CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 APRIL 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.
Costa, L.: Pno Trio; Azevedo, S.: Hukvaldy Trio (pno); Carneyro: Pno Trio; Pangea Trio
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
A new series of Naxos CDs devoted to Portuguese piano trios written in the 1800s up through the present day gets underway with this release. The three here date from between 1927 through 2013, and these are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
Born in Barcelos, Portugal, pianist-composer Luiz Costa (also spelled Luís Costa, 1879-1960) began his musical training at home. He then studied in Germany from 1903 to 1907, where his teachers included José Viana da Mota (1868-1948; see 31 October 2015) and Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924).
Costa's only piano trio dating from 1937 has four movements, and opens with an allegro [T-1]. This begins with a bounding angular tune (BA) [00:01] worthy of Robert Schumann (1810-1856), which glides into a romantic lullaby-like melody introduced by the cello (RL) [00:48]. A moody development follows. Then BA and RL return to recap things, and fuel a sinister closing coda.
A fleeting scherzo follows [T-3] with lickety-split, pizzicato-spiced outer sections bracketing a winsome songful trio. Then the work is brought to a close with another allegro [T-4].
This begins with an Eastern-European-flavored, two-part dance tune (ET) having a flighty first thought (FF) [00:00], and more staid countersubject [00:08]. The latter segment brings to mind the second movement opening of Vincent d'Indy's (1851-1931) Symphony on a French Mountain Air (1886).
ET is succeeded by an attractive FF-derived curvaceous melody [01:32], after which the foregoing are subjected to a rondoesque development. This ends in an ET-related coda [04:07], bringing the work to an austere conclusion.
Sérgio Azevedo (b. 1968), who was born and trained in Portugal, is one of its leading contemporary musical figures. A student of Fernando Lopes-Graça (1906-1994; see 20 June 2012) he's a highly regarded teacher and author, who's composed a significant number of works, The selection included here is his Hukvaldy Trio of 2013, which the album notes tell us stems from an earlier piano quartet.
That's presumably the one written in 2004 (currently unavailable on disc), which borrows from motifs found in Leos Janácek's (1854-1928) solo piano piece V mhlách (In the Mists, 1912). Consequently "Hukvaldy" in the trio's title reflects the Janácek connection, that being the village in the eastern tip of the Czech Republic where he was born. It was there he heard many of the Moravian folk melodies, which later found their way into his works.
These are some of the world's most captivating folk tunes, and their influence on Azevedo's twenty-minute, single movement trio [T-8] is evident right from the start. Moreover, it begins with an arrestive, catechistic idea (AC) in the strings [00:00] that seems to ask some profound question.
This is followed by an aggressive hammering riff (AH) drummed out by the piano [02:02], which recalls Janácek's later keyboard works. AC is repeated with a couple of different piano accompaniments, the first bordering on the atonal (AA) [02:18], and followed by an extended reminder of AH [03:18].
Then the high strings introduce an anguished development [06:05] with snatches of other folk ditties [11:02, 11:14]. It's succeeded by a comely romantic tune (CR) [11:44] and a virile folk dance [12:52] having a pensive midsection.
There's a brief rest and another AH [15:16] with an ensuing variant of CR [15:24]. It's followed by an AH-dominated bridge into an AA-introduced recap [17:25] of the work's opening.
This brings the trio full circle, and after a pause there are some piano-trill-prefaced, lingering reminders of AC [18:49]. These gradually subside and finally evaporate, leaving AC unanswered. Oddly enough AC is somewhat reminiscent of that question Charles Ives (1874-1954) asked in 1906.
Our next composer, Cláudio Carneyro (1895-1963), was born in Porto, Portugal. Coming from a family of artists, young Cláudio first studied music in his hometown. Then in the 1920s and 30s he establishedworking connections in Paris with Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937; see 31 July 2013 ), Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937; see 28 March 2007) and Paul Dukas (1865-1935).
After that Cláudio received a grant that allowed him to visit the U.S., where he got to know conductor Charles Munch (1891-1968; see 11 July 2007) as well as composers Aaron Copland (1900-1990; see 31 March 2011 ) and Darius Milhaud (1892-1974). Returning to Portugal he'd hold a series of prestigious teaching positions, and write a large body of music in a variety of styles ranging from romantic to twelve-tone. Portuguese folk references are frequently present.
The year 1928 saw him complete his only piano trio, which is in three stylistically varied movements. The chromatic first [T-5] begins with a leisurely pensive introduction [00:00] having the rudiments of a folksy ditty soon to come. This is a jittery, tarantella-like number (JT) that makes a fugal entry [00:49], and is then explored. It's succeeded by an amorous, Pierné-flavored melody (AP) [02:18], which is also examined.
Then a series of developmental episodes alternately based on either JT or AP follow in rondo fashion. Lasting fourteen minutes, the composer manages to hold listener interest by instilling his music with colorful rhythmic and harmonic touches. The movement then ends with the piano tossing off a stabbing reminder of JT's first six notes [14:04].
The next "Interludio Romanesco" ("Romantic Interlude") [T-6] is a meditative offering that lives up to its name, and seems to have French affiliations. In that regard the main theme sounds a bit like a nostalgic version of the second slower one at the beginning of Camille Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) Danse macabre (1873-4; see 31 July 2012).
When he wrote the final "Variaçőes sobre Syrinx" ("Variations on Syrinx") [T-7], Carneyro tells us he had in mind the Greek mythological nymph by that name. At only three minutes it's seems like an impressionistic afterthought, where the piano first plays the equivalent of some drumrolls [00:00] ŕ la Stravinsky's (1882-1971) Pétrouchka (1911).
They're immediately succeeded by an Eastern-sounding (ES) idea [00:08], which is based on a whole-tone scale. It's followed by a short development with an allusion to a melody [01:55] reminiscent of the opening flute theme in Ravel's (1875-1937) Daphnis and Chloe (1909-12). Then ES returns [02:34] ending this eclectic trio like it began.
The Pangea Trio brings together players with French, Portuguese and Spanish musical backgrounds, who deliver terrific performances of these selections. Pianist Bruno Belthoise gives a consummate account of Azevedo's demanding trio. That's not to downplay the superb playing of violist Adolfo Rascón Carbajal and cellist Teresa Velente Pereira. If they named themselves after the supercontinent that existed millions of years ago, let's just hope they don't break apart like that did!
Made last year in the auditorium of the "Eduardo Martínez Torner" Higher Conservatory of Music, Oviedo, Spain, the recordings present a lifelike sonic image in a warm acoustic. The piano is well captured and poignantly percussive, while the strings are natural sounding. There are a couple of thumps presumably occasioned by the artists, but not on a scale to deny this an audiophile rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160430)
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Farkas: Orch Wks V4 (Old..., Seren…, Hp Conc, Musica…, Cantiones…, etc); Soloists/FrLiszt ChO [Toccata]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Number four and presumably still counting, here's the next volume in Toccata's exploration of Hungarian composer Ferenc Farkas' (1905-2000) extensive body of works (see 31 May 2015). Five of the six selections have appeared in a variety of other arrangements, some of which you may already have (see the album notes). As presented on this release, four are first recordings, and so indicated by "FR" after their titles, while the remaining two are the only ones currently available on disc.
The program opens with Romanian Folk Dances from Bihar County scored for flute, cimbalom and string orchestra (1988; FR) [T-1], A one movement, sonata-form-like contrivance, it starts with two themes based on folk songs collected by Béla Bartók (1881-1945). These captivating melodies are respectively high-stepping and contemplative. Colorfully spiced with cimbalom embellishments, they're briefly explored, after which the first returns, ending the piece in the same mood it began.
Next there's Cantiones optimae (Best Songs, 1969; FR), which is a sublime setting of four sacred songs for soprano and strings. The texts (album notes include Hungarian and English versions) and melodies are taken from 16-17th century Hungarian sources.
The first two entitled "Bátoritás a halál elien" ("Encouragement in the Face of Death") [T-2] and "Könyörgés" ("Prayer") [T-3] are hymnlike. They're meant to help the dying face God, and instill hopes of their finding Christ along with everlasting peace, happiness and grace.
After those there are the more folkish sounding "Máriá-ének" ("Song to Mary") [T-4] and "Ó Jézus" ("O, Jesus") [T-5]. The former praises the Virgin Mary (see 31 March 2016), while the other implores Jesus to forgive one's sins and reside in the supplicant's heart.
Like his teacher Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936), Farkas was fond of putting old wine in new bottles. This is typified by the following Old Hungarian Dances From the 17th Century for flute and strings (1990) [T-6 through 13], which is derived from a similarly named piece featuring the oboe that appeared on volume three.
It's a good example of the composer's propensity to toss off different arrangements of the same source material in short-order cook fashion. Moreover, the piece includes identically titled, similar versions of the seven dances making up its predecessor (see 30 May 2015), plus a "Quasi minuetto" [T-11] sandwiched between "Chorea" [T-10] and "Dance of Lázár Apor" [T-12].
Now we come to one of the composer's best works, the Concertino for Harpsichord and String Orchestra of 1949. It's another one of his rearrangements this time based on a 1947 piece calling for a piano.
A Magyar-folk-flavored creation harkening back to baroque times, there are three movements. The initial allegro [T-14] is a delightful neoclassical offering with a Gallic cheekiness reminiscent of Francis Poulenc's (1899-1963) Concert champętre (1927-8). Then there's a rapturous contemplative andante [T-15] followed by a concluding allegro [T-16].
The latter begins with the tutti soon joined by the soloist playing a spirited Hungarian folkish melody (SH) [00:00] succeeded by an obstinate halting idea (OH) [00:41]. SH bridges into a relaxed lyrical episode containing a couple of winsome themes [02:20 and 03:21] having harpsichord embellishments.
This ends with reminders of OH [04:03], and after a brief pause there's an extended demanding cadenza [04:24-06:45]. Then the soloist introduces a thrilling SH-based fugal coda [06:47] recalling past ideas, and the concertino ends with a resounding SH fillip.
Moving right along we get Musica giocosa (Playful Music) [T-17] for string orchestra (1982; FR). In four tiny movements it gets off to an impish Allegro start [T-17] followed by a pensive "Arietta" [T-18]. Then there's a delicate "Gavotte con variazione" [T-19], where a courtly dance surrounds a flighty variant of itself.
As for the concluding "Allegro vivace" [T-20], we get an animated scampering idea (AS) [00:00] that alternates with a more relaxed one [00:10]. The latter suggests the low string passages at the beginning of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra (1943), and the piece ends with a final AS-related flourish.
A three-movement Serenata concertante for flute and strings (1967, FR) closes out the disc. The lively first allegro [T-21] features a nervous flute accompanied by plangent strings. Then we get an ascetic andante [T-22] where avian passages for the soloist and an austere tutti make it easy to imagine birds soaring above a barren landscape.
The closing allegro [T-23] has a couple of contrasting ideas that are mischievous [00:00] and dreamy [01:34]. They're explored in rondo fashion, and after a demanding cadenza for the soloist [02:15-03:22] end the work in a burst of optimism.
Flutist András Adorján performances of the two dance works and Serenata... are superb. His playing in the Romanian selection is colorfully complemented by cimbalom virtuoso Viktória Herencsár.
Soprano Ingrid Kertesi has a voice perfectly suited to folk material, and delivers captivating renditions of the four songs. As for the Concertino..., prize-winning harpsichordist Miklós Spányi has just the right touch for this modern day throwback to the Baroque.
The strings of the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra (FLCO) under conductor János Rolla are in fine form throughout, giving enthusiastic yet immaculate readings of these elegant scores. The FLCO musicians are all virtuosos who easily live up to the legendary reputation associated with Hungarian string players. Together they produce a rich ensemble sound second to none!
Done a year ago at the Italian Institute of Culture, Budapest, the recordings like those on the second and third volumes are superb. They project a wide soundstage in a warm acoustic, in which the soloists are well captured and ideally highlighted against the orchestra. The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by bright highs, a natural midrange, and lean clean bass having none of that hangover frequently associated with massed low strings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160429)
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Ireland: J.: Stg Orch Wks (arrs of Vc Son, Downland Ste, 6 short vn & pno pcs); Wallfisch/Curtis/Swan O [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
English composer John Ireland (1879-1962) wrote a substantial number of pieces for solo piano as well as various chamber ensembles, and Naxos has released several discs devoted to same (see 31 July 2009). Now they give us some exceptional string orchestra arrangements drawn from these in addition to one originally for brass band. All of the piano and chamber related selections are world premiere recordings.
Ireland studied at the Royal College of Music, London, in the late 1890s, where his composition teacher was Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924; see 23 January 2015). While he instructed him in the fundamentals of music from the standpoint of such great German composers as Beethoven (1770-1827) and Brahms (1833-1897), John was also strongly influenced by Debussy (1852-1918; see 10 March 2011), Ravel (1875-1937), Bartok (1881-1945; see 31 August 2015 ) and Stravinsky (1882-1971).
The upshot of all this is expressive music of great sensitivity from an English composer who had an unhappy childhood, and apparent affinity for "the love that dare not speak its name". Moreover, his pieces sound more impressionistic than the pastoral, folk-oriented works coming from his compatriots, namely Vaughan Williams (1872-1958; see 16 December 2013).
The first selection on this release is a good example. It's an arrangement for cello and string orchestra of his only sonata for that instrument (1923) done by cellist Matthew Forbes, who's a member of the orchestra featured here.
In three movements the initial moderato [T-1] begins with the cello intoning a troubled theme (CT) [00:02] that's picked up by the strings, and worries its way into an uneasy consequent idea (UC) played by the soloist [02:14]. The two then undergo a passionate development followed by a spikey flourish for the cello [08:11]. This introduces a fervent concluding coda.
The next movement [T-2] is a winsome extended song with impressionistic moments. It couldn't be more different from the last [T-3] that starts with scurrying, raucous passages. The cello emerges out of these alluding to CT [00:11], and the pace subsides into a rhapsodic episode tinged with hints of UC [01:44]. This becomes increasingly ecstatic, ending the work resplendently
The program continues with three arrangements of Ireland piano pieces by British musicologist Graham Parlatt (b. 1961), who's also a noted authority on Arnold Bax (1883-1953; see 10 November 2014). Titled Summer Evening (1919) [T-4], "In a May Morning", which is the middle movement from Sarnia: An Island Sequence (1940-41), and "Soliloquy" (1922) [T-6], they're wistful pastoral watercolors with the last featuring a tearful cello.
The mood lightens with the next three cello-augmented selections, which are in the best tradition of Edwardian salon music. They're Parlett transcriptions of some short pieces for violin and piano, which the composer wrote in the early 1900s (see 31 July 2009). Called "Bagatelle" (1911) [T-7], "Berceuse" (1902) [T-8], and "Cavatina" (1904) [T-9], these are respectively jocund, amorously lyrical, and flirtatiously songlike.
In 1932 Ireland was commissioned to write a contest piece for the National Brass Band Championship of Great Britain held that year. He'd name it A Downland Suite, and in 1941 arrange the middle of its four movements for string orchestra. Then in 1978 his former student Geoffrey Bush (1920-1998) did the same with the outer ones, and in this form it's become one of his most popular pieces.
While the band version is not currently available on disc, the one for strings closes out this release. The "Prelude" [T-10] has resolute outer sections surrounding an attractive folklike melody [01:33], which reappears just before the movement ends.
It's succeeded by a moving Elegy [T-11] based on a simple hymnlike melody (SH) [00:31]. This is offset by a gracious, lilting Minuet [T-12] with a delicate trio section [01:39-02:41]. Then the suite concludes in a rousing Rondo [T-13] having a recurring SH-related theme [00:02].
Renowned British cellist Raphael Wallfisch is joined by the Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS) under their Artistic Director David Curtis for these spirited, immaculately played performances. In their hands the sonata arrangement is a moving contribution to symphonic repertoire featuring the cello.
The recordings were done on two occasions last summer in Townsend Hall, Shipston-on-Stour, England, not far from The Bard's old stomping grounds. They project a comfortable sonic image of the moderate forces called for here in an accommodating venue. The soloist is well captured and suitably highlighted against the OTTS.
While the overall string tone is pleasant, the higher registers are a shade on the wiry side, which seems electronic rather than performance related. The bass end is lean and clean with no hint of overhang in the lower strings. Those with systems that go down to rock bottom may notice a couple of momentary rumblings, which seem traffic related.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160428)
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Lindberg, M.: Vc Conc 2, Al largo, Era; Karttunen/Lintu/Fin RSO [Ondine (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 SACD)
The last time Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg (b. 1958) appeared in these pages, we told you about one of his ever growing number of concertos (see 21 October 2013). Now on this new Ondine hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), release we get his second for cello along with two other occasional symphonic pieces. All three are brilliantly scored, coloristic creations, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The most recent work here is the concerto, which dates from 2013, when it was written in response to a last minute commission by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Accordingly, to save time Magnus used his earlier duo for cello and piano titled Santa Fe Project (2006) as a starting point (see the informative album notes for more details).
Scored for a classically proportioned orchestra sans percussion, it's in three connected sections simply marked "I", "II" and "III". The first [T-2] begins with the cello in its upper registers hinting at an extended, chromatically searching melody that soon follows accompanied by the tutti [00:49]. This undergoes several dramatically introspective transformations, and after a brief pause we get some bizarre effects from the soloist [08:26, 09:02].
Then chugging strings bridge into "II" [T-3], which gets off to a romantic start in the cello accompanied by other instruments in their lower registers [00:00]. The music evolves into a demanding, extended cadenza that might best be described in baseball terms as a windup [01:46-02:30] and pitch [02:39-03:51].
This is a turning point in the concerto, after which the mood turns rhythmically and thematically aggressive, soon transforming into "III" [T-5]. Here soloist and orchestra have their work cut out for them in what begins as a frenetic rondo. However, the pace slows [02:44], and the concerto ends in reflective tranquility.
Turning to the companion pieces, we have one called Al largo [T-1] (2009-10), which is an Italian expression for being so far out at sea that no shoreline is in sight. But don't let that programmatic title fool you! This is absolute music with no underlying story. Calling for modest forces, the composer tells us he was inspired by Maurice Ravel's (1875-1937) elegant instrumentation for the orchestral version of Ma mčre l'oye (Mother Goose; 1908-11).
At about twenty-five minutes, it falls into two arches, the first of which begins with threatening brass and percussion-laced passages [00:01]. These ebb and flow into a subdued episode [09:00] having some devout strings passages. Then the piano introduces [12:16] a pensive interlude highlighted by an oboe and string quartet, which brings the initial span to a close.
Frenzied allusions to the work's opening start the concluding arch [13:49]. These slowly abate ending in a pause succeeded by flighty wind passages [17:50]. They herald a thundering, drum-spiked eruption that subsides into reverent string passages [19:55].
The latter are the lifeblood of a moving finale, where there's a hint [24:16] of the closing measures from Arnold Schoenberg's (1874-1951) Verklärte Nacht (string sextet, 1899; string orchestra, 1943). Lindberg says he considers that one of the most beautiful moments in the history of music.
The remaining selection titled Era (2012) came in response to another commission. This was for the 2013, 125th anniversary celebration of the legendary Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and its acoustically renowned home hall.
The previous pieces seem somewhat conservatively scored compared to this. That's not surprising as the composer allows as how he wanted to create a big-boned symphonic work like what was being written in the hundred years just before World War I (1914-18). This was a time when Western music underwent a number of stylistic upheavals, and "Era" is meant to suggest that.
In two spans lasting a total of twenty-minutes, it's like a tone poem with no underlying story. The composer tells us he had Sibelius' (1865-1957) fourth symphony (1911) in mind when he wrote it.
Like that, Lindberg's music starts with the instruments of lowest register playing a quirky angular idea (QA) [00:00]. Its opening notes suggest the beginning of Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) tone poem Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks; 1894-5). They will become a recurring motif along with other snatches of Till… throughout the piece. In that regard one wonders as to the significance of the Strauss references. Magnus?
QA then takes on the aspect of a passacaglia underlying animated developmental passages that are colorfully scored for instruments of higher and higher register. Then about two-thirds of the way through we get a pause followed by an ominous stroke on the tam-tam [15:08].
This initiates the concluding span, which starts with birdlike calls followed by another snippet of Till... [15:53]. After that passages with pounding percussion followed by sweeping brass and strings transition into a chorale-like theme [16:37]. This is taken up by forte, drum-augmented brass and strings, ending the work decisively.
Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen, who premiered the concerto under Lindberg's good friend, conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen (see 28 November 2012), is once again the soloist here. He delivers a commanding yet sensitive performance of this complex music, receiving magnificent support from the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) under their chief conductor Hannu Lintu.
Made at the Helsinki Music Center, the stereo tracks project a broad, deep, well-focused sonic image in ideal surroundings. The multichannel one will give you a middle orchestra seat.
Herra Katttunen's cello is perfectly captured and highlighted against the FRSO. The overall orchestral timbre in all three play modes is very natural sounding with pleasing highs, a lifelike midrange, and clean low bass. Arguably the SACD stereo track may be a bit more silky and airy than the others, but audiophiles will find this a demonstration quality disc no matter which one they play.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160427)
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Mokranjac: Stg Qt, Vn Son, Old Song (vn & pno), Dance (vn & pno); Sinaisky /T.Christian En [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Older readers will remember a country called Yugoslavia in their high school geography books. Located across from Italy along the Eastern shore of the Adriatic, it was a confederation of several Southern Slavic territories, some of which had been in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1916).
They came together shortly after World War I (1914-8). Then between 1991 and 2008 they split apart with much violence and bloodshed into seven ethnically different, independent states.
A couple of years later CPO thanks to their adventurous A&R folks began releasing some CDs of twentieth century concert music written by composers from that area. They've already given us several selections by Croatia's Dora Pejacevic (1885-1923; see 22 June 2011, 26 October 2011 and 28 April 2013). Now they turn their attention to Serbia with some works by one of its most important composers during the last half of the twentieth century, Vasilije Mokranjac (1923-1984).
Born in Belgrade, he studied and later taught at the college there, all the while writing mainly in the instrumental genre. Mokranjac managed to produce a significant body of chamber and orchestral works before he killed himself for unknown reasons by jumping from his Belgrade apartment window. Generally speaking his music is of late romantic persuasion with a smattering of folk-influences plus occasional dodecaphonic and Messiaenic modal spicing.
This disc begins with a string quartet written in 1949 during Vasilije's later student years. Having the usual four movements, the initial allegro [T-1] is in sonata form, and opens with a two-part idea, which is at first restless (FR) [00:01], and then becomes anxious [00:36]. It's explored, and succeeded by an FR-related, endearing folksy number (FE) [02:10] that's subsequently toyed with.
Then there's a rigorous, somewhat ominous development [03:53], after which FR returns [07:12] announcing the recapitulation. This ends with a nostalgic FE-based coda [09:21], bringing the movement to a tranquil conclusion.
The next one is a ternary, A-B-A-structured scherzo [T-2], whose marking of vivacissimo (lively) is reflected in the frenetic fiddling that animates its outer sections. They surround an alluring lyrical trio [01:36-03:25], which the album notes say is related to a Serbian folk song,
It's succeeded by an andante [T-3] that's also ternary, but here we get wistfully pensive "A" sections bracketing a rhapsodic "B" [02:58-04:34]. The latter begins with a plucky lower string accompaniment suggestive of the tamburitza, which is a Serbian folk instrument belonging to the tamburica family.
The final allegro [T-4] is another sonata form offering, but this time around it's based on a couple of infectious dances. The first [00:00] is an excited number with a touch of Dvorák (1841-1904). This chases its own tail, and is followed by a circumspect second (CS) [01:27].
Both are food for a chromatically flighty development [02:53], after which CS begins a recap [04:29]. There are hints of FE, which briefly surfaces [05:50], and then the work comes to a definitive conclusion.
Next we get the violin sonata of 1952. More progressive sounding than the quartet, it has a demanding piano part, which would seem to reflect the composer's reputed reputation as an accomplished pianist. The first of its four movements is a bleak adagio [T-5] with a forceful keyboard introduction [00:01] hinting at a dour thematic nexus soon initiated by the violin [00:46].
This undergoes an intense, tightly woven development that at times borders on the expressionistic. Towards the end [07:53], the music becomes more contemplative, closing the movement quietly.
A delightful scherzo follows [T-6] with playful episodes on either side of a weeping trio [01:51-02:24]. The latter anticipates the succeeding adagio [T-7], which begins disconsolately. There are reminders of motifs from the opening movement as it builds to a couple of intensely despairing climaxes, and ends like it began.
Hints of ideas in the initial adagio also pop up in the folksy final allegro [T-8]. This starts with chirping bird-like passages for the piano that's soon accompanied by the violin playing a twittering, airy tune [00:15] and then a reserved idea [01:01]. The two become partners in a rondo romp, which ends the sonata on a relative high.
A couple of short occasional pieces for violin and piano, dating from the early 1950s, conclude the CD. The first titled Old Song [T-9] is a dark lament. The other called Dance [T-10] has sprightly outer sections surrounding a morose central one [01:24-02:28], recalling the previous selection.
Our artists belong to the Thomas Christian Ensemble (TCE), which has the distinction of changing size pursuant to whatever chamber music it's called upon to play. Here TCE appears in its string quartet configuration augmented by pianist Evgeny Sinaisky.
Their playing is technically impressive, but at the same time highly sensitive. TCE's founder, violinist Thomas Christian, is featured in the last three selections along with Sinaisky, who gets a standing ovation for his virtuosic keyboard artistry.
A coproduction of CPO and Southwest German Radio (SWR), the recordings were made two years ago at SWR's Hans Rosbaud Studio in Baden-Baden. They project a generous sonic image in nourishing reverberant surroundings, which together enrich the sound of these colorful works. The strings are lifelike, and the piano ideally captured with a touch of percussiveness that makes the sonata even more arresting. All this plus good balance throughout make for a demonstration chamber music disc.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160426)
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