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David Hurwitz, March 2013

This is a lively and captivating disc of music that’s very much of its time and place (1870s), but in a good way. The Fantasía morisca has four colorfully orchestrated movements…You’re going to love it, and the music is all the more remarkable…

The performances under José Ramón Encinar are completely convincing. Particularly admirable is the energy infused into the outer movements of the symphony, a work that I could easily imagine sounding a touch fusty. Very good sonics make this release a treat for anyone who loves the picturesque back alleys of the romantic period. © 2013 Read complete review

Andrew Lamb
Gramophone, August 2009

A bargain for admirers of Chapi’s colourful and tuneful music

Though remembered predominantly for his theatrical works, Ruperto Chapi was honoured a few years ago with the publication of a critical edition of his only symphony—the result of mature study in Rome and Paris and begun in the latter city in 1877. Personal characteristics are integrated into a work that is thoroughly in the classical symphonic tradition that Chapi had absorbed in his studies. It’s well worth hearing, with a brooding opening that soon gives way to some striking writing for brass and is followed by an extended, varied and especially beautiful Andante, a sparkling Scherzo and an imposingly scored finale…this Naxos recording is a clear first in desirability…Encinar and his Madrid forces are completely assured…The Fantasia morisca is the composer’s most widely known orchestral work—a colourful, picturesque and tuneful four-movement suite written originally for military band and an important representative of the so-called Alhambrismo school.

Altogether this is another desirable Naxos bargain.

Phillip Scott
Fanfare, May 2009

These are two early works. Both premiered in 1879, although the four-movement Fantasia morisca was an orchestral reworking of a suite for military band of six years earlier.

At this time of his life, Chapí was studying in Paris and becoming familiar with the music of Bizet, Saint-Saëns, and Massenet. That influence is clear in the Fantasia morisca (or Moorish Phantasy), which resembles one of Massenet’s picturesque suites and contains felicitous orchestral touches reminiscent of the instrumental sections of Bizet’s Carmen. The Moorish flavor is very slight, mostly confined to the first movement (“A Granada”), which could easily be mistaken for an opera overture. The third movement, “Serenata,” is a delightfully balletic piece, but the finale suffers from too overblown a conclusion.

Chapí’s Symphony is a longer affair, lasting just under 35 minutes. Here the primary model is Mendelssohn, although the scherzo movement could not have been written without the example of Beethoven’s Seventh. The first two movements outstay their welcome, yet it is an enjoyable work overall, with many delicate touches in the orchestral texture. Once again, the ending is heavy handed; I would have been happy with eight or so fewer reiterations of the tonic chord to close.

Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, March 2009

Chapi wrote Fantasia Morisca (Moorish Fantasy, originally La Corte de Granada: Fantasia Morisca) for an 1873 competition sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of the Arts. The orchestra version appeared in 1879 just before his return to Madrid. It starts with the light woodwind touch of a Tchaikovsky ballet, but before long it seems Italian enough to sound like something from the pit of a bel canto opera. Nor does it escape the world of band music where it was born. The second half of I, a marcha al torneo (march to the tournament), sounds more Spanish, but for a street march it is restrained and noble. II begins with woodwind fanfares followed by a choral-type response. This leads to a quasi-Italian arioso, though clever ideas like a flute cadenza add a touch of the improvisatory. III combines one theme in the minor that sounds like a scene from Verdi’s Rigoletto with one in the major triggered by a brass choral to produce something like a Spanish dance. The finale develops the woodwind fanfares from II and brings back the march from I.

The Symphony in D minor (1877, revised later) is a very different and more mature piece, though it is a student work. The Italian influence has not disappeared but is in large measure replaced by German romanticism. The symphony’s long slow introduction offers a good imitation of Beethoven by building tension through subtle, sustained dissonance. The Allegro that breaks out takes us to Schumann’s Manfred Overture before exploring territory between Beethoven and Schumann without settling on either or synthesizing anything new. Andante con Moto Espressivo presents a beautiful opening melody that sounds like Italian Beethoven, a noble, strutting march in the brass, and a well-developed, rolling Italian tune. The accompaniment that runs alongside is sometimes Italianate and catchy and sometimes flowing counterpoint. After Chapi broadens the brass march to create a climax, a sweet-natured coda closes a beautifully developed movement. The Presto alternates a lively tune based on triplets with lyrical trio sections. The good-natured ‘Final’ carries over the skittery character of the Presto in its Rossini-ish main theme, though it looks to early Beethoven for its harmony, rhythmic character, and the emphatic ending. The Symphony in D minor is good-natured, restrained, yet energetic and quite inventive. Too bad it’s Chapi’s only work in the form. The performances are among the best in the Naxos Spanish series.

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, January 2009

Before I heard this disc I had thought of Chapí only as one of the best composers of zarzuelas. Indeed that is how he was best known in his lifetime although he also had some prominence as a fighter for improved performing rights for composers.  Naxos have two short excerpts from his zarzuelas on 8.555957—the Prelude to “El tamor de granaderos” and the chorus of doctors from “El rey que rabió”.  They are the highlights of that disc and whet the appetite for more by this composer.  He did indeed also write several operas, some chamber music and a small amount of orchestral music. 

The Symphony is the longer work here, and is full of delights even if perhaps somewhat overlong for the material.  The first movement, with its slow introduction, and the third movement scherzo are the most indebted to classical models of the first part of the nineteenth century.  The lengthy slow second movement and the more boisterous finale are still very much influenced in the same way but are as much character pieces as symphonic movements.  As a whole however this is an enjoyable work and well worth hearing. 

The same applies even more strongly to the Fantasía morisca which was originally conceived for military band—at the time he was director of the artillery regimental band in Madrid.  Its four movements are picturesque and imaginative.  Whilst it has a character similar to the Spanish-inspired works of, say, Bizet, Massenet and Chabrier, the Spanish-sounding melodies and textures here are presumably closer to the real thing than the former.  It is clearly a lighter work than the Symphony, but if the latter is worth hearing once in a while, the Fantasia surely deserves a permanent place in the normal orchestral repertoire alongside the Spanish-inspired French Suites of the same period. 

The performances sound idiomatic—I have not been able to obtain scores—and the recording is clear if somewhat dry and unatmospheric.  I understand that Chapí wrote other orchestral music, including a much later tone poem “Los gnomos de la Alhambra” (The gnomes of the Alhambra), described by Christopher Webber in his book on zarzuelaas “strikingly adventurous”.  It is a pity that it is not included here, but perhaps it might form the basis for a second disc of Chapí’s music.  In the meantime, here is a very enjoyable but inexpensive disc of two very worthwhile pieces by a composer who clearly ought to be better known beyond his own country.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2008

Spanish by birth in 1851, Ruperto Chapi spent time in Paris as a student, and there fell under the influence of Saint-Saens and Massenet, these two early works following in their direct lineage. The earliest, Fantasia morisca, was written for military band while he was twenty-two and had recently become director of an artillery regimental band. Evolving over the years it reached its present format six years later as an orchestral score. Lightweight in content, it is simply intended to please, its four sections—opening in Granada—being set out as a mini-symphony that contains a slow meditation, scherzo and boisterous finale. The Symphony comes from his twenty-sixth year. It was begun in Paris, completed in Rome, and was his obligated offering as a third year student at the Spanish Academy of Fine Arts. Having passed through two typically French movements, Chapi probably thought it advisable to introduce a Spanish element in a third movement presto. Sadly his thematic material was so lightweight that it proves the work’s only drawback. Not wishing to overstate the its value—it is here receiving it premiere recording—there is much that will please, the outer movements skilfully orchestrated. I don’t know whether he really intended the dash to the finishing post that we hear in this performance from the conductor, Jose Ramon Encinar, but it detracts and one could imagine a stately crescendo being more in character. The Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid play with that total conviction all little known works depend upon, and the recording is natural and well-balanced.

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