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.
Davis, Carl: Lady of the Camellias (cpte bal); CarlDavis/CzNa SO [Carl Davis]
Alexander Dumas the younger's (1842-1895) novel La dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias, 1848) has inspired works by several composers. These have included Verdi's (1813-1901) La traviata (1853), Vissarion Shebalin's (1902-1963) music for Meyerhold's (1874-1940) 1935 stage adaptation of it (see 21 December 2012), and the Carl Davis (b.1936) ballet on this recent album.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Carl at age twenty-four moved permanently to England in 1961, where he's become a highly regarded conductor as well as composer for stage, screen and television. His music is much in demand, and the National Ballet of Croatia based in Zagreb commissioned him for this two-act ballet completed in 2008. He made a point of restudying the novel to get a fresh perspective on it, and consequently there are a couple of scenes not in the Verdi.

Set in Paris during the middle of the nineteenth century, the main character is a beautiful courtesan named Marguerite Gautier, who was inspired by Dumas' mistress, Marie Duplessis (1824-1847). Marguerite is dying of consumption, and the first act prelude appropriately titled "Paris Fever" [D-1, T-1] gives us three thematic groups related to her coquettish erudition (CE) [00:08], lack of emotional fulfillment (LEF) [00:46], and deteriorating health (DH) [01:54].

While there's not enough space to get into the details of this engaging score (see the album notes for the composer's synopsis), highlights include an opening scene [D-1, T-2] with an ominous death march (OD) [00:00], and a haunting hallucinatory waltz (HH) [02:16] that begins somewhat like Sibelius' (1865-1957) Valse triste (1904) adapted from his incidental music for the Finnish drama Kuolema (Death,1903).

Not long thereafter there's a festive number [D-1, T-4] introduced by CE where Davis borrows the closing measures of Adolphe Adam's (1803-1856) ballet Giselle (1841) [04:00], which is referenced in the plot. And a little later [D-1, T-8] we hear Marguerite playing her token party piece, Carl Maria von Weber's (1786-1826) Invitation to the Dance (1819) [00:00]. She's soon joined by her lover Armand for a pas de deux [D-1, T-9] set to a lilting Davis waltz prefaced by LEF [00:00].

The next three sections [D-1, T-10 through 12] have some ebullient music associated with their move to the country, where they lead a brief blissful existence represented in another pas de deux [D-1, T-13]. This is highlighted by a gorgeous amorous theme (GA) [02:09, 04:16, 05:01] reminiscent of the more romantic moments in Rheinhold Gliere's (1875-1956) ballet The Red Poppy (1926-7). There are disturbing rustles of LEF and DH towards the end, but Armand reassures Marguerite all's well, concluding the dance in peaceful optimism.

An exotic number [D-1, T-15] spiced with some African drumming [01:43] soon follows. It becomes increasingly frenzied and smacks of the bacchanal from Camille Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) opera Samson and Delilah (1877, see 27 May 2013). But the act ends ominously with an OD-shrouded passacaglia [D-1, T-17], during which Armond's father convinces Marguerite to give up his son.

The final act begins with a sumptuous waltz [D-2, T-1] whose opening phrase [01:31] may recall that old popular song "The Band Played On" (1895) best known for its refrain "Casey would waltz with a strawberry blond." An infectious, perky castanet-spiked march/polka follows [D-2, T-2], and then skipping ahead a couple of numbers we get an impassioned czardas [D-2, T-6].

The ballet's mood now darkens as Marguerite sadly recalls Armand [D-2, T-8]. He then enters in a seemingly friendly manner to a waltz [D-2, T-9] recalling HH [00:11]. But the situation soon turns ugly as he denounces her [02:34], and OD returns [D-2, T-10] with a reminder of GA [01:21] announcing the final stages of her illness.

A penultimate pas de deux [D-2, T-11] finds her pleading with him for a final night of love, which is associated with a lovely Liebesnacht theme (LL) [01:30]. Then the ballet ends with our heroine's death scene [D-2, T-12] that begins with LEF [00:00] and OD [00:38]. These are followed by nostalgic recollections of LL [03:45] as Marguerite quietly expires.

Most would agree when it comes to music for the theater one couldn't ask for a better conductor than Carl Davis, particularly when he's interpreting one of his own scores as he is here. He gets superb playing from the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (CNSO), delivering what will undoubtedly be the authoritative performance of this ballet for some time to come.

Made at the CNSO Studios' Gallery Hall in Prague, the recording projects a compact, detailed soundstage. The instrumental timbre is characterized by bright highs and clean low bass.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P130923)


The album cover may not always appear.
Górecki, M.: Conc Notturno, Ov, Divert, 3 Frags, 3 Intrmzos, Farewell; Soloists/Rajski/SopPolCh PO [DUX]
On the basis of this new DUX release Polish-born composer Mikolaj Górecki (b. 1971) follows in his father Henryk's (1933-2010) footsteps with music that's contemporary-sounding but at the same time approachable. These are the only available recordings currently on disc of the six string-orchestra-dominated selections presented here.

Mikolaj studied with his father at the Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937, see 18 February 2009) Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland from 1990 to 1995. He would then further his musical education in Canada, and get a doctorate in composition from Indiana University. He now lives in Texas.

The program opens with Concerto Notturno for Violin and String Orchestra of 2000. In three connected movements the initial lento [T-1] is a Stygian serenade at times reminiscent of Vaughn Williams’ (1872-1958) darker pastoral works. The mood changes suddenly with the outbreak of the succeeding allegro [T-2] that showcases a twitchy fiddle accompanied by an itchy tutti.

The movement ends with a dyspeptic cadenza that bridges into the concluding lento [T-3]. This atonally spiced reverie features a lovely extended melancholy melody [00:00] that might well be of Slavic folk ancestry. The movement concludes with some somber afterthoughts from the soloist set to an angelic string accompaniment, ending the concerto in another reality.

The next Overture for String Orchestra (2000, revised 2012) [T-4] follows the fast-slow-fast Italian overture schema. The scurrying outer sections are a bit like Bartok's (1881-1945) more frenetic string passages, and harbor an engaging theme [01:18, 06:47]. They bracket a movingly pensive section [02:12-05:52], and end the piece in great excitement.

The three-movement divertimento that follows dates from 2009, and begins with a lachrymal two-hanky lento [T-5]. The pace quickens and becomes more insistent in the next movement [T-6], which is based on an attractive folkish melody [00:08].

This undergoes a couple of transformations, the last of which ends the movement in optimistic bliss. An energetic final allegro [T-7] then introduces an element of whimsy, concluding the work in whirlwind fashion.

Next up, Three Fragments for String Orchestra and Celeste Ad Libitum (1998), which opens with a gorgeous lento [T-8] worthy of the more reverential moments in Papa Henryk’s beloved Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (No. 3, 1976). Then we get a ritmico mercurial romp [T-9] followed by a subdued pensive lento [T-10]. The celeste finally makes its appearance in the latter [00:43], which ends the piece in a "celesteal" dreamlike state.

The concert continues with Three Intermezzos for Two Clarinets and Strings (1999), the first one being marked animato [T-11]. There's a mischievous French nonchalance about the clarinet writing worthy of Jacques Ibert's (1890-1962) more irreverent creations.

By contrast, the haunting espressivo [T-12] brings to mind those recent knockout Finnish clarinet concertos we told you about (see 6 January 2011). But Gallic cheek returns in the closing animato to end these intermezzi on a churlish note.

The disc concludes appropriately with Farewell for String Orchestra from 2009. This curt single movement piece [T-14] is an attractive nostalgic epilogue that once again brings Daddy's more reflective moments to mind.

Violinist Piotr Plawner as well as clarinetists Jean-Marc Fessard and Roman Widaszek are in superb form for the concerto and intermezzo selections. All receive solid support from conductor Wojciech Rajski and the Sopot Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra (SPCPO), who go on to give outstanding accounts of the other works. The SPCPO's technically accomplished, articulate, sensitive playing gives rise to a resplendent ensemble sound.

Made at the Stella Maris Church in Sopot, Poland, the recordings present a vast soundstage in highly reverberant surroundings. Consequently, depending on speaker placement, some may find the strings more to left and right than evenly spread out. As for the wet acoustics, they enrich the string sound, but may be found wanting by those liking drier sonics.

That said, the soloists are convincingly captured and balanced against the orchestra. The massed string tone is pleasing with occasional steely moments, but these shouldn't detract from the overall enjoyment of this release.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P130922)


The album cover may not always appear.
Perle: Cpte Stg Qts V1 (2, 5 & 8 "Windows of Order", Molto Adagio); Daedalus Qt [Bridge]
George Perle (1915-2009) received his early musical education at DePaul University, Chicago, and got a doctorate in musicology from New York University. He'd then go on to become a highly respected composer, teacher and author. The title of his book Twelve-Tone Tonality (1977, 1996) best describes his later musical style, which might be generalized as a dodecaphonic wolf in tonal clothing.

He left us ten works for string quartet, and the four on this new Bridge release span fifty years of his creative career. Taken chronologically the ones here are revealing snapshots of his stylistic evolution, beginning with the Molto Adagio of 1938 [T-8]. These are the only recordings of them currently on disc.

Ghosts of Beethoven (1770-1827), Bartók (1881-1945) and Berg (1885-1935) haunt this searching twelve-minute piece, which is built from a couple of brief opening motifs. While the music is highly chromatic, Perle manages through repetition, the use of amiable intervals and clever rhythmic devices to preserve a sense of tonality.

He numbered his next effort in the genre as his first quartet, but never got beyond writing its opening seventeen measures. However, the year 1942 saw the completion of an entirely new one that he'd call his second, after which seven more, numbered three through nine, would follow.

In the key of D minor, it's a throwback to conventional tonality, and something he'd later consider a stylistic excursion. With two slow outer movements surrounding a brief faster one, its layout recalls Bartók's second quartet (1915-7), which Perle acknowledged had already been a strong influence on the Molto Adagio mentioned above.

The initial moderato [T-1] begins with two groups of thematic subjects, which are characterized by scalic motifs, and repeated triplets. They're subjected to an ingenious combination development and recapitulation utilizing canons as well as inversions to create a continually changing texture. While this is highly chromatic music, Perle keeps it tonally anchored with cello pedal points.

Having no markings, the second movement [T-2] is a bizarre waltz with an imploring melody [00:00] that hovers around a related folkish tune [00:47]. Tonality is preserved through repetition, but becomes more illusive with the opening of the final movement [T-3], which is also unmarked. This is for the most part a dark mournful offering that as Malcolm MacDonald's (see 14 May 2012) informative album notes point out, augurs Shostakovich's (1906-1975) late quartets.

There's one rapturous spot [03:45] with a pizzicato accompaniment [04:08] reminiscent of moments in Schoenberg's (1874-1951) Transfigured Night (1899, arranged for string orchestra 1917-43) where it would seem a beam of moonlight breaks through. But nocturnal gloom soon returns [05:22], and the quartet ends in tonal despair on a thrice repeated unison D [10:03].

Moving right along we get a 1967 revised version of the fifth quartet originally completed in 1960. Perle considered it among the best of his early "12-tone tonal" (12TT) works, and despite its dodecaphonic roots, it will have great appeal for those put off by the emotionless, intellectualized creations of hardcore serialists.

In three movements having only metronome markings, the first [T-4] opens with a bluesy slithering idea [00:00]. An increasingly agitated elaboration follows, transitioning into a nervous thematic episode with pinprick notes in the high registers [01:49]. The involved development [03:56] and recapitulation [05:28] that come next don't readily lend themselves to a succinct written analysis. Suffice it to say they turn the movement into a tonally tinted, lyrical listening experience.

Then we get a vibrant scherzo [T-5] that juxtaposes a skittish idea [00:02] with a swaying riff [00:09], and ends in midair with the latter trying to reassert itself. This movement sets the mood for the whimsical third [T-6], which has an antic disposition. Cantankerous one minute and contemplative the next, there are some interesting effects that include sprinklings of pizzicato, a stalking rhythmic motif [02:54, 04:53], and an unearthly muted descending passage [05:09] that ushers in the work's restrained conclusion.

The eighth quartet of 1987-8, which Perle called Windows of Order, also falls into the 12TT category (see above). The title reflects the composer's use of various compositional devices designed to give the music a diatonic feel. In one unmarked twenty-minute movement [T-7], the work falls into five spans. These are built on four proportionally related tempi, and spiced with contrapuntal devices that include imitation as well as fugato.

All four are introduced in the first span, and have metronome markings based on a quarter note. Tempo 1 (T1) [00:00] is set at 68 beats per minute, tempo 2 (T2) [~ 00:34] at 51, temp 3 (T3) [~ 00:54] at 153, and tempo 4 (T4) [~ 01:19] at 102, putting them in a ratio of 1.33 to 1 to 3 to 2.

But enough of this technical mumbo jumbo! And in hopes of better conveying the music’s emotional impact, we’ll make up an underlying program.

T1 and T4, which would seem to have coy feminine and assertive masculine thematic associations respectively, are the main characters in the second span [01:49]. Here they engage in an amicable developmental dialogue with T1 having the last word.

The third span [05:40] amounts to a slow movement featuring T1 again. But here T4 is replaced by T2, which might be considered a secret admirer with furtive thematic traits. Yearning and amorous, this is the quartet's emotional center of gravity. It’s the opposite of the fourth section [11:54], which is a scherzoesque episode providing some comic relief.

This is based entirely on T3, which is associated with a mercurial melody that undergoes a central development [13:00]. T3 then resurfaces [13:50] briefly, and falls exhausted, ending this section.

A short pause follows, and then we get the concluding fifth span [14:29] where T1 and T4 make a return appearance. But the relationship has soured, and the mood this time around is combative. The quartet concludes with T4 stomping off, leaving T1 dangling her bonnet to the subdued motif heard in the quartet's opening measures. This brings what must be regarded as a modern chamber masterpiece full circle.

The Daedalus Quartet makes a welcome return to these pages (see 10 March 2011) with this stunning string of "Perles". Technically accomplished in every way, their attention to dynamics and rhythmic phrasing, particularly in Windows of Order, guarantees you a disc with some unforgettable contemporary chamber music. The composer couldn't be better served!

Made on several occasions during June and September of 2012 in an unidentified venue of the DiMenna Center, New York City, the recordings project a broad soundstage in warm ideally reverberant surroundings. While the spacing between the instruments is generous, they remain perfectly balanced in respect to one another.

The string sound is bright and pleasing. However, to borrow a line from a Coen Brothers' script, "What's the rumpus?", as there are a series of low frequency murmurs throughout the disc. Maybe someone was moving pianos nearby, and then there's that 24/7 New York City traffic! But it seems more likely the performers were seated on one of those “tympanic” platforms that amplifies any leg movements. Lastly, there’s a strange pop in Molto Adagio [T-8, at 05:41].

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P130921)


The album cover may not always appear.
Röntgen: Vc Concs Cpte (1-3); Horsch/Porcelijn/Neth SO [CPO]
The hard copy CD market experienced several setbacks this summer with a couple of distributors closing their doors. Consequently many smaller label offerings have become unavailable, the EtCetera disc with these cello concertos being a case in point (see 30 January 2008).

But thanks to CPO’s continuing revival of Julius Röntgen's music (1855-1932, see the newsletter of 22 November 2011), they now fill the gap with this new release featuring all three. Not only that, they easily surpass the EtCetera in both performance and sound! As of this writing, these are the only available recordings of them on disc.

Not to be confused with his famous distant relative, German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923), who discovered X-rays, Julius was born in Leipzig where he received his musical training. However, in 1877 he moved to Amsterdam where he'd spend the rest of his life, and is accordingly remembered today as a Dutch composer.

While his music is very Germanic and owes a great debt to Brahms (1833-1897), it's also characterized by delightful folk-derived melodies as well as a sense of optimism. This sets it apart from the more weighty fare being turned out then by the likes of Mahler (1860-1911), Pfitzner (1869-1949, see 23 February 2011), and Reger (1873-1916, see 30 March 2008).

The first cello concerto (1893-4) is in three adjoining movements and almost twice as long as either of the others. The opening allegro [T-9] begins with a recitative-like passage for the soloist [00:01] reinforced by declamatory chords from the orchestra. A highly agitated idea [01:46] plus a couple of lyrical thoughts (CL) follow [01:52, 03:45], and are developed along with the earlier material in Brahmsian fashion. This leads to a pensive extended cadenza [08:48-10:58] and recap where all of the thematic chickens come home to roost.

A high sustained note for the soloist is picked up by the flute to begin the slow movement [T-10]. Here the cello treats us to one of those winsome melodies [00:43] Röntgen was so adept at writing. It's interrupted by some lively commentary from the orchestra related to ideas in the preceding movement, but triumphs in the end.

The finale [T-11] then begins immediately with a catchy angular tune (CA) [00:18] smacking of the concluding "La campanella" movement in Paganini's (1782-1840) second violin concerto (1826). CA is repeated and subjected to a development recalling CL [01:57] with CA returning in rondo fashion [04:02, 05:31, 06:47]. The work then ends optimistically with a virtuoso fireworks display for soloist and tutti.

Julius wrote his second concerto in 1909 for one of the greatest cellists of all time, Pablo Casals (1876-1973), who was also a close friend. Atypically it's in a single movement having five spans, the first of which [T-4] begins with the cello playing a somber autumnal theme (SA) [00:01]. This will become a unifying motif, and is followed by an extended cadenza.

The orchestra eventually makes a dramatic appearance with a domineering idea [01:48] which is elaborated by the cello. Next we get another one of those lovely sinuous Röntgen melodies (LS) on the oboe [03:28]. It recalls those Norwegian folk tunes he'd discovered through his good friend Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), and already used in his Aus Jotunheim Suite (1892, see 16 April 2007). LS is picked up by the soloist, after which we get a reminder of SA [05:06] to close the span.

The next one [T-5] is based on a nostalgic LS-derived theme [00:00] and bridges into a short scherzoesque segment [T-6]. The latter begins with a perky SA-tinged ditty [00:01], and ends in a reminder of LS [01:44] which builds to a dramatic crescendo.

This fades into the concluding two spans, which together comprise a thrilling theme and variations. The first one having andante markings [T-7] opens with the subject melody (SM) [00:01] played by soloist and tutti. It once again shows the composer's predilection for folk material as it's derived from the Irish song "Shule Aroon". The four variants that follow are sequentially airy [00:41], Brahmsian [01:19], melancholy [01:57], and scherzo-like [02:40].

Then we get a lovely cantilena [03:04], which transitions into the final allegro span [T-8] introduced by a drumroll and brass flourishes [00:01]. This is an extended jiglike fifth variation [00:11] that’s briefly developed [02:29]. It’s then recapped in an exciting coda [03:12], which makes a final reference to SA [03:46], ending the piece as it began.

The third concerto of 1928, also in one movement, is the most dramatic and compact of the lot. In three respectively fast-slow-fast arches, the opening allegro is intense and worried with forceful passages for the soloist. But the gloomy cello is somewhat offset by a series of radiant riffs on the celesta [beginning at 01:49]. And we even get some cheerful avian chirps from the winds towards the end of the first arch [04:20].

These anticipate the lovely andante [T-2] that follows immediately and transitions into the final allegro span [T-3]. Here the tension mounts again with an anxious orchestral introduction. Then there's an insistent theme intoned by the cello [00:16] that's seconded and elaborated by the orchestra with more chirps [02:05].

A developmental episode [02:56] featuring bravura passages for the soloist and additional chirps [beginning at 03:56] follows, and then we get a heroic recapitulative outburst from the orchestra [04:47]. This leads to a demanding cadenza [05:10-07:10], after which the tutti return concluding the concerto triumphantly.

Our soloist here Gregor Horsch, who's the principal cellist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, delivers stunning accounts of all three concertos. He's given unfailing support by the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra under Dutch conductor and Röntgen advocate David Porcelijn.

Made at the Music Center in Enschede, Netherlands back in 2006, the recordings project a well-proportioned soundstage in a rich acoustic. The cello is ideally captured and balanced against the orchestra. The instrumental timbre is pleasing with clear crisp highs, a musical midrange and well defined bass. Audiophiles having systems with a more subdued upper end should be pleased.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y130920)


The album cover may not always appear.
Taylor, Mat.: Sym 2, Va Conc "Humoreskes"; Bradley/Walker/BBC SO [Toccata]
Back in May we introduced you to one of Britain's most up-and-coming composers, Matthew Taylor (b. 1964), who's music is currently being championed by Toccata Classics. Their previous release gave us three of his seven string quartets (see 27 May 2013), and this latest one samples some of his orchestral fare, namely a concerto and symphony. Both are world premiere recordings.

Matthew was a composition student of Robin Holloway (b. 1943) at Cambridge University, and would later continue his musical studies with Edward Gregson (b. 1945, see 8 September 2008) of the Royal Academy of Music. He was also a very good friend of Robert Simpson (1921-1997), whom he acknowledges as a great influence.

Accordingly Taylor's music is in the English late romantic mold, but like that of Simpson there are Scandinavian touches recalling Nielsen (1865-1931), Sibelius (1865-1957) and Holmboe (1909-1996). Hopefully he’ll better stand the test of time than Robert, whose works seem to be performed less and less frequently.

This release begins with the viola concerto of 2010, which the composer says in his informative album notes was inspired by Sibelius' six humoresques for violin and orchestra (Op. 87 and Op. 89, 1917-8), and that of Robert Schumann for solo piano (Op. 20, 1839). In fact Taylor's piece was at first entitled Humoreskes, but seemed so substantial he later renamed it a concerto keeping the original moniker as its subtitle.

In five movements, there's a relaxed pastoral quality about the opening andante [T-1]. In it the soloist sings a sinuous song to a misty orchestral accompaniment with occasional avian calls. But the pace quickens with the next presto [T-2], which is a pixilated scherzo. Here the viola is chased about by a temerarious tutti that includes chugging basses, shrieking woodwinds, and sighing upper strings. The movement ends humorously with drum rolls and a glissando skyrocket for the viola that disappears into outer space.

The next larghetto and succeeding molto adagio comprise the concerto's emotional nadir. The former [T-3] is a sorrowful siciliana, ending with some teardrop pizzicato for the soloist and a mournful sustained chord played by the strings. The latter movement [T-4] begins with a dark cadenza-like theme (DC) for the viola [00:01], which is soon joined by a grieving tutti [01:15]. There are some melancholy Mahler (1860-1911) moments [01:37], and then a reminder of DC [03::04].

This is cut short by dramatic timpani-reinforced outbursts for full orchestra announcing the youthfully impetuous final allegro [T-5]. With a pragmatism reminiscent of Holmboe (see 27 May 2013), there are frequent virtuosic excursions for the viola set against a brilliantly scored backdrop. The concerto then ends in a machine gun exchange between soloist and orchestra with the most amorous of instruments having the last say.

The year 1977 saw the emergence of two human-birth-related symphonies by British composers, namely Michael Tippett's (1905-1998) fourth and Robert Simpson's sixth. The idea for the latter had been suggested to the composer by a distinguished gynecologist, who fourteen years later would approach and commission Taylor for a large scale orchestral work based on the same subject.

The offspring of this request would be his second symphony, which was delivered in 1991. Taylor would then go on to revise it in 1997 and 2008, giving us the version heard here. In the usual four movements, the composer tells us the initial moderato [T-6] is a musical characterization of human embryogenesis, which is apparently extremely rapid. Accordingly it opens with a dramatic forte chord for full orchestra [00:02] anticipating the frenzied cellular activity soon to follow.

This subsides into a lyrical segment that undergoes a dramatic, colorfully scored elaboration and development worthy of Respighi (1879-1936, see 9 March 2006). These are meant to suggest the process of mitosis, and build to a resounding climax. The music then falls away as the now fully formed fetus rests peacefully in its uterine Utopia.

But the womb's dark confines eventually make baby claustrophobic and restless, as represented in the next scherzo-like vivacissimo [T-7]. This rambunctious, percussion-spiked movement has Nielsen overtones (see 7 May 2006), and seems to imply our unborn is a real "kicker". It's a rhythmically twitchy mosaic of melodic fragments that sound like parts of nursery tunes, and ends peacefully as baby dozes off.

A few years back research purportedly showed certain types of classical music had beneficial effects on prenatal babies. Recording companies immediately jumped on this, releasing discs that claimed to do everything from improving a child's disposition to heightening its IQ.

Taylor, probably with tongue in cheek, gives us a caricature of the fare found on these albums in the next lento [T-8]. Lullaby-like with Sibelian moments, there are calming string, soothing wind and rippling piano passages that assure this is going to be one laid-back, bright kid! Could that sprinkling of celeste [05:18] be neurons flashing in its tiny developing brain?

The music then transitions via a sigh [06:59] and some peaceful bridgework for strings into the allegro finale [T-9], which was inspired by the composer's actually witnessing a birth. It begins with, and is dominated by an insistent seven-note riff (IS) [00:00] that might well be an "I want out!" leitmotif.

An increasingly chaotic, fugally tinged development hinting at past ideas follows. It suggests labor pains as the baby now fully formed is about to escape from its amniotic prison. The section ends momentarily in a percussive explosion [03:27], and we get a brief peaceful episode during which mother could be mustering her strength for the impending delivery.

Then IS returns [05:35], and the music resumes with even more severe developmental contractions. Chanting brass and strings proclaim the glorious event as baby emerges to a cluster of ff chords, one of which seems to ask, "Is it a boy or girl?" [08:49]. In Taylor's case it was a girl!

A year ago we praised violist Sarah-Jane Bradley in these pages (see 27 August 2012), and here she is again in equally fine form for the concerto. She receives superb support from the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Scottish conductor Garry Walker, who we've commended previously for a couple of Havergal Brian (1876-1972) discs (see 31 August 2011 and 14 May 2012). Maestro Walker's enthusiasm for the concerto extends to the symphony where his phrasing, dynamics and attention to rhythmic detail milk this physiological score for all it’s worth.

These performances were taped in 2009 (symphony) and 2013 (concerto) at the BBC's Maida Vale MV1 Studio in London, and sound consistent. MV1 is one of the largest recording spaces in the UK, and the soundstage projected in these capacious surroundings is somewhat recessed. Despite that, the viola is realistically captured and highlighted against the orchestra.

The overall instrumental timbre is pleasing with highs that are occasionally steely in massed forte upper string passages. As for the low end, it goes down to rock bottom and is exceptionally clean. In that regard, there are some pants-flapping moments from the impressive battery of percussion called for in the colorfully scored symphony. Pointy-eared listeners may detect rustles among the orchestra members before each of its inner movements [T-7 and 8].

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P130919)


The album cover may not always appear.
Tyberg: Sym 2, Pno Son 2; Falletta/Buff PO/Bidini [Naxos]
Conductor JoAnn Falletta was responsible for the revival of Austrian composer Marcel Tyberg's (1893-1944) third symphony (1938-43, see 29 October 2010). Now she and Naxos give us the second along with the last of his two piano sonatas. These are the only recordings of either currently available on disc.

Composed between 1927 and 1931, the second symphony is in four movements and an engaging romantic atavism. The initial one is a hefty sonata form allegro {T-1] which opens with an angular insistent theme (AI) [00:06] that could almost be out of a Bruckner (1824-1896) symphony. A subdued idea follows [01:55], and then a third heroic motif [03:27]. All three are skillfully developed [04:06], recapped [07:09], and the movement concludes with an AI-based coda [08:57].

The adagio {T-2] is a rapturous offering that intertwines a sighing sylvan melody [00:01] with a sinuous pleading one [02:09]. It builds [07:13] to a couple of dramatic climaxes interspersed with some ethereal passages for the strings as well as a downward glissando [09:16] that's right out of Mahler (1860-1911). The movement then ends blissfully with lovely decorative solos for cello and high violin.

We get a change of pace in the big-boned scherzo {T-3], which has Brucknerian outer sections with fugato figurations, and a jolly bumpkinish inner one [03:59-06:04]. It's a diversion before the heavy-duty concluding Preludium und Fuge {T-4], which opens with a slow enervated theme (SE) [00:00]. SE is mournfully elaborated, and suddenly erupts with a drumroll into a related motif of Brucknerian proportions (BP) [04:13]. This announces the fugue [04:35], whose beginning is based on BP with an SE countersubject.

After some contrapuntal machinations SE gains the upper hand, and fades into a pastoral episode [08:22] featuring SE in a major key (SM). The fugue then returns all the more forcefully [09:22], and after a brief transitional passage there's a glorious coda [10:34] built on SM with flashes of BP [12:08]. It ends the symphony triumphantly, leaving the listener with a great feeling of elation.

The disc is filled out with Tyberg's hard-charging second piano sonata of 1934. In four movements it's another romantic throwback in which Beethoven (1770-1827) and Brahms (1833-1897) come to mind. The first movement is a volatile allegro {T-5] with a couple of memorable themes that are rigorously developed. It ends with a knuckle-busting recapitulation and coda that's not for amateurs.

The adagio, which is the longest movement {T-6], is a moody chromatic meditation and the work's emotional core. There are passages the composer apparently marked "expressive as a cello," which may explain a couple of rapturous swaying segments [02:38, 07:28] that are among the sonatas most attractive moments.

But Tyberg precludes this from becoming a romantic wallow with the next scherzo {T-7]. There's an element of Liszt's (1811-1886) more demonic piano pieces in the animated outer sections. They surround a lovely nostalgic episode [03:05-04:40], and end the movement with a final display of keyboard deviltry.

The finale {T-8] has a rousing introduction [00:00] followed by a couple of ideas that are respectively confident [00:19] and folklike [01:17]. These are subjected to some virtuosic developmental transformations, and then bits of both themes are tossed about in a fireworks coda that ends the sonata glowingly.

The symphony couldn't have better proponents than conductor JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), who squeeze every last drop of emotional blood out of it. As for the sonata, Italian pianist Fabio Bidini turns music that in lesser hands might come off as crash-and-burn Lisztian romanticism into a highly memorable keyboard discovery.

Like the third symphony mentioned above this one was recorded in the Kleinhans Music Hall, which is the BPO's home. The soundstage seems a tad more spacious than before in this reverberant venue, which should appeal to those liking wetter sonics. The instrumental timbre is generally good, but there are a few grains of digital sand in massed forte string passages.

The sonata recording was made in the Southwest German Radio's Large Broadcasting Studio, Stuttgart. It projects a smaller sonic image suited to a solo instrument in a drier acoustic. The piano sound is fairly well captured, but there is some congestion in dense passages.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P130918)