CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
23 JANUARY 2015
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.
Brun: Pno Conc, Vars on Orig Theme (pno & stg orch), Divert (pno & stgs); Nemec/Adriano/Brat SO [Guild]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
We've championed the music of Swiss-born composer Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962) in these pages (see 12 August 2014), and are now pleased to tell you about some by his friend and compatriot Fritz Brun (1878-1959). Both men received their early musical education in Switzerland, and would go on to study in Cologne where they got to know each other.
After working in Berlin, London and Italy, Fritz returned to his homeland in 1909, pursuing a career as a composer, conductor and pianist. He'd retire in 1941 to concentrate on composition, and during his lifetime write a significant number of orchestral works. These include ten symphonies, and the three with piano that appear on this new Guild release. The recordings of the concerto and divertimento are the only ones currently available on disc.
The program begins with a reedited, uncut version of his only piano concerto dating from 1946. The composer said he intended this as well as the earlier Variations... (see below) to be well integrated symphonic offerings, and not just keyboard showpieces. He seems to have succeeded on both counts giving us music with extremely demanding piano parts set to elegant accompaniments.
In three movements the opening one is a complex, modified sonata form allegro [T-1] lasting almost seventeen minutes. It begins with the piano stating a quaint thematic nexus (QN) [00:00] that will infect the entire work. QN is then taken up by the orchestra [00:31], and a lengthy development follows [00:46]. This is highlighted by a taxing cadenza [02:37-03:53] and some virtuosic combative moments for soloist and tutti that include a fugato [07:11].
The foregoing gradually dissipates leading to a recap of QN [09:58] notable for an outburst reminiscent of late Brahms (1833-1897) [11:05]. A dramatic coda follows [13:57], ending the movement exuberantly with a bravura flurry of piano notes [15:42], and a final forte allusion to QN [16:21].
The andante [T-2] begins as a prayerful utterance in the low strings, which along with a solo clarinet provide the sole accompaniment for this movement. The piano enters [01:13], and then there's a moving rhapsodic exchange between soloist and tutti with hints of QN. It's a lovely reverie that ends abruptly as the piano plays a forte, QN-related riff [06:58].
This immediately launches the final allegro [T-3], where there's no fiery show-off cadenza, but a consistently flamboyant part for the piano throughout the entire fourteen-minute movement. No wonder the pianist who premiered and played the piece a couple of times once told Brun he'd been left with "bleeding fingers"!
The music is rondoesque with a couple of QN-derived ideas appearing in several convoluted guises. These range from hyper [00:01] to lyrical [01:45], brooding [03:24] and heroic [06:10]. There's also a playful Brahmsian number [07:29], and pragmatic tidbit reminiscent of Hindemith (1895-1963) [09:02]. They're followed by a hope-filled offering [10:04], after which the concerto concludes exultantly [12:58].
Those wanting a more detailed analysis of this and the following two selections will find them in the album notes by our conductor. Known only by his first name, Adriano, he's a Brun maven currently championing Fritz's symphonic works for Guild.
Moving right along we get the Variations for String Orchestra and Piano on an Original Theme (1944). Presented in a version newly prepared by Adriano, it opens with the strings playing a protracted, chromatically tinged main subject (PC) [T-4]. This will undergo eight transformations, the first of which is a dreamy keyboard contemplation [T-5].
The mood then becomes more assertive as soloist and tutti combine forces for two commanding Brahms-like variants [T-6 and T-7]. After that the piano once again takes center stage in a scherzoesque number [T-8] bringing to mind Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra (1885-6). Then it's back to Brahms whose fourth symphony (1884-5) colors the fifth transformation [T-9].
The spirit of Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42) pervades the sixth [T-10], while the penultimate one [T-11] is a reverential rumination beginning with the strings. The piano enters about halfway through adding some cheerful embellishments. It then introduces the concluding and longest eighth variation [T-12] that's a sprightly fugue. This builds to a big tune restatement of PC [03:49] ending things with a smile.
The disc is filled out with a late work, the Divertimento for Piano and Strings dating from 1954. The most harmonically adventurous piece here, it's in a single movement having five connected sections that resemble a theme and four variations. However, each of these contains a short development!
It begins with a tonally impish riff (TI) for the strings [00:00] hinting at the catchy agitated main subject (CA) soon stated by the piano [00:26]. CA is then enthusiastically elaborated, after which we get the counterpart of a first variation.
This starts with a slow amorous CA-related theme [01:47] that's briefly explored. A cocky animated variant follows [04:00], and then a third introspective one [05:22], which transitions directly into the final variation. It opens with the piano reprising TI [10:01], after which there's a CA-based developmental epilogue that evokes past moods and ends the divertimento happily.
Slovak pianist Tomás Nemec delivers superb renditions of all three selections. They attest to the considerable amount of time he must have spent learning these demanding scores.
This is complex effusive music that requires special handling with regard to dynamics, phrasing and rhythmic detail to hold the listener's attention. Along with our soloist, conductor Adriano and the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra do just that! We should also point out there are a there couple of spots toward the end of Variations... [T-11 and 12] where the strings get somewhat squirrelly.
Made two years ago in Slovak Radio's Studio I, Bratislava, the recordings project a well-defined soundstage in a favorably reverberant acoustic. The piano is beautifully captured and balanced against the tutti, which come off generally lifelike. However, there are occasional bright spots in massed forte violin passages.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150123)
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Fesca, A.: Pno Trios 2 & 5; Paian Trio [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Some months ago CPO released an outstanding album with eight of German composer Friederich Ernst Fesca's (1789-1826) sixteen string quartets (see 16 December 2013). Now they give us two of the six piano trios by his second son Alexander (1820-1849), who like his father was German trained.
As was the case with Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893, see 5 February 2014), Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897, see 27 August 2012), António Fragoso (1897-1918, see 31 July 2012) and Jean Cartan (1906-1932, see 30 September 2012), he died very young -- age twenty-eight to be exact! And judging from the quality of these trios, this was most unfortunate as it would seem the world lost an extremely promising composer. They are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
Written between 1841 and 1843, both are in four movements. The second begins with a sonata form allegro [T-1] that gets off to a pulsating start. Then the violin, piano and cello each introduce a theme. Sequentially these are hesitatingly worried (HW) [00:04], comforting with Schumann (1810-1856) associations [00:56], and lingeringly amorous (LA) [01:11]. The exposition is repeated [02:49], and followed by a brief variational development [05:40]. Then there's a recap [07:41] ending in a vibrant HW-based coda [10:11] that concludes the movement in anguish.
The adagio [T-2] starts with the piano playing a lovely HW-related reverential melody (HR) [00:00] that's ornamented with some cello pizzicato [00:45] and a violin descant [01:19]. This suddenly transitions into a sad central episode with a troubled string duet [02:07]. But the warmth of the opening section returns [03:50] to end the movement reassuringly.
It couldn't be more different from the antic scherzo [T-3]! You'll find this a brief diversion suggestive of a peasant dance with hints of bagpipers [00:36, 01:03, 02:19 and 02:45].
Another sonata form allegro with a surprise ending concludes the trio. It begins with an angular Schumanesque idea [00:00] followed by a winsome LA-related melody [01:05], which is excitedly elaborated. All this is repeated [02:32], and followed by a short development [05:00]. Then there's what seems like the start of a conventional recap [06:03], but Fesca fools us by basing the final coda [08:03] on HR above, thereby adding a cyclic touch to the work.
The next trio, his fifth, is a fetching creation that shows he was a remarkable tunesmith even at this early age. It opens [T-5] with a piano introduction featuring a restful lullaby (RL) [00:10] having all the grace of Chopin (1810-1849). The strings soon join in, and the pace quickens into a livelier section (LS) with a couple of RL-related themes.
LS begins with the first of these, which is a boisterous idea having the intensity of Beethoven (1770-1827) (RB) [01:52]. Next the cello introduces another of more subdued nature (RS) [03:05] that's briefly explored. LS is repeated [04:57], after which there's a moody development [08:03] and buoyant recap [09:54]. However, Fesca then chooses to end the trio with a solemn coda [11:51] based on RB and RS.
The "Romanza" [T-6] again shows what a gifted melodist the composer was. It starts with a delicate amatory subject (DA) [00:04] followed by a supportive countermelody (SC) [01:04]. An emotional development follows [02:32] where an impassioned variant of SC appears [03:20]. This is briefly explored and DA returns [04:41] followed by SC [05:41], providing the thematic material for the rhapsodic ending.
Then we get a scherzo [T-7] that's even more rustic than the one in the previous trio. Again a dancelike offering, those pipers come back for the high-stepping outer episodes. They surround a coy trio [01:51-03:26] where it's easy to imagine a bevy of cavorting village maidens.
The finale [T-8] is a stunted rondo with an opening and closing pair of tandem themes. The first is a catchy toylike march (CT) [00:00], and the second another Fesca killer melody (FK) [01:38]. They bracket a Chopinesque treatment of CT [02:41-03:40], after which FK [04:50] brings the trio to a stunning conclusion, leaving one regretting Alexander's early demise all the more!
Our performing group here is the award-winning Paian Trio, which takes its name from an ancient Greek word associated with Apollo, the god of the arts. There are a couple of ungainly violin moments that reflect the youthfulness of the composer rather than any shortcomings in the performances.
A coproduction of CPO and Southwest German Radio (SWR), the recordings were made in SWR's chamber music studio, Stuttgart. They project a limited soundstage in small pleasant surroundings. The instrumental balance is generally good, although there are times when the violin could be more to the fore. The piano is for the most part well captured, and the string tone natural but on the lean side.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150122)
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Fibich: Night at… Ov, Comenius Fest Ov, Jew of… Ov, Hedy Bal Concert Ste, etc; Stilec/CzNa SO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Naxos now gives us the fourth of eight projected volumes devoted to Czech composer Zdenek Fibich's (1850-1900) complete orchestral music (see volumes 1, 2 and 3). Born 50 miles north of Prague just south of the German border, Zdenek received his early musical education at home. He'd go on to study in Leipzig, where his composition teacher was Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902, see 21 December 2012), and then Paris.
In 1874 he moved permanently to Prague, and became a prolific composer whose output ranged from numerous chamber pieces to seven operas, and many symphonic works that include music for several melodramas as well as special occasions. Nine shorter orchestral selections from the latter categories fill out this release, six of which are world premiere recordings indicated by "WPR" after their titles.
Our concert begins with three overtures, the first of which is entitled Noc na Karlstejne (A Night at Karlstejn Castle). This was written in 1886 [T-1] for a production of Jaroslav Vrchlický's (1853-1912) eponymous comedy of 1884. It begins with echoing horn calls [00:00] soon joined by other winds and ominous timpani strokes. Then there's a commanding fanfare for strings and brass [01:09] followed by some fetching melodies (SF) [01:24, 03:08 and 04:40]. These undergo a cheerful development [05:24] with heroic overtones, and are reprised [07:02], ending the piece joyfully.
Completed in 1892, the Comenius Festival Overture (WPR) was for an event honoring Czech teacher and writer John Amos Comenius (1592-1670), whom many consider the father of modern education in Europe. It begins with a weighty introduction [00:00] that gives way to a subdued chorale-like tune [01:49].
This transitions via a distraught passage into a troubled idea (TI) [03:38] infected with a rhythmic riff (RR) recalling the four-note fate motif in Beethoven's (1770-1827) fifth symphony (1807-8). TI is further explored and gives way to a pleasing relaxed melody (PR) [04:49].
The foregoing material then undergoes a dramatic development [05:34]. This introduces a brief heroic thought (BH) [05:49], and becomes increasingly riddled with fragments of RR [07:54]. After that PR is reprised [08:43] along with other previous fleeting motifs. All are worked into a triumphant concluding coda that ends the piece with forte reminders of BH [11:26].
Fibich wrote the third overture, Prazský zid (The Jew of Prague) in 1871 [T-3] as a preface to Czech actor and playwright Josef Jirí Kolár's (1812-1896) eponymous tragedy presumably of the same year. It opens forbiddingly with winds soon joined by the rest of the orchestra. The music builds via timpani rolls [01:13] to a stormy climax [01:50] worthy of Franz von Suppé (1819-1895) at his most tempestuous (see 25 February 2013).
This subsides into a troubled episode fraught with nervous rhythmic figurations and some memorable themes. One of them is a catchy singsong tune [03:33] that along with the others ends the overture in an excited state auguring impending doom.
Zdenek's former student Anezka Schulzová (1868-1905), who'd become his second wife, was a theater-literary critic and essayist who wrote the libretti for his last three operas (1894-9). From the first of these entitled Hedy (1894-5) based on Lord Byron's (1788-1824, see 12 March 2014) epic poetic satire Don Juan (1818-24), we get an eighteen-minute concert version of the ballet music (WPR) [T-4].
This opens festively with brass fanfares [00:00] succeeded by scurrying strings and winds [00:21]. Then there's a stately gavotte [00:43] with a whirlwind finale [03:41] along the lines of Léo Delibes' (1836-1891) ballets.
The following three numbers presage Glazunov's (1865-1936) choreographic efforts, the first being an amorous offering [04:34] with some lovely string solos. It may well have accompanied a pas de deux.
Then there's a whimsical flirtation [08:24], and a charming waltz [10:54]. After that an engaging theme-and-variations promenade [12:51] prepares the way for the stirring finale [15:45]. This is built around a couple of vivacious ideas with all the drive of Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) more exhilarating balletic moments.
Fibich composed music for several melodramas. The last three, which date from between 1888 and 1891, are a trilogy based on the Greek myth of Hippodamia with more texts by Vrchlický (see above). The march from the concluding one titled Hippodamia's Death is next [T-5]. It begins with a commanding tune that abuts a couple of more tranquil ideas [01:19-02:17 and 03:06-04:19], and ends with pompous flourishes worthy of Wagner (1813-1883).
This venturous release concludes with four short pieces written for special events that occurred in Prague between 1876 and 1892. We have our conductor and Fibich authority Marek Stilec to thank for these performing versions based on his meticulous examination of their source material.
The first is a prologue from 1876 for the opening of the New Czech Theater (WPR) [T-6]. The plaintive beginning grows into a sweeping climax that gradually fades suggesting the magnificent structure being honored.
Then we get what's referred to as a monograph (1881) commemorating the building of the National Theater (WPR) [T-7]. After an introductory brass fanfare, the reserved opening is expanded into a dramatic big tune worthy of the impressive subject edifice.
The final two selections accompanied what were then known as tableaux vivant (living pictures) popular in Europe during the composer's day. These were short staged stationary scenes commemorating important events. The first one here, which was for the 1883 reopening of the National Theater (WPR) [T-8], is a stirring march in keeping with the occasion.
The other from 1892 (WPR) [T-9] celebrated the 300th birthday anniversary of John Amos Comenius mentioned above. It's a moving powerful hymn paying tribute to one of the greatest educators of all time.
Performances of Fibich's music have for years suffered from numerous errors and unauthorized cuts. However, that's no longer the case with Naxos's ongoing series devoted to his orchestral compositions. To wit, Maestro Stilec conducts the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (CNSO) in corrected, complete versions of all these works, giving us what are now definitive readings. They confer new life to Fibich's music, which on older discs frequently came off as lackluster.
Made not long ago at CNSO Studio 1, Prague, the recordings project a moderate well-appointed soundstage in a warm, ideally reverberant acoustic. The instrumental timbre is very natural with musical highs, an impressive midrange and clean bass. Producer Jiri Stilec -- any relation to Marek? -- has come up with a demonstration quality disc of discovery!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y150121)
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Gallagher, J.: Sym 2 "Ascendant", Quiet Reflections; Falletta/Lon SO [Naxos]
Recommended (1 CD)
The previous Naxos release of American Jack Gallagher's (b. 1947) symphonic music (see 29 October 2010) received accolades in several prestigious classical music publications, and there's every reason to believe this one will! As we noted before he's one of those rare contemporary composers who write music that's not only immediately appealing but intellectually satisfying.
Once again he's championed by conductor JoAnn Falletta, who's given us some of the most interesting lesser-known symphonic repertoire available on Naxos (see 23 September 2013). Both selections on this disc are world premiere recordings.
In his album notes the composer tells us he played trumpet with a couple of orchestras during the late 1960s. That left him with a great love for the symphonic music of such masters as Bartók (1881-1945), Britten (1913-1976), Hindemith (1895-1963), Holst (1874-1934), Mahler (1860-1911), Mussorgsky (1839-1881), Rachmaninov (1873-1943), Ravel (1875-1937), Shostakovich (1906-1975) and Stravinsky (1882-1971). Consequently intimations of them creep into his music, making him what might be called a derivative colorist.
Gallagher's second symphony was composed between 2010 and 2013. Subtitled "Ascendant", he says it reflects his intent to write something mirroring human striving presumably for a better life. In four movements, the first marked "Boldly" [T-1] is a twenty-minute modified sonata form structure that starts with whooping horns [00:01]. The winds and strings then introduce a hyper opening section (HO) having a stringent soaring theme (SS) [00:16] meant to characterize the work's title.
The oboe then announces an idea marked "Buoyantly, gently" (BG) [03:08], after which there's a colorful elaboration of SS and BG [04:15] with what sound like melodic snatches from the nursery song "Pop! Goes the Weasel" [05:00]. Imitative brass and string flourishes follow [05:16], ending in a harp glissando [05:47].
Next a nonchalant passage for strings and winds [05:49] transitions into a development that begins mysteriously [06:20]. It builds with moments reminiscent of Bartók [07:05, 07:50, etc.] to a dramatic climax and fades. Then it regains strength in additional Bartókian passages, becoming a symphonic tempest. This abates as the sun comes out [09:23] to hints of Stravinsky's Petroushka [09:28-10:03]. A pragmatic episode with touches of Hindemith [10:04] follows, closing the development pensively.
The recapitulation starts with the return of HO [12:13] and SS [12:56]. The latter is explored, and after a pause [15:38] BG reappears [15:49]. The movement ends in a frenzied percussion-laced coda [16:53], which at one point [19:52] resembles Miklos Rózsa's (1907-1995) score for Spellbound (1945, see 30 June 2007).
Titled "Playful", the scherzando [T-2] adds a light touch to the proceedings. It opens with another horn whoop [00:01], and a clucking avian idea (CA) [00:05] connected by an impish riff (IR) [00:16] to a gay second subject (GS) [00:19]. IR then returns [01:07] introducing what the composer refers to as a "minimalist-inspired development" of CA [02:06] that's the most dramatic part of the movement.
It's succeeded by IR [04:15] and a flowing third thematic thought (FT) [04:23]. More bits of IR follow [04:58], and are turned upside down becoming the subject of a curt fugato [05:44]. After that we get the return of FT [06:27], GS [07:08] and CA [08:08]. Along the way IR periodically interjects itself like some fun-loving child, thereby ending the movement as marked.
The next "Slowly" [T-3] is a sixteen-minute aria that begins with a mellow horn call (MH) [00:01]. A gentle swaying introduction follows [00:08], over which the violins intone a disconsolate SS-based song (DS) [00:47]. This becomes recondite with wistful woodwind solos.
Then the tempo briefly accelerates [07:33], hinting at the SS-fragmented, orchestral mayhem that soon follows [08:39]. It reaches chaotic proportions and suddenly ends, after which the movement's quiet opening is reworked [09:37]. During this the music builds to a romantic climax, gradually falling back to end things peacefully with some percussive titillations and a reminder of MH [15:43].
The finale [T-4], which bears the lengthy annotation "Slowly -- Energetically -- Fast -- Moderately -- Fast", has an intricate thematic structure making it the most convoluted movement here. It gets off to a mysterious start with shimmering strings and a soothing harp [00:01]. They're joined by the horns playing a DS-derived motif [00:16], after which soft wind triplets surround brief trumpet and horn solos.
These suddenly give way to "Energetically" that commences with a stringent scurrying string theme [02:25] followed by a couple of nervous ideas. They prepare the way for the first "Fast" that has more bustling strings [03:00], which whip the rest of the orchestra into a Hindemithian frenzy [03:53].
This transitions via churlish passages with occasional slapping strings into "Moderately", which starts with a disembodied chorale-like motive (DC) introduced by the winds [08:08]. DC seems a distant cousin to the Dies Irae frequently referenced by Rachmaninov and many other romantic composers. It undergoes an elaboration that ends in a brass and percussion-laced outburst that marks the beginning of the final "Fast" [10:17].
This turns into a blazing peroration where all sorts of thematic chickens come home to roost -- some on top of each other! Then DC appears in abbreviated big tune brass regalia [13:34], and the music mutates into an energetic DC-related coda [14:52] that concludes the symphony definitively.
The disc closes with Quiet Reflections of 1996 [T-5], which the composer describes as a gently lyrical narrative in one movement. It begins with a tolling bell [00:01] that hallows a mournful horn passage (MH) [00:11]. This is followed by an MH-associated melancholy melody (MM) for the strings and winds [00:42]. MM is explored and succeeded by another idea appropriately marked "Religioso" (RG) [03:01].
RG is then expanded bridging into a central episode starting with a more optimistic reflective theme [03:48]. A reminder of RG [04:34] follows giving rise to a rustic ditty introduced by the bassoon and other winds [05:00]. This becomes the subject of a delightful pastoral section [06:12] prefacing the return of RG [08:36], the bell [09:45] and MH [09:54]. After that a condensed version of the opening measures concludes the work in the same mood it began.
As on their earlier Gallagher release (see above), conductor JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra give a splendid account of this music. Her careful attention to dynamics and phrasing brings out all the emotional impact of these effusive scores without any histrionics.
The recordings were made recently at one of London's oldest surviving cultural venues, Blackheath Concert Hall. They project a hefty sonic image in reverberant surroundings, which should appeal to those preferring a wetter sound. The instrumental timbre is characterized by argent highs, a musical midrange and low transient bass.
Audiophiles will find Gallagher's colorfully orchestrated music a challenge to their systems. Those playing this disc at a good level on speakers that go down to rock bottom may notice some isolated underlying rumble that may be HVAC-related.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150120)
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Kalkbrenner: Spt (pno, ob, cl, hn, bsn, vc, dblb), Sxt (pno, 2 vns, va, vc, dblb); Pno Fant…; Linos En [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
A couple of years ago we introduced you to German-born, French-trained pianist and composer Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785-1849; see 12 April 2012), whose bases of operation included London (1814-23) and Paris (1823-49). Like many keyboard virtuosos he had a big ego that didn't sit well with many of his contemporaries. In fact at one point he told the young Chopin (1810-1849), who was then considered by many an even greater pianist that he'd benefit from intensive study at one of his schools.
Today it's not Kalkbrenner, but Chopin and Liszt (1811-1886) who are remembered as the keyboard giants of their time. In fact Friedrich's only current claim to fame is some of his piano music thanks to the ongoing silver disc revival of it. Now CPO gives us a memorable sampling of his chamber works with the three selections on this CD. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The program begins with a sextet for piano, two violins, viola, cello and double bass dating from around 1822. However, unlike most chamber works in this genre the instruments don't have equally important roles. To wit, the keyboard predominates anticipating the chamber versions of Chopin's two piano concerti (1829-30).
In four movements the opening statement (OS) of the initial sonata form allegro [T-1] introduces a couple of delightful themes worthy of Friedrich's good friend Hummel (1778-1837; see 30 January 2008). The first is a charming songful idea (CS) [00:01] that's followed by a catchy riff (CR) [00:55], which pops up throughout the movement. The other, a lilting CS-related melody (LC) [01:14].
Some nimble finger work leads to a repeat of OS [03:34], and a harmonically searching development [07:06]. Then CR [09:54] announces the return of LC [10:12], which is worked into a virtuosic coda that ends the movement with CS's opening notes [12:41].
A menuett follows [T-2] that's a sprightly exchange between soloist and tutti. It has a tuneful trio section [02:05-03:10], portending the imminent gorgeous cantabile [T-3]. The latter juxtaposes a singing melody [00:00] with a baleful one [02:21] to great effect.
Then it's off to the races with the final rondo [T-4] built on a recurring group of flighty ideas [00:03, 00:19 and 00:59]. These chase each other around a central developmental episode [04:05-05:53], and end the sextet ebulliently.
The next selection is an outstanding example of Kalkbrenner's solo piano music. Entitled Fantasy on the Scottish Air "We're A' Noddin'" (1823) [T-5], it's a theme and variations based on an eighteenth century Highlands song. The piece lasts a little over twelve minutes, and starts with a flashy introduction [00:00] hinting at the air, which soon makes an authoritative appearance [01:59].
Nine transformations follow, the first being a knuckle-busting number festooned with machine gun scales [03:03]. This is contrasted by a cradlesong variant [03:43], and two march-like ones [05:00 and 05:57]. The mood then becomes more subdued as we get an introspective episode [06:52] succeeded by a romance [07:27].
The popular music of the early 1900s (see 28 February 2012) seems foreshadowed in the honky-tonk seventh [08:38] and dance hall eighth [10:19] variations. Then the fantasy ends [10:49] in a final flurry of notes, and last reminder of the air's opening phrase.
This captivating disc closes with Kalkbrenner's four-movement septet for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, cello and double bass, circa 1835. Like the above sextet it's atypical chamber music having more in common with Mozart's (1756-1791) alfresco cassations.
The first sonata form allegro brillante [T-6] opens with a showy statement where the piano introduces an initial bounding theme (IB) [00:22] succeeded by a winsome countermelody (WC) [01:02]. Some bravura finger work is next , and a harmonically searching development [03:22] followed by the usual recap of the opening [05:11]. The movement closes quietly with a restrained coda [08:17] anticipating the subdued andante [T-7].
This begins darkly with the tutti playing a lugubrious idea [00:00] in their lower registers. Then there's a somewhat more optimistic passage with lovely solos for the winds and piano [01:41-03:23]. But the opening gloom returns ending the movement like it began.
Brighter thoughts inhabit the scherzo [T-8], whose outer sections abound with a bouncy tune (BT) [00:00] suggestive of IB. They surround a trio [01:41-03:30] based on a comely melody (CM) that's a distant cousin of WC.
The final allegretto [T-9] is a tunefest starting with a lively childlike ditty (LP) [00:00]. It's reminiscent of BT, and brings Hummel as well as Mendelssohn (1809-1847; see 21 December 2009) to mind. Then there's a brief frowning motif [01:07] that transitions into a relaxed CM-related melody for piano and winds [02:13].
This is followed by some deft digital dexterity, and a repeat of the movement's opening sequence of ideas in rondo fashion [04:02]. The septet concludes excitedly [07:07] with more keyboard fireworks enthusiastically supported by the tutti.
Our artists are members of the German-based Linos Ensemble (LE), which takes its name from the Greek god considered the inventor of melody and rhythm. This group has a reputation for prize-winning recordings of little known treasures (see 31 July 2009), and accordingly pianist Konstanze Eickhorst along with her fellow musicians deliver outstanding performances of these romantic rarities.
A coproduction of CPO and German Radio (DLF), the recordings were made in the DLF's Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall), Cologne. They present a modest soundstage in a lovely acoustic with just the right amount of reverberation to give this music a romantic glow while keeping each of the Linos musicians in focus. The balance between the instruments in the sextet and septet is ideal, and the solo piano well captured in the fantasy. All of the instruments sound natural without any digital nasties. In short, CPO has given us a demonstration quality disc.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y50119)
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Stanford, C.: Vn Conc 2 (orch Dibble; w Holst & Milford); Marshall-Luck/Hughes/BBCCon O [EM]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
With the arcane title "The Fire that Breaks from Thee", this venturous album from EM Records features three romantic English rarities. They include Gustav Holst's (1874-1934, see 12 March 2009) [T-1] early, seldom heard Walt Whitman Overture dating from 1899, and world premieres of two violin concertos.
The Holst [T-1] is nothing like The Planets (1916)! You'll find it a thrilling conglomeration of Mendelssohn (1809-47, see 21 December 2009), Liszt (1811-1886), Wagner (1813-1883) and even Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). As regards the last two composers, perspicacious listeners will detect underlying allusions to the Valkyrie leitmotiv [00:08] from Der Ring des Niebelungen (1853-74), and passages [00:41] with a strange resemblance to the sinister theme in Le rouet d'Omphale (Omphales's Spinning Wheel; 1871-2, see 31 July 2012). You'll find it a superbly written "yawp" from beginning to end!
The next selection is a realization of what was apparently destined to be Sir Charles Villiers Stanford's (1852-1924) second violin concerto. Done by musicologist and Stanford authority Jeremy Dibble (see 17 August 2011), it's based on a 1918 short score with piano accompaniment. He uses the same light classical scoring found in the first concerto to preserve the violin's dominance. You'll find the influence of Mendelssohn and Brahms (1833-1897) reflecting Sir Charles' studies in Germany between 1874 and 1877.
In three movements the first sonata form allegro [T-2] is a continuous dialogue for soloist and tutti. The opening statement presents two themes that are sequentially declamatory (TD) [00:03] and singing (TS) [03:51] with the tail end of TS alluding to bits of TD.
An anguished virtuosic development follows [04:34] giving way to an initially subtle recap of TD [08:30]. This intensifies occasioning some fancy fiddling, after which the mood becomes more relaxed with the return of TS [09:14]. Then TD appears [09:43], fueling an explosive coda that concludes the movement forcefully.
It's immediately succeeded by a sustained pianissimo brass chord [10:19] that bridges right into an arresting andante [T-3]. Also in sonata form, hushed tutti passages [00:01] set the mood for a Hibernian-tinted rhapsodic idea (HR) from the soloist [00:43]. This undergoes a heartbreaking exploration with weeping woodwinds possibly reflecting the horrific events of the ongoing war (World War I, 1914-8).
Next the clarinet introduces a wistful melody (WM) [03:17], after which there's a grieving development [05:15]. The return of HR [06:45] signals the recapitulation, which ends in a WM-based coda [09:45] that concludes this movement with great pathos.
The finale is a sonata-rondo [T-4] rich with fetching ideas. The first is a jagged theme (FJ) that appears in demanding multiple-stopped passages for the violin [00:01]. This is expanded, and succeeded by an elegant rocking countermelody [01:21]. Then FJ returns in more agitated form only to be followed a third folklike ditty [03:20]. A thematic free-for-all follows, and the work closes excitedly with manic remembrances of FJ [06:36].
The other concerto is by Robin Milford (1903-1959, see 25 April 2012), whose music falls generally into three stages of stylistic development. The first lasted until around 1930, and is characterized by youthful spontaneity. The second spanning the 30s shows the influence of English folk music like that of his close friends Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958, see 25 February 2013) and Gerald Finzi (1901-1956).
The third began with the World War II years (1939-1945), and found him like George Lloyd (1913-1998, see 15 December 2014) in an increasing mentally anguished state brought on by his participation in that great conflict. During this period, which the informative album notes refer to as "darkness descending", he produced works that were much more progressive, and in keeping with the avant-gardism surrounding him back then.
Written in 1937 the concerto is a forty-minute melodic outpouring with pronounced English folk song associations making it an outstanding example of Milford's middle period. For some inexplicable reason this attractive work was never published, and the version on this disc is an entirely new one, edited for this recording by our violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck.
In the usual three movements, the intricate first [T-5] is the longest, and you'll find a detailed analysis of it as well as all the other music here in the album booklet. Generally speaking it's a rhapsodic series of connected episodes that take on a variety of moods.
It opens with the soloist playing a memorable motif (MM) [00:03-00:26]. He's soon joined by the tutti in what becomes a sinuous dreamy prologue. Then the violin introduces a delicate folklike subject (DF) [01:50] that will infect the entire concerto. It's followed by a fetching sprightly ditty in the strings [03:11] that's explored, after which the oboe sings a lovely pastoral melody (LP) [04:16]. This is taken up by the violin giving way to a cadenza-like development [04:53].
The soloist then reprises LP [07:54], which becomes the subject of a melancholy meditation that transitions dramatically into a violin recap of DF [11:24]. The latter underlies an emotionally charged extended cadenza [13:14-16:35] with occasional orchestral support, which includes an unusual sustained horn note [15:02]. A flighty coda hinting at past ideas follows [16:35] ending the movement with a blazing flashback to MM's first seven notes [17:08].
The middle lento [T-6] opens with a foreboding orchestral pronouncement (FO) [00:01] followed by a hymnlike tune (HL) from the soloist [02:09]. HL is elaborated, after which there's an anguished tutti outburst [05:00], and another of those accompanied cadenzas [05:42]. Next the soloist introduces a minor key variant of DF (MF) [06:35], which elicits an impassioned response from the orchestra.
This transitions into a restatement of HL [08:25], and the violin gives us a double-stopped version of MF [09:31]. The music then slowly descends into despondency, but suddenly comes back to life in the adjoining final allegro [T-7].
After an antsy opening [00:00] the soloist gives us a whimsical scampering theme (WS) [00:09] set to a running accompaniment. WS is examined and succeeded by a relaxed HL-related melody in the strings [00:54]. This is cause for further exploration, after which the violin comes up with a pleading number [02:08] enthusiastically taken up by the orchestra. A demanding cadenza [03:20-04:28] follows, blossoming into a recap of WS succeeded by bits of other themes from the two previous movements.
The last of these is a big tune orchestral allusion to DF [05:57] that slowly fades to inaudibility. After a brief pause the soloist issues three FO-related calls invoking terse orchestral crescendos [07:18, 07:33 and 07:45], and launches into a virtuosic passage with eerie high harmonics. Then a grim timpani tattoo [08:48] initiates a grave orchestral accompaniment with a terminal death spasm [09:53]. It's followed by a dying gasp from the violin [10:05] and tutti [10:18], concluding the concerto despairingly.
Violinist Rupert Marshall-Luck, whom we praised not long ago for his superb interpretations of some rare English sonatas (see August 2014), doesn't disappoint here! His violin tone is superb, and the flexibility with which he handles these concerti compliments Stanford's structural solidity as well as Milford's more meandrous style of composition. Conductor Owain Arwell Hughes has championed many forgotten works like the ones on this disc. He makes a strong case for them with the superb performances he gets from Marshall-Luck and the BBC Concert Orchestra (BBCO).
An EM Records, BBC Radio 3, BBCO joint undertaking the recordings were produced by the soloist at the Colosseum Town Hall, Watford, England. The soundstage projected is expansive and in a cavernous acoustic. However, careful microphone placement has insured a well-delineated albeit dense sonic image.
The balance between soloist and tutti is good with the violin convincingly captured. Unfortunately the orchestra doesn't fare as well. The instrumental timbre is acceptable from the midrange on down. However, the highs suffer from steely-sounding massed violins as well as digital sand. Some pointy-eared listeners may detect what may be an edit pop in the Stanford [T-4, 00:16].
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150118)
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