds like he could become another Schnittke.

The Fantasia for strings, from 1960, is an elegant single movement with a very free sense of form (as one might expect). The somber opening in the low strings doesn’t seem to relate to the frenetic repeated chords and the end, but there in lies the work’s charm. The journey from beginning to end makes all stops along the way seem completely plausible.

I’ll be honest. I almost became physically ill after listening to the Sonata for Solo Violin. The music is gorgeous, lyrical, well constructed, and Mr. Serebrier was NINE YEARS OLD when he wrote it. I know what kind of music I was writing when I was nine, and it sure as hell didn’t sound like this. There is a profound sense of sadness and an intuitive sense of drama and melody in this movement. Mr. Serebrier has taken the following years to build upon this auspicious opus.

Winterreise is the most recent work, dating from 1999. The piece is a reference to the Schubert (how could it NOT be) and does use quite a few “winter” quotations, although none of Schubert’s. The quotes are well integrated and appear as logical musical events within Mr. Serebrier’s original music.

This disc is a great success on all levels. The London Philharmonic Orchestra sounds wonderful, Gonzalo Acosta’s interpretation of the Sonata is passionate and convincing. These early compositions of José Serebrier inspire me to seek out his more recent output. I only wish that I heard these pieces sooner!



David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2007

My review when this disc was issued a few years back on the Reference Recordings label divided its enthusiasm between the conductor and the composer. Born in Uruguay in 1938, Jose Serebrier made his conducting debut at the age of eleven, but continuing his studies in the States with Aaron Copland he seemed destined to be a composer. Yet it was in a dual role of conductor and composer that he was appointed to the Minneapolis Symphony, and while there wrote the lengthy Partita later renamed as the Second Symphony. He was just 19 at the time, the score premiered by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington with the composer in his U.S. conducting debut. Turn to track 2—the Funeral March—to sample the power the work generates. Mainstream modern though strictly tonal, it demonstrates that mileage still remains in a conventional orchestra, the score highly engaging and readily accessible. Today Serebrier is one of the busiest conductors on the international circuit, here directing the LPO is brilliantly coloured performances. Two years later, in 1960, came the sombre Fantasia for strings, but we return to his tenth year for the Violin Solo Sonata, a piece written with complete innocence yet making tremendous demands on the soloist. Completed in 1999 Winterreise is the most recent work on the disc, and is full of winter quotes from other composers, the work closely related to the nature of life in its final phase. Superb sound quality.






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5:35:13 PM, 28 August 2014
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