ALBERTO WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 7, in D, Op. 103 (Eterno Reposo"); Poema del Iguazú, Op. 115
Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria/Adrian Leaper, cond.
Arte Nova 43329 (B) (DDD) TT: 74:08

Alberto Williams was born in 1862, lived 90 years, and is revered as "the father of Argentine music." Say it isn't so! Curiosity plus a dollar-off sale prompted purchase of these first modern, international recordings—of music from his last, putatively "modern" period. I can't decide which piece is worse. Each is like being force-fed a pound of Jujubes. As Villa-Lobos would do later on, Williams studied in Paris where teachers included César Franck. But no one succeeded in imparting even the basics of orchestration, much less taste, assuming these catch-all pieces are characteristic. They vacillate between programmatic Kitsch and postcard Kitsch, with everything in both—eight movements altogether—subtitled.

The Eternal Rest symphony—Williams wrote nine—has a scherzo called "The play, or playing, of crotales," which are tiny cymbals (I'm guessing, since my Spanish/English dictionary has no listing of "tocadoras," feminine -- only "tocador," masculine, which can mean anything from boudoir table to toiletries). It follows movements entitled "The Pyramid" and "Dancers of Amon." Iguazú is a Brazilian waterfall on the Paraná River which empties into the Rio de la Plata northwest of Buenos Aires. Willliams included the dialog of the cataracts, lumar illumination of the cascades, a "barcarole of Igauzú," and finally the Devil's Gorge. I'd like to see these phenomena on film, but not with Williams' music. Ralph Vaughan Williams was an expert cinema composer, and who can forget John, but Alberto couldn't have cut it anywhere cosmopolitan, much less in London or Hollywood. Nice that he established Argentina's first Conservatory, but I've yet to hear music by any composer he influenced, grácias a Dio. Performances are slipshod, perhaps sightread, disspiritedly conducted. Can this be the same Adrian leaper and Las Palmas Philharmonic who've been making budget-priced history in Mahler? Say again it isn't so!

R.D. (Nov. 1999)