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



31 MARCH 2016

CROCKS NEWSLETTER

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



The album cover may not always appear.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Pno Qnt 1, Pno Qnt 2 "Memories of the Tuscan Countryside"; Bianchi/Aron Qt [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Having told you about some wonderful Shakespeare overtures (see 22 November 2010) and several concertos (see 31 May 2012 and 23 February 2015) by Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), now we turn to his two piano quintets. Dating from 1931 and 1951 respectively they bracket the rise of Nazism and World War II (1939-1945), which forced him to flee Europe for the United States.

While the first was written in his native Italy, the other would come after he became a U.S. citizen, and was living in Beverly Hills, California. Both are in four movements, this being the only recording of the second currently available on disc.

The one from 1931 gets off to an impressionistic, oneiric start [T-1] with suggestions of the initial theme. This soon appears as a two-part idea having an inviting opening succeeded by a related, hammering countersubject. It's briefly explored, and followed by a tender songful tune. Both show Mario for the great tunesmith he was.

A dramatic development of these follows, and then a recapitulation, but with transformed versions of them. There are several virtuosically demanding passages along the way and in the exciting final coda, which ends the movement emphatically.

A tragic andante is next [T-2]. It begins in the strings, and has a haunting theme featured on the cello. This is elaborated, and eventually picked up by the piano, bringing the movement to a winsome conclusion.

It's diametrically opposed to the infectious scherzo [T-3], which is a mischievous, chromatically naughty piece of work. This recalls flightier moments in the music of Mario's teachers Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968, see 10 September 2010) and Alfredo Casella (1883-1947, see 12 July 2012).

The rondoesque finale [T-4] is of late romantic temperament, and the quintet's most progressive movement. It starts with a rigorous Germanic theme (RG) [00:00], and has a harmonic density looking back to Brahms (1833-1897). RG is explored, and followed by an idea of Eastern persuasion.

The two then come and go in various variational guises that include a couple of funereal treatments. There are also some cinematic episodes portending the composer's later career as a Hollywood film composer. In that regard they anticipate the music Mario's contemporary Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995) would write for those 1950s Biblical epics (see 25 July 2007).

Twenty years later Mario would compose the other piano quintet, which is subtitled "Ricordi della campagna toscana" ("Memories of the Tuscan Countryside"; 1951). This is a programmatic homage to Tuscany along Italy's north central coast, where the composer grew up.

"Le colline" ("The Hills") [T-5] is a pastoral tone painting with more of his fetching melodies. It starts with relaxed swaying strings, and the piano playing a gently rolling theme (GR) [00:06]. This is briefly explored, and followed by passages where it's easy to imagine walking through some lovely countryside.

The music then subsides into what might be a sunset. After a short pause [06:22] there's what seems like a tranquil nocturnal sequence with some momentary cooling night breezes [06:59]. Then a slumberous version of the opening measures appears [09:03], ending the movement restfully.

Next there's "I cipressi" ("The Cypresses") [T-6] inspired by those ageless, slender Tuscan trees. Resembling a theme and variations, it opens with the strings playing the mournful main idea, which probably reflects the frequent presence of cypresses in Italian cemeteries. The piano joins the epicedium, and soon strikes some arresting chords that begin the first martial sounding variant [02:43].

This mellows and bridges delicately into the next, which is a lovely lyrical thought introduced by the piano [05:17], and filled out by the strings. Then more ominous piano chords announce a last variation. Apparently marked "Le civette" ("The Owls") [07:04], it seemingly represents those wide-eyed creatures in some dark forest primeval setting, and closes the movement mysteriously.

Moving right along we get "Processione nel mese di Maria" ("Procession in the Month of Mary") [T-7] commemorating the Catholic Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary held in Tuscany every May. These culminate on the last day of the month with a solemn procession where a likeness of the Virgin Mary is carried through villages into local churches.

Accordingly the music begins with a reverential theme set to a walking beat [00:04]. There are also brief jagged rhythmic flourishes [beginning at 01:19] presumably symbolizing the local bands that play along the way.

All this leads to a pious chant-like episode [03:29-05:19], which would seems church related. After that the procession resumes, and ends with the music floating heavenwards to the "Queen of May".

The concluding movement called "La mietitura" ("The Harvest") [T-8] gets off to an antsy start, and is deliberately spiced with some out-of-tune string touches. These add a rustic flavor, making it easy to picture peasants busily gathering crops. Then the strings play another arresting Castelnuovo-Tedesco idea (AC) [00:30], and the pace quickens into a frenetic, imitative-laced development [02:17].

It reaches an AC-related melodic high [04:33], and gradually subsides into the return of GR on a single violin [05:17]. That's cause for an exuberant outburst, which gives way to subdued piano memories of GR [08:04]. These bring this chamber music masterpiece to a nostalgic conclusion.

Both quintets are considerably demanding, and pianist Massimo Giuseppe Bianchi along with the Vienna-based Aron Quartet are certainly up to the task. The time they must have spent learning them was well taken. Moreover, they deliver vibrant incisive accounts of two rarities by a composer whose concert works deserve much wider exposure.

The Yamaha Concert Hall in Vienna, Austria, was the venue for these recordings. They project an ideally sized soundstage in a warm embracing acoustic. The piano is well captured, the strings convincingly lifelike, and the balance between them just right.

Pointy-eared listeners may notice occasional piano action noises, some viola intonational malaise, particularly near the beginning of "La mietitura" [T-8, 00:35], and a rough edit towards the end of "I cipressi" [T-6, 09:24]. Despite these quibbles, the overall sound is as good as it gets on conventional discs, and earns this an audiophile rating.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160331)

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


The album cover may not always appear.
Granados, E.: Orch Wks V1 (Marcha…, Torrijos… Inc Mus, Ste sobre...; González/Madrigal C/Bar SO [Naxos]
The untimely death of Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916) was a great loss to the classical music world! It came not long after he'd attended the 1916, New York Metropolitan Opera premiere of his tragedy Goyescas (1915; currently unavailable on disc) based on melodies from his renowned eponymous piano suite. On that note the circumstances surrounding his demise border on the operatic!

Namely he was on his way back to Spain via a circuitous route that involved taking a passenger ferry across the English Channel to France. This was during World War I (1914-8), when Germany was engaged in unrestricted submarine warfare. As fate would have it Enrique's craft was torpedoed, and sank leaving his wife thrashing about in the water. He then drowned trying to save her.

A virtuoso pianist, most of Granados' works are keyboard-related (see 30 September 2015), but he did leave some orchestral ones. To mark the centenary of his passing, Naxos now gives us the first in a series of albums devoted to the latter. The three on this CD are all world premiere recordings.

The program begins with Marcha de los vencidos (March of the Defeated, 1899). The event that may have inspired this is not given. However, it might have been related to the Spanish-American War of 1898, and defeat of Spanish forces garrisoned in Cuba.

Hushed reverent opening passages introduce a tragic brass-and-drum-reinforced march. This gives way to a crestfallen segment with a theme [01:42], which may bring to mind the one just after the opening trumpet motif in Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) opera The Golden Cockerel (1906-7).

After that the march resumes, and gives way to a comforting pastoral respite. It then returns, ending the piece in a triumphal chord for full orchestra as if to honor the bravery of those vanquished.

Granados composed incidental music for a number of theatrical works. Some of his earliest was for an 1894 production of the play Torrijos by Valencian author Fernando Periquet (1873-1940), who'd later write the libretto for Goyescas (see above).

It's a tragedy about the failed 1831 uprising of General José Maria Torrijos (1791-1831) to bring down the absolutist regime of Spain's Ferdinand VII (1784-1833). As presented here, Granados' music consists of five numbers, three of which include a chorus (see the album notes for Spanish and English texts).

The opening scene [T-2] begins with an ominous prelude bridging via pensive passages into a chorus. It's sung by Torrijos' followers, who are sailing with him from England to start an uprising near Málaga, Spain, some sixty-five miles east of Gibraltar along the southwest Spainish coast. Set to a rocking accompaniment, during this they apparently anchor offshore, and row to the coast.

A martial introduction begins the next scene [T-3]. This gives way to a wistful episode and chorus similar to the first, in which we learn the General has stepped ashore. Presumably he's been followed by his troops as we get an orchestral march with baleful overtones [T-4] presaging the sad events soon to follow.

After that the rebels have another chorus [T-5] that begins just like the previous number. Here they take a rest from their intense battle preparations, cheerfully anticipating a successful outcome. But unfortunately that was not the case as Torrijos along with his men were ambushed, captured, and shot nine days later. The stirring orchestral finale [T-6] seemingly honors their valiant memory.

The closing work is an orchestral delight entitled Suite sobre cantos gallegos (Suite on Galician Songs; 1899), which is a tone portrait of the Galician Region of Spain. In four parts, it draws on indigenous folk material to represent different areas.

The first "Canto da la mańana - En la montańa" ("Morning Song - On the Mountain") [T-7] seems to take its opening cue from the "Morning" music beginning Grieg's (1843-1907) Peer Gynt (1874-5), and starts with a sunny tune for the oboe. This mimics a local bagpipe known as the gaita (see 31 October 2015). The orchestra then joins in, and we get a fetching episode with chimes presumably representing distant church bells.

After that mountain winds pick up, and an afternoon thunderstorm breaks out. It abates into memories of the opening measures with some lovely harp work [06:36], closing this section much like it began.

The next allegro [T-8] is in essence a rondo having a recurring woodwind-decorated dancelike passage. This is jostled by a couple of secondary ideas that are respectively bumptious (RB) [02:19] and coy [02:55] with RB having the last say [06:13].

"Morrińa" ("Homesickness") is the title of the third part [T-9], which is a nostalgic utterance with allusions to the gaita (see above) in the winds, more harp adornments, and strings singing a gorgeous wistful melody (GW) {01:57]. It must rank among Granados' most tender symphonic creations, and couldn't be more different from the boisterous finale [T-10].

Marked "La fiesta" Enrique gives us a memorable closing number [T-10] that begins with festive exciting brass fanfares and crashing percussion. They introduce a macho dance motif (MD) [00:32}, which is ingeniously elaborated, giving rise to a couple of lovely related ideas. An amalgam of GW and MD then become the basis for a dramatic ending [05:44]. It concludes the suite with a thrilling big tune, percussion-enhanced hint of GW [08:04].

The Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, also known as the National Orchestra of Catalonia, and Madrigal Choir are under the direction of Spanish-born, British-trained conductor Pablo González. He was the orchestra's music director at the time, and together they make a strong case for some seldom heard music by one of their native sons. It'll be interesting to hear what other Granados goodies Naxos unearths in this series.

L'Auditori Hall, which is an enormous reverberant venue in the orchestra's hometown, was the location for these recordings. They project a sonic image of dramatic width and depth at the cost of some clarity, giving rise to a wetter, romanticized sound. However, the instrumental timbre is generally pleasing with silvery highs, musical mids, and transient rock-bottom bass.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160330)

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


The album cover may not always appear.
Koch, E.: Syms 3 & 4 (Sinfa Seria), Impulsi, Nordiskt Cap; Hammarström/Swed RSO [BIS]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Last year we told you about three little-known Swedish composers (see 30 September and 31 December). Now BIS records introduces us to a fourth named Erland von Koch (1910-2009), who makes his CLOFO debut with this release.

The son of artistic parents, his father Sigurd (1879-1919) was also a composer, whose friends included Wilhem Stenhammar (1871-1927; see 30 March 2015) and Ture Rangström (1884-1947; see 10 November 2014). As a child Erland met and heard both of them play their music in the Koch home, which arguably may have led to his becoming a composer.

He first studied from 1931 through 1935 at what's now known as the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Erland then furthered his musical education in Germany, where he hoped Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) would become one of his instructors.

However, in 1937 the ruling Nazi party banned his music, and barred him from teaching. Consequently Erland returned to Sweden in 1938, where he'd live out his nonagenarian life, dying at 98. His career there would involve classical music radio positions, academia, and composing.

During a long creative period that would last through age 94, he'd produce a substantial body of works. These are in all genres, and subsume many orchestral pieces, four of which appear here. They include the middle two of his six symphonies, which make their CD debut, and a couple of shorter selections, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

The symphonies have a pragmatic concision similar to that found in Hindemith and Bartók (1881-1945). The third of 1948 opens the concert, and is in three movements, the initial one being an allegro [T-1].

This starts with a pugnacious, percussion-accented theme introduced by the bassoon, which is succeeded by a grief-stricken one for the strings (GS) [01:16]. The two are then explored, and a spirited remembrance of the first brings the movement to a boisterous close.

The pensive adagio [T-2] commences with the strings playing a lachrymose melody that's followed by a tender consoling idea from the winds [01:58]. The two accompanied by some troubled harp glissandi then build into an agitated climax. This fades, and the music ends with a glimmer of hope from the oboe.

Another even more frenetic allegro [T-3], whose opening and overall structure resemble the first, concludes the symphony. It has two themes, the first of which is harried [00:01] and the other a GS-related chorale-like one [00:52]. These chase each other in rondo fashion with hints of past motifs, and finally give way to an exhilarating coda, which ends the work on a high.

Erland considered the fourth symphony (aka Sinfonia Seria; 1952-3, revised in 1962) his most important. Also in three movements, it's a concise, austere work without a wasted note.

The initial andante [T-4] begins with a sullen eight-note motif (SE) [00:02], bits of which will pervade and unify the work. SE then undergoes a vivacious Hindemithian development followed by a short pause. A pensive SE-related afterthought follows, ending the movement forlornly.

In the moderato [T-5], lyrical contemplative passages alternate with nervous, twitchy ones. Hints of SE are pervasive, and the movement ends peacefully, providing a brief respite before the dramatic final allegro [T-6].

This begins with an SE-derived angular theme (SA) [00:01] that jumps through several developmental hoops, and is followed by its romanticized alter ego (RA) [01:08]. They undergo an excited exploration having some arresting timpani glissandi, after which there are a couple of ethereal variants of RA [03:50 and 04:25]. The last of these morphs into a forceful SA-RA recap [05:37] that builds to a stirring climax. This quickly abates with reminders of SA, which bring the symphony to a hushed conclusion.

In the early 1960s Erland began a symphonic triptych whose components are entitled Impulsi, Echi and Ritmi. While as of this writing the last two remain unavailable on disc, the first dating from 1964 is presented next [T-7]. According to the composer it's a fight between good and evil represented respectively by major and minor thirds.

The piece opens with a dramatic episode (DE) that's a chordal outburst combining both intervals, followed by the strings playing a downcast theme (DC) [00:04} with pleading woodwind figurations. After that DE is repeated, and gives way to an innocent countermelody (IC) in the winds [00:55].

Then there's a rising-falling forte passage succeeded by the reappearance of DE. This is the subject for another of the composer's zealous, ŕ la Hindemith developments [03:16], where seemingly good and evil battle it out.

The conflict then fades away, and after a momentary pause we get a recapitulation of DC [08:29], DE [08:55] and IC [09:25] followed by a DE-derived coda. The latter begins forcefully [10:02] and dissipates, ending the piece presumably anticipating the next round in the never-ending battle between good and evil.

In his younger days Erland heard a lecture by Bartók about Hungarian folk music. This reportedly inspired him to study some 4,000 folk tunes from the Dalecarlia (Dalarna) province of central Sweden. And like his Magyar counterpart, many of these found their way into Erland's music.

Our final selection is a good example of this as it's based on a Dalecarlian melody for the maypole dance done there at Midsummer celebrations. One of his most popular pieces, it's entitled Nordiskt Capriccio (Nordic Capriccio, 1943) [T-8].

It begins with a bouncy timpani tattoo (BT) [00:01] followed by a cantering version of the two-part subject tune (TS) [00:09]. Further BTs introduce a number of other TS variants in theme and variations fashion. They range from songful [00:35] to rustic [01:57], hymnlike [03:18], and commanding [04:50] with the last ending the piece triumphantly.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under their assistant conductor Per Hammarström do well by this seldom heard composer. They deliver enthusiastic performances that at the same time bring out all the thematic and rhythmic intricacies of these Spartan scores.

Recorded on three occasions between 2010 and 2013 in Berwald Hall, Stockholm, the resultant sonic images in this reverberant acoustic are consistently wide, if a bit distant. The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by steely highs, a stringent midrange, and lean bass. While the sound is acceptable, it falls short of what we've come to expect from BIS.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160329)

- AVAILABILITY -
ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Roth, A.: Stg Qts 2, 3 "Autumnal" & 4 "On Malvern Hills"; Allegri Qt [Nimbus All]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
English composer Alec Roth (b. 1948) has held positions with a number of prominent British musical establishments, and completed over fifty commissioned works in a variety of genres. While most fall into either the vocal, choral or opera category, 2002 saw him pen his first string quartet titled "Klee Pictures" (currently unavailable on disc).

Then in 2009 he attended an all Haydn (1732-1809) concert by the Allegri Quartet, who perform here, which inspired him to compose another. This and the two others he's since written are presented on this new Nimbus Alliance release. They're the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

Roth got off to a late start as far as string quartets are concerned. However, he's certainly made up for lost time with these three cleverly conceived, infectious creations.

The second from 2009 owes a great debt to Papa Haydn, who fathered this art form. Moreover, there's a folksy capriciousness about all five of its movements.

Roth tells us the first two reflect clocks and their mechanical representation of time. Marked "Waiting (1)" [T-1], and "Dancing (1)" [T-2], they have elemental melodic fragments set to periodic rhythmic accompaniments. Some amusing meows and a catchy folklike riff [01:02] appear in the latter.

These are followed by "Singing" [T-3], which is for open strings, and features an extended, doleful melody over a pedal-pointed drone-bass. It's offset by "Dancing (2)" [T-4], which is a plucky number that takes it cue from the opening theme in the first movement of Haydn's Quinten (Fifths) Quartet (Op. 76, No. 2; 1797). Then a sonorous melancholy "Waiting (2)" [T-5] reminiscent of its preceding namesake brings the quartet to a supernal conclusion.

Four years later Alec would write the others on this release. Number three called "Autumnal" (2013) relates to an earlier song of his (see below), and is in the usual four movements. The first marked "Prelude" [T-6] gets off to an aggressive pizzicato-accented start with everyone busily sawing away [00:00]. It then mellows into a spun-out sinuous utterance for the cello (SS) [00:54] succeeded by a folkish dancelike tune (FD).

They undergo a development [02:02] that's by turns languorous, twitchy and impassioned. There are reminders of SS and FD along the way with FD making a final appearance [04:34] to close the movement tranquilly.

Back in 2010 Roth selected the ninth of English poet John Donne's (1572-1631) Elegies (1590s) titled "The Autumnal" for a song setting he called Autumnal. The next movement marked "Serenade" [T-7] begins with the viola playing the sedate hymnlike melody (SH) [00:01] from it. SH is followed by a contrasting, tango-like, macho milonga [01:56-04:04], and then returns to end the movement.

"Dance" [T-8] is a frenetic scherzo recalling the quartet's opening measures. Curiously enough, there are a couple of passages [02:05, 05:23] sounding like something you might hear at a US Grand Ole Opry concert.

The final "Meditation" [T-9] gets off to a mysterious start with a sustained high note [00:01] ushering in a restrained version of FD [00:08] and a reminder of SH [00:56]. The two themes are then amalgamated, ending the work in hushed ambiguity.

In 2011 the composer moved from London to Malvern, England, where Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) spent most of his life. Here Roth was commissioned by a local concert club for another work that would turn out to be his fourth quartet.

Titled "On Malvern Hills" (2013), he tells us it was composed during walks there, and is absolute music that's not meant as a scenic tone painting. He also allows as how some of Elgar's themes are starting points for his own. But rather than revealing them, he chooses to present this piece as his own version of a musical enigma where their identity is left to the listener.

Again in four movements, the initial "Fleeting" [T-10] begins with antsy figurations [00:01] soon accompanied by a searching, fragmented theme (SF) [00:16] followed by a commanding two-note figure (CT) [00:53]. Bits of SF then undergo an exploration [01:19] riddled with CTs, and having a harmonic solidarity smacking of Elgar (see 15 March 2008).

The succeeding pizzicato-spiced "Bright" [T-11] begins with another CT [00:01] that will pervade it. This prefaces a pleasant unassuming idea (PU) [00:17] followed by a rocking songlike melody [02:04]. The latter is examined, after which PU returns [03:56] ending the movement full circle.

In day-and-night fashion we then get "Dark" [T-12] that starts with a lugubrious lethargic monody on the cello (LL) [00:01]. This seems distantly related to one of Sir Edward's Pomp and Circumstance Marches, and is succeeded by an apathetic four-note riff (AF) [00:40].

After a pause LL returns as the subject for a funereal fugato [01:26]. Then there are more AFs, an LL-based development [02:55], and a coda [04:27] that concludes the movement despairingly.

The final "Ambling" [T-13] is a cheerful, peripatetic offering that's a mélange of tuneful tidbits with delightful flecks of pizzicato. It brings this captivating quartet to a refreshing bucolic conclusion with a hint of twittering forest birds [05:33].

Now in its 63rd year the Allegri Quartet is Britain's oldest chamber group. During that time they've commissioned and recorded many great works by some of England's finest contemporary composers.

Consequently these selections, which were composed for and premiered by them, couldn't be in better hands! They're performed with a technical precision, and attention to phrasing as well as rhythmic detail that make them worthy additions to contemporary string quartet repertoire.

Done at Sevenoaks School's Pamoya Hall in Kent, England, the recordings are superb. They project a close but lifelike, perfectly balanced sonic image of this legendary ensemble in warm accommodating surroundings. Made by Tony Faulkner, who's one of today's most revered sound engineers, the string tone is magnificent. It's characterized by pleasing highs, a natural midrange, and clean bass with none of that overhang which sometimes clouds low cello notes.

However, a word of caution! While Nimbus Alliance releases seem to play fine on bare-bones players, some listeners have encountered tracking problems with high-end machines. Should this disc misbehave, buff it with a soft cloth or cleaning pad to get rid of any scratches, particularly concentric ones. If that doesn't work, try another copy. With music and sound this good you'll find it's well worth the effort.

One last nitpick that's probably HVAC-related. There's a very low-level background rushing sound particularly noticeable at the beginning of each track just before the music starts. But you'll quickly forget it once this magnificent quartet starts playing.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160328)

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


The album cover may not always appear.
Weiner, Leó: Csongor... (cpte bal), Ballad for Cl & Orch (va vers); Szücs/Csányi/JubG C/BudaMÁV SO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Born in Budapest, Hungarian composer Leó Weiner (1885-1960) makes a long overdue appearance in these pages with this new Naxos release. He displayed an early interest in music, and initially taught himself by studying scores of distinguished past composers. Then at age 16 he went on to complete his education at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in his home town, where he'd win many prestigious awards.

After graduation Leó become one of their finest instructors right up until his death. He could count conductors Fritz Reiner (1898-1963; see 11 July 2007 ) and Georg Solti (1912-1997), as well as cellist János Starker (1924-2013) among his many notable students.

Weiner would write a modest number of romantically based, colorfully scored works devoid of the progressive stylistic trends that began appearing in the first half of the 20th century. While his compatriots Bartók (1881-1945) and Kodály (1882-1967) frequently quoted folk tunes they'd collected, there's only a hint of that in Weiner's later pieces. What's more, he preferred writing his own material in folk style rather than borrowing actual melodies.

The two orchestral selections on this CD are world premiere recordings, and we'll begin our discussion with the one-act, ballet Csongor és Tünde (Csongor and Tunde), which the composer apparently considered his finest work. This had a tortuous genesis best left to the album notes, which also include a plot synopsis. Suffice it to say what we have here is the final 1959 version based on the manuscript score.

Inspired by Mihály Vörösmarty's (1800-1855) homonymous fairy tale play (1830-1), it's in four scenes containing fourteen numbers. The first [T-2] begins with a questing, handsome theme as young Prince Csongor comes on stage. The music then becomes threatening as he sees a women tied to an apple tree.

This is Mirigy, who unbeknownst to him is the evil Witch in this drama. She implores him to untie her, which the well-meaning young man does. However, instead of thanking Csongor she curses him, and leaves as the beautiful fairy Princess Tünde appears to some winsome music [T-3]. They fall in love during a romantic pas de deux, lie down under the tree, and doze off to the strains of an ethereal chorus (no text provided).

Enter Tünde's fairy companions and her attendant Ilma, who do a fey dance [T-4]. Then the music turns ill-boding with the return of Mirigy, who curses any future union between the two lovers, and steals Tünde's magic veil. This is the source of all her powers, and having procured it, the Witch does a triumphant dance awakening them.

Mirigy's malison means the two must now separate forever, and a sad leave-taking ensues [T-5]. In it the Princess, Ilima and their fairy minions exit followed by a despairing Csongor [T-6].

Then there's a change of scene, and we're at a crossroads where three goblins are chasing a fox, which is actually the transformed Witch's daughter Ledér. They do a fetching animated dance [T-7] with a catchy refrain (CR) [01:22-01:27] reminiscent of the melody opening Tamino's first act "Dies Bildnis..." aria in Mozart's (1756-1791) Die Zauberflöte (1791). Towards the end Ledér conjures up some phantoms that scare the goblins away

A peasant boy named Balga looking for his lost wife, who as it turns out is Ilma, enters [T-8] followed by Csongor. He then becomes the Prince's servant, and they're joined by those goblins [T-9]. The latter argue to a bickering accompaniment over who owns the magic cloak, which takes anyone wearing it wherever they want to go.

Unable to decide between themselves, they ask Csongor to choose which of them should keep it. The Prince, who's seemingly become considerably more wily during the course of his adventures, tricks them into letting him have it.

The third scene [T-10], which takes place in the Witch's den, involves the Prince along with Mirigy and her daughter. In hopes of getting Csongor for Ledér, she's covered her with the stolen veil, making her as beautiful as Tünde. Beguiled by her looks the Prince starts an amorous dance with her.

Next Balga, who's finally found Ilima in the company of Tünde, enters along with them. The Prince seeing his true love tears the veil off Ledér, and is amazed to discover who she really is. But before he can escape with the Princess and her two companions, the Witch uses the magic veil to wisk them away, leaving only Csongor and her daughter.

The final scene marked the "Kingdom of the Night" [T-11] finds a chorus of fairies trying to console the Princess over the loss of Csongor, but to no avail! Then it's back to the den and a rousing number titled "Witches' Sabbath" [T-12] in which Mirigy and Ledér try to win him over. However, he resists and grabs the veil, which causes them to flee as their lair transforms into the ballet's opening scene [T-13].

Looking at the veil and remembering Tünde, he falls asleep under the tree. The chorus then announces the return of the Princess and her fairy troop [T-14], who offer her a new veil. But she rejects it in favor of an earthly existence with the Prince.

Next Balga along with Ilma enters, and they go happily to his hut. Finally Tünde wakes Csongor [T-15], and there's a lovely poetic ensemble number with chorus about eternal love (see the album notes). This closes the ballet peacefully, bringing to mind that timeless fairy tale aphorism, "and everyone lived happily ever after".

The release is filled out with Ballada (Ballad) [T-1], which like the ballet above had an equally involved genesis (see the album notes). In short, a 1908 piece for clarinet and piano (currently unavailable on disc) eventually gave rise to the one here for viola and orchestra (1949).

Lasting a little over twelve minutes, it's a rapturous work with impressionistic overtones. The opening dialogue between soloist and orchestra hints at a lyrically sinuous theme soon played by the viola (LS) [01:31]. It undergoes a pastoral exploration with what might be bird calls in the winds. This bridges into a dramatic episode with an ff martial variant of LS for orchestra (ML) [03:10] that's pondered by the soloist.

A restrained reverie with a pensive viola follows [04:17], and gives way to an anxious episode having bravura passages for the soloist [06:24]. This gradually subsides, and after a brief pause there's a nostalgic segment [08:38]. It's succeeded by a reminder of ML [10:42], which is the basis for a captivating final coda.

We have conductor Valéria Csányi and the Budapest MÁV Symphony Orchestra to thank for these two memorable discoveries. They receive splendid support from the Hungarian-based Jubilate Girls Choir in the ballet, while violist Máté Szücs' passionate playing of the Ballad makes it a significant contribution to viola literature.

These recordings were done last year at one of Hungarian Radio's studios in Budapest. They project a lifelike, well-focused soundstage in ideal surroundings. The chorus as well as the soloist are beautifully captured and balanced against the orchestra. As for the instrumental timbre, it's characterized by bright pleasing highs, musical-mids and clean bass. Conservative scoring precludes this disc from being a sonic spectacular, but audiophiles will be pleased with what's here.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160327)

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