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

The album cover may not always appear.
Albéniz, I.: Pno Conc 1 "Fantastico", Rhap... (w E.Granados); Mestre/Brabbins/BBCScot SO [Hyperion]
We're at number sixty-five and counting with this installment of Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concertos (RPC). Sunny Spain was the birthplace of the three works on this release. Based on music by composers Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) and Enrique Granados (1867-1916), they represent varying degrees of collaboration with Spanish conductor-composer Tomás Bréton (1850-1923) and our soloist Melani Mestre (b. 1976).

The program begins with Albéniz's three movement first piano concerto subtitled "Concierto fantástico" (c. 1887), which was orchestrated by Bréton. Central European rather than Spanish influences prevail, possibly echoing the composer's brief studies in Leipzig (1876) with Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902, see 21 December 2012), and Carl Reinecke (1824-1910; see 24 July 2008). The opening allegro [T-1] at thirteen minutes is a rhapsodic offering with a couple of lovely romantic themes that seem derivative of Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) and Robert Schumann (1810-1856, see 8 September 2014).

Marked "Ręverie et Scherzo" the inventive second movement [T-2] has a gorgeous leisurely proem that suddenly turns into a spirited central romp [03:58] along the lines of Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). The latter sets the mood for a captivating final allegro [T-3]. This begins with reminders of past ideas, and then the soloist introduces a winsome two-part tune [01:32]. It's the subject of a graceful development and thrilling coda, ending the concerto in sparkling virtuosic fashion. .

Three versions of Albéniz's Rapsodia espańola (c. 1889) with orchestrations by Bréton (see above), George Enescu (1881-1955) and Cristóbal Halffter (b. 1930) have appeared in 1889, 1911 and 1960. The earliest of these receives its premiere recording here [T-4], and there can be no doubt about its Iberian roots!

A dark throbbing orchestra prepares the way for the piano, which plays a supple extended Spanish-sounding theme (SE) [00:09]. This is picked up by the tutti with piano embellishments. Three dances follow that are sequentially a willful petenera [02:28], proud jota [03:19], and alluring malagueńa [06:18].

The last is briefly explored [07:53], and then the SE opening returns (09:39) with the soloist transitioning into a lively estudiantina waltz [11:54]. At one point [12:44] reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) Capriccio espagnol (1887), it brings the rhapsody to a rousing conclusion.

The closing selection was concocted by pianist Melani Mestre, and is billed as a Granados piano concerto. In three movements, the opening one [T-5, mislabelled "T-4" on back album cover] is based on two Granados autograph manuscripts (c. 1910) with fragments for a work of this type. One of them is dedicated to Saint-Saëns, and marked "Patético" ("Pathétique"), which is also the subtitle of Mestre's "'concerto".

With a five-minute despondent opening piano solo recalling Franz Liszt (1811-1886), one begins to wonder what happened to the orchestra! But it finally appears making what we've just heard all the more sorrowful. The soloist then returns eventually introducing a more optimistic thought that's swallowed up in a dark rambling Lisztian rumination. A sullen soloist and tutti end the movement despairingly.

With nothing further to go on from Granados, Mestre decided to fashion the last two movements from some of Enrique's solo piano pieces. The second one [T-6] is a winsome amalgam of the exotic "Oriental" from 12 Danzas espańolas (Op. 37, No. 2; 1892-1900) and perky Capricho espańol (Op.39; date unknown). While the third [T-7] is an arrangement of the Allegro di concierto (Op. 46; 1904) that concludes the work with a flamboyant romantic sweep.

A student of Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009), Melani Mestre is a well- qualified, technically accomplished interpreter of Spanish piano music as he proves on this disc. He delivers beautifully phrased, sensitive renditions of these pieces, and gets high marks for his imaginative Granados realization.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under conductor Martyn Brabbins provides ideal support. Not only that, they deserve a vote of thanks for introducing us to more concerto curiosities (see 26 October 2011).

Made at City Halls Concert Hall, Glasgow, the recordings are excellent, projecting a wide orchestral soundstage in an ideally reverberant acoustic. The piano is well captured, and the overall instrumental timbre musical with occasionally bright massed upper violin moments. A good balance between soloist and tutti is maintained throughout.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y150930)


The album cover may not always appear.
Damrosch, L.: Sym in A, Festival Ov (w F.P.Schubert); Russell/AzuPacU SO [Toccata]
The name Damrosch has for years figured heavily in the lives of New York City classical music lovers. First there was German-born and trained Leopold (1832-1885), who emigrated to the Unites States in 1871, and was conductor of the New York Philharmonic (NYP, 1876-7) and Metropolitan Opera (1884-5). Then his son Walter (1862-1950) served as NYP music director from 1902 through 1903, and was an influential presence on the City's musical scene for most of his life.

Older brother Frank (1859-1937) founded the New York Institute of Musical Art that eventually became an important part of the Juilliard School. And last but not least, there was younger sister Clara (1869-1948), who with her husband David Mannes (1866-1959) started the Manhattan-based Mannes College of Music.

But it's their father who concerns us here. Back in Germany he started his career as a gifted violinist, whom Franz Liszt (1811-1886) brought to public attention. He'd then go on to become a highly successful conductor, and also compose a few symphonic works, two of which make their first CD appearance on this new Toccata Classics release.

He was a good friend and champion of Wagner (1813-1883), whose Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1862-7) seems echoed in the opening Festival Overture of 1871 [T-1]. A sonata form piece it begins with a restrained stately theme (RS) [00:09], which is built into a towering climax followed by a heroic expansive melody (HE) [03:37].

The latter is elaborated and along with RS becomes the subject of a dramatic development with a couple of triumphant moments. The last of these ends the overture jubilantly with reminders of RS [11:26].

Leopold's Symphony in A Major, which was his one and only effort in the genre, is next. Written in 1878 its premiere would have to wait until the occasion of this recording last February. In four-movements the first [T-2] starts slowly with shimmering strings and relaxed winds. These intone an octave-jumping motif (OJ) [00:11-00:53], which prefaces a melancholy opening with Bruckner (1824-1896) horn calls.

A spirited development and recap follow [04:09], filling out this loosely structured sonata form movement. Along the way there are several somber introspections, but the music ends on an optimistic note, setting the tone for the Intermezzo scherzando that's next [T-3]. This is a rustic offering where it's easy to imagine bumptious peasants dancing around a group of local lovelies.

It couldn't be more different from the succeeding Quasi Marcia (Marchlike) [T-4], which is the symphony's longest and most emotionally fraught movement. Just short of twenty minutes, except for some links to OJ, it almost seems as if Damrosch got the pages for an independent tone poem mixed up with the symphony's!

Generally falling into five parts, the first opens with a drumroll and cataclysmic episode distinguished by a terrifying gong crash [03:45]. This fades into a sorrowful second segment [04:38] with winds and strings alluding to OJ. Then there's a stirring brief crescendo followed by imploring passages. These end with chortling bassoons, which introduce a demonic, lightning and thunder third episode [09:14].

The tempest gradually abates, and we get a moving fourth part [12:47], where reminders of OJ overcome an attempted return by the forces of darkness. The movement then concludes with a final OJ-based epilogue of conciliation [16:51].

The symphony ends on a light note with a vivacious sonata form allegro [T-4] having an initial catchy OJ-derived hiccupping theme (OH) [00:00] succeeded by a lyrical songlike idea [00:37]. There's also a curious wrinkle-browed, descending passage [01:09] recalling the last movement of Beethoven's (1770-1827) Choral Symphony (No. 9; 1822-4). These are followed by a capricious development [02:35] and recapitulation [03:54] that also include reminders of past movements. Then the work closes with an exuberant OH-fueled coda [06:36].

As an encore we get an all-time "Pops" favorite, Leopold's 1875 orchestration of the first Marche Militaire from Schubert's (1797-1828) set of three for piano 4 hands (Op. 51, D733; 1818). A brilliant arrangement for large orchestra with an expanded percussion section, it remains his most frequently played work, and concludes this concert on a lighter note..

Conductor Christopher Russell has been a trailblazer for US audiences, introducing them to symphonic works by such lesser known composers as Havergal Brian (1876-1972, see 30 April 2015), Rued Langgaard (1893-1952, see 10 September 2010) and Allan Pettersson (1911-1980, see 19 October 2012). Now he gives us another first with these two Damrosch selections. Not only that, he gets extraordinary playing from the Azusa Pacific University (APU) Symphony Orchestra based near Los Angeles.

Made over the past two years presumably at the University's Munson Recital Hall, these recordings are serviceable, projecting a modest soundstage in acceptable surroundings. Generally speaking the highs seem a bit subdued and the midrange somewhat cluttered.

As for the low end, the bass drum strokes, particularly in the Marche Militaire, are thunderous. Those with systems that go down to rock bottom may notice intermittent rumblings that are probably HVAC and/or outside traffic related. Then again, maybe they were moving pianos next-door.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P150929)


The album cover may not always appear.
Juon: Wks for 2 Vns & Pno (13 Silhouettes & 7 kleine Tondichtungen); Sosnowski/Hartmann/Nuss [Mus Suiss]
We continue our rewarding exploration of Russian composer Paul Juon's ((1872-1940) delightful chamber creations (see 16 December 2013) with this new release from Musiques Suisses. It's devoted to three sets of miniatures he wrote for the unusual combination of two violins and piano. The first two are both titled Silhouettes with six and seven selections respectively, while the last is Sieben kleine Tondichtungen (Seven Small Tone Poems). These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

The composer apparently loved Russian folk music, and even once said it was a primary influence. This seems born out right from the opening Silhouettes (Op. 9, 1899). Moreover, its initial "Idylle" [T-1] is a lovely pastoral with a central dancelike episode [01:11-02:19] that will sound very familiar to most. That's because it's derived from the same folk melody Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) borrowed for the second theme in the last movement of his Fate Symphony (No. 4, 1877-8).

A grievous "Douleur" ("Sorrow") [T-2] is followed by "Bizarrerie" ("Quirky") [T-3] with hyper, whimsical outer sections wrapped around an amorous, contemplative one [02:04-05:20]. Next there's a haunting "Conte mystérieux" ("Mysterious Tale") [T-4] and delicate "Musette miniature" [T-5], which is an antique dance in minuet time.

The sixth and last "Obstination" ("Obstinacy") [T-6] begins with a commanding piano playing a stubborn ostinato motif that will dominate this silhouette. The strings then join in, and all engage in a virtuosic free-for-all ending things audaciously.

The next series of Silhouettes, which would come ten years later (Op.43, 1909), is more rhythmically, contrapuntally and harmonically sophisticated. The first "Prélude" [T-7] is a vivacious twentieth century prelude and fugato that pays allegiance to Bach (1685-1750) and Handel (1685-1759). While the succeeding "Chant d'amour" ("Song of Love") is a touching chromatically searching reverie [T-8].

It's followed by three tiny dancelike "Intermezzi", the first of which [T-9] is a plucky morsel that could be the world's shortest waltz. Then Juon once again resorts to Russian folk melodies in the following two selections. The first is of soulful Slavic disposition [T-10], and the other, a peppy number with the strings mimicking the bayan and balalaika [T-11].

The penultimate "Mélancolie" is as advertised, and the most harmonically adventurous silhouette so far [T-12]. On the other hand there's something diabolical about the outer sections of the concluding "Danse grotesque" [T-13].

Coming some twenty years later towards the end of Juon's career we get the Sieben kleine Tondichtungen (Seven Small Tone Poems, Op. 81, 1928), which represents another quantum leap forward in his stylistic development. There's an impressionistic, dreamlike air reminiscent of Ravel (1875-1937) about "Pastorale" [T-14], which has another of those Slavic dancelike episodes [02:51-04:03] so typical of this composer. While "Intermezzo" [T-15] is a restless tidbit in search of a home key.

An "Impromptu" [T-16] with fidgity fiddles is next, and succeeded by a gently swaying "Barcarole" [T-17] and antic "Capriccietto" ("Small Caprice") [T-18]. The following "Ciacona" ("Chaconne") [T-19] is along the lines of "Obstination" above [T-6], but with a lovely relaxed repeated idea first stated by one of the violins. The others then pick it up, and after some frantic fiddling this tone poem ends quietly in a romantic stupor.

But not one to take himself too seriously, Juon concludes the set with a saucy "Burletta" ("Little Joke") [T-20]. It's a tongue in cheek ending to a captivating album of tonal snapshots that will leave you smiling.

The violinists here are Swiss-born Malwina Sosnowski and Rebekka Hartmann, who join pianist Benyamin Nuss from Germany. All three are technically accomplished, up-and-coming, award-winning artists. They play with a feeling and sensitivity that successfully captures each of the ever-changing moods in these pieces. Ms. Sosnowski goes on to comment about what a rewarding creative experience she and her colleagues had performing these skillfully written, highly expressive pieces.

A coproduction with Swiss Radio, the recordings were made last March in a Zurich studio with one violin to the left, the other center, and the piano on the right. They project a moderate soundstage in a warm chamber venue, and the balance is ideal. The strings are clearly focused and natural sounding with the piano realistically captured in percussively striking detail. Audiophile violinists and pianists will find this a good test disc.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y150928)


The album cover may not always appear.
Klughardt: Sym 4, Drei Stücke; Hermus/Anh-Dessau P [CPO]
CPO's ongoing revival of German composer August Klughardt's (1847-1902) music (see 13 January 2014) continues with this recent release. These are the only currently available recordings of the symphonic works included here.

The concert begins with the fourth of his five numbered symphonies, which was probably completed around 1890. In the customary four movements there's a disciplined reserve about it that recalls the historically informed interpretations of Brahms' (1833-1897) orchestral works.

The initial sonata form allegro [T-1] begins with a cheerful tune [00:02] that's followed by derivative chorale-like brass pronouncement (CB) [01:01] that's repeated [01:16, 01:31]. A comely lilting melody then appears [01:47] succeeded by a rehash of the foregoing, which ends in commanding passages [05:32]. Then there's some subdued bridgework into an extensive development.

This is highlighted by a stealthy CB-based fugato [07:48], and the appearance of an entirely new hymnlike theme (NH) [09:25] that's an amalgam of previous ideas. Then CB introduces a recap of past material [11:10] with a big tune version of NH [12:57]. A thrilling NH-tinged final coda [13:32] ends the movement with a callous C minor chord for full orchestra.

An emotional andante [T-2] follows, and begins with a melancholy reverent melody (MR) [00:01], which builds to a crescendo. This falls away into a heroic idea [03:20] that's explored, and introduces a moving last episode with subdued reminders of MR [05:40].

The presto [T-3] offers a brief respite from the foregoing. It has outer sections harkening back to the scherzos in Beethoven's (1770-1827) symphonies wrapped around a fetching folksy trio tune [00:55-01:17].

Then we get the finale [T-4], whose stayed opening [00:01] has ever brightening hints of a heroic bounding theme (HB) that soon follows [01:03]. There's something of Wagner's (1813-1883) Siegfried (1871) about it, which is not surprising considering Klughardt idolized his operas.

After a striking drumroll [01:20], HB becomes the subject of a spirited fugato [01:21. This leads to a vivacious development where the symphony's most important ideas are skillfully woven into a contrapuntal tapestry. The work then concludes in an HB-based coda [08:25] that ends it in the triumphal key of C major.

The disc closes with Drei Stücke (Three Pieces, c. 1900), which was the composer's last orchestral work. The harp figures heavily in the opening "Capriccio" [T-5]. Here an elegant, limber beginning presages those charming moments in Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Der Rosenkavalier, while the more demonstrative closing portends his tone poems.

Next up, a "Gavotte" [T-6] that could be a transcription for large orchestra of one of the more regal dances out of a Lully (1632-1687) opera suite. The brilliantly scored closing "Tarantelle" [T-7] augurs Respighi's (1879-1936) marvelous Rossini (1792-1868) recreations, and has a gorgeous central idea to boot [01:09, 02:55]. It must rank as one of the composer's sunniest pieces.

As on CPO's previous disc devoted to Klughardt's symphonic music (see 13 January 2014), Dutch conductor Antony Hermus leads the Anhalt-Dessau Philharmonic. Once again he gets technically accomplished, superb playing from one of Germany's most venerable orchestras.

Made by the identical production staff and at the same location (Katharina-Saal in the Town Hall, Zerbst, Germany), the venue is small by concert hall standards with only a slight amount of reverberation. This gives rise to a lean, clearly focused soundstage, which those liking wetter sonics may find somewhat dry. The instrumental timbre is for the most part musical with massed upper violin passages bordering on the steely side, but clean bass.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P150927)


The album cover may not always appear.
Kraggerud: Equinox (24 Postludes in all Keys for Vn & Chbr Orch); Kraggerud/Arctic P ChO [Simax]
Reading the album booklet, which includes a kooky narrative concocted by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder (b. 1952) along with violinist-composer Henning Kraggerud (b. 1973, see 12 July 2013), and the gimmicky program underlying Equinox (2014), leaves one not knowing what to expect on first hearing this premiere recording!

From the conceptual standpoint suffice it to say the music owes a debt to Antonio Vivaldi's (1678-1741) Seasons (Op. 8, Nos. 1-4; c. 1725), Joachim Raff's (1822-1882) Times of the Day (1877-8, see 26 January 2011), and J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) Well-Tempered Clavier (1722-42). Moreover, it's four, six-movement concerti for solo violin and string orchestra subtitled "Afternoon", "Evening", "Night" and "Morning". They're followed by a short finale, which the composer refers to as an "Overture", and explore each of the twenty-four major and minor keys.

However, the symbolism gets even more complex! To wit, the work's twenty-four movements are associated with different geographic locations that circumnavigate the globe eastwards in 15° increments of longitude. But don't be put off by all this globetrotting gobbledygook as this is a delightful, "Around the World in Eighty Days" listening experience that lasts only seventy minutes.

Our journey begins in England on the prime meridian (0° longitude) with the first movement of the initial Afternoon - Concerto in C. It's appropriately titled "Greenwich" (C Major) [T-1], and features a slow pining tune set to a lush tutti accompaniment. After that we get a swirling "Prague" waltz (D minor) [T-2], an insistent tuneful "Alexandria" (F major) [T-3], and Eastern-sounding "Baghdad" (G minor) [T-4].

The concerto concludes with "The Aral Sea" (Bb Major) [T-5] and "Jaipur" (C minor) [T-6]. The former has a lullaby-like melody that becomes the muscular subject of a tiny fugato [01:12], and then resumes as before. The latter, which is a moving meditation with a nervous midsection [01:52-02:54], ends the work peacefully.

The next Evening - Concerto in Eb opens with "Dhaka" (Eb major) [T-7]. A frenetic dance with a catchy repeated phrase for the tutti that brings "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to mind (RR) [00:00], it gives everyone a chance to strut their stuff! Then there's a fetching Russian rhythmic urgency about "Lake Baikal" (F minor) [T-8], while a haunting Mandarin mystique characterizes "Hangzhou" (Ab major) [T-9]

Reverence and restraint color the next stop, "Kyoto" (Bb minor) [T-10] that's known as Japan's "City of Ten Thousand Shrines". And completing our traversal of the Eastern Hemisphere, we come to "Sydney" (Db major) [T-11], then "New Caledonia" (Eb minor) [T-12]. Both of these are bumptiously rustic one minute and lyrically winsome the next, with the latter ending the concerto in subdued fashion.

Then we get Night - Concerto in F#. Its first movement marks our passage into the Western Hemisphere with a visit to Fiji and the island of "Taveuni" (F# major) [T-13] next to the antimeridian (180° longitude). This is a lovely romantic thought with a tripping melody [00:25] that may bring Norwegian composer Christian Sinding's (1856-1941) violin concertos to mind (see 17 August 2011).

Darkness pervades the music for our next stop. It's "Mary's Igloo" (G# minor) [T-14], Alaska, whose population was decimated by flu and tuberculosis epidemics (1918-9), and now serves only as a seasonal fishing camp. But the mood brightens with sunny "Tahiti" (B Major) [T-15], which could almost be a newly discovered Paganini (1782-1840) Caprice.

Visits to "Whitehorse" (C# minor) [T-16] in the Yukon, "Santa Barbara" (E major) [T-17], California, and "Puerto Vallarta" (F# minor) [T-18], Mexico, end this concerto. The music for these in turn is sequentially rustic with a jagged fiddle tune, somewhat dreamy, and finally waltzlike, where there are suggestions of balmy breezes and sparkling wavelets.

The concluding Morning - Concerto in A begins in "New Orleans" (A major) [T-19] with Herr Kraggerud tossing off a slapstick-accented, jazzy ditty that might be of Cajun origin. He's then joined by the other strings playing an accompaniment at times recalling RR [00:47] (see above). A bluesy calm limns "New York City" (B minor) [T-20]. And moving on, there's a furtiveness about "Manaus" (D major) [T-21], located in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, that may reflect the elusiveness of local native tribes.

Then it's on to "Hvalsey" (E minor) [T-22}, which is the site of Greenland's most spectacular Norse ruins. Here the composer gives us a moving lament perhaps paying homage to those adventurous Norwegian explorers, some of whom might have been among his ancestors.

The concerto makes last stops at "Flores Island" (G major) [T-23] in the Azores with a chirpy fiddle-swept movement, and southeastern Iceland's "Hornafjordur" ("Horn Fjord"; A minor) [T-24] area, represented by a sobbing threnody.

Things come full circle with the closing Overture [T-25], where we find ourselves back on the prime meridian in Greenwich and the key of C major (see above). With a nostalgic opening along the lines of the work's first measures, the music turns cheerfully ebullient [01:45], ending this longitudinal lark capriciously.

Wearing three hats as composer, soloist and conductor, Henning Kraggerud delivers stunning performances in keeping with his reputation as one of today's finest violinists. He also gets superb playing from the Arctic Philharmonic (AP) Chamber Orchestra drawn from AP's strings.

Made at Grřnnĺsen Church, Tromsř, Norway, the recordings are excellent. They project a viable sonic image in a nourishing acoustic with Kraggerud well captured and balanced against the tutti.

The instrumental timbre is characterized by crystal clear highs, a natural midrange, and clean bass having none of that low end hangover frequently present on string orchestra recordings. Audiophiles will find this disc a good test of their system's ability to reproduce solo as well as massed strings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y150926)


The album cover may not always appear.
Mankell: Pno Conc; Nystroem: Conc Ricercante (pno & orch); Christenssen/Paternostro/RheinPfSt P [Capriccio]
This adventurous release from Capriccio gives us two rare piano concertos by Swedish composers. The one by Henning Mankell (1868-1930) is an early twentieth century romantic discovery, while the other from Gösta Nystroem (1890-1966) of some forty years later is a neoclassical gem. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

Mankell studied in Stockholm, and would pursue a career as a music teacher, critic and administrator. He would also write a modest number of works mostly for solo piano. This concerto (1917) was one of his few forays into the symphonic field, which Swedish conductor Tor Mann (1894-1975) helped him orchestrate.

Set in the three usual movements, the initial sonata form allegro [T-1] gets off to a commanding start with a lavish theme for soloist and tutti followed by a somewhat melancholy one. The two ideas then undergo a dramatic development with some colorful harmonic touches.

The latter add an impressionistic ambience, making this concerto a bit different from others being written around that time by compatriots Wilhelm Stenhammer (1871-1927), Adolf Wiklund (1879-1950; see 14 May 2012) and Kurt Atterburg (1887-1974). A protracted pensive cadenza follows [12:34-16:29], and then a thrilling final coda [16:30] that ends the movement like it began.

The lyrical slow one [T-2] has some delightful tintinnabular colorations, and lovely woodwind passages that surround a chromatically peripatetic part for the soloist. But reverie turns to virtuosic magniloquence in the exciting final allegro scherzoso [T-3]. With an excited orchestral beginning, the piano soon plays an insistent muscular motif (IM) [00:04].

A harmonically adventurous exploration of IM follows with more introspective moments for the soloist interspersed with some Sturm und Drang passages for everyone. A romanticized, big tune version of IM [08:24] then ends the concerto jubilantly. What a great discovery -- you'll love it!

Nystroem's Concerto ricercante of 1959 is a rigorous, tightly-wrapped, three-movement work with a percussive severity reminiscent of late Bartók (1881-1945). Based on small cellular motifs, one of the most striking, which recalls the Concerto for Orchestra (1943), appears in the initial "allegro energico" [T-4] played by piano (CB) [04:09-04:25] to an arresting tam-tam-accented accompaniment.

The contemplative "adagio ad libitum" [T-5] brings to mind the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936). It ends in an extended cadenza [09:21] that reaches dramatic heights, falls away, and then resumes [11:41] with a closing virtuosic flurry of notes bridging into the final "allegro scherzando" [T-6].

This is a percussively spiced whimsy with a couple of winsome themes Gösta apparently borrowed from some of his earlier film music (1951). It ends with a dynamic cadenza alluding to CB [04:44], and a stabbing CB-related coda [06:24] that brings the concerto full circle. .

You've probably never heard of Swedish pianist Anna Christensson, but you will in the not too distant future judging from her spirited performances. The technical command, confidence and sensitivity with which she plays makes a strong case for two works that have languished in obscurity far too long.

Not only that, the German Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic (RPSP) under conductor Roberto Paternostro provide consistently enthusiastic support. They wax romantic in the Mankell, and manifest a sharply etched neoclassical profile for the Nystroem.

Presumably made in the RPSP Hall, Ludwigshafen, Germany, the recordings are superb! They present a perfectly proportioned, clearly focused soundstage in an ideal venue. The piano is beautifully captured as well as balanced throughout, and the instrumental timbre totaling convincing.

The earlier concerto ranks with the best RPC recordings (see the Albeniz/Granados above). The later with all its percussive coloring is a demonstration piece par excellence that will push the limits of the best sound systems.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y150925)


The album cover may not always appear.
Rütti: Sym "The Visions of Niklaus von Flüe"; Diethelm: Stg Orch Wks (3); Schmid/Held/NovoSt PChO [Guild]
Back in 2009 we introduced CLOFO readers to a striking contemporary requiem (2007) by Swiss composer Carl Rütti (b. 1949), and this new Guild release gives us another of his moving religious works. Not only that, it also includes three impressive pieces for string orchestra by his compatriot Caspar Diethelm (1926-1997). They're the only recordings of these works currently available on disc

The Rütti dating from 2013 is a symphony for soprano, organ, percussion, and string orchestra in seven-movements. Four are settings of German texts relating mystical visions, which Switzerland's patron saint Niklaus von Flüe (aka Brother Klaus, 1417-1487) had during his last twenty years spent as a hermit in Ranft.

The album notes have the original accounts with detailed descriptions by the composer of these spaced-out hallucinations. There are English translations of everything, and you're referenced to them for the programmatic minutia underlying this work.

The opening movement marked "Vom Sonnenaufgang" ("Of the Sunrise") [D-1, T-1] is instrumental with soft strings, chimes and bird song organ figurations. It's meant to reflect the peaceful, early morning hours in the ravine where Niklaus' humble hut was located.

"Der Pilger vom Sonnenaufgang" ("The Pilgrim of the Sunrise") [D-1, T-2] follows where the soprano delivers a lovely passage to a string footstep accompaniment. She sings about a man dressed as a pilgrim who approaches from a distance and stands in front of Brother Klaus. As the two regard each other the music becomes more animated. It builds to a percussion-enhanced, organ-embellished climax with a shriek from the soloist, who tells us about many miracles that have occurred.

These include the collapse of a nearby mountain, which initiates the next movement. This begins with a thrilling instrumental toccata titled "Pilatusberg" ("Mount Pilatus)" (TP) [D-1, T-3] after the peak in question. Then the soloist sings a moving lyrical narrative marked "Die Wahrheit" ("The Truth") [05:12].

Here we learn about the appearance of universal truth, and the Pilgrim's leaving Niklaus feeling spiritually fulfilled. There's an underlying reminder of TP [09:22-10:48], and then this third movement ends in a state of grace.

We're told the fourth titled "Das Zelt" ("The Tent") [D-1, T-4] is the symphony's adagio. This is a laid-back extended song of great beauty accompanied by soft strings, delicate high organ stops and twinkling tuned percussion that includes a tolling bell. See the album notes for the curious oneiric story underlying it

The next "Brunnen Tanz" ("Fountain Dance") [D-1, T-5] is a short scherzo that's another instrumental toccata with shimmering strings, sparkling percussion, and a virtuosic dash of organ. One can picture delicate rising and falling sprays of water. But the text tells us the liquid is a mixture of wine, oil and honey, which sounds more like a precursor of French dressing.

This introduces the sixth movement set in two adjoining segments called "Die armen Arbeiter" ("The Poor Workers") [D1, T-6] and "Der Brunnen" ("The Fountain"). It's a vocal setting of an oddball story as presented in the album notes, and you're on your own as far as making any sense out of it!

The music is at first low and slow with the soprano soaring over contemplative organ passages. After that it brightens and the pace quickens with an infectious scampering theme [04:56] having toccata-like organ figurations.

Two thirds of the way through there are reminiscences of the opening measures [10:25], which are developed into a dancelike episode [11:23] that could almost be of American Indian origin. Then the movement ends with some nebulous afterthoughts intoned by the soprano.

The symphony concludes with an Amen marked "Das Gesicht im Goldkreis" ("The Face in the Golden Circle") [D-1, T-7], which apparently refers to a picture Niklaus used for meditation. We're told it contained a central golden circle with three rays emanating from it. Apparently he once said he'd seen a radiant face in it that made his heart explode. Accordingly it's a short percussion-laced fortissimo that ends the work dramatically

Then it's back to reality with three late works for string orchestra by Caspar Diethelm completed in 1996 just a year before his death. The first Passacaglia with the inscription "Eine weisse Christrose im Schnee auf dem kleinen Grab" ("A White Rose in the Snow on the Small Grave") [D-2, T-1] honors the memory of his young daughter who died in 1922.

Consequently it's a grief-stricken piece that begins with a twelve-tone row ostinato. The later imparts a sense of life's limited span and the inevitability of death, making the accompanying lament played by the other strings all the more moving.

The Consolatio fur Streichorchester (Consolation for String Orchestra) that follows [D-2, T-2] is a more sunny creation with an element of nostalgia. It sets the stage for the closing Nun rundet sich der Weg zum Kreis (Now the Path Completes the Circle).

Here again a circle is associated with this last piece somewhat like the final movement of Rütti's symphony (see above). Moreover, each of its twelve segments -- as the composer calls them -- represent a phase in the eternal cycle of life. The first three might be interpreted as characterizing prenatal bliss [D-2, T-3], birthing [D-2, T-4], and infant innocence [D-2, T-5].

The next three seem childhood oriented as they're respectively mischievous [D-2, T-6], cuddly [D-2, T-7], and worshipfully affectionate [D-2, T-8]. Then moving right along, we get a plucky, unsettled, adolescent phase [D-2, T-9], presumably followed by early, middle, mature and late adulthood ones. These are of amorous [D-2, T-10], thoughtful [D-2, T-11], fun-filled [D-2, T-12], and searching [D-2, T-13] character.

After that Diethelm's life cycle ends with a twelfth, angular epilogue [D-2, T-14], having a devil may care final flourish. This delightful work is a welcome respite from Rütti's recondite symphony.

Soprano Maria C. Schmid, organist Martin Heini and percussionist Mario Schubiger join the strings of the Novosibirsk State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra (NSPCO) under Rainer Held for these performances. Their readings are very expressive and finely etched. Both composers couldn't have better advocates.

Done at the St. Katharina Parish Church in Horw, Switzerland, the recordings are impressive for the scoring alone. They present a broad deep soundstage in a considerably reverberant surroundings. Those liking wetter sonics will find them appealing, but audiophiles preferring a more focused image may not.

The soloists are all well placed and balanced against the members of the NSPCO. The instrumental timbre is characterized by brittle highs, a pleasing midrange and clean bass. The latter goes down to rock bottom, and some of those low organ notes will rattle your closet doors.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P150924)