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ClassicsOnline Home » SIERRA, R.: Sinfonía No. 4 / Fandangos / Carnaval (Nashville Symphony, Guerrero)
Over the last decade the music of the Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra has become internationally admired, and this has led to prestigious commissions and performances around the world. Fandangos was heard at the BBC Proms in London and employs a harpsichord work attributed to Antonio Soler as a departure for a richly inventive orchestral fantasy. The dramatic Sinfonía No 4 was described by ArtsNowNashville as ‘a textbook example of how this composer breathes new life into old forms. The piece is basically a classic Germanic symphony imbued with Spanish sensibilities and reinvigorated with new harmonies and rhythms.’ Robert Schumann is subtly evoked in Carnaval, five character pieces that explore mythical creatures, both menacing and serene.
Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra writes in an original post-romantic style that reminds me of Villa-Lobos and Chavez -- but only a little. "Fandangos" which opens the album may be inspired by the music of Spain, but it's no pastiche. Sierra incorporates characteristic melodic turns into his music, giving it spice. The feel of the dance is there, making this a rousing curtain-raiser.
The Sinfonia No. 4 also has some Spanish elements in it. the third movement "Tiempo de Bolero" for example, emulates the rhythms of that dance. And the final movement uses gestures from Latino dance orchestra -- the piano playing rhythmic punctuations in octaves, and extensive use of Latin percussion, such as bongos, congas, and claves.
"Carnaval" is a set of five characteristic pieces, each one representing a fantastical monster. Each movement is a brilliant miniature, painting a vivid portrait of its subject through Sierra's skillful orchestrations.more....
Roberto Sierra (b. 1953)
Sinfonía No 4 • Fandangos • Carnaval
There are two prevailing theories about the origins of the fandango: one places it in the Iberian Peninsula, while the other points out to the New World (the West Indies and Nueva España—modern México). Although during the 18th century the dance was considered to be too sensual, the fandango became very popular and many composers integrated it in their works. A harpsichord work attributed to Antonio Soler (1729–83) was my point of departure. Soler’s Fandango seems fractured, almost like a written improvisation, an important element that provided me the base for writing this orchestral fantasy, where I also incorporated elements from Luigi Boccherini’s (1743–1805) and Domenico Scarlatti’s (1685–1757) respective fandangos, as well as my own Baroque musings.
A basic D minor chord progression can be heard through different transformations, from beginning to end, over a web of elaborated orchestration and highly virtuosic instrumental writing that brings the music of the 18th and the 21st centuries together. These transformations, which are always based on material heard before, amplify small motifs and elaborate the musical fabric by varied repetition or dense superimpositions of melodic and rhythmic layers.
Sinfonía No 4 (2008–09)
This is the fourth work in a series of compositions that demonstrate my relationship to the great symphonic tradition, one that I change and transform from within its own formal logic. In the first movement (Moderadamente rápido) the idea of a development section is turned into structural accumulation and saturation of layers of sound, and the binary nature of competing thematic groups does not apply; instead, thematic material is developed as soon as it is presented. Non-lineal thinking permeates the work, and, although themes or motives may recur, the need for a recapitulation does not form part of the ethos of the work.
The second movement (Rápido) enters with material that has already been heard at the fringes of the first movement. The concept of memory has become an important aspect of my recent work. In this scherzo a Proustian involuntary reflex of memory generates the musical structure: a lost fragment from the first movement engenders the structure, bringing forth an already heard, albeit “forgotten,” melodic fragment that now becomes a central element to the work.
The structure of the bolero—a topos of my recent work—that follows is oneiric; the movement (Tiempo de bolero) is structured in the manner in which I sometimes dream: recurrent images are never the same, retaining a sense of familiarity while being strangely foreign.
The bolero and the preceding scherzo are structurally related: they contain fast music within the slow music and vice versa. Clave rhythms bring the symphony to an exhilarating ending (Muy rápido y rítmico). This is a clave that permeates and cannibalizes the structure; my version of musical anthropophagy, where a structure devours another structure creating a form of expression that is loose but at the same time highly concentrated. This method allows me to reshape external influences, while freeing them from anything that might restrain its own vitality. At the end the process becomes one not of transformation but of transcreation; a term which describes the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and content.
The five movements of Carnaval draw their inspiration from mythical creatures. Gargoyles depict those strange stone figures that are perched atop many ancient buildings. Their odd, fascinating and grotesque appearance translates into evanescent musical gestures—sometimes menacing, sometimes mysterious. Sphinxes is built on a passacaglia bass derived from Schumann’s enigmatic sphinx motifs, that, although inscribed in the score of Carnaval, was not intended for performance. The passacaglia builds up to a climax, at which point my answer to the Sphinx’s riddle is heard: it is Schumann’s Papillons (Butterflies) which makes a brief appearance ending in a cry of despair. Unicorns is a meditation on the serenity and majestic beauty of the mythical creature, as depicted in The Lady and the Unicorn medieval tapestries. In Dragons the music breathes fire, and out of the ashes The Phoenix emerges in a glorious Latin dance. This orchestral suite is linked to Robert Schumann (1810–56) not only by the quotes in Sphinxes, but also by the character piece nature of the movements.
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