In the liner notes Spanish composer Alfonso Romero Asenjo is described as “trans-avant-garde.” I think that’s a fair description. The music in this release struck me as a unique blend of pre- and post-atonal elements.

The most recent work on the album, the String Symphony, is only six years old. Asenjo’s compositional materials are deceptively simple. The strings move in blocks, section against section. I didn’t hear a lot of divisi or blending of say, cellos, and violins.

Most of the music has a strong rhythmic pulse that’s almost elemental at times. In some ways, it reminded me of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, Op. 110a in texture.

The Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra was written in 1996. In this work, Asenjo seems to lean more towards the pre- rather than post-atonal. The music is full of wide leaps and tight chromatic turns, suggestive of twelve-tone music. And yet there seems to be some underlying tonal organization. Soloist Iagoba Fanlo delivers an effective performance. His cello seems to almost weep at times, especially in the slow passages.

According to Asenjo, his 1989 Concerto for Two Violins and String Orchestra was inspired by Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins. It’s easy to hear the influence. Asenjo’s strong rhythms take on a Baroque-like metronome quality. The music blossoms into complex counterpoint. And there’s a large section of Bach quoted in the final movement. But this isn’t a pastiche. Asenjo’s work uses the elements of the past to make something new and vital.

All of the works receive their world recording premieres with this release. In the 21st Century, classical music is moving in many directions simultaneously. I’d like to further explore the path Asenjo’s created.

Alfonso Romero Asenjo: Cello Concerto; Concerto for Two Violins; String Symphony
Iagoba Fanlo, cello; Sergey Teslya, violin
Camerata Orchestra; Joaquin Torre, violin, leader and conductor
World Premiere Recordings