CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 NOVEMBER 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.
Busch, Adolf: Pno Qt, Pno Trios 1 & 2; Eichenauer/Ravinia Trio [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (2 CDs)
German-born Adolf Busch (1891-1952) is not only remembered as an outstanding twentieth century violinist, but also a great humanitarian. Although not Jewish, he so opposed Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and the rise of Nazism that he even emigrated to Basel, Switzerland in 1927. Then the year 1933 saw him repudiate Germany altogether, and when urged by the Nazis to return home, he declared he'd do so with joy on the day that Hitler, Goebbels (1897-1945) and Göring (1893-1945) were publicly hanged!
As of 1938 he even refused to play in Italy, and at the beginning of World War II (1939-1945) emigrated to Vermont in the US, where he along with his close friend and son-in-law, pianist Rudolf Serkin (1903-1992), founded the acclaimed Marlboro Music School and Festival.
Busch was also an accomplished composer, who was heavily influenced by Max Reger (1873-1916; see 9 June 2009), and left almost a hundred and fifty works. These include a number of chamber pieces, three of which fill out this album. They represent good cross-sections of his style as it evolved from his early German years up through those spent in Switzerland and the US. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc
Programmed in chronological order, the first CD starts with the earlier of his two piano trios, which was completed in Bonn, Germany, sometime during 1919. A four-movement work, there's a peripatetic chromaticism like that found in Reger (see 30 March 2008).
The initial sonata form allegro [D-1, T-1] begins with a lithe romantic theme (LR) played by the strings to a restless keyboard accompaniment [00:01]. A brief elaboration follows, from which a second, more pragmatic, lyrical idea (PL) emerges on the piano [01:55].
PL is explored and along with LR undergoes a searching development [02:53]. Then LR reappears [05:56] succeeded by some further exploration. This leads to a recapitulation of PL [07:46] that introduces a moving LR-based coda [09:43] ending the movement peacefully.
The scherzo [D-1, T-2] has pixilated, pizzicato-spiced sections on either side of a pensive trio [01:27-03:15] that seems in search of a home key. And speaking of that, the meandering but comely largo [D-1, T-3] continues the quest.
A structurally complex finale [D-1, T-4] brings this early effort to a rousing conclusion. It starts off as a fugue based on an assertive baroque theme (AB) [00:01] that could be out of J.S. Bach (1685-1750). AB undergoes a chromatic development worthy of Reger interspersed with three andante passages featuring a lyricized version of AB (LB) [01:22, 02:59 and 04:35]. Then the fugue resumes [05:06] turning into an AB-LB-related coda that concludes the work excitedly.
The second trio, which would come twelve years later (1931), was written in Basel. It's more coherent than its predecessor with distant echoes of chamber music by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) and Hans Pftizner (1869-1949).
Again in four movements, it begins with a mutant sonata form allegro [D-1, T-5] having two themes introduced by the strings. The first is a spacey imploring number (SI) [00:13] whose initial five notes will become an underlying motif throughout the trio. The second takes the unusual form of a spirited, fugally structured idea (SF) [01:20].
They're the subjects of an involved development [01:47] followed by a restatement of SF [04:24] that's significantly expanded. Then SI reappears [06:00], and is further explored along with SF [06:56]. In the end both fuel a thrilling coda [08:23], which closes the movement with flashes of virtuosity, some pensive passages, and a final exclamatory cadence.
The winsome adagio [D-1, T-6] opens with the piano alluding to SI [00:01], after which the strings introduce a moving sinuous theme (MS) [00:07]. This is the basis for a series of affecting transformations, which fill out the movement.
An antic scherzoesque is next [D-1, T-7] with hyperactive pairs of outer sections having suggestions of SI. They hug a possessed inner one [02:26-03:48], and the music never rests.
The concluding allegro [D-1, T-8] begins with a curt commanding upward motif (CU) [00:01] followed by reminders of SI [00:43]. An elaboration of CU riddled with hints of MS and SI follows. It leads to a reserved gently swaying variant of CU (RS) [02:29] that's explored. Then there's a somber contemplation of CU and RS [03:52] that accelerates into a developmental conversation among the three instruments. Virtuosic and contrapuntally spiced, it ends the trio exultantly.
Moving ahead another twelve years, the companion disc gives us Busch's piano quartet of 1945 composed in America on a commission from American music patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (1864-1953, see the newsletter of 10 September 2010). The most progressive piece here, there's an itinerant chromaticism and busy structural design reminiscent of early Schoenberg (1874-1951). However, Busch never falls off the tonal wagon.
In four movements the initial "Con passione" ("With Passion") [D-2, T-1] is so convoluted there's not enough space for a detailed musical analysis. Suffice it to say that after an anguished forte opening [00:01] there's a harmonically dense Brahmsian thematic nexus [00:08-03:11]. This undergoes a chromatically rambling development followed by a token recapitulation [07:03]. The last bars [11:57] conclude the movement in the same spirit it began.
A searching slow movement [D-2, T-2] states a gorgeous extended melody (GE) [00:02] that changes keys in chameleonic fashion. This is followed by a skittish scherzo [D-2, T-3], where capricious discursions bookend a moving rapturous tune (MR) [02:14-04:04]. MR returns towards the end [06:12], concluding the movement with a touch of romance.
The spirited finale [D-2, T-4] is based on new as well as old ideas, and a thematically knotty structure that's again too complex for a lengthy discussion here. In summary it starts with a forceful introduction [00:01] where the strings play a descending motif [00:04-00:06] that will pervade the movement. This prefaces an animated running idea [00:42], which is developed and presented in a more romanticized form (RR) [02:19, 03:09].
An extensive exploration of RR follows [03:28] with a variety of allusions to previous subjects. These include GE [07:15], which prefaces a pensive interlude. This quickens concluding the quartet excitedly with a mind-boggling mosaic of past motifs and themes.
The Ravinia Trio is known for championing little known twentieth century trios, and here are two more outstanding examples of their extraordinary pioneering efforts. They're joined by violist Ulrich Eichenauer for the piano quartet, which is an intricately fashioned, knotty work requiring special handling to come off at its best. Their meticulous phrasing, as well as careful attention to dynamic and rhythmic detail insure that it does.
A coproduction with Swiss Radio, the recordings were made on three occasions between 2009 and 2011 in a Zurich studio. They project completely consistent soundstages in warm chamber surroundings with the strings positioned to either side of the piano. The balance between the performers remains ideal throughout.
The strings are natural sounding except for a couple of isolated, buzzy upper violin spots in the first trio. The piano is exquisitely captured, yielding well-rounded notes with just the right amount of percussive zing. Audiophiles will not be disappointed.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y151130)
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Camilleri, C.: Pno Conc 1 "Mediterranean", Accrdn Conc, Malta Ste; Farrugia/Boac/Vaupotic/Malta PO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Charles Camilleri (1931-2009) was born and spent his early years on the Island of Malta, where he first showed promise as an accordionist and pianist. He began composing at age eleven, and by his seventeenth birthday in 1948 he'd written a number of works inspired by local folk music. Two of them, his Malta Suite and the first of his three piano concertos, are included here.
When he was eighteen Charles' family emigrated to Australia. However, that was apparently a liitle too far "down under" for him, and he soon took off for London, where he'd perform, conduct and become a highly successful light-music arranger, as well as composer of more serious fare. At one point he even helped Malcom Arnold (1921-2006; see 18 December 2008) with the Oscar-winning film score for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
From 1958 through 1982 Camilleri would pursue a distinguished musical career in the US, Canada, where he was the CBC's resident conductor, and London. However, he always had a great love for his homeland, and in 1983 returned to Malta, where he'd spend the rest of his life. Seemingly this was the inspiration for a number of his finest works, which hopefully Naxos will explore in future releases.
Our concert begins with the three-movement piano concerto titled "Mediterranean" originally dating from 1948. On a large romantic scale and one of his first mature works, he'd rework it in 1978, giving us the version presented here.
The opening allegro [T-1] starts with a carefree folksy ditty (CF) on the piano [00:01]. CF then chases about in rondoesque fashion, and is succeeded by a rhapsodic episode [03:20] with a theme of Rachmaninov (1873-1943) persuasion (TR) [03:35].
Here the soloist has an extended cadenza [06:14] that might have benefitted from being more succinct, after which the orchestra makes a quiet reappearance [08:40]. The music then builds in romantic intensity, CF reappears, and the movement concludes like it began.
The adagio [T-2], which is the work's emotional center of gravity, opens with a searching horn passage (SH) [00:01] that seems of folk origin. After that the tutti make a laid-back entrance with the pianist following suit. The soloist then wistfully extemporizes on SH bringing Dave Brubeck's (1920-2012) more contemplative moments to mind. All this is set to a pensive, bordering on pietistic orchestral accompaniment.
There's a striking change of pace with the final allegro [T-3], which is a wild rondo. The main recurring theme is a crazed tarantella that sounds right out of Italy, reminding us Sicily is just north of Malta. There are a couple of passages recalling TR [02:31 and 05:58] with some intervening keyboard fireworks, and then the concerto ends in a blaze of Latin color.
The informative album notes tell us Camilleri was a renowned accordion virtuoso in the 1950-60s. So it's not surprising to learn his vast output includes a concerto for it and string orchestra written in 1968. This is the only recording currently available on CD.
There's a charming overall classical simplicity about it that brings to mind wind concertante works by central European composers who were later contemporaries of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). These include Franz Krommer (1759-1831), Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), Anton Reicha (1779-1836), and Louis Spohr (1784-1859).
The first of its three movements is a modified sonata form andante [T-4]. This starts with the strings playing a buoyant, tripping idea (BT) [00:00] reminiscent of early Rossini (1792-1868) succeeded by a reflective countersubject (RC) [00:34]. The soloist then picks up on both [01:22], and a brief elaboration is next with a repeat of BT [02:37].
After that the strings and soloist give us a folklike, singing melody (FS) [02:54] that undergoes a short development. This ends in a pop-up recap of BT [04:43] with an underlying reminder of FS [05:11] to conclude the movement emphatically.
There's a complete change of mood in the next one [T-5], which is a lethargic, RC-derived funeral march [00:00] made all the more deathlike by a wheezing accordion. But things get even more bizarre in the concluding allegro [T-6]! It's a satanic toccata based on a diabolical dodecaphonic motif [00:00], and places fiendish demands on the soloist.
It would seem to characterize some atonal underworld, and ends the work with a devil-may-care attitude. All the foregoing make this one of the most imaginative, singular-sounding creations in the current concerto genre.
The CD closes with Camilleri's Malta Suite for orchestra. Apparently written in 1946 at the tender age of fifteen, this is one of his earliest works, and arguably remains his most popular. It's a set of four brilliantly orchestrated dances based on melodies found in Maltese folk music known as ghana.
The first entitled "Country Dance" [T-7] is a vivacious caper that seems to have something in common with Italian and Latin American folk music. The succeeding "Waltz" [T-8] features a lovely ligneous clarinet solo that gives way to a fetching triple-time number. Then we get "Nocturne" [T-9] where it's easy to imagine soft moonlight and warm Mediterranean breezes.
The work closes with "Village Festa" [T-10] that's a tone picture characterizing the annual celebrations held in Maltese villages honoring their patron saints. After an opening fanfare [00:00] and some bum--da-bum-bum riffs on the lower strings [00:14] we get a proud, brass-decorated idea (PB) [00:35]. This brings to mind those spirited paso dobles played as Spanish matadors enter the bull ring.
PB is then tunefully explored giving rise to a couple of attractive melodies. It also serves as the basis for a colorful coda that ends the suite and this exceptional disc festively.
Maltese pianist Charlene Farrugia and Croatian accordionist Franco Boac deliver lively performances of the concertos. They're enthusiastically supported by Croatian conductor Miran Vaupotic, and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), who go on to give us an invigorating dance suite.
Incidentally the MPO musicians are first-class as demonstrated by hornist Marco Cola [T-2], and clarinetist Joseph Camilleri (any relation?) [T-8]. This disc is an ideal introduction to Charles' music, and sweeps away the scanty competition currently out there!
The Mediterranean Conference Center, Valletta, Malta, was the location for this production. And considering the immensely wide sonic image projected by the recordings in what seem like cavernous surroundings, the actual venue was probably Republic Hall, which is Malta's largest auditorium.
Depending on your system settings and speaker placement some may find the overall soundstage excessively bowed back. However, the soloists are centered towards the front, and remain appropriately highlighted throughout their respective concerti. Their instruments are convincingly captured, while the overall orchestral timbre is natural sounding with trace amounts of upper "digitalis".
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P151129)
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Fröhlich, F.T.: Stg Qts 2, 3 & 4; BeethQt [Mus Suiss]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Swiss-born Friedrich Theodor Fröhlich (1803-1835) studied music in Berlin during the years 1823-4 and 1826-30. He then moved back to Switzerland, settling in Aarau where he experienced financial difficulties as well as mental problems. Like his friend and contemporary Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), he'd die in his thirties, but would take his own life by jumping into the Aare River.
Friedrich left a limited number of works, most of which are vocal, but include four string quartets. The last three of these fill out this enterprising new release from Musiques Suisses. They're the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The concert begins with the second of 1826 written in Berlin. The first of its four movements [T-1] is the longest, taking the form of a theme and four variations. It starts off with the main subject (MS) [00:00], which is an extended idea having a hymnlike section on either side of a consoling one [01:07-01:28].
Astute listeners will note a familiar phrase [00:17-00:33] bearing a striking resemblance to the opening of the second movement in Haydn's (1782-1809) Emperor String Quartet (Op. 76, No. 3, c. 1799). This is also the melodic setting for the German National Anthem, and one wonders whether Friedrich was purposely alluding to it.
The first variant [01:52] is a more genial, violin-embroidered version of MS, and the second [03:24] a sadder one dominated by a melancholy cello. Then the mood becomes agitated in the third [05:08], which features kinetic passages. However, the final variation [06:57] ends the movement much like it began, but with a couple of sunny violin descants.
A fleeting scherzo [T-2] with a capricious sequentially imitative trio [00:43-02:01] is followed by a "Largo cantabile" ("Slow and songlike") [T-3]. The latter is as advertised with some lovely solo passagework for each of the performers.
The work then concludes with a sonata-rondo allegro [T-4] that shows the influence of the composer's Berlin buddy Felix. It starts with a rhythmically angular, quirky theme (RQ) [00:00] succeeded by a teary pleading idea (TP) [00:53]. RQ is briefly examined and followed by a third playful ditty [01:50]. Next there's an RQ-riddled, sequentially laced development [02:14] leading to a TP-introduced recap coda [03:52]. This hints at past ideas, and ends the work joyfully.
The third quartet, which was completed two years later (1827-8) in Berlin, is also a four-movement work. But generally speaking it's more confident, accomplished and cheerful than the second.
The initial sonata form allegretto [T-5] begins with a coy hesitant theme (CH) [00:00] that's briefly explored, and succeeded by a repetitive countersubject (RC) in the cello [01:02]. A brief chromatic development follows. Then a recapitulation beginning with RC [02:41] having suggestions of CH [03:08] ends the movement uneventfully.
A scampering scherzo is next [T-6]. It starts with a four-note rhythmic riff in the lower strings (FR) [00:00] and playful fiddle tune (PF) [00:02]. These run rampant in the movement's opening and closing sections.
The central trio [02:05-03:59] is based on an FR-related catchy tune (FC), and harbors a big surprise for astute listeners! Moreover, there's a dramatic eight-note motif (DE) [02:29] derived from FC that's the same as the one Robert Schumann (1810-1856) would use thirteen years later to open his ever popular Spring Symphony (No. 1; 1841).
He might well have gotten the idea from the quartet, which Friedrich may have showed him during his Berlin years. Or maybe it came to his attention through Mendelssohn, who premiered the symphony shortly after it was written.
Be that as it may, FC then becomes the subject of a tiny fugato and some busy imitative machinations that end in midair. FR then reappears [04:00] followed by remembrances of the opening section, which end the movement much like it began.
The adagio [T-7] is an instrumental song with a pensive retiring melody (PR) [00:02] followed by an ornamented, PR-related refrain (OP) [02:01]. Both are repeated with some decorative touches [02:55]. Then we get a portentous version of PR [04:38] that concludes the movement peacefully.
A bipolar allegro [T-8] brings this quartet to a close. It gets off to a hectic start with some frenetic fiddling [00:00] followed by a fidgety fugue [00:43]. This is based on a subject distantly related to OP, and bridges into a wild development [02:06] with hints of PR [02:41]. The latter seem to act as a tranquilizer inspiring restrained, tender thoughts that end the work quietly.
A couple of years after he returned to Switzerland the composer produced his fourth and final quartet (1832). Again in four movements, it represents another stylistic advance where there's an increased use of motives and greater sense of chromaticism.
The initial sonata form allegro's [T-9] apprehensive motivic start (AM) [00:01] brings Beethoven's (1770-1827) late quartets (1823-6) to mind, which it seems the composer had studied after his previous effort in the genre. It's the basis for an extended, harried theme (EH) [00:15] that's explored and followed by another of Fröhlicher's winsome songlike melodies (WS) [02:00].
A chromatically adventurous development is next [02:49] with frequent reminders of AM and some fugato spicing [05:54]. Then the movement ends despairingly with an AM-based recap coda [05:31].
After that there's a gorgeous romantic andante [T-10] that finds the composer at the height of his melodic powers, and a quirky scherzo [T-11]. The latter's outer sections make it easy to imagine some barnyard scene with strutting chickens pecking about. And to carry the avian analogy a bit further, the trio [02:37-04:11] could represent graceful swans on a peaceful pond.
The modified sonata form finale [T-12] gets off to a sobbing start [00:00] with hints of an AM-related somber theme (AS). This is soon played in full by the cello [01:34] as the subject of a fugue that leads to an extensive development.
The latter includes some virtuosic violin passages that surround a smoothed out, romanticized version of AS [03:42-04:11]. Then there's a repeat of AS [04:53] and bravura violin solo. This zips into a final AS-based coda [05:03] ending the quartet gleefully.
As was the case with another recent Musiques Suisses CD (see 9 April 2014) the Basel-based Beethoven Quartet delivers superb performances of these works. If anything their playing here is even more sensitive and technically refined than before. This long forgotten composer couldn't be better represented.
Made recently at the Hans Huber-Saal, Basel, these recordings present a wide soundstage that depending on your system settings may seem a bit skewed to the left. Done in reverberant surroundings, they'll appeal to those liking wetter sonics.
Be advised there are occasional rustlings from the performers, and some low end noises associated with outside traffic. Also pointy-eared listeners may detect a couple of less than ideal edits. While these recordings may not be in the audiophile category, they're good representations of some undeservedly neglected music.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P151128)
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Richman: Pno Conc "In Truth", Ob Conc "The Clearing", 3 Pcs (vc & orch); Soloists/Richman/Pitts SO [Albany]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
American conductor Lucas Richman (b.1964) has made guest appearances with many of the world's finest orchestras, and since 2003 been Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO), which is renowned for pioneering contemporary repertoire. He's also a highly acclaimed, frequently commissioned composer, whose works have been performed by over two hundred US orchestras.
The three pieces on this enjoyable recent Albany Records release may not tax the intellect, but have immediate listener appeal. What's more, they would seem to be the first commercially available recordings of them.
The program gets off to a rousing start with a concerto worthy of Hyperion's amaranthine "Romantic Piano Concerto" (RPC) series (see 30 September 2015). Commissioned and premiered by the KSO in 2013, it's subtitled "In Truth".
The album booklet allows as how it's meant to reflect upon truths perceived, accepted, and verified. It also asserts the pianist is "a protagonist who alternates between abiding by society's universal 'truths' and railing against those creating new 'truths' to avoid personal culpability."
Over and above that there are other statements that along with the above many may consider pretentious platitudes. So in writing about this selection it seemed advisable to "play it by ear", and ignore the documentation except for a couple of musical facts stated therein.
In three movements, we're told the opening one marked "To One's Self" [T-1] has recurring motifs representing a couple of truth-related ideas. One is the Latin motto "Veritas vos liberabit" ("The truth shall set you free"). The other, an Indonesian chant that apparently translates as "strengthen the bond between your inner feeling and the one who watches over you" [sic].
The work gets off to an ostentatious RPC start with a brass flourish [00:02] and exultant motif on the piano [00:04], which is seemingly a motivic reminder of the motto (LM). This is soon followed by a phrase [00:37] that's presumably associated with the Indonesian notion (IC). It seems distantly related to the Balinese Monkey Chant, and will pervade the concerto along with LM.
IC is then explored [00:37-02:11], and expanded into a romantic flowing theme of Rachmaninov (1873-1943) descent (RF) [02:19]. An intense development follows with allusions to LM, some piano pyrotechnics, and a lush remembrance of RF [05:48]. Then it's off to the developmental races again and a big tune version of RF [07:40]. This heralds a frenzied, LM-IC-possessed coda, bringing the movement to an ecstatic conclusion.
The next one titled "To One's World" [T-2], opens with a lengthy, LM-IC-infused piano cadenza [00:00-02:22] that starts pensively. It becomes increasingly agitated, and briefly regains its composure only to grow even more frenzied. Then the orchestra joins in, after which we get a raucous free-for-all that erupts into a bumptious ragtime episode [02:49]. This concludes the movement defiantly thumbing its nose at the world.
The concerto ends in "To One's Spirit" [T-3], which starts with a tender orchestral passage having references to IC [00:01], and some lovely solo violin work. We're told this is an instrumental setting of a verse in Psalm 145 that avows the Lord is near to all who call him in truth.
The piano emerges soon playing LM [02:11], which along with IC becomes the subject of a dramatic episode. The latter builds to a powerful climax, which ends suddenly followed by introspective solo piano passages and a peaceful reminder of LM in the strings [06:01].
After that the soloist and rest of the orchestra enter with sweeping, chant-like repetitions of IC [06:11]. These build anticipation for the grand finale, and might have been even more effective in shorter supply.
Richman then gives us a magniloquent conclusion [09:05] very much in the RPC tradition as soloist and tutti proclaim a big tune rendition of LM [09:05]. This subsides into a passage with hushed melancholy LM afterthoughts and then IC [11:09]. The foregoing grows into a rousing coda for all with a final hint of LM [11:48] on the piano, bringing the work full circle.
Another concerto, this time for oboe, follows. It was commissioned and premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) in 2006, and apparently has strong associations with another psalm, this time the old familiar 23rd. The work's subtitle "The Clearing" is meant to connote not only an open physical space like the "green pastures" and "quiet waters" cited in the Psalm, but also an uncluttered mental and purified spiritual state.
A one movement programmatic work [T-4], it's in five distinct sections meant to describe what sounds like a journey of enlightenment taken by some unidentified individual. The first [00:01] with its gentle wind moments apparently characterizes our subject's initial serene existence. But the music becomes increasingly agitated in the next [04:03], representing the first signs of a troubled mental state brought on by earthly trials and tribulations.
These take on frightening proportions in the following part [05:43] where there are shrieking brass, pounding percussion and distraught virtuosic oboe passages. All this makes it easy to image the sinister "valley of the shadow of death" mentioned in the Psalm.
However, the penultimate section [10:23] has our subject entering a clearing of mindfulness. Here a prayer-like instrumental episode with piquant oboe solos is meant to intone the Psalm, which represents a spiritual epiphany. Then we get a festive final section that's a raucous klezmer-like dance of approbation [14:14], where soloist and tutti joyfully cavort about.
The CD is filled out with a "trilogette" of short, Semitic-associated-selections simply titled Three Pieces for Cello and Orchestra. It was begun in 1989, and the version presented here, which would evolve over the next twenty-four years, was first performed by the KSO in 2013.
The opening was written last, and designed to introduce the thematic content of the other two pieces, which were already melodically related. All together they amount to a cello concerto that may bring Ernest Bloch's (1880-1959) works for that instrument to mind.
The initial "Declaration" [T-5] begins with the orchestra stating a vibrant compelling idea (VC) [00:00]. Then the cello declares an assertive arresting one (AA) [00:20] associated with the melody for that preeminent Jewish prayer known as The Shema (see 31 August 2015). After that there's a development and restatement of AA [05:21] that ends this section authoritatively. It serves as an effective introduction to the following "Prayer" [T-6], which was composed first.
This starts with an imploring VC-related idea on the cello (IV) [00:01] set to a wistful accompaniment. Then the orchestra interrupts aggressively [01:20], and we get a winsome songlike melody [01:50]. A token cello cadenza [02:25] follows, and a repeat of IV beginning in the strings [03:01]. The latter blossoms into a big tune and dies away, ending this section with nostalgic memories of IV.
A total change of pace follows with "Freylach" (aka "Freilach"), which was written sometime between the preceding pieces. It starts with busy passages featuring some cello fireworks, after which IV is transformed into a VC-derived Jewish dance first played by the soloist [02:07]. Then a slithering clarinet joins in, and we get a sprightly klezmer number ending this work somewhat like the Oboe Concerto.
Our soloists are pianist Jeffrey Biegel, oboist Cynthia Koleda DeAlmeida and cellist Inbal Segev, all of whom premiered their respective selections. They give technically accomplished, stirring renditions of them here, and receive splendid support from the renowned PSO conducted by the composer.
The recordings were made live last February at a PSO concert that took place in Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While they may not be demonstration quality, a good microphone setup along with skillful postproduction touch-up and editing make them highly acceptable. Moreover, there's no extraneous audience noise or applause.
The venue, which was originally built in 1927 as one of those gargantuan movie palaces, underwent a 1971 renovation to become the PSO's home concert hall. A reverberant acoustic, the sonic image presented is a bit withdrawn, giving the impression of looking down on the orchestra.
The soloists are appropriately highlighted with the oboe and cello centered, but the piano seems somewhat stretched across the soundstage. The overall instrumental timbre is pleasing with occasionally fulgent highs, a somewhat compressed midrange, and clean low bass.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P151127)
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Rode, P.: Vn Concs V4 (2 & 8), Vars on "Nel ", Intro & Vars on Tyrolean...; Eichhorn/Pasquet/Jena PO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
This is the fourth installment in Naxos' exemplary ongoing revival of all thirteen violin concertos by French violinist-composer Pierre Rode (1774-1830; see 30 March 2015). This time around we get the 2nd and 8th, leaving only 11 and 12 to be accounted for in the concluding fifth volume. We're also treated to a couple of shorter pieces for violin and orchestra making a total of four selections, all of which are world premiere recordings.
First off there's an inventive set of variations (no date given) based on the melody for the duet "Nel cor più non mi sento" ("In my heart I no longer feel") from Giovanni Paisiello's (1740-1816) opera La molinara (The Miller Woman, 1788; not currently available on disc) [T-1]. The tune was very popular in Rode's day and also inspired works by Beethoven (1770-1827) and Paganini (1782-1840).
The piece begins with a brief gently rocking tutti introduction [00:01] bringing to mind the young Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), whom Rode knew well during his years in Berlin (1814-1921). The violinist then plays [00:42] and further embellishes Paisiello's melancholy, cavatina-like subject tune (MS). This receives an enthusiastic refrain of approval (ER) from the orchestra [03:11], followed by seven variations of MS. Each is succeeded by ER, thereby unifying the work in rondo fashion.
The first variant is flighty with a flirtatious violin [03:41], and the next two respectively loquacious [04:57] and playful [06:31]. After that the mood becomes amorous as the soloist delivers an enticing two-part serenade [07:41, 08:32].
Things turn waspish in the next transformation [09:20], where the violinist beats his bow against the strings, and hits a couple of stinging high notes [09:53]. The succeeding sixth [10:40] sounds hunting-scene-related with the soloist playing a commanding version of MS over underlying horn calls.
This is offset by the last variation that's a downcast utterance [12:04]. However, all ends well as it's immediately followed by a virtuosic, MS-charged allegro [13:31] that concludes the piece in high spirits.
Like the previously issued concertos, both of the ones here are in three movements with cadenzas by our exceptionally talented violinist for this series, German-born Fiedemann Eichhorn. Pierre couldn't have asked for a better soloist!
The eighth from around 1803-4 gets off to moderato start [T-2] with the tutti intoning a relaxed pastoral idea (RP) [00:00] followed by a dramatic sequence [00:29]. These are repeated, after which the soloist plays an RP-related theme [02:02] that's elaborated with frenzied bravura touches. Then the violinist introduces a gorgeous soaring melody (GS) [03:29], and launches into more fancy fiddling.
But not to be outdone, the tutti authoritatively reassert themselves. The soloist responds with some exciting fancy fiddling and a subsequent imposing idea [05:34] that's cause for another virtuosic squib. This is followed by a GS-related easygoing ditty (GE) [06:14], and the movement comes to an exciting conclusion laced with violin fireworks along with references to past themes.
A heartrending adagio [T-3] finds Rode at the peak of his melodic powers, and is the calm before the stormy, tuneful finale [T-4]. Except for a brief GE-related romantic respite [02:32], this is a demanding workout for the soloist, who buzzes around like a pesky fly on a summer day. It ends the piece with some dazzling violin work.
Regressing a few years, we get the second concerto completed sometime between 1795 and 1798. The first movement is a tripartite structure marked maestoso (majestic) [T-5], where the tutti begin by hinting at a coy, retiring idea (CR) soon to come.
Then they go into a Rossini (1792-1868) spasm, and finally play CR [01:03], which will permeate the movement. It's next subjected to a Paganiniesque elaboration, and picked up by the soloist [02:34], who explores and recaps it.
The orchestra returns [05:16] ending this section excitedly, after which the violin reenters [06:05] initiating the next one. This is a variational development of CR with virtuosic embellishments and an arresting minor key version of it [07:40]. Then the tutti reappear [08:56] to close this part with martial overtones.
The soloist opens the last section with a hint of CR [09:44] succeeded by additional bravura passages. These lead to some further development and the return of CR [11:24] Then the movement ends with more fiddle fireworks that include a killer cadenza [12:57-15:24] culminating in an orchestral aerial bombardment.
Anticipating the fifth concerto (1800-1; see 30 March 2015), this one concludes with a siciliano and rondo. The former [T-7] is a lilting sextuple-time lullaby sung by the violin to a supportive orchestral accompaniment with a touch of delicate pizzicato.
The latter [T-8] features a fetching Beethoven-like theme (FB) [00:00] and countersubject [00:54] that chase around intervening virtuosic displays. These include a couple of curt cadenzas as well as a brief developmental passage [03:38]. Then a variant of FB [04:12] prefaces the work's spirited bravura conclusion.
Closing out this release there's Introduction and Variations on a Tyrolean Air (no date given) [T-8]. The work begins with a plaintive wind passage [00:00] hinting at the subject air (SA), which is a buoyant Alpine waltz ditty (BW) in keeping with the Tyrol region of Central Europe. It's first played by the violin [00:56] and then the orchestra [01:12], who toss it about in jolly fashion.
Ten variations follow, the first three being sequentially frisky [02:39], amorous [03:07], and antsy [04:01]. The next four are somewhat querulous, to wit a carping fourth [04:36], petulant Paganini fifth [05:07], testy sixth [05:41], and wayward seventh [06:13].
After that it's into the homestretch with a mournful variant [06:49] followed by a scampering ninth [07:39], and wistful tenth [08:54]. Then there's a fleet, tarantella-like, hunting-horn-decorated coda that ends this fetching work à la cacciatore in the northern Italian province of South Tyrol.
As before violinist Friedemann Eichhorn (b. 1971) delivers magnificent performances, proving again he's one of today's finest up-and-coming artists. An incredible virtuoso, he uses his prodigious technique only in service to the music. Uruguayan-born, German-trained conductor Nicolás Pasquet and the Jena Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO) provide him with devoted support, giving more of Rode's violin trouvailles a new lease on life.
Made in 2012 by the identical production staff and at the same location (Volkshaus, Jena, Germany) as the preceding two discs, the recordings project an ideally proportioned soundstage in an accommodating acoustic. Herr Eichhorn is well placed and balanced against the JPO for each of the selections.
His violin is convincingly captured, and the orchestral timbre is lifelike, but at times edgy this time around. There are some extraneous noises occasioned by an active conductor on a timpanic podium, as well as nearby traffic, and possibly HVAC equipment.
In closing, perspicacious listeners may have heard a curious phenomenon in passages ending in sustained note followed by silence [T-1, 00:38-00:41, 1:54-01:55 et al]. Moreover, as the note dies away it seems to take on a slightly lower pitch reminiscent of wow on an off-center LP. This has been noticed before on other discs, including previous ones in this series, and explaining it involves a little physics.
First off, you may recall that each note played by a musical instrument consists of a basic underlying tone known as a fundamental, along with several audible upper ones called overtones. As it turns out the latter are generally more readily attenuated by surrounding structural surfaces, and to quote Hamlet, "There's the Rub!" Accordingly as the final note fades its fundamental lingers a fraction of a second longer than the overtones, giving rise to what the human ear perceives as a pitch variation. And that concludes our physics lesson for today!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P151126)
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Weigl, K.I.: Pno Conc (left hand), Vn Conc ; Krumpöck/Frühwirth/Hermann/Krumpöck/NGerRos P [Capriccio]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Remember Ignatz Waghalter (1881-1949; see 31 May 2015)? Well oddly enough Austrian composer Karl Ignaz Weigl was born the same year, and would also become an American émigré, who'd die in 1949. Like Waghalter he was of Jewish descent, and fled Europe with his family in the late 1930s to escape the rising tide of Nazism.
Having displayed musical leanings at a very early age, Karl would study it in his hometown of Vienna with Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942; see 15 June 2008) and Robert Fuchs (1847-1927; see 31 July 2015). He'd then go on to a distinguished teaching career there and in the US, all the while writing a significant number of works. Both of the ones on this recent Capriccio release were composed in Austria, and these are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The piano concerto of 1924 is another one of several concertante works for the left hand commissioned by Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961, see 20 June 2012), who had lost his right arm in World War I (1914-8). Unfortunately like two others in this series by such greats as Hindemith (1895-1963) and Prokofiev (1891-1953), the persnickity Wittgenstein never performed it.
The first of its three movements is a lengthy allegro [T-1] lasting a couple of minutes more than the rest of the concerto. This is at heart a theme and variations, where developmental transformations give rise to each of the latter.
The opening [00:01] has dramatic suggestions of a lush rolling main subject soon declared by the soloist (LR) [02:19]. Very much in the RPC tradition (see the Richman "In Truth" Concerto above), it's out of Brahms (1833-1897) and headed towards Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
An exploration of LR with decorative keyboard passages follows, giving rise to a catchy angular number [06:35] reminiscent of Robert Schumann (1910-1856). Then there's a reflective episode with a jolly bassoon that spawns a hearty third idea [08:02].
This prefaces a moving romantic contemplation of past thoughts that culminates in a fourth big tune variant of LR [11:42]. The latter undergoes a spirited treatment with some piano pyrotechnics, which include a lengthy demanding cadenza [13:37-16:32]. Then the orchestra waxes into a grand restatement of LR [17:43] with fusillades of piano notes to end the movement gleefully.
The plaintive adagio [T-2] has the soloist intoning a sad version of LR [00:58]. It's repeated over a mournful tutti accompaniment, and builds to a crescendo. This dies away recalling the movement's opening, then bridges via flute triplets [07:11] into a capricious concluding rondo [T-3].
There's a Mephistophelian air about this whimsical finale! This is apparent right from the start as the piano plays a diabolical dancelike ditty (MD) [00:00], which will dominate it. After that the tutti explore MD, and the soloist introduces a lovely MD-related romantic countermelody (RC) [02:21]. Then imitative tidbits [02:44] begin an antsy development with rondoesque recollections of MD [03:08] and RC [06:08].
This becomes more capricious with saucy reminders of MD [06:53], and the pace increasingly hectic. Some fancy keyboard finger work and frenzied orchestra passages end this delightful work with a couple of forte hiccups.
The companion concerto would come four years later (1928). Weigl had hoped to get the great German violinist Adolf Busch (1891-1952, see above) to play it, but unfortunately that never came about.
In retrospect the only performance during the composer's lifetime seems to have been the 1930 premiere. This was given by a young, up-and-coming Austrian violinist named Josef Wolfsthall (1899-1931), who sadly died the next year.
In three movements the initial allegro [T-4] starts with flighty orchestral passages [00:00] that hint at a couple of ideas soon to come. Then the violin makes a bravura entrance [01:25] playing a frisky impulsive theme (FI) [01:37] succeeded by a related flowing romantic one (FR) [02:30].
A brief elaboration follows slowing into a mysterious contemplative episode for the orchestra [03:19] with a dreamy violin. Then the tempo quickens leading to an anticipatory pause and jubilant restatement of FI [05:39].
Another pensive section with decorative violin commentary is next [06:11], leading to an even more romanticized version of FR in the woodwinds [06:49]. It's succeeded by an antsy development [07:23] with frequent references to FI and virtuosic displays for the soloist.
After that there's another introspective section [10:01] that once again becomes a tad mysterious. This gathers momentum with excited passages for the violin. These lead to a final FI-based coda [13:44] that ends the movement peremptorily.
The largo [T-5] is a gorgeous rhapsodic creation where there's a continuous flow of melody bringing the later works of Mahler (1860-1911) and Richard Strauss to mind. Here violin passages of great delicacy caress tender orchestral passages. It couldn't be more different from the vivacious final allegro [T-6]!
This opens agitatedly like the concerto's first movement, and the soloist soon plays an FI-like skittering tune (FS) [01:30]. It undergoes a series of colorful developmental transformations having frequent virtuosic displays and suggestions of FS along with other past ideas.
Then FS returns [05:38] in rondo fashion followed by a concluding coda [06:19]. This is loaded with fiddle fireworks plus manic orchestral passages, closing the concerto exultantly.
Viennese pianist Florian Krumpöck, who gave the belated premiere performance of the first concerto back in 2002, follows up with a magnificent reading of it. He receives splendid backing from the North German Rostock Philharmonia (NGRP) under German conductor Manfred Hermann Lehner.
As for the companion concerto, the featured soloist is young and upcoming Austrian violinist David Frühwirth (b. 1974), who gives an elegant account playing a 1707 Stradivarius on loan from the Austrian National Bank. Herr Krumpöck, who's also a conductor of some note, gets spirited playing from the NGRP in support of him.
Made at the People's Theater, Rostock, Germany, the recordings are serviceable. They project a wide, adequately focused sonic image in a live, warm acoustic. The soloists are suitably highlighted and balanced throughout.
Although the violin is well captured, the piano doesn't fare too well with some of its notes sounding twangy. As for the overall orchestral timbre, the midrange and lows are presentable, but there's some digital grain in the highs. Also there are a few brief rustlings from the musicians towards the end of the last concerto [T-6, 07:32].
Granted this disc is not demonstration quality, but we're lucky to finally have commercial recordings of these undeservedly neglected concerti! Hopefully it will inveigle more Weigl from the ever-growing stable of Naxos-represented labels.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P151125)
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