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



28 FEBRUARY 2017

CROCKS NEWSLETTER

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



The album cover may not always appear.
Alwyn, W.: Film Scores V4 (6 stes & 4 excs fm 10 films, 1941-59); Gamba/BBC P [Chandos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Like his Hungarian contemporary Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995; see 18 April 2011), British composer William Alwyn (1905-1985) wrote many film scores in addition to music for the concert hall (see 21 September 2011). Now after an eleven-year hiatus Chandos gives us a fourth volume with more invaluable samples of them.

The six suites and four excerpts from ten films presented here are all world premiere recordings. Their backgrounds and storylines are well covered in the extensive album notes, so we'll limit ourselves to comments about the music.

For the most part this is a series of reconstructions and arrangements done by English musicologist-composer Philip Lane (b. 1950). More often than not they’re based on the actual soundtracks as the written scores have long since disappeared.

First there's a suite from The Black Tent (1956), which is a World War II (1939-45) saga centering around Bedouins in the Libyan desert. Accordingly, the "Main Titles and Opening Scene" section [T-1] begins with a timpani-accented Arabic-sounding melody. This gives way to a nostalgic lyrical idea in the strings, and ominous closing brass passages.

"Arab Scene" [T-2] is a colorfully scored Eastern dance that starts vivaciously and turns seductive, while "In the Camp" [T-3] has a peaceful amorous opening, which becomes increasingly martial and threatening. The concluding "Nocturne and Finale" [T-4] is haunting, dreamy music that transitions into a valiant closing statement. To some extent, all this presages Maurice Jarre's (1924-2009) Lawrence of Arabia (1962) score.

On Approval is a domestic comedy set in 1890s Scotland that was released in 1944. The suite from it presented here is a four-part set of dances auguring Malcolm Arnold's (1921-2006) orchestral ones (1950-86).

The opening "Title Music" [T-5] is a captivating melee of tunes that’s succeeded by a capricious "Polka" [T-6] and lilting "Proposal Waltz" [T-7]. Then the suite comes to a jolly conclusion with a rollicking Victorian square dance titled "The Lancers" [T-8].

Next, Alwyn's music for the Warner Brothers, Errol Flynn swashbuckler The Master of Ballantrae (1953) based on Robert Louis Stevenson's (1850-1894) eponymous novel (1889). In three sections the "Main Titles" one [T-9] features a wonderfully expansive valiant tune -- Erich Wolfgang Korngold eat your heart out (see 31 March 2011)! Then there's a gorgeous romantic "Jamie and Alison" [T-10] with music from the love scenes between Errol's character, Jamie Durie, and his sweetheart.

Finally, we get one of the scores most colorful episodes, a "Spanish Dance" [T-11] complete with castanets. It's done by a West Indian girl during Jamie's piratical escapades in Tortuga.

Moving ahead four years there's what Lane calls a "Prelude" from Fortune is a Woman (1957; not currently available on disc) [T-12]. This is an amalgam of four cues from the original manuscript, which still exists.

With a plot involving a love-triangle spiced with arson, murder and blackmail it begins with a commanding brass fanfare and tender lyrical tune (TL). The latter swells with an ominous underlying bass drum roll into an anxiety ridden passage that bursts into flames. Then TL returns, becomes momentarily worried, and the music ends in the same spirit it began.

The next selection is based on something intended for the comedy Miranda (1947-8), but with a change of directors, never made it into the film. The story involves an urban-bound mermaid -- shades of Splash (1984) -- and exists in manuscript as a vocalise for female voice with piano or harp. Philip’s version titled "Mermaid's Song" [T-13] is scored for soprano, harp and strings. It's a comely fluidic vocal offering that floats above a pelagic accompaniment.

Then we get another Lane "Prelude", this time from Saturday Island (1952) [T-14], which was titled Island of Desire for US release [T-14], and is another World War II tale. Set on a deserted tropical atoll, it involves a love triangle, and in some ways anticipates Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957), or even Swiss Family Robinson (1960) that Alwyn also scored (see Chandos 10349).

Initial sweeping passages suggest a vast oceanic panorama, and then there’s a terrific, romantic theme (TR) [00:23]>. It undergoes a portentous exploration, after which TR returns, ending this selection ecstatically.

The music from Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), is the basis for the outstanding six-movement suite that’s next. The film is taken from a novel of the same name by Rearden Conner (1905-91). It’s built around all the civil strife involving the IRA that took place in Ireland during the early 1920s. The first "Dublin 1921" [T-15] gets off to a combative, war-torn start followed by a moving tragic theme. This brings the movement to a sad ending with a tolling funeral bell.

"People of Erin" [T-16] is a wistful string offering based on the melody for the Irish song "Eileen Óg" by Percy French (1854-1920). Then "The Black and Tans" movement [T-17] characterizes those recruited to fight the IRA. They were mostly British World War I (1914-8) veterans, and the mood is appropriately aggressive.

The next "Professor Sean Lenihan" [T-18] is named after one of the central characters played by James Cagney. However, it turns out to be music from a love scene between two of the film’s main protagonists, known in the film as Kerry O'Shea and Jennifer Curtis (see the album notes).

The suite closes with "Trouble" [T-19], which is a funeral march (FM) worthy of Mahler's (1860-1911) darker moments. It underscores Lenihan's intent to execute Curtis. However, in "Rebel to the End" [T-20], after a hesitant beginning, O'Shea enters to FM references, and saves Curtis by shooting Lenihan. The suite then ends in tragic triumph.

A film that takes place just after World War II called The Ship That Died of Shame (1955) is represented next by its main titles [T-21]. The story involves the smuggling of increasingly sinister black market items across the English Channel. These eventually include a secretive passenger with associations recalling the cinema classic M from 1931.

The music here begins expansively invoking images of the open sea, and gradually subsides into a mysterious passage. This suddenly ends leaving the listener in midair, wondering about that passenger.

Taking to the air there's They Flew Alone (1941-2), which is a biopic about pioneering British aviatrix Amy Johnson (1903-1941. In three conjoined segments, the "Prelude" [T-22] starts with a wide-open theme conjuring images of cloud-swept skies. It segues into "Nocturne" [T-23], which is set in Amy's home, where we get a brief string-accompanied piano interlude in the style of Chopin (1810-1849). This turns into a final "March" [T-24] that’s a stirring paean honoring British Women involved in the World War II effort.

Last but not least, there's Alwyn’s Manchester Suite. He wrote this in 1946 for later inclusion in a documentary about that English metropolis titled A City Speaks (1947; not currently available on disc).

The first of its five movements marked "Prelude" [T-25] is a stately introduction with a couple of noble themes. Then there’s a "March" [T-26] that's busy nationalistic "work" music associated with local industry. On that note, the next "Interlude" [T-27] has a frenetic beginning apparently celebrating metropolitan gas and electric utility complexes. However, this gives way to pastoral passages limning the peaceful countryside, and is succeeded by a flighty "Scherzo" [T-28] underscoring Manchester folk at play.

The "Finale"' [T-29] starts with a dramatic drumroll and optimistic brass passages. These subside into a pensive episode bemoaning the bad aspects of old Manchester. Then the music builds into a blazing glorification of the city to come. There are allusions to those noble themes in the "Prelude", and the suite with great hopes for the future.

As performed here, award-winning, British-born conductor Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic make a strong case for Alwyn's film music. On the basis of what's here, and the previous three volumes (Chandos 9243, 9959 & 10349), he ranks with the world's finest composers for the silver screen.

These superb recordings were made last year at the BBC's facility in MediaCityUK along the old Salford docks area of Manchester, England (see above). They project a wide, deep, well-focused sonic image in a warm, resonant acoustic, which enriches the sound.

The instrumental timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, an impressive midrange, and rock-bottom, clean bass. That said, this music would have been even more impressive with bigger string sections, particularly more violins. In any case film score buffs, romantic music enthusiasts, and audiophiles won't want to be without this disc!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y170228)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Johansen, D.M.: Fl Qnt (fl & stg qt), Pno Qt, Vn Son, Den store freden Inc Mus (2 vns, vc & pno); FragVesca [Simax]
Norwegian-born David Monrad Johansen (1888-1974) had his first piano lessons at age ten. He then went on to study music theory in Oslo, where he began composing in 1909, and became a highly successful accompanist.

Always wishing to broaden his musical horizons, he'd make several sojourns to Europe. These included time in Berlin (1915-6) as a pupil of Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921, see 25 April 2012), and Paris (1927-8) to learn about twelve-tone technique as well as the impressionism of Debussy (1862-1918) and Ravel (1875-1937). Then 1933 found him briefly in Leipzig studying counterpoint.

After that he returned to Norway, where he'd live out his years as a musicologist, writer and composer, who'd leave a modest body of works across all genres. The four on this enterprising release from Simax are in the chamber category. They span Johansen's entire career, and represent good cross-sections of his evolving style. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

The earliest dating from 1913 is his one completed violin sonata. It's a conventional, romantically inclined three-movement work that owes a debt to Edvard Grieg (1843-1907; see 12 July 2013). The initial allegro [T-5] is in classic sonata form with an opening statement (OS) consisting of a jolly folkish theme (JF) [00:01] and pensive wistful idea (PW) [00:47].

OS is then repeated [02:00], and succeeded by a JF-introduced development [03:58] that's at first agitated. This turns introspective [05:15], bridging into a recapitulation, which recalls JF [05:49] and PW [06:34]. It concludes with a JF-PW-based coda, ending the movement excitedly.

The adagio [T-6] is a ternary, A-B-A, elegy whose "A" sections feature a captivating, sorrowful PW-related subject (SP) [00:01]. They surround a "B" episode {02:54-04:20] having a somewhat more cheerful JF-derived melody, and bring the movement to a despairing conclusion.

A final allegro [T-7] is rondo-like with a JF-sired whimsical ditty (JW) [00:01] and SP-reminiscent rhapsodic tune [01:15]. These alternate with one another. and then JW has the last say, ending the sonata on a positive note.

Moving ahead to 1925, we get David's incidental music for Norwegian author Hulda Garborg's (1862-1934) drama Den store freden (The Great Peace, 1919), which was inspired by the American-Indian culture, and the legend of Hiawatha (born c. 1525; see 29 September 2009) in particular. This selection is stylistically more advanced, and a good example of the composer's increasing use of folk elements beginning in the 1920s.

Scored for two violins, cello and piano, it's a series of preludes written for each of the play's five acts. The first "allegro moderato" [T-8] is another A-B-A-structured piece. The "As" bookend a melancholy "B" section [01:17-02:49], and have a rhythmic ardor coupled with a melodic severity, making it easy to imagine a Mohawk campfire scene back in the 1500s.

The second titled "Indiansk kjærlighetssang" ("Indian Love Song") [T-9] is based on a ditty lifted from German-born, American composer Carlos Troyer's (1837-1920) Traditional Songs of the Zuni Indians (1904-14). There's a simplicity that makes for a totally captivating piece that brings to mind a peaceful Indian village under a full moon and twinkling stars.

Things pick up with the next "Indianskrigsmars" ("Indian War March") [T-10], which is heroically belligerent, and has what seems like a touch of Debussy's "Golliwog's Cakewalk" from his Children's Corner (solo piano, 1906-08; orchestrated 1911) [01:08]. Then we get "Atotarho" ("The War Chief") [T-11] where proud outer sections surround a strutting inner one [01:24-02:18].

The fifth and final selection marked "Solsong" ("Sun Song") [T-11] is once again borrowed from Taylor's collection (see above). It's a gently swaying number that limns young Indian maidens doing a dance honoring the sun, and brings this set of preludes to a warm, radiant conclusion.

During the late 1940s the composer experienced some unfortunate Quisling-connected "down time" (see the album notes), but he made the most of it by studying books on music theory, as well as Beethoven's (1770-1827) string quartets (1798-1826), and the fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) and Max Reger (1872-1916; see 31 August 2016). He also managed to produce several works, one of them being a four-movement piano quartet that contrapuntally and harmonically represents yet another stylistic step forward.

This was never published, and the version presented here is a new critical edition made from the composer's sketches by the founding leader of our performing group, Norwegian violinist Tor Johan Böen (b. 1971). The initial allegro [T-1] is in sonata form, but much more sophisticated than the one that begins the early violin sonata (see above).

It kicks off with a four-note rhythmic riff (FR) [00:03] that's succeeded by a lyrical, lilting subject (LL) [00:08], which skillfully bridges into an LL-related melancholy countersubject (LM) [01:12]. All of the foregoing is then repeated [02:34], and followed by an FR-derived passage that introduces a chromatically adventurous development. This leads to a recap of LL [06:31} and LM [07:40], which ends in an LM-based coda, bringing the movement to a tranquil conclusion.

The next andante [T-2] is a theme and variations that starts with a mournful, measured idea [00:01]. This engenders four variants, which are sequentially weeping [00:55], coy [02:47], agitated [03:32], and finally funereal [04:46].

Then there's a tiny, antsy pizzicato-spiced presto [T-3] immediately followed by a vivace [T-4]. The latter is a consummate, crazed fugue that begins with a main subject, which may sound somewhat familiar. Moreover, its first four notes are those of the principal theme from the slow movement of Haydn's Emperor Quartet (Op. 76, No. 3, circa 1799). This had become the German National Anthem in 1922, and considering Johansen's politically checkered past, one can't help wondering if it had some underlying significance for him.

His three-movement flute quintet of 1967 fills out this unusual CD, and embodies an additional stylistic advance. Melodically and harmonically it's the most progressive music here right from the opening grave [T-13]. This begins impressionistically with impassioned passages for the flute. Then after a pause there's a mystic episode [01:00] with excited virtuosic outcries from the soloist.

Strumming strings next introduce an allegretto scherzando [T-14] having flighty flute-decorated outer sections. They embrace a dancelike one [00:51-01:56], which sounds like it could be based on a Norwegian hardingfele (Hardanger fiddle) tune [00:51-01:56].

In conclusion, we get the piece de resistance, a largo [T-15] that's a masterfully structured passacaglia [T-15]. It begins with the cello playing a seventeen-note, highly chromatic theme (SC) [00:01]. This is repeated twelve times with each occurrence set to a different accompaniment based on a variation of SC.

The mood created in the first eleven ranges from devout [00:30, 00:55, 01:20, 01:44] to flighty [02:10, 02:24, 02:40, 02:54], lugubrious [03:15], impressionistic [04:04] and anticipatory [05:18]. The last [06:06], according to the composer, is meant to end the piece with a sense of resignation like that felt in the presence of higher powers.

These little-known works are well served by members of the Norwegian Frageria Vesca (Wild Strawberry) chamber ensemble. Violinist Böen (see above) and pianist Sanae Yoshida give a spirited performance of the sonata. They're joined by violinist Alison Rayner along with cellist Aurélienne Brauner for the incidental music, which is treated more casually.

Ms. Rayner is replaced by violist Bénédicte Royer in the quartet, which is played with technical precision and attention to detail. Ms. Yoshida then defers to flutist Cecilie Hesselberg Laken, and violinist Rayner returns for an arresting account of the closing quintet.

Made almost two years ago in Sofienberg Church, Oslo, the recordings project a generous sonic image in a nurturing space. The performers are well placed and balanced, but the violins and flute are occasionally shrill, and the piano tone somewhat congested in forte passages. Pointy-eared audiophiles may notice some keyboard action thumps in the sonata, and what might be edit blips at its beginning [T-5], as well as that of the "Indian War March" [T-10]. All this is a small price to pay for some memorable music that you’d otherwise probably never hear.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P170227)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Laks: Sinfa for Stgs, Sinfta for Stgs; Jarnach: Musik zum Gedächtnis... (stg orch); Rohde/NFMLeop ChO [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
This new CPO release offers some twentieth century works for string orchestra by two European composers. Although they came from and had careers in different countries, you'll find stylistic affinities in their music. These are the only recordings of the three selections included here currently available on disc.

The program begins with two pieces by Simon Laks (also spelled Szymon, 1901-1983), who was born in Warsaw to a Jewish family, and began studying mathematics and philosophy, but switched to music in 1921. He initially made a living teaching, playing the piano for silent films, and as a violinist in local Polish cafés.

The year 1926 saw him move to Paris, where he completed his studies (1927-9), and became increasingly involved in musical activities. However, the rise of the Nazis (1933-45) with their anti-Semitic policies lead to his arrest in 1941. He was then sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and became conductor of that notorious death camp's orchestra, which was established to entertain high ranking Nazi officials.

Then in 1944 with the approach of the Allies he was transferred to Dachau that was liberated by the American Army in April of 1945. The following month saw his return to Paris, where he became a French citizen, and would live for the rest of his life.

He'd leave a modest body of works in all genres. These were written either prior to his arrest (1942), or between his return to the "City of Light" and 1972 when he stopped composing to concentrate on literary pursuits. The four-movement Sinfonie pour cordes (Symphony for Strings) from 1964 gets off to an agitated "Allegro energico" ("Fast and energetic") start with a syncopated, hemiola-spiked theme (SH) [T-1]. This is explored, and followed by an SH-related, pragmatic idea (SP) [01:13] that brings to mind Paul Hindemith's (1895-1963) gebrauchsmusik.

After that a brief SH-based, pizzicato-spiced fugato [01:54-02:49] introduces a development. Here reminders of SP [beginning at 02:53] get shouted down by SH [03:20], but a chastened SP regains its confidence, staging a forceful comeback [05:20]. Then fitful bits of SH [beginning at 05:55] end the movement with sudden abandon.

The next "Andante sostenuto" ("Slow and sustained") [T-2] is a passacaglia that begins with double basses playing a lugubrious ostinato motif (LO) [00:01], which will repeat six more times to varying LO-derived accompaniments. These are sequentially mournful [00:31, 01:01 & 01:31], fatalistic with wisps of the Dies Irae (DI) [01:59], highly agitated [02:28], and forcefully chorale-like [02:57].

Then the music transitions into a dramatic episode [03:26-04:50] with more hints of DI. This fades, and after a momentary pause LO resumes [04:51]. There's a spooky descant in the upper strings, which dissipates leaving the double basses to end the movement as it began.

An electric "Scherzo" is next [T-3] with antsy outer sections wrapped around a nervous LO-related episode [01:32-02:58]. The abstruse album notes draw an analogy with Wagner's (1813-1883) Ride of the Valkyries (1856) -- See what you think!

After that the work concludes in an "Allegro molto" ("Fast and lively") [T-4]. This has an excited, rhythmically angular exordium [00:00] that chases its own tail, and gives way to a stately baroque-sounding idea (SB) [00:46]. SB is the subject of a fugato that's followed by a queasy, songlike melody (QS) [01:26]. The latter is toyed with, after which SB [02:27] and QS [02:37] are worked into a fugue, bridging into a frenetic prickly coda [03:14]. This ends the work with an emphatic C major burst of optimism.

Going back almost thirty years, Laks' Sinfonietta pour cordes (Sinfonietta for Strings, 1936) is next. Dating from his younger halcyon days in Paris, it's a more informal, lighthearted work that’s also in four movements. The initial, sonata form “Ouverture" [T-5] opens with a jolly ambling theme (JA) [00:00], hinting at a related sinuous one (RS) that soon follows [00:54].

Next there's a pause and JA-derived bridge [01:20] into a chromatically vivacious development [01:44]. This transitions via a cello solo into a recap of RS [03:21]. Then after another brief break, Laks gives us a JA-related coda [03:46] that ends the movement excitedly.

The following "Serenade" [T-6] with its pizzicato spicing and amorous extended melody [00:26] conjures images of Don Juan strumming his guitar, and singing a seductive cantilena to his latest ladylove. Then the mood turns capricious with a "Rondino" [T-7] having a spastic three-note riff [00:00] adjoining a twitchy tune [00:01], which recur in various guises. They surround a sing-song, minuet-like episode [01:20-01:43], and conclude the movement with an explosive "Hachoo!"

The "Final Fugue" [T-8] is as advertised, and begins frenetically hinting at the main subject soon to come [00:25]. This is a scampering idea followed by two countersubjects that are dancelike [01:20] and mischievous [01:38]. In the end, all three are the ingredients for a spectacular, virtuosic contrapuntal colloquy that leaves the players with smoking bows.

The other composer represented is Philipp Jarnach (1892-1982), who was born in Paris of a Catalan father and Flemish mother. A child prodigy who began playing the piano at age eleven, his keyboard endeavors were encouraged by the likes of Debussy (1862-1918) and Ravel (1875-1937). Philipp would then go on to study music in France (1907-14).

With the outbreak of World War I (1914-8) he moved to neutral Zurich, Switzerland, where he became a student and close friend of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924). When Busoni took up residence in Berlin (1921), Philipp followed him, and within a year was regarded as one of Germany's outstanding "modern" composers alongside Hindemith. Incidentally, it was Jarnach who completed his mentor's masterpiece, Doktor Faust just after his death.

He’d then become a German citizen, and highly respected teacher, who was much in demand. This led to important educational posts in Cologne around 1927, and then 1950 saw him accept a position in the Hamburg area, where he spent the rest of his life. Jarnach's students would include Kurt Weill (1900-1950) and Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970, see 31 October 2016), just to name a few. On that note, academic pursuits consumed more and more of his time, to the point where like Laks he stopped writing music in his later years.

Philipp left a modest body of works mainly in the orchestral and chamber genres. His "Musik zum Gedächtnis der Einsamen" ("Music in Memory of the Lonely") filling out this disc [T-9] falls into both of those categories as it's also scored for string quartet. Dating from 1952, it's his last significant work, and would seem to honor those who had loved ones that were victims of World War II (1939-45).

In a single fifteen-minute span, this is the darkest music here with a sense of tragedy recalling Mahler's (1860-1911) stygian moments. A sorrowful extended theme set to a plodding accompaniment (SE) is heard at the outset [00:00]. Then SE undergoes a distraught development [01:26] that becomes increasingly anguished despite an occasional glimmer of hope.

It gives way to a lachrymose cello cadenza [07:40] that ends with shrieks from the upper strings, under which SE returns [09:26]. After that the music escalates into passages of utter desperation with growling dissonances [09:57]. Then there's a dramatic pause, and an initially quiescent SE-derived segment [11:36] builds to an ominous crescendo. It gives way to an ascending passage that ends this threnody with a pizzicato last gasp.

The twenty-member National Forum of Music's (NFM) Leopoldinum Chamber Orchestra (LCO) under their director, violist Hartman Rohde pride themselves on introducing audiences to outstanding twentieth century works that for one reason or another haven't become everyday concert fare. They certainly succeed here with stunning performances of this little-known repertoire.

When playing together, the members of the LCO produce a lush ensemble sound, while their solo work shows each to be a virtuoso in their own right. On that note, presumably it's cellist Marcin Misiak who gives a superb account of the cadenza in the Jarnach.

Made over the past two years in NFM's Main Concert Hall, Wroclaw, Poland, the recordings present a consistently wide and deep sonic image in warm reverberant surroundings, which enrich the music while keeping everything in focus. Accordingly, this CD will particularly appeal to those liking a wetter sound.

The string tone is natural with a bit of sparkle in upper passages, and would probably have been even smoother on the SACD tracks had this been a hybrid disc. There's no hint of boominess in the low end, and solo passages are ideally highlighted, while the string sections remain well balanced throughout.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y170226)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
O'Brien, C.: Cpte Orch Wks V3 (Ellangowan Conc Ov, Waltz Suite, Suite Humoristique); Mann/Liepaja SO [Toccata]
Here's the third and final installment in Toccata's survey of Scottish composer Charles O'Brien's (1882-1968) complete orchestral music (see 31 May 2016) with three more world premiere recordings based on new critical editions by conductor Paul Mann. The first volume in this series issued a couple of years ago (see 31 August 2015) began with the composer's almost eighteen-minute Ellangowan concert overture (Op. 12, 1909), and now as promised then, we get a shorter version for smaller forces just over thirteen.

Despite its "Op. 10" designation, this is most likely a later reworking prompted by negative comments from critics following Op. 12's 1914 premiere. These included complaints about a lack of formal structure, probably referring to its aberrant midsection. Accordingly, that's been significantly changed arguably giving this version more dramatic thrust.

The scoring was also downsized to "theater orchestra" proportions, making the piece more accessible. This also included the percussion parts, but Maestro Mann has opted to keep them the same as for Op. 12 (see his informative album notes).

The overtures are named after a fictional Scottish estate in Sir Walter Scott's (1771-1832) novel Guy Mannering (1815). Apparently not meant as program music, they're tonal impressions of Scotland's southwestern Galloway region, where Ellangowan was said to be located.

Op. 10 [T-1] is in much tighter sonata form, but begins like the other with a folksy hornpipe-like ditty (FH) [00:00]. This sounds all the more authentic for the composer's use of pentatonic scales and "Scotch snaps".

FH is then elaborated and succeeded by a leisurely related songlike tune (LS) [01:50], after which the two are briefly developed [03:15]. A stirring FH-derived hunting horn sequence follows [04:29], and heralds additional development smacking of Wagner (1813-1833). This modulates with a commanding drum roll [07:14] into a cheerful recap starting with a reminder of FH [07:45] and LS [09:31]. A moving FH-LS-based coda [10:45] then works itself into a frenzy with some thunder and lightning. But the storm abates into peaceful reminders of LS [12:25] and FH [12:53] that end the overture tranquilly.

The composer's lighter side is evident in the next two selections, the first being his modestly scored orchestral version of a Waltz Suite he wrote for solo piano in 1928. Each of its four movement is in A-B-A form, and bears a trendy French moniker, generally characterizing the music.

The initial "Tendresse" ("Affection") [T-2] is a dainty offering with coy outer sections surrounding a smiling trio [02:00-03:42]. The next "Joie de vivre" ("Joy") [T-3] is a bit more lofty, and would be ideal accompaniment for a high flying circus act.

There's an infectious childish innocence about "Jeunesse" ("Youth") [T-4], whose trio [2:00-03:49] may hint at a lurking boogeyman [02:34-03:09]. Then this delightful set of dances closes with what's marked "Extase" ("Euphoria") [T-5]. It features a wonderful melody, which as the album notes point out, makes one wonder if O'Brien knew Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Der Rosenkavalier (1909-10).

Filling out the release, there's an early work from 1904 written while Charles was studying with the best-known Scottish composer of the day, Hamish MacCunn (1868-1916). Titled Suite Humoristique, it would seem a precursor of the work above, considering it's easily accessible music that’s similarly constructed and scored.

Its four A-B-A movements again have stylish French descriptive sobriquets, the first of which is "Marche fantastigue" [T-6]. This begins with swaggering staccato passages soon overlaid by a stately theme reminiscent of Elgar's (1837-1934) grander moments. There are also percussive crashes of thunder and lightning along with hints of the lovely lyrical "B" section that soon follows [02:00]. This is also of Elgarian persuasion, and then "A" returns [03:47] to end the movement much like it started.

Next, we get some more circus music (see above) with Au théâtre [T-7], whose boisterous outer sections make it easy to imagine the ostentatious entrance and exit of exotic, garishly dressed "Big Top" performers. They surround a despondent "B" [01:15-03:20], which brings to mind the sad clown act made so famous by Emmett Kelly (1898-1979).

"Barcarolle" [T-8] is deftly scored with lilting "A" segments calling to mind Chopin's (1810-1849) eponymous solo piano work (Op. 60, 1845-6). These bracket a melancholy cradle song [02:11-04:13], which returns at the very end [06:27], concluding the movement on a nostalgic note.

Then after an inordinately long band break that'll make you think your player's quit, we finally get a catchy waltzlike "Danse bohémienne" [T-9]. This has a robust opening and closing wrapped around a cheeky whimsical episode [01:25-02:58], and conclude the suite in the same spirit it began.

As on the first two volumes (see 31 August 2015 and 31 May 2016) conductor Paul Mann and the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra give us outstanding accounts of these long-forgotten scores. Their exuberant playing is tempered with an attention to detail that breathes new life into some British music well worth bringing back to public attention.

The recordings on all three of these CDs were made in 2014-5 by the same production staff at the Latvian Society House located in Liepaja . They project a confined, deep soundstage in a reverberant space. Once again, the orchestral timbre is characterized by bright highs, a somewhat congested midrange, and sparse bass. While the sound may not be demonstration quality, the content makes for another disc of discovery well worth investigating.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P170225)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


The album cover may not always appear.
Radecke, R.: Pno Trios 1 & 2, 3 Fant Pcs for Vc & Pno; Trio Fontane [CPO]
Last year CPO introduced us to some orchestral music by German composer Robert Radecke (1830-1911; see 30 June 2016). Now they give us world premiere recordings of three chamber works.

Except for what would seem to be an unnumbered early effort, he wrote two piano trios, both of which are included here. In four movements each, the first probably dates from around 1851.

The opening allegro [T-1] is in modified sonata form, and begins with a lilting confident theme (LC) [00:01] succeeded by a coy related countersubject (CR) [01:16]. The latter bridges into a fetching development [02:36] with some pizzicato spicing and syncopated piano passages. Then LC starts a relaxed recap [04:30] that becomes agitated, giving way to the peaceful return of CR [05:33] This builds into a dramatic LC-based coda [07;00] that ends the movement tranquilly.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was a good friend of Radecke, and the following scherzo [T-2] smacks of his acquaintance’s piano trios (1847-1851). It starts with a highly angular, scurrying tune that partners an insistent mesmerizing idea [00:30] in a captivating developmental dance. Then there's a contrasting andante [T-3], which is a moving duet for the strings with a caressing piano accompaniment.

An allegro of sonata-rondo disposition [T-4] closes the work. It opens with a vivacious engaging number (VE) [00:01] succeeded by a VE-based sequential passage [00:49]. All this hints at two related subjects that come next. The first is a darting idea (RD), and after a reminder of VE [03:02], the strings play the lyrical second (RL) [03:30]. All are developed [03:55], and VD introduces a recapitulation [06:26] with a nostalgic reminder of RL [07:46]. This is followed by a momentary pause, and an RD-fueled coda [08:57] ends the work excitedly.

The second trio had a long genesis. Moreover, the first two movements were probably written in 1853-5, and last ones not until 1868. Dedicated to the great Russian pianist-composer Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894; see 6 October 2014), the keyboard part is much more demanding than in the one above.

Like the previous trio, this begins with a modified sonata form allegro [T-8], but starts with a nervous piano passage [00:02]. It’s succeeded by the strings playing a descending three-note riff, powering an agitated first theme (AF) [00:06]. This is picked up enthusiastically by the piano [00:40], and then the music transitions into a relaxed, related countermelody (RC) [01:25].

RC becomes the subject of a rhapsodic episode, prefacing an anguished development of all the foregoing [02:54]. Then there’s a recap of the opening measures [05:22], and a mournful AF-based coda [08:58] ends the movement fatefully.

The andante [T-9] is a theme and variations that opens with the piano stating a drop-dead subject melody (DS) [00:01]. It also plays the first of eight variants, which is simply DS in a higher key [00:28]. The next four transformations are delicately string embossed [00:55, 01:25, 01:51 & 02:20], after which we get a shimmering one [02:47] and contemplative seventh [04:11]. The concluding eighth [05:21] is celestial and has a an angelic harp-like quality. It ends with a deceptive pause [06:25] followed by an amen-like afterthought.

A captivating capriciousness recalling Mendelssohn (1809-1847) pervades the scherzo's [T-10] extremities, which bracket a gloomy segment [01:50-03:35]. Then like its predecessor above, the trio concludes with a sonata-rondo [T-11].

This is a spectacular virtuosic workout for everyone, and begins with a dynamic descending phrase [00:00] immediately followed by a frisky smiling tune (FS) [00:08]. FS is restated more authoritatively [00:58], and succeeded by a buoyant furtive idea (BF) [01:26]. Then the two chase each other in a rondoesque, developmental game of tag. It ends in a BF-introduced coda [07:57], where FS has the last say [08:09], concluding the work exultantly.

Filling out this interesting disc there's 3 Fantasy Pieces for Violincello and Piano written sometime in 1850 not long after the composer first met Schumann (see above). This would seem to explain the strong resemblance between Radecke's work and the older composer’s identically scored Fünf Stücke im Volkston (Five Pieces in Folk Style) of 1849.

The initial ternary andante [T-5] has dreamy meditative sections wrapped around an impassioned episode [01:12-02:26], while the cantilena-like moderato [T-6] is based on an attractive folk-like melody. Then there's a concluding presto [T-7], which is again in ternary form, but with scurrying outer passages surrounding a rapturous inner one [01:41-03:24].

Our performing group is Switzerland's up-and-coming Trio Fontane, which was formed in 2002. We're told “Fontane”, which is the German word for "fountain", reflects their desire "to be a source of bubbling musical ideas". They certainly effervesce here, making a strong case for these rarely heard chamber works.

That said, there are a couple of intonationally queasy spots that could have been excised with some touch-ups and editing, but maybe there were production restraints. Be that as it may, any technical shortcomings are easily overlooked considering their sheer enthusiasm for this lambent music.

A coproduction with Swiss Radio, the recordings were made in one of their Zurich studios, and project a moderately wide but deep soundstage in pleasing reverberant surroundings. The instruments are well captured and balanced, but the audio image would have been better focused with closer miking. In short, the sound is good, and with music this engaging you'll soon forget any sonic shortcomings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P170224)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com


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