José Serebrier leads the National Youth Orchestra of Spain in performances of Mussorgsky/Stokowski, Serebrier, Wagner and Bizet

Filmed in Chester Cathedral during the extremely successful National Youth Orchestra of Spain’s 2007 European tour, this new DVD from Naxos features Grammy®-winning composer and conductor José Serebrier leading the National Youth Orchestra of Spain (JONDE) in Leopold Stokowski’s orchestral transcriptions of Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bare Mountain and Pictures at an Exhibition; Serebrier’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Symphonie Mystique’ (featuring soprano Carole Farley); the Prelude from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; and Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2: Farandole.Leopold Stokowski was unsatisfied with Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1886 “more westernized” version of Mussorgky’s A Night on Bare Mountain. In his symphonic transcription, he returned the work to its original “wilder and bolder version”, closer to the Mussorgsky style of orchestration. In content and form, Stokowski’s transcription remains true to Rimsky-Korsakov’s version, but according to conductor-composer José Serebrier (Stokowski’s protégé), this version also remains “faithful to the original Mussorgsky score in the use of orchestra.” (Stokowski’s version of this work appears in Disney’s famous 1940 film Fantasia).

Pictures at an Exhibition had already been orchestrated several times by the time Serge Koussevitzky commissioned Maurice Ravel’s version in 1922. Stokowski loved the Ravel version, but he also felt its orchestration was not sufficiently Russian in sound and was “too subtle to do justice to Mussorgsky’s coarser idiom.” Stokowski’s version is, in fact, shorter than Ravel’s because he decided to omit two “pictures” -Tuileries and The Market-place at Limoges- possibly because he found them too French in character, or because he thought they were composed by Rimsky-Korsakov (who had revised the original piano score). Stokowski’s version of Pictures at an Exhibition was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra with Stokowski conducting on November 17, 1939.

José Serebrier composed ‘Symphonie Mystique’ in only one week, commenting that it was “as if I was just transcribing something that had always been in my memory.” Differing from his first two symphonies in every way but the traditional four-movement format, the Third Symphony is described by Serebrier as “rhapsodic,” “obsessive,” “dark,” “haunting,” “anxious,” and “morbid.” This performance features soprano Carole Farley, who also is soloist for the Naxos recording (8559183), which earned a Grammy® nomination for Best New Composition in 2004.

Composed originally by Georges Bizet in 1872 as incidental music for a play of the same name by Alphonse Daudet, L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2 was arranged and published in 1879 by Ernest Guiraud. Two orchestral suites were inspired by the incidental music from L’Arlésienne, the first arranged by Bizet himself and the second by Guiraud, who added a chorus to the full orchestra. Although Suite No. 2 was published four years after his death, both Suites are credited to Bizet, since he wrote the themes and basic orchestrations.

Also featured is Wagner’s grand Prelude from his opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The 10-minute Prelude contains all of the leitmotifs from the opera. The majestic, yet sometimes frolicking piece is played masterfully by JONDE.

José Serebrier is one of the most recorded classical artists today, with 36 GRAMMY nominations, a Grand Prix du Disque, and many other international awards as both conductor and composer. After winning the Ford Foundation Conductor’s Award (together with James Levine), Serebrier was invited by George Szell as Composer-in-Residence of the Cleveland Orchestra for several seasons. Before that appointment, Serebrier was Stokowski’s Associate Conductor at Carnegie Hall’s American Symphony, a post he held for five years before joining Szell in Cleveland. He organized and directed Festival Miami for five years, commissioning Elliot Carter’s 4th String Quartet among others. When Serebrier was 20, Stokowski wrote “he is the greatest master of orchestral balance”. Serebrier records with the world’s major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and many others. He has toured with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Juilliard Orchestra,Toulouse and Scottish Chamber orchestras, and many others.

The National Youth Orchestra of Spain (JONDE) was founded by the Spain’s Ministry of Culture in 1983 to assist young musicians between the ages of 18-24 before they embark on professional careers. The orchestra meets four to five times a year for a few weeks at a time to perform chamber and orchestral works from the contemporary and traditional repertoire. The musicians convene individually with international professionals for a few days and gather for sectionals and rehearsals, followed by public performances and, usually, a tour. Auditions are held every year, drawing a pool of over 800 applicants. The 2007 tour conducted by José Serebrier took the orchestra to sold-out concerts in Spain, and included festival concerts in Berlin and several cities in England and Scotland.