Spain to Singapore - Philharmonic Winds play Alarcon

Philharmonic Winds

One of my favorite young composers in Europe today is Luis Serrano Alarcon, whom I recommended to the Philharmonic Winds in Singapore. The result was the following hugely successful programme, with international cello soloist Qin Li-Wei, with whom I shall perform the Gulda cello concerto next April. Alarcon's programme and the review from the Straits Times is below:

Spanish Fantasia

Philharmonic Winds

Luis Serrano Alarcon - Conductor
Qin Li-Wei - Cello
Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore
6th September 2010

  • Pequena Suite para BandaLuis Serrano Alarcon
  • Tramonto - Solo cello Qin Li-WeiLuis Serrano Alarcon
  • De Tiempo y QuimeraLuis Serrano Alarcon
  • intermission
  • Memorias de un Hombre de CiudadLuis Serrano Alarcon
  • El Torico de la Cuerda Luis Serrano Alarcon
  • La Boda de Luis AlonsoGimenez, arr San Miguel


Chang Tou Piang

Concerts by the Philharmonic Winds are always well subscribed, regardless of the programme or composers presented. Thus it was no surprise that a concert by the young Spanish composer-conductor Luis Serrano Alarcoin proved popular. His Concertango had been very well received at a previous concert.

The key to his appeal is in his ability to orchestrate a sound that is commercial but not low-brow, one exploiting colours and emotions to excellent effect. His Pequena Suite (Little Suite) was ample proof. By accentuating the brilliant and parodying the grotesque, its four movements evocatively conjured fantasy scenarios and went down easily like a Disney film score.

His Tramonto (Sunset) for solo cello and and winds breathed like a concerto slow movement. Its epic and tragic quality unfolding like something cellist Yo-Yo Ma might play in the movies.

In this case, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory cello professor qin Li-Wei coaxed a full-throated plaint from this tear-jerker and there was never any fear that he would be drowned out. His scintillating encore, Alone, by Italian Giovanni Sollima, completed a virtuoso trip.

Alarcon also displayed more serious sides to his work. A metronome and massed voices from the band opened De Tiempo y Quiero (Time and Illusion), the most abstract work on show, which showed fine solos from the flute and vibraphone.

The seven continuous movements of Memorias de un Hombre de Ciudad (Memories of a City Man) were more down to earth, a brutal portrayal of city life as some jungle or war zone. Its mind-numbing ostinatos, a "toccata of toil", brought to mind some of the best pages from Stravinsky and Revueltas. As a contrast, the sultry saxophone provided an illusory relief of high hopes and aspirations.

Spanish folk-music closed the evening, with band treatments by Alarcon and Geronimo Gimenez of the paso-doble, (a march-like dance in double step) and zarzuela (light musical theatre) respectively. There were no voices in the latter, but a range of popular melodies, from the Malaguena to the Jota Aragonesa.

With hand clapping and foot stamping stuff right to the end, it was difficult to distinguish who had a better time; the wind players or the audience.