CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
6 OCTOBER 2014
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.
Foulds: Lento e… (vc & orch), St. Joan Ste, Puppet Bal Ste; 5 Short Orch Wks; Corp/BBCCon O [Dutton]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
There's good and bad news with this most recent release in Dutton's ongoing revival of English composer John Foulds' (1880-1939) music (see 9 April 2014). First the good! Except for the St. Joan Suite, the seven other selections here are world premiere recordings. We owe three of the latter to the editorial reconstruction efforts of renowned musicologist and Foulds authority Malcolm MacDonald, and they're accordingly marked "MM" after their titles.
That brings us to the bad news! Many will be saddened to learn in the album notes of his death last May at only 66. He was one of today's best classical annotators, and will be sorely missed by those of us who appreciated his articulate insightful commentary. Thanks, Malcolm, for bringing so many hidden treasures such as these back into the light of day.
The program begins with a rollicking occasional piece entitled Carnival [T-1]. Dating from around 1934, we're told it was apparently derived from the original prelude for the Puppet Ballet Suite. This seems borne out by the presence of two cheery whistling melodies (CWs) [00:35 and 01:03] that appear in the final version of the suite also included here (see [T-12] below).
As a teenager Foulds was inspired by Longfellow's (1807-1882) translation of Dante's (c. 1265-1321) Divine Comedy (1308-1321) to write a three-act concert opera entitled The Vision of Dante (1905-8). Although it's never been performed, we're particularly fortunate to have the prelude [T-2].
In four contiguous segments, dark and foreboding wind passages characterize the first marked "The Gloomy Forest" [00:01]. Then the mood brightens momentarily with "Dante Astray" [01:24], only to become increasingly more ominous, leading to a horrendous brass-percussion-accented section titled "The Terrible Apparitions" [03:10].
This abates and after a refreshing pause the piece concludes with "The Advent of Virgil, The Guide" [04:35]. A melodious comforting state of resignation prevails here, bringing to mind late Wagner (1813-1883).
John began his career as a cellist, and consequently wrote several works for that instrument, including a concerto (1908-9), which appeared on Dutton a couple of years ago (see 31 May 2012). This was apparently preceded by another, the first movement of which has never been found. However, the last two have come down to us as a diptych for cello and orchestra known as Lento e Scherzetto (1906).
The first part [T-3] is a nostalgic lyrical cantilena (NL) for the soloist with a sympathetic tutti accompaniment. This transitions into a sprightly closing section [T-4] featuring a skipping tune for the cello decorated with flighty woodwind figures. Towards the end a forte orchestral chord [03:53] introduces the return of NL, ending the work in cyclical fashion with all the charm of a Popper (1843-1913) cello concerto (see below).
In 1924 Foulds wrote incidental music for a London production of George Bernard Shaw's (1856-1950) play Saint Joan (1923). The score was destroyed in a World War II (1939-1945) bomb-related fire, but fortunately a suite the composer extracted from it in 1925 has survived. In six parts the opening "Domrémy" [T-5] limns Joan of Arc's home village. The sound of bird calls and church bells heard in the beginning build into an inspirational melody [03:30] that fades away with the celeste hinting at some divine presence.
A magic tidbit marked "The Fairy Tree" [T-6] is followed by "The Maid" [T-7], which originally prefaced the play. Here expressive solo oboe passages seem to characterize spiritual as well as tragic aspects. of Joan's life. On the other hand "Orleans" [T-8] is a martial episode that includes a triumphal march [00:49] undoubtedly commemorating her victory there. You may find it brings Eric Coates (1886-1957) to mind.
Funereal in tone, "The Martyr" [T-9] has scourging brass, threatening drumrolls, and flaming strings indicative of Joan's frightful fiery demise. The suite then concludes with "Epilogue" [T-10] that's a moving heartfelt tribute to this great lady, which swells to paradisiacal heights as she goes to her just rewards in heaven.
More music for the theater is next, namely the Hippolytus Prelude (1925, MM) [T-11] written for a London production of Euripides' (c. 480-406) eponymous tragedy (428 BC). After a hesitant introduction it's distinguished by an affecting extended oboe solo over a slow mournful march.
Originally titled Bundle of Rags, the next selection has come down to us as the Puppet Ballet Suite (1932-4), for which there never seems to have been a parent ballet. In five sections the album notes tell us the composer was inspired by Italian commedia dell'arte characters (see 8 September 2014). However, the music has French affinities recalling works by the likes of Fauré (1845-1924), Debussy (1862-1918, see 10 March 2011), and even Ravel (1875-1937).
The initial "Prelude" [T-12] is a jolly piece of work that was written last, replacing a longer one the composer turned into Carnival, which opened this CD (see above). That seems confirmed by the presence of those CWs which appear there (see [T-1] above) as well as here [00:42 and 01:28]. "Love-scene" [T-13] is based on a gorgeous romantic tune (GR) [00:05] attesting to Foulds' melodic genius, while there's a fetching quaintness about the next GR-related "Passepied" [T-14].
A charming "Dream Waltz" [T-15] follows, and then the suite concludes with "March Finale" [T-16] that falls somewhere between Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No. 4 (1907) and the march in Arthur Bliss' (1891-1975) score for Things to Come (1934-5). With inspired thematic material like this it's a shame the complete ballet apparently only existed in Fould's mind!
Moving right along we come to the brilliantly scored Badinage (1936, MM) [T-17]. A delightful, minuet-like trinket, it has plucky pizzicato outer sections surrounding a triple trumpet voluntary-like episode [02:03-03:19].
This wonderful CD closes with the Grand Durbar March (1937-8, MM) [T-18], which like the previous selection was written not long after Foulds moved to Delhi, India. It begins with festive brass flourishes that herald a rousing Occidental tune RO [00:16].
A playful countersubject (PC) [00:30] follows hinting at the succeeding Eastern-sounding trio section [01:58-03:49]. In keeping with the composer's study of local folk music, the latter is based on an exotic melody (EM) [02:02] in the Indian classical melodic mode, or raga, known as Pilu.
Then RO and PC return [03:54 and 04:08], followed by an exuberant coda [04:58]. The latter intertwines EM [05:00] with both, ending this march and magnificent disc of discovery on a real high!
As on Dutton's previous Foulds release (see 9 April 2014) Ronald Corp and the BBC Concert Orchestra deliver loving, zealous performances of these selections. They impart that little extra something making them more than just everyday pops fare. Cellist Benjamin Hughes deserves a big round of applause for his accomplished playing in Lento..., as does oboist Bethany Akers for her piquant solo work in St. Joan... and Hippolytus...
Also done at Abbey Road Studio One in London, which is one of the world's largest recording venues, this disc projects a wide, somewhat distant soundstage in vast surroundings. The overall instrumental timbre is more oriented towards the high end, so those having equalization and/or tone controls may want to adjust accordingly.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P141006)
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Fuga, S.: Vn Sons 1-3; Tortorelli/Milani/Lamberto/G.Fuga [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
We've told you about a cello sonata by Italian composer Sandro Fuga (1906-1994, see 23 June 2014), and now Naxos gives us all three for violin. Like his harmony and counterpoint teacher, Giorgio Federico Ghedini (1892-1965, see 31 July 2013), he writes refined but eloquent music, which is borne out by these selections. As of this writing they're the only recordings of them generally available on disc.
Fuga called himself a "Romantic survivor," and believed music should be the expression of emotions inspired by inward feelings or stimulating outside sources. Consequently he rejected the creations of his more radical avant-garde colleagues as "musical clownery."
The first sonata of 1938-9 is in keeping with these sentiments, and dedicated to his brother Iginio. It's in three movements and follows an atypical slow-fast-slow schema, getting off to a pianissimo start [T-1] with ominous keyboard murmurings [00:01].
The violin then plays a dark melancholy melody (DM) [00:08] followed by the piano, which introduces an impressionistic development [01:48]. This turns into a harmonically searching conversation between the two instruments. Then the piano introduces an ambivalent chromatic theme (AC) [02:51] that's recalled just before [08:11] the movement's surprisingly optimistic last notes [09:15].
The frenzied molto allegro [T-2] is built on a couple of motifs that are in turn scampering [00:11] and folksy [01:18]. As the informative album notes point out they have an affinity with Debussy (1862-1918) and Grieg (1843-1907, see 12 July 2013).
Be that as it may they undergo a deft chromatic juggling act that gives way to a curious quietly swaying episode [04:36-05:34]. This gradually accelerates into a modified version of the opening measures, ending the movement as frenetically as it started [06:23].
The melancholy of the first movement returns in the final sostenuto espressivo [T-3]. Once again there's a gloomy piano opening, but this time with a DM-related chorale-like melody [00:01]. After that the violin recalls DM [00:50], and hints of AC [02:12 and 02:45] preface a dramatic developmental dialogue. This slowly dissipates like early morning fog leaving the listener refreshed and ready for a new day.
Almost thirty-five years separate the first and second sonata of 1972. Also in three movements, the opening modified sonata form one [T-4] is captivating and begins with ticktock piano chords [00:01], over which the violin plays a folkish tune (FS) [00:07]. This is explored and succeeded by a falling impressionistic subject [02:03] that's briefly tweaked.
These two ideas are food for a development that begins elegiacally [04:14]. It bridges via a macho fugato [05:17] into a plangent recap of FS [06:54] that fades, ending the movement quietly.
The succeeding molto adagio [T-5] is a meditation, which begins with tentative piano chords [00:00] and a wistful FS-derived melody played by the violin [00:29]. It's the subject for this recondite movement that ends all too soon.
Then after the briefest of pauses, introspection turns to panic with the concluding presto con slancio (very fast with dash) [T-6]. Here a tarantella-like theme (TT) [00:00] dominates the antsy opening and closing that proceed with scherzoesque abandon. They surround a TT-related lyrical core [04:02-05:47], and end the sonata perfunctorily.
The disc closes with the third sonata completed in 1989 when Sandro had reached the ripe old age of 83. It's one of those sublime reconciled creations great composers come up with in their twilight years.
In four movements the initial one [T-7] opens with a simple fetching melody (SF) [00:01] having Eastern European overtones. It's the recurring theme for this relaxed tuneful rondo, and may bring to mind some of the Farkas (1905-2000) selections mentioned in the previous newsletter (see 8 September 2014).
A dolorous berceuse is next [T-8] where the piano plays a Stygian melody [00:01] to a sobbing SF-derived violin accompaniment [00:34]. It smacks of Ravel's (1875-1937) bleaker moments. However, the mood brightens with the following vivo, which is a scherzo [T-8] whose cheery mercurial outer moments bracket a sprightly central one [01:19-02:33].
The final assai lento... (very slow...) [T-10] is based on a chromatically morose theme (CM) voiced by the violin [00:00] and a more lyrical one for the piano [00:38]. Both are elaborated, and then the mood turns a bit more sanguine as the piano plays repeated rocking phrases [03:09], over which the violin intones a simpler diatonic idea [03:15]. The latter is briefly explored, and followed by hints of CM [06:30] that end on a major chord, concluding the sonata with a glimmer of hope.
The pianist for all three selections is Giacomo Fuga -- any relation to Sandro? -- who makes a consistently strong case for his namesake's music. Violinist Mauro Tortorelli, Alessandro Milani, and Sergio Lamberto share the honors sequentially for technically accomplished, highly sensitive readings of their respective sonatas.
Made last year at the Giovanni Agnelli Auditorium of the Polytechnic Institute in Turin, Italy, the recordings project a broad sonic image with the violin placed left and piano to the right in an accommodating acoustic. Those with highly directional speakers set fairly far apart may sense a gap between the two instruments, bringing back memories of those early stereo days with oscillating ping-pong balls.
The instrumental timbre is generally good. Moreover, the violins are natural sounding over their compass except for some bright high spots. Giacomo's piano is effectively captured in well-rounded, agreeably percussive fashion.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P141005)
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Popper, D.: Vc Concs 1-3; Yang/Willén/ColWDR RO [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Born and educated in Prague, David Popper (1843-1913, not 1776-1822 as indicated on the back panel of this recent CPO release) was one of the greatest cellists of the romantic period, as well as a considerably talented composer. Five years ago we told you about some of his works for cello and piano (see 31 October 2009), and now we get a more substantial offering with the first three of his four concertos for that instrument on this welcome disc. These are the only recordings of them currently available as of this writing.
The first one dating from 1868 is in the usual three movements with the initial one marked "Frisch und feurig" ("Fresh and fiery") [T-1]. After a short agitated preface, the composer reveals his melodic gifts as the soloist plays a winsome pleading theme (WP) [00:44] that's developed with virtuosic touches. It's followed by a restless idea [05:10] that's explored in an exciting passage, which turns pensive, introducing a romantic variant of WP (RV) [07:29].
This bridges into the andante [T-2], a gorgeous RV-based ballad sung by the cello. But not one to wallow in an amative quagmire, Popper offsets it with a "Lebendig" ("Spirited") finale [T-3] announced by a dramatic outburst from the orchestra and soloist [00:00].
Flighty woodwind figurations follow with a jolly bravura-spiced ditty (JB) for the cello [01:07] picked up by the tutti. It's contrasted with a more subdued WP-related countersubject (SW) [02:05], after which JB and SW chase each other in rondo fashion. A supercharged JB-based coda ends the concerto exultantly.
Popper's next effort in the genre wouldn't come until twelve years later (1880). Also in three movements, it's understandably more stylistically advanced! The opening allegro moderato [T-4] has a tentative tutti beginning [00:00] that blossoms into a romantic folklike melody (RF) [00:21] worthy of Dvorák (1841-1904). This is picked up by the soloist [01:18], and explored in a virtuosic harmonically adventurous way [02:13].
After that we get an RF-related rhapsodic subject (RR) [06:33] that undergoes a searching development [07:26]. The latter ends in a big tune variant of RF [8:48] followed by a remembrance of RR [10:12]. The movement then comes to a high-strung conclusion [11:07] with plenty of cello fireworks along the way.
The andante [T-5] is a moving introspective aria for the soloist with outer sections based on a wistful melody [00:44] surrounding a despondent episode [02:53-04:45]. But heartache turns to spunky resolve in the animated final allegro [T-6]. This begins with a two-part plucky idea [00:10 and 00:30], which is explored and followed by a lovely lilting tune (LL) [02:05].
A skittering development making great demands on the soloist is next [02:49]. Then LL returns [04:26] and introduces a coda with some fancy fiddling [05:07]. This spirals upwards, ending the work resplendently.
In 1888 the composer completed his third cello concerto, which may have been written for a special event connected with its dedicatee, an Imperial Russian councilor. In a single ten-minute modified sonata form movement, it's more of a konzertstück (concert piece).
It begins with an august main theme (AM) [00:03] that's elaborated, and succeeded by a complaisant countersubject [02:03]. The two undergo a highly dramatic melodic development [04:13], once again showing what a great tunesmith Popper was. There are also plenty of opportunities for the soloist to demonstrate their technical prowess, but these displays are always accompanied by the orchestra. AM is recalled just before the end [09:56], and transformed into a thrilling conclusion.
Popper must have been aware of his reputation as the greatest cellist of his day, and presumably wrote these concertos with himself in mind. Having heard them, one is accordingly surprised by his preference for accompanied displays of cello virtuosity rather than extended solo cadenzas. Maybe this reflected a desire to display his talents in a more subtle manner.
This release will introduce many to Swiss-German cellist Wen-Sinn Yang. With technique to spare, his sensitive interpretation of these scores makes a strong case for this seldom heard music. He receives outstanding support from Swedish conductor Niklas Willén and the West German Radio (WDR) Orchestra of Cologne.
Made three years ago in the WDR's Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal, Cologne, the recordings present a suitably proportioned soundstage with the soloist well placed and balanced against the orchestra in a pleasing venue. Herr Yang's cello is beautifully captured and the overall orchestral timbre, musical. However, there's enough of a digital upper edge in the massed upper strings to preclude an audiophile rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P141004)
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Reznicek, E.: Syms 3 & 4; Beermann/RobtSchum P [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
The Lone Ranger radio and television shows (1933-57) introduced millions of Americans to Rossini's (1792-1868) William Tell Overture (1829). Then Sargeant Preston of the Yukon (1938-58) did the same for Austrian-born Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek's (1860-1945) one for Donna Diana (1889-1908). Back then this was Emil's main claim to fame, making him at that point one of those composers only remembered for a single work.
However, that began to change about ten years ago when CPO started releasing some of his other operatic and orchestral oeuvres. These have included three of Emil's five symphonies (see CPO 777056 & 777223), and here are the only recordings currently available on disc of the remaining two. As an added attraction, the album booklet regales us with more magniloquent commentary by that prolix purveyor of musicological mumbo jumbo, Eckhardt van den Hoogen (see 8 April 2013).
The four-movement third symphony was completed in 1918. It starts with a modified sonata from allegro [T-1] having a reserved opening [00:03], which hints at what's to come. Then the music turns perky [00:38], and we get a couple of memorable ideas owing a debt to Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) symphonies (1841-51) [00:48] and Franz Schubert's (1797-1828) Great (No. 9, c. 1825-8) [01:26].
A dramatic development follows with a sprinkling of curious references to past classics. These include snatches of the last movement from Sibelius' (1865-1957) Karelia Suite (1893) [02:08], Franz's familiar Marche Militaire (No. 1, 1818) [03:30] along with the melody for Die Forelle (The Trout, 1817) [04:07], and Wagner's (1813-1883) "Venusberg Music" in Tannhäuser (1845-61) [05:28]. Rather than having any significance, they're probably just some droll name-dropping by a person apparently known for a wry sense of humor.
After a fugato [04:56] based on a subject that's a clever composite of the foregoing, we get a stirring recapitulation [05:36]. Then a spirited final coda [07:22] ends this ingeniously constructed movement in a blaze of melodic glory.
The andante [T-2] is a winsome slumber song with the pastoral charm of soporific moments in Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). It's succeeded by an A-B-A minuet [T-3] with outer sections based on a simple folklike ditty punctuated by colorful chromatic excursions worthy of Schreker (1878-1934, see 20 November 2006). They surround a relaxed central episode [01:25-03:38] with what sounds like a reference to "Goodnight, Ladies" (1847) [01:55].
A melody with the ebullience of the opening theme from Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony (No. 4, 1833) announces the final allegro [T-4]. It's elaborated and followed by a more subdued countersubject [00:47], after which the two are consummately developed in sonata-rondo fashion with reminders of past motifs. A reserved central section then builds to a restatement of the main ideas to end the symphony triumphantly.
The fourth symphony of 1918, also in four movements, is a more serious affair. The initial modified sonata form "moderato pesante" ("moderately heavy") [T-5] begins with an ominous theme [00:00] recalling darker moments in Richard Strauss's (1864-1949) Also sprach Zarathustra (1895-6) and Ein Heldenleben (1897-8). Then we get a relaxed idea [00:42] that's the subject of an elaboration with a brief agitated passage calling to mind Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer (1841) [01:35].
A nervous episode like those found in Mahler's (1860-1911) symphonies (1888-1910) follows [02:26], ending in a heroic soaring motif (HS) [03:09]. HS then becomes the main subject of a tripartite development [04:24, 05:11 and 07:11]
This also involves all past thoughts along with hints of that four-note fate figure (FF) in Beethoven's (1770-1827) fifth symphony (1807-8) [04:51], plus insistent driving motifs like those in Bruckner's (1824-1896) scherzos (1863-96) [06:14]. The movement then concludes with an HS-based coda that starts unassumingly [08:51], and expands [09:14] into a massive tragic climax.
The next "Trauermarsch auf den Tod eines Komödianten" ("Funeral March on the Death of a Comedian") [T-6] would seem particularly appropriate to circumstances of late with the recent demise of Robin Williams (1951-2014) and Joan Rivers (1933-2014). Strangely enough there's an underlying irreverence and causticity appropriately suited to their humor.
Recalling the andante from Haydn's (1732-1809) Clock Symphony (No. 101, 1793-4), it also starts with an infectious ticktock rhythm (TT) [00:01], but Reznicek replaces Haydn's opening theme with a distantly related, mournful sobbing melody (MS) [00:04]. Probably best described as a sonata-rondo, TT recurs throughout the movement, while MS undergoes several programmatic transformations presumably reflecting aspects of this sad event.
At the outset one can imagine a hearse draped in black pulled by horses stepping in time to TT. Spectators with bowed heads line the route, and MS-based, weeping brass [01:29] and wind [01:58] passages express their grief. Then TT reappears [03:15] followed by three MS-related episodes that are in turn cynical [03:20], brazen [04:12], and compassionate [05:10]. These seemingly characterize the deceased.
They're recapitulated, after which TT and fragments of MS fade away as the funeral cortege disappears into the distance. This remarkable movement finds Reznicek at height of his creative powers.
A perky palate-cleansing scherzo follows [T-7], preparing the way for the grand finale marked "Variationen über ein eigenes Thema" ("Variations on a Peculiar Theme") [T-8]. In referring to the theme as "eigenes", Reznicek was probably alluding to the strange sense of sobbing pathos that pervades it (SP).
Although the movement starts with a straightforward statement of SP [00:00], the variations that follow are developmentally linked together, making it difficult to determine where they begin and end. But generally speaking there seem to be nine of them.
The first is a pastoral avian offering [01:08] as opposed to the blusterous second having connotations of Brahms (1833-1897) [02:13]. Then we get a respite with a consoling third [03:05] and comforting fourth [04:17].
The heavy hand of fate rules the next variant [05:19], which has more references to FF (see [T-5] above) [05:32]. However, providence intervenes, giving us a sublime chorale-like one [06:30] that transitions into a tender amorous variation [06:48].
The penultimate transformation is an assertive fugue with all the authority of those by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) [08:58]. It bridges into the final ninth, which is a massive romanticized peroration ŕ la Wagner, Schreker and Richard Strauss based on an exuberant version of SP [10:31]. It ends the symphony and this enterprising disc triumphantly. Reznicek had come a long way since Donna Diana!
German conductor Frank Beermann has been a champion of lesser-known symphonic and operatic repertoire. And now he completes his recorded survey of Reznicek's symphonies with this CD featuring the Robert Schumann Philharmonic. As its principal conductor, Maestro Beermann secures stunning performances of these rarities from this time-honored orchestra.
The recordings were made four years ago at the Event Center Forum in Chemnitz, Germany. They present a wide but considerably deep soundstage in a reverberant acoustic giving rise to a softly focused sonic image. The instrumental timbre is generally pleasing with twinkling highs, a convincing midrange and clean lows.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P141003)
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Rubinstein, A.: Pno Qts, Op 55b (arr w stgs of Op 55) & Op 66; Howard/Manning/Goff/Pearson [Hyperion]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
We've praised several works in these pages by Russian composer Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) that have included his piano trios (see 26 January 2011), and even an opera (see 10 June 2014). Now Hyperion gives us first recordings of two equally engaging piano quartets.
The earlier of them originated in 1855 as one of those rare Russian quintets for piano and winds (Op. 55), which just might have given Rimsky Korsakov the idea for his of 1876. Rubinstein then came up with the quartet version of it for piano and strings featured on this disc (Op. 55b, published in 1860). While there's one less instrument, the use of multiple-stopped string chords makes for a richer sound.
In four movements lasting almost forty minutes, it begins with a sonata form allegro [T-1] having a jubilant opening gesture [00:00] succeeded by a lovely lyrical idea (LL) [00:41] and relaxed lullaby-like second subject (RL) [02:17]. The exposition concludes dramatically [03:19] transitioning via a harmonically adventurous passage into a pensive development [04:07].
A brief pause separates this from the recapitulation where the main themes reappear in reverse order [RL-08:12, LL-09:51]. The movement then ends in a stirring LL-based coda [10:20].
The next scherzo [T-2] has antsy outer sections, both built on two melodies that are respectively skittish [00:00] and pleading [01:22]. They surround an amorous trio segment (AT) [02:22-04:07] presaging Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), who would study with Rubinstein.
AT anticipates the mood of the succeeding andante [T-3] that's a melodic outpouring spotlighting the cello. It owes allegiance to Mendelssohn (1809-1847), which is not surprising considering Rubinstein studied for four years in Berlin (1844-8). You'll find it a gorgeous movement, which shows Anton was an accomplished tunesmith having a melodic style of more Western than Eastern persuasion.
The final allegro [T-4] begins with a bouncy two-part theme (BT) [00:00 and 00:16] recalling Schumann (1810-1856). BT will become the mainstay of this vivacious sonata-rondo, recurring in several captivating developmental guises. Some of these are thrilling bravura-ornamented treatments [04:54, 07:05 and 08:13], which Anton would have easily tossed off considering he was one of the 19th century's greatest pianists.
Then after a machine-gun-trill on the piano and short pause [08:53], the movement ends in a coda that's at first deceptively subdued [09:01]. However, not for long as it bursts into a knuckle-busting downward cascade of notes [09:46] to end the quartet triumphantly. You'll love it!
The next quartet (Op. 66, 1864) became one of the composer's most popular works in his day, and he performed it many times. Also in four movements with an initial sonata form allegro [T-5], it begins with the piano introducing an attractive flowing theme (AF) [00:00] having the grace of a Dvorák (1841-1904) melody. This is explored and we get a hesitant whimpering (HW) idea [02:18]. It's followed by the reappearance of AF [03:25], which then undergoes a rigorous extended development.
The recap begins with the return of HW [09:35], and a wistful restatement of AF [10:14] that transitions into a dramatic coda [11:32] based on both. It has a curious buzzing string effect [11:34], and ends the movement peacefully.
A capricious allegro that's a scherzo [T-6] follows. For most of the movement the piano reiterates a cheeky pragmatic ditty (CP) [00:06] interrupting efforts by the strings to establish a subdued idealistic thought (SI) [01:29]. But in the end the piano sees the error of its ways, and adopts an SI-moderated version of CP [04:20]. The movement then concludes with featherlight affability.
There's a cinematic intensity about the andante [T-7] that suggests there may have been some undisclosed tragic program underlying it. The dark introduction begins with an ominous undulating motif [00:00] that conjures up images of the underworld. Except for two brief optimistic passages [03:41-05:03 and 07:25-08:53], gloom prevails bringing to mind Rachmaninov's (1873-1943) The Isle of the Dead (1909).
The glorious final sonata-rondo allegro [T-8] gets off to a very Western start with a scurrying Beethoven (1770-1827) oriented theme (SB) [00:02] having fate figurations [00:27] (see FF in the Reznicek recommendation above). A serene second one (SS) [01:58] brings to mind the big tune in the last movement of Brahms' (1813-1897) first symphony (1855-76).
Then we get a Russian folk-song-like melody (RF) [02:56], which for the first time on this disc seems associated with the East and Rubinstein's Ukrainian origin. These three ideas fuel a vibrant development ending with the appearance of a chorale-like motif [04:55 and 05:48], after which they're recapped in order [SB-05:57, SS-06:47, RF-07:29]. Then an ebullient RF-based coda [08:04] concludes this quartet and CD in a virtuosic burst of joy.
The performances by pianist Leslie Howard, violinist Rita Manning, violist Morgan Goff and cellist Justin Pearson are exhilarating, giving these arcane works a new lease on life. Mr. Howard's authoritative playing easily makes up for an occasional hint of intonational malaise in the upper strings.
The recordings were made last year at Potton Hall in Suffolk, England, and project an up-front compact soundstage in a warm chamber venue. The placement and balance between the players is good with their frequent solos ideally highlighted. The piano is well captured and strings natural sounding, making this a release which will please audiophiles as well as romantic chamber music fans.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y141002)
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Végh: Str Qts in F, g & D (c. 1900); Authentic Qt [Hung]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Two new Hungarian composers made their CLOFO debuts in the 14 July and 12 August 2014 newsletters, and here's a third. Fans of late nineteenth century chamber music will relish this recent Hungaroton release of three string quartets by János Végh (1845-1918). A homegrown composer, he was a good friend of Liszt (1811-1886), and greatly admired Wagner (1813-1883).
Although no dates are given, they fall into a stylistic spectrum ranging from late Schubert (1797-1828) and Mendelssohn (1809-1847) up through Smetana (1824-1884), Goldmark (1830-1915, see 25 November 2008), Dvorák (1841-1904) and even early Richard Strauss (1864-1949). The Authentic Quartet discovered them in manuscript, and we have this venturous ensemble to thank for these world premiere recordings.
Each in four movements, the concert begins with the quartet in F major. The first movement [T-1] features a lovely extended romantic theme that's the subject of a rapturous development. The succeeding "Serentina" [T-2] is a real pussycat with meowing passages. They alternate with ones suggesting our feline friend is using a scratching post.
The third andantino [T-3] is a theme and variations whose wistful main subject [00:00] undergoes ten transformations. These range from flowing [00:32] to amorous [01:26], hymnlike [03:15], mercurial [04:28], and finally weeping [05:41] with the last transitioning directly into a concluding sonata-rondo presto [T-4]. Based on a scampering tune [00:00] with a pleading countersubject [00:40] it ends things cheerfully.
The next quartet in G minor is a more austere offering! It may bring to mind Schubert's late ones in minor keys (1820-4), and opens with a somber heartfelt allegro [T-5].
A somewhat more upbeat presto follows [T-6]. This has a vivacious frolicsome subject (VF) [00:00] that surrounds a bagpipe suggestive ditty (BS) [01:10].
A feeling of devout resignation pervades the andante [T-7], after which the quartet closes with another more optimistic allegro [T-8]. It has a couple of recurring themes with possible folk associations, bringing to mind Goldmark. They're juggled in rondo fashion with some imitative spicing, and then the work ends summarily.
Filling out this disc we get the quartet in D major, which may well have come after the ones above as it's the most progressive-sounding despite some Mendelssohnian roots. The opening movement [T-9] has an anguished chordal beginning [00:00] succeeded by a couple of charming themes that are rigorously developed. A spirited recapitulation brings it to an end with an amen-like cadence.
You'll get a déjŕ entendu feeling with the next vivace [T-10], which is a reworking of the G minor quartet presto, and also starts with VF (see [T-6] above). However, this time around the piper has left the scene, and János alternates VF with a more sober variant of BS (SV) [02:36].
The andantino [T-11] is a chromatically soaring cantilena based on an SV-related melody [00:00]. Then the work ends with an imaginative modified sonata form allegro [T-12], which is the longest, most complex movement here.
It starts with a virtuosic chordal introduction [00:00] followed by a couple of engaging ideas [00:38 and 01:36]. These undergo a sophisticated development that includes a fugato [03:33], after which there's a thrilling recap [06:01]. This has hints of themes from past movements and ends in a lovely coda [09:21], concluding the quartet with a big smile.
Presumably the Authentic Quartet's name reflects its members' exclusive use of period instruments. Accordingly these performances are what you would have heard back when this music was written. While this is historically enlightening, some of us used to modern day instruments occasionally sense an intonational edginess about their forebears .
This is certainly the case here, but fortunately the human ear gets acclimated to it as the music proceeds. That's particularly true with a technically accomplished ensemble such as the one here rendering superb readings of new and interesting repertoire.
Made at the Hungaroton Studio in Budapest, the recordings project a soundstage appropriate to an ensemble of this size in a warm acoustic. Being period instruments, the string tone is understandably lean. However, the players are ideally placed, balanced, and well captured producing a sonic image that should please audiophiles.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y141001)
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