Luis de los Cobos: The Symphonic Works


The cover of this Verso CD reads: Luis de los Cobos, complete orchestral works. Normally, you would expect a CD labeled this way to include a composer's works for solo instruments with orchestra and perhaps even scores for chamber orchestra, but de los Cobos' compositions in these forms are not included here. In addition, de los Cobos completed Symphony No. 2 "El pinar perdido" shortly before his death in 2012, presumably after this recording was produced since it too is not here. What we do have are three works on the sixty-five minute program, Symphony No. 1 "Cursus Vitae", Agonía recurrente and Jungla, Op. 11 for string orchestra, all impressively performed by the Castile-Leon Symphony Orchestra under the direction of José Luis Temes.

Luis de los Cobos (1927-2012) is often characterized in the context of music history as a missing link between the romantic nationalism of early 20th century Spanish music and the avant-garde modernism of the ensuing generation. He and his contemporaneous compatriots Xavier Montsalvatge and Manuel Castillo were strongly influenced by the aesthetic currents embodied in the music of Shostakovich and Bartók, but in no way is de los Cobos' music a hackneyed parody of theirs. There is impressive originality here, and considering all the music was written in an eleven-year span between 1956 and 1967, a considerable evolution to his expressive voice as well.

The opening work is de los Cobos' Sinfonia "Cursus Vitae", Op. 8 (the subtitle loosely translates to "The Path of Life"). The symphony was completed in 1956 when de los Cobos was still in his 20's and was premiered some four decades later in the city of the composer's birth and by the same orchestra heard on this recording. This early, nearly forty-minute piece is the most romantic sounding on the CD; you can listen to the third movement Allegrtto Tranquilo in the sidebar video sample. Written a decade later, the ensuing two works show de los Cobos' tonal language has been extended, sounding much more modern. In the video below, you can hear an excerpt from an even later work, his Concierto de los cercos for violin and orchestra of 1995.

While de los Cobos' music may not be the great and overlooked discovery of the 20th century, it is certainly powerful and interesting music that deserves to be heard. It also sparks an interest in hearing more from him, especially the six string quartets, which lay at the core of his creative production.