Fans of the angular and anguished modernist music of Catalonian composer Roberto Gerhard looking for more of the same need look no further than Joaquim Homs. Born in Barcelona in 1906 and a student of Gerhard in the '30s, Homs like his teacher wrote in the excruciatingly expressionist style of Gerhard's master, Arnold Schoenberg. This 2006 disc performed by the Orquestra Sinfonica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya under the direction of Juan José Olives presents the world-premiere recordings of four mature orchestral works by Homs. The earliest and perhaps the most immediately appealing work here is the Variations on a Catalan folk theme from 1943 -- 12 plus 3 variations that treat the melancholy folk tune to all manner of permutations. Perhaps the most persuasive piece is the seven-movement orchestral suite Preséncies from 1967 that compulsively dwells on the morbid subject of mortality. Perhaps the most evocative pieces are the Two Soliloquies from 1973 for orchestra. And perhaps the most introverted piece is Biofonia from 1982; a work commissioned by the city of Barcelona for the composer's 75th birthday, it's full of reflections and self-quotations from his earlier works. Though clearly not a world-class ensemble, the Barcelona orchestra does its best with Homs' knotty and gnarly writing, and Olives, a dedicated professional, does his best with Homs' angst-ridden music. How well they succeed depends on the listeners' enjoyment of -- or tolerance for -- expressionism. Columna Musica's digital sound is close, hard, big, and cranky.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Presències, orchestral suite (arr. from piano version)|
|Soliloquies (2), for orchestra (transcribed from piano version)|
|Variations on a Popular Catalan theme, for chamber orchestra (arr. from piano version)|