CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 NOVEMBER 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.
Borenstein: Vn Conc, Big Bang and Creation…, If You Will It, It is…; Trynkos/Ashkenazy/Oxford PO [Chandos (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
The world of classical silver discs is a little richer for this new Chandos, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.1), release of orchestral music with strong Jewish associations from up-and-coming, Israeli-born composer Nimrod Borenstein (b. 1969). An accomplished violinist by age fifteen, he'd study in London at the Royal College of Music, and then the Royal Academy of Music. where he's now an associate. Having written a number of works that have received worldwide acclaim, we welcome him to these pages with the three world premiere recordings presented here.
The program begins with his large-scale, four-movement violin concerto of 2013. Dedicated to his friend and benefactor, Israeli polymath-philanthropist Zvi Meitar (1933-2015; see the informative album notes), there are Semitic overtones throughout. What's more, the composer says it was written to continue the tradition of those "big" works in the genre that appeared during the late 1800s and first part of the 20th century.
The initial rondo-like allegro [T-1] gets off to a tuned percussion (T·P) start [00:03] decorated with flighty violin descants. Then there's a sad Eastern-sounding theme (SE) in the winds [01:03], which is picked up by the soloist. Incidentally, some may find SE brings to mind the opening of Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) violin concerto (1878).
An antsy exploratory episode comes next [02:06] with more T·P highlighting, which during the course of this disc seems a Borenstein trademark. Then a repeat of SE in the winds [03:08] introduces a perky section [03:46] with some fancy fiddling. Once again that pervasive T·P appears, and we get an amorous variant of SE [05:10] that bridges into a manic closing section. Here a final reminder of SE [07:36] initiates a return to the mood of the opening, which along with some virtuosic violin fireworks, brings the movement to an abrupt conclusion.
The next one marked moderato [T-2] begins with T·P over pizzicato strings, hinting at an endearing cantilena melody soon played by the soloist [00:14]. This is the subject of what the composer refers to as a romanza, and ends much like it began.
After that there's a keening adagio [T-3] that opens with more T·P passages, having Sanctus-bell-like notes. They’re succeeded by a lachrymose idea for the violin over a weeping accompaniment (LW) [00:12]. LW pervades this heartbreaking movement, which ends as sadly as it began.
Pounding timpani (PT) and an excited tutti start the concluding allegro [T-4]. Then the soloist enters, playing a frenetic theme [00:16] and a swaying countermelody (SC) [00:41], which smacks of that foreboding chant known as the Dies Irae. There are allusions to SE [01:09] and LW [03:42], with the latter ushering in a brief nostalgic episode. But busy passages reminiscent of the opening resume [04:43], and a fiery SC-based coda [05;22] brings the concerto to a sudden end.
Commissioned for Meitar's (see above) seventy-fifth birthday, the next selection has an imposing title, to wit, The Big Bang and Creation of the Universe. Here the composer takes inspiration from recent cosmological theory as well as the Old Testament, Book of Genesis.
The first of its three movements marked "Light. Moderato" [T-5] begins Borenstein's universe not with a bang but a T·P whimper, where the vibraphone repeats a rising, three-note (A-C-E) motif (M3) [00:00]. This is the quantum event that inflates into his cosmos.
Moreover, other instruments soon enter playing a variety of M3-sired ideas reflecting the diversity of Creation. These passages wax and wane into a vibraphone-introduced afterthought [07:00] that ends the movement tranquilly.
A pensive "Peace. Adagio" [T-6] starts with low strings repeating an M3-initiated twelve-note motto (M12) [00:00]. This conjures up images of vast empty spaces, after which that ubiquitous vibraphone introduces a comforting, M12-based segment [01:43], and a perky, pizzicato-spiced, playful episode [03:01]. Then M12 returns [04:02], and the movement ends full circle with some closing vibraphone reminders of M12.
Things brighten with the closing "Adam and Eve. Allegro" [T-7] that begins with a frisky, M12-related dance (FM) [00:00] set to more pizzicato. Subsequently the music becomes introspective [01:01], after which the vibraphone prefaces a return to FM [01:27]. This grows austere [04:15], and ends the work peremptorily.
Filling out the disc we have If You Will It, It Is No Dream [T-8], which lasts a little over eight minutes, and takes its name from a line in Hungarian-born, Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl's (1860-1904) book Altneuland (The Old New Land, 1896). The title in Hebrew is Tel Aviv, where the composer was born, and accordingly he says the piece pays homage to his homeland.
Apparently, he applies what he refers to as a "multimelodic" technique here. This is described as a continuous flow of contrapuntally overlapping themes designed to hold the listener's attention. What’s more, the album notes tell us the instrumentation is identical to Tchaikovsky's (see above) Fifth Symphony (1888), and on that note there are melancholy moments reminiscent of it.
The work has a PT-introduced, excited beginning somewhat like the last movement of the violin concerto. After that three engaging ideas in the winds [00:14], strings [00:25] and brass [00:31] follow in rapid succession [00:14, 00:25 & 00:32]. These compete with one another for the remainder of the piece in a series of episodes that are alternately busy, wistful [03:32 & 06:32] and even songlike [04:07 & 07:32]. Here more PT passages as well as some additional pizzicato accompaniment make the music all the more colorful, Then, reminiscences of the opening measures [08:04] end the work like it began.
Five years ago we introduced you to Greek-Polish violinist Irmina Trynkos by way of her debut CD featuring Ignatz Waghalter's (1881-1949) music (see 7 November 2012). A CLOFO "Audiophile Best Find", we predicted her commanding technical ability and lovely tone would soon bring her much wider attention. And that wasn't long in coming as her disc became an award-winning bestseller, and she was soon a favorite with concert audiences.
Now Ms. Trynkos gives us an inspired account of the Borenstein concerto. She receives strong support from that famed pianist now turned conductor, Vladimir Ashkenazy, who leads the relatively new Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra (established 1998). A champion of Nimrod's music, he delivers scintillating performances of these works, which should win many converts to the Borenstein cause.
Done last winter in Henry Wood Hall, London, the recordings are very good. The stereo tracks project a broad, deep sonic image in a warm, ideally reverberant venue with Ms. Trynkos violin beautifully captured and balanced against the orchestra. The instrumental timbre is pleasing throughout all three play modes with the SACD ones projecting a slightly softer image.
The multichannel track gives you a center orchestra seat several rows back from the concert stage. It also imparts an increased sense of ambient space, adding clarity to Borenstein's more structurally dense passages. In conclusion, contemporary music enthusiasts should seriously consider this "Audiophile" rated disc.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y171130)
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Lajtha: Syms 8 & 9; Pasquet/Pécs SO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Some twenty years ago the adventurous Marco Polo label issued seven, full-priced CDs with all nine of Hungarian composer László Lajtha's (1892-1963; see 31 January 2016) numbered symphonies. Now, with this release Naxos completes its reissue of them on six discs, each costing half as much as the originals.
Like Petr Eben (1929-2007; see 31 October 2017), Lajtha was an anti-communist, who refused to join the "Party" when Hungary was under Soviet control. Consequently, he was treated with great suspicion, and not allowed to leave the country, which kept his music from becoming better known. However, when Hungary regained its independence, all that changed. Moreover, many now consider him a worthy successor to Bartók (1881-1945), with whom he'd studied and collected folk songs in the early 1900s.
Shortly after his association with him, Lajtha spent time in Paris, where he received instruction from Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931; see 30 June 2015), and was heavily influenced by French composers writing back then. In that regard, many of the movements in his later symphonies are marked in French.
Both works on this CD were completed a few years after Soviet troops brutally crushed the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Consequently, they reflect those times, and come off somewhat like programmatic tone poems. Moreover, the Eighth Symphony opens blithely, and closes in despair. Then the Ninth picks up where that left off, and concludes with hopes for better days ahead. These are the only performances of them currently available on disc.
The Eighth of 1959 is in four movements, and begins with a brilliantly scored "Allčgre et léger" ("Jaunty and Light") [T-1]. This is a rhythmically whimsical, scherzoesque offering with fleeting tidbits of those Magyar folk tunes Bartók and Lajtha loved to collect. Here an exotic assemblage of chortling winds and antsy strings take us on a trip through fairyland, with magic harp, celeste and xylophone embellishments. There's also a haunting melody for the cello [04:55].
All of the foregoing is underscored with ominous, bass drum strokes [beginning at 02:15], presaging trouble to come. These also get the next "Lent et triste" ("Slow and Sad") [T-2] off to a sinister start, where low strings and winds are succeeded by a despairing idea introduced by the English horn [00:47]. This music presumably represents the clouds of Communist oppression about to cover Hungary.
Three violent outbursts follow [beginning at 02:59], where it's easy to imagine Russian tanks on the roll. After that the movement ends despondently, but the worst is yet to come in "Trés agité et toujours angoissé" ("Very Agitated and Always Anxious") [T-3].
This macabre utterance has eerie passages interspersed with shrieking forte ones, which seemingly reflect the anguish and trepidation felt by the Hungarian people during those times. Four bell strokes bring this nightmarish movement to a grief-stricken conclusion.
Then we descend into the nether regions with "Violent et tourmenté" ("Violent and Tormented") [T-4]. This begins with a fortissimo of doom (FD), where the winds hint at the Rákóczi March (c. 1730, see 9 April 2014) [00:39], which was associated with Hungary's struggle for freedom back in the early 1700s.
Except for a couple of subdued ethereal episodes for the clarinet [01:41] and violin [05:44], FDs dominate the movement. They bring the work to a cataclysmic conclusion, calling to mind the words in the Inferno section of Dante's (c. 1265-1321) Divine Comedy (1308-21), "Abandon hope all ye who enter here!"
A feeling of doom also pervades the Ninth Symphony's (1961) unmarked first movement [T-5]. Moreover, percussive chaos, shrieking brass and sobbing strings characterize the opening. This fades into a lugubrious episode [01:10] with more Rákóczi nuances [beginning at 02:14] (see above), which conjures up images of what could be a corpse-littered countryside. Then the music erupts again [05:22], and transitions into a penitent Gregorian chant-like episode [07:53]. The latter bridges into a tumultuous coda [08:48] that concludes the movement with a couple of violent death throes.
As for the "Lento" ("Slow") [T-6], it seems to limn some numinous idealistic future world with stabbing reminders of the cruel, day-to-day existence the Hungarian people then faced. However, the final "Vite" ("Quick") [T-7] is of an entirely different temperament!
It gets off to a scurrying scherzoesque start with Magyar folk overtones, and builds into a hymnlike paean. There are reminders of past ideas, and then the symphony ends with demonstrative flourishes implying an optimistic future.
Founded in 1811, the Pécs Symphony Orchestra (PSO) based some 150 miles south of Budapest is one of Hungary's finest. It's featured here under Uruguayan conductor Nicolás Pasquet, who elicits authoritative, sensitive accounts of these affecting scores. The PSO musicians do well by their fellow countryman, making a strong case for his music.
Done back in 1996 at the Franz Liszt Academy's Main Concert Hall in Pécs, these recordings project a wide and deep sonic image in an enriching venue. Calling for a large orchestra with a substantial percussion section, Lajtha's brilliant scoring has been spectacularly captured in demonstration quality sound.
The instrumental timbre is characterized by sparkling highs, a lifelike midrange, and rock-bottom, clean bass. Contemporary music enthusiasts will welcome this rerelease, and any audiophiles among them are in for a big treat with all that pants-flapping, bass drum work.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y171129)
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Lloyd, G.: Syms 6 & 7 "Proserpine"; Downes/BBCN SO [Lyrita]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Ten years ago we touted British composer George Lloyd's (1913-1998) Fourth (1945-6), Fifth (1947) and Eighth (1961-5) Symphonies on Lyrita (see 8 December 2007). Now his Sixth and Seventh, both three-movement works, make a long overdue appearance on this adventurous UK label.
Of his twelve symphonies (1932-89), many consider the five on these Lyritas his best. Moreover, George's captivating thematic material, unfailing sense of formal structure, and brilliant orchestration put them in a class by themselves. All are taken from BBC stereo, FM-broadcasts of performances under conductor Edward Downes (1924-2009), who championed Lloyd's music. The ones of the Sixth and Seventh were world premieres done in 1979-80.
The Sixth Symphony of 1956 at a little over twenty minutes is scored for modest forces, and begins with an allegro [T-1]. Here an opening thematic nexus gets off to a scrappy staccato start (SS) [00:02] reminiscent of more animated moments in Vaughan Williams' (1872-1958) symphonies (1903-57). It's followed by a lilting theme for the violins (LT) [00:13], and a yearning countersubject (YC) [00:29]. These are vigorously explored [00:41], and the music bridges [05:02] into a subdued section [06:01] that ends the movement with wistful reminders of the foregoing.
A moving adagio is next [T-2], and opens with a sad, SS-derived melody [00:02] succeeded by a plaintive one for the English horn [01:26]. These are the subjects of a melancholy meditation that ends despairingly.
The mood brightens with a final scherzoesque offering marked vivace [T-3]. This starts with a skittering, flute-decorated subject (SF) [00:02], and yearning motif for the violins [00:47]. Then after a reminder of YC [01:11], we get a third folkish tune (TF) [01:51], which smacks of Sir Malcom Arnold's (1921-2006) orchestral dances (1950-89). All undergo a capricious examination with virtuosic flute embellishments, and the work ends in an exultant TF-initiated coda [06:59].
Composed in 1957-9, and lasting fifty minutes, the Seventh Symphony wasn’t orchestrated until 1974. Subtitled "Proserpine", Lloyd had the legend of that Roman goddess (Persephone in Greek mythology; see 31 July 2017) in mind when he wrote it, and prefaced the score with a quotation about her (see the informative album notes). This tells of her idyllic life in the beautiful Sicilian countryside, and later abduction by Pluto, God of the Underworld, who made her Queen of the Dead.
The work requires a large orchestra with a four-man percussion section, and opens "Misterioso - Vivo ma leggeriero" ("Mysterious - Lively but Light") [T-4]. George said this movement represents her blissful days on earth, and accordingly it has a scintillating beginning [00:02], where a couple of sprightly dance tunes appear [02:05]. These build into a brilliantly scored, balletic development [03:09] that waxes and wanes.
Then a scurrying passage [07:41] bridges into another dance episode, where manic woodwinds, anguished brass and contentious percussion add a disquieting overtone, seemingly of things to come. However, this slowly abates into reminders of the opening [14:43], and the music ends full circle.
There's an underlying sense of apprehension about the "Largo" [T-5], which reputedly limns Proserpine as the Goddess of Death. It features a fateful extended theme [00:02] somewhat like the opening of Mahler's Tenth Symphony (1910; completion D. Cooke 1972). And speaking of other composers, later on there are delicately scored passages that recall tender moments in Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Der Rosenkavalier (1909-10).
According to Lloyd, the twenty-minute "Finale. Agitato" [T-6] is meant to reflect "the desperate side of our lives", which is immediately apparent in the anguished beginning measures [00:02]. These have a couple of fateful motifs that are explored, and fuel the equivalent of an intense Richard Strauss, tone-poem-like episode [06:52], in which Ein Heldenleben (1897-8) comes to mind. This fades away into a dying afterthought [15:00], where the symphony vaporizes into a mist of despondency.
As noted above, these performances had Edward Downes on the podium. And along with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, he brings a vitality to these works that bests a couple of later U.S. releases with the composer conducting (1993; see Albany TROY 015-2 and 057-2).
The recordings are serviceable, and present comfortably sized sonic images of limited dynamic range in pleasant surroundings. While the highs are steely, the midrange is convincing. As for the bass, it's reserved in the conservatively scored Sixth, but robust and clean in the percussion-fraught Seventh.
In regard to the latter, those with sophisticated sound systems may notice occasional, low-level thumps, which may have been due to enthusiastic performers on "timpanic" platforms. However, considering the origin of these recordings, they could also be related to the broadcasts, and/or aging of the analogue, ferric-oxide tapes on which they were captured. Be that as it may, with music this captivating, any sonic concerns will soon be forgotten.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P171128)
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Silvestrov: Serenade (stgs), Moments of Memory II (pno, stgs) & 4 Other Wks; Starodub/Yablonsky/Kiev Virtuosi [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Within the past two years, Maestro Dmitry Yablonsky and the Kiev Virtuosi appeared on a couple of Naxos releases featuring the five feisty, Shostakovich/Barshai Chamber Symphonies (see 31 May 2017). Now, they go to the other extreme with these laid-back selections by Ukrainian-born and trained Valentin Silvestrov (also spelled Valentyn, b. 1937).
The composer himself has described his music as not new, but a response to, and echo of what already exists (see the album notes), which certainly characterizes the selections on this CD. In that regard, despite his many devoted supporters, some may find these works overly derivative, and even bordering on New Age. Two of them are the only currently available recordings on disc, and so indicated by "OCAR" after their titles.
The fifteen-minute, single movement Serenade for String Orchestra (1978; OCAR) [T-4] gets off to an anxious start [00:00]. It then meanders about in a tonal fog until stabbing chords [05:55 & 06:53] break up the monotony. After that a folkish, wistful theme of regret (WR) [08:29] undergoes a chromatic dismemberment [12:24], and the work ends with ominous low strings under a despairing high violin.
Valentin’s succeeding six-minute Farewell Serenade (2003) is also for strings, and in memory of his fellow composer, Ivan Karabits (1945-2002) [T-5]. A sense of grief pervades the opening. However, things brighten with the appearance of a warm theme [02:54]. It seems a fond remembrance of his colleague, and then this tribute ends tranquilly.
Next we get Silent Music (2002). Again for strings, it’s dedicated to German record producer Manfred Eicher (b. 1943), who founded the eminent ECM label (see ECM-000966202).
The three movements are arrangements of some Silvestrov bagatelles for solo instruments (currently unavailable on disc), and he says they represent "still metaphors of silence". Be that as it may, the first "Waltz of the Moment" [T-6], originally for piano, is a diaphanous dance. It's followed by two pellucid offerings titled "Evening Serenade" [T-7] and "Moments of the Serenade" [T-8], both based on cello pieces.
Turning to the works on this release for piano and strings, first there's the three-part Two Dialogues with a Postscript (2002). This has reworkings of two selections by past, well-known composers followed by a Silvestrov afterthought.
The initial "Wedding Waltz" [T-1] is a charming trifle based on an eponymous Schubert (1797-1828) piano piece, which he played at a friend's wedding back in 1826, but never scored. Consequently, it's come down to us by ear like those Russian folk tunes that haunt Valentin's music.
On the other hand, "Postlude" [T-2] takes its cue from a rising motif that appears in Wagner's (1813-1883) sketchbooks for Tristan und Isolde (1857-9) and Parsifal (1877-82). It's spiced with some passages wrapped out on the piano strings [01:24, 01:48 & 02:10] ŕ la John Cage (1912-1992).
This curiosity is followed by a concluding, angelic "Morning Serenade" [T-3], which may well be based on one of Silvestrov’s earlier pieces. It ends the work with a titillating piano trill over some sustained notes of mystery in the strings.
The other work here for piano and strings is titled Moments of Memory II (1954-2003; OCAR). It's a set of six miniatures that we're told, "suggest a yearning for an unreachable past" -- see the album notes.
The initial "Serenade of Childhood" [T-10] features an innocent tune that recalls Chopin (1810-1849), while "Elegy" [T-11] is haltingly morose. Then the mood brightens with "Farewell Waltz" [T-12] and "Postlude" [T-13], which are lyrically wistful, and pleasantly elegiac.
The penultimate "Autumn Serenade" [T-14] has melancholy, auburn-colored associations, and is followed by "Pastoral" [T-15], featuring an ingenuous theme. The latter brings the work full circle recalling the youthful temperament of the opening.
Scored for piano, strings and synthesizer, Silvestrov enters the electronic age with the remaining selection on this release, titled The Messenger (1996-7) [T-9]. Dedicated to his wife, who died in 1996, it's named after a fictional character, who's a link between this world and the next in the writings of Russian philosopher Yakov Druskin (1901-1980).
The piece opens with synthesized, sighing wind sounds that frequent the work. They characterize the fleeting, transitory nature of "The Messenger", who's soon represented by a simple thematic nexus that could be out of a Mozart (1756-1791) piano concerto.
Here the score bears the marking "as if enveloped in the mist". Accordingly, Silvestrov specifies the piano lid should be closed, and the music played with a "light touch", using the sustaining pedal to create an echo effect.
With that in mind, the following passages seemingly invoke a diaphanous figure comforting the bereaved, after which the work ends much like it began. Insomniacs may find listening to this more effective than sleeping pills!
Pianist Iryna Starodub delivers warm, loving accounts of the three keyboard-related works, and receives excellent support from the Ukrainian National Chamber Ensemble known as the "Kiev Virtuosi" under their principal conductor, Dmitry Yablonsky. Maestro Yablonsky and his talented band go on to give us convincing accounts of the remaining selections.
These recordings were made last year on three separate occasions in the National Radio of Ukraine Concert Hall, Kiev. They consistently project a generous sonic image in an enriching venue with the piano well placed and balanced against the strings. Also, the synthesizer effects in The Messenger are not overdone, but skillfully integrated with the music.
Natural string tone prevails throughout, and the piano is well captured. The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by lifelike highs and a rich midrange. As for the bass, it's clean with no low string hangover.
All in all, this is a demonstration quality disc, and a must for Silvestrov fans. That said, those with systems, which go down to rock bottom, may notice intermittent rumblings probably related to HVAC equipment and/or outside traffic.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y171127)
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Tovey, D.: Pno Qnt, Vars on a Theme by Gluck (fl & stg qt); Ormesby En [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Sir Donald Francis Tovey (1875-1940) was a professor of music at Edinburgh University from 1914 until his death, and one of Britain's most distinguished educators. His six-volume Essays in Musical Analysis (published 1935-9) remains an invaluable reference work to this day.
Also an accomplished composer, he left a modest body of works. These include an opera (The Bride of Dionysus, 1929; see 25 April 2010), symphony, two concertos, and some chamber music (see 28 February 2011), which the adventurous Toccata Label began investigating about ten years ago (see 28 October 2008).
Now they give us a second volume with the world premiere recording of his sole, almost hourlong piano quintet coupled with an earlier work. The album notes reference the composer's ponderous, pedantic analyses of both pieces, which include numerous printed musical examples. These are reflected in the following commentary.
First off we have Tovey's 1913 Variations on a Theme by Gluck scored for flute and string quartet. The main subject (MS) is a sprightly rendition of a sicilienne that appears in Act V, Scene 2 of the opera Armide (1777).
The work opens with MS played by the flute to a pizzicato accompaniment [T-1, 00:00]. It's followed by seven variations, the first [T-2] being a yearning variant of MS, and the next [T-3], an embellished, contrapuntally spiced one. The third [T-4] is in three argumentative episodes [00:00, 00:38 & 01;12], and succeeded by a tempestuous fourth [T-5], which gives way to a hymnlike rendering [T-6].
A concluding sixth [T-7] begins in flighty fashion [00:00], and is soon filled with flute remembrances of MS [00:21]. Then an explorative, modulatory passage [01:19] bridges into an MS-tinged coda that ends the piece tranquilly.
From thirteen years earlier, we next have Sir Donald's Piano Quintet of 1900. Written not too long after Brahms' death (1833-1897), his influence is readily apparent in this symphonic scale, four-movement work.
At almost twenty minutes, the opening "Allegro maestoso" ("Majestically Fast ") [T-8] is in classic sonata form, and begins with a dignified first subject (D1) [00:00]. It's soon succeeded by a wistful second (W2) [02:08] and reassuring third (R3) [03:27].
Then D1 introduces [05:19] a Brahmsian development, after which an amalgam of D1, W2 and R3 announces a lengthy, fetching recap [08:03]. This ebbs and flows into a dramatic D1-derived coda [16:35] that ends the movement decisively.
The subsequent "Allegretto moderato, un poco giocoso e teneramente" ("Moderately Fast, Playful and Tender") [T-9] gives us another three attractive tunes. The first two are respectively songlike [00:00] and submissive [00:30]. These are explored, and succeeded by a third jaunty one [01:58]. Then they all become the subjects of a rondoesque frolic.
Happiness turns to grief in the "Largo appassionato" ("Slow and Passionate") [T-10], which is based on a mournful melody introduced by the viola [00:00]. A comforting countersubject soon follows on the piano [02:46], and the two undergo a dark development that fades into oblivion.
The final "Allegro largamente" ("Fast and Dignified") [T-11] features two contrasting ideas that are jubilantly expansive (JE) [00:00] as opposed to apprehensive [02:52]. They're bandied about in a prolix development that would have benefitted from some tightening up. JE predominates towards the end, and the quintet concludes excitedly in a flurry of virtuosic passages.
The Ormesby Ensemble, which was founded in 2008 by their lead violinist Robert Atchison, has a variable membership that allows it to perform chamber music of all shapes and sizes. Specializing in rare repertoire, they deliver outstanding accounts of the little-known works presented here.
That said, flutist Sarah Brooke gives a lithe interpretation of the variations, while the technically accomplished, charismatic playing of Ukrainian-born, prize-winning pianist Olga Dudnik makes Tovey's monster quintet a significant discovery. Romantic chamber music fans should give this a spin.
Made at St. Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, the recordings project a narrow, distant soundstage in reverberant surroundings. The flute tone is pleasant, but the piano somewhat veiled. Fortunately, with music this appealing, pointy-eared listeners will soon forget any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P171126)
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Davis, C.: Aladdin (cpte bal); CarlDavis/Malay PO [Carl Davis]
AUDIOPHILE (2 CDs)
American-born, composer-conductor Carl Davis (b. 1936) moved to the UK in 1961, where he's become best known for his radio, television and film music. However, Carl has also written a number of ballets (see 23 September 2013), Aladdin being one of his most imaginative.
This recording was made twelve years ago, and issued by Naxos soon thereafter, but here it's freshly minted on the composer's own label. Those liking neo-romantic orchestral music, and any balletomanes among them in particular, will love this colorful, choreographic romp. As there's a considerable amount of reference material readily available since its initial release, the following commentary will be kept to a minimum.
Aladdin was commissioned by the Scottish Ballet in the mid-1990s, and has a scenario drawn from the old familiar One Thousand and One Nights (aka Arabian Nights) folk tales. Consisting of a prologue and three acts, it takes place in Persia, China and Morocco, which gave the composer an opportunity to write some very exotic music. Among other things, he uses pentatonic as well as chromatic scales, the drumming heard in North African countries, and those bass drones frequently underlying Middle Eastern music.
As you may recall, a magic lamp figures heavily in these stories. Accordingly, the prologue [D-1, T-1] begins with an imposing big tune (IB) [00:10] that represents its presence and power. Oddly enough, there's an expansiveness about IB reminiscent of American composer Alexander Courage's (1919-2008) ever popular title theme for the original Star Trek TV series (1966-9).
Be that as it may, IB acts like an idée fixe that materializes whenever the lamp and its resident genie appear. It's just one of many wonderful tunes from a composer with a great gift for melody. In that regard, there are passages that bring to mind moments in the ballets of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) and Reinhold Gličre (1875-1956).
The more spectacular scenes include one where the dancers represent a variety of precious jewels and metals [D-1, T-11 through 20]. Then there's a lovely pentatonic "Wedding Ceremony" [D-2, T-17] followed by a Chinese "Lion Dance" brimming with exotic percussion and roaring horns [D-2, T-18]. The lamp and genie dominate the ballet's ending [D-2, T-36], where IB introduces a spirited Chinese "Dragon Dance" [00:35], and is the subject of a triumphant final reprise [02:12].
The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra with the composer on the podium, deliver what must be a definitive account of his music. Recorded in the Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS Concert Hall, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the sound is demonstration quality.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y171125)
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