CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
20 MARCH 2013
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.
Andriessen, H.: Orch Wks V1 (Sym 1, Bal Ste, Sym Etude, Kuhnau Vars); Porcelijn/Neth SO [CPO]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Mention the name Andriessen to Dutch music enthusiasts, and most will think you're referring to Louis (b.1939, see 7 May 2006). But it's his father Hendrik (1892-1981) who's featured here. We've already told you about some of his chamber works (see 12 April 2010), and CPO now gives us a sampling of orchestral oeuvre that includes the first of Hendrik's four symphonies. Hearing this appealing CD, we're happy to note it's marked as the first volume in what will be more to come.
The concert begins with the symphony, which despite its short fifteen-minute span was a labor of love he began sketching in the early 1920s and didn't complete until 1930. In three connected movements, it shows the composer's love for French music, particularly that of Franck (1822-1890) and Roussel (1869-1937).
It begins somewhat impressionistically [T-1] with a somber rising motif (SR) [00:01] that will serve to unify the work. After a brief threatening development we get a spirited allegro section that has a reminder of SR [04:21], and crosses via an oboe bridge into the next movement [T-2]. Infused with additional hints of SR, this is an engaging hybrid creation having heartrending andante outer sections surrounding an antsy scherzoesque inner one [02:18-03:50].
A drumroll and some angry brass introduce the final allegro [T-3], which is an aggressive rondo based on an SR-derived motif [00:49]. It gives the work a sense of cyclic closure, and ends this compact symphonic pearl on a stormy note.
In 1947 Andriessen wrote a three-movement ballet suite with no story or choreographic associations in mind. A much lighter work than the preceding one, French influences are even more predominant in the initial allegro [T-4], which lies on the periphery of Debussy's (1862-1918) Danse sacrée et danse profane (1904) and Dukas' (1865-1935) La péri (1911-2).
The sparkling next section [T-5] smacks of Ravel's (1875-1937) Daphnis et Chloé (1909-12) with maybe a dash of d'Indy's (1851-1931) Istar (1896, see 25 April 2010). After a brief liquescent introduction, we get a flighty episode with a more substantial thematic idea (MS) [01:15]. This will recur a couple of times before the movement concludes even more whimsically than it began.
The brilliantly orchestrated final movement [T-6] takes its cue from Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin (1914-7, orch. 1919) and La Valse (1920). It's based on a perky MS-derived theme (PM) [00:05] that returns in rondo fashion between developmental passages of varying mood. The suite then concludes with a final reference to PM [05:58], and a dramatically austere coda.
Entitled Symphonic Etude (1952) [T-7], the next selection is the most progressive music here and one of the few instances where Hendrik tested the waters of "Lake Schoenberg" (1874-1951). But he only dipped his toe in, considering that aside from the opening twelve-tone row (TT), the piece doesn't adhere to dodecaphonic methodology. Consequently it comes off sounding like a highly chromatic product of the late romantic rather than an exercise in atonality.
Lasting about ten minutes, it's in four connected arches that alternate between slow and fast. The first introduces TT [00:00], which is subjected to a peaceful imitative elaboration. TT is then dismembered in the fierce second [02:45], only to be reassembled in the somber third [04:26]. This turns increasingly mysterious [06:06] transitioning into a frenetic contrapuntally laced final arch [08:23], which ends the piece in a powerful brass-enhanced chorale proclaiming TT [10:12].
The disc is filled out with Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Johann Kuhnau for string orchestra. Written in 1935, the subject melody (SM) is a minuet from the sixth keyboard partita of German composer Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722), who was J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) predecessor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.
The piece opens with a laid-back statement of SM [T-8]. The five variations that follow are halting [T-9], pixilated [T-10], courtly [T-11], eerie bordering on tragic [T-12], and profound [T-13]. The work then ends in a lively double fugue [T-14] decorated with an infectious descant [00:39] based on SM, and a final coda recalling SM's first four notes [01:48].
Conductor David Porcelijn leads the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NSO) in his continuing survey for CPO of unexplored Dutch music (see 7 November 2012) with equally successful results. As a matter of fact these performances are among the NSO's best to date in the series, and will undoubtedly remain definitive for some time to come.
Made at the Music Center in Enschede, Netherlands, the recordings project a robust soundstage in a warm, moderately live acoustic. The overall instrumental timbre is pleasing with the many solo and small ensemble passages in Andriessen's colorful scoring ideally highlighted.
That said, occasionally the highs border on the brittle side, but the midrange is very musical, and bass end exceptionally clean. There's a touch of digital grain in massed upper violin passages of the Variations..., but no sign of that resonant hangover, which often blurs low string passages.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P130320)
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Blake, C.: Angel at Ahipara, Night Journey to…, Christ at…, Anthem on…; Young/NZSOStgs [Atoll]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Not long ago we told you about some outstanding chamber music on the New-Zealand-based Atoll label by one of that country's most revered composers, Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001, see 28 November 2012). Now we get a welcome follow-on of four suites for string orchestra from a compatriot of his, Christopher Blake (b. 1949). Although Blake's music came later (2000-8) than the Lilburn referenced above, it's much in the same romantic vein.
The general idea for the suites originated with some abstract paintings of landscapes on New Zealand's North Island. Each was inspired by a black-and-white photograph of a spiritually related subject in that area (see the album booklet), and is named accordingly. All are in seven interconnected developmental sections that bear descriptive subtitles (see the album notes), and individually banded for easy access.
The initial suite called Angel at Ahipara dating from 2000 relates to the picture of a stone angel marking a grave site in an isolated cemetery located near the town of Ahipara. The pianissimo beginning and closing sections, both titled "The Angel Holds Vigil at the Grave" [T-1 and 7], have an eerie sighing theme that ebbs and flows. About halfway through, there's a spirited episode called "The Angel Brings Joy" [T-4] followed by a scherzoesque "The Angel Calms the Storm" [T-5], which owes a debt to Sibelius (1865-1957).
The photographs associated with the next two suites were taken in Parawenga on the south side of Whangape Harbor. The first, which is of a small church named after St. Gabriel, was the basis for Night Journey to Pawarenga (2003). This imagines the angel Gabriel's coming to that town, and opens in skittering Sibelian fashion with "Gabriel Comes to the Prophet" [T-8].
The next section, "Flight to Jerusalem" [T-9], transitions into three dramatic episodes titled "Gabriel in Splendour" [T-11], "Ascension of the Seven Paradises" [T-12], and "The Revelation of God" [T-13]. Then the suite ends in much the same spirit as it began with "Gabriel Descends at Pawarenga" [T-14].
The other photo shows a sculpture of Jesus on the Cross atop a headstone in the church's graveyard, and was the inspiration for Christ at Whangape (2008). The most profound and devout suite here, it begins with a Gregorian chant-like "Introit" [T-15] that immediately establishes a reverential tone. But stabbing violins à la Bernard Hermann's (1911-1975) score for Psycho (1960) accent the next two sections, "Le Retour" [T-16] and "La Messe" T-17].
A change of pace follows with the fugally tinged "Amare et Servire" [T-18], followed by the moving grief-stricken episodes "Inoi Mo Te Wairua" [T-19] and "The Trembling Veil" [T-20]. The final "Ake, Ake, Ake" [T-21] recalls the suite's somber monodic opening, and despite some of those Herrmann shrieks ends it on a brief note of "Amen".
The last suite titled Anthem on the Kaipara (2007) takes its cue from a photo of the "Remembrance" gate to a park in Port Albert near Kaipara Harbor. This honors the memory of local New Zealanders killed in World War II (1939-1945), with the initial "By Sea" [T-22] and "Oruawharo" [T-23] sections having the strongest links to Sibelius thus far.
The following two sections, "Whenua Whai Rawa" [T-24] and "Pro Patria" [T-25], are notable for avian twitters undoubtedly associated with Kaipara's international reputation as a migratory bird habitat. The suite then ends in a stirring "By the Sea" [T-26], "Tomb of the Saint" [T-27], and heartfelt "Anthem" [T-28], the last being some of the most inspired writing on this disc!
The strings of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under conductor Kenneth Young give ravishing performances of these venerational suites. Virtuosos every one, these musicians deliver a rich ensemble sound tempered with delicacy and sensitivity for the many subtle moments in Blake's music. With their exclusive scoring for strings, the suites come off as exceptionally moving monochromatic tone poems in keeping with the photographs that inspired them.
The recordings were made at an unidentified location in Wellington, New Zealand, and project a well-proportioned, clearly focused soundstage in a warm acoustic. The string tone is quite natural with bright musical highs and clean solid bass devoid of any resonant blurring. Audiophiles will find this disc a good test of a system's ability to deliver convincing string sound.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y130319)
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Ginastera: Conc Argentino (pno & orch); Pno Concs 1 & 2; Nissman/Kiesler/MichU SO [Pierian]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera's (1916-1983) known oeuvre include two numbered piano concertos (1952 and 1972). But these were preceded by a youthful effort called Concierto Argentino (1935), which he withdrew shortly after its first performance. Fortunately the work survived in manuscript, and thanks to the efforts of our pianist here, Barbara Nissman, Pierian now gives us the world premiere recording of it. Not only that, this landmark release also includes the others, the last of which is presented for the first time on disc in its original version.
Written while he was still a student at the National Conservatory in Buenos Aires, the Concierto Argentino (1935) is in three movements. The initial allegro [T-1] gets off to a wild start with one of those rhythmically possessed folk-derived themes (RF) [00:09] that make Ginastera's music so instantly recognizable. RF anticipates what will soon come in his ballets Panambi (1937) and Estancia (1941).
The piano and orchestra then rhapsodize on RF in a lovely melodic episode [01:17]. A vivacious development follows having bravura passages for the soloist set to an increasingly unruly tutti accompaniment with some colorful dissonance. This builds to a romantic big tune statement of RF, which dies away into a demanding cadenza that smacks of Rachmaninov (1873-1943). A chugging orchestra locomotes into a frenetic closing coda that ends the movement with an arresting brass raspberry and explosive fortissimo chord.
The adagietto [T-2] begins with a lovely subdued theme in the orchestra, which the soloist soon embellishes. An amorous developmental dialogue is next with some adventurous chromatic excursions. Then the movement ends mysteriously in a subdued passage for harp and piano with numinous cymbal brush strokes.
The frenetic beginning of the concluding allegro [T-3] seem indebted to Prokofiev (1891-1953). Then we get a folksy antic tune (FA) (00:33) followed by one of those repeated rhythmic riffs (RR) [01:09] Alberto so loved. A virtuosic passage follows where the piano transforms FA and RR into an attractive romantic theme [02:22].
This is picked up by the full orchestra, which is unexpectedly reduced to just percussion and winds playing FA and RR with piano embellishments plus explosive drum strokes. The soloist then goes bananas working the orchestra into a frenzy that ends with a sudden fortissimo chord. There's something reminiscent of the midnight scene ending the second act of Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella (1940-4).
The program continues with the first of Ginastera's numbered piano concertos (1961). In four movements, Ms. Nissman tells us the last three seem to be expanded versions of the corresponding ones in his first piano sonata (1952, see 14 May 2007). The unusual opening "Candenza e varianti" [T-4] starts with three queasy orchestral chords (TQ). The piano then plays a forceful cadenza-like descending passage harboring a twelve-tone row [00:15] that's the starting point for a set of ten variations.
Here soloist and tutti alternate in a transformational dialogue where changes of mood are foremost rather than conventional thematic manipulations. They range from belligerent [00:43] to otherworldy [02:58], virtuosically skittish [04:19], mysterious [05:15], lyrically tender [06:34], and hammering [07:16].
The next "Scherzo allucinante..." [T-5] is a hallucinatory whimsy where a dragonfly piano darts and hovers over a lake of imaginatively scored instrumental sound. The percussive effects demonstrate what a master chef Ginastera was in the orchestral kitchen.
The somber "Adagissomo" [T-6] has a couple of passages for the soloist that are the most dodecaphonic-sounding moments in the piece. At the same time they may also remind you of Bartok's (1881-1945) Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936). The subdued conclusion recalls TQ and suspends the movement by a thread of melancholy.
With its driving rhythms, the final "Toccata concertata..." [T-7] is a bravura dialogue for soloist and tutti where Bartok once again comes to mind. Keyboard fireworks and Technicolor scoring turn this into one of the most thrilling finales in the genre.
The last numbered concerto (No. 2, 1972) is also in four movements, and was a joint commission by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Austrian pianist Hilde Somer (1922-1979). Ms. Somer then modified it making significant changes to the piano part, first in the second movement, and then with the addition of a four-measure octave passage just before the concerto's end. While previous recordings have been based on this, our soloist here has gone back to the composer's personal score, and gives us what he originally wrote.
The work first pays homage to Beethoven (1770-1827), and then gives a final nod to Chopin (1810-1849). Accordingly it opens with a movement marked "32 Variazioni sopra un accordo di Beethoven" ("32 Variations on a Chord of Beethoven") [T-8]. The number "32" may be related to Beethoven's thirty-two completed piano sonatas, while the album notes tell us the chord is the seven-note one in bar 208 of his Choral Symphony (No. 9, 1822-4).
The concerto begins with the piano playing these notes sequentially in ascending order [00:02-00:18] (SA). They're followed by another five [00:19-00:30], which Alberto adds to produce a twelve-tone row that's the subject for these variations.
Soloist and tutti then engage in a series of developmental transformations that seem stylistically related to several well-known composers. These include Bartok [01:08 and 04:24], Prokofiev [01:43], Ravel (1875-1937) [02:24], Debussy (1862-1918) [02:24], Respighi (1879-1936, see 9 March 2006) [05:56], Berg (1885-1935) [06:36], and Stravinsky (1882-1971) [09:22]. The movement closes with a dramatic drumroll [11:14], the soloist restating SA [11:48-11:58], and then just fades away on a wispy pianissimo orchestral chord.
Piano works for the left hand abound thanks to Paul Wittengstein (1887-1961, see 20 June 2012). But Ginastera gives us a change of pace with the next scherzo movement [T-9], where the pianist is to play only with the right. While previous recordings of this have featured Ms. Somer's version transcribed for the left (see above), this one adheres to the original manuscript.
It's a virtuosic nightmare for the soloist set to an arresting orchestral accompaniment. The composer's brilliant use of percussion makes it one of his most piquantly colorful moments, which may bring the more fleeting of Prokofiev's Visions fugitives (1915-7) to mind.
We get a somber respite with the following mysteriously pensive adagio marked "Quasi una fantasia" [T-10]. Here anguished orchestral cries and sighs are interspersed with ruminative passages for the soloist, which vary from searching to despondent. At one point it's easy to imagine the tolling of a funeral bell [03:49], which would seem to anticipate the concerto's finale [T-11].
This opens with mocking brass and percussion, which announce a whirlwind dialogue for soloist and tutti taking its cue from the last movement of Chopin's Funeral March Sonata (No. 2, 1837-9). It ends this fantastic concertante creation in a blizzard of piano notes and a final nerve-shattering fff orchestral chord. Conservative listeners will have to stretch themselves to understand this challenging concerto, but will find it well worth the effort!
Our soloist was greatly admired by the composer for her interpretations of his piano works. This is born out here by her technically stunning delivery, rhythmically precise phrasing, and ability to capture the drama in these colorful Latin American scores. Her efforts are all the more impressive for the magnificent support she receives from the Michigan University Symphony Orchestra (MUSO) under their director Kenneth Kiesler.
Sounding as good if not better than many professional orchestras, the enthusiasm the young MUSO musicians show for this music along with Ms. Nissman's inspired playing make this the CD of choice for the later numbered concertos. Not only that, you get Alberto's otherwise unavailable earlier effort to boot!
Made in Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the recordings are good, projecting a wide soundstage in a warm acoustic. But they fall short of demonstration quality, which is too bad because these brilliantly orchestrated scores are potential sonic showpieces.
More specifically the piano, which is on the whole well captured, seems stretched across the soundstage, and the strings somewhat veiled. On the good side, the instrumental timbre is generally musical with an impressive bass end made all the more pants-flapping by plenty of exotic percussion.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P130318)
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Hofmann, H.: Schauspiels--Ov, Sym in Eb "Frithjof", Hungarian Ste…; Solén/Alten-Gera PO [Sterling]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Romantic music enthusiasts will delight in these orchestral rarities by a little known German composer. Born in Berlin, Heinrich Hofmann's (1842-1902) childhood was one of poverty and sickness. But the boy was blessed with a beautiful soprano voice, and his situation improved when at age nine he was admitted to the prestigious St. Hedwig's Cathedral choir. It lead to his studying music, and subsequent career as a concert pianist, teacher and composer.
This new disc of discovery from Sterling gives us a sampling of his few orchestral works. Finely crafted and skillfully orchestrated, the three selections here are in league with symphonic works by such contemporaries as Suppé (1819-1895, see 25 February 2013), Raff (1822-1882, see 26 January 2011), Reinecke (1824-1910, see 24 July 2008), Goldmark (1830-1915, see 28 February 2010) and Bruch (1838-1920). They are significant additions to the growing body of forgotten romantic music that's been surfacing on silver disc.
The lead-off Eine Schauspiels--Overtüre (A Dramatic Overture, 1875) [T-1] is an engaging curtain raiser basically in sonata form. It starts slowly with a deliberate stately theme (DS) [00:10] in the horns that wends its way through the various sections of the orchestra. The violins then introduce fleeting passages not far removed from the flightier moments in Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). A more reserved cantabile idea follows, bringing to mind Wagner's Lohengrin (1847). A thrilling development is next, then a recapitulation ending in a catchy coda based on an accelerated version of DS.
His only symphony dating from 1874 and in the key of E flat major follows. Consisting of four movements and titled "Frithjof", it’s quite programmatic, taking its inspiration from a similarly named Icelandic saga (c. 1300). Incidentally it was a favorite of renowned British conductor Dan Godfrey (1868-1939), whom we told you about a year ago (see 8 February 2012).
The underlying story centers on the king of Norway's beautiful daughter Ingeborg and his friend's son Frithjof, who are raised together and become childhood sweethearts. Musical characterizations of the two are found in the opening sonata form allegro [T-2], which begins with a heroic Frithjof theme (HF) anticipating Goldmark's more ebullient melodies.
An imaginative Mendelssohnian passage [00:49] bridges into a comely Ingeborg motif (CI) [01:36], and the opening statement is then repeated. The two ideas are developmentally entwined suggesting the early stages of their love for one another, but there are also dark passages auguring troublesome times ahead. However, optimism prevails and the movement ends in a hyper jubilant coda based on HF.
The following adagio called "Ingeborge's Klage" ("Ingeborg's Lament") [T-3] relates to events after her father is killed in battle and her two brothers take over the kingdom. Being jealous of Frithjof and wanting to prevent his marriage to their sister, they send him on a far-off mission, then marry her to the old king of a nearby realm. Her subsequent grief is depicted in this movement.
It begins with an ominous drumroll followed by a hint of CI [00:22] and a dark sorrowful tune (DS) [00:39]. The music builds to an emotionally anguished Wagnerian climax, and turns more desperate with sad memories of HF [04:11]. DS then returns [06:24] introducing the closing measures, which are highlighted by a heroic crescendo with horn dissolves into a subdued nostalgic ending.
An intermezzo [T-4] takes the place of the usual scherzo, and describes a couple of the saga's other colorful aspects. It's in A-B-A form with charmingly effervescent outer sections meant to depict "Lichtelfen" ("Elves of Light"). They bookend a lumbering central "Reifriesen" ("Frost Giants") [02:36-04:23] episode, which anticipates Grieg's (1843-1907) troll music in Peer Gynt (1875-92). Berlioz (1803-1869) would have loved it!
The grand finale, "Frithjof's Rückkehr" (Frithjof's Return") [T-5], describes our hero's reappearance, his ultimate marriage to Ingeborg, and final victory over her scheming brothers. It begins with a brief somber reminder of IC [00:02] that transitions into an ebullient version of HF (EF) [00:39], and a more optimistic variant of DS (OS) [01:08].
A dramatic development based on the last two themes as well as hints of other past ideas follows, and then a recap of EF [06:09] and OS [06:38]. This segues into a regal drum-and-trumpet-enhanced declaration of EF [08:38], ending the symphony triumphantly.
During the 1860s and 70s, German and Austrian concertgoers had a fascination with Hungarian music as evidenced by the Magyar related works of Suppé (see 25 February 2013), Brahms (1833-1897) and Liszt (1811-1886). Hofmann would also capitalize on this fad with his Ungarische Suite mit Benutzung ungarischer Nationalmelodien (Hungarian Suite On Hungarian National Melodies, 1873) that fills out this disc.
In three titled movements, the opening "Krönungssaal" ("Coronation Hall") [T-6] consists of a beckoning introduction followed by a festive march (FM) [00:52] with stately outer sections surrounding a lovely central trio. Rhythmic riffs and string writing recalling Magyar folk music give it a Hungarian feeling.
The next "Romanze" ("Romance") [T-7] with its amorous waltz time passages for cellos and woodwinds sounds more German than Eastern European. But the final "In der Puszta" ("On the Great Plains") [T-8] makes up for it with the most Hungarian-sounding music yet.
It begins with a catchy dance ditty that Brahms, who was the work's dedicatee, must have loved! This is elaborated and subjected to an exciting development with snatches of previous ideas. Then a modulatory sequence with arresting thumps on the bass drum [05:16] ushers in a big tune restatement of FM [05:42]. This is the fabric for a manic final coda ending the piece in great pomp.
Hofmann's music couldn't have better advocacy than these performances by the Altenberg-Gera Philharmonic Orchestra under Swedish conductor Eric Solén. His attention to rhythmic details, particularly in the Hungarian Suite..., and delicate shading of the frequent solo passages is exceptional. He turns what in lesser hands might be ordinary fare, into a highly rewarding listening experience.
Made three years ago over a four-day period at the Bühnen der Stadt Concert Hall in Gera, Germany, the recordings are up to Sterling's usual high standards. They project a wide, moderately deep soundstage in a nourishing acoustic having sufficient reverberation to enrich the music without any loss of orchestral detail. The instrumental timbre is pleasing with sunny highs, a convincing midrange, and clean bass. Some of those whacks on the bass drum towards the end of the Hungarian Suite... are real woofer poppers.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y130317)
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Rabaud: Sym 2, Procession nocturne, Églogue; Couton/Sofia PO [Timpani]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
This new release from Timpani continues their exploration of late romantic French rarities (see 7 November 2012) with some symphonic works by Henri Rabaud (1873-1949). A student of Massenet (1842-1912, see 15 January 2008), he's probably best remembered as a renowned conductor, who at one point was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1918-9), and Gabriel Fauré’s (1825-1924) successor as director of the Paris Conservatory (1922-41).
But he was also an accomplished composer who wrote several operas, one being the highly successful Mârouf, savetier du Caire (1914), and some distinguished orchestral music. The latter is sampled here, and includes the last of his two symphonies (1896-7), which Francophiles will find hard to resist as this is its world premiere recording. Out of Franck (1822-1890) and Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), it's headed towards d'Indy (1851-1931, see 10 May 2011), Dukas (1865-1935), Magnard (1865-1914), and Ropartz (1864-1955). However, there are stormy passages in the first and last of its four movements that smack of Beethoven (1770-1827).
The opening allegro [T-1] is in sonata form and begins with a blustery threatening introduction hinting at the extended tragic theme (ET) that comes next [01:39]. This is followed by a winsome optimistic melody (WO) [03:32], and both undergo an emotional development blending Franckian chromaticism with the trepidation of Beethoven's more feverish moments.
The recapitulation begins with ET [09:41] and involves some further development. Then we get a reminder of WO [11:02], which along with ET is the basis for an impassioned coda. This ends the movement with some final commanding chords somewhat along the lines of those in Beethoven's Eroica Symphony (No. 3, 1803).
The andante [T-2] is a moving chorale with a tripartite hymn-like theme (TH) [00:01], whose opening achieves big tune status [05:33]. The movement then ends peacefully with allusions to TH’s other components.
Another allegro [T-3] is next, and serves as the resident scherzo once again with cyclic reminders of past ideas. It begins with a forte descending phrase that may recall the last movement from Dvorák's (1841-1904) eighth symphony (1889), and ends in a bubbly playful episode (BP) [00:04] at one point underlined by TH [01:06]. Variants of BP then alternate with somber passages hinting at the latter part of (ET) [01:54 and 03:43], and conclude the movement much like it began.
Rather than introducing anything strikingly new, the finale [T-4] is a very satisfying cyclical reworking of what's come before, and gets off to an ET-based, anxiety-ridden start with reminders of TH [00:36 and 1:04]. It intensifies [02:10], becomes wind-swept [02:23], and transitions into a Ravelian-sounding episode [04:09] with a couple of awesome outburst [06:14 and 07:01] that may bring Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) Le rouet d'Omphale (1872, see 31 July 2012) to mind.
This stormy section then abates into shimmering strings and a lovely clarinet solo quoting WO [09:30] that introduces a towering final coda. Built on all major past ideas, it ends the work with a fortissimo proclamation of TH's first seven notes [13:08]. Symphonies don't get any more integrated than this tight-knit creation!
The concert continues with the tone poem La Profession nocturne (Night Procession, 1898) [T-5] based on an episode in Niklaus Lenau's (1802-1850) Faust (1836). The melancholy introduction depicts an abject Faust on horseback wandering through the forest at night. The mood darkens, but then we get the first glimmer of torchlights from a passing religious procession [06:14], the sight of which lifts Faust's spirits. It's characterized by a chorale-like motif [06:18] that becomes more and more pronounced as the devotees approach, only to fade over a curious walking bass with their departure.
As they disappear into the distance the music comes to a complete halt, and after a brief pause [10:23-10:28] resumes in several swelling sighs [10:28], presumably indicative of Faust's returning sense of despair. The piece then ends tragically with dark reminders of the opening.
Rabaud won the Prix de Rome in 1894 entitling him to a year's study in the Eternal City, where the closing selection was probably written in 1895. Entitled Églogue (Eclogue) [T-6], it was inspired by some verses (see the informative album notes) from the first of Virgil's (70-19 BC) ten bucolic poems known as his Eclogues (42-38 BC).
Lasting just over five minutes, it begins with a relaxed oboe melody in the spirit of the opening from Debussy's (1862-1918) Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1892-4). Some lovely solos for the other woodwinds and horn then waft by on gentle string breezes. A relaxed rusticity and vernal glow make the music most appealing.
French conductor Nicolas Couton leads the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra of Bulgaria in committed performances of these pieces. His attention to thematic detail and dynamic shading give the music an emotional dimension that precludes their rigorous structure from making them sound academic.
The recordings were made in the Sofia Bulgaria Concert Hall, and project an average sized soundstage in a pleasant acoustic. The orchestral image may occasionally seem skewed left, consequently those with balance controls may feel the need for a slight tweak to the right. The orchestral timbre is generally acceptable with a musical midrange, but the highs are a tad grainy and bass somewhat lean.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P130316)
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