CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 AUGUST 2017
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.
Harberg: Va Conc, Elegy (va & stg orch); Wolpert: Va Conc 1 "Giants"; Deubner/Lerner/SAriz SO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Here are a couple of significant additions to the viola concerto genre by contemporary American composers Amanda Harberg and Max Wolpert (birthdates unknown). Both are colorful, immediately accessible, programmatic works written for our soloist, Brett Deubner.
The Harberg (2011-2) is in three movements that the composer says are meditations on different subjects. The first marked allegro maestoso [T-1] is a contemplation of "flight", which opens with shimmering passages [00:01] that include two trumpets. Ms. Harberg tells us these represent a pair of eagles perched high in the trees.
This "eagle" music introduces the violist, who enters playing a theme on the wing (TW) [00:59] that's picked up by the orchestra. TW swoops and soars into a spirited dance episode [03:03], which is a virtuosic cavort for soloist and tutti. This quietly subsides into a torturous cadenza [05:28], where Deubner demonstrates his awesome technical command of one the orchestra’s most temperamental instruments.
Then the orchestra returns full force playing TW [06:40] along with memories of the initial eagle music. This avian rumination then ends with a flash of cymbal and tam-tam sunshine as the two birds soar heavenwards.
Next, Amanda contemplates "the fragility of life" [T-2] in a movement entitled aria. Beginning with quiet harp arpeggios [00:00], the soloist soon intones an extended song of supplication with a comely melody worthy of Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) at his best. This is all the more moving as played by the most amative of stringed instruments, and for the delicately scored orchestral accompaniment embracing it. The movement then ends in a state of tranquil resignation.
After that, it's fun-and-games time with an allegro spiritoso [T-3], which the composer says "is about celebration". This gets off to a rhythmically arresting start with a timpani drumbeat [00:00] plus some colorful percussion, and a swaggering ditty in the low woodwinds [00:08].
Then the soloist makes a dramatic entrance playing an assertive, syncopated theme (AS) [00:50] worthy of Leonard Bernstein's (1918-1990) jazzier moments. AS is picked up by the tutti, and its first four notes become a short, festive brass chorale [01:36]. This wanes into a subdued searching idea for the viola (SS) [01:57], which is contemplated in an animated exchange between soloist and tutti.
This falls off, and AS returns [03:44] to pounding drum accents and avian woodwind twitters -- those eagles must be back! AS and SS are then amalgamated to bring the concerto to a spirited close with a last-minute viola flourish, and sudden final forte chord for all.
"Elegy" of 2007 ends the Harberg portion of this release [T-4]. Originally for violin and piano (not currently available on disc), what we have here is a recent arrangement for viola and string orchestra by our soloist.
The piece is dedicated to the memory of a beloved music teacher, who the composer says, "first showed me how to live a life in music." Accordingly, it begins in the depths of the low strings [00:00], out of which the viola surfaces, intoning a somber, extended, melodic prayer. This gradually ascends into a more hopeful passage for the upper strings [03:21] with what sounds like a moment of hum-along from Maestro Lerner [03:28].
Then the music becomes nostalgic [04:11], presumably reflecting Amanda's fond memories of her lost mentor. Subsequent upward spiraling passages seemingly limn the journey of her friend's soul to a better world.
The concert concludes with "fiddler-composer-storyteller" Max Wolpert's first viola concerto of 2015, subtitled "Giants". He tells us there are many common notions in the stories that have inspired much of his music. Moreover, this work is named after one such concept summed up in Genesis 6:4, namely, "There were giants in the earth in those days". He then goes on to say the implication of this is that giants of old are long gone, magic is disappearing, and the world is getting smaller.
Wolpert has come up with a very clever musical device, which at least in theory is designed to get this idea across. To wit, he bases each of the concerto's three movements on a different ascending melodic interval. These decrease in span as the concerto progresses (see below).
When he wrote the opening "Father Time" [T-5], Max wasn't thinking of that legendary guy with a flowing white beard (see album cover photo), but the "giant of giants" personification of him in British author C.S. Lewis' (1898-1963) seven fantasy novels collectively titled The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-6; see album notes). Here the music starts with throbbing strings [00:00], and the viola playing a dreamy melody [00:12] indicative of the Lewis figure sleeping in "caverns at the bottom of the world".
Then a horn call [01:36] marks the giant's awakening "at the end of days to blow his horn and call the stars down from the sky". A frantic tutti episode follows with the soloist playing antic passages.
These subside into a segment for viola and strings with more horn calls, which builds and fades into a pensive section. After that trumpets announce [06:15] a brief orchestral outburst, where we're told the world comes to an end.
A gentle harp postscript [beginning at 07:05] follows, alluding to the harp of a different giant we're soon destined to meet. This bridges into the The Golden Harp [T-6], which commences with oneiric passages [00:26] that include viola musings.
These take us to a castle in the clouds, that's home to giant, who owns a magic harp that plays itself. It's put him to sleep, but stops, and he awakens as we hear four, forte "Fie-fi-fo-fum" orchestral chords [02:57].
These introduce a lively segment, where he presumably lurches about to some awesome, seismic bass drum strokes [03:44, 03:53]. However, there’s a brief cadenza for the soloist [04:52] succeeded by a flash of tutti, after which the enchanted harp resumes its soporific serenade. This puts him back to sleep, ending the movement in slumber land.
Then we get Dance of the Cloud Women [T-7], which as explained by the composer sounds like he was smoking something strange when he thought it up! Moreover, we're told it's meant to represent a thunderstorm as a wild dance party with music of Balkan origin. And in that regard, it's entirely different from anything that's come before.
The movement gets off to a subdued woodwind and viola start, where there are hints of distant thunder, again courtesy of that big bass drum [00:43, 00:59]. Then the orchestra and soloist launch into a rhythmically crazed klezmer-like number (RK) [01:19]. This is explored with pensive as well as fancy-fiddling moments.
After that we get an exotic segment having plucky string passages [03:20] with piquant oboe and viola descants. All this is vaguely reminiscent of the "Arabian Dance" in Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Nutcracker (1891-2), and followed by a demanding cadenza for the soloist [04:50]. It ends with more bass drum thunder [06:02], and the return of RK [06:07], which ends the concerto and this disc tempestuously.
Brett Deubner lives up to his growing reputation as one of today's best violists, giving finely shaded performances of these works. He gets outstanding support from the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra under its artistic director Linus Lerner.
The recordings were made at a high school auditorium located in the town of Catalina Foothills just north of Tucson, Arizona, and present a generously proportioned sonic image in pleasantly bright. lively surroundings. The viola placed just left of center is realistically captured, and balanced against the orchestra.
The instrumental timbre is lifelike with sparkling highs, a pristine, well-focused midrange, and clean, transient lows that go down to rock bottom. Late romantic music enthusiasts, as well as any audiophiles among them will be pleased with this release.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y170831)
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Hausegger: Aufklänge Vars über ein Kinderlied, Dionysische Phantasie, Wieland der Schmied; Hermus/Bam S [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Hausegger: Natursymphonie (Orch & C); Rasilainen/ColWDR C&O [CPO (Hybrid)]
SUGGESTED (1 SACD)
Born in Graz, Austria, some 90 miles south-south-west of Vienna, Siegmund von Hausegger (1872-1948) makes his CLOFO debut with these two CPO albums. As a youngster Siegmund received his first musical training from highly cultivated parents. He then went on to study at the University of Graz, and the mid-1890s saw him begin his career in that city as an opera conductor. Hausegger soon become devoted to Richard Wagner's (1813-1833) operas, and would consequently write works of German, late-romantic persuasion.
With the death of his father in 1899, mother and son moved to Munich, Germany, where he accepted a position with a local orchestra as an assistant to the great Felix Weingartner (1863-1942; see 8 April 2013), whom he succeeded in 1902. Hausegger was based there for the rest of his life, and became a highly acclaimed conductor both at home and abroad.
In that regard, he championed the music of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), who was a good friend, as were Wilhelm Fürtwängler (1886-1954; see 28 April 2007) and Richard Strauss (1864-1949). He'd also teach, and could count conductor Eugen Jochum (1902-1987) among his students.
Hausegger began composing in the 1890s, and would leave only six orchestral works. One of them, an early symphonic poem (ballad) titled Odinsmeeresritt (Odin's Ride Over the Sea), was written sometime before 1905, and is presumably lost. Four of the other five fill out the two albums considered here, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.1), release on the right [DR] featuring Die Natursymphonie (The Nature Symphony, 1911) appeared in April of 2008. Shortly thereafter it was considered for a CROCKS Newsletter, but never written up as there were concerns about the music and sound. However, with CPO's recent release of the companion CD pictured to the left, and the introduction of a more forgiving CROCKS "SUGGESTED" rating, now seems a good time to do so.
Having appeared almost ten years ago, there's a considerable amount of readily available reference material about it out there, so this commentary will be kept to a minimum. Generally speaking it’s a turgid Teutonic work that the composer reportedly thought of as "bringing man into a cosmic relation with Nature". Scored for a huge orchestra plus organ and chorus, it's in four movements, and some may find the first two overblown, Nietzschean ruminations.
Apparently inspired by the Eastern Alps of Southern Germany, one wonders if this might have given his buddy Richard the idea for Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony, 1911-5). Be that as it may, down through the years Hausegger's work has gotten a mixed critical reception with one reviewer loftily referring to it as "the relationship of Nature to God and mankind".
The opening "Ghalten und mit Dehnung - Schnell" ("Recalcitrant and Strained - Fast") [DR, T-1] begins ponderously with a heroic ascending theme for the brass [00:01], suggesting snow-capped peaks. It's soon followed by a sober five-note motif for the strings [00:41, This is lugubriously expanded into a pensive, searching idea (PS) [00:51], first by the organist with some seismic pedal work, and then on the bassoon [01:09].
After that the brass introduce [02:38] a towering timpani-reinforced outburst, succeeded by a drawn-out, convoluted exploration of the foregoing [03:50]. Here the mood ranges from flighty and pastoral to troubled, heroic, and nostalgic. Then the music ends with subdued, morose passages [17:36] and a closing open pp chord that anticipates the next movement.
Marked "Langsam und gedehnt" ("Sluggish and Stretched") [DR, T-2], it opens with the organ playing a dark, hushed bridge into a torpid idea for the bassoon that the composer referred to as "a death-cry of Nature" [00:28]. More protracted musical cerebrations follow, which are successively gloomy, agitated and hopeful. Then there's a ponderous funeral march [12:12] that builds to momentous proportions, and fades away with a subdued reminder of PS [17:54]. It's followed by a dark afterthought that has more seismic organ notes, and concludes the movement in utter despair.
The next "Stürmisch bewegt" ("Emotionally Tempestuous") [DR, T-3] is scherzoesque with frenetic outer sections that have a rousing heroic theme (RH) [00:30], which oddly enough somewhat anticipates John Williams' (b. 1932) title music for the film Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). They surround a wistful episode, and bridge right into the grand finale.
Titled "Sehr breit - mit größter Kraft" ("Wide - With the Greatest Force") [DR, T-4], it starts with a fired up a capella chorus [00:00] quickly joined by an excited orchestra [00:04]. Those who found the previous three movements tough going, will have their perseverance rewarded by this relatively straightforward, impassioned setting of Goethe's (1749-1832) poem Proömion (Prooemion, 1818; see the album notes for English, French and German texts).
It extols the eternal, mysterious forces of nature, and recalls a bewildering mêlée of past ideas. Then the symphony ends euphorically with an instrumental allusion to PS [09:07], brief spaced-out choral passages [09:41], and some blazing RH-related orchestral outbursts [10:22]. All this brings to mind monumental moments in Mahler (1860-1911), but there's also a furtive chromaticism smacking of Shrecker (1878-1934).
Finnish conductor Ari Rasilainen and the West German Radio (WDR) Chorus and Orchestra of Cologne give a superb account of this sprawling symphonic undertaking. His careful attention to phrasing and dynamics bring out the best in this knurly Nietzschean nature poem.
A coproduction of CPO and WDR, it took three recording sessions in the winter of 2005-6 to lay this down, presumably at the Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal, Cologne. The sound is borderline, but with repertoire this rare we're lucky to have what's here. Moreover, the sonic image from the stereo tracks is wide, deep and withdrawn, while that on the multichannel one is much more forward.
A good balance between chorus and orchestra is maintained throughout. However, the instrumental highs are steely and voices grainy sounding in all three play modes. As for the midrange, it's congested on both stereo tracks, but much more convincing on the multichannel one.
The bass goes down to rock bottom, and seems acceptably clean regardless of format. But a word of caution for those having theater systems with subwoofers. Depending on your control settings and speaker configuration, those boom boxes may muddy Hausegger's dark sonic waters. So, you may want to deactivate them.
Turning to CPO's recently released CD pictured to the left [DL], we get three more of Hausegger's five surviving orchestral works. The disc opens with his final effort in the genre, called Aufklänge (1917) [DL, T-1]. Its name might best be anglicized as "Oneiric Musings", considering the work was apparently meant to reflect the dream-like optimistic feelings and imaginings of a father beside his child's cradle". On a sexist note, the composer dedicated it to his only son Friedrich, so the baby in question must have been a boy.
Apparently, he considered this complemented the above symphony, and had grandiose thoughts about it as "establishing man within his own subjective experience". That said, what we have here is a set of symphonic variations based on the melody from German composer Johann Friederich Reichardt's (1752-1814) nursery song, which starts "Schlaf', Kindlein, schlaf'!" ("Sleep, baby, sleep!", 1781). Incidentally, Hausegger's hero Wagner alludes to the same tune in Siegfried Idyll (1870).
The work is a theme followed by fifteen variational episodes with an overall structure resembling a four-movement symphony. The initial “movement” starts with a soporific introduction [00:02] followed by the oboe playing a drowsy subject melody [01:07]. It's then filled out with first five of those variations.
The initial one is fittingly childlike with carefree abandon [02:24]. There’s something aspiring and heroic about the next [04:14], which may represent hopes for Baby Friedrich's future, Then the "movement" concludes with capriciously march-like [06:13], fleetingly mischievous [07:34], and aggressively stalking [08:33] treatments.
The subsequent melancholy, searching transformation [10:41] could be construed as the beginning of a slow "movement". This also includes reconciling-hymnlike [13:03] and heavenly angelic [14:45] variations.
Then it's on to the third "movement" that begins with an avian, pastoral offering [17:42]. This turns into a thrilling scherzoesque mutation [19:06] having a songlike trio [20:00-20:47].
After that we get the finale of this "symphony". It starts with a harried variant [22:12] that may bring Paul Dukas' (1865-1935) Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897) to mind. A scurrying fugato follows [23:40], then triumphant [24:19] and expansive [25:29] ones reminiscent of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's (1897-1957) more heroic moments (see 31 March 2011).
Concluding this collection of symphonic paternal fantasies, there's a reflective, one [27:00] recapping bits of what's come before. It brings the work to a tranquil conclusion with little Freddy sound asleep!
Two of Hausegger's three surviving symphonic poems fill out this disc, the earlier one being Dionÿsische Fantasie (Dionysian Fantasy) of 1896-7. This was written while he was heavily under the influence of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) Die Geburt der Tragödie (The Birth of Tragedy, 1872), which praised German music, and Wagner in particular. He'd also just heard his buddy Richard Strauss' Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1895-6), and Sigmund's twenty-minute fantasy portends A Hero's Life, which was soon to come (1897-8).
With his head full of Nietzshean notions, Hausegger even penned and prefaced the score with a lengthy poem involving a hero, his struggle with death, and ultimate inner triumph over it. Consequently, the work is in three adjoining sections sequentially representing each of these.
The initial "Hero" [DL, T-2] begins with a timpani-accented, slow rising introduction [00:00] that builds, and is followed by a cocky spirited march (CS) [01:26]. This undergoes a chromatic exploration, and then a combative episode [03:22] transitions into a lilting amorous idea [LA] [04:30]. But anxious passages trigger a return of CS [07:37] and LA [07:52] succeeded by a forcefully tragic segment.
This fades into the middle "Death" section, which begins with the winds playing a forlorn sinuous theme (FS) [09:40]. It's examined and followed by ominous passages [12:29] having a thrilling, heroic motif (TH) [13:25]. The latter wanes with some harp work into an FS-related, uplifting idea (FU) for the violin [14:34].
FU announces the concluding "Triumph" one, which becomes rather jaunty and increasingly excited with recollections of past ideas. Then a rousing TH-related coda [18:52] ends the work exultantly. There's a concision and youthful freshness about it that many may find make this the disc’s highpoint.
The program ends with the other, later tone poem, Wieland der Schmied (Wieland the Blacksmith, 1904) [DL, T-3], who was a German mythological figure. This was motivated by Richard Wagner's draft of a libretto (1849-50) for an opera based on him.
While this never came to fruition, it’s notable for those swans, spears, swords as well as magic rings and things that would appear in his other stage works. Curiously enough it also inspired a sketch for another uncompleted opera by aspiring Austrian music student August Kubizek (1888-1956) and one of his close friends, who was none other than Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)!!!
Rather than heading the score with a poem, this time Hausegger gives a brief description of the underlying story. Generally speaking it involves Wieland and the beautiful, winged maiden Schwanhilde.
The music falls into four adjoining sections, with the first introducing these colorful characters. It opens with shimmering strings [00:02] followed by an agitated, carping idea (AC) [00:04], and a lyrical, yearning one (LY) [00:35], all of which are associated with Wieland. They're briefly examined, and then twittering winds [02:26] give us a comely, radiant melody (CR) [02:30], representing the lovely Schwanhilde.
CR is explored, and the three themes power a contentious episode [03:49], depicting a confrontation between the two that causes her to spread her wings, and fly away. Then the music atrophies, suggesting Wieland's emotional paralysis over his loss, and bringing this section to a close.
The second starts with low strings [05:21]. They preface alternately rancorous AC-LY-related passages, and nostalgic CR-flavored ones indicative of Wieland's longing for his lost ladylove. Then there's an eruption of Wagnerian proportions [11:27] with a brass outcry [12:03] announcing the penultimate section.
The music here is emboldened and pounding as Wieland fashions wings of steel to seek, and hopefully reclaim Schwanhilde. It's easy to imagine him making them, and Wagner's music for that scene in the Ring Cycle (1854-74) where Siegfried forges his magic sword "Nothung" [12:39] is even hinted at [beginning at 12:39].
This transitions directly into the fourth and final section [14:24]. Here AC, CR and LY intermingle in a amorous episode along the lines of passionate moments in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (1857-9). The music reflects Wieland flying skywards in response to calls from Schwanhilde, and their passionate reunion as they soar into the sun. Besides Wagner, at this point in his career Hausegger was also obviously under the spell of his contemporary Richard Strauss
Dutch conductor Antony Hermus and the Bamberg Symphony give zealous accounts of these three forgotten scores. Sigmund's music is a constant flow of interbred ideas, which can easily turn into a Germanic quagmire like parts of his above symphony. However, Maestro Hermus' careful phrasing, expressive dynamic shadings, and well-judged tempos preclude that from happening.
CPO coproduced these recordings with Bavarian Radio (Bayerischer Rindfunk) back in 2013-4, presumably at the Joseph-Keilberth-Saal, Bamberg, Germany. The sound is marginal, but once again with repertoire this rare we're lucky to have what's here. Moreover, the sonic image seems compressed, but in a pleasing venue.
The instrumental timbre is characterized by steely highs with a touch of "digitalis", a pinched midrange, and blurry bass. On that note, there are periodic seismic thumps that could be Maestro Hermus doing the "Bernstein Bounce" on a timpanic podium.
One last thought. Fans of CPO's most effusive annotator, the indefatigable Eckhardt van den Hoogen (see 31 March 2017), will be happy to know he wrote the notes for both albums.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P170830, S170829)
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Reber: Pno Trios 2, 4 & 6;
Trio Éléiaque [Timpani]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Reber: Pno Trios 3, 5 & 7;
Trio Éléiaque [Timpani]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
The two releases considered here add another romantic French composer to these pages. Napoléon-Henri Reber (1807-1880) was born in Mulhouse, Alsace, just northwest of the Swiss-German border, and initially received a comprehensive, scientific education preparing him for a career in Industry.
However, he developed a strong interest in music along the way, and began self-studies in piano and composition. He then furthered his musical education in Paris, where he became a highly respected figure at the Paris Conservatory.
Reber spent the rest of his life in that city, and composed right up until his last days. He'd leave a substantial oeuvre that includes several operas, four symphonies, and a significant body of chamber works. The latter were highly successful with Paris salon audiences of the day, which probably explains why he only wrote music in that genre from 1860 on.
Moreover, there are seven piano trios, the last six of which fill these two Timpani releases. Out of Haydn (1732-1809), and headed towards Fauré (1845-1924) via Beethoven (1770-1827), Schubert (1797-1828), Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Schumann (1810-1856) and Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), the music here is highly refined with an unmistakable Gallic touch. These are the only recordings of them readily available on disc.
Like the Hausegger Nature Symphony above, the Reber disc to the right (DR) came out several years ago, but spotty availability precluded writing it up back then. That ended when Naxos took over Timpani's distribution last year. And now with CPO's recent release of the companion CD pictured to the left, this seems like a good time to tell you about both.
The earlier one (DR) has the third, fifth and seventh piano trios, the first two of which are each in three, similarly structured movements. The third dating from 1862 begins with an animated, sonata-rondo allegro [DR, T-1].
Right from the start, there's an anxious, cantering, Schubertian theme (AC) [00:02], which hints at a swaying, lyrical idea that soon follows [01:04]. The two recur in rondo fashion, and are interspersed with brief exploratory episodes, having virtuosic moments. Then AC chases its own tail, ending the moments excitedly.
An adagio cantabile [DR, T-2] features a rapturous melody (RM) [00:01] with amorous overtones. Here RM is repeated, and undergoes several developmental transformations, the last of which closes the movement nostalgically.
This trio concludes with another allegro [DR, T-3] that's rondo-like with a scherzoesque effervescence. Here a scampering ditty (SD) [00:01] and a pleading, RM-related, countersubject (PR) [01:03] play a delightful, exploratory game of musical tag. An SD-PR-amalgamated, upward spiraling coda [06:35] brings this engaging work to a rousing conclusion.
Ten years later Reber completed his fifth piano trio (1872). The opening allegro [DR, T-4] has an initial question-answer idea (QA) [00:01], also of Schubertian persuasion, which gives way to a related, coquettish countermelody [00:41]. It then follows much the same game plan as the one that opened the preceding trio.
The andante sostenuto [DR, T-5] is a charming utterance that explores a pleading, cavatina-like tune heard at the outset [00:01]. Then the work ends with a second allegro [DR, T-6; not T-7 as indicated on the album back panel], which is another rondo creation with scherzo-like overtones. It's based on a skipping melody [00:01] succeeded by a QA-related, contemplative countersubject [00:50], and ends the work cheerfully.
Written the same year he died, the seventh piano trio (1880) is in four movements. It opens with an allegro moderato [DR, T-7; not T-8 as indicated on the album back panel] that begins with a wistful, two-part theme [00:01 and 00:09], which is alternately explored and repeated [01:32]. This finally bringing the movement to a guarded close.
A devout adagio [DR, T-8], which is the longest movement here, comes next with a sublime subject [00:01] anticipating those subtle melodies of his compatriot Gabriel Faure. Then we get a virtuosically embellished, bouncy scherzo [DR, T-9], with a skittishness recalling Mendelssohn.
The final allegro non troppo [DR, T-10] owes a debt to Schumann, and has lots of Saint-Saëns-like piano runs. Similarly structured to the opening movement, it has thematic birds of a different feather. The first is energetically repetitive (ER) [00:12], while the other is an ER-related, folklike ditty with Gallic overtones [01:22]. The two are explored, and vie for center attention with ER winning out to end the trio and this CD emphatically.
Both albums feature the Trio Éléiaque, and all the recordings were made at a single location by the same production staff. Consequently, comments regarding performances and sound will be found at the end of this commentary.
The disc on the left (DL) gives us all three of Reber's even numbered piano trios, which are each in four movements. The second of 1840 begins with a rondo-structured allegro moderato [DL, T-5]. This starts with two ideas that take the form of a declamatory motif (DM) [00:01] and pleading idea [00:57], both of which owe a debt to Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert. These are interspersed with developmental episodes, where they're the topics of conversation, and then the movement ends definitively with a final reference to DM.
A delightful chanson without words follows [DL, T-6]. It's succeeded by an allegro non troppo [DL, T-7], which is a tiny, scherzo with playful outer sections surrounding a pensive trio [01:38-02:52].
The work closes with a movement marked "Trés accentué, sans vitesse" ("Very accentuated, but not with haste") [DL, T-8]. Here an angular, Schumannesque theme [00:01] is stated and varied. This pattern repeats, and gives rise to a brief fugato [01:31], before bringing the work to a satisfying conclusion.
Moving ahead twenty-six years we get the fourth trio (1864), which is accordingly a more advanced undertaking. The initial allegro [DL, T-1] is based on a couple of pleasant tunes that are sequentially busy [00:02] and remorseful [00:47]. These wander in and out of several, occasionally virtuosic, developmental episodes, and end the movement perfunctorily.
Next, there's a lullaby-like allegretto un poco andantino [DL, T-2], and a pixilated scherzo [DL, T-3] à la Mendelssohn with a swaying trio [01:28-02:22]. Then the work ends in a binate andante - allegro [DL, T-4], having a no-nonsense first part [00:00]. It's followed by a jolly closing section featuring a childlike, carefree tune [02:34]. This romps along, and brings the trio to a smiling finish.
The sixth of 1876 is understandably the most advanced of all the piano trios on these discs. It kicks off with an allegro ma non troppo [DL, T-9] having a brief introduction [00:00] followed by a folkish theme [00:15] that brings to mind the musette, or French bagpipe. This is the subject of a developmental conversation, having a chromatic and rhythmic whimsicality anticipating Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). It then ends the movement excitedly.
A pining Larghetto non troppo [DL, T-10], which wears out its welcome, is then followed by an allegro vivo [DL, T-11] that's in essence a scherzo. This has scurrying outer sections, which hug a dancelike trio [01:24-02:15], and prepare the way for a frenzied, closing allegro con brio [DL, T-12]. Here a bouncy preface [00:00] is succeeded by a rocking motif [00:17], and comely amorous melody [00:25], which are repeated. Then they go through a harmonically inventive exploration, finally returning to end the trio and this disc in "So there!" fashion.
The members of Trio Éléiaque comprised of pianist François Dumont, violinists Laurent Le Flécher (Trios 3, 5 and 7), Philppe Aïche (Trios 2, 4 and 6) and cellist Virginie Constant, give superb accounts of these works. All four musicians are each virtuosos in their own right. They play with an attention to phrasing and dynamics, that turn this little-known music into more than just ordinary fare.
Although the recordings date from 2012 (Trios 3, 5 and 7) and 2015 (Trios 2, 4 and 6), all were made at an unidentified salon in the Vincennes' suburbs of Paris, and involved the same production staff. They consistently project a rich, somewhat veiled soundstage in a warm acoustic.
While the string tone is a bit rounded at the top end, Monsieur Dumont's piano is beautifully captured, and the lows are lean and clean. Musically speaking these discs are pleasing, but sonically fall a little short of demonstration quality.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P170828, P170827)
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