CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 JANUARY 2016
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.
Bristow: Sym 2 "Jullien", Rip van Winkle Ov, A Winter's Tale Ov; Miller/RN Sinfa [New World]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
As far as commercially available recordings of American music are concerned, this one is a long overdue, most welcome addition. George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898) was born in Brooklyn, and showed an early musical talent. He would study violin, piano and composition entirely in New York, where he'd pursue a highly successful lifelong musical career. This would include freelancing as a soloist, conducting and teaching.
Between 1843 and 1853 Bristow played in the first violin section of what's known today as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He was instrumental in getting it to perform new American pieces over and above the usual European fare.
From his teenage years until shortly before his death he composed a significant body of works in all genres. They include five symphonies, and we have here the second of them subtitled "Jullien" along with two of his overtures. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
Dating from 1853 the symphony was commissioned by French conductor-composer Louis Antoine Jullien (1812-1860) for his orchestra known as the Jullien when it toured the United States in 1853-4. Lasting almost forty-five minutes, it's in the usual four movements, and begins with a textbook sonata form allegro [T-1].
This has a tempestuous introduction [01:00] followed by an opening statement (OS) with two contrasting ideas. The first is an anxious, ŕ la Beethoven (1770-1827) theme (AB) [00:09], and may remind you of the initial theme in his Emperor Piano Concerto (No. 5, 1809). The other takes the form of a lilting lyrical tune (LL) [01:35] like something out of Schubert's (1797-1828) later symphonies (1816-28).
OS is repeated [04:07] and succeeded by a splendid development [08:07]. The return of AB announces the recapitulation [11:25], which gives way to an LL-introduced final coda [15:07] that ends the movement in thrilling fashion.
The next allegretto [T-2] is a charming scherzo where George seems to have taken his cue from Mendelssohn (1809-1847). Here dancelike passages alternate with a couple of trio sections that are respectively Scottish-flavored [01:54-03:22] (see 21 December 2009), and songful [03:52-05:16].
Then it's on to a moving adagio [T-3] that many may find the work's most inspired movement. Here a soft rocking introduction [00:00] is followed by three memorable subjects. The first played by a solo trombone is longing [00:27], while the next ones for full orchestra are respectively searching (S2) [02:05] and commanding [02:49]. An adept development follows where they're intertwined in different orchestral guises.
It comes to a peaceful conclusion making one think the music is about to end. But Bristow startles us with dramatic forte chords and the return of S2 [07:30]. This ushers in a closing coda that ends the movement nostalgically.
The finale [T-4] is a singular Bristow creation that's at heart a rondo. It begins with an anxious scampering theme (AS) [00:01] reminiscent of Weber (1786-1826), succeeded by a swaying melody [00:48] and sweeping countermelody (SC) [01:18]. The three recur in different orchestral attire, and the music winds down to what seems like a quiet ending.
However, the composer surprises us once again, and after a dramatic pause launches into a grand March [08:10] based on an idea previously hinted at by SC. This is a stirring tune and one wonders if like the symphony it might have a French connection. In any case it closes the work triumphantly.
One of Bristow's more monumental efforts was his Rip Van Winkle: A Grand Romantic Opera in Three Acts (1852-5, revised 1878-82), which was based on Washington Irving's (1783-1859) homonymous short story (1819). The original complete version of the overture presented next [T-5] is from a critical edition of the work that appeared in 2012.
Here a stately opening with an imposing noble idea (IN) [00:00] surrounding a rustic ditty [00:56] transitions into a colorfully scored, sonata form episode [02:45]. The latter begins with a bounding Weberesque theme [03:04] followed by an equinely cantering number (EC) [03:30] and a sleepy pastoral tune [04:13]. The three ideas are explored and recapped with the overture ending excitedly in an IN-EC-based coda [07:41].
Another overture written as a curtain raiser for an 1856 Broadway production of William Shakespeare's (1564-1616) The Winter's Tale (c. 1611; see 22 November 2010) completes this release [T-6]. The play has all sorts of fantastic characters and happenings, so it's not surprising the music is highly programmatic.
It begins with a laughing, spirited idea (LS) [00:00], after which a storm breaks out [01:31]. There are howling winds as well as thunder and lightning for the violins, timpani and flute. Then all subside into a bucolic pastoral scene [03:09] with sounds of a shepherd's pipe [03:45] and nearby answering birds.
This blissful state is suddenly interrupted by arresting horn calls [05:35] and a jolly fife-and-drum tune (JF) [05:50]. The latter undergoes a fetching martial development that surrounds a lovely rustic melody [07:05]. It's followed by a recap of JF [08:02] that bridges into a return of LS [08:46]. This brings the overture full circle, and fuels a final coda [09:19] ending it with great élan.
The Royal Northern Sinfonia featured here is billed as a chamber orchestra, but under American conductor Rebecca Miller they deliver superb, big-boned performances of these pieces. She gives us very energetic readings, which show off these colorful scores to great effect.
The recordings were made at the Sage Gateshead, Newcastle, England. They project a wide, somewhat recessed soundstage in a reverberant acoustic that's an immense curved glass and stainless steel structure. The resultant sonic image is well focused with the instrumental timbre characterized by vitreous highs, a lean midrange and clean bass.
While this disc falls a bit short of the audiophile category, it gives us very serviceable recordings of some music long overdue for revival. In closing we should also mention there are a couple of thumps probably resulting from Maestro Miller's more active moments on a timpanic podium.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160131)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
Lajtha: Sym "Les Soli" (stgs, hp & perc), Sinftas 1 & 2 (stgs); Fontanelli/Rohmann/Csaba/BudaCh S [BMC]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Hungarian composer László Lajtha (1892-1963) has been classed with Bartók (1881-1945) and Kodály (1882-1967). In that regard, 1913 saw him get a degree in composition from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, where one of his teachers was Bartók. Then he'd go to Paris, and study with Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931; see 30 June 2015). There he was introduced to new works by such great twentieth century composers as Debussy (1862-1918; see 10 March 2011), Ravel (1875-1937) and Stravinsky (1882-1971).
Unfortunately his career was temporarily interrupted by World War I (1914-8), which he'd spend as an artillery officer along the front lines. After that he continued his musical pursuits in France as well as London.
However, his love for Hungary was so strong that despite warnings about the Stalinist political forces then taking control there, he returned to Budapest in 1948. Being an anti-communist, he soon got in trouble with the authorities. Consequently he was not allowed to travel abroad, which greatly curtailed acceptance of his music.
Yet, László would still become a highly regarded teacher and folk music authority. He'd also compose a significant body of works in every genre, which would include ten string quartets (see 13 August 2008, 12 April 2010, and 27 July 2011) plus a significant number of orchestral pieces.
He'd leave nine numbered symphonies as well as the three works for string orchestra on this new release from BMC (Budapest Music Center Records). These are the only recordings of the latter currently available on disc, and they make a strong case for an au courant survey of his remaining symphonic fare.
Written in 1941 and dedicated to his friend, French composer-critic Florent Schmitt (1870-1958, see 9 April 2014), Lajtha referred to the first selection as a symphony. However, unlike those mentioned above, the scoring is for extended string orchestra, harp and percussion. It also bears the subtitle "Les Soli" ("The Soloists"), which reflects the concerto-like aspect that prevails throughout. Moreover, different solo instruments are featured in each of its four classically proportioned movements.
The initial sonata form "Concert joyeux" ("Joyful Concert") [T-1] is marked presto, and begins with a couple of meows from the violins. Then we get a vivacious folkish dance (VF) [00:15] that's virtuosically tossed about, and followed by a Bartókian balladic idea (BB) [01:49]. A colorful percussion-and-harp-laced development follows [02:57] with a jolly bull fiddle solo. After that BB returns announcing the recapitulation [07:23], and the movement ends in a merry VF-derived coda [08:15].
The next one [T-2] pays homage to László's favorite painter, Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), and honors his 1719 picture titled Gilles. This is a portrait of the sad clown Pierrot featured in Italian commedia dell'arte, and its name remains a mystery. However, Lajtha's music is a melancholy, minuet-like utterance with mournful viola solos. It may bring to mind more subdued moments in Glazunov's (1865-1936) Watteau-related ballet Les ruses d'amour (1898).
An andante called "Pastorale d'automne" follows [T-3], and begins with a glowing auburn (GA) theme for solo cello. This is gradually picked up by the other strings in laid-back, fugal fashion. Then the harp enters repeating GA, and an exploratory episode follows. Here the accompaniment turns clocklike, closing the movement with an air of mystery.
The finale is another presto marked "Féerique" ("Fairylike") [T-4], whose antsy beginning recalls wilder moments in Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936). With hints of Magyar folk ditties, cymbal crashes, drum thwacks, and fiddle fireworks it ends this engaging piece whimsically. Incidentally the timing of 05:42 in the album booklet should be 07:54.
Next we have the two, three movement sinfoniettas scored just for strings. The first composed in 1946 is a buoyant, cheerful work reflecting the feeling of optimism that followed World War II (1939-45). In that regard there's a lightness of touch and folksy informality that make it more like one of Mozart's (1756-1791) divertimentos.
The scampering allegro [T-5] has a Gallic cheekiness that brings "Les Six" (Auric, Durey, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc and Tailleferre) to mind. It's full of delightful Hungarian folk tidbits, and towards the end there are a couple of ditties that recall Brahms' (1833-1897) Hungarian Dances (1868-80)
Marked "Pas trop lent" ("Not too slow"), the next movement [T-6] begins with a lovely rhapsody fabricated from a gorgeous spun-out melody. There's some striking solo violin work, and a contrasting rustic conclusion [04:22], which precludes this from becoming saccharine.
A Baroque-inspired "Vivo e grazioso" ("Lively and elegant") [T-7] ends this sinfonietta. What gets off to a fidgety fugato start turns into a featherlight, chromatically coquettish movement that brings the piece to a capricious close.
The other sinfonietta from ten years later (1956) is a more austere piece written when Hungary was under repressive Communist control. This is evident right from the initial "Trés vif" ("Very lively") [T-8]. Here outwardly cheerful folklike passages recalling the music of László's compatriot Karl Goldmark (1830-1915) are interrupted by moments of guarded introspection [beginning at 01:00]
Following that the mood turns darker in "Lent et calme" ("Slow and calm") [T-9], which is the longest movement in any of these works. It gets off to a solemn pensive start, suddenly turns fretful [02:53], then anxious [07:33], and ends [08:09] like it began.
A virtuosic "Prestissimo" reminiscent of Casella's (1883-1947) Paganiniana (1942) concludes the work [T-10]. In essence a rondo with a hyperactive subject [00:00] and somewhat more lyrical countersubject [02:34], it concludes the sinfonietta with guarded optimism.
The Budapest Chamber Symphony (BCS) is featured throughout, but under different conductors for each selection. Italian Simone Fontanelli gives a stirring performance of the symphony, while Hungarians Imre Rohmann and Péter Csaba direct supercharged readings of the sinfoniettas.
BCS violinist Péter Somogyi, violist István Polónyi, cellist Piroska Molnár and a mystery double bass player give splendid accounts of the frequent solos in the first two works. They receive fine support from harpist Klára Bábel along with percussionists László Herboly and Zsolt Nagy in the symphony. Altogether the BCS musicians produce a rich ensemble sound second to none.
The recordings were taken from live performances at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Concert Hall, Budapest, in late 2012 and early 2013. A good microphone setup as well as skillful postproduction touch-up and editing undoubtedly explain the absence of any extraneous audience noise or applause.
The sonic image projected is opulent and in warm accommodating surroundings. The string sound is natural with the solos ideally balanced against the tutti, while the instrumental timbre is characterized by sparkling highs, a convincing midrange, and clean bass.
There are some sporadic low end thumps occasioned by the conductors being on timpanic platforms. This is particularly true of Maestro Fontanelli, who must have a very animated technique. Barring that, the disc would have earned an audiophile rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160130)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
Moszkowski: Ste for 2 Vns & Pno, 6 Other Wks for Vn & Pno (4 arrs); Rashidova (both vns), Grimwood [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Those with a penchant for dazzling romantic chamber music featuring violin and piano are going to love this new Naxos release of selections by Moritz Moskowski (1854-1925). Born to wealthy Polish-Jewish parents in what's now known as Wroclaw, Poland, Moritz showed exceptional musical talent at a very early age. He received his first training at home, and later in Germany after his family moved to Dresden in 1865.
The year 1869 saw him continue his studies in Berlin where his instructors included Eduard Franck (1817-1893; see 16 January 2013) and Friedrich Kiel (1821-1885; see 27 February 2008). Later in 1871 he began teaching, and by 1873 launched a highly successful, financially rewarding career as a virtuoso concert pianist. Many considered him a worthy successor to Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), Franz Liszt (1811-1886), and Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894, see 6 October 2014).
Then in the mid-1880s he developed a neurological disorder in one arm, which forced him to give up concertizing. But now wealthy and famous, he moved to Paris in 1897, where he was much in demand as a teacher. His students would include such renowned musicians as Wanda Landowska (1879-1959), Joaquin Turina (1882-1949), and even Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961).
He'd also complete his second piano concerto (1897), which would become a romantic keyboard classic, and began writing shorter pieces. These had immediate appeal, and gained great popularity at a time when there were no phonographs and salon music was all the rage. Not only that, they were frequently arranged and transcribed as showpieces by leading violin virtuosos of the day. Consequently he made fistfuls of francs!
However, in the early 1900s his health started to fail, and public tastes began getting more avant-garde, which meant less demand for his music. The resultant decline in income forced him to sell his copyrights for investment purposes. Unfortunately all these went south with the outbreak of World War I (1914-8), leaving him poverty-stricken! Despite valiant efforts by his devoted friends to raise money for him, he'd die in 1925 before it would ever reach him.
This riches-to-rags story has a happy ending, considering we can still enjoy his colorful creations today. The superb sampling of them on this disc also includes several in the reworked category mentioned above. As done here, five of the seven selections are the only currently available recordings on disc, and are so indicated by "OCAR" after their titles.
The program begins with a rendition of Moszkowski's best known work, the first set of Five Spanish Dances originally for piano duet (Op. 12, c. 1876-9). Done here in an arrangement (OCAR) by French virtuoso violinist-composer Émile Sauret (1852-1920; see 17 August 2011), the opening one [T-1] is a flamboyant display of technique.
The lyrical second [T-2] is more restrained except for some middle fiddle fireworks. While the highly decorated whirling third [T-3] and headstrong fourth [T-4] are based on a couple of terrific tunes. Then the set ends with a dazzling "Bolero" [T-5], where the violinist struts his stuff, ending the piece in a virtuosic flurry of notes.
Each of the Quatre morceaux (Four Pieces, Op. 82, 1909; OCAR) for violin and piano is dedicated to a famous violinist of the composer's day. The first entitled "Les nymphes" ("The Nymphs") [T-6] is a leisurely number that brings Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) early chamber music to mind, while the next "Caprice" [T-7] is as advertised.
Then we get "Mélodie" [T-8], which is a fetching cantalena that shows why Moritz reigned supreme in those French salons. After that the composer ends the work with a highly infectious "Humoresque" [T-9]. There's an Eastern European folkishness about it in keeping with the honoree, Romanian violinist-composer George Enescu (1881-1955).
The following Zwei Concertstücke (Two Concert Pieces, Op. 16, 1878; OCAR) is also for violin and piano. The first "Ballade" at almost twelve minutes [T-10] is the longest number on this disc. A lyrical outpouring with stirring bravura embellishments, it's easy to understand why Moritz was "Le Roi des Salons".
After that we get "Bolero" [T-11], which is in ternary form with outer sections based on a captivating Spanish ditty sung by the violin. They bracket a virtuosic elaborative episode [03:01-05:23], and end the piece in the same spirit it began.
Moszkowski dedicated the foregoing to the violinist wife of his good friend and fellow student in Berlin, Philipp Scharwenka (1847-1917). Incidentally, it was Phillip along with American composer-conductor Frank Van der Stucken (1858-1929), who respectively in 1879 (Nos. 2 & 5) and 1884 (Nos. 1, 3 & 4) did the ever popular orchestral versions of those Five Spanish Dances mentioned above.
Right on the heels of a recent release with pieces by Paul Juon (1872-1940) featuring the unusual combination of two violins and piano (see 30 September 2015), we next get Moritz's suite for same. Dating from 1903, it's a dramatic, four movement work that may remind you of Mendelssohn's youthful (1809-1847) concerto for violin, piano and strings (1823).
With two opening allegros, the first [T-12] finds the violins engaged in an intense wailing duet. The next [T-13] has them singing a comforting lullaby, recalling Richard Strauss' more domestic moments.
There's a hint of heartbreak in the langorous lento [T-14]. However, better days are ahead in the final molto vivace [T-15], which is a fetching rustic dance with a busy main idea (BM) [00:00] and rhapsodic countersubject [01:06]. It concludes the suite in a thrilling BM-based, fiddle-crazed coda [03:45].
The disc closes with three brief keyboard selections reworked for violin and piano. The first "Étincelles" ("Sparks") is from Eight Characteristic Pieces (Op. 36, 1886; complete work currently unavailable on disc). It was one of Vladimir Horowitz's (1903-1989) favorite encores, and appears here in a transcription by his equally celebrated contemporary Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987).
Next up, there's the great Spanish violinist-composer Pablo de Sarasate's (1844-1908) showpiece based on "Guitarre" from Two Piano Pieces (Op. 45, 1888; complete work currently unavailable on disc). Here the violin intones a ravishing canción to a strumming piano accompaniment.
Finally from Six Piano Pieces (Op. 15, 1876; complete work currently unavailable on disc) we have "Serenata" in an arrangement by the Berlin violinist-composer Fabian Rehfeld (1842-1920). A demure number with a retiring tune for the violin it ends this wonderful CD on a reserved note.
Our violinist is Azerbaijanian-born, award-winning Nazrin Rashidova. She delivers technically impeccable, sensitive renditions of these pieces, and through the wizardry of modern day recording plays both string parts in the suite.
The composer having been one of the Romantic Era's great pianists, there are many demanding keyboard passages. Daniel Grimwood handles them with great aplomb, while at the same time being completely supportive of Ms. Rashidova.
Made in late 2014 and early 2015 at the Wyastone Estate Concert Hall near Monmouth, England, the recordings project an ideal sonic image in a warm reverberant acoustic that makes the music sound all the richer. Both instruments are beautifully captured and balanced, with Ms. Rashidova and her Doppelgänger appearing on either side of the piano. This certainly qualifies as an audiophile release.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160129)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
Röntgen: Str Trios 9-12; Lendvai Trio [Champs H]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
German-born and trained Julius Röntgen (1855-1932) would move to the Netherlands in his early twenties, where he'd spend the rest of his life, and compose a significant body of music. This would include sixteen string trios written between 1915 and 1930. Coming towards the end of his career, there's an ease and confidence about them frequently found in the later works of many composers.
Those readers who got either of the Champs Hill releases with the first eight trios (CMPH-068 and CMPH-087), or the Naxos CD having the last four (see 12 August 2014,), will definitely want this most recent one of numbers nine through twelve. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The program starts with No. 9 of 1923, which is in three movements. The first marked "Un poco animato" ("Slightly animated") [T-1] is in abbreviated sonata form, and begins with a shy tentative theme (ST) [00:03] succeeded by a reassuring countersubject [00:46]. ST then introduces a chromatic development of the two [01:23], where there's a hint of fugato [02:54]. A tiny ST-recapped coda [04:27] ends the movement uneventfully.
The next "Moderato con sentimento" [T-2] is in ternary form with outer sections featuring a wistful theme for the violin [00:01] set to a pizzicato viola and arpeggiated cello accompaniment. They surround a nervous episode [01:30-02:55], and end the movement in midair anticipating the tempestuous "Allegro energico" finale [T-3].
This gives the players a real chance to show off, and starts with sawing, agitated passages [00:00] that introduce a searching figure [00:13]. It's explored and followed by a descending despondent melody (DD) [01:24], after which the two are developed [02:03]. The work then concludes with the return of DD [03:46], some busy work, a last reminder of ST [05:10], and a frenetic final outburst.
The year 1923 also saw the completion of the 10th trio, which is again in three movements. The initial allegro [T-4] opens testily with snappish rhythmic riffs [00:00] and a sullen hurdy-gurdy-like subject (HG) [00:35]. Then there's a fugally introduced sinister idea [01:19] that's examined along with HG, ending the movement peremptorily.
Next we get a pensive andante [T-5] that opens with a simple rising theme [00:02] set to a caressing accompaniment. It undergoes some moving developmental transformations, the last of which has a dash of imitative spicing [03:58], and ends the movement tranquilly.
As noted in the recommendation for the 13th trio (see 12 August 2014), Julius loved to borrow from folk sources. The final "Allegretto affetuoso" ("Gently fast and affectionate") [T-6] would seem to bear this out as it links three peasantlike dances [00:05, 01:37 and 03:58], which end the trio on a jolly note.
The 11th and 12th ones filling out this release are both from 1925. In three and four movements respectively, the earlier begins with a tense "Moderato" [T-7] based on a sinuous anguished theme (SA) [00:01]. This undergoes a moody development, and then the movement closes with a rising wisp of hope.
A scherzoesque virtuosic romp marked "Vivace e giocoso" ("Lively and playful") is next [T-8]. There's a Gallic flavoring present, and as the informative album notes point out, it may remind you of Bizet's (1838-1875) more playful moments.
The trio ends in a curious, seven-minute andante [T-9] that starts with a melancholy siciliana (MS) [00:0]. Oddly enough MS may bring to mind the music of Röntgen's good friend Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), and his German Requiem (1857-68) in particular (see 30 March 2008).
Five variations of MS follow, the first three being rhapsodic [00:44], aria-like [01:17] and whimsical [02:01]. After that the mood becomes more retiring with a shy fourth [02:27] and serenadish fifth [02:50].
Then MS returns [05:22], and undergoes a last-minute development. There are unifying hints of SA [06:15] (see above), and the work closes with a forceful reminder of MS [06:51].
The 12th trio seems to take up where the 10th left off in that the opening allegro [T-10] is another dance. However, this time around we get a coquettish waltz.
It begins with a gallant thematic nexus (GT) [00:00] having a three-note rhythmic riff (TR) [00:07-00:08] and a romantic sighing phrase (RS) [00:09-00:35], both of which will surface later on. GT is then chromatically explored, and the movement ends with some fickle pizzicato.
The restful pastoral that's next [T-11] conjures up images of green fields and grazing flocks. Could that be the drone of a doedelzak in the background [00:47 and 01:52]? Be that as it may, a "Menuetto affettuoso" follows [T-12]. Here amorous, wistful minuet passages bracket a featherlight trio [01:10-02:05].
Then we get a closing vivacious allegro [T-13] introduced by the reappearance of TR [00:01]. This is a madcap movement in which all three players toss bits of GT about with bravura abandon, while TR keeps popping up mischievously. There are also reminders of RS [beginning at 01:07], and then the trio ends with a TR hiccup [03:52].
We have the up-and-coming, all ladies Lendvai Trio to thank for bringing these unpublished works to light after some nine decades. Dutch violinist Nadia Wijzenbeek, Swedish violist Yivali Zilliacus and British cellist Marie Macleod play from the original manuscripts, giving us technically accomplished, immaculately phrased, highly sensitive performances. Julius couldn't be in better hands!
The recordings were done at Champs Hill, West Sussex, England. They project consistent, ideally proportioned, clearly focused soundstages in warm surroundings with the violin and viola to the left and right of Ms. Macleod. The balance between them is ideal, and the string tone very natural. From the sonic standpoint conventional CDs featuring small string ensembles don't get any better than this.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160128)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
Taneyev, S.: Stg Qts Cpte V4 (6 & 9); Carpe Diem Qt [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
This fourth installment in Naxos' ongoing survey of Russian composer Sergei Taneyev's (1856-1915) complete works for string quartets gives us what are referred to as his 6th and 9th. However, chronologically speaking that numbering is totally misleading, and please click here to see a definitive listing of all his efforts in the genre.
They comprise nine completed quartets, as well as four movements, two of which are for an abandoned first effort, and the others from a final one he never finished. Taking into account what's here along with the previous three volumes (see 31 July 2013), that leaves an 8th and the four fragments still to be accounted for.
This release begins with what's referred to as the 9th quartet of 1883. In four movements it's one of the composer's most tuneful, romantic works with folk overtones. That may explain why Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) remarked favorably about the first three movements.
The opening one is a sonata form allegro [T-1] that begins with a delicate folkish melody (DF) [00:01]. It's followed by a skittering countersubject (SC) [01:18], and the two undergo one of those immaculate Taneyev developments. The return of DF [04:43] announces the recapitulation with an ethereal SC-based final coda [07:51] that ends the movement sublimely.
The next andante [T-2] is a moving songlike offering with a heartbreaking theme [00:00] that's dramatically explored. It's offset by an electric scherzo [T-3] with an imploring trio [02:34-05:15]. Apparently Tchaikovsky thought this was the quartet's finest movement.
The concluding allegro [T-4] is a rhythmically supercharged rondo with a cantankerous main theme [00:00] and singing SC-related countersubject (SS) [01:16]. The two ideas chase each other about, and are deftly worked into a final coda [07:42] that ends the work excitedly.
Then it's on to what's deceptively numbered as the 6th quartet, which is actually the last one Taneyev completed (1905). Coming some twenty-two years after the 9th, it's understandably a much more rigorous, harmonically and structurally progressive work.
Also in four movements, the opening allegro [T-5] begins with a rising-falling motif (RF) [00:00-00:07], which will pervade the entire piece. It's explored and followed by a lyrical RF-related melody (LR) [01:17] that's elaborated.
The two are then food for a chromatic, rhythmically adventurous development [03:30]. This is followed by a moving LR-based rhapsodic recap [07:13], after which RF returns [09:41] ending the movement nostalgically.
A weeping variant of RF begins the adagio serioso [T-6], which is in essence a funeral march. There's only a moment of LR-derived optimism [03:32-04:07] before the music becomes even more distraught with the movement ending in despair.
Billed as a giga (jig), the next [T-7] amounts to a scherzo based on a sprightly rustic dance distantly related to RF. This surrounds an introspective inner thought [01:58-03:20] that's hinted at towards the close [05:10-05:27].
The concluding allegro [T-8] is an infectious mercurial frolic that begins with an innocent relaxed tune (IR) [00:00] succeeded by a scampering possessed idea [00:54]. The two then undergo a rollicking rondoesque development where IR keeps making itself known with childlike insistence. As the movement progresses there are increasing hints of RF [beginning at 01:04], which has the last say, ending the work like it began.
As before, the Carpe Diem Quartet (CDQ) performs both works with exceptional sensitivity, attention to detail, and virtuosity to spare. That said, there are those who may feel these performances don't have the "Russian Soul" of the Taneyev Quartet's that appeared on five Russian-made, Northern Flowers CDs back in 2006.
However, the CDQ far surpass them in interpretive sophistication and technical ability. Not only that, the Northern Flowers recordings were taped over thirty years ago, and many encountered tracking problems on at least one of their discs. Caveat emptor!
Made in 2013 (No. 9) at Distler Hall, Tufts University Granoff Music Center, Meford, Massachusetts, and 2014 (No. 6) at Sanborn Hall, Ohio Wesleyan University, the recordings project consistently generous soundstages. Unlike the previous volumes (see 31 July 2013) where the surroundings were rather dry, these venues are warm with just the right amount of ambience. That plus lovely string tone along with ideal instrumental placement and balance make this an audiophile selection.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160127)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
Zádor: Sym 3 "Dance Sym", Vars on a Hungarian Folksong, Festival Ov; Smolij/BudaMÁV SO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
There are many parallels between Hungarian composers Eugene Zádor (1894-1977) and Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995, see 18 April 2011). Moreover, both were musically precocious youngsters who began playing the piano around age six, and would go on to study in Germany. They'd also develop strong interests in Magyar folk music, which would become a predominant influence in the prolific body of works they'd each produce.
Miklós would initially pursue a highly successful career in Paris and London. As for Eugene he moved to Vienna in 1921, where he established himself as a teacher and composer. However, the ominous events soon to take place in Europe would cause him to flee Austria with the Nazi Anschluss in 1938. Then not long after the outbreak of World War II (1939-45), both men found themselves in Hollywood writing film scores. What's more, Zádor would become Rózsa's exclusive orchestrator, but like his younger associate also continue composing concert music.
This third installment in Naxos' ongoing survey of Eugene's orchestral works gives us another three, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc. The opening Festival Overture of 1963 [T-1] brings to mind Rózsa's music for those silver screen biblical extravaganzas like Ben Hur (1959), which by the way Zádor orchestrated.
It starts with two fanfares that are respectively heroic (HF) [00:01] and cocky (CF) [00:52]. These are followed by a martial idea [01:48], after which HF reappears [02:40], introducing an involved development of all the foregoing.
This fades and is followed by a somber CF-based fugal episode [06:12] that builds to a resplendent climax. Then CF returns [08:42], bringing a recap and thrilling HF-CF-derived coda [09:17] that ends the overture in flamboyant cinematic fashion.
Like most great film score composers Eugene was a consummate melodic manipulator. This is aptly demonstrated in the next Variations on a Hungarian Folksong (1919), which must rank as one of the most engaging works in this genre to come out of the late romantic.
It begins with a buoyant, tripartite main subject (BT) [T-2, 00:00] followed by ten thematic transformations. These have descriptive subtitles, and are tiny musical pictures that convey a variety of moods. In that respect the work resembles one of those variational tone poems by Richard Strauss (1864-1949), whom Zádor greatly admired.
The first three are a bumptious "Bagatelle" [T-3], pastoral "Burleske" [T-4] with some antic outbursts, and a whimsical "Scherzo" [T-5]. Then things turn romantic in an amorous "Serenade" [T-6] having some lovely string solos. But not for long as we get a cheeky "Scherzetto" [T-7], Latin-flavored "Tempo di Foxtrot" [T-8], and suave "Capriccio" [T-9].
These are succeeded by an engaging "Alla Zingaresca - quasi Csárdás" [T-10]. Here soaring Gypsy violins set to a cimbalom-simulated accompaniment introduce a captivating czardas [02:37].
Next there's a gorgeous "Phantasie" [T-11] that's a ravishing romantic outpouring worthy of Wagner (1813-1883). Are those hints [beginning at 01:09] of the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde (1857-9)?
Then Eugene ends things with a "Fugato - Stretta (Stretto)" [T-12] that begins with chortling bassoons introducing a bumptious spastic fugue. This gives way to a magniloquent restatement of BT with a final forte frown closing the piece succinctly.
The concert concludes with the third of his four symphonies titled Tanze-Symphonie (Dance Symphony, 1936-7). This was completed and premiered in Vienna where the composer had been living happily for some sixteen years. Consequently it's a blithe homage to his Austrian surroundings without any intimations of the ominous events then taking place in Europe.
In the usual four movements the initial sonata form allegro [T-13] begins with a surging valiant theme (SV) [00:00] like something you might hear in Erich Wolfgang Korngold's (1897-1957) film scores for Captain Blood (1935) or The Sea Hawk (1940, see 31 March 2011). It will act as a unifying motif throughout the work, and is succeeded by a flowing waltzlike tune (FW) [00:49] that brings to mind Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier (1909-10).
The return of SV announces an extended balletic development [01:21], and then a recapitulation [05:04] where there's some additional thematic exploration. This culminates in an SV-initiated coda [08:56] that concludes the movement dramatically.
A rapturous andante cantabile [T-14] is based on a couple of SV-related ideas. It anticipates tender moments in the music for That Hamilton Woman (1941) and The Jungle Book (1942), which Eugene would soon score for Rózsa.
It begins with an expansive melody of presumable Magyar descent (PM) [00:00], followed by an airy waltzlike tune [04:16]. Then the two intertwine, the mood becomes increasingly nostalgic, and the movement ends uneventfully.
An allegro that's a rhythmically perky scherzo [T-15] sans trio starts with a flighty SV-derived (FS) riff [00:00]. This coalesces via some contrapuntal machinations into a more sustained motif [00:56] reminiscent of PM. The two then dance the hemiola (see 27 August 2013), and the movement closes in an FS flash of sparks.
The finale [T-16] commences nonchalantly [00:00] with cool strings and a ligneous clarinet solo [00:31] recalling PM. Then the horns introduce a jaunty venatic tune (JV), which is the recurring subject for a concluding rondo. It has hints of past ideas, and ends with an SV-JV-based coda [06:39] that brings this delightful symphonic set of dances full circle.
Polish conductor Mariusz Smolij elicits rousing performances from the Budapest MÁV Symphony Orchestra that turn what might otherwise come off as ordinary fare into a memorable listening experience. Lush strings, mellow woodwinds and lusty brass characterize an ensemble where all the soloists are virtuosos in their own right.
Made at one of Hungarian Radio's studios in Budapest, the recordings project a somewhat withdrawn soundstage in an affable acoustic. The instrumental timbre is characterized by bright highs, particularly in massed upper violin passages, and a pleasant midrange. With scoring requiring only the standard complement of percussion, the bass is lean and clean.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160126)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
|- 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.|
|- SEE OTHER CLOFO SERVICES -|
|AUDIOPHILE SELECTIONS||BEST FINDS OF LAST YEAR||CLOFO HOME PAGE||CLOFO RECOMMENDATIONS||OTHER CROCKS NEWSLETTERS|