CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 JULY 2018
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.
David, J.N.: Syms 2 & 4; Wildner/Vien RSO [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Three years ago the adventurous CPO label began exploring Austrian composer Johann Nepomuk David's (1895-1977) eight symphonies with a CD featuring the First and Sixth (see 23 June 2014). Now they give us his Second and Fourth on this release.
As before there are detailed analyses of both works in the comprehensive album notes, so we'll only cover their high points. At the outset, suffice it to say these recordings were made ten years ago, and it's good to finally have them in the catalog, particularly as they're the only ones currently available on disc.
The Second Symphony, which was begun in 1937 and completed July 1938, is in four movements. The first [T-1] begins "Adagio" ("Slowly") with a subdued, haunting motif (SH) played by the winds [00:01] that includes all but two notes of the chromatic scale. SH brings to mind the more benign tone rows of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), which is not that surprising, considering David knew him and had a good working knowledge of twelve-tone technique. As a matter of fact, he once remarked that his music traveled a path between Palestrina (1525-1594) and Schoenberg (see the album notes).
SH is explored and there are hints of a subdued, chorale-like subject (SC) [00:45], which will pervade the entire symphony. Then after a pensive pause, the movement turns "Allegro Impetuoso" ("Fast and impetuous") with allusions to SH played by the strings [03:09], along with additional references to SC [03:13].
All this leads to a fugally spiced development [04:02] with increasingly pronounced reminders of SC [beginning at 04:19]. After that, the music becomes agitated [04:54], slowly subsiding into melancholy memories of it [06:46].
These wax ever stronger and bridge into martial passages [08:24], which suddenly give way to peaceful recollections of SC [09:14]. Then some dramatic, SC-SH-based afterthoughts end the movement belligerently on an angry forte chord!
The "Largo e cantabile" ("Slow and songlike") [T-2, 00:01] is sonata-form-like and begins with an SC-related, binary, romantic theme (SB), having a wistful first part (SW) [00:03] and longing second (SL) [01:06]. SB is succeeded by a development with three variational episodes of different temperament. The initial one [02:02] is a darker, imitatively-embellished variant of SL. Then SW is the subject of a more confident, pizzicato-laced second [03:08], and a heroic third [04:46].
After that, SL makes a nostalgic return [05:24], and closing reminders of SW [07:14] bring the movement to a peaceful conclusion in an optimistic, major key. Incidentally, there's a serenity about this music reminiscent of Hans Pfitzner's (1869-1949, see 23 February 2011) opera Palestrina (1912-5), which David greatly admired.
Then we get a "Scherzo (Trio)" [T-3], whose brilliant scoring brings to mind Ravel's (1835-1937) Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911), or even La valse (1920). Each of its outer sections is a vivacious free-for-all based on an SC-related, rowdy riff [00:01]. They surround a bizarre trio built around an outré SC-derived waltz [01:53-04:36] and end this thrilling diversion even more colorfully than it began.
Like the last movement of Brahms' (1833-1897) Fourth Symphony (1884-5), David's [T-4] harkens back to the Baroque passacaglia. It's marked "Andante" ("Flowing"), and our old friend SC fathers the opening ostinato [00:02]. This underlies thirty-one subsequent variations that fall into six general groups, the first of which [00:37] becomes increasingly lachrymose.
Then the mood grows gallant in the next [03:16] and turns combative with bellicose intimations of the melody for the 15th Century, French secular song (FS) known as "L'homme armé" ("The Armed Man") [beginning at 04:33]. Maybe the Nazi Anschluss of the composer's home country in March 1938 and increasing likelihood of what would soon become World War II (WWII, 1939-45) were on his mind.
Be that as it may, belligerence turns to remorse in the succeeding third [06:28], which ends peacefully, giving rise to a couple that are respectively folk-song-like [08:15], and self-assured [10:31]. Then an SC-FS-derived big tune, sixth group [12:56] with closing reminders of SC [14:30] ends the Symphony triumphantly.
Talk about music influenced by WWII, David's Fourth Symphony (1943-8) literally went through it! To wit, the work was written during the war, destroyed in an Allied bombing raid on Leipzig (December 1943), and then reconstructed over the next five years (see the album notes).
A troubled genesis like that, and it's being wholly based on a single, dark, double-decker subject (DD) with hymnlike upper (DH) and sorrowful lower (DS) components, make for an unusual symphony. What's more, the work's monothematic core again brings Schoenberg to mind (see above), namely his concept of what he called "developing variation" (see 28 February 2018).
In four movements, the first, which is marked "Adagio alla breve -- Nicht schleppen" ("Slow and concise -- Not dragging") [T-5], is nothing more than an introduction. More specifically, it opens with an ominous drumroll [00:02] followed by four somber chords and then that pervasive DD [00:20] mentioned above.
DD's DH and DS parts are then firmly established in passages that become martially agitated and ebb away, ending the movement with dying trumpet calls. Incidentally there's a Gebrauchsmusik, matter-of-fact, practicality about DD that recalls darker moments in the symphonic works of Paul Hindemith (1895-1977), who knew and thought highly of David.
The subsequent "Allegro moderato -- Nicht eilen, ziehende Halbe" ("Moderately fast -- Not rushed and somewhat drawn out") [T-6] is a singular David creation. Moreover, it's a sonata-form-organized, double fugue (DF) that gets off to a swaying start [00:01] with interjections of what's to come.
Then the exposition portion of DF begins as DH and DS enter [00:37 & 01:34]. It’s soon followed by a pensive development [03:54], and DH-triggered, forceful recap [04:55]. The latter ends in an excited, DH-DS-derived coda [06:11] that closes the movement imploringly.
A change of mood comes with the next "Scherzo -- Ohne Hast" ("Scherzo -- But not too fast") [T-7], which is a wistful A-B-A offering, having fractious, DS-derived "A"s. They bring to mind the beginning of Anton Bruckner's (1824-1896) Wagner Symphony (No. 3, 1873-89), and surround a contemplative, DH-based "B" section [04:10-04:46].
The closing "Moderato alla breve)" ("Moderate and concise") [T-8] begins [00:01] almost like the work’s opening measures. It then builds into a DD-fathered, fugal peroration, which brings the symphony to a dramatic conclusion. However, some may find, as did a couple of critics in David's day, the music’s dense, contrapuntally laced structure lessens its emotional impact.
As on their previous David release for CPO (see 23 June 2014), conductor Johannes Wildner and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra give outstanding accounts of these symphonic rarities. Their careful attention to dynamics, phrasing and rhythmic detail are well taken in regard to these convoluted scores.
Another coproduction of CPO along with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), these recordings were made back in 2008 at the ORF's Large Broadcasting Hall (Grosse Sendesaal), Vienna, Austria. They project a somewhat recessed, narrow sonic image in pleasant surroundings.
The instrumental timbre is characterized by bright highs in massed upper string passages, a somewhat compressed midrange, and clean but distant bass. That said, this intricately structured music would have come off better with closer miking. However, as noted before with repertoire this rare, we're lucky to have what's here.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P180731)
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Gebel: Dbl Stg Qnt (4 vns, 2 vas & 4 vcs); Schuberth: Stg Oct (4 vns, 2 vas & 2 vcs); Hoffmeister Qt/WroBar O [Profil]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Lovers of Felix Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) Octet (4 violins, 2 Violas & 2 cellos; 1825) are in for a real treat with this adventurous, new release from Profil. It features two rarely heard, equally delightful, large-scale, string chamber works by a couple of his contemporaries, namely Franz Xaver Gebel (1787-1843) and Carl Schuberth (1811-1863) .
Both men were German-born and trained, but around age thirty moved permanently to Russia, where they pursued highly successful musical careers. The selections on this CD were written there, and these are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The program begins with what Gebel called a Double String Quintet, which is categorically speaking a Decet scored for four violins, two violas and four cellos. He composed this in Moscow towards the end of his life (circa 1840), and it has four movements. The initial sonata form "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-1] opens with a furrow-browed, Slavic-sounding motif (FR) [00:02] that harkens back to moments in Beethoven's Third Rasumovsky Quartet (No. 9; Op. 49, No. 3; 1805-06) and bridges via agitated passages into a tuneful FR variant (FT) [01:18].
Then FR and FT undergo a consummate, extended development [02:11]. It surrounds a moving, FS-derived, chorale-like episode initiated by the four cellos [04:38-06:17] and is followed by the return of FS [06:18]. This announces a recapitulation with memories of FT [07:08], and a final coda [09:22], having FS-FT-tinged thoughts brings the movement to a frowning conclusion.
The mood lightens in the next "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-2], which opens with a romantic, sighing cavatina (RS) for the violins [00:01]. It's succeeded by an RS-related, devout theme (RD) played by the cellos [01:36], which launches an anxious development of both ideas [02:26]. Then after a short caesura, there's a momentary, anguished outburst [04:03] that has successive reminders of RS [04:15] as well as RD [04:41] and ends the movement in melancholy tranquility.
The tempo picks up in the next "Scherzo: Allegro molto -- Trio -- Allegro molto" [T-3], which has "Very fast", Mendelssohnian, outer sections [00:01 & 02:23]. They abut a plaintive central trio [01:44] and bring the music full circle.
The closing "Introduction: Andante -- Allegro" [T-4] begins with a "Flowing" recitative [00:01], where the first cello engages in a serious, dialogic exchange with the other instruments that hints at ideas soon to come. They soon appear as a bustling, nervous theme (BN) [01:22], smacking of perturbed moments in Schubert's (1797-1828) string quartets (1810-26), and BN-related, pizzicato-spiced, lyrical countersubject (BL) [02:20].
As in the first movement, the subject themes undergo a well-crafted, lengthy development [02:57]. However, the one here ends in an affecting, BL-reminiscent, hymn-like episode [03:17-06:21]. This is succeeded by a recap that starts with BN [06:22] and alludes to BL [07:26]. Then a final coda [09:29], having hints of BN and BL, concludes the work ominously.
Using Gebel’s terminology, the next selection is a Double String Quartet scored for an equivalent number of instruments, namely four violins, two violas and a pair of cellos. But Schuberth simply calls this an Octet like its Mendelssohn counterpart.
The work presumably dates from a few years after the Gebel and is more romantically flowing. In four movements, the first "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-5] opens with a gentle, innocent tune (GI) [00:02]. GI is subsequently tweaked and followed by a complementary, swaying melody (GS) [01:13] that's jostled about.
Then all of the foregoing is repeated [02:55], giving way to a GI-triggered development [05:48]. After that GS begins a nostalgic recap [06:40], in which GI resurfaces [07:31], becoming the basis for a sequential coda [09:56]. The latter ends the movement happily with a last suggestion of GS [10:24].
The lilting "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-6] gets underway as advertised with liquescent, murmuring passages [00:02]. These hint at a subsequent charming, songlike episode [03:13], which has heartfelt pangs [beginning at 04:51] of the work’s opening measures and ends the movement somberly.
A jolly "Scherzo: Allegro assai -- Più meno -- Tempo I" is next [T-7] with outer sections [00:01 & 05:00] based on a lively Ländler ditty. They surround a delicate, at times pizzicato-spiced, waltz [01:47] and bring this movement to a sprightly close.
Then this infectious rarity comes to a rousing, virtuosic conclusion as we get a rustic, revel-ridden rondo. Marked "Allegro furioso" ("Passionately fast") [T-8], it begins with a GI-derived, angular tune (GA) [00:01] that will be the recurring idea. GA is subsequently toyed with, leading to a related waltz number (GW) [00:54].
GW is followed by the return of GA [01:22], which heralds a busy developmental segment [01:50]. Here there are recollections of GW [02:43] that make it easy to imagine colorfully dressed peasants cavorting about. Then GA reappears [03:30], giving rise to technically demanding passages [04:27], recalling past ideas. These culminate in a thrilling, pyrotechnics coda [06:29], where hints of GI [06:36] bring the work full circle. In retrospect, this Octet is a "must" for those who like the Mendelssohn!
Our performers here are the members of Germany’s Hoffmeister String Quartet augmented with soloists from the Polish, Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra. Each of these musicians is a virtuoso in their own right, and together they deliver enthusiastic, well-played performances of both scores.
These recordings were made last year in St. Andrew's Church, Berlin, and present a somewhat narrow, withdrawn sonic image in less than ideal surroundings (see below). Depending on your system configuration and/or settings, some may find the sound skewed a bit left, and want to adjust their equalization/tone controls accordingly.
The instrumentalists are seemingly arranged symmetrically with two violinists and a violist to either side of the cellos. They're well balanced against one another, but the string tone is characterized by shrill highs in forte passages, a somewhat compressed midrange, and nominal low end.
One last note regarding the venue for this CD, it's one of those manifesting a curious phenomenon in passages that end with a sustained note followed by silence [T-8, 07:04]. Moreover, as the note dies away its pitch seems to wow as if it were on an off-center LP. This has been noted before in regard to other discs, and the probable explanation involves a little physics. For that, please see the newsletter of 30 November 2015.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P180730)
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O'Brien, C.: Cpte Chbr Wks V1 (Sons for Piano Trio 1 & 2, Deux Valses for Pno Trio); Kalnits/Volpov/Polianksy [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Having finished their survey devoted to all of Scottish composer Charles O'Brien's (1882-1968) orchestral music (see 28 February 2017), Toccata Classics now turns its attention to his complete chamber works. This first of two volumes featuring them includes three pieces for piano trio. The versions done here are based on new critical editions by that champion of overlooked orchestral curiosities, conductor Paul Mann. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
Our program starts with two selections, which O'Brien somewhat strangely calls Sonatas for Pianoforte, Violin and Cello. Maybe this was meant to emphasize their incredibly demanding piano parts. While their exact dates of composition remain unknown, both are late works that were first performed in early 1940 and are among his best.
The first of these is in four movements and begins with a sonata form one [T-1] that owes a debt to Brahms' (1833-1897) trios and quartets for piano and strings (1854-89). Marked "Allegro assai" ("Very lively"), the exposition opens with a wistful, flowing theme (WF) for piano and cello [00:00]. WF is then picked up by the violin [00:29], toyed with, and gives way to a rustic dancelike tune (RD) heard on the piano [01:30].
RD is succeeded by the return of WF, which gives rise to a Brahmsian development [02:31] that includes some modulatory tweaking of RD [03:34]. This leads to a WF-initiated recap [04:21], which is a thrilling variant of the opening statement, and borders on being a second development. It's followed by delightfully undulating, WF-related passages that trigger an effulgent coda [06:43], ending the movement with a burst of WF sunshine [08:14].
The “Scherzo and Trio” [T-2] has pixilated "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") outer sections [00:02 & 02:35], which recall the opening measures of the second movement from Brahms' Horn Trio (1865) and contain an RD-tinged, lilting idea (RL) introduced by the piano [00:19]. An ambling, romanticized version of RL is then the basis for the central "Poco meno mosso" ("A little less lively") trio [01:13].
A subsequent ternary-structured "Andantino quasi allegretto" ("Leisurely, bordering on fast") [T-3] is the longest movement, and romantic zenith of the work. Its gently rocking outer panels [00:01 & 04:25] again bring Brahms to mind, namely the melody from the fourth of his Five Songs, Op. 49 (1868), commonly known as his "Lullaby". The plaintive central section [02:40-04:23] recalls the second of O'Brien's three Scottish Scenes (1914-29, see 31 May 2016) and makes a fleeting final appearance [06:35] that ends the movement nostalgically.
The final "Rondino" marked "Allegro giocoso" ("Fast and playful") [T-4] gets off to a jogging keyboard start [00:06] followed by two ideas. The first is a WF-related, songlike number [00:12] recalling lighter moments in Sir Edward Elgar’s (1857-1934) music, and the next, a rustic, tripping tune reminiscent of RD. The two lead each other a merry chase and then fall exhausted [05:12], closing this piece in the same spirit it began.
Turning to the second Sonata for Pianoforte, Violin and Cello, we have a work that's less under the shadow of Brahms and shows O'Brien at the height of his creative powers. A three-movement offering, the initial sonata form one marked "Con moto moderato" ("With moderate speed") [T-5] contains a couple of binary themes. The troubled first has a weeping idea (TW) [00:00] followed by a throbbing one (TT) [01:03], while the second is folkish with respectively songlike (FS) [02:01] and carefree (FC) [02:38] components.
Then a TT-fueled fugato [03:07] initiates an intense development, which smacks of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). It's spiked with some dramatic pianistic passages [04:47], and bridges into a TW-announced [05:57] recapitulation that’s very close to the opening statement. This gives birth to a wild, TT-TW-derived, gyrating coda [09:08], which slows with references to FS [09:40] and ends the movement tranquilly.
Next there's an "Air with Variations" [T-6] that's very inventive in two respects. Moreover, the opening air is an "Andante" ("Flowing"), sea-shanty-like tune (SS) [00:02], and the last three of its nine variations constitute a scherzo.
The first six range from swaying [T-7] to twitchy [T-8], syncopated [T-9], sinuous[T-10], funereal [T-11] and skittering [T-12]. Then there’s a perky "Scherzo" [T-13], waltzlike “Trio” [T-14] and sprightly "Scherzo da capo" [T-15], which is a shortened version of seven. They're followed by a closing “Coda” [T-16], where SS takes a final bow, ending this delightful movement full circle.
This work’s beginning movement was in sonata form, and it ends with a similarly structured one titled "Finale (Allegro)" [T-17]. The opening statement (OS) features a catchy, cantering theme (CC) [00:00] succeeded by a subdued, mewing countersubject [01:01].
Then there's an engaging development [01:57] and subsequent recap [03:34], which is a touch more ebullient than OS and has a CC-based deceptive coda [05:53]. The latter begins dramatically, pauses briefly, and ends the trio with a peaceful sigh [06:12]. Great stuff!
Back in 1928, O'Brien wrote a Waltz Suite (see 28 February 2017), as well as the "Deux Valses" selection, which fills out this disc. The first "L'Adieu" [T-18] is a winsome, melancholy offering with a passing, pensive central thought [01:07-01:50]. It's right out of those Viennese Operettas that appeared around the turn of 19th century (31 May 2018).
The companion "Souvenirs" [T-19] is A-B-A structured with "A"s, which bear a passing resemblance to another of Brahms' lieder. This time it’s the second of his Five Songs, Op. 105 (1886), titled "Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer" ("My slumber grows ever more peaceful").
As for "B", this is a graceful, swirling segment [01:36] that's hinted at in the short preface [00:01]. "B" counterbalances the first "A" [00:23], which then returns [02:14], thereby concluding the work and this captivating release with a bit of nostalgia.
Pianist Oleg Poliansky, violinist Yuri Kalnits and cellist Alexander Volpov deliver enthusiastic performances of this music. As stated above, the piano parts are considerably demanding and Oleg comes across with flying colors. On the other hand, his comrades seem to have some intonationally queasy moments in the Sonatas.
The recordings were made a year ago at the Master Chord Studio in North Finchley, London. They project a robust sonic image in warm surroundings, where there's no feeling of that confinement frequently associated with studio productions. The instruments are ideally spaced to left (violin) and right (cello) of a centered piano and well balanced against one another.
As for the instrumental timbre, the violin sounds occasionally steely, but Yuri's companions are well captured with no hint of hangover in the cello's lower registers. Taking everything into consideration, this disc rates a strong recommendation just short of audiophile.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P180729)
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Rode, P.: Vn Concs V5 (11 & 12), Air varié in E (Op. 12), Air varié in D (Op.26); Eichhorn/Pasquet/Jena PO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
One of Naxos' most enlightening surveys of little-known, orchestral works from around the turn of the 19th century concludes with this last of five volumes devoted to French violinist-composer Pierre Rode's (1774-1830) thirteen violin concertos (see 30 March and 30 November 2015). It includes his 11th and 12th along with two Air varié (A Varied Air), which are themes with variations for the same combination of instruments. While the exact composition dates of these four pieces remain unknown, it seems safe to say they were written in the early 1800s. All are world premiere recordings.
After an inordinately long lead-in, the program begins with the earlier Air varié in E Major, Op. 12 [T-1, 00:06]. This has a lilting, orchestral preface that hints at the subject air, which is an innocent, jocose idea (IJ) soon played by the violin [01:02]
IJ is followed by a catchy, tutti, closing riff (C1) [02:00], and sires five variants, the first of which is twitchy [02:10] with some saucy, off-key, pizzicato and again tagged with C1 [03:13]. Then there are declaratory and frolicsome ones [03:22 & 04:42], both having C1 afterthoughts [04:32 & 06:10].
But the mood turns melancholy with the next variation [06:21]. It has a sad, closing hint of C1 [07:53], succeeded by a brief pause and scampering fifth variant [08:35]. This has a last wisp of C1 [09:34] that brings the piece to an antsy conclusion.
All Rode's violin concertos are in three movements, and the 11th in D major, Op. 23, like several others in this series has a cadenza by our exceptionally talented violinist, German-born Fiedemann Eichhorn. The beginning "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively, but not too fast") [T-5] is a sonata-rondo that gets off to spirited tutti start with a gallant, somewhat martial idea (GM) [00:00]. It's followed by a momentary pause, and the soloist makes a grand entrance, playing a GM-related soaring melody (GS) [01:37], which will recur periodically.
Then the orchestra returns [02:10], tossing GM about, and the violin serves up with a gorgeous GS-derived theme (GG) [03:20]. The latter is briefly explored, after which GG is repeated [04:18], and we get some fancy fiddling, succeeded by a forceful, GM-colored reappearance of the tutti [05:18].
This elicits another statement of GS from the soloist [05:54] and a short bravura episode [06:51]. The subsequent return of GM for the orchestra [07:04] and GS on the violin [07:27] next give way to some more fiddle fireworks [08:17]. Then a remembrance of GG [08:36] and succeeding, frenetic passages culminate in the cadenza [09:47] mentioned above. It enjoins a spirited GS-associated coda for all [10:47] that ends the movement smilingly.
Inviting orchestral passages begin the "Adagio" ("Flowing") [T-6, 00:00]. It's built around a GG-reminiscent, comely melody sung by the violin [00:33], and closes with a meditative cadenza [04:00-04:54].
The latter bridges into a concluding, "Rondo allegretto con spirito" [T-7]. This immediately lives up to its Lively with spirit marking as soloist and tutti launch into a whimsically vivacious ditty (WV) [00:00] that will be the recurring idea. Then WV is briefly diddled [00:38], reexamined [00:55] and followed by some bravura afterthoughts [beginning at 01:23].
These wane into the spirited return of WV [02:48], a playful virtuosic episode [03:16] and a pensive passage [04:10]. But that irrepressible WV soon resurfaces [04:21], fathering a fiddle-fireworks-filled coda [05:05], which ends the work resplendently. You'll love it!
Rode's years in Russia as court violinist to the Tsar (1804-8, see 30 March 2015) are reflected in the 12th Concerto in E Major, Op. 27, as it's dedicated to "His Majesty the Emperor of Russia". The opening "Allegro brillante" ("Bright and lively") [T-2] begins with a stirring orchestral introduction, featuring a binary theme, having a rousing, trumpet-drum-embellished. martial first part (BM) [00:00] and ambulant, tuneful second (BT) [00:27].
Then the soloist enters playing the first of three BT-related, showy concertante episodes [01:41, 04:55 & 06:44]. These alternate with BM-based, heroic, ritornello-like ones for the tutti [04:26, 06:14 & 08:39], the last of which brings the movement to a valiant conclusion.
Next, a gorgeous "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-3] opens with a sustained note for the oboe [00:00], which is soon joined by the orchestra and violin playing a BT-like, amative melody (BA) [00:39]. This leads to a fervid cadenza [02:06], the tender return of BA for all [02:42] and some transitory, solo fiddling [04:21] followed by an anticipatory pause.
Then all launch into the concluding "Rondo mêlé d'airs russes" ("Rondo on mixed Russian airs") [T-4]. It begins with a titillating, spikey tune (TS) [00:00] based on the same folk melody Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) borrowed for the second theme in the last movement of his Fate Symphony (No. 4, 1877-8)
TS will be the recurring subject here, as well as the underlying idea for four subsequent, virtuosic, variational, episodes, three of which follow immediately. Of respectively haughty [00:31], playful (TP) [01:06] and manic (TM) [01:24] disposition, they’re succeeded by the reappearance of TS [01:58] that ushers in a flirtatious fourth [02:30].
Subsequent reminders of TM [02:47] as well as TP [03:21] then give way to cadenza-like passages [beginning at 03:53]. These have a couple of pregnant pauses, and TS resurfaces [04:08], soon followed by a TM-tinged, bravura coda [04:30], which ends the concerto jubilantly.
This delightful concert concludes with the later Air varié in D Major, Op. 26 [T-8], which gets off to a stately start [00:02] with intimations of the air. This time around It's a rustic, berceuse-like melody (RB) soon introduced by the violin [01:00], and again succeeded by another of those catchy, tutti, closing riffs (C2) [01:59].
RB fosters five variations, all tagged with C2s. The first two variants are respectively whimsical [02:25] and laughing [03:30], while the third [04:37] is sorrowful with a sad C2. But the mood brightens as we get a foxy fourth and childlike, giggling fifth [07:48], whose C2 is a tiny cadenza [09:06-09:16]. Then there's a momentary pause, and the return of RB [09:17], which triggers a skittering, flamboyant, C2-reminiscent coda [09:45] that ends the piece gleefully.
With this final installment of Rode concerti, soloist Friedemann Eichhorn (b. 1971) brings an invaluable survey of these undeservedly neglected works to a stunning conclusion, again proving he's one of today's most up-and-coming violinists. He uses his prodigious technique only in service to the music, and as before receives outstanding support from Uruguayan-born, German-trained conductor Nicolás Pasquet and the Jena Philharmonic Orchestra (JPO).
These recordings were made in 2015 by the identical production staff and at the same location (Volkshaus, Jena, Germany) as those in the preceding three volumes. The ones here also project an ideally proportioned soundstage in an accommodating acoustic with Herr Eichhorn well placed and balanced against the JPO. His violin is superbly captured, and the orchestral timbre is lifelike, but at times a bit edgy in upper massed string passages. Consequently, this release like its immediate predecessor is not quite in the audiophile category.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P180728)
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Uddén: Stg Qts 1 & 2, Stg Trio; Tendresses, Chanson (mez & stg qnt), La... (mez & stg qt); Hellekant/UppsCS [Daphne]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Swedish-born, French-trained, Åke Uddén (1903-1987) first studied mathematics in his native country. But he then switched to music, and continued his training at the Paris Conservatory, where his instructors included the great organist-composer Charles Tournemire (1870-1939).
The year 1928 saw Åke return home, to pursue a career that included playing viola with the Stockholm-based, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as conducting and teaching. He'd also write a small number of works in the orchestral, chamber and vocal genres. Three from each of the last two categories fill out this groundbreaking Daphne label release. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
Getting things off to a splendid start, there's the First of Uddén's two string quartets, dating from 1940. In four movements, the opener is a concise sonata form one marked "Allegro assai" ("Very fast") [T-1]. His years in Paris are evident here as it recalls the impressionism of Debussy (1862-1918) and Ravel's (1875-1937) works, as well as Tournemire's L'Orgue Mystique (The Mystic Organ, 1927-32).
An introductory, wistful motif (IW) [00:02] hints at two subsequent subjects, which are respectively strutting (IS) [00:08] and lullaby-like (IL) [00:26]. Subsequently, IL bridges [beginning at 00:49] into a deft development [01:08] that’s at first imitatively pleading. Then the music makes a stepwise transition [02:13 & 02:30] into an agitated IW-IS-based fugue [02:36], which gives way to an IS-initiated recap [04:05]. This ends the movement with nostalgic remembrances of IW [05:32].
Soft, sighing chords open the following "Andante tranquillo" ("Tranquilly flowing") [T-2], which features a comely, captivating melody played by the first violin (CC) [00:12]. As the album notes perceptively point out, CC bears a strange resemblance to Nino Rota's (1911-1979) music for the character Gelsomina in the movie La Strada of fourteen years later (1954).
The subsequent "Scherzo" [T-3] begins with a perky ditty (PD) [00:00], succeeded by a scampering trio section [02:11]. The latter then pauses, and a couple of pizzicato passages [03:45 & 03:47] bring the return of PD [03:51], thereby concluding the movement like it started.
The last is marked "Partita" [T-4] after one of those Baroque dance suites. It takes the form of a theme and variations that opens with a chorale-like, subject melody (CS). Seven variants follow, the first five ranging from sorrowful [00:35 & 01:25], to anxious [02:04] and despairing [02:51 & 03:37].
Then the mood brightens with a playful, sixth [04:53-07:02], which surrounds a folksy, songful seventh [05:47-06:35] that’s also reminiscent of CC. All this is followed by a respectful pause and the return of CS [07:05], ending the work contentedly.
Jumping ahead to 1955-6, there's Uddén's Gallic-spiced, Second String Quartet. A three-movement work, the initial, sonata form "Allegro con brio" ("Lively and spirited") [T-11] opens with a cheeky theme (CT) [00:00]. This undergoes an introspective exploration [00:43], followed by a wistful second idea (WS) [01:04].
WS is subjected to a searching elaboration [01:35], and then hints of CT [02:17] introduce an antsy developmental section. This gives way to a troubled, WS-launched recap [03:36], where CT soon reappears [04:18]. It triggers a madcap coda [04:59] that leaves the listener in a tonally dyspeptic state.
But temporary relief comes with the next "Andante non troppo lento" ("Flowing, but not too slow") [T-12], which begins with a beatific melody (RB) [00:01] that’s the subject of a prayerful discourse. However, the latter turns increasingly argumentative [01:06] and slows with the cello playing a reminder of RB [02:20]. Then the music becomes highly agitated [03:04], leading to spooky passages [04:01] tinged with RB [04:20], which end the movement in resigned quietude.
The final "Largo -- Agitato" ("Slow -- Excited and fast") [T-13] brings the work to a spirited, sonata-rondo conclusion. The opening statement (OS) starts with a descending four-note motif (D4) [00:00], which undergoes an exploration that begins in ghostly fashion [00:25]. It then becomes excited, giving way to a pause and D4-related, songful tune (DS) [00:52], which will be the main recurring idea.
DS is next contemplated [01:26] and repeated [01:48], giving way to a busy development [01:57]. This is riddled with bits of D4, which soon becomes the subject of a fugato [03:53-04:40]. Then there's a brief caesura, and DS reappears [04:42]. It's succeeded by flighty recollections of OS, and a frantic coda [06:29] that brings the Quartet to a screeching halt.
Turning to Åke's only String Trio of 1928, this is a product of his Paris years, and accordingly, one would expect strong Gallic, stylistic coloring. However, that's not the case as Swedish folk music is the predominant influence. Maybe the composer wanted to stress his cultural heritage!
In three movements, the initial "Moderato -- Allegro molto" ("Moderate -- Very fast") [T-5] opens with a hesitant troubled motif (HT) [00:00], which is succeeded by a sprightly, dance tune (SD) [00:28]. SD is next explored, giving rise to a charming folk-song-like melody (CF) [01:26], which will pervade this sonata-rondo offering.
CF is repeated [01:27] and undergoes a development [01:37] along with SD [02:35]. It's followed by a pause, then a CF-haunted episode [03:14] with spooky high string passages [03:17] and subsequent twitchy, discursive ones [03:50]. These give way to a romanticized version of CF [06:09], after which bits of SD [06:45] and HT [07:19] end the movement peremptorily.
Then there’s an interim "Andante con moto" ("Slow with movement") [T-6]. It’s an arresting, chromatically disembodied number sung by the three instruments and acts as a brief respite before the Trio’s animated last movement.
This is another rondoesque creation marked "Allegro burlesco" ("Fast and vaudevillian") [T-6] that gets off to plucky start with a bobbing, whimsical notion (BW) [00:00] and sinuous, complacent melody (SC) [00:37]. They're the recurring subjects for seven, developmental episodes of varying temperament, the first of which is whimsical [01:32].
It's followed by a pause and grim, halting one [02:22], but the mood brightens with a couple of playful disposition [02:58 & 03:27]. These are succeeded by a delightful, serenade-like fifth [04:09] and gentle berceuse [05:51]. Then an antsy seventh episode [06:45] closes the trio flippantly [07:12].
Three short songs for female voice written between 1941 and 1945 fill out this release. Their lyrics are taken from French poet-writer Pierre Louÿs' (1870-1925) Les Chansons de Bilitis (The Songs of Bilitis, published 1894), which he claimed were based on ancient Greek poetry. But they turned out to be clever fabulations, which made them somewhat controversial. Incidentally, Debussy drew on these, back in 1897-1900 for a couple of eponymous works (see 10 March 2011).
Uddén's are sung here by a mezzo-soprano (see the album for French, English and Swedish texts); however, their original piano accompaniment has been transcribed for small string ensembles by Swedish violist-composer Mikael Sjögren (b. 1960).
The opening "Tendresses" ("Tenderness", 1941) [T-8], from which this album takes its name, is followed by "Chanson" ("Song", 1945) [T-9]. Respectively sensuous and poetically narrative, both are accompanied by 2 violins, viola, cello plus a doublebass. The third "La Poupée" ("The Doll", 1942) [T-10] at less than a minute, is a playful, childlike offering, understandably without the doublebass.
Swedish, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant gives expressive, tender performances of these. She receives sensitive support from members of the Uppsala Chamber Soloists, who deliver superb accounts of the other works. They make a strong case for Uddén’s little-known music!
The recordings were made between January and March 2017 at the Boo Church in Nacka, Sweden, some four miles east of Stockholm. They present a consistent, generously sized soundstage in warm, accommodating surroundings. The strings are comfortably spaced as well as balanced in the Quartets and Trio, while the songs find the soloist adequately highlighted, midway between them.
Ms. Hellekant's voice is well captured, and the strings are natural sounding throughout. Generally speaking, this release is characterized by bright, pleasant highs, a convincing midrange, and well-defined bass with no low string hangover. It easily earns an audiophile rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y180727)
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