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



8 APRIL 2013

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.
Auerbach: 24 Prels (vc & pno), Vc Son 1, Post (vc & prep pno); Azanavoorian/Auerbach [Cedille]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Pianist-composer Lera Auerbach (b. 1973) was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia (site of that recent meteor explosion), and moved to the United States in 1991, where she completed her musical studies at Juilliard. A polymath whose creative output encompasses literature as well as the visual arts, she's since become one of today's most sought-after musicians.

With an amazing number of highly successful compositions for someone as young as she, this new outstanding disc from Cedille explores her chamber music for cello. The program begins with the world premiere recording of 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano (1999) representing each of the major and minor keys as in J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) Well-Tempered Clavier (1722-42). Individually banded for easy access, the track and prelude numbers correspond.

Highly virtuosic and requiring a variety of exotic playing techniques, these pieces are wide-ranging on both instruments. Auerbach mixes immediately appealing lyrical passages with more aurally challenging ones to give each prelude an individual personality. At the same time she instills them with interlocking motifs that give the set of twenty-four a collective consciousness.

The opening prelude is meditative with sighing cello glissandi, and gives way to a hectic second followed by a mysterious third having microtonal moments. The fourth is demonically possessed, the fifth mournful with stabbing piano notes, and the weeping sixth has another of those glissandi. However, the mood brightens with the lyrical seventh that has some sul ponticello passages. Things then turn gloomy again in the eighth, after which there's a frenetic ninth, dreamy tenth and tintinnabular eleventh.

The next six are highlighted by a spooky Jekyll-and-Hyde twelfth, scherzoesque fourteenth parodying Mozart's (1756-1791) overture to The Magic Flute (1791, see 10 October 2010), deranged waltzlike sixteenth with the cello frequently sounding like an unhappy alley cat, and an itchy seventeenth. We then get an antiquated minuet-like eighteenth, schizophrenic twenty-first for solo cello, and lyrical twenty-third with a melody that's a first cousin to the "Goin' Home" tune in the second movement of Dvorák's (1841-1904) From the New World Symphony (No. 9, 1893).

The concluding twenty-fourth is in D minor with manic outer sections surrounding an introspective central one, and cyclic reminders of all past themes. It ends this collection of preludes in a final virtuosic blaze of keyboard pyrotechnics and some frantic fiddling that must have left the cellist with a smoking bow.

Auerbach's first cello sonata of 2002 is in four movements, the lead-off one being an allegro [T-25] that starts with a forceful piano riff recalling the beginning of "Gnomus" in Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) Pictures at an Exhibition (1874). The cello enters and after an anguished soliloquy engages in a dramatic dialogue with the piano introducing a queasy waltz. This gives way to a more lyrical episode having some sul ponticello (see above). It's followed by an animated outburst, which subsides in soaring glissandi that end the movement like rising wisps of smoke from a dying campfire.

The "Lament" that's next [T-26] is a sobering dirge for cello over a tolling funeral bell piano accompaniment. Then we get another allegro [T-27] described by the composer as a toccata. Its outer sections are hyper show-off pieces for the cellist, and surround a contrasting pizzicato-spiced lyrical core.

The finale marked "Con estrema intensitŕ ("With Extreme Intensity") [T-28] is even more of a lament than the second movement. It begins with a sobbing chromatic melody for the cello over a grief-stricken keyboard accompaniment. This is made all the more lachrymal by the presence of some agonized quarter-tones and a somber pizzicato afterthought. The cello then ascends into its uppermost registers where eerie microtonal trills along with some isolated piano notes end the sonata mysteriously.

The disc closes with a brief encore entitled Postlude for Cello and Piano from 2006 [T-29]. It’s a transformed version of the twelfth prelude from the set of twenty-four that began this disc. Played on a prepared piano with a couple of distorted kazoolike notes, it has some dive bomber glissandi for the cello. Quite different from the original, it ends this enterprising disc on a surrealistic note.

Besides acquainting you with some exemplary contemporary chamber music, this CD will introduce many to one of today's most promising cellists, Ani Aznavoorian (see 20 June 2012). Born in Sydney, Australia, she'd go on to study at Juilliard, where she became friends with the composer. Her playing, made all the more demanding by a variety of cello special effects, reveals a technical mastery only matched by her great sensitivity for Auerbach's emotive music.

Ms. Aznavoorian is accompanied by the composer, who has already established herself as one of today's leading pianists. Together this dynamic duo delivers dazzling performances of these works, which should remain definitive for some time to come.

With award-winning audio maven Adam Abeshouse at the controls (see 12 April 2012), no wonder this CD sounds so good! The recordings were made in an unidentified venue at the SUNY Purchase College Performing Arts Center, New York, and project a modest soundstage in affable surroundings. The cello tone is burnished gold, and the piano realistically captured with no sign of those nettlesome digital artifacts that plague many recordings of this instrument. The balance between the two is ideal throughout.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y130408)

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The album cover may not always appear.
Moniuszko: Verbum nobile (Nobleman's Word, cpte opera); Soloists/Kunc/SzcCastleOp C&O [DUX]
DUX's ongoing survey of Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko's (1819-1872) operas continues with his comic one-act Verbum nobile (Nobleman's Word) of 1860-1. Like Flis (The Raftsman, 1858), which we told you about three years ago (see 29 June 2010), this is a nationalistic stage work with captivating folk influences. An unstinting production, the album notes include a plot synopsis as well as the complete libretto in Polish, English, German and Italian.

Completed around 1861, it takes place in the 1700s on St. Susan's Day (11 August), and opens with an infectious rustic overture [T-1] reminiscent of Weber's (1786-1826) lighter moments. The curtain then goes up on a set with the front of nobleman Servatius’ mansion situated to the right. There's a tree-shaded porch on its left side as well as a garden and view of the local village in the distance.

The peasants gather and along with Bartholomew, who's the servant of a neighboring nobleman named Martin, sing an ensemble number wishing Servatius’ daughter Susan the best on her name day, and honoring her many charms [T-2]. There are some delightful flighty passages ŕ la Rossini (1792-1868).

Then we learn about the young handsome Stanislav, who's been recuperating at Servatius’ home from a carriage accident [T-3]. In a spirited song Bartholomew tells us Susan's been taking care of him [T-4], and the two are now in love [T-5]. A lovely duet follows [T-6] where they declare their affection for one another.

Servatius then joins the two in an animated trio with some Gilbert (1836-1911) and Sullivan (1842-1900) moments. He informs them they can never marry because he's given his word, or verbum nobile, promising Martin (see above) she’ll wed his son Michael [T-7].

So Stanislav says goodbye to Susan and prepares to depart. Accordingly she responds with a sad Slavic-sounding dumka [T-8] that's a melodic high point of the opera. No sooner has she finished than Martin appears to wish her a happy name day, and noting her dejected state, tries to cheer her up in a catchy aria spiked with Polish dance rhythms [T-9]. But to no avail, and upon learning she's fallen in love with Stanislav, he becomes quite incensed [T-10].

However, all is not lost, and just as in one of those G&S operettas where not everyone is as advertised, it's suddenly revealed Stanislav is really Michael under an assumed name! This is cause for great celebration on the part of all, who are joined by the peasants for a concluding joyful ensemble number [T-11]. It ends the opera in a state of Slavic exuberance that's out of Dargomizhsky (1813-1869, see 16 August 2010) and headed towards Smetana's (1824-1884) The Bartered Bride (1866).

Soprano Aleksandra Buczek (Susan), baritones Michal Partyka (Stanislav) and Leszek Skrla (Martin), bass-baritone Janusz Lewandowski (Bartholomew) in addition to bass Aleksander Teliga (Servatius) are in fine voice, singing each of their roles with great gusto. They're given top notch support by the Szczecin Castle Opera (SCO) Chorus and Orchestra under their artistic director Warcislaw Kunc. This will undoubtedly be the definitive recording of Verbum nobile for a long time to come, so don't hesitate!

The SCO is the only opera company in Poland with all eight of Moniuszko's extant completed operas in its repertoire, and this is their third production to appear on DUX. It follows their highly acclaimed releases of Paria (1859-69) and Flis (see above), leaving one hoping they'll eventually give us the others. In the meantime, if you don't already know it, try investigating The Haunted Manor (1861-64).

Made at the Castle Opera in Stettin, Poland, the recording is for the most part good with a convincing soundstage in a nourishing space. The soloists and chorus are ideally highlighted and balanced against the orchestra, but there is some digital grain in the upper midrange on massed violin as well as vocal passages. Had this been a hybrid disc, that probably wouldn't have been the case on the SACD tracks. However, with repertoire this rare we're lucky to have what's here.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P130407)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Rózycki: Pno Qnt, Rhap (vn, vc & pno), Vc Son; Godziszewski/Wilanów Qt [Acte Préal]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Having introduced you to Ludomir Rózycki's (1883-1953) string quartet (see 18 February 2009), here are some more exemplary chamber goodies from this little-known Polish composer. He began his musical education in Warsaw under Zygmunt Noskowski (1846-1909, see 22 June 2011), and around 1904 went on to study with Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921, see 25 April 2012) in Berlin.

Along with several of his Polish contemporaries, who included Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909, see 16 January 2006) and Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937, see 16 January 2007), he founded a musical group there based on the Mloda Polska (Young Poland) movement. The selections on this release are representative of their creative output in the early 1900s, which in today's terms would be described as late romantic with occasional Expressionist proclivities.

The disc begins with Rózycki's three movement piano quintet of 1913, which was written for the most part on a trip to Paris and completed in Berlin. The first sonata form movement has a couple of memorable themes that become the subject of an impassioned discourse between piano and strings. It ends serenely anticipating the dark adagio that follows.

Anguished and sorrowful, this is a lament [T-2] that concludes with what sound like piano passages meant to represent tolling bells [11:10], possibly inspired by memories of Notre Dame. The mood then shifts in the ebullient opening of the final allegro, however the grief of the previous adagio returns. But not for long as sorrow becomes joy in the concluding measures, ending the quintet jubilantly.

The concert continues with a rhapsody for violin, cello and piano also dating from 1913. In a single span lasting a little over eleven minutes, it comes closest to being a theme and variations, where the main subject is an extended Eastern-European-tinged melody stated at the outset. While this would usually undergo a series of thematic transformations, here they're more textural and mood-oriented. The end result is an arresting miniature you'll not soon forget.

The program concludes with Ludomir's first chamber piece, the cello sonata of 1906. Despite its early origins, this three movement work is the most harmonically adventurous here. The cello takes center-stage in a singing role that explores its entire range, giving the soloist plenty of opportunity to show off their technical proficiency. The inventive piano writing is demanding, and perfectly complements that for the cello.

The opening sonata form allegro is characterized by a couple of tune-swept ideas for the cello colorfully embellished by the piano. The quiet ending anticipates the relaxed outer sections of the following andante, which frame a morose central passage that could easily be an expression of unrequited love.

The concluding allegro begins in upbeat fashion with an idea strangely resembling the second theme in the finale of Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) fourth symphony (1877-8). This is elaborated, and followed by a cloudy central episode for a weeping cello and distraught piano. But the skies clear and the movement ends much like it began, bringing this undeservedly neglected sonata to a memorable close.

Pianist Jerzy Godziszewski and members of the Wilanów String Quartet provide us with spirited performances of everything here. They render the first two selections with great aplomb, but you may detect a couple of intonationally queasy spots on the part of cellist Marian Wasiólka in the concluding sonata.

The recordings were made in one of the Polish Radio's studios on separate occasions from 2007 through 2010, and project soundstages commensurate with the small forces present. The surrounding acoustics are fairly dry, particularly in the case of the sonata. The instrumental timbre is bright with lean bass, making for a disc that's listenable, but won't win any audiophile awards.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P130406)

- AVAILABILITY -
Records International


The album cover may not always appear.
Talbot, J: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Ste, Fool's Paradise (cpte bal); Austin/RP O [Signum]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Some may think of ballet music as in the same category with that for the theater or screen. But with no dramatic dialogue to hide behind, and being the lifeblood of the choreography, the composer is under much more pressure to create something new and interesting.

British composer Joby Talbot (b. 1971) certainly rose to the occasion with his score for the Royal Ballet's 2011 production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Based on Lewis Carroll's (1832-1898) beloved novel (1865), it would become the company's highest-grossing production to date, which is easy to understand when you hear the suite from it included here. Not only that, this new release from Signum also has another of his equally captivating romantically inclined balletic efforts, Fool's Paradise of 2007.

In nine parts, Alice... grabs the listener's attention right from the start with a sparkling tick-tock prologue [T-1], which is set in the deanery of Christ Church, Oxford, England. The year is 1862, and the occasion a tea party about to be given by Alice's prim and proper mother.

Talbot not only uses leitmotifs to represent the story's characters and their moods, but associates a few of the main protagonists with various solo instruments. More specifically the celesta [00:19], oboe d'amore [00:57], and solo violin tuned a semi-tone sharp {02:21] are linked respectively to the White Rabbit, "Who are You?" Caterpillar, and Alice's mom as well as the Queen of Hearts.

There's a pas de deux involving Alice and the gardener's boy Jack in the full ballet set to an enchanting melody (EM) hinted at next [02:59]. Then the prologue ends with the clock striking four, marking the beginning of teatime in the deanery.

The sound of more clockwork announces the next section entitled "The Mad Hatter's Tea-Party" [T-2]. This is understandably antic and quirky with lots of percussive effects that may bring Malcolm Arnold's (1921-2006) colorful balletic creations to mind (see 21 December 2009).

It couldn't be more different from the following "Alice Alone," which is a haunting melancholy number [T-3] having the subtlety of Fauré (1845-1924). But the pace quickens as we get "The Croquet Match" [T-4] that opens with a galumphing umpah beat worthy of William Walton's (1902-1983) cheekier moments.

The setting is the Queen of Hearts' croquet field, where the irascible monarch is battling it out with her nemesis, the Ugly Duchess. Another lovely pas de deux, this time for Alice and the Knave of Hearts [01:53], is referenced. But their relationship is of great annoyance to her majesty, who flies into a rage [02:55] leaving a trail of flustered flamingos (the croquet mallets) and bewildered groundhogs (the balls).

Then the Cheshire Cat suddenly materializes in the form of a giant modular puppet to a vaporous spectral motif (VS) [04:47] This distracts the assembled court members allowing Alice to slip away with the Knave.

The next "Setting Up the Courtroom" [T-5] centers around the White Rabbit, who's portrayed here by a variety of exotic percussion, including the celesta. Some dramatic drum work [01:28, 02:29 and 02:37], amusing toy trumpet calls [01:59], and a brass fanfare [02:05], which could be from one of those classic 1930-40s Warner Brothers Errol Flynn adventure films (see 31 March 2011), enliven this section.

The mood then turns South American with "The Queen of Heart's Tango" [T-6], which is a spectacular solo dance number for her majesty where she apparently shows off all her histrionic tendencies. The music is Piazzolla (1921-1992) on percussive steroids, and a sonic spectacular!

That feline phantom returns in "The Cheshire Cat" [T-7], which recalls VS [00:29] and sets the mood for "The Flower Garden" concluding the suite. In two parts, the first [T-8] blossoms into a blithe reunion waltz (BR) [00:58] for Alice and the handsome Knave. It has all the instant appeal of Constant Lambert's (1905-1951) ballet scores, and transitions via references to EM [05:27 and 05:56] into the last section [T-9]. A delightful confection that builds to a sweeping melodic climax reprising past ideas, it includes BR [01:50] and disappears down that enchanted rabbit hole.

Filling out the disc, Fool's Paradise has an interesting history. It was originally commissioned by the British Film Institute in 2002 as a new score for the 1917 Russian silent movie The Dying Swan, and was in the form of a piano trio. Then in 2007 at the request of famed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (b. 1973), Talbot recast it for piano, string orchestra and harp, turning it into the ballet music heard here.

In four parts the opening one [T-10] is a somber dialogue for piano and strings. The second [T-11], at about twice the length as any of the others, introduces a questioning melancholy theme (QM) [00:06], which may remind some of the rhapsodic one near the beginning of Berlioz' (1803-1869) Harold in Italy (1834). It's subjected to a minimalistic development with agitated as well as sorrowful moments that end this part quietly.

The next section [T-12] gets off to an ominous start, but brightens briefly with some lovely solo string passages [01:41]. These are interrupted by the piano playing a repeated threatening riff [03:01] like the shark motif in John Williams' (b. 1932) score for Jaws (1975).

Once again this gives the music a minimalistic slant. Then the pace accelerates, transitioning into a dramatic episode that suddenly dissipates with the movement ending in medias res.

The concluding part [T-13] starts slowly with a piano reminder of QM. Wistful strings join in, and a QM-riddled development ends the ballet in the same spirit as it began. You'll find this delicate understated music will become all the more meaningful with repeated exposure.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Christopher Austin, who also helped Talbot orchestrate Alice..., give totally committed performances of both scores. This version of Fool's Paradise is all the more authoritative for having the composer as the pianist.

Made in Henry Wood Hall, London, the recordings recreate an extended deep soundstage in a warm acoustic. The clarity, balance and definition of the images projected for both selections are exceptional despite their different scoring. Captured with an airiness and musicality rarely encountered on conventional CDs, the sonics are delightful.

Brilliantly orchestrated with an array of exotic percussion, Alice... is ear candy featuring an effervescent high end, pleasing midrange, and clean low bass. Fool's... gets equally high marks for its exceptional piano sound and natural string tone. Balletomanes as well as audiophiles will want this disc!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y130405)

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


The album cover may not always appear.
Thuille: Cpte Vn & Pno Wks (2 Sons, Allegro giusto); Rogliano/Luisi [Naxos]
Born in what is now Bolzano, Italy, Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907) began his musical studies in Austria, where he would meet and become close friends with Richard Strauss (1864-1949). He then moved to Munich in 1879, and under the auspices of Richard's father Franz (1822-1905) studied with one of the great pedagogues of that day, Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901, see 8 December 2008). He'd go on to pursue a successful academic career in Germany, eventually replacing his teacher as professor of composition at the Munich Royal Music School.

Ludwig was also a composer of considerable merit, who made some significant contributions to the medium of chamber music. Some of these are sampled here on this new Naxos release having all of his works for violin and piano. These include two sonatas and an occasional piece entitled Allegro giusto, this being the world premiere recording of his first sonata.

The disc opens with the three-movement second published in 1904. The opening sonata form allegro is built on two contrasting Straussian ideas that undergo an elegant development. A brief recapitulation follows, and then a dramatic coda ending the movement in an agitated state.

But calm prevails in the lyrical adagio, which for the most part explores an extended chromatically adventurous theme owing a debt to Wagner (1813-1883). The finale is a rondo with a scherzoesque recurring idea that plays hide-and-seek with hints of more lyrical past ones, and ends the sonata with some virtuosic fireworks.

The first sonata completed in 1880 and dedicated to Rheinberger is a noteworthy find! In four movements the initial sonata form allegro opens with an ominous theme in the minor followed by a positive "take heart" idea. The two compete developmentally, but the recapitulation becomes overcast giving the last say to the fateful former one.

A scampering scherzo worthy of Mendelssohn (1809-1847) chases the clouds away. However, they return in the adagio, which has a Teutonic wistfulness reminiscent of Brahms (1833-1897).

The uplifting closing allegro is again in sonata form, and based on a couple of sunny melodies that could be folk-inspired. They're subjected to a cheery development and glowing recapitulation leading to a bravura all smiles conclusion.

It's back to the early 1900s for the final encore, Allegro giusto (1904-6). In one movement it features a couple of attractive folkish tunes that undergo developmental transformations of varying mood. These range from stern to ecstatic, ending the piece in a flurry of joy.

Violinist Marco Rogliano and pianist Gianluca Luisi play up a storm giving technically matchless, rousing performances. There's a joie de vivre in their delivery that turns these pieces into something extra special, and one couldn't ask for a better account of this unjustly neglected music!

Made at the Teatro La Nuova Fenice in Osimo, Italy, the recordings are good, projecting a soundstage suitably sized for a two-man ensemble. The surroundings are warm and very spacious, but at no time cloud the music. The violin tone is natural and the piano well captured, but some may feel the overall instrumental timbre would have benefitted from a more robust bass end.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P130404)

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


The album cover may not always appear.
Weingartner: Sym 7; Soloists/Letonja/BrnoCz PC/Basel SO [CPO]
Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was born to Austrian parents in what's now Croatia, and began his musical studies in Austria. The year 1883 saw him complete them in Leipzig and Weimar, Germany, where he was one of Liszt's (1811-1886) last pupils.

In 1908 he replaced Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) as director of the Vienna State Opera. He'd also become principal guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic from 1908 through 1927, where his brashness wouldn't sit well with several of his influential musical contemporaries. These included Luwig Thuille (1861-1907, see above) and critic Julius Korngold (1860-1945), father of Erich Wolfgang (1897-1957, see 31 March 2011).

Best remembered today as a conductor, he was also a composer who produced a considerable body of chamber music (see 6 January 2012), and seven symphonies. CPO completes their survey of the latter with this new hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), release featuring the world premiere recording of the last one for soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, chorus, organ and large orchestra (1937-9).

In four movements lasting a little over an hour, the first and third are purely orchestral, while the other two are set to poems. German and English versions of their texts are included in the album notes.

The opening andante [T-1] immediately commands the listener's attention with a swaggering motif in the strings (SM) [00:01] underpinning a valiant extended theme for brass and percussion (VE) [00:07]. A fugal development and recap of SM and VE follows, ending in a reflective coda which has a predominant organ part [07:08] and concludes the movement forcefully.

The next one, a setting of Friederich Hebbel's (1813-1863) poem Zwei Wanderer (Two Wanderers) [T-2], opens with a brief pensive passage for the middle strings. It's followed by the baritone singing a sad verse about a mute man, after which there's a short somber orchestral interlude.

A subdued contralto solo concerning a deaf man is next, and then an orchestral eruption [06:12] with an intensity reminiscent of the more martial moments in Beethoven's (1770-1827) Choral Symphony (No. 9, 1822-4). The soloists then tell us when the two men meet, the mute will be able to speak and the deaf one will understand him. There's also a reference to the East probably reflecting a fascination back then with Oriental religions.

The movement closes with a lovely number in which the chorus and both soloists tell us the two men now wander, and ask everyone to pray they may find each other. The poem goes on to say the day they meet, "all the world will reach its goal," which presumably refers to some future form of universal understanding.

A scherzo marked as an allegro follows, and begins with an impish episode (IE) [00:01] worthy of Berlioz (1803-1869), whom Weingartner called "the creator of the modern orchestra." It's followed by a somber idea [02:34] and a lyrical pastoral passage (LP) [03:40] that builds to a dynamic climax. This transitions into a repeat of what was just heard, but LP is replaced by a skittering final coda built around IE.

The grand finale [T-4] is based on two poems in tandem. The first, Bald reift zum Abend dein irdischer Tag (Your Earthly Day Will Soon Mature Into Evening, date not given), is by Weingartner's fifth wife Carmen Studer (dates unknown), and sung by the soprano to a hushed organ accompaniment [00:01]. It seems to be a flowery endorsement of Buddhist mindfulness, which would once again recall the fascination with Eastern religions in Weingartner's day. There's also mention of two pilgrims, probably referring to the wanderers in the second movement (see above).

Felix seems to have had Beethoven and Franck (1822-1890) in the back of his mind when he wrote the reserved orchestral interlude [03:43] that introduces the next poem, Friederich Hölderlin's (1770-1843) Hymne an die Liebe (Hymn to Love, date not given). The tenor delivers the first part [11:43], which is a winsome invocation of pastoral joy and love somewhat out of Wagner (1813-1883). He's then joined by the chorus and baritone in a rousing ode to rustic bliss [13:15].

The soprano and contralto along with the female members of the chorus sing the next verse [16:50], which is a gorgeous ensemble number limning warm summer breezes, fragrant flowers and gliding mountain streams. However, the skies darken for a brief afternoon thunderstorm intoned by the soprano, tenor and full chorus. Could that be a reference [19:38] to the "River Rhine" leitmotif heard at the outset of Wagner's
Das Rheingold (1853-4)?

A couple of organ-enhanced orchestral outcries follow [19:52 and 20:18], and then all four soloists plus choir deliver the poem's final verse, which is a purple paean to love [20:50]. There's an ominous repeated three-note drum riff after they sing "blutet" ("bleeds') [21:13], and heroic trumpet calls following the word "Jauchzend" ("Jubilating") [21:44] that bring "The Sword" motif in Wagner's Ring Cycle (1853-74) to mind. The music then builds to a towering climax ending with the phrase "Göttlichere Lenze" ("Godlier Springtimes") [24:18].

This refrain is dramatically reinforced by a couple of pregnant pauses, after which we're regaled with the triumphant return of our old friends SM and VE. They're made all the more striking here by the addition of organ and the chorus singing "Machtig durch die Liebe..." ("Empowered by Love...") [24:55]. This final fervent hymn, which includes some delightful contrapuntal moments for the vocalists, ebbs and flows into a jubilant coda for organ and orchestra concluding the piece in a state of amorous ecstasy.

Soprano Maya Boog, contralto Franziska Gottwald, tenor Rolf Romei and baritone Christopher Bolduc are in fine voice, and give convincing renditions of the rather florid poems Weingartner chose for his second and fourth movements. Along with the Brno Czech Philharmonic Choir and Basel Symphony Orchestra under Slovenian conductor Marko Letonja, they give spirited performances of this symphonic rarity undoubtedly helped by the spontaneity that usually accompanies live concerts such as this. Also organist Babette Mondry is to be commended for her contribution to the revival of this forgotten work.

A coproduction with Swiss Radio, the recording was made in Basel presumably at the Musiksaal of the Stadt-Casino. Well-chosen microphone placement precludes that overly close, in-your-face sound typical of live recordings. While some skillful touch-up and editing have eliminated any extraneous noises as well as the considerable applause that must have followed this exceptional event.

The stereo tracks project a wide deep soundstage appropriate to the large forces involved, while the multichannel one gives you a front-row-center orchestra seat. The surrounding venue in all three play modes is quite reverberant, but never blurs the sonic image.

As far as the orchestral timbre and voice quality are concerned, they're serviceable on the CD track, but much better on the SACD ones where the highs are more musical. The balance between soloists, chorus and orchestra is amazingly good considering this was a live recording. And last but not least, there are some mind-boggling album notes by that indefatigable musicologist Eckhardt von den Hoogen (see 20 June 2012)!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P130403)

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