CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
(CLOFO)
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS



16 JANUARY 2006

CROCKS NEWSLETTER

The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS," if you will. Click any album picture or title to see where we suggest getting it.



AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
Heinrich Ignaz Biber, like Hector Berlioz, had a flair for the grandiose and it certainly shows in this newly reconstructed, pageantic mass, which was probably written to be performed in Salzburg Cathedral. All the acoustic grandeur of that church is recreated here by placing two, four-part choirs, a group of strings and another of winds at the four corners of the voluminous sounding venue of Temple Church in London, where this recording was made.

The orchestra predominates, because, as was the case in Biber's day, this mass is fleshed out with other instrumental fanfares and sonatas by the composer as well as one from Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, who greatly influenced him. The vast amount of research and detective work required to revive this spectacular, baroque creation was certainly well justified!

This release is also available in conventional, CD(2) format (see below).

Speaking of sonatas, make sure you hear Andrew Manze's rendition of Biber's The Rosary Sonatas (also known as The Mystery Sonatas), which won the 2005, Gramophone Magazine (Awards, 05) award for "Best Baroque Instrumental Recording" of the year. (Y060116)

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)


AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Heinrich Ignaz Biber, like Hector Berlioz, had a flair for the grandiose and it certainly shows in this newly reconstructed, pageantic mass, which was probably written to be performed in Salzburg Cathedral. All the acoustic grandeur of that church is recreated here by placing two, four-part choirs, a group of strings and another of winds at the four corners of the voluminous sounding venue of Temple Church in London, where this recording was made.

The orchestra predominates, because, as was the case in Biber's day, this mass is fleshed out with other instrumental fanfares and sonatas by the composer as well as one from Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, who greatly influenced him. The vast amount of research and detective work required to revive this spectacular, baroque creation was certainly well justified!

This release is also available in hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.1) format (see above).

Speaking of sonatas, make sure you hear Andrew Manze's rendition of Biber's The Rosary Sonatas (also known as The Mystery Sonatas), which won the 2005, Gramophone Magazine (Awards, 05) award for "Best Baroque Instrumental Recording" of the year. (Y060115)

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)


An "Editor's Choice" in Gramophone Magazine (01/06), we have Chandos to thank for this third volume in their survey of orchestral music by the romantic, Polish composer Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909).

The disc begins with a symphonic poem entitled Returning Waves followed by a piece called A Sorrowful Tale, which the composer described as "Preludes to Eternity." These gorgeously melancholic works are reportedly the product of Karlowicz's preoccupation with suicide. The influence of Richard Strauss is certainly present and, as the Gramophone reviewer points out, one might even consider them a kind of two-part Death without Transfiguration. The spirits of Richard Wagner and Cesar Franck are very much in evidence too making this music that will have great appeal for all romantics.

The program concludes with another, symphonic poem, Episode at a Masquerade. Left unfinished when the composer died suddenly in an avalanche, the version heard here was completed by the great Polish composer/conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg. It's a very colorful piece that contrasts the gaiety of a ballroom scene with the despondency suffered by two of the dancers over their lost love for one another.

The performances and sound on this release are outstanding and make a strong case for this music. It points the way towards what would come from Karol Szymanowski, whose orchestral works should appeal to all those liking this disc. (P060114)

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)


AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
Here's a real find for those who fancy late romantic/early modern German, orchestral music. Rudi Stephan was born in 1887, but only lived to age twenty-eight when he became a First World War casualty at the Eastern Front. Upon hearing this disc you'll understand why many consider his early demise was an incredible loss for the musical world. He was very much a no-nonsense composer which is even reflected in the simplistic, almost generic, Music for... titles he gave each of the three pieces presented here. They're all scored for a huge orchestra and show the influences of Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler and even Max Reger, but without the latter's peripatetic chromaticism.

The first work, Music for Violin and Orchestra, is a one-movement rhapsody that exudes a sensuosity and exoticism that may remind many of Karol Szymanowski's two concertos for that instrument.

The second, Music for Orchestra (1910), is a world premier recording of what might be described as an abstract tone poem in that it's based on strictly musical rather than programatic ideas. It's quite a dynamic piece with quiet, mysterious sounding passages and dramatically massive ones reinforced at one point by the full organ. It certainly points the way towards what would come from Franz Schreker, Hans Pfitzner and Richard Strauss.

The final selection, Music for Orchestra (1912), is Stephan's masterpiece. Again, a kind of abstract tone poem, the writing is much more sophisticated and some may find it reminiscent of Paul Hindemith in places. There's an air of confidence and stylistic independence about it which leave the listener deeply regretting that nothing further would be forthcoming from this extremely talented young man. The circumstances of his untimely death cannot help but call to mind the name of George Butterworth, the highly promising, British composer who was also killed in the same war. So much for wars and what they reap, but at least we're left with a wonderful musical legacy as evidenced by this album.

The performances are right on the money and not so passionate that they overinflate these already emotionally luxuriant scores.

The recordings are superb and the CD and SACD tracks on this hybrid disc are all sound spectaculars making it a highly desirable release. (Y060113)

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)


Now here's a real curiosity that should have great appeal for those wanting something that may be off the beaten path, but well worth the detour.

With the rather prodigious title of Fantastic Appearances of a Theme by Hector Berlioz, the first piece on this enterprising release of music by the late romantic/early modern, German composer Walter Braunfels (1882-1954) is a symphonic fantasia based on the melody for Mephistopheles' A delightful flea song from The Damnation of Faust. While this could be classified as a theme and variations, in the grand scheme of things it comes off more like a highly imaginative, six-movement symphony. References to other composers are rife, and you'll have a ball trying to identify them all. Just to give a couple of examples, once the initial theme has been stated, the first variational section has tonsorial connotations. The second even has something in common with the film A Clockwork Orange in that both parody one of the most popular symphonies ever written. The remaining associations are left to the acute listener's discerning ear.

The program concludes with a truly lovely serenade, which will have you wondering why you haven't heard it before now. In four, highly structured movements it could really be called a symphony. It has a rather rustic beginning followed by a brief section with an almost Italianate quality that's rather reminiscent of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. Then comes a gorgeous, almost dreamlike, pastoral offering followed by an energetic, upbound conclusion, which will remind you of Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.

The performances are excellent and the sound, very good.

If you like this disc make sure you explore this composer's other instrumental and operatic works as well as the music of his fellow countryman Hans Pfitzner (1969-1949). (P060112)

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)


RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
This is another magnificent disc of discovery from the adventurous folks at Naxos, and the first of five volumes devoted to the complete works for piano and orchestra of German-born Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838). In addition to being a composer, Ries was a highly successful concert pianist who was much in demand throughout Europe. So it's not surprising he wrote eight concertos to showcase his own talent, and delayed their publication as long as possible to keep them exclusively for his personal use.

The fact he assigned them opus numbers in order of their appearance in print creates great confusion today as to their compositional chronology. However, after some extensive sleuthing it would appear the ones here were probably the first (C major, 1806) and seventh (Ab major, 1826) to be written.

Orchestrally speaking, both owe a great debt to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), which is not surprising considering Ries was closely associated and even studied with him. However, he was still his own man and the piano writing, particularly in the later one, calls to mind such composers as Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), John Field (1782-1837) and Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). It even points the way towards what would come from Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849).

Granted the gigantic shadow cast by the great Ludwig certainly eclipsed his student's considerable body of work. However, the magnificent playing of the very talented Christopher Hinterhuber, and highly accomplished accompaniment provided by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Uwe Grodd will help bring him back into the sunlight.

You'll find it some of the most engaging repertoire recently unearthed, and once you've digested everything here, do try his symphonies. That also goes for the music of his contemporaries Johann Willem Wilms (1772-1847), Georges Onslow (1784-1853), Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859) and Friedrich Ernst Fesca (1789-1826), all of whom were also overshadowed by Beethoven. (P060111)

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)


AUDIOPHILE (12 SACDs)
OK audiophiles and Dmitri Shostakovich lovers, here's one for you! If you do the math, you'll get all of his symphonies for about $8.50 each and in hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.1) format featuring some of the finest, super audio, orchestral sound yet conjured up. Those with conventional players will not be disappointed either as the CD tracks on these discs are almost just as spectacular.

That's fine you say, but what about the performances? In fact, whoever heard of the Cologne Gurzenich Orchestra? Well, once you've listened to this release you won't care what it's called, because with this repertoire and under the distinguished Russian conductor Dmitri Kitayenko, it's a class act. In fact, the critical consensus at this point in time is that this is the best of all currently available, complete sets of these symphonies; but, let's consider them on an individual basis.

Musicologists like to categorize classical music as either absolute (for the sake of itself) or programmatic (with a story to tell). That certainly applies here, but in this case programmatic must also be understood to include music for communist propaganda purposes necessitated by the repressive, Stalinist, regime that Shostakovich lived under.

Most would agree that symphonies one, four, five, six, eight, nine, ten and fifteen are pretty much absolute. On a scale of "1" (one of the worst performances currently available) to "5" (one of the best performances currently available), Kitayenko deserves a "5" for the sixth, eighth, ninth and fifteenth; a "4" for the fourth and tenth; a "3" for the first; and, a "2" for the fifth. The low score for the latter will probably be of little consequence to the majority of listeners, who undoubtedly already have the work several times over.

Symphonies thirteen and fourteen are extremely moving, apolitical-programmatic works that are more like song cycles with orchestra, and deserve a "5" and a "4" respectively. They're three-hanky pieces, particularly if you follow the poetry.

The remaining ones fall into the propaganda-programmatic category, but this is not meant in a pejorative sense, because Shostakovich could turn something as innocuous as Tea for Two into a memorable, symphonic experience - and did (see his Tahiti Trot)!

Kitayenko makes one of the best cases for the generally eschewed second and third symphonies, and easily rates a "5" for each.

The twelfth also deserves a "5"; the seventh, a "4"; and the eleventh, a "3."

All of this averages out to a score of "4.3," which is pretty amazing when you consider that only one conductor and orchestra are represented. Also, remember, the recorded sound is uniformly some of the best you could ever hope for.

Even those who got the recent set of these with Rudolph Barshai on the podium might want to consider getting this, because it represents a very well-informed, second opinion (and a much better sounding one at that) as to what one of the greatest symphonists of all time intended. (Y060110)

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)


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