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



7 NOVEMBER 2012

CROCKS NEWSLETTER

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.



The album cover may not always appear.
Emmanuel, M.: Vc Son, Trio Son (fl, cl), Ste on..., Bugle Son, Stg Qt; Soloists/StanisEn [Timpani]
Maurice Emmanuel (1862-1938), some of whose orchestral music we've already told you about (see 20 January 2012), was one of France's most important musicologists, who had a great interest in the modes of ancient Greece. Not only the melodic basis for today's plainchant, traces of them can be found in folk songs from various French provinces, particularly Brittany (see 30 May 2008). And like Bartók (1881-1945) and Kodály (1882-1967) in their native Hungary, Maurice collected many of them. So it's not surprising to find modes dominating his creations, which was much to the dismay of his teacher at the Paris Conservatory, Léo Delibes (1836-1891)!

Like his compatriot Paul Dukas (1865-1935, see 9 June 2009), Emmanuel was a merciless self critic and destroyed over half of his works, leaving only about thirty. This release from Timpani is devoted to five of them in the chamber category, two of which are the only currently available recordings on disc, and so indicated by "OCAR" after their titles.

The program opens with his three-movement cello sonata written in 1887, which is highly modal and anticipates Debussy's (1862-1918) of almost thirty years later (1915). The initial allegro begins with a lovely flowing theme followed by a perky idea. The two are imaginatively elaborated, and the movement ends with memories of the first.

A relaxed larghetto with a couple of winsome melodies for the cello follows. Then the sonata ends in a sprightly gigue, which is all the more colorful by some adventurous harmonic and rhythmic perturbations.

Coming twenty years later, we get the Trio Sonata for flute, clarinet and piano (1907), which most consider the composer's chamber masterpiece. In three-movements, the first allegro [track-4] begins with a brisk piano introduction followed by the winds playing a fetching folksy theme (FF) [00:07] vaguely reminiscent of the English song "Long, Long Ago" (1833). A whimsical development follows, and the movement ends quietly on a sustained note, anticipating the pensive adagio.

This attractive subdued offering couldn't be more different from the capricious finale, which might best be described as a carbonated scherzo. There are cyclic references to FF [02:17 and 03:07], and then the sonata ends all too soon!

Written the same year as the piece above, the Suite des airs populaires grecs (Suite on Popular Greek Folk Tunes, 1907) for violin and piano again demonstrates Emmanuel's fascination with Greek modes. In four episodes, practically all of its melodies are borrowed from a collection of ditties collected on a Greek island near the Turkish coast. The interplay of Eastern modes and Western scales make this a most infectious piece, bringing to mind Bartók's folksier oeuvres.

The first selection is an animated fiddler's tune, the second a lilting lyrical number, and the third a peevish melody to a song warning about the perils of love. The last selection ventures further east to Caucasia, and ends the suite flamboyantly with a Russian dance.

Next we get a musical oddity in the form of a sonata for bugle (or cornet) and piano (OCAR) written for a Paris Conservatory competition in 1934. In four movements where modality once more predominates, there's an informality making it more of a suite than a rigorous sonata. With its distinctive sound, many may find it the high point of the disc!

The two opening movements take the form of a stately saraband and an audacious allemande, which follow each other without a pause. Then we get a pensive serenade with a searching bugle tune, and a testy finale that concludes this rare commodity with a wink at the audience.

The concert concludes with Emmanuel's only extant string quartet (OCAR) dating from 1902-03 (he destroyed an earlier effort). In three movements, the opening one [track-15] is almost twice as long as the others, and in two adjacent sections. The introductory one [00:00] is chromactically dark and pensive, hinting at the first of three main cyclic ideas (TMCs) that will dominate the work. The next section [03:54] is agitated, and fully states those TMCs. They’re subjected to an extended development, and briefly recapitulated, ending the movement as it began.

The next allegro [track-16] starts [00:01] like the previous movement, but soon turns into a cheerful scherzo [00:35] with occasional memories of the preceding more serious TMCs. It ends somberly, but any lingering sadness in the listener is quickly dispelled by the final allegro [track-17].

This is a transcription Emmanuel made of his Zingaresca (Gypsy Dance) for chamber orchestra (Op. 7, 1902; not currently available on disc), which has an ear-catching Magyar theme (EM) the composer noted down during a cruise on the Danube. EM triumphs over repeated interruptions by those TMCs to cyclically reassert themselves, ending this ever accelerating jewel of a quartet in virtuosic jubilation.

Violinist Alexis Galpérine, cellist Raphaël Perraud and pianist Laurent Wagschal, along with flutist Olivier Sauvage, clarinetist Philippe Moinet and bugler Fabrice Wigishoff from the Stanislas Ensemble (see 30 September 2012), are all virtuosos in their own right. They give splendid accounts of the first four selections, while the ensemble’s string quartet delivers an immaculate, technically accomplished reading of the last.

Made at the Salle Poirel in Nancy, France, the recordings present a clear detailed soundstage in an accommodating acoustic with the instruments well placed and balanced. Vivid strings, fluid winds, and generally good piano tone with occasional digital grain make for a musical sounding CD.

Those with systems going down to rock bottom may sense some seismic rumblings throughout the disc, probably occasioned by outside traffic. Listeners having low frequency filters should be able to reduce or eliminate them. Also there seems to be an edit dropout toward the end of the quartet [track-17; 06:18].

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P121107)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnline.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Godard, B.: Pno Conc 2; Fant..., Guelfes Ov, Jocelyn Stes 1 & 2; Sangiorgio/Yates/RScotNa O [Dutton]
Following their earlier release of symphonic music by French composer Benjamin Godard (1849-1895), Dutton now gives us another with world premiere recordings of an additional five works. These include the second of his two piano concertos, the first having been on their previous disc (see 7 October 2011), as well as a fantasy for piano and orchestra.

Although he died relatively early at forty-five from tuberculosis, he left a significant amount of music that includes eight operas. The second of these entitled Les Guelfes (1880-82) is a highly dramatic, five act extravaganza about political intrigue in thirteenth century Florence. And we get a taste of it with the overture opening this CD.

Subdued strings, pleading brass and plaintive wind passages characterize its wistful beginning. This builds to a powerful climax and a bellicose tempestuous central episode. But the fury abates, and the overture ends peacefully with an optimistic hopeful theme.

The second piano concerto (1893) is in four movements, the first of which [track-2] begins with agitated piano passages. These are set to a foreboding orchestral accompaniment that hints at the gorgeous nostalgic theme (GN) which comes next [01:39]. This is skillfully developed, and finally appears in all its glory [08:25], ending the movement on a romantic high.

Although connected, the andante [track-3] and scherzo [track-4] that follow are diametrically opposed. The former is melodically reverent, the latter spiky with a second subject [01:01] sounding like something you might hear under the big top. They’re a refreshing counterbalance to the romantically intense outer movements.

The finale [track-5] starts with a GN-derived chordal riff (GC) played by the orchestra [00:00] that bears a curious resemblance to the opening of Borodin's (1833-1887) second symphony (1869-76). The soloist then enters with virtuosic runs, eventually expanding GC into an impassioned episode worthy of a Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) piano concerto (1858-96).

A mercurial knuckle-busting theme follows. Then as in the last movement of the first concerto (see 7 October 2011), we get another one of those delightful circusy ditties [03:17] that seem to be a Godard trademark! All of these ideas are developmentally tossed about with GN returning as the big tune [07:55] to end the concerto in a blaze of bravura.

The Fantasie persane (Persian Fantasy) for piano and orchestra dates from 1894, and like his Symphonie orientale (1884, see 7 October 2011) came at a time when "Orientalism" was all the rage in France (see 25 April 2012). Accordingly the first [track-6] of its two movements opens forcefully with easternized scales on the piano reinforced by ff chords in the orchestra.

But calm soon prevails, and the piano plays a swaying oriental melody [02:03] that's the subject for a lovely reverie making up the rest of the movement. The music is all the more captivating for some periodic strokes on the bass drum (PS) [beginning at 04:05].

The last movement [track-7] begins with a chugging orchestra, and the piano introducing a squirrely theme. This undergoes some attractive transformations, allowing the soloist to demonstrate his technical prowess. More PS [beginning at 00:45] and a couple of additional memorable melodies follow. Then everything's worked into an infectious musical essay ending the fantasy in high spirits.

In 1887 Benjamin completed his fourth opera Jocelyn, which is a four-act love story about a male seminarian of that name in eighteenth century Grenoble. It was highly successful, and the composer quickly made the two symphonic suites from it filling out this release.

The first is represented here by three of its four movements, the entr'acte from the second act being omitted. It opens with the prelude to the opera, which contrasts a dramatic melody with a light rustic tune to great effect.

The entr'acte from act one that's next is a lovely pastoral characterization of a mountain scene. While the concluding "Carillon" is a colorful festive chime-accented religious procession not far removed from the eponymous section in Bizet's (1836-1875) L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1 (1871-2).

The other suite is presented in its entirety, beginning with the reverentially moving prelude to the opera's second act. Then we get the most popular melody Godard ever wrote, the theme from the "Berceuse" Jocelyn sings in that act. Played here by the cello, it's one of those tunes everyone knows but can't name, let alone tell you who wrote it. It would become one of the most popular late nineteenth century salon pieces ever written!

The suite ends with "Scčne du bal" ("Ball Scene"). This brings it to an elated ending with glimmers of Berlioz' 1841 orchestration of Carl Maria von Weber's (1786-1826) Invitation to the Dance (1819).

As on Dutton's previous Godard release (see above), Italian pianist Victor Sangiorgio gives us dazzling accounts of the piano concertante works. His awesome technical ability is used only in service to the music, which he plays with a commitment and lightness of touch bringing out all the subtleties of these occasionally capricious scores.

Once again the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) under conductor Martin Yates provides him with ideal support, making a strong case for the other selections. They impart that little extra touch which turns something good into extra special. And lest we forget it, cellist Aleksei Kiseliov gets a big hand for his loving rendition of the "Berceuse".

Although they were done by the identical personnel at the same location (the RSNO Center, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow) as before, the recordings project a soundstage that seems a bit more confined. While the soloists remain ideally balanced, the piano tone is occasionally grainy, and the same can be said for the instrumental timbre, particularly the high strings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P121106)

- AVAILABILITY -
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The album cover may not always appear.
O'Neill: Pno Qnt, Stg Qt, Pno Trio in 1 Mvmt, "Polly Oliver" Vars (pno trio); Dussek/Bridge Qt [EM]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
While studying in Germany, Percy Grainger (1854-1917) along with four of his fellow British students formed the "Frankfurt Group" in the late 1890s. The other composers included Roger Quilter (1877-1953), Balfour Gardiner (1877-1950), Cyril Scott (1879-1970, see 28 February 2010) and Norman O'Neill (1875-1934), who makes a rare silver disc appearance with this most welcome release from EM Records.

Norman first studied with Arthur Somervell (1863-1937, see 25 April 2012) before leaving England in 1893 to pursue an academic career in Frankfurt. Then upon his return sometime around 1897 he worked in the theater producing a significant amount of incidental music. Additionally he taught as well as conducted, and being a close friend of Frederick Delius (1862-1934, see 27 July 2011), became an early champion of his music.

He also composed some outstanding youthful chamber works, four of which are represented here in world premiere recordings. The concert begins with his string quartet, which has a complex genesis (see the informative album notes). In three movements the first two may have been written before his Frankfurt years, while the last is dated 1909. Despite these differences there are hints of modality and pentatonism throughout the work.

The opening movement [track-1] begins with a laid-back eight-note motto (LE) [00:05] that serves to unify the quartet. The first violin then plays a whimsical folksy melody (WF) [00:50] incorporating LE. An elaboration of WF is succeeded by a related sorrowful countersubject [02:23], after which there's a chromatically colorful development and recapitulation. The latter concludes the movement with a somber LE-based coda.

After a minimal pause we get an adagio [track-2], which commences with a sad variant of LE. This undergoes a couple of transformations that end despairingly. But the mood brightens with the scherzoesque finale [track-3] where a playful childlike idea (PC) [00:00] and a dreamy melody [01:20] alternate with one another. PC has the last say, ending the quartet lightheartedly with a pizzicato grin.

The concert continues with the Piano Trio in One Movement of 1909 [track-4], which is the last of Norman's three known ones (see the variations below). Just short of ten minutes and in modified sonata form, it begins with a graceful introduction followed by a relaxed opening melody (RO) [00:15] and livelier plucky second subject (LP) [01:05].

LP is elaborated, after which we get tandem slow and fast episodes where RO and LP are exploited respectively. The trio then ends cheerfully in a recapitulative coda recalling both ideas, and in retrospect may bring Percy Grainger's "rambles" to mind.

Now for the feature attraction, a piano quintet from 1904. In four movements it has an overall Slavic disposition, which is probably explained by one of O'Neill's Frankfurt instructors having had strong Russian connections.

The initial sonata form one [track-5] opens with a short prologue hinting at the nostalgic first theme (NF) soon stated by the piano [00:58]. NF is dramatically elaborated, and the strings serve up a mischievous second idea (MS) [02:20], which is developed along with NF [04:38]. The recapitulation makes captivating big tune references to NF [06:17]. Then the movement ends on a somewhat serious note with forte recollections of MS in the minor.

The diverting scherzo [track-6] brings Arensky's (1861-1906) piano trios of 1894 and 1905 to mind, while there's a Slavic simplicity about the next "Romance" [track-7] in line with Rachmaninov's (1873-1943) Élégiaque Trio No. 1 (1892). The latter cleanses the palate preparatory to the rousing finale [track-8].

This opens in cyclic fashion with the violin playing a slow theme derived from NF (NF1) [00:01] followed by a sprightly number related to MS [00:47]. A predevelopment ensues after which the strings introduce a lyrical folksy tune [01:30] distantly related to NF1, and another broader Brahmsian melody [02:17].

The development then continues in more agitated fashion [02:39} with the piano playing a bigger role. All of the foregoing themes are dexterously tossed about, and take a final bow in a recapitulation that ends the quintet with a forceful reminder of NF1 [07:24].

The first of the composer's three known piano trios (see the one above) entitled Variations on "Polly Oliver" (1895) [track-9] closes the disc. Starting with a subject tune [00:01] taken from an early nineteenth century English folk song, eight inventive variations follow. The first two take the form of a country dance [00:54] and a lilting waltz [01:45], while the third [02:51] is a playful offering, again bringing Percy Grainger to mind.

The strutting fourth [03:44] and whirling dervish sixth [07:56] surround a dreamy variant [04:45] that's the melodic high point of the trio. While a coy seventh [09:05] would seem to characterize pretty Polly. Except for a sad moment [11:55-12:25], which might represent Polly disguised as a soldier crying over her fallen sweetheart (see the album notes for the text), the joyful concluding one [10:27] celebrates her ultimate marriage to her company captain.

Some may recall pianist Michael Dussek as the soloist in those stunning York Bowen (1884-1961) concertos of some years ago (see 8 December 2007), and judging from his equally accomplished renditions of the piano works here, he's lost none of his touch! Technical mastery moderated by sensitive interpretations of these early O'Neill scores makes this a treasurable release.

His efforts are perfectly complemented by the members of the Bridge Quartet, who continue their traversal of lesser known English chamber music (see 9 August 2007). Hopefully EM Records will give us a follow-on release with the same artists doing O'Neill's second piano trio of 1900.

Made recently at Wyastone Concert Hall near Monmouth, Wales, the recordings project a generous soundstage in a warm nourishing acoustic that makes the music even easier on the ear. The string tone is natural with maybe an occasional grain of digital sand. The piano is ideally captured, and generally well balanced against the strings. However, there are a couple of spots where it might have been better highlighted to show off Michael Dussek's inspired playing.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y121105)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnline.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Sherwood, P.: Vc & Pno Wks Cpte (2 Sons, 2 Pcs, 5 Small Pcs); Spooner/Norris [Toccata]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
While he had an English father and lived in London from 1914 until his death, Percy Sherwood (1866-1939) was born and educated in Dresden, Germany, where he'd spend the first half of his life, becoming a highly regarded teacher and award-winning composer. Consequently his music is of Germanic rather than British persuasion, reflecting the influences of Beethoven (1770-1827), Robert Schumann (1810-1856), Brahms (1833-1897), and his main mentor at the Dresden Conservatory, Felix Draeseke (1835-1913, see 15 April 2009).

A little over a year ago we told you about one of Percy's piano concertos (see 14 May 2012). Now thanks to the adventurous Toccata label here are his complete works for cello and piano. All are world premiere recordings, and readers who liked the cello sonatas of Ivan Krizhanovsky (1867-1924, see 6 July 2011), Camillo Schumann (1872-1946, see 10 March 2011) and/or Nikolai Potolowsky (1878-1927, see 6 July 2011) will definitely want this disc (hear excerpts)!

The informative album notes by our cellist here tell us Sherwood's first sonata from 1891 was heavily influenced by Draeseke's only effort in the genre (1890). More specifically, both works are not only in the same key, but tripartite structures with fleeting thematic similarities between each of their respective three movements.

The initial sonata form allegro [track-1] begins with an unassuming lyrical melody (UL) [00:03]. A gliding second subject follows, and both ideas are cleverly developed with some colorful contrapuntal touches.

The composer then dangles the recapitulation like a carrot in front of a horse, making it all the more satisfying when we finally get it. The movement closes with a rhythmically altered, initially muscular restatement of UL [09:59], which fades to pianissimo ending things peacefully.

The cello sings an extended aria lovingly supported by the piano in the gorgeous adagio that follows. It's the opposite of the hyperactive final presto [track-3], which is an arresting sonata-rondo. Here we get a couple of memorable themes, one of them being rather Brahmsian [00:54], which execute a virtuosic do-si-do, ending the sonata in perfunctory ebullience.

The Drei Stücke (Three Pieces) that follow probably came around ten years later (c. 1900). They include a rhapsodic "Legende", coquettish "Intermezzo", and whirlwind "Saltarello" touched by Mendelssohn (1809-1847). With an overall high tessitura, giant leaps in pitch, as well as two, three and four-part chords for the cello, these miniatures are not for beginners!

Upping the ante by one, the second sonata of 1900 is in four movements. The first is a sonata form allegro [track-7] like that in its predecessor. The flowing first theme [00:02], which smacks of the opening from Beethoven's third cello sonata (1807-8), gives way to a domineering countersubject (DC) [02:54]. The development and recapitulation that follow are more harmonically adventurous than in the previous sonata, and the movement ends dramatically recalling DC.

Another "Legende" is next, and then a "Minuetto". The former has a charming folksy manner about it, while the latter is a capricious tidbit owing a debt to the second movement of Brahms' first cello sonata (1862-5). They provide a light diversion before the virtuosic finale, which is the sonata's emotional zenith.

In modified sonata form, it begins with a groundswell melody succeeded by some fancy harmonic footwork. Then we get a bouncy number, which we're told in the album notes is borrowed from the first movement of Draeseke’s sonata mentioned above. An engaging development with a surprise scherzoesque central episode based on an entirely new flighty idea follows. Then an inventive recapitulation brings back all three themes to end the sonata jubilantly.

The disc concludes with 5 kleine Stücke (5 Small Pieces), all of which date from 1886. Melodically this collection of miniatures brings Schumann's Fünf Stücke im Volkston (Five Pieces in Folk Style, 1849) for cello and piano to mind. While the tender first, melancholy third, and pleading fourth have a harmonic density recalling Brahms, there's a playfulness about the second and fifth not far removed from Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) lighter chamber moments.

A long time champion of lesser known cello repertoire, Joseph Spooner deserves great credit for taking the time and effort to give us loving performances of the selections here. Along with pianist David Owen Norris' sympathetic accompaniment, he makes this a sterling disc of discovery.

Made at the University of Southampton's Turner Sims Concert Hall in England, the recordings present a compact soundstage with the two instruments ideally balanced. The cello tone is glowing, and the piano well rounded, making for an exceptionally musical sounding disc.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y121104)

- AVAILABILITY -
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The album cover may not always appear.
Van Gilse: Sym 4, Funeral Music..., Concert Ov; Porcelijn/Neth SO [CPO]
CPO continues their survey of Jan van Gilse's (1881-1944) symphonies (see 20 June 2012) with this release of his fourth and last completed one, along with two other rarely heard works. An undeservedly neglected Dutch composer, these are the only currently available recordings of the three selections appearing here.

Although he grew up in Holland, van Gilse began his musical career in Germany, where he studied with Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921, see 25 April 2012). But when the Nazis came to power in 1933, he moved back to the Netherlands, where he and his family suffered greatly during the World War II (1939-45) German occupation years (1940-5).

Not only were his two sons executed by the Gestapo, but his resistance activities forced him and his wife into hiding with the underground for the last two years of his life. Brokenhearted over the loss of his offspring, he would die of natural causes in September 1944, just a few months before the Allied liberation of Europe.

During his time in Germany, Jan's Erhebung (Elation) Symphony (No. 3, 1906-7; see 20 June 2012) won the German equivalent of the Prix de Rome in 1909. This allowed him to study in Italy for a year, where he started on the fourth symphony (1910-15). The Latin warmth and affability of his surroundings may explain the optimistic pastoral atmosphere that pervades it.

The first of its four movements is a merry sonata form creation built on a couple of simple captivating melodies, the first of which bears a resemblance to the opening of Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks; 1894-5). These are subjected to a delicate development that includes a brief fugal treatment. An invigorating recap follows ending the movement with a catchy "So there!" coda.

A tuneful, chromatically colorful intermezzo with an impish central section is next. Then we get a nostalgic reverie that's a gorgeous pastel tone painting. Simple and straightforward, it's entirely different from the unusual finale, which structurally speaking is a singular van Gilse creation.

A modified theme and variations, it begins with a cinematically dramatic fanfare featuring churning strings, brass fanfares and timpani rolls, which come to a complete halt. After a brief pause we get a somewhat funereal theme, which was hinted at in the opening measures, and will become the main subject for the variations to follow.

These range from mischievous to yearning and wistful, with the last building into a joyful Straussian peroration recalling the opening fanfare. It ends this radiant rustic symphony in a burst of sunshine, and may well make it the favorite of those who've heard all four.

The Funeral Music on the Death of Uilenspiegel (Treurmuziek bij den dood van Uilenspiegel, 1941) comes next. Here van Gilse expanded a short instrumental piece towards the end of his opera Thijl (1940; currently unavailable on disc) with a short introduction and conclusion to come up with this moving symphonic cortege. It was played shortly after World War II by a couple of Dutch orchestras to honor the composer and soldiers who died in that conflict.

The program ends with a concert overture from 1900, which was van Gilse’s first orchestral work. An amazing accomplishment for a nineteen-year-old, he skillfully juggles four thematic groups which are sequentially ominous, anxiety-ridden, combative and luminous. A couple of spectacular big tunes make the proceedings all the more emotionally appealing, and the ecstatic conclusion will leave you smiling.

As on CPO's previous van Gilse releases (see above), Dutch conductor David Porcelijn leads the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NSO) in what will probably be definitive accounts of these selections for some time to come. While the playing may not be that of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, what the NSO musicians may lack in technical polish they make up for with their enthusiasm for these scores.

Made at the same location in the Netherlands as the previous discs, the recordings again project a somewhat narrow but deep soundstage in a warm, moderately live acoustic. The instrumental timbre is pleasingly musical with highs bordering on the brittle side.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P121103)

- AVAILABILITY -
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The album cover may not always appear.
Waghalter, I.: Vn Conc, Rhap (vn & orch), Vn Son, etc; Trynkos/Latsabiddze/Walker/RP O [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Born into a poor Jewish musical family in Warsaw, conductor-composer Ignatz Waghalter (1881-1949) would journey to Berlin in 1898 to study with Philipp Scharwenka (1847-1917) and Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916, see 30 September 2012). He would then go on to a successful conducting career in Germany.

However, the rise of Nazism with its anti-Semitic policies forced him to flee Europe in 1938. Then like Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942, see 15 June 2008), Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968, see 31 May 2012), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957, see 31 March 2011) and Alexander Tansman (1897-1986, see 25 May 2011), he finally wound up in the United States.

Shortly after his arrival in America he organized the country's first Afro-American classical orchestra, but it was rather short-lived owing to a lack of financial support. Consequently he'd spend the rest of his life as a New York émigré who’d achieve limited success as a guest conductor.

Also active as a composer, Ignaz would produce a small number of works that stylistically speaking are extensions of what had come from Mendelssohn (1809-1847, see 21 December 2009), Schumann (1810-1856) and Brahms (1833-1897). Some of these are sampled here and bear witness to what an extraordinary melodist he was.

The violin concerto of 1911 was written for his brother Wladislaw, who was an up-and-coming virtuoso. In three connected movements, the opening allegro [track-1] is colorfully orchestrated with inspired writing for the soloist. It skillfully blends ravishing melodies with brilliant fiddle fireworks which include a killer cadenza [05:26-08:05].

The movement ends with a sustained horn note that also serves to introduce the gorgeous andante [track-2]. Highly romantic, there's a sincerity and dignity about the thematic material that precludes its ever becoming treacly. What's more it never overstays its welcome by abruptly transitioning into the sprightly sonata-rondo finale [track-3].

This begins with a vivacious bravura tune reminiscent of the moments in Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) Capriccio espagnol (1887, see 30 August 2007). A Tzigane waltz theme follows and the two ideas end the concerto in a whirlwind of excitement.

Also composed for Wladislaw (see above), the Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra (1906) [track-2] is in five arches that alternate between slow and fast. The pleading introductory one (PI) [00:01] brings Brahms to mind, while the spirit of Goldmark (1813-1915) lurks in the jovial folksy second arch (JF) [03:12]. The next two [04:18 and 07:34] are variational developments of PI and JF respectively. Then the work ends in a final pensive arch [08:05] recalling themes from the opening ones.

Now for one of the best chamber music discoveries to roll down "CD Lane" in a long time, the violin sonata of 1902. Honored with the prestigious Mendelssohn Scholarship Prize shortly after it was written, it seems incomprehensible that a work of this quality has remained buried so long!

In three sublime movements, the initial sonata from allegro [track-5] begins with a questioning theme that soon gives way to another Waghalter killer melody (WK) [01:26]. The two ideas undergo a highly structured development and recapitulation. The latter ends in a coda based on WK that brings the movement to a breathtaking close.

Ignaz follows this with a winsome andante [track-6]. It's based on an attractive extended subject that becomes the topic for dramatic opening and closing conversations between the two instruments. These surround a brief animated central episode [03:10-04:20] which assures the movement never becomes a romantic wallow, and anticipates the lively finale [track-7]. With leaping virtuosic passages for the violin and an exciting agitated piano accompaniment, it ends this exemplary sonata on a high.

Two violin and piano encores, Idyll [track-8] and Geständis (Confession) [track-9], fill out the CD. Granted these are salon music, but only in the best sense of the term. Once again Waghalter proves himself a master tunesmith, giving us a couple of loveable numbers that bring this amazing disc of discovery to a satisfying conclusion.

You may not have heard of Greek-Polish violinist Irmina Trynkos, but based on her spectacular performances of everything here, it shouldn't be long before she's much wider known. Her commanding technical ability, lovely tone, immaculate phrasing, and spot-on intonation make her one of the most exciting new soloists to have appeared in these pages.

The outstanding support she receives from the Royal Philharmonic orchestra under conductor Alexander Walker makes the case for the concerto and rhapsody even stronger. The same can be said about the superb, perfectly judged accompaniment provided by Georgian pianist Giorgi Latsabidze in the chamber pieces.

All of the recordings were done in Henry Wood Hall, London, but the orchestral and chamber ones were made six months apart. The soundstage for the orchestral selections is ideally proportioned in a warm acoustic with soloist and tutti perfectly balanced against one another. The violin tone and instrumental timbre are crystal clear and musically pleasing.

The soundstage for the chamber works in these spacious reverberant surroundings is wide as well as deep, and should appeal to those liking wetter sonics. The violin tone is musically bright, and the piano beautifully captured.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y121102)

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