CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 JUNE 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.
Domínguez, J.: Legend of Joaquín Murieta (cpte bal); J.Dominguez/Santiago PO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (2 CDs)
Conductor-composers like Esa-Pekka Salonen (b. 1958, see 13 July 2009) and B. Tommy Andersson (b. 1964, see 12 September 2012) have an intimate familiarity with a wide variety of scores, which probably explains their writing brilliantly orchestrated coloristic music. Now based on this new Naxos release, they're joined by Chilean José Luis Domínguez (b. 1971).
Since his appointment in 2003 as resident conductor of the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra, he's penned several works. The largest to date is his full-length ballet featured here, which dates from 2008-9. This is the only recording currently available on disc, and it's offered at a special price.
Besides being the accompaniment for a stage work, the music was also conceived to have a life of its own as a concert hall piece. In that regard Dominguez intended to create something along the lines of those stand-alone film scores by such great European, classically trained composers as Max Steiner (1888-1971; see 18 April 2011), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957; see 31 March 2011 ), Franz Waxman (1906-1967; see 18 April 2011) and Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995; see 18 April 2011).
Titled The Legend of Joaquin Murieta (also spelled Murrieta or Murietta), the story takes place during the days of the California Gold Rush (1848-55), and is about a local bandit by that name (1829-1853), who's also a skilled swordsman. In that regard he apparently inspired the legendary Zorro, and Pablo Neruda's (1904-1973) 1966 epic poem Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (The Brilliance and Death of Joaquin Murieta) has lead many Chileans to believe he came from their country.
In two acts, Dominguez employs leitmotifs, and the prologue to the first [D-1, T-1] introduces us to a heroic one representing Murieta (HM) [00:09]. This is briefly explored, and then the curtain goes up on the people of a small California village engaged in their daily activities [D-1, T-2]. Many are South American immigrants as reflected in the catchy Latin rhythms coloring this arresting number.
One of the townsfolk is Joaquin's beautiful wife Teresa [D-1, T-3], who's characterized by an alluring HM-related melody (AM) (00:44). But suddenly the baddies come on the scene.[D-1, T-4]. They're a gang of North American vigilantes known as the Galgos (Greyhounds), who delight in harassing immigrants and Native Americans. Their music is accordingly threatening and belligerent as they carry away two Mexican hostages.
Murieta then appears [D-1, T-5], and learning what's happened there's a catchy castanet-accented dance based on AM [00:54]. It gives way to an amorous pas de deux for husband and wife [D-1, T-6], in which Teresa implores him not to risk his own life by going after the captives.
At this point his sidekick Tresdedos appears to a noble Latin-flavored selection [D-1, T-7], and Joaquin enlists his help to save the Mexicans. Then the two set off on their mission and as night falls, the villagers leave for their homes to some merry spirited music [D-1, T-8].
After that the scene shifts to the courtyard in front of a house belonging to the Galgos' leader known as Caballero Tramposo. A rake, charlatan and dipso, in Neruda's telling of the tale he reputedly represents all the bad aspects of North American society
There's a wild drunken party going on inside his house, and he suddenly staggers out clutching a bottle of wine. This is set to some facetious besotted bassoon passages (BB) [D-1, T-9], in which other tipsy sounding instruments soon appear. Then in the concluding sequence [D-1, T-10] our hero enters stealthily, and frees the prisoners. However, the Galgos discover this, and a wild sword fight breaks out to an exciting percussion-laced accompaniment [01:36].
But the inebriated vigilantes are no match for the swashbuckling Murieta, who's now joined by Tresdedos. They escape along with the hostages in heroic Zorro fashion, and the act ends with the most thrilling music so far.
The second act opens in town with a castanet-accented Spanish dance, and our two heroes reliving their success of the previous night [D-2, T-1]. Then Caballero Tramposo enters to some furtive, BB-tinged music [02:07] searching for whoever absconded with the Mexican hostages. He knocks on Murieta's door [02:29 and 02:37], which is opened by someone dressed as a Native American. It's Joaquin in disguise as he's been forewarned about Tramposo's presence.
In a combative episode the Galgos' leader questions him [D-2, T-2] but discovers nothing as the village menfolk come on stage to a celebratory fanfare and fugue [D-2, T-3]. They're preparing for a local festival, and are followed by their wives [D-2, T-4], who do a swirling dance, bringing to mind Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) Capriccio espagnol (1887).
The succeeding passage [D-2, T-5] begins forebodingly as Tramposo lurks about still trying to find out who rescued the Mexicans. However, his attention is soon diverted to one of the women, and we get a BB-introduced pas de deux that's an amusing "oom-pah-pah" waltz [04:11].
After that there's an elegant, harp-embroidered interlude known as "Teresa's Song" [D-2, T-6], reflecting her concern for hubby's safety. Then the music shifts gears in the following town festival section [D-2, T-7]. A colorfully scored frolic, this gets off to a fugato start that develops into a series of vivacious dances. It's one of the ballet's high points, and Ravel (1875-1937) would have loved it!
One of the revelers is a local Spanish nobleman who invites everyone into his nearby home to toast and further celebrate the occasion. This is cause for another terrific high-stepping number [D-2, T-8] with several memorable tunes. But the following ominous segment [D-2, T-9] implies all's not well! It mirrors the Galgos' intent to invade the house, and take vengeance on the villagers.
Hints of HM [03:25] reveal Murieta is on to their plan. Then after a dramatic drumroll he appears with his men, and engages them in a furious battle [D-2, T-10]. It's set to some thrilling, contrapuntally spiced, percussively charged music that again shows Dominguez' awesome command of orchestration. Towards the end there's a triumphant HM-related theme [05:33] indicative of their victory over the vigilantes, who then flee for their lives!
The penultimate and longest scene in the ballet [D-2, T-11] begins with a peaceful passage for harp soon accompanied by delicate winds and strings. This is followed by another loving pas de deux for Joaquin and Teresa, who are joined by the town folk [08:53] as the music swells to a momentous romantic conclusion. Then last but not least there's a brief resplendent, film-credit-like epilogue [D-2, T-12] with final reminders of HM [00:08] and AM [01:26].
Dominguez wears two hats here as composer and conductor leading the Santiago Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) in a supercharged performance of this compelling work. What the SPO musicians may lack in technical polish they make up for with their enthusiasm for this music.
Made in the Teatro Municipal's Arrau Hall, Santiago, Chile, the recording presents a large soundstage appropriate to the massive orchestral forces called for in Dominguez' Technicolor scoring. The surrounding venue perfectly complements this colorful creation. The instrumental timbre is characterized by sparkling highs and a pleasing midrange. While a boisterous battery of percussion makes for a spectacular, transient low end. Audiophiles will have a field day with this disc!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160630)
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Elgar: Pno Qnt (orch Fraser), Sea Pictures (arr chorus & stgs Fraser); Woods/Eng SO/Rodolf C & Eng ChO [Avie]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
The two selections on this recent release from Avie Records are at the same time old and new! Old, considering they were written by English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) between 1897 and 1919. And new in the sense they're different arrangements done in recent years by Elgar's compatriot and great admirer Donald Fraser (b. 1947). These are the only recordings of them as they appear here currently available on disc.
The program opens with his orchestration of Sir Edward's only piano quintet from 1918. Donald says (see album notes) it was inspired by a 1997 CD on which Peter Donahoe and the Maggini Quartet performed the work with what Fraser describes as a sense of "orchestra". He goes on to add that Elgar's massive scoring (1921-2) of J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) Fantasy and Fugue in C minor (BWV 537, 1708-17) served as a guide.
Apparently World War I (1914-8) and the changes it brought throughout Europe had a lasting emotional impact on Sir Edward. This would seem to be reflected in the overall pathos pervading all three movements of his quintet.
First off [T-1] we get a melancholy introduction (MI) [00:01] that's followed by a bold martial theme (BM) [01:24] and lighter dancelike one (LD) [02:18]. They undergo a poignant development [03:12], which waxes [05:57] into a feverish, belligerent climax [08:31]. This wanes with the return of LD [09:33], a subdued BM [11:03], and passages alluding to MI [11:45]. The last are spiked with a fateful, repeated three-note riff [12:35], and end the movement darkly.
The heartrending >adagio [T-2] is the work's emotional center of gravity. A sense of nostalgic Edwardian anguish characterize the opening theme (EA) [00:01] that suffuses this movement.
While there are wisps of hope [02:43], it's predominantly sorrowful with an overwhelming central outburst [06:25] recalling distraught moments in the Enigma Variations (1898-9) and symphonies (1907-34; see 15 March 2008). This gives way to the reappearance of EA in a more positive light [07:20], concluding the movement on a tranquil, comparatively optimistic note.
As for the finale [T-3], it begins with passive hints of MI [00:01] that become excited, and are followed by a dramatic pause. Then we get one of those stirring, stately Elgarian themes (SS) [00:39] that's marked "con dignità, cantabile" ("with singing dignity"). Somewhat in the ballpark with the later symphonies of Brahms (1833-1897) and Dvorak (1841-1904), it's succeeded by a buoyant angular countersubject (BA) [02:35] that's cleverly explored.
After that MI makes a pronounced return [04:51] followed by memories of LD [05:59] and BM [07:04]. These bring back SS [08:16], which in this brilliantly scored version of the quintet is the gunpowder for an explosive ending. It brings the work to a rousing conclusion that ranks with Elgar's most moving.
In 1899 Sir Edward completed his symphonic song cycle Sea Pictures for the great British contralto, Dame Clara Butt (1872-1936). A set of five English poems (see album notes for texts), it's done here in Fraser's arrangement for chorus and strings. He tells us English landscape artist J.M.W. Turner's (1775-1851) sea-related pictures frequently came to mind while working on this. He goes on to say his instrumentation is modelled after Elgar's ever popular string thing entitled Introduction and Allegro (1904-5).
The opening selection is a setting of Roden Noel's (1834-1894) "Sea Slumber Song" [T-4]. It gets the cycle off to a hushed start invoking images of a mighty, but at the moment peaceful ocean.
Edward's wife, English author Lady Caroline Alice Elgar (1848-1920), is represented next by "In Haven (Capri)" [T-5]. It contrasts the changeable, storm-swept sea with the constancy of love, claiming "Love alone will stand", "…last", and "…stay".
Then there's Elizabeth Barrett Browning's (1806-1861) "Sabbath Morning at Sea" [T-6]. This is a dramatic prayerful number with a sublime ending that harbors one of the composer's knockout melodies.[04:12]. It's quite different from the wistful "Where Corals Lie" [T-7] of Richard Garnett (1835-1906), which is a paean to man's adventurousness.
Closing the cycle we get Adam Lindsay Gordon's (1833-1870) "The Swimmer" [T-8] that's a spirited offering with a terrific recurring Elgarian motif (TR) [00:09-00:17]. The poem begins describing some colorful, Turneresque (see above) seascapes, and ends with the poet transported in his imagination "over the bounding main". TR makes a final appearance [04:41], bringing these pictures to a magnificent conclusion.
Conductor Kenneth Woods delivers superb accounts of both works. In the first he leads the English Symphony Orchestra, while the other has him with the Rodolfus Choir and English Chamber orchestra.
Recorded a couple of years apart and at different locations, the song cycle was made in 2013 at one of the four Abbey Road Studios (not further identified) in London. The sonic image presented is wide, deep and in cavernous surroundings. It's characterized by bright highs with a bit of grain in the chorus, a lucid midrange, and nominal, clean base. There are some occasional thumps here and in the companion piece presumably occasioned by an animated Maestro Woods on timpanic podiums.
The quintet was taped in 2015 at Birmingham University's Elgar Concert Hall. The soundstage and venue are very similar to those on the previous selection. As for the instrumental timbre, the highs come off somewhat brighter, while the mids stay about the same. Scored for much larger orchestral forces, the bass is more robust, but remains clean.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160629)
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Godard, B.: Sym gothique, Sym 2, Trois Morceaux (3, orch); Reiland/MunR O [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
From the structural standpoint French composer Benjamin Godard's (1849-1895) seven completed orchestral works with the name "Symphonie" are a varied lot. They include a couple of classically oriented student efforts written prior to 1865, one of which is lost, and the other not currently recorded.
Then there are two for soloists, chorus and orchestra known as the Symphonie dramatique - La Tasse (1877) and Symphonie légendaire (1880-5), neither as of this writing available on disc. These along with the Symphonie orientale (1883, see 7 October 2011) are in five movements and more like suites.
That also holds for the Symphonie gothique (1874) included here. It's paired with Godard's only numbered Symphony No. 2 of 1879, which is conventionally structured. This is the only recording of them as well as the accompanying short orchestral selection currently available on disc.
The second symphony opens with a classic sonata form allegretto [T-1], which presents two themes that are respectively aspiring (A1) and relaxed (R2). These undergo a chromatically searching development leading to a recap initiated by a forceful version of A1 [05:23]. A reference to R2 soon follows, and then a glorious A1-derived coda [07:56] ends the movement joyously.
Next we get a lento [T-2] theme and variations, which begins with the pensive main subject played by the winds (PM). It's followed by the first of seven variants where PM appears in the strings. The succeeding five variations are sequentially avian, hymnlike, piquant, demure and roiled. The final seventh is a pastoral offering that concludes this section with affectionate PM-related afterthoughts.
Then there's a scherzo marked vivace [T-3], in which a bubbly ditty reminiscent of Saint-Saëns (1835-1921; see 31 July 2012) alternates with a reverent trio tune. This movement is a brief diversion before the concluding allegro [T-4] that's once again in sonata form.
The latter starts with a jumpy quixotic idea (JQ) and an attractive flowing countermelody. The opening statement is then repeated, after which there's a colorful development [04:56] and dynamic recap [06:51]. Finally JQ is worked into a boisterous coda [07:47], ending the symphony triumphantly.
Filling out this disc we have Trois morceaux (Three Pieces). These were written in 1879 as solo piano works (Op. 51; not currently available on disc), and orchestrated the following year (1880). The first "Marche funèbre" [T-5] is more of an effectively scored, grieving tone miniature than a funeral march. It reflects the occasion for its premiere, which was a Good Friday concert of sacred music that took place in 1881.
"Brésilienne" [T-6] is a delightful light interlude with three catchy Latin-tinted themes that are deftly juggled. The final "Kermesse" ("Fair") [T-7] opens with two of the composer's best melodies. The first is a graceful waltz for strings (GW) and the second a martial brass outburst (MB). They're succeeded by the reappearance of GW, and a new laid-back Eastern-sounding idea (LE).
MB and LE are repeated, after which there's a GW-related waltz episode [04:04] followed by a brief pause. Then we get some commanding carnival-like fanfares [06:07]. These transition into a big tune repeat of GW [07:29] that concludes the piece propitiously.
In 1874 Godard completed his Symphonie gothique, which he dedicated to Saint-Saëns. The title brings to mind Léon Boëllmann's (1862-1897; see 27 August 2012) Suite gothique (1895), and Charles-Marie Widor's (1844-1937) Symphonie gothique (No. 9, Op.70; 1895), which are meant to invoke images of Gothic cathedrals. But that's not true of Benjamin's work where "gothique" refers to his use of musical concepts dating from Medieval and Renaissance times.
The first of its five movements is a towering "maestoso" ("majestic") [T-8] that begins with an imposing modal brass pronouncement (IM) à la Giovanni Gabrieli (1555-1612). A delicate counterstatement follows in the winds and strings, after which IM returns ending the movement full circle.
The next andantino [T-9] is an easygoing ternary A-B-A, pastoral dance for the winds, while the succeeding grave [T-10] is another modal offering. The longest movement here, there's a Teutonic, canonic reverence about it, recalling Brahms' (1833-1897) sacred works.
It's offset by a petite presto [T-11] that's a featherlight tarantella, after which we get the closing allegro [T-12]. This opens with an angular assertive idea (AA) that's linked to a flighty afterthought and then repeated. It's followed by a fetching folkish dance [02:03] that bridges back to AA, ending the symphony in much the same mood it began.
Belgian conductor David Reiland and the Munich Radio Orchestra give excellent accounts of these Godard rarities. Their attention to dynamics, phrasing and rhythmic detail bring out all the intricacies of these attractively scored works. Music that in lesser hands might come off as ordinary fare becomes a memorable listening experience.
These recordings were a coproduction of CPO and Bavarian Radio (BR) made in 2015 at BR's Studio 1, Munich. They project a lifelike sonic image in an accommodating pleasantly reverberant venue. The instrumental timbre is generally acceptable. While there's a hint of digital grain in the upper end, the mids are clearly focused, and Godard's elegant scoring gives rise to a lean bass end that's perfectly captured.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160628)
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Radecke, R.: Sym in F; Shakespeare's King John Ov, 2 Scherzi, Nachtstück; Zehnder/BielSoloth SO [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
German composer Robert Radecke (1830-1911) was a contemporary of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921; see 31 July 2012), Max Bruch (1838-1920) and Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900, see 12 August 2014). Having studied at the Leipzig Conservatory between 1848 and 1850, he initially pursued a career there from 1850 to 1853 as a violinist, pianist and organist.
Then after a year of military service Robert moved to Berlin, where he gained a reputation as a prominent conductor. Although he was offered subsequent posts in Hamburg, Barcelona and New York, he chose to remain there. Then at age seventy-seven (1907) he retired to scenic Wernigerode on the northern slopes of the Harz Mountains, where he'd live out the rest of his life.
Radecke would produce almost two hundred works in a variety of genres. These include some significant orchestral pieces, four of which appear here. They're the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
In the mid-1590s Shakespeare (c. 1564-1616) wrote a history play dramatizing the reign of England's King John (1166-1216), who as legend would have it was also Robin Hood's nemesis. This inspired the opening selection titled Overture to Shakespeare's King John [T-1], which was written for large orchestra in 1859.
A stand-alone piece having no operatic associations, it comes off more like a tone poem, and has an ominous, troubled introduction [00:01] hinting at a tragic main theme (TM) yet to come. The agitated episode (AE) [03:13] that follows gives us an excited idea (EI) [03:50] smacking of Robert Schumann (1810-1856), whom Radecke knew back in 1851.
It's succeeded by a full statement of TM [04:30], which along with EI is food for a dramatic development. After that AE is recapped [07:16], and TM [08:25] initiates a final coda, bringing the overture to a thrilling conclusion.
The year 1863 saw the composer write the first movement of a symphony he never completed, and it would be fourteen years before he'd attempt another! This was his four-movement Symphony in F major of 1877, which is next.
The initial allegro [T-2] is in classic sonata form. It begins with a cheerful meandering theme (CM) [00:01], which apparently came to him some twenty-five years earlier during a hiking trip through Switzerland. It's succeeded by a CM-related, relaxed melody (CR) [01:24], and the two are repeated.
Then there's an animated development [04:28] followed by a recap of CM [07:51] and CR [09:22]. The latter introduces an exultant coda [10:13], which ends the movement joyfully with flashes of CM [10:36] and CR [10:48].
The scherzo [T-3] opens with a scurrying, whimsical theme (SW) [00:01] recalling Puckish moments in Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). SW-based passages surround a lovely melodic trio [02:20-03:58], and bring this section to a capricious conclusion.
The slow movement [T-4] introduces a leisurely melancholy melody (LM) [00:01] with some enriching horn passages. LM then undergoes an extensive exploration [02:33] that reaches an impassioned climax. This falls away with the return of LM [05:09], and the music ends tranquilly.
Another sonata form allegro closes the symphony [T-5], and begins with a winsome angular tune (WA) [00:04] à la Schumann and an LM-related, reflective motif (LR) [00:44]. They're developed in spirited fashion, triumphantly recapped [03:19], and whipped into an ecstatic coda [04:54] that brings the symphony to a punchy conclusion.
Jumping ahead thirteen years to 1890 we have one of Robert's last works for large orchestra, Nachtstück (Night Piece) [T-6]. At about ten minutes, this would seem to be program music, but there's no indication of any underlying story. Accordingly we'll make one up in hopes of giving you a better idea as to how it sounds.
The work opens with slow, dark descending passages suggesting nightfall. Then the pace quickens [02:39] depicting what might well be a "Witches' Sabbath" (see 31 March 2016). Going on that premise, the diabolical [02:30] and righteous [03:25] themes that follow could represent evil forces as opposed to good.
The two are developmentally tossed about with the latter finally prevailing. Then the work concludes serenely with what could be a cock crowing [09:03], and the dawn of a new day putting an end to all the preceding nocturnal deviltry.
This CD closes with Zwei Scherzi für Orchester (Two Scherzos for Orchestra), which chronologically speaking is a mixed bag. Moreover, "Scherzo I" probably dates from around 1880, while "Scherzo II" harkens back to 1855 when it appeared in Radecke's Symphony in D minor of that year.
The former [T-7] being a much later effort is understandably more progressive, and somewhat portends the scherzo from Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Pathetique Symphony (No. 6, 1888). Here Radecke alternates a flighty binary theme [00:01] with a rustic dancelike ditty [02:36], and ends the piece with a joyful new number [05:01] that's the best yet.
As for the other scherzo [T-8], it opens with a twitchy tune [00:01] followed by a folk-song-like melody [00:39] that's explored. The two then alternate in an increasingly frenetic passage that ends the work stolidly.
The Swiss Biel/Bienne Symphony Orchestra under principal conductor Kaspar Zehnder give us enthusiastic performances of these scores, making a strong case for Radecke's music. While their playing may not be on a level with the Geneva-based Orchestra of the Suisse Romande (see 14 July 2014) some 130 miles to the southwest, with repertoire this rare we're lucky to have what's here!
Made a year ago in the Calvin House Church, Biel/Bienne, the recordings project a generous soundstage in pleasantly reverberant surroundings. The instrumental timbre is characterized by somewhat steely highs, while the midrange and bass are ideal. This disc would have gotten an audiophile rating had the upper end been more natural sounding.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160627)
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Weinberger: 6 Bohemian...(orch), Ov to…, Passacaglia (org & orch); Strodthoff/Albrecht/BerGer SO [Capriccio]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
If there was ever a "one-work" composer, it would have to be Jaromír Weinberger (1896-1967, the piece in question being the polka from his first opera Švanda dudák (Schwanda the Bagpiper, 1926). It's another of those ever popular tunes familiar to all, but no one remembers who wrote it. This new Capriccio release may help change that!
Born in Prague to Jewish parents, he began his musical studies at the local conservatory, where his teachers included Vítezslav Novák (1870-1949). Then after graduation he was accepted into Max Reger's (1873-1916) master classes at the Leipzig Conservatory. But he only studied with him briefly as Max died of a sudden heart attack six months later. However, Weinberger always claimed the technical instruction he received was the most important he ever got.
Then in 1922 he moved to America, where he became a professor of composition at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. But he missed Europe, and in 1926 returned to what was then Czechoslovakia. This was the year that saw the completion of Švanda..., which would become one of the most popular operas to appear in the years leading up to World War II (1933-9). It would also make him a wealthy man, and in 1929 he moved to the Austrian resort town of Baden some twenty-five miles southwest of Vienna.
He'd write several other stage works over the next few years, but none of them met with the success of his first. This was due in no small part to the rise of Nazism, which with its anti-Semitic policies made it increasingly difficult for him to get his music performed. And by 1938 the political situation in Austria had deteriorated to the point where he fled via France and England back to the United States.
His first few years in America were extremely successful, and he became a US citizen in 1948. However, Weinberger had a history of bipolar disorder, and he became increasingly depressed as the years went by. Then in the summer of 1967 he took a fatal dose of sleeping pills.
Jaromír wrote around a hundred works, many of which are orchestral pieces. Three of the latter fill this release, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The program opens with his Ouvertüre zu einem ritterlichen Spiel (Overture to a Chivalrous Play, 1931) [T-1]. While no further details are given as to what stage work this might have been for, the composer tells us it's about Czech nobleman and writer Nicholas Dacický (1555-1626). He had a reputation as a great swordsman and playboy, who loved wine, women and song. All these characteristics are thematically reflected in this engaging piece.
The bodacious opening conveys a sense of droll gallantry, while the following romantic idea presumably represents Nicholas' amorous pursuits. Then there's a madcap episode suggesting a booze-induced state of mind where he thinks himself an invincible hero. This ends the overture with the same tongue in cheek spirit that characterized its beginning.
Lasting almost half an hour, the next selection titled Sechs Böhemische Lieder und Tänze (Six Bohemian Songs and Dances, 1929) is a singular Weinberger creation that's a suite, which starts off like a violin concerto. To wit, the first "Andante rubato" ("Slow and lithe") [T-2] is a romantic rhapsodic offering with soaring violin passages. Then the soloist goes out for a Pilsner Urquell, leaving the orchestra to play the remaining five numbers.
The charming "Andantino" [T-3] that's next brings to mind music south of the border down Budapest way, namely Brahms' (1833-1897) Hungarian Dances (1868-1880). It's succeeded by a fetching "Con moto" ("Sprightly") piece [T-4] reminiscent of the dances in Smetana's (1824-1884) The Bartered Bride (1863-1870).
Then there's an "Allegretto" [T-5] with outer waltzlike sections based on a Czech farmyard, folk song melody. They surround a moving wistful trio [01:47-02:36] that adds a touch of nostalgia to the proceedings.
A penultimate "Vivo" ("Lively") [T-6] pays homage to Dvorák (1841-1904), after which the suite ends with another "Con moto" ("Sprightly") [T-7]. Featuring winds and brass, it recalls those itinerant Bohemian folk bands that once serenaded local villages on festive occasions.
This significant disc of discovery concludes on a more serious note with a 1931 work for organ and orchestra simply entitled Passacaglia. Despite the scoring, it's not a concerto, and the participants remain well integrated throughout the entire piece. In that regard the organ makes only a couple of short, unassuming solo appearances.
In four movements the opening one is a thrilling "Intrada" ("Introduction") [T-8] that begins with pounding drums and wind flourishes [00:00]. These give way to a commanding six-note brass motif (CS) [00:06] that brings to mind the opening of Leoš Janácek's (1854-1928) Sinfonietta (1926).
Next there's a "Choral" [T-9] based on a CS-derived, reverent two-part melody (CR) [00:00 and 01:01]. Then we get the "Passacaglia" [T-10], which is based on a CS-related expansive subject (CE) [00:01] that starts quietly in the depths of the orchestra. CE is picked up next by the higher instruments along with the organ. The music then makes a dramatic ascent, comes to a thrilling climax, and fades away ending the movement much like it began.
The piece closes with a consummate fugue [T-11], which shows Jaromír's short time with Max was well spent. This begins in the strings with a CE-associated flighty subject (CF) [00:01] that's skillfully manipulated and followed by an imposing variant of CR (IC) [01:17]. Then CF and IC are worked into a magniloquent finale with increasingly urgent reminders of CS [beginning at 03:12]. It concludes this disc on a triumphant note that may bring to mind Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Festive Prelude (1913) for organ and orchestra.
These groundbreaking performances serve as a memorial to two fine German musicians who died in just the past couple of years, namely conductor Gerd Albrecht and organist Jörg Strodthoff. Maestro Albrecht gets superb playing from the Berlin German Symphony Orchestra. As for Herr Strodthoff, despite his instrument's subservient role in Passacaglia, he distinguishes himself in those brief solo passages.
Made between 2000 and 2002 in one of the Germany's legendary recording venues, the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, these recordings present a wide detailed soundstage of considerable depth in enveloping reverberant surroundings. The instrumental timbre is characterized by vivid highs, a pleasing midrange, and sparse bass reflecting the composer's reserved scoring. Audiophiles preferring a wetter sound, and having systems favoring the lower end will like this release.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160626)
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