Hyperion Records

Symphony in D minor
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In October 1821 Arriaga, with the support of Bilbao worthies who had recognized boundless promise in Los esclavos felices, moved to Paris to study at the Conservatoire under Pierre Baillot (violin) and François-Joseph Fétis (harmony and counterpoint). It was Fétis, the famous Belgian scholar and composer, who recorded what little we know of Arriaga’s sojourn in Paris: that he shone in all his musical studies and activities, was possessed by an irrepressible urge to compose, and was deeply mourned by all at the news of his tragically early death. Arriaga’s only work to be printed in his lifetime was a set of three string quartets which show Schubertian influence in their tonal ambiguity. They were published in Paris in 1824. The Symphony of the same year or a little later is usually given as ‘in D major’, but its main argument, in the outer movements at least, is in the tonic minor. Its mood is of a latter-day Sturm und Drang Symphony rather than one of outspoken tragedy and defiance such as is heard in Beethoven.

By opening with an Adagio, Arriaga follows classical models. It is a well-constructed section designed, with its crescendi and mystery, to create expectancy. The Allegro vivace enters impulsively, as if heaving impatiently into existence. Taking the first subject as its lead, the second is more conciliatory, though still disturbed. Disquiet also possesses the development but it holds its fire until the outbreak which ushers in the recapitulation. The overall mood is one of anger, almost despair, but never resignation. There is a furious Presto coda. In the A major Andante there is great beauty in the two well-defined themes; Arriaga displays an individual approach to melodic intervals and a good understanding of woodwind effects. Perhaps the least original part of the work is the Minuet in D major, in which a limping rhythm alternates with a more conventional metre. A flute leads the charmingly simple Trio. Returning to the minor, the agitated violin theme of the finale is emphasized by offbeat woodwind punctuation, and while the second subject is more reassuring it barely establishes itself before being thrust aside by the serious matters that have preoccupied the bulk of the Symphony.

from notes by Robert Dearling © 1995

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