CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 AUGUST 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.
Butterworth, G.: Orch Fant (rlz), Shropshire Songs (6 w orch), Love…, etc; Rutherford/Russman/BBCWalNa [BIS (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
World War I (1914-8) cast a long shadow over Europe's classical music community! That was never more apparent than in the loss of English composer George Butterworth (1885-1916), who enlisted in the British Army, and was killed during the Battle of the Somme (1916). This new BIS hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), release of his music makes Lt. Butterworth's untimely demise all the more tragic as there are hints of great things to come.
The disc offers five symphonic works, some of which would become English Chestnuts, and two sets of songs with orchestral accompaniment. As presented here, three of these selections are world premiere recordings indicated by "WPR" after their titles.
Young George got involved in many aspects of music at Eton, and became increasingly preoccupied with it during his years at Trinity College, Oxford (1904-10). His activities there would include piano concertizing, singing, composing and conducting.
During the summers he and a couple of his pals, one being Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958; see 25 February 2013), would tramp around the countryside collecting folk songs. These flavor all of his music, and pervade those chestnuts mentioned above, the first being his ever popular Idyll: "The Banks of Green Willow" (1913) [T-1].
This opens with a folk melody played by clarinet and strings [00:02] that comes from the ballad referenced in the title. It's followed by another lovely tune featuring the oboe that’s lifted from a song known as "Green Bushes" [00:56], which George ran across in 1907 with fellow folk enthusiast Percy Grainger (1882-1961, See 20 June 2013). Then the flute delivers a third headstrong theme that's all Butterworth [01:08]. After that the three are deftly combined and developed with the piece quietly drifting into Britannic oblivion.
English classical scholar A. E. Housman's (1859-1936) sixty-three poems known collectively as A Shropshire Lad (1896) are a poignant portrayal of British rural life and wartime losses around the turn of the nineteenth century. They inspired songs by over thirty composers, including Butterworth, who would come up with a couple of related cycles for baritone and piano.
The composer followed the first of these (see Six Songs from a "Shropshire Lad" below) with an orchestral epilogue titled Rhapsody: "A Shropshire Lad" (1911), which is the next chestnut [T-8]. It’s based on the folklike thematic material found in the cycle’s first song, "Loveliest of Trees" [T-2], and begins peacefully. The music then builds to a couple of dramatic climaxes, and ends in a state of celestial bliss somewhat along the lines of the opening.
The remaining chestnut is Two English Idylls of 1910). This was George's first orchestral effort, and is based on additional folk material collected in 1907. The initial "Allegro scherzando" [T-9] is a spunky dancelike offering that borrows melodies from three Sussex ditties. After that there’s an impressionistic "Adagio non troppo" [T-10] featuring the tune for a Scottish ballad called "Fair Phoebe and the Dark-Eyed Sailor". which Ralph also copped for a couple of his pieces.
Turning to the less familiar works here, we have conductor Kriss Russman's string orchestra arrangement (WPR) of Butterworth's Suite for String Quartette [sic]. Possibly a student piece written around 1910, there are five movements, starting with a youthful, rhythmically antsy sonata form andante [T-11].
That's succeeded by an even more animated, wee scherzo [T-12] and fizzy allegro" [T-13]. Then the skies become overcast in a melancholy molto moderato ed espressivo [T-14], which is the work's emotional center of gravity. The whimsical first part of the final moderato [T-15] offers a brief respite, but clouds gradually return, ending the suite darkly.
The composer went to war in 1914 leaving an unfinished manuscript bearing the title "Orchestral Fantasia". It's the basis for Russman's 2014 realization of the work presented here (WPR) [T-19]. This Butterworth fragment is somewhat impressionistic with the most extended theme he ever penned (ME) [00:57], and scored for larger forces than anything he’d written.
Despite a disarming folklike patina, there's an overall sophistication, cohesiveness and dramatic intensity anticipating one of the more introspective movements in his good friend Vaughan Williams' later symphonies. Consequently, it represents a significant stylistic advance over all of his previous works.
A little over halfway through we hear a martial trumpet call (MT) [05:26], which is repeated [05:48] and soon followed by a distraught episode that seems war related. Then as the music wanes, ME returns [07:30] succeeded by a muted MT [08:10] that initiates a wistful restrained conclusion. This leaves the listener hanging, and may be meant to reflect the uncertainty as to the war's outcome back in 1914.
Turning to the vocal selections on this disc, we come to Housman's poems mentioned above, and Butterworth's Six Songs from a "Shropshire Lad" (1911; see Rhapsody: "A Shropshire Lad" above.) This is an orchestrated version recently done by Russman (2015, WPR; see the album for texts), and does not include any of the songs in the companion cycle known as Bredon Hill and Other Songs (1912).
The first "Loveliest of Trees" [T-2] is a contemplation of blooming cherry trees and early manhood, while the sassy "When I was one-and-twenty" [T-3] relates the vicissitudes of love at that age. As for "Look not in my eyes" [T-4], it has a melodic glow, and contrasts the impermanence of youth with ever dependable spring flowers.
After that we get a capricious "Think no more, lad" [T-5], which presumably addresses young soldiers, advising them to "cele" rather than cerebrate. Then there’s "The lads in their hundreds" [T-6] that’s a paean to those who’ll never return from the war.
The work concludes with an alternately introverted and demonstrative "Is my team ploughing?" [T-7]. Here Housman conjures up a fallen youth, who recalls his home and sweetheart.
Another cycle titled Love Blows as the Wind Blows started out as four songs for baritone and string quartet (1912) based on selections from English poet Wilfred Ernest Henley's (1849-1903) A Book of Verse (published 1888). Then in 1914 the composer decided to orchestrate three of them, giving us the version included here (see the album for texts).
The tuneful "In the year that's come and gone" [T-16] recounts a devoted couple's past year of love, and their readiness for the next no matter what it may bring. On the other hand, there's an engaging whimsicality about "Life in her creaking shoes" [T-17], which concerns the unpredictability of love.
In the final, gently swaying "On the way to Kew" [T-18] a lover remembers his old flame as he journeys along the River Thames through the London Borough of Richmond to the suburb mentioned in the title. It ends the cycle with a touch of nostalgia.
Baritone James Rutherford's authoritative account of the two cycles will appeal to those liking an operatic treatment of them. However, those preferring a more lyrical, folk-oriented delivery of these guileless, heart-felt songs may find his vibrato a little off-putting.
He receives excellent support from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under British composer-conductor Russman. They go on to give the best modern day performances of those chestnuts, and their rendition of that fantasy is a real teaser for what Butterworth might have gone on to write.
Made last year in association with BBC Radio at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales, the recordings find BIS in top form. Each of the stereo tracks project a wide deep sonic image in reverberant surroundings. The multichannel one will give you an orchestra center seat.
The instrumental timbre is very natural with bright pleasant highs that are even more convincing on the SACD tracks. All three play modes are characterized by a natural midrange, and with Butterworth's conservative scoring, lean, clean bass.
The soloist is well captured and balanced in the stereo modes. However, depending on your system settings, he may come across as more distant, and a bit to the left in multichannel. Despite that, those with home theater systems will probably find this mode the most appealing. In any case there's something here for all lovers of English romantic music, and every audiophile.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160831)
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Herzogenberg, H. von: Stg Qts Op 42 (3); Brahms: Stg Qt 1; Minguet Qt [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (2 CDs)
CPO has released a number of discs devoted to Austrian-born composer Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900, see 12 August 2014). Now they give us more of his chamber music (see 30 April 2008), namely his three Op. 42 string quartets. He idolized and was strongly influenced by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), whose first quartet is consequently an appropriate choice to fill out this double CD set.
The album annotator -- none other than "amusicologist" and pundit extraordinaire Eckhardt van den Hoogen (see 6 October 2014) -- tells us shortly after Heinrich completed his three, he wrote Johannes saying he'd inscribed each of them to him. Brahms replied by return mail, "...I do not know what pleases me more: the dedicated material or act of dedication." Incidentally, these are the only recordings of the last two currently available on disc. All of them, including the Brahms, are in four movements.
The first Op. 42 like its companions begins with an allegro [D-1, T-1]. This gets off to a jumpy start (JS) [00:00], hinting at a melancholy violin theme (MV) that soon appears [00:15]. MV is explored, and succeeded by a gorgeous retiring idea (GR) [01:45] of Brahmsian persuasion.
Then the opening statement is repeated [03:25], and followed by an extended development [06:43]. Here troubled JS-MV-derived passages alternate with soothing GR-related ones, the last of these being an MV-related, waltzlike episode [09:17]. This ends in a wistful GR-based coda [10:10] that concludes the movement dejectedly with final reminders of JS [12:00].
The andantino [D-1, T-2] is a theme with eight variations, and commences with an amorous main subject (AM) [00:00] that could be of German folk origin. AM is immediately followed by three variants, which are sequentially pining [02:20], hymnlike [03:25] and inquiring [04:32]. Then things turn more active with a perky fugato number [05:45] that becomes hesitant [06:28], and gives way to a confident sixth [07:18]. A coquettish seventh [08:12] and romantic, waltzlike eighth [09:53] end the movement in the same mood it began.
Love turns to reflection in the next allegro molto [D-1, T-3], which is a scherzo. This has unsettled passages alternating with retiring ones [01:26-03:10 & 03:54-05:02], and concludes with dying hints of the former.
Another allegro [D-1, T-4] closes this charming work. It's a jolly sonata-like offering that starts with a rustic, folklike ditty (RF) [00:00] offset by an introspective countersubject [01:10]. All this leads to a joyous outburst [02:01], adjoining a gleeful rocking passage [02:30].
Then all of the foregoing are explored [02:50], after which forceful, skittering RF-derived measures [05:55] introduce a frenzied recapitulative coda. This ends the quartet in thrilling fashion, and might have been even more effective had it been a little tighter. It would be interesting to know what Johannes might have thought!
Op. 42, No. 2 is of darker demeanor, and opens with an anguished allegro [D-1, T-5] with a weeping idea (WI) [00:00] reminiscent of Mendelssohn's more (1809-1847) mournful moments. WI is immediately followed by an agitated bridging adjunct (AB) [00:50] that will recur throughout the movement with rondo regularity. Then there's a sighing theme (ST) [01:23], after which AB pops up, introducing a development [05:09] of the foregoing.
This ends in yet another appearance of AB [08:34] and a condensed recap [09:05]. It closes with a WI-based, imitative coda [10:01], bringing the movement to a sullen denouement.
Grief turns to despair in the andante [D-1, T-6]>. Here sad outer passages with a mourning viola and cello accompanied by sobbing violins embrace a tearful episode [05:08-07:13].
The gloom is then somewhat offset by the next allegro [D-1, T-7]. This is a tenacious scherzo. in which spunky Mendelssonian measures surround a buoyant song-without-words trio [03:33-06:08].
Structurally the final allegro con brio [D-1, T-8] bears a resemblance to the first movement, and starts with a pious hymnlike tune (PH) [00:00], having a frenetic bridging extension (FB) [00:46]. It's succeeded by a delicate coy melody (DC) [01:24], and the foregoing are repeated in slightly varied form [02:16].
After that DC returns [04:00], first initiating an exploration of these ideas. Then it prefaces [06:07] another of those imitative codas [06:27] now based on PH. This brings the work to a jolly, smiling conclusion.
Turning to the album's other disc, we have the last Op. 42, which is the most folk-oriented and compact of the three. The initial allegro [D-2, T-1] starts with an innocent songful idea [00:00] (IS) that's toyed with. This gives way to an appealing dancelike tune (AD) [00:57], which is also manipulated.
A varied repeat of the opening [01:54] follows, after which IS introduces a dramatic development [03:51]. This leads to an AD-prefaced recap [06:01] and a brief dramatic pause. Then an explosive IS-based coda [07:41] ends the movement in a burst of joy.
The second movement like that in the first quartet is another andantino theme with variations [D-2, T-2]. Here the main subject is an amorous, pastoral melody (AP) [00:01] that could be out of a Schubert lied. It's followed by an antsy pizzicato-ornamented number [02:03], and a strumming variant [03:02]. Then there's a brief caesura, and the movement closes with a more romanticized, searching version of AP [04:03].
In the fetching scherzo [D-2, T-3], a catchy, rustic, two-part dance [00:01 & 00:49] surrounds a more formal one [02:13-03:21]. This prepares the way for a final vivace [D-2, T-4], which may well be meant to characterize a local village festival. It features a lively peasant dance (LP) [00:00] with delightful pizzicato-spicing and hints of local bagpipers [00:47]. LP is then repeated and explored concluding the work in tipsy merriment.
As a complementary filler there's the first of Brahms' two Op. 51 string quartets (1865-73), which would be his initial effort in the genre, and like his Symphony No. 1 (1855-76), long in the making. Incidentally, it would be followed by two more.
As far as quartets go, this time-honored favorite is familiar to all romantic chamber music enthusiasts. Accordingly, we won't waste space getting into a detailed analysis, but only comment on its relationship to Herzogenberg's efforts.
That said, it comes closest in temperament to Op. 41 No. 2, yet there's a depth and sophistication, which would seem to explain the Brahms’ lasting popularity. Johannes’ opening allegro [D-2, T-5] is an agitated troubled offering that ends on a slightly more hopeful note than Heinrich's [D-1, T-5].
The slow movement is a "Romanze" [D-2, T-6] based on a lovely melancholy melody. It’s more rhapsodic than Herzogenberg’s andantino [D-1, T-6], while the next allegretto… [D-2, T-7] is a forlorn and lachrymose scherzo compared to that in Heinrich's [D-1, T-7].
Brahms ends with an allegro [D-2, T-8], which is even more distraught and anxiety-ridden than his opening one. On the other hand, Herzogenberg concludes with a sublime confident movement [D-1, T-8] that many may find the zenith of this album.
Spanish author-musician Pablo Minguet (c. 1733-1801) sought in his writings to make every aspect of the fine arts known to all his countrymen regardless of their class. Our performers pride themselves on doing the same for little-known 19-20th century string quartets, and have accordingly taken his name.
Despite a couple of intonational queasy spots the Minguet Quartet certainly lives up to its name, delivering what as of this writing are definitive accounts of Herzogenberg’s little-known ones. Those who haven't done so might want to investigate their 2009-10 releases of his Op. 18 (c. 1875) and 63 (c. 1890).
As for the Brahms, their rendition is very good. However, with some sixty recordings of it currently available on disc, theirs is not the current favorite.
A coproduction of CPO and Southwest German Radio (SWR), the recordings were made on three occasions between 2009 and 2013 in SWR's chamber music studio, Stuttgart. They sound very consistent, and project a wide soundstage with the four instruments well placed and balanced across it. This must be a large space as there's an enriching sense of reverberation.
The string tone is quite natural with a couple of bright spots in upper forte violin passages, and a consistently lovely midrange. The bass is well controlled with no hint of boominess in the cello's lower registers.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160830)
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Krehl: Stg Qt, Cl Qnt; Kim/Larchmere Qt [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
German-born Stephan Krehl (1864-1924) studied in Dresden, and then his home town of Leipzig at what are now known as the Carl Maria von Weber College of Music and University of Theater and Music. The latter was founded as the Leipzig Conservatory (LC) in 1843 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), and Stephan's instructors there included the renowned German pianist-composer Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902; see 21 December 2012).
Krehl was given a teaching position there in 1902, and remained on the faculty for the rest of his life. He's best remembered as one of that institution's most distinguished pedagogues, and in his later years would even become its acting director.
All these academic pursuits apparently left him little time for composition, considering he left such a small number of works. They include about thirty chamber pieces, two of which dating from around 1900 appear here. These are the only recent recordings of them currently available on disc.
The program begins with his sole string quartet of 1899. In four movements, the initial sonata form allegro [T-1] starts with an innocent songful idea (IS) [00:01] followed by an agitated dancelike countersubject (AD) [00:46]. The two are repeated in slightly more lyrical form [01:14], and undergo a development [02:32] that includes a wistful rhapsodic episode [05:13] spiced with arresting pizzicato [06:35 & 06:44].
Then a couple of transitional measures [06:56] bridge into the return of IS [06:58], announcing the recapitulation. This concludes with an IS-AD-based coda that ends the movement tranquilly.
The lento [T-2] begins with a bereft cello playing a sad weeping theme (SW) [00:00] to a tear drop pizzicato accompaniment. The other instruments soon join the lament, but the mood momentarily brightens with an airy minuet-like episode [03:02-04:33]. However, grief-stricken passages then bring recollections of IS [06:17] that end the movement in the same spirit it began.
We get a complete change of pace with the next vivace [T-3]. It's a scherzo having scampering Mendelssohnian outer sections that surround a pining trio [02:11-03:35]. The opening one has hints of bagpipes [01:27 & 01:34], and the last brings the music to a cheerful close.
Like the last movement of Brahms' (1833-1897) Fourth Symphony (1884-5), Khiel's final moderato [T-4] is a passacaglia. The cello states the dark main idea (DM) [00:00], and then Krehl launches into a surfeit of fleeting variations too numerous to mention.
Suffice it to say they range from fugato-based [00:13] to bustling [01:02], amorous [01:15], excited [01:27], pleading [01:53], reverent [02:11] and sinister [04:27]. Towards the end there's even a shivering variant [05:59] as well as a case of the hiccups [06:11]. Then DM returns [06:49], concluding the quartet pensively and with tragic finality [07:18].
Stephan's Clarinet Quintet dating from around 1902 seems to have been inspired by that of Brahms' from eleven years earlier (1891), and is also in four movements. As with the previous work, the opening movement marked moderato [T-5] is in sonata form, and shows the composer's propensity for song-and-dance thematic subjects. Moreover, we first hear the soloist playing a lilting lullaby (LL) [00:00] with an embracing accompaniment. This is adjoined to a lightfooted melody (LM) [00:45] and a third waltz number (WN) [01:18].
An exploratory bridge leads to a repeat of the foregoing [02:36], and a gorgeous, LL-prefaced development [05:15], exploiting the clarinet's liquid lower registers. Then LL takes a final recapitulative bow [06:37] along with the other themes, and LM initiates a mellow coda [08:41] with a final melancholy memory of LL [09:28].
The lento [T-6] begins as a lament for sobbing strings and a keening clarinet. The music then turns more optimistic [02:28], but doom and gloom return [03:50], bringing the movement to an anguished conclusion.
This is offset by the next allegretto grazioso (Joyful but Graceful) [T-7] that's a theme and variations, which begins with a fetching, folk-sounding main subject (FF) [00:00]. It's followed by a skittering variant reminiscent of Mendelssohn [00:58], and four more that are respectively rhapsodic [01:32], morose [02:10], frenzied [02:27], and cavatina-like [03:29]. After that FF returns [03:52], only to be briefly interrupted by a bustling interjection [04:06-04:17], and then ends the movement gracefully.
Krehl seems to have been particularly fond of the theme and variation form as he concludes this quintet with another one [T-8]. It's bracketed by a brief Einleitung (Introduction) [T-5], and Schluss (Closing), where the former [00:00] hints at the main subject soon to follow. This is a quaint folksy theme (QF) [00:59] succeeded by eight variations, the first of which is a cello embellished version of QF [01:45].
Then there are a couple of faster variants [02:27 & 03:31], two somewhat pensive, graceful ones [04:19 & 05:52], a captivating berceuse [06:38] and a pair of troubled, searching mutations [08:21 & 09:10]. The latter transition into the above mentioned Schluss [10:45], which ends the quintet with a last reminder of QF [10:56] and final exclamatory chord.
This disc will introduce CLOFO readers to some young, up-and-coming artists. First there's the all-woman Larchmere Quartet (LQ), which is currently in-residence at the University of Evansville, Evansville, Indiana. They take pride in offering innovative programs such as the one here, and Krehl couldn't have better advocates.
That's not to downplay highly acclaimed, Korean-born, American-trained clarinetist Wonkak Kim’s sensitive reading of the quintet. His phrasing and tone are second to none, thereby making the most of some music whose delicate appeal could easily be lost.
These recordings were made last year in the University's Wheeler Concert Hall. The LQ is ideally spread across a generous soundstage in warm suitably reverberant surroundings with the clarinet positioned front-and-center for the quintet. The strings are natural sounding with an occasional upper zing, while the clarinet is perfectly captured and balanced against them. Chamber music enthusiasts will find this demonstration quality CD most enjoyable.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160829)
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Loewe, F. (Lerner & Loewe): Paint Your Wagon (cpte music); Soloists/Bruni/NYCC Encores! C&O [Sony]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Mention "Lerner & Loewe" (L&L) and everybody immediately thinks of what some claim to be the greatest musical of all time, My Fair Lady (1956). Song for song that's arguable. However, in retrospect, having heard this recent studio recording of the music from their original Paint Your Wagon (1951), many may find it a close second.
Ivy Leaguers figured heavily in the world of musical theater, namely "Yalie" Cole Porter (1891-1964) of Kiss Me Kate (1948) fame, Columbia graduate Richard Rodgers (1902-1979), who took us to the South Pacific (1949), and "Harvard Man" Alan Jay Lerner (1918-1986) represented on this disc. Here he gives us lyrics anticipating those urbane, naturally flowing ones in My Fair Lady.
And let's not downplay Frederick Loewe's (1901-1988) terrific music! German born and trained, he traveled to New York City (NYC) with his father in 1925, and soon decided to "crash Broadway". He then took a variety of jobs, barely scraping together enough to live on. These would include accompanying silent movies, and even delivering mail in rural Montana on horseback during the depression years (1929-41)!
Returning to NYC, he took up several pursuits that even included prize fighting. Then in 1942 he met Lerner at a famous NYC night spot frequented by theater people. And it's all history from there, their first big success being Brigadoon (1954).
This new Sony disc documents the New York City Center Encores! (NYCCE!) 2015 revival of Paint Your Wagon. A labor of love, the producers went back to the original 1951 handwritten scores to come up with the meticulous reconstruction recorded here.
The CD presents the show's songs and dances, many of which make their recording debut. The dialogue is minimal as the album notes tell about the show’s genesis, and include a brief plot synopsis. They also have most of the lyrics, but due to a printing error, those for one song and the first part of that following it [see T-21 & T-22 below] are missing.
The underlying story is based on the California Gold Rush (1848-1855), which started in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In two acts, it begins with a lively overture based on the musical’s many memorable tunes [T-1], and as the curtain goes up [T-2], we learn from miners Jake Whippany and Steve Bullnack that an “onery” old prospector named Ben Rumson has found gold at a location known as “Rumson Creek”. In the process a town has grown up around the site of his strike.
Steve, Jake, their miner buddies and lady friends then sing a rousing number with the lines "I'm On My Way" [00:30] and "Paint Your Wagon" [00:43] as they prepare to leave their girls for the gold in Them Thar Hills. The music is all the more colorful for some banjo embellishments.
After that Ben gives us a plucky, amusing history of "Rumson Town" [T-3]. In it we learn that at one point there were 400 men of all nationalities, lots of booze, and no women, except Ben's daughter Jennifer by his deceased wife Elisa. Jennifer then sings an antsy number with the catchy refrain, "What's Goin' On Here?" [T-4], where Lerner impishly depicts a naive girl surrounded by randy miners.
Then we're introduced to a handsome young miner named Julio Valveras, who's in love with Jennifer, but being Mexican, forced to live and work outside of Rumson. He sings a lovely ballad that starts out "I Talk to the Trees" [T-5]. It’s set to one of Frederick’s best melodies, and has an appropriate Latin beat.
Next there's a dance for Rumson Creek's lonely men [T-6], which is of Scottish descent, and harkens back to Brigadoon (see above). Then Steve and the miners deliver another L&L classic, "They Call the Wind Maria" [T-7], where "Maria" is sung as "Mah-rye-ah", which raises the question, why?
Apparently Lerner got the name out of American author George R. Stewart's (1895-1980) 1941 novel Storm, where there's a fictional tempest named and pronounced that way. What's more, in the book it hits California, bringing blizzard conditions and twenty feet of snow to the Sierra Nevadas (see above).
Be that as it may, Alan's lyrics invoke poetic images of raging winds, and Steve yearning for the girl he left behind. Then Ben sings "I Still See Elisa" [T-8] that's a tender nostalgic number, in which he fondly remembers his dearly departed wife.
This is followed by a droll offering titled "How Can I Wait?" sung by Jennifer [T-9] while she’s doing Julio's laundry. She dances with various pieces of clothing, says how much she wishes he were in them, and tells us she can't wait to see him the next day. All this is somewhat reminiscent of "The Girl at the Ironing Board" sequence in Busby Berkeley's 1934 Warner Brothers musical comedy Dames.
One of the show's subplots involves three Mormon members of Rumson Town, who are Jacob Woodling and his two wives. They sing a trio [T-10] with the underlying reverent refrain "Hope and Pray".
In it we learn from first wife Sarah that the second, Elizabeth, works endlessly. This is all because of Sarah, who’s had a baby by Jacob, and uses its care as an excuse to keep the other wife constantly busy and away from hubby. Consequently, it's not surprising in the second half of this number to find Elizabeth daydreaming about Sarah's demise.
Next Ben delivers a couple of entertaining selections, the first being "The Rumson Town Reprise" [T-11]. Here he regales us with a wild tale about Sundays in "Rumson Camp", which we learn are full of prayer, booze and court trials followed by Monday hangings. It's succeeded by "In Between" [T-12] that seems distantly related to "Anything You Can Do!" in Irving Berlin's (1888-1989) Annie Get Your Gun (1946, see 27 November 2009). There’s also a hint of the world of Gilbert (1836-1911) and Sullivan (1842-1900; see 10 November 2014).
Then all join Ben for a festive "Whoop-Ti-Ay" [T-13] celebrating his wedding to Elizabeth, whom he's bought from Jacob (see above) for $800. It's followed by a lyrical love duet riddled with "Carińo Mio" ("My Darling") for Julio and Jennifer [T-14]. After that the miners sing a banjo-strumming, clippety-clopping number, "There's a Coach Comin' In" [T-15].
The passengers are some dance hall girls called the "Fandagos", who proceed to do a bustle-rustling sequence [T-16] based on the previous "...Coach Comin'..." tune [T-15]. It's followed by a "Finaletto" [T-17], which begins with Julio singing "I Tell You My Dreams" to the "...Trees" melody [T-5]. Then the act ends as Steve bursts in excitedly, telling everyone his claim has run out of gold!
Act II kicks off with a fetching "Entr'acte" [T-18] that's a medley of winning tunes. It's followed by a raucous, rootin'-tootin' "Hand Me Down That Can of O' Beans" sung by Jake, Ben and all the town folk [T-19]. Then there’s an infectious, honky-tonk "Can Can" dance sequence [T-20]. It has Continental touches, which would have been in keeping with musical influences brought stateside by Europeans flocking to the Gold Rush.
"Another Autumn" is a melancholy ballad for Julio [T-21; no booklet lyrics] with a heartfelt orchestral interlude [02:26-05:01]. In it he anticipates a dismal autumn without Jennifer, who appalled by her father's bill-of-sale marriage to Elizabeth, has gone East to school.
In "Movin' " some miners bemoan their slim pickings, and state their intent to look for better ground [T-22; booklet lyrics pick up at "Maybe he was lyin'..."]. Then Jennifer, who it seems has just returned, sings of her learning experiences back East, and how they're all for Julio's benefit [T-23].
Ben reappears, delivering the next two selections. The first is a catchy clippety-clopping, "Wandr'in' Star" number [T-24], where he tells us about his wanderlust, implying he's about to move on. It's succeeded by a brief nostalgic "Rumson Town" reprise [T-25], after which Steve and Jake run in yelling "Gold! Gold!" Then in "The Strike" [T-26] they announce there's been one forty miles south, and that it’s a real bonanza.
The show closes with a thrilling repeat of "Wandr'in' Star" [T-27] sung by the miners, and "Finale" [T-28] where Ben, now old and not long for this world, says he's one of those people who was never meant to have a home. Jennifer asks him where he'll go, and he tells her when he gets to Heaven she should tie him to a tree, or he'll begin to roam again! Then all join in a last "Wandr'in' Star" refrain, closing this wonderful revival on a real high.
As an added bonus we get a song for Jennifer and Ben titled "What Do Other Folks Do?" [T-29], which was cut from the show. Never orchestrated, and done here with piano accompaniment, it would be the forerunner of "What Do the Simple Folk Do?", which is one of the most charming numbers in L&L's Camelot of eight years later (1959-60).
The female soloists include Alexandra Socha (Jennifer Rumson), Melissa van der Schyff (Sarah Woodling) and Jenni Barber (Elizabeth Woodling). As for the guys, there's Keith Caradine (Ben Rumson), Nathaniel Hackmann (Steve Bullnack), Caleb Damschroder (Jake Whippany), Justin Guarini (Julio Valveras) and William Youmans (Jacob Woodling). All are in fine voice, and deliver their songs with that endearing informality characterizing great Broadway shows.
They receive outstanding support from the NYCCE! Chorus and Orchestra. Incidentally, the album notes tell us that they along with the soloists loved this newly staged version so much they begged to make this recording.
It was done at MSR Studios, NYC, and projects a moderately sized sonic image in surroundings comparable to a Broadway theater. As for the overall sound, the instrumental timbre is lifelike with pleasing highs, an open midrange, and clean bass. The soloists and chorus are well balanced against the orchestra, but there's an upper edge to their voices that seems microphone and/or front-end electronics related.
The disc won't win any audiophile awards. However, enthusiastic performances by everyone make this revival of a long-neglected show all the more appealing.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160828)
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Zádor: Biblical Triptych, Rhap for Large Orch, Fugue Fantasia, Christmas Ov; Smolij/BudaMÁV SO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
This is the fourth installment in Naxos' enterprising investigation of Hungarian composer Eugene Zádor's (1894-1977) orchestral music (see 31 January 2016). Dating between 1930 and 1961, the four selections here represent his creative output on both sides of the Atlantic, i.e., during his early years in Vienna as well as later ones in Hollywood from 1940 on. Three of them are world premiere recordings, and accordingly marked "WPR" after their titles.
The major offering is his Biblical Triptych of 1943 (WPR). It's first part is a musical characterization of Joseph inspired by German novelist Thomas Mann's (1875-1955) Old Testament tetralogy Joseph und seine Brüder (Joseph and His Brothers, 1926-43). Upon finishing that, the composer found he had ideas for the two accompanying tone portraits whose subjects are David and Paul the Apostle.
"Joseph" [T-2] opens with simple rustic passages. They would seem to represent his youthful years when his father Jacob, Patriarch of Israel, gave him that coat of many colors much to the annoyance of his eleven brothers.
Then busy winds introduce an unsettled episode, presumably indicative of his trials and tribulations in Egypt. After that this section ends in an oneiric sequence presumably signifying the many dreams of Joseph and his associates. This music is all the more memorable for several ligneous bass clarinet passages.
The mood becomes more introspective in "David" [T-3]. Here the harp recalls him as a great singer of Psalms, while rustic wind passages seem in keeping with his early years as a shepherd boy.
After that mounting percussion prefaces the Israelites' confrontation with the Philistines and his slaying of Goliath, which is cause for a concluding victorious march. It somewhat anticipates triumphal moments in Miklós Rózsa's (1907-1995) music for such biblical extravaganzas as Ben Hur (1959), which Eugene had orchestrated.
Cynical, contrapuntally astringent music characterizes the opening of "Paul" [T-4], who started out as a Pharisee and persecutor of early Jewish Christians. Then growling bassoons [04:00] introduce canonic chorale-like passages [04:00] that become increasingly beatific. They seem to reflect his eventual acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, conversion to Christianity, and transformation into one of the most important early Christian figures.
Going back to 1930 and the other side of the Atlantic we next have Rhapsody for Large Orchestra [T-5]. This is a singular Zádor creation along the lines of a theme and variations. However, each of the latter also includes a brief exploration, thereby producing what might best be described as a series of developmental variations (DVs).
Flute and strings open the work with the main subject that's a relaxed Hungarian-folk-related, modal melody (HM) [00:00], recalling Eugene's old friend Béla Bartók (1883-1945). HM is briefly explored, and followed by nine DVs, the first being based on a sprightly, leaping episode [02:17]. Then we get a second [04:20] with colorful wind effects that brings to mind tipsy village peasants and roving Gypsy bands.
The next starts off skittishly [06:12], giving way to graceful swaying passages featuring the alto saxophone [07:07], and bass clarinet [07:26]. They may well be meant to mimic the sound of a Hungarian folk instrument known as the tárogató.
Be that as it may, the brass section then announces [08:18] a catchy woodwind-spiced fourth DV [08:27]. It's followed by an amorous fifth [10:21] with passionate strings, which might have been even more effective in shorter supply.
The saxophone then reappears [13:28] introducing a sixth DV that brings sighing nocturnal breezes to mind. Then trumpets announce a military sequence [15:37] built around a miniature Magyar march [15:49]. It's a combination of Victor Herbert's (1859-1924) "March of the Toys" in his Babes in Toyland (1903), and the "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" from Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937) orchestral version (1922) of Modeste Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) Pictures at an Exhibition (solo piano, 1874).
More trumpet passages and swooping strings herald [17:28] a DV that recaps HM [17:34]. It's succeeded by a final cheeky ninth one [18:17], which has a chugging reminder of HM [18:22] bedizened with some playful percussion and Bronx-cheering brass [19:16]. This ends in a sweeping, piano-accented treatment of HM [19:46], and an animated, rascally flourish [20:42] that concludes the work lightheartedly.
Despite his success as a film score composer Eugene continued to write for the concert hall, and 1958 saw him complete Fugue Fantasia (WPR) [T-6]. Like the previous work this one follows a theme and DVs schema (see above). However, the main subject is no longer a simple melody but a fugal contrivance (FC).
The piece begins with a tragic drumroll [00:00], and the strings playing a weeping motif [00:01] followed by a perky countersubject in the winds [00:27]. All this hints at a twitchy capricious idea (TC), which will fuel FC soon to come.
The opening measures are repeated and briefly explored, after which there's a short pause followed by flute and strings introducing the TC-based FC [02:31]. It undergoes a lush elaboration that leads to a shimmering DV [04:16], which turns quite pastoral [04:57]. Then an insistent brass section starts a commanding one [06:03] that gives way to another beginning with a light coquettish string passage [07:04].
This becomes increasingly sinister, and suddenly morphs into a nervously imitative, percussion-laced DV [09:11]. A TC-related, domineering, passacaglia-like ostinato (TO) emerges from it [10:40], and leads to a monumental TO-based concluding coda, beginning in the low strings. That’s then picked up by the full orchestra, and ends the fantasia in a blaze of silver screen splendor.
The release is filled out with Zádor's A Christmas Overture of three years later (1961). Unlike the usual Yuletide offerings, this is not a collage of quotidian Xmas tunes. On the contrary it's a symphonic fęte celebrating four aspects of the season. The first titled "The Joy of Christmas" begins with a festive holiday theme (FH) [00:01] that's bandied about, and turns into a "Sleigh Ride" [01:31]. Starting with a trotting, jingle-bell-decorated tune, one can imagine falling snow, and even a neighing horse towards the end [02:45].
After a brief pause, oboe and strings play a reverent, FH-related theme (RF) that's the subject of the next "Nativity" section [02:53]. Then after another short hiatus we get a final "Adoration" segment, which begins with an RF-derived, faith-fulfilling noel introduced by the clarinet, oboe and strings [04:53]. This builds to a towering, chime-tam-tam-embellished cinematic climax in keeping with grander moments in Miklós Rózsa's (1907-1995) music for another biblical epic (see above), King of Kings (1961), which Eugene had just scored. Then it slowly subsides into a hallowed ending where one can imagine angels singing, "Peace on the earth, goodwill to men".
As on their previous disc devoted to this composer (see 31 January 2016), Polish conductor Mariusz Smolij gets spirited playing from the Budapest MÁV Symphony Orchestra, turning what in lesser hands might be ordinary fare into a memorable listening experience. There's an exciting folklike spontaneity pervading their performances that makes these scores all the more engaging.
Made over the past two years at a couple of the Hungarian Radio's studios in Budapest, the recordings project consistent but somewhat withdrawn sonic images in close surroundings. Zádor's rich orchestral palette would have been shown off to better advantage in a more spacious venue.
The many soloists -- all obviously virtuosos -- are well captured and highlighted against the orchestra. That said, the overall instrumental timbre is characterized by bright highs, particularly in massed upper violin passages, and a good midrange. The composer's discreet demands on the percussion section result in lean, transient bass.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P160827)
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Reger: Cpte Org Wks; Bach, J.S.: 30 Hpd Wks (org arr Reger); Haas/Albiez Org, Mutter Kirche, Frankfurt [MD&G]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (14 CDs)
German composer Max Reger (1872-1916) left an immense oeuvre, subsuming many organ works in which he seems to have inherited the mantle of J.S. Bach (JSB, 1685-1750), The latter have never fared better than on these fourteen MD&G discs with Max' complete output in the genre on recordings made between 1988 and 1993. Originally released separately at full price, here they’re offered in a bargain box at a saving of over $200.
The first twelve CDs are devoted to Reger's distinct works, while the last two offer thirty adventurous arrangements he made of selected JSB keyboard pieces. All are played on the magnificent, articulate 1983 Albiez Organ (4,000 pipes, 54 ranks) in Mutter vom guten Rat Kirche (Mother of Good Advice/Counsel Church), Frankfurt, Germany. This instrument is ideally configured to reveal all the nuances of Reger's complex, contrapuntal music.
Organist Rosalinde Haas' (b. 1932) impeccable registration coupled with her confident, authoritative playing, and demonstration quality sound make these performances definitive. With discs lasting almost eighty minutes apiece, each is a separate, thrilling concert thanks to her superb programming. What's more, unlike church organ recitals, there are no restless parishioners, fidgety choirboys, circulating collection plates, or occasional wrong notes.
There's not enough space to comment on everything here as there are over a hundred short pieces let alone all the others. Consequently, we'll just hit the high spots, beginning with the dozen discs devoted to Reger's own works (see above).
Many inspirational chorale preludes are to be found on them as well as twelve fetching Monologues (Op. 63, 1902) [D-2, T-12~13 & D-4, T-1~10], and five captivating collections of Stücke (Tidbits). The latter include three, twelve-piece sets marked Op. 59 (1901) [D-1, T-5~10 & D-7, T-20~25], Op. 65 (1902) [D-9, T-1~12] and Op. 80 (1904) [D-11, T-2~13]. Then there are an Op. 69 (1902) and Op. 129 (1913) with ten [D-10, T-12~21] and nine [D-12, T14~22] respectively.
As for the more substantial works, you'll find a moving Fantasia and Fugue on B-A-C-H (Bb-A-C-B in English notation; Op 46, 1900) [D-1, T-1], as well as seven terrific chorale fantasias. Three of the latter are based on the ever popular "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A mighty fortress is our God", Op. 27, 1898) [D-2, Track-6], "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" ("Rejoice greatly, Oh my soul", Op. 30, 1898 [D-7, T-2] and "Wie schön leucht' uns der Morgenstern" ("How brightly shines the Morning Star", Op. 40, No. 1, 1899) [D-1, T-16; see D-12, T-2 for original version].
The remaining four utilize "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" ("Punish me not in your anger", Op. 40, No. 2, 1899) [D-5, T-10], "Alle Menschen müssen sterben" ("All men must die", Op. 52, No. 1, 1899) [D-11, T-1], "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" ("Wake up, the voice calls us", Op 52, No 2, 1899) [D-1, T12], and "Hallelujah! Gott zu loben" ("Hallelujah! Praise God", Op. 53, No. 3, 1899) [D-4, T-20].
There's also an atavistic Suite in the Manner of JSB (Op. 16, 1904-5) [D-5, T-3~6), an impressive Sonata (first of two; Op. 33, 1899) [D-6, T-8~10] and a colorful Suite (second of two; Op. 59, 1905) [D-7, T-8~14]. That’s not to mention an engaging Symphonic Fantasy and Fugue (Op. 57, 1901) [D-8, T-1], commanding Introduction, Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme (Op. 73, 1903) [D-2, T-1], which lasts almost half an hour, and a dramatic Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue (Op. 127, 1913) [D-3, T-1~3].
The final two CDs are devoted to Reger's JSB arrangements dating from 1902-3, and have several selections organ enthusiasts won't want to be without. These include a whimsical Fantasia and Fugue in D major and four sprightly toccatas with fugues. They are based respectively on Johann's keyboard toccatas in D major (BWV 912) [D-13, T1], D minor (BWV 913) [D-13, T-3], G minor (BWV 915) [D-13, T-4], C minor (BWV 911) [D-14, T-1], and F# minor (BWV 910) [D-14, T-10]. There's also a virtuosic Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue after JSB's eponymous all time classic (BWV 903, 1717-23) [D-13, T-20].
From the thematic standpoint this music is filled with some of the greatest church tunes ever written, while there's a structural sophistication that makes it more rewarding with each hearing. All that plus dazzling performances on an extraordinary instrument presented in outstanding sound make for one of the most distinguished organ releases of recent years. And last but not least, those who missed out on previous incarnations of this series, can now get it at a fraction of the original cost!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y160826)
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