CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
10 MAY 2011
The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the Web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.
D'Indy, V.: Orch Wks V4 (Sym 1 "Sym italienne", Poème des rivages); Gamba/Ice SO [Chandos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Chandos' survey of French composer Vincent d'Indy's (1851-1931) orchestral music (see the newsletter of 25 April 2010) continues here with this fourth volume featuring a pair of works composed at the beginning and towards the end of his career. Completed in 1872 before he began his studies with César Franck (1822-1890), the Symphonie italienne (1870-72), which was the first of three he'd write, is a youthful piece with ties to Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and Liszt (1811-1886). The Poème des rivages of 1919-21 is a late romantic masterpiece with all the structural and harmonic refinements he'd learned from Franck plus flecks of Debussy (1862-1918).
The CD begins with the later work, which is a brilliantly scored symphonic suite for a large orchestra that includes four saxophones. Cyclical elements à la Franck abound, assuring the structural coherency of its four sections. These are musical characterizations of picturesque coastal areas along the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Bay of Biscay. The first one, "Agay," is a blissful remembrance of a resort on the French Riviera, where the composer spent many a happy hour with his second wife.
It opens with an introductory pianissimo pedal point in the strings, which gives way to a theme somewhat reminiscent of the "Aquarium" from Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) Carnival of the Animals (1886). This will recur throughout this section, thereby unifying it. The saxophones are subtly insinuated into the orchestral brushwork of this landscape, making it sound all the more exotic.
The coast surrounding the Balearic Island of "Mallorca" ("Majorca") is the subject of the next picture. Lyrical one minute and dance-like the next, there's a sense of abandon about this animated, colorfully orchestrated section. With occasional Eastern-sounding passages [track-2, beginning at 01:22], one wonders whether d'Indy might have been alluding to the island's past associations with the Byzantine Empire.
The scene changes to Italy for the next picture, which centers around "Falconara" ("Falconara Marittima") on the Adriatic. Anticipating Honegger's (1892-1955) "Pacific 231" (1923) from Three Symphonic Movements (1923-33), and Villa Lobos' (1887-1959) "The Little Train of Caipira" in his Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 (1930), d'Indy treats us to a scenic train ride along the coast. We make a couple of stops to take in some exquisitely scored vistas. Reaching our final destination, the movement ends with a final blast of steam from the engine.
The suite concludes with a symphonic contemplation of the Atlantic Ocean as seen from the French coastline along the "Golfe de Gascogne" ("Bay of Biscay"). The opening conjures up predawn images of rolling groundswells, bringing to mind Debussy's La Mer (1903-05, see the newsletter of 9 March 2006). As day breaks, a sudden squall whips the ocean into a frenzy, which gradually subsides with the brief appearance of an antsy folkish melody [track-4, beginning at 07:28]. This introduces a spun-out lyrical idea that ends the suite peacefully, leaving one with fond memories of an exceptional musical travelogue.
The early first symphony, known as Symphonie Italienne, follows. It's in four movements each inspired by and named after one of Italy's best loved cities. The first, "Rome" (see the newsletter of 9 March 2006), opens with an imposing trombone-enforced theme, countered by an attractive flowing melody (AF) for horns and strings [track-5, beginning at 00:34]. In typical sonata form, the two are subjected to an extensive development that smacks of Liszt's tone poems. A variant of AF, call it AF1, surfaces [track-5, beginning at 10:15] during the dramatic recapitulation. It will appear in various guises throughout the symphony, and serve as the cyclic cement holding it together. A final hymn-like coda puts this sketch of “The Eternal City” in an appropriately sacrosanct light.
The scherzo that's next was inspired by "Florence" (see the newsletter of 30 September 2010), and its skittish outer sections owe a great debt to Mendelssohn. After a brass flourish, AF1 pops up [track-6, beginning at 02:57] to become the core of the central trio section, and anticipates the coming andante, "Venice" (see the newsletter of 15 September 2007). The latter is a gently swaying tuneful movement based on a variant of AF1, and has all the graceful fluidity of that city's water-paved highways.
The final salterello honoring "Naples" (see the newsletter of 31 October 2009), takes its cue from Mendelssohn again, and his Italian Symphony (No. 4, 1833) in particular. Our old friend AF1 returns as the big tune for the final coda, ending the symphony in a state of cyclic exuberance.
As we've noted before, some classical pieces play themselves, and that certainly applies to Poème..., which is magnificently rendered here by British conductor Rumon Gamba and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. But the earlier work is a youthful extravagance that requires special handling to achieve its full potential. Fortunately, that's just what it gets in the hands of Maestro Gamba, making a strong case for some romantic music that's been off the shelves far too long.
Done in the same venue as the first three volumes (Iceland’s Háskólabíó Concert Hall), these recordings present a broad soundstage where all of the instrumental detail is in sharp focus. The orchestral timbre is bright but otherwise natural-sounding over the entire frequency spectrum.
Had this been a hybrid disc, the strings would undoubtedly have been silkier in the Super Audio modes, but even so this CD is demonstration quality. The low end is impressive; however, those with systems that go down to rock bottom may notice sporadic low frequency murmurs probably due to the rumble of outside transportation.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110510)
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Elling: Pno Qt, Stg Qts 1 & 2; Mortensen/Engegård Qt [Simax]
SUGGESTED (1 CD)
Norwegian composer Catharinus Elling (1858-1942) appears for the first time in these pages with this sampling of his chamber music. All world premiere recordings, the good news is everything is well worth hearing. On the other hand, Simax must have been in a rush to release this disc because there are a couple of problems you should know about.
First off, the track timings are all wrong. However, we've remedied that by giving you the correct ones in brackets after the title of each piece. Of a potentially more serious nature, our performers here have chosen to do the second of the two string quartets omitting its final movement. But more about that in a moment.
Elling began composing as early as the middle 1870s, and even managed to study piano at the Lepizig Conservatory for a couple of years. But his money ran out in 1878, forcing him to return home. Back in Norway he began a career as a music critic, and by the middle 1880s gained some recognition as a composer.
One of his supporters was Edvard Grieg (1843-1907, see the newsletter of 7 April 2007), who got him a two-year scholarship to study under Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900, see the newsletter of 31 May 2010) in Berlin. It was there he met Brahms (1833-1897), and became a member of his camp rather than the more revisionist circles surrounding Liszt (1811-1886) and Wagner (1813-1883). Consequently you'll find Elling’s music conservatively romantic recalling that of Schubert (1797-1828), Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Schumann (1810-1856) and Brahms.
The first of his only two known string quartets was probably written in 1897, and is in four-movements [track-1=05:30; track-2=05:22; track-3=03:44; track-4=06:05]. The initial allegro features a sprightly dance-like ditty (SD) that's contrasted with a restrained romantic theme, and a third idea that's a variant of SD. These are deftly developed, and then the movement ends in an excited recapitulation and coda based on SD.
The wistful, longing andante presents a couple of memorable ideas, and is emotionally offset by the cheerful allegretto that's next. This is an inside-out scherzo, where delicate minuet sections surround a frenetic central trio.
The free-form final movement begins pensively, but soon becomes of good cheer. Elling gives us a couple of toe-tapping melodies not far removed from something you might find in the fast movement of a Schubert symphony. Everything is brought to an exciting fiddle-fireworks-filled finale, making this a significant contribution to the body of romantic chamber music.
Composed in 1903, the second string quartet is also in four movements. But as noted above the Engegård Quartet only gives us the first three [track-5=05:14; track-6=06:16; track-7=03:45]. As for the last one, the group's violist tells us in the album notes they "were unable to find a framework of tempo and texture which hung together.” Consequently they "found no workable performance solution," and decided not to record it.
The music is much more progressive than the previous quartet, and characterized by an economy of means. This is particularly true of the hyper opening allegro, where there's not a wasted note. It has a couple of attractive ideas that are subjected to a chromatically adventurous development spiked with contrapuntal devices. The lovely andante that follows is a theme and variations with a beautiful song-like subject.
The third -- and concluding movement for the purposes of this recording (see above) -- is a combination scherzo-rondo. With three memorable recurring ideas, it's a cheerful offering, which under the circumstances ends the piece prematurely.
The CD concludes with Catharinus' only known piano quartet of 1901. In four movements [track-8=08:04; track-9=08:06; track-10=06:15; track-11=07:31], there's a melodic angularity like that found in Schumann, and a harmonic density reminiscent of Brahms. The opening allegro is a beautifully written sonata form movement that exudes confidence, and ends with a theme that's a melancholy variation of one heard at the outset.
The adagio is lyrically supple one minute and romantically dramatic the next. It couldn't be more different than the frantic presto, which has a secondary theme strangely reminiscent of the idée fixe in Berlioz' (1803-1869) Symphonie fantastique (1830, see the newsletter of 15 September 2007) [track-10, beginning at 02:13 and 05:17].
The finale is Elling's own ingenious take on a sonata-rondo with melodies that could easily have been inspired by folk material. A dancelike opening soon gives way to a gracefully subdued idea (GS) that begins like the Dies Irae [track-11, beginning at 03:50]. The music then builds to a feverish pitch giving all the players a chance to strut their stuff. As the movement ends GS makes a triumphant return, providing the lifeblood for the jubilant final coda.
Pianist Nils Anders Mortensen is superb in the last piece, but the members of the Engegård Quartet seem to be having intonational difficulties on more than a couple of occasions in all three works. This is particularly true of the second quartet, and the thought does cross one's mind that they had to omit the finale because it was just beyond their capabilities. But in their defense, what they lack in technical ability, they make up for in enthusiasm for this music. And as we've noted before, with repertoire this rare we're lucky to have what's here.
The recordings are good, but the violins are occasionally wiry, and the piano tone a tad congested on forte passages. The soundstage projected is ideal for ensembles of this size, and in the nurturing acoustic of the Sofienberg Church, Oslo.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, S110509)
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Gompper: Vn Conc, Ikon (vn, orch), Flip, Spirals (2 vns, stgs); David/Zazofsky/Siffert/RP O [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
A welcome newcomer to these pages, American composer David Gompper (b. 1954) is represented on this recent release from Naxos by four works which are significant additions to contemporary symphonic repertoire. Three of them highlight the violin, one being a full-fledged concerto for that instrument. All reveal a composer who writes music with considerable intellectual as well as emotional appeal (see his album notes).
Back in 2005 Gompper began a piece for violin and piano entitled Echoes, which became the foundation for the concerto included here. Finally completed in 2009, he spent a great deal of time and effort orchestrating it, which seems reflected in the intricate attention to detail so evident in this three-movement work.
The opening free-form vivace begins with a three-note motif for solo violin followed by a momentary percussive cannonade from the orchestra. The movement is in constant flux with soloist and tutti echoing one another in an extended developmental dialogue. Captivating passagework for the violin, lean but brilliant instrumentation, and a mystical ending make it mesmerizing.
The haunting andante is a chromatic fantasia that occasionally flirts with atonality. It includes a cadenza of considerable difficulty magnificently executed by violinist Wolfgang David, who originally encouraged the composer to write the concerto.
Brevity and bravura characterize the concluding hyperactive presto, in which soloist and orchestra banter about old as well as new motifs. An upward glissando on the violin followed by laughing brass and percussion end the concerto impishly.
Ikon (2008) for violin and orchestra is a musical representation of a nineteenth-century Russian one belonging to the composer. Having made a study of methods used by iconographers to proportion and place objects in these sacred works of art, Gompper attempted to apply similar principles to his twenty-minute, single movement picture-concerto (see the album notes for more details).
Generally speaking the piece is cabalistically impressionistic, and may bring the more sublime moments in Szymanowski's (1882-1937) two violin concertos (1916 and 1933) to mind. Exquisitely scored, there are insistent pronouncements from the violin answered by a variety of other colorful instruments, including vibraphone, piano and woodblock.
In three contiguous spans separated by brief pauses, the outer parts [track-4, beginning at 00:00 and 15:59] are for the most part stream-of-consciousness reveries. The middle one [track-4, beginning at 12:10] is the most acive, building to a shimmering halo-like crescendo for strings, tam-tam and piano that gently fades away. The overall effect is quite hypnotic, particularly with repeated hearing.
The idea behind the next selection, Flip (1993), is best explained by the composer in his album notes. Suffice it to say, it's a set of orchestral acrobatics where three basic thematic ideas "flip" over and under one another in a variety of musical ways. Except for a lithe central episode, it's highly energetic music with never a lax moment.
The CD closes with another conceptual piece, Spirals for two violins and string orchestra written in 2007. In one movement with three distinct sections, it's based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (see the album notes) from which spirals can be derived, and thus the title. For most listeners the work’s appeal will not be because of its mathematical associations, which are explained in the album notes, but rather through its emotional makeup.
The rhapsodic opening finds the soloists gracefully spiraling around one another over an engaging pizzicato-riddled accompaniment. An introspective section followings [track-6, beginning at 08:55], where one can imagine them tracing out separate thematic spirals, which join and collapse into a single point. The finale [track-6, beginning at 11:23] begins in animated spiky fashion, but the melodic line slowly smoothes out. In the process, the orchestra gradually evaporates, leaving the two violins floating heavenwards. The piece ends as they disappear from view.
Austrian violinist Wolfgang David is exceptional in the three concertante works, to the point where we can only hope to hear more from him again soon. And Peter Zazofsky plays a mean second fiddle in the last selection, giving Wolfgang an equally commendable assist. Swiss conductor Emmanuel Siffert and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra provide them with ideal support, and deliver a luminous performance of Ikon. Gompper couldn't have better advocates!
Done in Henry Wood Hall, London, the recordings are very good. They present these delicately scored works in crystalline detail across a convincing soundstage in an ideally reverberant space. Herr David's ravishing violin tone is accurately captured and balanced against the orchestra. The instrumental timbre is for the most part musical with only an occasional hot spot. Audiophiles who are contemporary music enthusiasts will definitely want this disc.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110508)
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Graener: Pno Trio Wks Cpte (Ste, Chbr Music Poem 2, Trio, Theodor...); Pöhl/Hyperion Trio [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Not long ago we told you about some undeservedly neglected symphonic selections by German-born Paul Graener (1872-1944, see the newsletter of 6 January 2011), and here’s a program of his chamber music equally worth hearing. It includes all of his works involving a piano trio. The first two pieces on this new CPO release were written during the composer's early days in London (1896-1909), while the others date from his later years in Austria and Germany, where he lived out the rest of his life.
The program begins with what Graener referred to as a suite for piano trio. Although its exact completion date remains unknown, it seems stylistically similar to what he was writing around 1900. In three brief movements, the opening allegro has a couple of memorable tunes that are playfully developed and recapped in sonata form fashion. The charming andantino is based on a questioning childlike theme in the piano that's answered lyrically by the strings. The finale is scherzo-like with catchy quick-step outer sections surrounding a slow nostalgic inner one.
The next selection, Kammermusikdichtung Nr. 2 (Chamber Music Poem No. 2), was probably written around 1905, and is in one extended twenty-minute movement divided into two contiguous sections. Graener dedicated it to German writer Wilhelm Raabe (1831-1910) after reading his 1864 novel Hungerpastor (Hunger Pastor). Consequently it's also known as the Hungerpastor-Trio (Hunger Pastor Trio).
A much darker work than the suite, there's an air of tragedy about it possibly related to the death of the composer's first son in 1904. The piece starts with a theme which may remind some of the one beginning Anton Bruckner's (1824-1896) sixth symphony (1879-81). It's followed by a soothing, gently rolling melody, and a third highly agitated idea. Graener manipulates these with consummate skill, creating an intensely moving opening section which he brings to a tranquil conclusion.
After a brief pause, the music resumes [track-4, beginning at 11:58], becoming increasingly frantic, and in the process making considerable demands on the players. Dramatic outbursts from all three turn the mood manic, but reason finally prevails, and the poem concludes in peaceful resignation.
A bona fide four-movement piano trio written sometime in the early 1920s follows. The most progressive music on this disc, the opening allegro is highly chromatic with soothing impressionistic passages one minute and hammering antagonistic ones the next.
The outer sections of the following adagio are based on a theme that sounds like a mournful version of "Three Blind Mice" (see the newsletter of 31 July 2009), and may bring the third movement of Mahler's (1860-1911) Titan Symphony (No. 1, 1886, revised 1893 and 1896-98) to mind. They surround a more optimistic mouse-motif-related episode [track-6, beginning at 03:02] that portends the fleeting rustic intermezzo that's next.
There's a harmonic density and assertiveness about the opening of the final allegro reminiscent of Brahms' (1833-1897) piano concertos (1854-58 and 1878-81). A lovely fleeting central idea tries to make itself known [track-8, beginning at 02:55], but to no avail as the movement ends much as it began.
In one twelve-minute span, the last selection, Theodor-Storm-Musik (Theodor Storm Music) was probably completed shortly before its publication in 1932. It begins as a piano trio, but two-thirds of the way through a baritone joins the instrumentalists [track-9, beginning at 08:03], turning it into a lied based on German writer Theodor Storm's (1817-1888) poem Es liegen Wald und Heide (Forest and Heath…, see the album notes for the complete German and English texts).
Considering the composer’s second son was killed in World War I (1914-1918), it's not surprising he was drawn to this poem, which expresses a desire for peace in the face of War. Not only that, he must have sensed the imminent rise of Nazi Germany (1933-45), and likelihood of a second World conflict (1939-45).
The piece opens peacefully invoking images of sunlit forests and heaths as mentioned at the beginning of the poem. But the music resorts increasingly to minor keys, growing more threatening in keeping with the outbreak of war described a few lines later. The mood once again turns restful just before the soloist enters [track-9, beginning at 08:03], only to become alternately agitated and restrained as he sings about war and peace respectively. Graener ends this poignant trio-lied with a forceful pessimistic outburst from the instrumentalists, which in retrospect correctly anticipated what was to come.
The Hyperion Trio does the honors here, and one couldn't ask for better performances. Sensitive dynamics, sprightly tempos, graceful legato playing, and technical perfection characterize their refined approach to these undiscovered chamber gems. Baritone Albrecht Pöhl is superb in the last selection, singing with a sense of drama that brings out all the emotional impact of Theodor Storm's poem.
Incidentally the trio's violinist, Oliver Kipp, informs us that Graener never wrote a Kammermusikdichtung Nr. 1 (Chamber Music Poem No. 1), but just invented numbers for some of the works in his catalogue to make it seem bigger than it was.
Done by North German Radio in one of their studios, the recordings are excellent, projecting a soundstage of just the right proportions for a small ensemble. The balance between the three instruments, and later the baritone, is maintained perfectly in an ideal acoustic. The strings are silky and the piano tone well-rounded except for a couple of briefly congested spots. Herr Pöhl's voice is amazingly well captured for a conventional CD such as this. Audiophiles won't be disappointed!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110507)
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Jadassohn: Pno Trios 1-3; Syrius Trio [Toccata]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
A couple of years ago we told you about some symphonic selections by German-born and trained Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902, see the newsletter of 9 June 2009), and here's a sampling of his chamber music, which is equally enjoyable. A renowned teacher in his day, who could count Grieg (1843-1907, see the newsletter of 7 April 2007) and Delius (1862-1934, see the newsletter of 29 September 2009 among his students, he was a talented composer whose considerable output contains a number of outstanding works long overdue for revival.
We have the first three of his five piano trios on this invaluable release from Toccata Classics. The earliest one (1858) is dedicated to the celebrated cellist Carl Davidoff (1838-1889, also transliterated as Karl Davidov or Davydov; see the newsletter of 23 July 2010), who along with the composer studied at the Leipzig Conservatory, and participated in the trio's premiere.
A lighthearted three-movement work, the opening allegro is in sonata form with two main ideas that are swayingly lyrical and tappingly insistent. Melodically speaking, Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) music immediately comes to mind, but Jadassohn's modulatory sequences are at times much more adventurous than those of the older composer.
The outer sections of the slow movement, which are built on a march motif with klezmer-like intervals (see the newsletter of 16 August 2010), bracket an amorous air. The finale begins with a graceful descending theme (GD) on the piano, which is answered by a countermelody from the strings. A catchy prancing pizzicato sequence (CP) follows, and then the cello sings a gorgeous ditty picked up by the violin. GD and CP soon return, and the trio ends with a flourish on the piano followed by a final matter-of-fact pronouncement from all.
The second trio, which dates from 1860, is in four movements and a more serious affair. The initial allegro is in sonata form with an opening statement having two thematic groups, which are darkly pensive as opposed to radiantly lyrical. The masterful development and recapitulation are notable for their chromatic variety.
The following slow movement is a flowing romance based on what could pass for a love song, while the antsy scherzo contrasts a couple of dance-like ditties. The latter sets the stage for the winsome finale, which features a couple of memorable themes, once again testifying to Jadassohn's consummate abilities as a tunesmith.
It would be another twenty years before the composer wrote his third trio (1880), where he returned to a three-movement structure. The initial allegro begins with an angular brooding idea reminiscent of Schumann (1810-1856), but the mood lightens with the arrival of a more relaxed lyrical melody. The subsequent development and recap, which are the most progressive music so far, show how well Salomon practiced all that theory he preached.
The next movement is a combination romance and scherzo that opens melancholically as the cello sings a sad extended aria. This is taken up by the piano and violin, gradually brightening. Then after a brief transitional chord, a perky episode pops up to end the movement in high-stepping fashion.
Jadassohn was known for his wit as well as a great sense of humor, and these would seem to be reflected in the droll tip-toeing finale. It ends the disc leaving one with the feeling these trios were written by an undiscovered romantic master.
The Syrius Trio delivers immaculate loving performances of these pieces. Their carefully judged phrasing and dynamics bring out all the charm of this unjustly forgotten music. Let's hope they soon give us the remaining two trios.
The sonics are superb with the instruments ideally arrayed and balanced across a generous soundstage in a warm acoustic. The piano tone is well rounded and strings, natural sounding. Short of the SACD format, piano trio discs don't get any better than this.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110506)
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Taneyev, S.: Stg Qts Cpte V2 (2 & 4); Carpe Diem Qt [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
It's taken almost four years, but here's the second installment in Naxos' ongoing survey devoted to Russian composer Sergei Taneyev's (1856-1915) nine completed string quartets (see the newsletter of 8 December 2007). And once again a word of explanation is due about their current ordering as it's based on when they were published instead of written. Moreover numbers seven through nine were actually composed before the first six.
A student of Tchaikovsky (1840-1893, see the newsletter of 31 October 2009) and Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-1881), Taneyev's academic credentials were impeccable. In that regard, he would become a master of counterpoint, and publish a highly regarded treatise on the subject. So it's not surprising that discipline informs his works.
Granted he wasn't the tunesmith some of his Russian contemporaries were, but his music has an organizational integrity second to none. Consequently his creations reflect Beethoven's (1770-1827) preoccupation with structural perfection rather than Schubert's (1797-1828) predilection for melody. His string quartets certainly reflect this, and are a good starting point for those interested in exploring some lesser known, exceptionally sophisticated Russian romantic chamber music!
The four-movement “second” quartet, actually the fifth one he completed (1894-95), opens with an allegro of such taut construction that it brings Beethoven’s late quartets to mind. Yet, despite its dispassionate structural rigor, there are some lovely melodic ideas with Slavic overtones.
The tension builds in the following scherzo, whose agitated outer sections seem loosely based on the Dies Irae, which would later became a preoccupation with his student Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943). They surround a delicate tuneful trio section, which anticipates the subdued mood of the coming adagio. This is based on an extended, chromatically stretched melody that despite a couple of angst-ridden episodes, achieves moments of great lyrical beauty.
The frolicsome finale [track-4] is a contrapuntal, modulatory playground where charming childlike ideas chase one another. Taneyev must have had a smile on his face when he composed this, particularly after penning a closing raspberry for the cello [07:39] and final "so there" ending.
Written in solitude while visiting a monastery, the “fourth” quartet, in reality the seventh one he finished (1898-9), is his most emotionally fraught. It begins with a pathos-filled motif (PF) that’s the blastema from which the entire quartet will grow. The first of its four movements might best be described as a sonata-rhapsody with frequent allusions to PF. This is some of Sergey’s most progressive music.
The divertimento that's next is light as a feather, and resembles those airy symphonic scherzos of Balakirev (1837-1910, see the newsletter of 28 October 2008), Borodin (1833-1887, see the newsletter of 30 September 2006) and Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908). It starts with a gentle rocking melody (GR), and once again there are snatches of PF that serve as a unifying factor. Bits of PF also introduce the following adagio. Made for the most part from a single chromatically inflected thematic idea, this is one of the composer's most heartfelt movements.
The finale [track-8] begins with PF, but soon turns animated with folkish massed chordal passages, which one could imagine as imitating some local village piper. The sophistication with which Taneyev develops his ideas is extraordinary, and so are the demands made on the players. Towards the end there are more hints of PF along with a lovely reminder of GR [08:45]. And then the quartet concludes in a shower of sparks.
Once again the Carpe Diem Quartet performs both works with exceptional sensitivity, attention to detail, and virtuosity to spare. As we noted before, when it comes to "Russian Soul" some may feel it’s not quite up to the Taneyev Quartet's earlier traversal of these, but it far surpasses them in interpretive sophistication and technical ability. Let's just hope the remaining volumes appear in a more timely manner.
As before, the recordings are very good but a bit on the dry side. However, this does serve to better differentiate all the subtleties of this intricately structured music.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P110505)
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