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



23 FEBRUARY 2015

CROCKS NEWSLETTER

The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the Web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.

Since the first of the year there have been an increased number of noteworthy discs with unusual repertoire. In order to cover more of these in the time available for each newsletter there's a little less detail than usual.



The album cover may not always appear.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Vn Conc 1 "Italiano", Vn Conc 2 "I Profeti"; Yang/De Boer/BB&FreiSWR SO [Naxos]
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) was in a couple of ways the Italian counterpart of Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957; see 31 March 2011). Both were of Jewish descent, and the rise of Nazism along with the outbreak of World War II (1939-45) forced them to leave Europe in the late 1930s. And both would settle in Los Angeles, California, where they'd write film music to support their families, becoming two of Hollywood's most successful composers.

Despite their silver screen associations they started out as career classical musicians, who'd also produce distinguished concert music of late romantic persuasion throughout their lives. In that regard, each penned violin concertos premiered by the great Jascha Heifitz (1901-1987). Mario's of 1931 is included on this new must-have release from Naxos.

It's coupled with the world premiere recording of his very first effort in the genre, the three-movement Concerto Italiano for Violin of 1924. His initial orchestral venture, the opening allegro [T-1] starts with a lively tutti theme (LT), which the composer tells us echoes Vivaldi (1678-1741). And in keeping with the Baroque, there's what sounds like a basso continuo organ part [00:53].

LT is soon picked up by the soloist, explored, and followed by a romantic trumpet countermelody (RT) [02:19]. The two ideas are then subjected to an extended free-flowing development, which was apparently too progressive for one of Mario's more conservative instructors, Riccardo Malipiero (1882-1973; see 17 November 2007). But by today's standards it's a captivating virtuoso piece of writing ending with a demanding cadenza [10:41-13:53]. Previous material is then revisited in a thrilling closing section with a couple of dramatic drumrolls that conclude the movement authoritatively.

The next "arioso" [T-2] is a winsome violin vocalise set to an emotional romantic orchestral accompaniment with occasional stern outbursts. However, the mood becomes fanciful in the last measures, ending the movement somewhere in fairyland.

The exciting finale marked "vivo e impetuoso" [T-3] is a crazed rondo with wild outer sections based on an LT-related tarantella-like dance. They surround a subdued inner one hinting at RT, and close the work with a glorious fireworks for soloist and orchestra.

Coming seven years later, the second violin concerto (1931) reflects the composer's Semitic roots. Moreover, it incorporates five Sephardic synagogical melodies from Italian violinist-composer Federico Consolo's (1841-1906) Libro dei Canti d'Israel (Israeli Songbook; published 1891). It may have been inspired by Ernest Bloch's (1880-1959; see 30 January 2008) Jewish-oriented works, some of which Mario had heard a few years earlier

Each of its three movements is named after one of the better-known Old Testament prophets, and the composer later opted to call the whole concerto "I Profeti". The first "Isaiah" [T-4] opens with mysterious tutti chords prefacing an exotic Eastern melody (EE) intoned sequentially by the horn, oboe, strings, trumpet, and finally our soloist. A moody Blochian expansion with flights of fancy for the violinist follows, initiating an EE-related cantering countersubject.

The two ideas undergo an ebullient development. Then there are recollections of the opening measures inaugurating a flighty cadenza with colorful harp decorations. This engenders a zestful return of the orchestra to conclude the movement ecstatically.

A dramatic "Jeremiah" is next [T-5], and opens ŕ la Bloch with the soloist introducing a binary Eastern melody (BE) that will dominate the movement. Having a morose first part and bounding dancelike second, it's elaborated, then subjected to an affecting variational exploration. A nostalgic final reminder of BE concludes the movement wistfully.

The orchestra gets the "Elijah" finale [T-6] off to a marching start, over which the soloist presents a vivacious prickly theme (VP), and an exotic dance tune (ED). A virtuosic, sometimes cheeky elaboration of ED follows, and VP returns in rondo fashion interspersed with hints of past ideas. Then a big tune amalgam of ED and VP end the work exultantly.

Up-and-coming, award winning violinist Tianwa Yang delivers technically flawless, stunning performances of these works. While there's no current recorded competition for the first concerto, as far as the second is concerned her youthful vigor gives it an edge over what's been out there.

That's all the more true considering the enthusiastic support she gets from Dutch conductor Pieter-Jelle de Boer at the helm of the SWR (Southwest Broadcasting Corporation) Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg, Germany. Those liking this disc should also investigate Castelnuovo-Tedesco's equally captivating piano concertos (see 31 May 2012).

Made at the Rolf Böhme Saal in the Freiburg Concert House, the recordings project a wide, deeply recessed soundstage in a resonant acoustic. Ms. Yang is generally well highlighted and balanced against the orchestra. However, the microphone placement and/or mixing has produced a stretched rather than centered image of her instrument.

The orchestral timbre is pleasing with delicate somewhat glassy highs, a musical midrange, and clean bass. These recordings are good, but just a bit short of audiophile.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150223)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Chapí: Stg Qts 1 & 2; LatAm Qt [Sono Lum]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Ruperto Chapí (1851-1909) was one of the most outstanding Spanish composers of his day, and is remembered for his many zarzuelas, which include such classics as El tambor de granaderos (1894) and La revoltosa (1897), While complete recordings of these aren't currently available, orchestral excerpts from them have been favorites for years.

Later in his life Ruperto would turn to chamber music, writing four string quartets. The first two are on this choice new release from the adventurous Sono Luminus label. Both are in four movements, and the earliest dates from 1903. Its opening allegro [T-1] has suggestions of a lovely Spanish melody that float over domineering, rhythmically jittery habanera-like motifs.

The andante [T-2] has lyrical sighing outer sections bracketing a pasodoble. It points the way towards Turina's (1882-1949) La oración del torero (The Bullfighter's Prayer; 1925).

A virtuosic hot-blooded allegro that's in essence a scherzo [T-3] brings to mind Andalusia's torrid climate. Then we journey north to Basque Country with the concluding moderato [T-4]. This has a reserved introduction followed by a local antsy dance known as a zortziko. Towards the end we get cyclic reminders ŕ la César Franck (1822-1890) of themes from past movements, presumably reflecting Chapí's studies in Paris around 1875.

The second quartet of 1904 is more highly strung (no pun intended) right from its opening allegro [T-5] built on a couple of nervous themes. These chase each other in a developmental game of tag, and fall exhausted in a section reminiscent of the Aragonese Jota used by several classical composers. Then they resume their hectic pursuit of one another in a madcap closing coda.

The moving allegretto [T-6] contrasts sections based on an innocent melody with ones formed from a sobbing idea. The latter eventually predominates bringing the movement to a wistful close. However, the mood's more upbeat in the next allegro [T-8], which is a plucky, chromatically peripatetic scherzo [T-8].

It begins with repeated pizzicato notes played by the second violin soon accompanied by a bouncy tune from the other instruments. A balmy lyrical episode is next, and then the opening returns in modified form to end the movement much like it started.

A modified sonata form quasi presto [T-8] ends the quartet all atwitter. It begins with frantic runs followed by a couple of folksy sounding ditties. These undergo an elaboration that includes a fetching pizzicato-accented childlike passage. Then we get a contrasting morose motif in the low strings. All these ideas are developed, recapped, and become fuel for a fugato-introduced coda, which concludes the quartet on a positive note.

The Mexican Cuarteto Latinoamericano (Latin American Quartet) is no stranger to these pages (see 25 May 2011). Having given us several award-winning discs of music by composers from countries south of the U.S. border, they now turn their attention to some of Iberian origin. These performances are equally stunning, and we can only hope they'll eventually record Chapí's last two quartets.

Made at Sono Luminus Studios in Boyce, Virginia, the recordings are superb, projecting a well-appointed, clearly focused sonic image in surroundings perfectly suited to this chamber music. The balance between the instruments is ideal, and the string sound completely natural with silky highs, a musical midrange, and clean bass with no overhang. This is an audiophile disc in every respect.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y150222)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Kahn, R.: Chbr Wks V1 (Vn Sons 1, 2 & 3); Bushkova/Kharitonov [Toccata]
Toccata Classics continues their unearthing of long since buried musical treasures (see 15 December 2014) with this worthy addition to the recordings of chamber works by German composer Robert Kahn (1865-1951; see 14 July 2014). These are the only versions of his three violin sonatas currently available on disc.

Like Mario Castenuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) above, with the rise of Nazism Kahn was forced to flee his native country because of Jewish ancestry, moving to England in 1939. And like Luise Le Beau (1850-1927), Ernst Rudorff (1840-1916) and Georg Schumann (1866-1952) below, Robert's music shows the influence of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).

The sonatas are each in three movements with the first dating from 1886. An amazing work for a twenty-one-year-old, when Brahms heard it shortly after its completion, he was so impressed he invited Robert to Vienna for private lessons.

It opens with a classic sonata form allegro [T-1] based on a rhythmically robust angular theme worthy of Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and a lilting songful Brahms-like melody. A consummate development emphasizes their contrasting temperaments rather than subjecting them to the usual rhythmic and harmonic manipulations. It's followed by a dramatic recapitulation and final coda that end the movement peremptorily.

A gorgeous adagio [T-2] testifies to the composer's melodic gifts, and soothes the listener before the wired final allegro [T-3]. This is a spirited romp where three attractive ideas pursue each other in rondo fashion, ending the sonata chasing its own tail.

Ten years later Kahn completed his second effort in the genre (1896). Although Brahmsian gestures are still present, this sonata is more progressive than its predecessor. That's true right from outset of the initial allegro [T-4], which is a sonata-rondo with themes of increased chromatic complexity, and greater rhythmic variety.

Here a frenetic first idea (FF) succeeded by a related rocking melody (RR) undergo a harmonically adventurous exploration. FF then comes back for further development, RR takes a final bow, and the music ends excitedly.

The slow movement [T-5] has a short halting introduction followed by a comely romantic subject for the violin. The latter is repeated a couple of times to varying keyboard accompaniments, and ends the movement quietly.

After the briefest of pauses we get a rambunctious final allegro [T-6] that's a skittering affair populated by a couple of hot-blooded numbers. These are somewhat Iberian-sounding, and end the sonata spiritedly.

Another ten years would pass before Robert completed his last sonata (1906). This found him at the height of his creative powers, but bereaved over the recent loss of his parents. Consequently the first movement is a disconsolate andante [T-7] that alternates nostalgic and shivering ideas.

The next allegro [T-8] is a scherzo with fidgety outer passages that surround a more reserved lyrical one. It's followed by a tripartite finale [T-9], which is the work's emotional center of gravity, and one of Khan's most eloquent creations.

This begins with a heartrending adagio prologue [00:00], followed by a jaunty allegro episode having a hopeful optimistic theme (HH) [02:21]. But this is short-lived as HH appears in a minor key [05:11], bridging into a mournful andante epilogue [10:35]. Here there are reminders of the sonata's opening, which end it with a touch of cyclicity.

Both Russian-born and trained, violinist Julia Bushkova and pianist Arsentiy Kharitonov give us good accounts of these forgotten scores. Technically speaking Ms. Bushkova comes off sounding a little unsteady at times, but her superb accompanist makes up for it.

These recordings, which were made last year at the North Texas College of Music's Winspear Auditorium, Dallas, project a limited soundstage in moderately reverberant surroundings. The disc is cut at a relatively low level so be prepared to tweak your controls accordingly.

The instrumental timbre is for the most part convincing, but a bit raspy in forte passages. It would seem the piano was on a timpanic platform as there are frequent thumps associated with the pedaling and keyboard action. However, it's easy to forget same with music this delightful.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150221)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Künneke: Tänzerische Ste… (w Braunfels, Butting, Schreker, Spoliansky, Toch); E.Theis/DresStOp O [CPO]
Between 2005 and 2011 CPO recorded a number of orchestral works specifically written for German Radio back in 1929-30, and here's the second volume in this enterprising series (see volume one). The two CDs contained therein have seven selections by six composers of varying backgrounds then resident in Germany. They're the only modern day recordings of them currently available on disc.

Composed for radio audiences that were much larger and more divergent in their tastes than classical concertgoers, this music is a bit on the lighter side. It frequently shows the influence of American jazz, which was then sweeping Europe. Not only that, straightforward construction and transparent scoring insured it's being captured as effectively as possible by those monolithic microphones in use back then.

One of the most immediately appealing selections is on the first CD. It's by Eduard Künneke (1885-1953), who was a very popular 1920-30s operetta composer. His Tänzerische Suite (Dance Suite; 1929) scored for jazz band and large orchestra is in five movements having popular titles instead of formal classical ones.

The initial overture is marked "Foxtrot" [D-1, T-13] and gets off to a lively 20s dance hall start followed by a seductive saxophone theme. A melancholy "Blues" with banjo embellishments and a reminder of the opening section follows [D-1, T-14]. Then we get a skittering "Intermezzo" [D-1, T-15] having a rising phrase that brings George Gershwin (1898-1937) to mind.

The urbane "Valse di Boston" [D-1, T-16] recalls the more American moments in Gličre's (1875-1956) ballet The Red Poppy (1926-7). It's a dramatic respite with some yearning violin as well as saxophone solos, and will reappear briefly in the flapper "Foxtrot" finale [D-1, T-17]. Spiked with jazzy riffs, this ends the suite in a delightful 20s tizzy. Anyone liking Emmerich Kálmán's (1882-1953) Die Herzogin von Chicago (The Duchess of Chicago; 1928) will love it!

The album begins with a rarely recorded gem for chamber orchestra by Franz Schreker (1878-1934, see 20 November 2006). Originally titled Kleine Suite für den Rundfunk (Little Suite for Radio; 1928) it would later become known simply as Kleine Suite.

In six succinct movements it begins with a chromatically impish "Prelude" [D-1, T-1]. After that there's a toy "Marcia" ("March") [D-1, T-2], poignant cor anglais dominated "Canon" [D-1, T-3], and chortling "Fughette" [D-1, T-4] highlighted by winds and brass.

Then we get a bizarre impressionistic "Intermezzo" [D-1, T-5] with a percussion-laced central climax, and a concluding cheeky "Capriccio" [D-1, T-6]. Here the winds, brass and xylophone jeer at one another, ending the suite with a sudden final expletive.

Ernst Toch (1887-1964) is represented next by his six-movement Bunte Suite (Colorful Suite, 1928) [D-1, T-7 through 12]. Two years ago we told you about an earlier release of it, and you can read all about the music in that newsletter (see 16 January 2013). Those who never got it may want this one, considering the performance and recording are better in a couple of respects.

Turning to the other CD in this album we get music by lesser-known composers, to wit, Mischa Spolianksy (1898-1985). Best remembered for his film scores that include such greats as King Solomon's Mines (1950), this disc starts and ends with different versions of his Charleston Caprice (1930),

The opening one is the original for large orchestra [D-2, T-1]. Lasting about six minutes it's an engaging Charleston-derived (see 15 November 2013) symphonic dance that at one point sounds like Franz Lehár (1870-1948, see 7 October 2011).

Chances are you've never heard of Max Butting (1888-1976), who's represented next by a couple of pieces. He was one of the key figures in the development of music specifically written for the airwaves. In that regard the scoring is austere in an attempt to match the music's frequency range to the limited bandwidth of 1920-30s radio equipment. This together with an already stringent neoclassical style accounts for the rigorous severity of his Erste and Zweite Rundfunkmusik (First and Second Radio Music) suites of 1929.

The initial one, soon renamed Sinfonietta mit Banjo (Sinfonietta with Banjo), is in three movements, where the banjo is only for color. The opening one is a blusterous queasy brass and wind-dominated "Largo" [D-2, T-2]. Then the work ends with a lugubrious "Adagio" [D-2, T-3] mostly for strings, succeeded by a twitchy "Allegro" [D-2, T-4] featuring crotchety winds and brass.

The other Butting selection known as Heitere Suite (Cheerful Suite) is as the name implies a bit more upbeat, but not much! Laid out in five movements, the "Ouvertüre" [D-2, T-5] features trumpet and wind commentary over a vivacious accompaniment.

The next "Bläserserenade" ("Wind Serenade") [D-2, T-6] is just that with a plangent oboe, oily saxophone and invigorating plucked banjo. In "Virtuosenstückchen" ("Virtuoso Snippet") [D-2, T-7] the music takes on an entomological bent, and could well accompany a Walt Disney cartoon about some pesky insect strumming a tiny banjo.

After that there's "Tanz" ("Dance") [D-2, T-8], which is a prickly tango anticipating what would soon come from Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). Then a giddy brass and drum-accented "Finale" [D-2, T-9] ends the suite, bringing to mind moments in Stravinsky's (1882-1971) Pulcinella (1907-8) and Pétrouchka (1911, revised 1947).

The penultimate selection is the 1929 Divertimento für Radio-Orchester by Walter Braunfels (1882-1954), who appeared in these pages just a few month ago (see 23 June 2014). It was believed lost during World War II (1939-45), but handwritten source material recently discovered in Vienna allowed the reconstruction presented here. This landmark recording done in 2011 was the first time it had been heard since its radio premiere over eighty years before!

Walter originally studied law and economics, but this euphonious five-movement work will make you glad he finally chose a career in music. The opening "Mäßig bewegt" ("Moderately Moving") [D-2, T-10] is a lovely rhapsody with a couple of sensuous saxophone solos. It's followed by an exhilarating dance movement marked "Gemessen, doch immer bewegt" ("Measured, but Always on the Move") [D-2, T-11] having a stilted central waltz.

A melodic "Langsam" ("Slowly") change of pace with captivating solo wind and expressive string passages is next [D-2, T-12]. After that there's a searching impressionistic "Zeitmaß der Sarabande" ("Tempo of a Sarabande") [D-2, T-12] along the lines of Ravel (1875-1937) with some pensive saxophone and horn solos. The work concludes with a flighty, moto-perpetuo-like "Sehr lebhaft" ("Very Lively") [D-2, T-14] that gives all the performers a chance to show off, and ends this charming piece on a real high.

A second version of Spolianksy's Charleston Caprice (1930) prepared from original materials by our conductor Ernst Theis ends this disc [D-2, T-15]. About a minute and a half less than the first above, it's a more succinct, animated rendition that concludes this adventurous album very much in the spirit of the 1920s.

Theis leads the Dresden State Operetta Orchestra (DSOO) in spirited renditions of these saucy 1920-30s works that reveal all the detail of their perspicuous scoring. What's more the DSOO musicians, who include some terrific saxophone and banjo players, get a big round of applause for their uniformly superb performances.

Made on several occasions between 2006 and 2011 at four locations in Coswig and Dresden, Germany, the recordings sound amazingly consistent. The sonic images are well-focused, and the engineers successfully highlight and balance the many instrumental soloists.

The orchestral timbre is bright, which is to some degree a reflection of the austere scoring these composers used to best match the sound characteristics of early radio equipment. These aren't demonstration discs, but as noted many times before we're lucky to have what's here.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150220)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Le Beau: Pno Trio, Vn Son 1, Vc Son; Niziol/Severin/Korsunskaya {MD&G (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
In the second half of the nineteenth century it was difficult for women composers to gain recognition. This was certainly true of German-born Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927)! A private pupil of Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901, see 8 December 2007) from 1876 until 1880, she later took a few lessons with Clara Schumann (1819-1896), and produced some highly accomplished chamber works.

In another one of their groundbreaking releases, MD&G proves the point with a sampling of them on this new hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.1), album. These are the only recordings currently available on disc of the three selections here.

The album opens with Le Beau's structurally impeccable piano trio of 1877 written during her studies with Rheinberger. In four movements the first allegro [T-1] is in sonata form, and gets off to an energetic start with a skyrocketing theme followed by a lovely lyrical melody. The two undergo a skillful development and recapitulation, ending in a vivacious coda that concludes the movement excitedly.

An amorous instrumental aria [T-2] and playful scherzo [T-3] reminiscent of Mendelssohn (1809-1847) come next. Then the trio closes with another allegro [T-4] that's generally in sonata form, but with contrapuntal accouterments and references to themes from past movements.

Luise became an accomplished violinist and pianist early in her career, making her ideally suited to write the two violin sonatas she'd eventually compose. The earlier one of 1875, which was her first chamber work, convinced Rheinberger to take her on as a student.

In three movements the mood of the opening allegro [T-5] is overcast with a couple of solemn themes tossed back and forth by the two instruments. This melancholy persists in the winsome andante [T-6] that's of late Brahms [1833-1897] persuasion. But the skies clear in the folksy dance-like allegro [T-7] that ends the sonata assertively.

Although it harkens back to Mendelssohn, the three movement cello sonata of 1878 is structurally the most adventurous music here. The initial allegro [T-8] has reverie-like outer sections, which are based on two closely related themes, and surround a brief development. It's followed by an andante [T-9], that's a sad cantilena for the cello set to a sympathetic keyboard accompaniment.

The vigorous final allegro [T-10] is built on a couple of ideas where the second is a development of the first. It comes closest to a sonata rondo, and concludes the piece jubilantly.

Violinist Bartek Niziol, cellist Denis Severin and pianist Tatiana Korsunskaya give us magnificent performances of these works. They impart that little extra zing that turns what in lesser hands might be ordinary fare, into a rewarding listening experience. You couldn't ask for more dedicated champions of Fräulein Le Beau's music.

MD&G is known for their superb sounding chamber discs, and this is no exception. Made last year at the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) in Abtei Marienmünster (Marienmünster Abbey), Germany, the recordings present a suitably sized soundstage in warm surroundings. The strings are naturally bright, particularly on the CD track, and well balanced against the piano, which is convincingly captured in all three play modes. The SACD multichannel one gives the music more breathing space, and will appeal to those liking a wetter sound.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y150219)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Rudorff: Sym 3, Vars on an Original Theme; Beermann/Bochum SO [CPO]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
With this release conductor Frank Beermann and the adventurous CPO label continue their exploration of undeservedly neglected orchestral rarities (see 15 December 2014), giving us some by German composer Ernst Rudorff (1840-1916). This being the only disc of his music currently in circulation, chances are you've never heard of him. And any that have probably remember him as a pioneering environmentalist (see the informative album notes).

A student of Woldemar Bargiel (1828-1897) and Carl Reinecke (1824-1910; see 24 July 2008), he was initially influenced by Robert Schumann (1810-1856; see 8 September 2014), who was Bargiel's brother-in-law. However, by the time he wrote the two works on this disc Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) had become more of a guiding light. That's not to say these are derivative fare, as there's enough of an individual voice to make them interesting additions to today's recorded symphonic repertoire.

The third symphony (c. 1910), which was Rudorff's final orchestral work, is an accomplished throwback to earlier romantic times. In the usual four movements, the first allegro [T-1] gets off to a subdued beginning that builds via Brahmsian harmonic sequences into a forceful first theme.

It leads to a related whimsical tune with a Schumann angularity that's repeated, and followed by a restatement of all the foregoing. An extended development is next, and then the movement ends in a recapitulative coda. There are frequent exclamatory timpani outbursts here and throughout the rest of the symphony that seem to be a Rudorff trademark.

The adagio in modo di marcia funebre [T-2] is more of a grief-stricken reverie than a funeral march. It's entirely different from the pastoral scherzo-like andantino [T-3] with its venatic horn calls.

The outer sections of the closing allegro [T-4] have a couple of memorable ideas that convey a feeling of exultation. They enclose a waltzlike inner section with more Brahms overtones, and hints of past themes. The symphony then ends triumphantly in an exciting coda with additional timpanic reinforcement.

The composer tells us Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn (1873) was the inspiration for his Variationen für Orchester über ein eigenes Thema (Variations for Orchestra on an Original Theme; 1874-5) [T-5]. The earlier work is based on the "Chorale St. Antoni" second movement of Franz Joseph Haydn's (1732-1809) Wind Divertimento in Bb (Hob.II:46; 1764), which as it turns out was probably written by somebody else!

Like Brahms' subject theme, Rudorff's is a subdued hymnlike number that introduces the work [00:01], and is the material for its big tune finale. In the interim Ernst gives us twenty variations compared to Johannes' eight. He starts with three arresting variants that are sequentially winding [01:04], twittering [01:59], and commanding [02:28]. The latter is quite Brahmsian, and has another of those striking Rudorff timpani rolls so prevalent in the symphony (see above).

A polite respite follows [03:25], but things suddenly become combative [04:17] and fearful [04:41]. This leads to a pensive introspection [05:21] and guardedly optimistic caprice [07:43]. Then the music intensifies with a cocky march [09:08], followed by respectively bounding [09:59], impetuous [10:40] and domineering [11:10] transformations.

After that things turn romantic [12:11], coquettish [13:28], and passionately sighing [14:38] in preparation for an amorous waltz [16:51]. The latter is succeeded by a will-o'-the-wisp mutation [18:57], after which the mood becomes anxious [10:21] and tempestuous [20:55]. This ushers in the twentieth variation that's a fateful fugato [23:01], which announces the big tune finale [24:08]. The work then ends with a hammering fff timpani-roll-bolstered coda.

As he did on his recent Kallstenius (1881-1967) release for CPO (see 15 December 2014), German conductor Frank Beermann introduces us to some more little-known orchestral goodies. This time around he leads the Bochum Symphony Orchestra in dynamic performances of works that make a strong case for a Rudorff revival. Maybe he'll give us Ernst's other two symphonies in the not too distant future.

Made on a couple of occasions back in 2011 at the Ruhrcongress Convention Center, Bochum, Germany, the recordings project a hefty sonic image in spacious surroundings. The instrumental timbre is characterized by bright massed upper strings, and pounding bass in Rudorff's many drum-reinforced passages. Depending on your system, some may find this makes these recordings sound a bit harsh.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150218)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Schumann, Geo.: Pno Qt, Vc Son; Mun Pno Trio [CPO]
Recorded repertoire has always been rife with selections by several Bachs. Now with the emergence on silver disc of works from many lesser known composers that seems to be the case with Schumanns! First there were Robert (1810-1856; see 8 September 2014) and Clara (1819-1896). Now thanks to the adventurous CPO label we have brothers Georg (1866-1952) and Camillo (1872-1946), both of whom have appeared in these pages (see 10 March 2011 and 28 November 2012).

Georg's revival continues here with a couple of winning chamber discoveries, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc. Like Ernst Rudorff (1840-1916; see above), he owes a debt to Brahms (1833-1897), but Wagner's (1813-1883) influence is also present.

The disc begins with his only piano quartet of 1901. A four movement work the first sonata form allegro [T-1] opens with a frantic outcry from the piano enjoined by the strings (FO). A couple of attractive rocking Brahmsian themes follow (R1 and R2) parenting a gorgeous third idea. .

R1 then returns introducing a variational, stretto-laced development. This bridges via a throbbing piano riff into the recapitulation. A restrained coda fashioned from R1 and R2 follows, ending the movement peacefully.

The andante [T-2] is a ternary structured (A-B-A), R1-based romantic aria. It has a chromatically seductive inner episode (SI) smacking of Wagner, which will be revisited in the next movement.

This is a scherzo [T-3] that begins with a variant of FO, giving way to a nervous fretful motif that could be the accompaniment for one of Schubert's (1797-1828) darker songs. It dominates the movement's outer sections, which surround a trio derived from SI.

The final allegro [T-4] is another sonata form offering that starts with a tempestuous nexus of motifs (TN), succeeded by a fervent soaring Wagnerian melody. Elements of TN then return launching a complex development. Towards its end there's a fugato introduced recap of past ideas. Then we get an increasingly hectic TN-derived coda that concludes the quartet in a virtuosic flurry of activity.

The concert ends with Georg's impressive cello sonata written in 1898. The first of its three movements marked "allegro moderato con molto espressione" [T-5] is in modified sonata form with a generally reserved exposition. This has three Brahmsian ideas, and is repeated.

An anguished development follows where the preceding thematic material undergoes extensive harmonic as well as rhythmic manipulation ŕ la Berlioz (1803-1869) and Liszt (1811-1886). Towards the end there's a cadenza-like recitative for the cello that gives way to a recapitulation and final coda. The latter builds to a climax and fades, ending the movement uneventfully with a hint of the opening theme.

The andante [T-6] is a ternary aria like the one in the quartet. It's a rapturous song with amorous outer sections based on a wistful theme somewhat like the opening of the adagio in Brahms' first piano concerto (1854-8). They surround an agitated inner one that's hinted at towards the movement's conclusion.

Schumann ends the piece with an unusual quasi-sonata-form allegro [T-7] that begins with an imperious piano [00:00]. This wrests three themes from the cello that are respectively hiccupping (HC) [01:05], imploring (IP) [01:39], and weeping (WP) [02:02]. A five-note riff (FN) [03:01] then begins a variational development in which FN is frequently repeated, and becomes increasingly Lisztian.

Excited bravura passages for both instruments [06:11] bridge into a rhapsodic recap of WP [07:12] and IP [08:25]. Then things get really erratic with an ominous key change [09:00], more allusions to FN [09:05], and several sequential rising runs [09:21]. These preface an FN-fueled madcap coda [09:55] that ends the sonata summarily with tragic ff chords.

The core performing group here is the Munich Piano Trio (MPT), who get an assist from violist Dietrich Cramer in the quartet, and allow their violinist Michael Arlt to go out for a cold one during the sonata. As on MPT's previous disc of Georg's piano trios (see 6 January 2012), we again have them to thank for introducing us to some magnificent undeservedly neglected music.

Each of their members are in top form on this release, and live up to their past reputations for technically accomplished solo work. On that note cellist Gerhard Zank delivers a superb account of the sonata. All together their attention to dynamics and phrasing along with a rich ensemble sound make a strong case for these scores.

A coproduction of CPO and Bavarian Radio (BR), the recordings were made in 2013-4 in BR's Studio 2, Munich, and project a convincing sonic image in a close but warm acoustic. The balance between the performers is good, and the instrumental timbre generally acceptable. However, the high strings are occasionally edgy, and there's a hint of "digitalitis" in the piano's upper registers.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150217)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Sirota, R.: Vn & Pno Wks (Sons 1 "Pange Lingua" & 2 "Farewell", Summermusic); Vrs Soloists [Albany]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
A native New Yorker, Robert Sirota's (b. 1949) extensive musical education has included studies at the Juilliard School of Music, Oberlin Conservatory, and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979; see 22 November 2010 ). He also earned a doctorate from Harvard University where one of his instructors was Leon Kirchner (1919-2009), who succeeded Walter Piston (1894-1978) there.

He'd go on to become director of the Boston University School of Music, then Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute, and from 2005 through 2012 president of the Manhattan School of Music. In addition to being a superb administrator, he's also a talented composer judging from this recent Albany Record's release featuring three of his pieces for violin and piano. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc, and require repeated listening to be fully appreciated.

The program opens with his second sonata of 2013 written for the violinist who performs it here. Both of their mothers passed away while he was working on this, so it's accordingly subtitled "Farewell", and dedicated to their memory. Incidentally that's his mom on the album cover.

In four movements the opening one [T-1] is a chromatic rumination with a couple of frenetic spots. It brings Schoenberg's (1874-1951) more tonal moments to mind, and ends tranquilly. The following scherzo [T-2] begins deceptively with a searching glissando-distended violin soliloquy. The music then turns skittish sounding at times like Gunther Schuller's (1925-2015) The Twittering Machine in his Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959; see 20 June 2013).

Thematic flakes of the foregoing fall in the hesitant "Night Snow" [T-3], which has a couple of flatline silences where you may think your CD player has died. But not to worry as the sonata resumes with a final "Farewell" [T-4], having an extended melody that's sorrowful and at the same time reassuring. It ends the work serenely.

The three-movement Summermusic (2000) was inspired by several trips the composer made to southern France in the second half of the 1990s. Named and modelled after a sixteenth century dance, the opening "Pavane" [T-5] begins with the violin playing a somber stately idea (SS).

The piano then joins in, and the two discuss it with references to the Dies Irae (DI) [beginning at 03:06], which is meant to signify the early Christian history of this area. An animated development follows, after which the movement ends sotto voce with recollections of SS and DI.

The eerie "Notturno" [T-6] with its hints of frog and insect sounds brings to mind the "Night Music" so frequently found in Béla Bartók (1801-1945; see 13 January 2013). Then the work ends in a jaunty "Round Dance" [T-7] having more DI references [02:46]. Apparently meant to evoke Henri Matisse's (1869-1954) Dance paintings (1909-10), it brings the work to a busy balletic conclusion.

The other violinist on this disc commissioned Sirota's earlier sonata of 2012. In three movements and titled "Pange Lingua", it's based on the chant melody (PL) for St. Thomas Aquinas' (1225-1274) hymn of that name (c. 1260). The initial "Apologia" [T-8] could well describe a bumblebee in search of nectar, which it finally finds in the form of PL played sul ponticello [03:22].

In the rambling "Ballade" [T-9] the violin rhapsodizes to an occasional PL-related piano accompaniment. It relaxes the listener before the closing, vivacious virtuosic "Variations" [T-10], which gives both performers a chance to strut their stuff!

This begins with a fugato statement of PL [00:00], which is subjected to eight transformations. The first three are respectively jiglike [00:30], in a morose minor key [00:56], and whimsical [01:07]. After that there are chromatically flashy [01:49], tipsy [02:15], and Bartokian [02:42] variants.

Then the movement closes with a weeping seventh [03:41] and antic eighth [04:09] followed by a ringing finale [05:23]. It concludes the sonata and this CD dramatically.

Violinist Larie Carney, who is a founding member of the esteemed American String Quartet, is joined by pianist David Friend for the first two selections. They give captivating performances that are respectively reverential and bucolic.

A past artist-in-residence at Harvard University (2008-14), violinist Hyeyung Julie Yoon along with Korean-American pianist Soyeon Kate Lee give us the last work. One couldn't ask for a better interpretation of this Eucharistic sonata.

These recordings were made at the American Academy of Arts and Letters auditorium, New York City (NYC), which once again proves to be an ideal chamber venue (see 27 May 2013). They present a generous soundstage in an acoustic ideally suited to the music. Produced and engineered by audio maven Judith Sherman, the string tone is uniformly natural and piano beautifully captured.

All in all this is an audiophile disc. However, those playing it at high levels on systems that go down to rock bottom may hear occasional low rumblings probably engendered by NYC traffic and/or subways.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y150216)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Ysa˙e: Méditation (vc, orch), Harmonies… (stg qt, orch), etc; Soloists/Ardente Qt/RLičge PO [MusEnWal]
Unlike virtuoso pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner (1785-1849), who's remembered today only for his music, and not as a legendary performer (see 23 January 2015), Belgian-born Eugčne Ysa˙e's (1858-1931) reputation rests more on his being one of the world's greatest violinists rather than the distinguished compositions he wrote. Consequently Ysa˙e releases are far and few between, the last one in these pages having appeared over three years ago (see 21 September 2011).

It featured some of his chamber music, and now from the boutique Ličge-based Musique en Wallonie label we get six of his orchestral poems lasting between seven and seventeen minutes each. Four of these are the only currently available recordings on disc, and so indicated by "OCAR" after their titles.

The program begins with Méditation for cello and orchestra (OCAR) [T-1], which had a long genesis. Originally sketched in the late 1890s, it was completed in 1919, and first appeared in the United States while Ysa˙e was music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1918-22).

He knew several great cellists, including Pablo Casals (1876-1973), and must have been thoroughly familiar with the "tenor of stringed instruments" judging from this richly appointed score. It's an extremely moving poem of dark amber hue, which probably reflects the composer's anguish over mounting health problems, and the separation from his family brought about by World War I (1914-8). You'll find this more rewarding with each listening.

Harmonies du soir (Night Harmonies) for string quartet and orchestra of 1924 is next [T-2]. In three adjoining sections, the first introduces a sinuous melody [01:49] that undergoes a chromatic development reminiscent of Schoenberg (1874-1951) before he went atonal. The second [05:11] has a fugato [05:31] with a subject derived from the opening one. This section becomes increasingly excited, and fades into a mystical third [11:14]. The preceding ideas are intertwined here, ending this sublime creation peacefully.

The composer's first work in this genre, Počme élégiac (Elegiac Poem) for violin and orchestra [T-3], was originally written in 1893-6, and finalized around 1902-3. Dedicated to Fauré (1845-1924), it's a moving reverie that brings to mind Chausson's (1855-1899) Počme (1896).

In three spans, the first presents an attractive lyrical theme that's dramatically explored. The next titled "Funeral Scene" [03:56] is as advertised, and dominated by a morose melody that builds to a cataclysmic climax. This ends with a drumroll ushering in the final span, where both ideas are amalgamated. The poem then concludes with flamboyant violin flourishes succeeded by sad passages for soloist and tutti.

Sérénade for cello and orchestra (c. 1910; OCAR) [T-4] starts with a wistful song for the soloist set to a loving accompaniment. A delightful scherzo-like episode follows [02:27] leading to a challenging cadenza [03:49]. This bridges into recollections [05:18] of the opening measures, ending the piece in the same mood it began.

The next poem was originally conceived as a duo for two violins, but Eugčne later added an orchestral accompaniment, calling call it Amitié (Friendship, OCAR) [T-5]. Possibly dating from around 1920, it's dedicated to his closest male friend, confidant and travelling companion, who was editor of the then important Paris newspaper known as Le Temps.

Generally falling into three parts, the opening one has the soloists sprouting motivic buds that blossom into what would seem to be a theme of friendship. Nostalgic in character it undergoes a dramatic, virtuosic development [05:43]. This may represent the evolution of their relationship, and ends with a curious explosive drumroll.

Then after a suspenseful pause, the winds followed by shimmering strings and delicate percussive tintinnabulations [11:09] introduce a beautiful violin dominated epilogue [11:28]. One could well assume this conveys the lasting closeness and warmth Ysa˙e felt for this person.

What better way to close the disc than with a poem the composer called Exit! (c. 1917; OCAR) [T-6]. Like Méditation above, it first appeared in the US, and also imparts a sense of torment. Scored only for violins and violas, the piece is laced with brief motifs smacking of Wagner (1813-1883) and Debussy (1862-1918).

These are contrapuntally and chromatically juggled, producing a tonal uneasiness presumably indicative of the anguish the composer was feeling back then. The music swells to a climax of despair, and then becomes peacefully resigned with an encouraging last glimmer of hope.

Our soloists are cellist Thibault Lavrenov, violinists Tatiana Samouil (Počme élégiac) as well as Émilie Belaud and Olivier Giot (Amitié), plus the Ardente Quartet. All deliver superb readings of their respective works, and are given splendid support by French violin virtuoso Jean-Jacques Kantorow who's turned conductor here to lead the distinguished Royal Ličge Philharmonic Orchestra.

The recordings, which were made not long ago in the resplendent Salle Philharmonic, Ličge, Belgium, present a broad soundstage in a stringent acoustic The engineers are to be complimented for successfully highlighting the various soloists in the first five poems, while keeping the overall orchestral image in focus for all six.

The instrumental timbre is good with the proviso that there's a steely edge to massed upper string passages. Some intermittent thumps were probably occasioned by Monsieur Kantorow's conducting on a "timpanic podium".

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150215)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com ClassicsOnlineHD.com hbdirect.com


- RECOMMENDED CLASSICAL MUSIC WEB SITE OUTLETS -
IF YOU OR ANY OF YOUR FRIENDS WOULD LIKE TO BE NOTIFIED WHENEVER THERE'S A NEW CROCKS NEWSLETTER ON CLOFO.COM, JUST CLICK THE E-MAIL ADDRESS BELOW AND LET US KNOW.
McQ@CLOFO.com


- SEE OTHER CLOFO SERVICES -
AUDIOPHILE SELECTIONS BEST FINDS OF LAST YEAR CLOFO HOME PAGE CLOFO RECOMMENDATIONS OTHER CROCKS NEWSLETTERS