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

The album cover may not always appear.
Groslot: Vn Conc, Conc for Orch; Kurkowicz/Groslot/Brus P [Naxos]
Around ten years ago, violinist Joanna Kurkowicz introduced us to six wonderful concertos for her instrument by one of the twentieth century's finest women composers, Graznya Bacewicz (1909-1969; see 9 September 2009 & 16 August 2011). And now she gives us another winner by Belgian composer Robert Groslot (b. 1951).

Robert has had a distinguished career as an international concert pianist, conductor and highly regarded teacher, who's held several important academic positions. Along the way he's also become a self-taught composer with a significant number of orchestral pieces to his credit. The two filling out this new Naxos release are both world premiere recordings.

Having written some twenty concertante works for various instruments, his Concerto for Violin dates from 2010 and is dedicated to our soloist. In a single movement [T-1], the work is a through-composed series of connected episodes somewhat like the tone poems of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) and Richard Strauss (1864-1949).

It opens with a hushed, haunting orchestral chords [00:01], over which the violin enters playing a languid, eerie melody [00:07]. This turns jittery [01:07], triggering restless, piano-harp-vibraphone-spiced passages that give way to an ominous brass episode [03:31], which brings darker moments in Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) major operas (1841-82) to mind. Subsequently, there's a subdued bridge [04:50] with lingering, high violin notes and a couple of pizzicato accents [05:48] into a pensive, extended cadenza [05:56].

This becomes increasingly whimsical [beginning at 07:20] with sparkling runs on the celeste [08:11, 08:22 & 08:35], and transitions into a cello-introduced, swaying segment [09:20]. The latter becomes more and more agitated with initial, scurrying piano bits [10:03] that preface subsequent virtuosic fiddle passages [10:08]. These intermittently engender five bizarre, waltz-like episodes [11:14, 13:37, 14:59, 15:37 & 16:48], the last of which transitions via a high-harmonic violin note into an oneiric segment [17:04].

Here the music becomes progressively troubled, building to a dramatic, Wagnerian climax [18:14], which quickly fades into some nostalgic afterthoughts for the soloist [18:37]. They're suddenly succeeded by skittering passages [18:54] with some pizzicato spicing from the violin [19:17]. These make a thrilling, fiddle-fireworks-filled transition into a final forte motif [22:33]. It’s reminiscent of the one opening Beethoven's (1770-1827) Fate Symphony (No. 5, 1874), and ends the Concerto with a sense of tragic detachment.

Groslot's years on the podium have given him an intimate familiarity with a wide variety of scores, which is reflected in his eclectic, coloristic Concerto for Orchestra of 2016. A four-movement work lasting almost forty minutes, it's stylistically fickle music that's constantly on the move and requires more space than available here for a detailed, verbal analysis. Consequently, we'll limit ourselves to the high points.

The composer calls his opening movement an "Exordium" [T-2], which, considering that word's oratorical connotations, is a flowery way of saying "Introduction". It gets off to a chirpy start (CS) [00:01] for the winds, brass and percussion [00:01], hinting at a proud, chorale-like motif (PC) that will eventually appear. Then the foregoing bridges dramatically into scurrying, string passages [03:26] that bring to mind the last movement of Béla Bartók's (1881-1945) Concerto for Orchestra (1943).

These are followed by the brass playing PC [05:25], which calls up an antsy exploratory episode [06:35]. This builds to an explosive climax [08:14] that wanes into a tranquil swaying segment [08:49] succeeded by recollections of the opening measures [09:44] along with a reminder of PC in the brass [10:44]. The music then swoops downwards, and after a brief break, pianissimo, hesitant riffs [11:12] end the movement uneventfully.

The next one has an even more exotic label, namely "Hoketus" [T-3]. It connotes a compositional method known as "hocket", where rhythmic and melodic variants of a short motif are tossed about. Seemingly, Robert got the idea for this from Dutch colleague Louis Andriessen (b. 1939), who’d written a work called “Hoketus” back in 1976-7.

Groslot’s has mischievous sections [00:00, 03:34 & 05:40] that owe a debt to the third "Giuoco delle coppie: Allegretto scherzando" ("Game of pairs: Lively and playful") movement of the Bartók mentioned above. They alternate with CS-reminiscent whimsicalities [02:02, 05:05 & 06:30] that end the music with a case of the hiccups.

Then there's "Nachtmusik" ("Night music") [T-4]. It starts with an idea that’s a pedal point in the lower strings [00:00] with sighing descants for the higher ones. This alternates with burbling woodwind, harp, brass and vibraphone passages [beginning at 00:27] that give way to a lyrical searching theme in the violins [03:09]. This is succeeded by a trumpet-introduced, quizzical exploration [03:38] and weeping afterthoughts [05:15]. Then a mercurial section [06:06] ends the movement with a piquant cor anglais (English horn) epitaph [08:27].

"Conclusion" [T-5] structurally unifies the Concerto by amalgamating material from the previous three movements. Accordingly, it begins with reminders of CS [00:00] and some "Hoketus" innuendos [00:27 & 00:58], all of which give rise to a frenetic development [01:12].

This wanes into snatches of "Nachtmusik" [03:35] that trigger four wild percussive, tam-tam-laced episodes [04:51, 04:57, 05:05 & 05:10]. They're succeeded by a bizarre rhythmically ticking segment [05:12] that morphs into propulsive, charging passages [05:59].

These effect a cataclysm [07:22] and subsequent riotous segment [07:37], both of which hint at that harbinger of doom, the Dies Irae [07:23-07:50]. Then the music fades into locomotive-like, chugging measures [08:31] that bring the Concerto to a breathtaking, "So there!" conclusion [09:42].

It's worth getting this release just for Ms. Kurkowicz' magnificent rendition of the Violin Concerto. She’s not only got technique to spare, but evokes gorgeous string tone from her 1699 Guarneri. What's more, Joanna gets magnificent support from the Brussels Philharmonic under the composer's direction. Maestro Groslot then goes on to give a stunning performance of the other Concerto, delivering definitive accounts of both works.

Made last year in Studio 4, Place Flagey (Flagey Square), Brussels, Belgium, these recordings project a generous sonic image in a capacious, unforgiving venue. The soloist is placed just left of center stage, and her violin well captured and highlighted against the tutti. As for the orchestra, its overall timbre is characterized by bright highs, a lucid midrange and lean, transient bass. While the sound falls somewhat short of demonstration quality, it's generally pleasing, and we're lucky to have what's here.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P180930)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Ridout, A.: Cplt Stg Qts (1, 2, 3, 4 "Malden", 5 "Stocklinch" & 6 "Le Vitréen"); Coull Qt [Omnibus]
The string quartet is a real test of a composer's abilities, and British-born Alan Ridout (1934-1996) comes through with flying colors on this new Omnibus Classics release featuring all six of his. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

A newcomer to these pages, he began his musical studies at the Guildhall School and would move on to the Royal College of Music. He could count Herbert Howells (1892-1983), Gordon Jacob (1895-1984; see 28 February 2018 ), Michael Tippett (1905-1998) and Dutch composer Henk Badings (1907-1987; see 28 February 2016) among his teachers.

He'd go on to pursue a distinguished teaching career at several of England's finest universities. But this was cut short when Alan developed health problems, and 1994 saw him move to France, where he spent the rest of his life. However, Ridout was active as a composer up until his demise, and would leave a substantial body of works across all genres. The six Quartets on this disc came late (1985-94) and collectively represent one of the high points in his creative output.

Proceeding chronologically, the First of 1985 is in three movements, and opens "Adagio e desolato" ("Slow and disconsolate") [T-14] with a sinuous, sinister theme (SS) [00:00]. SS is interrupted by a prickly rhythmic riff (PR) [beginning at 00:25], and the two ideas alternate with PR ending the movement despairingly. Incidentally, all this brings Stygian moments in the Shostakovich (1906-1975) String Quartets (1935-74) to mind.

Then it's on to a "Con slancio" ("With dash") [T-15], which is an arresting scherzo powered by an SS-PR-related, spastic theme [00:00]. A virtuosic undertaking, all four performers get a chance to show their stuff in this display of fiddle fireworks that smacks of Bartók's (1881-1945) efforts in the genre (1908-39).

A couple of years later Alan completed his Second and Third ones (1987), both of which are brief, three-movement works, lasting a little over ten minutes each. The earlier is a sanguine offering with an initial, "Vivace" ("Lively") marked, sonata-form frolic [T-1]. It opens with a bustling, angular theme (BA) [00:06] having a complementary countersubject [00:29].

Then they chase each other about in a curt, developmental caper [01:51] and are recapped [02:20], bringing the movement to a jolly, perfunctory conclusion. There's a folksy, English flightiness about all this, recalling busy passages in Sir William Walton's (1902-1983) two String Quartets (1919-22 & 1945-47, respectively).

The following "Lento cantabile" ("Slow and songlike") [T-2] is a melancholy cantilena, featuring a BA-related, mournful melody [00:00]. But sadness turns to gladness in the final "Presto scherzoso" ("Very fast and playful") [T-3], which is a jolly, rondoesque cavort. It has an insistent, BA-tinged, darting ditty [00:00] that chases its own tail and then just quits.

About three minutes longer than its immediate predecessor, the Third Quartet opens with a forlorn "Fugue" [T-11], having a sullen main subject [00:00]. Except for a final, G-major chord of hope, this is an anguished utterance along the lines of those introspective, contrapuntal passages found in Benjamin Britten's (1913-1976) three String Quartets (1941-75) as well as Michael Tippett's five (1935-91).

After that, there's a cheeky "Scherzo" [T-12]. This has three twitchy "A" sections [beginning at 00:00, 00:49 & 01:49] that alternate with a couple of suave "B"s [00:30 & 01:31] and close the movement in the same spirit it began.

Then there's a sober, concluding "Passacaglia" [T-13] based on an aloof ostinato. Here the music builds to a crescendo and ebbs away, ending the Quartet uneventfully.

The Fourth of 1992 is subtitled "Malden", seemingly after a southwest London suburb where the composer was then presumably living. It’s in a single movement [T-10], having three differently marked, contiguous sections.

The first "Adagissimo" ("Very slowly") begins with hushed, woebegone passages (HW) [00:00] briefly interrupted by sawing riffs [beginning at 03:32]. Then an HW-derived, compulsive, perky tune launches an "Allegro assai" ("Very fast") second [04:42].

This is followed by a pause and haunting "Tempo primo" ("First tempo") third with spooky, high harmonics [07:40]. These coalesce into an ethereal-sounding rendition of the opening measures [08:48], which concludes the work devoutly.

Another year saw Ridout complete his Fifth Quartet (1993), titled "Stocklinch" after the town where he wrote it. Incidentally, this was one of the fourteen English and Welsh communities that were called "Thankful Villages" as all of their World War I (1914-18) and II (1939-45) military conscripts survived both conflicts.

Like the Fourth, it's a one movement work [T-4]. However, at around six minutes, this Quartet is less than half as long, and falls into three, conjoined sections collectively marked "Energico" ("Energetic"). Accordingly, the first begins all atwitter with a capricious, insistent idea (CI) [00:00] soon followed by a sprightly ditty vaguely reminiscent of the tune for "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" [00:50].

Then there's a diversionary, waltzlike, middle section [01:33-02:52], after which the opening one is recast as a frenzied third [02:55]. This suddenly falls away [04:39] into sustained notes leading to sighing reminders of CI [04:55] that bring the piece to a soporific close.

Shortly after his move to France, Alan took up residence in the Breton town of Vitré, where he came up with his final, Sixth Quartet (1994) titled "Le Vitréen" ("The Vitrean"). A delightful travelogue of sorts, each of its five movements commemorates and is accordingly named after one of the village's noteworthy features.

First stop, "Le Château" [T-5], which is a devout piece honoring a medieval castle there known as the "Château de Vitré". It was a refuge for Benedictine monks in the 11th century and the Huguenots some 600 years later.

This begins with a reverent chorale (RC) [00:00] that's followed by five increasingly ornamented, RC variations in differing keys [00:33, 01:07, 01:39, 02:11, 02:41]. Then there's a pious pause, and high strings invoke a chromatic contemplation of RC [03:10] that ends the movement with a genuflection-like coda [04:38].

Next, we're off to "Le Marché" ("The Market Place") [T-6], and it must be Monday as that's the big market day in Vitré. This features a vivacious, folksy ditty [00:00], making it easy to imagine captious customers and pushy merchants milling about.

But a sense of piety returns with "L'Église Notre Dame" ("Notre Dame Church") [T-7], which begins with an RC-reminiscent, plainsong melody (RP) [00:01] having a contrite refrain [00:27]. Subsequently, we get four RP-related episodes that are ethereal [00:50], imitative [01:45], hymnlike [02:43] and magnanimous [03:24], where the last ends the music in benedictory fashion.

As for the penultimate "Le Premier Mai" ("The First of May") [T-8], first a word of explanation. The title refers to a French holiday known as "La Fête du Muguet" (“Labor Day"), which is held annually on that date to celebrate workers' rights. Moreover, the album notes tell us it involves children giving flowers (lilies of the valley) to bystanders in hopes of making their day a little brighter. Accordingly, the movement features a playful, pizzicato-accented, innocent tune [00:00] that will leave the most serious-minded listener with a big smile.

Concluding this euphonic tour, Ridout gives us "Le Promenade de Val" [T-9], named after a scenic avenue along impressive remnants of Vitré's old, at one time artillery-reinforced, fortifications (see map). The music takes the form of a canon (no pun intended) based on a singular, catchy, circular tune [00:00], and ends the work with a gelastic flourish.

The Coull Quartet based in Coventry, England, makes a strong case for these rarely heard works. They deliver rigorous, yet sensitive accounts of this music that bring out all the intricacies of Ridout's finely crafted scores.

The recordings were made last July at St. Nicholas Church in Islip, England. They present a generously wide, comfortably distanced image in a warm, reverberant venue with the musicians well placed and balanced against one another.

The string tone is on the bright side, which along with a clearly focused midrange and low, clean bass brings out all the structural subtleties of this music. Also, there are some brief, low frequency murmurs occasioned by outside traffic that deny these recordings an audiophile rating. However, their interesting subject matter makes it easy to forget any sonic shortcomings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P180929)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Tarp: Orch Wks V1 (Ste "Dethroned…", Ste..., Fl Conc, Vn Conc, Ov...); Soloists/Ringborg/Aarhus SO [Dacapo (Hybrid)]
Not long ago we told you about some tasty Danish pastry by Niels Gade (1817-1890; see 31 March 2018). And now here's more on this new Dacapo, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) release by a composer who's new to these pages, namely Svend Erik Tarp (1908-1994). You'll find a Nordic concision about his music that's most refreshing.

Born in Thisted, he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, and then pursued a highly successful career that included teaching at a couple of prestigious institutions in that country. He also held some important administrative posts, one being music advisor to the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) from 1956 through 1962.

Tarp would leave a significant body of works across all genres, which along with those of his colleague Vagn Holmboe (1909-1998; see 27 May 2013), are among the finest to come out of 20th century Denmark. These are the only readily available recordings of the five Tarp selections included on this disc.

Written over a ten-year period (1932-42), we'll proceed chronologically, beginning with his Concertino for Violin and Orchestra of 1932. In three conjoined movements, the composer's revision of 1936 is presented here.

The opening "Allegro moderato -- Cadenza --" {"Moderately fast -- Cadenza --") [T-14] starts with a confident, high-stepping number (CH) for the orchestra [00:00]. CH is soon picked up by the violin [00:21] and elaborated into a related, lyrical countersubject (CL) [00:56]. This undergoes a brief exploration that calls for our soloist, Stanislav Pronin, to make several, aberrant knocks on the body of his instrument [01:35-01:42].

Then there's a fugato-introduced development [01:48] with imitative spicing and some wistful fiddle thoughts [02:34]. They give way to recollections of the opening measures [03:05] that trigger a demanding cadenza [04:20] improvised by Mr. Pronin. His efforts elicit busy, CL-derived, Gebrauchsmusik-like passages from the orchestra [06:02] reminiscent of Paul Hindemith (1895-1963). These bring the first movement to a close and transition into a wistful variant of CL (CW) that starts the next "Molto sostenuto" ("Very sustained") [T-15, 00:00].

Here CW is the basis for a captivating serenade spun out by the violin to a slow, 1920-30s, dance-band-like accompaniment, which includes trumpet and saxophones. Then a flourish from the soloist signals the concluding "Tempo primo" ("Tempo same as first") [T-16]. This is a restatement of CL [00:00], having some interim fiddle fireworks, and ends the Concertino excitedly.

The year 1933 saw Svend complete his Suite on Old Danish Folk Songs. It’s in four parts, each of which is based on a different source, the first being "Ravnen, han flyver om aften" ("The Raven, He Flies in the Evening") [T-17].

It begins with somber, rising-falling motifs in the strings [00:00], over which the cor anglaise (English horn) soon plays a sad, tune of nocturnal hue (SN) [00:10]. Then the strings repeat SN [01:42] and with a little help from the clarinet, bring the music to a melancholy conclusion. Incidentally, all this comes off sounding like darker moments in Grieg's (1843-1907) works for strings (1869-98).

Next, a change of pace with "Skæmtevise ("Comic Ballad") [T-18] that’s a ternary, A-B-A number favoring the woodwinds and strings. "A" starts with flighty passages [00:00], prefacing a jolly chortling subject (JC) [00:09], which is toyed with and followed by "B". Here the winds play a searching version of JC [01:04] that’s picked up and contemplated by the strings [01:38]. Then "A" returns, ending things exactly like they began.

A feeling of introspection pervades "Liden Kirstens dans" ("Little Kirsten's Dance") [T-19], which is a reserved tidbit based on a simple, abstemious tune (SA) [00:00]. And finally, there's "Hr. Ramund" ("Sir Ramund") [T-20] that borrows its melody from "Ramund hin unge" ("Ramund the Younger") [00:00], which is an ever popular, Danish ditty, presumably dating back to the 14-1600s. This is a proud heroic number, which bears a curious resemblance to SA. Maybe in the course of his many wild exploits, Ramund fathered Kirsten! All kidding aside, it ends the work elatedly.

In 1937-8 Svend wrote another Concertino, this time for flute and orchestra. Also, in three movements, it's of neoclassical persuasion and brings to mind Stravinsky's (1882-1971) earlier concertante works (1920-1960).

An initial "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and vivacious") [T-10] opens with a darting, sprightly (DS) tune [00:00] for the tutti. This is elaborated by the soloist [00:23], who next gives us a DS-related, pensive melody (DP) [01:29]. Then the two ideas are bandied about bringing the movement to a jolly close.

The middle "Andantino" ("Leisurely") [T-11] features a DP-reminiscent meandering theme (DM) [00:00] that's first hinted at by the orchestra and then picked up by the flute [00:23]. It's cause for the oboe to counter with an attractive second subject [01:17], after which the two ideas are explored [01:49].

Subsequently, some pining, solo flute passages [beginning at 02:34] bridge directly into a final "Rondo giocoso" (“Playful rondo”) [T-12]. Marked "Molto vivace" ("Very vivacious"), this is advertised, and gets off to a spirited start with a DS-derived, flighty tune (DF) for all [00:00].

DF flounces about and reappears in more austere orchestral attire (DA) [00:50]. DA is then seconded by the flute [01:00] and followed by a fugato afterthought [01:10] that dies away into passages with the return of DF [01:31]. These have arresting woodblock knocks [beginning at 01:32] as well as hints of past ideas. They're followed by a pause and DF-initiated coda [02:52] that brings the Concertino to a merry "So there!" conclusion.

Svend would write two Comedy Overtures, and No. 1 of 1940 is included here [T-13]. It begins with a perky, darting ditty (PD) [00:00] that's tweaked, repeated [00:41] and bridges into a PD-related, songlike tune (PS) [01:04].

These ideas undergo a brief exploration [01:30], which wanes via a high violin note into a pause. Then there's an anticipatory passage and a moment of silence, succeeded by a tranquil, PS-associated contemplation [02:13]. This comes to another pause, after which PD bounces back [04:34] fueling a fugue that transitions into vivacious recollections of the opening measures. These include a big-tune-reminder of PS [05:55-06:13] and end the overture exultantly.

The remaining selection on the disc is a Suite drawn from Tarp's ballet "Den detroniserede Dyretæmmer" ("The Dethroned Animal Tamer", 1942-4). But first a word about the stage work's underlying story.

It centers around a love triangle of three circus people. One of them is the show's Director, who's also an Animal Tamer. The others are a beautiful Dancer and a daring Acrobat. As it turns the Tamer is smitten with the Dancer, but she only has eyes for the Acrobat.

Returning to the Suite, it's in nine sections that are musical snapshots of the ballet's scenario and gets underway with "Cirkuskapellet spiller op" ("The Circus Orchestra Strikes Up") [T-1], which is a "Marche vivace" ("Vivacious march"), where the music limns the Tamer putting his animals through their paces. Then there's "Løverne" ("The Lions") [T-2] marked "Lento e pesante" ("Slow and heavy"). This starts with panting-like taps on the snare drum [00;00], followed by growling phrases [00:08], which conjure up images of ferocious felines pacing back-and-forth.

Next, "Danserinden" ("The Dancer") [T-3] is characterized by an "Allegretto" ("Fast"), having a coy preface [00:00] and subsequent dainty waltz [00:14]. After that, a brass and drum "Touché" ("Behold!") [T-4] introduces "Akrobaten" ("The Acrobat") [T-5], who must be an aerialist by the sound of this "Vivace" ("Vivacious"), airborne music. Then there's a charming "Wienervals" ("Viennese Waltz") [T-6], where the two engage in a pas de deux marked "Valse lento e rubato" ("Slow and lithe waltz") that has a colorful dash of piano [00:44-00:49].

It sets the stage for the next "Dyretæmmeren svinger pisken" ("The Animal Tamer Wields the Whip"), which is a "Furioso" ("Furious") tidbit [T-7], presumably associated with his threatening to use the whip to get his way with the Dancer. This results in sad times for the two lovers as reflected in the following "Scene og danse triste" ("Scene and Sad Dance") [T-8]. Marked "Lento doloroso" ("Slow and sorrowful"), it smacks of tender moments in Maurice Ravel's (1875-1937) ballets (1895-1928).

But not to worry, as all turns out well when the circus performers with a little help from the Lions take away the Tamer’s whip. This means happy times for everyone as celebrated in the festive "Finale" [T-9]. It kicks off with a can-can [00:00] that transitions into a triumphal march [01:46], which ends the Suite with a jolly flourish.

The Aarhus Symphony Orchestra under Swedish conductor-violinist Tobias Ringborn is featured here. Their joined by Russian-born, Canadian violinist Stanislav Pronin (see above) and Danish flutist Lena Kildahl in the Concertinos, and deliver highly articulate, magnificent accounts of Tarp’s eloquent scores.

Made two years ago in the Musikhuset (Concert Hall), Aarhus, Denmark, all three of this CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) album's play modes project a consistently generous, comfortably distanced, sonic image in a superb, enriching venue. The Concertinos find the soloists positioned a tad left of center, but generally well captured and balanced against the orchestra. The stereo tracks will give you a front seat, while the multichannel will move you back a few rows.

The overall instrumental timbre is overly bright on the conventional one, particularly in massed string passages, but the others are natural sounding. As for the midrange and bass, they're respectively well-focused and clean across the board. Consequently, soundwise this release is a mixed bag as the CD track falls short of an audiophile rating, while each of the others earn one.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P180928)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Urspruch: Pno Conc, Sym; Triendl/Fritzsch/Bosch/NWGer P [CPO]
German pianist-composer Anton Urspruch (1850-1907) makes his first appearance in these pages with this recent, "twofer", bargain-priced release from CPO, featuring a couple of his rarely heard orchestral pieces. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc

Born in Frankfurt, Anton was a promising young pianist, who'd study with Franz Liszt (1811-1886) and his right-hand-man Joachim Raff (1822-1882; see 29 March 2015) in Weimar. He then returned to his hometown, where he'd become a highly regarded teacher. Urspruch would leave a modest number of works across all genres, which stylistically speaking, show the influence of Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), rather than either of his teachers or their colleague Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

The first disc is devoted to his one Piano Concerto of the late 1870s, which he dedicated to Raff. In three movements, lasting a little over forty minutes, those loving Brahms' first effort in the genre (1854-8) are in for a real treat.

The initial "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively, but not too fast") [D-1, T-1] comprises half of it and begins with an engaging introduction that starts with tractable, swaying, orchestral passages [00:03] that have moments vaguely reminiscent of more lyrical ones in Smetana's (1824-1884) Ma Vlast (My Country, 1874). They hint at a romantic thematic nexus (RN) that soon follows [01:48] and wanes into the entrance of the piano [03:08]. It ponders RN [03:41] and then engages in a virtuosic dialogue with the tutti [05:36].

Here there's a big tune allusion to RN [beginning at 07:52] that initiates a winsome set of ten developmental variations. The first five are subdued [08:43], tripping [09:28], introspective [10:32], playful [11:16] and exultant [11:58] with the latter having an exuberant allusion to RN [12:10]. After that, the mood becomes more temperate with dainty [12:54], lullaby-like [13:21], songful [14:31] as well as venatic [15:37] variants,

Then RN makes a triumphant return [16:46], followed by a monumental, demanding cadenza [17:41-20:15], which gives way to a final coda. This begins with mystic pianistic tintinnabulations [20:16], but ends in a brusque, orchestral pronouncement [21:56] that terminates the movement joyfully.

Elation turns to introspection in the next "Andante - Lento e mesto" ("Moderate - Languid and rueful") [D-1, T-2], Here a subdued tutti invoke a lilting, melancholy melody (LM) [00:01] and is soon joined by the soloist [00:34] in a meditative contemplation of same. This builds to an affecting dramatic climax, which despite a hopeful, LM-based episode [03:21-05:01], ends the movement despairingly.

But the mood brightens with the next "Allegro - Tempo giusto" ("Lively - Precise") [D-1, T-3] that’s a sparkling, rondesque frolic. It commences with a jolly charging main subject (JC) played by the soloist [00:00], which is enthusiastically picked by the tutti [00:14]. JC is then briefly explored, giving way to a couple of episodes that are respectively amorous [01:25] and troubled [02:09].

After that, JC returns [03:08], heralding hymnlike [03:52] and flighty fugal treatments [05:01]. The latter is succeeded by twinkling [05:52], jubilant [06:39], nostalgic [07:45], anxious [08:32] as well as expansive [09:26] transformations, which lead to a brief cadenza [10:28-10:54]. Then there's a skittering orchestral rejoinder [10:55], where horns announce [11:27] a thrilling coda with a hopping version of JC [11:38]. This brings the concerto to a rousing conclusion.

Turning to the companion disc, we get Anton’s 50-minute, sole Symphony, dating from around 1881. It's in the usual four movements, the first being a sonata-form "Allegro moderato e tranquillo" ("Moderately lively, bordering on calm") [D-2, T-1]. This opens with a folkish, flowing theme (FF) [00:03] that brings to mind Brahms' first two symphonies (1855-77), and seems headed towards Dvorák's later ones (1880-93). It transitions into two, FF-related ideas that are respectively heroic (FH) [01:31] and lyrical (FL) [02:15].

These undergo an arresting exploration, which suddenly halts, and then there's an FL-introduced, contrapuntally-spiced, dramatic development of all the foregoing [04:14]. This has blusterous, FH-related passages [beginning at 05:02], a couple of tension-building breaks, and some resigned episodes.

After that, FL initiates a recap [09:26] with nostalgic memories of FH [10:24] and FF [11:51]. They wax and wane into an airy FH-tinged afterthought [14:05], having a last reminder of FL [14:31]. This ends the movement tranquilly with a high, sustained violin note that fades into the mists.

The next "Adagio espressivo" ("Relaxed and expressive") [D-2, T-2] begins with hushed strings [00:00] soon joined by the oboe playing a piquant, wistful theme (PW) [00:19] anticipating subtle moments in Hans Pfitzner's (1869-1949) symphonic works. PW is then repeated in the strings [01:11], and followed by five, variational episodes.

These are waltzlike [02:38], undulant [04:46], questing [05:43], with a heroic midriff [06:29-06:42], chorale-like [07:49] and itinerant [09:14]. Subsequently, PW returns in the brass [10:27] and oboe [10:50], initiating a gently swaying segment [11:15]. This is succeeded by wisps of PW [beginning at 11:50] that end the movement peacefully.

Then things turn folksy with a "Scherzo" [T-3]. It has catchy animated outer sections [00:00 & 04:31] based on a jolly dance ditty (JD) that smacks of the opening theme from Goldmark's (1830-1915) Rustic Wedding Symphony (No.1, 1877). They surround an insistent segment [04:07-04:30], and close the movement in the same spirit it began.

The final "Allegro. Tempo ordinario" ("Fast. Standard speed") [T-4] is a moving, passacaglia-like creation. Structurally speaking, it augurs the last movement of Brahms' Fourth Symphony (1884) and starts with an ostinato, which is a rousing, FL-derived, anthemic subject (FA) [00:00] along the lines of the theme, opening Schubert's Ninth Symphony (1825-8).

FA is soon followed by an abundance of variational episodes of diverse temperament. The first three, which are sequentially martial [01:06], reflective [02:15] and bounding [03:21], may bring Robert Schumann's Symphonies (1841-51) to mind. Then we get a flighty fugue [03:45], which gives way to a zealous grouping [beginning at 04:38]. This turns introspective [06:59], but not for long as triumphant [08:08], cheery [09:16] and declaratory [09:47] excursions soon appear.

Then there's another giddy fugue [10:11], where Mendelssohn's Symphonies (1821-40) come to mind. This gives way to a nostalgic treatment [11:05] that engenders a thrilling, fugue-initiated epilogue [12:03], which ends the work with a glorious, closing coda [14:34].

These recordings, featuring the Northwest German Philharmonic (NGP) based in Herford, date back to 2006 (Symphony) and 2009 (Concerto). The earlier finds Marcus Bosch on the podium, and the other, Georg Fritzsch, who's joined by pianist Oliver Triendl (see 31 December 2017). Both conductors deliver totally committed, outstanding accounts of these undeservedly forgotten orchestral goodies, and Oliver plays up a storm.

Coproductions of CPO and West German Radio (WDR), Cologne, these performances took place sans audience at a banquet hall known as the Schützenhof in Herford. Although they're definitely not demonstration quality, the recordings are serviceable. Moreover, both project a wide, somewhat withdrawn sonic image in echoey surroundings.

The overall orchestral timbre in both recordings is characterized by steely highs, a marginally cluttered midrange, and lean bass. As for the piano, it's appropriately highlighted against the tutti, but comes across with tinkly-sounding upper registers. However, romantic music lovers will find the program content of this release far outweighs any audio shortfalls.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P180927)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Veit: Cpte Stg Qts V2 (3 & 4); Kertész Qt [Toccata]
Last summer our readers were happy to discover the first two of Wenzel Heinrich Veit's (Czech name Václav Jindrich Veit, 1806-1864) four string quartets courtesy of the adventurous Toccata label (see 30 June 2017). Now here are premiere recordings of the remaining ones.

Written in the space of just six years (1834-40), all are stylistically out of Beethoven (1770-1827) and headed towards Schubert (1797-1828), Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and Robert Schumann (1810-1856), who was a friend of Wenzel's. At one point, Robert noted their similarity to those of Georges Onslow (1784-1853; see 25 April 2010), as they have demanding first violin parts. This attests to Veit's familiarity with the recently established French violin school, pioneered by such composers as Pierre Rode (1774-1830, see 31 July 2018).

Like their predecessors, each of the Quartets here is in four movements. Dating from 1838, the Third's initial "Allegro moderato e patetico' ("Moderately fast and with deep feeling") [T-1] is in modified sonata form, and kicks off with a four-note, rhythmic riff (F1) [00:02] that engenders an agitated first subject (FA) [00:09]. Then there's a dulcet bridge [00:45] into an FA-related, playful, second idea (FP) [01:15]. This fills out the opening statement (O1), which is repeated [02:43].

O1 is succeeded by a fickle development [05:16], which jumps from one key to another and has a reminder of FP [06:17] linked to fugal bits of FA [06:54]. These call up an FP-initiated recapitulation [08:03], which engenders an excited FA-based coda [09:31] that ends the movement joyfully.

The next movement exists in two versions (see the album notes), and it's the later published one that's done here. A ternary, A-B-A "Menuetto. Allegretto" ("Minuet. Lively") [T-2], this has delicate "A"s featuring a polite, graceful dance ditty [00:01 & 04:23]. As for "B" [02:11-04:19], it's based on a Czech, folk, polka-like tune known as a Mateník, after which "A" brings the music full circle.

The melancholy "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-3] begins with two ideas that are respectively yearning (MY) [00:01] and furtive (MF) [01:56]. Both are examined, and there's an MY-initiated, pensive, occasionally anguished development [03:20]. Then MF returns [05:57], followed by MY [06:43], which initiates a tiny coda [07:01] that ends the movement unassumingly.

Another sonata form offering similar in spirit to the first movement concludes this work. Marked "Finale. Allegro molto" ("Finale. Very Fast") [T-4], it gets off to another of those four-note, rhythmic riff starts (F2) [00:01] and has virtuosically demanding passagework for the first violinist. F2 also begins the spirited, initial subject (FS) [00:04]. Then resigned passages [00:35] bridge into an FA-related, folksy, second idea (FF) [00:58] that completes the opening statement (O2), which is repeated [02:32].

Then an FF-derived fugato [05:14] triggers a vivacious development. Here the music bounces from key to key, but harmonic composure soon prevails with the return of O2 [06:26], This engenders an excited FA-FL-FF-FS-related coda [08:22] that ends the work joyfully.

The year 1840 saw Wenzel complete his Fourth and final effort in the genre. The first movement is an anguished "Allegro molto ed appassionato" ("Very fast and passionately") [T-5] that brings to mind Beethoven's darker moments. It starts with yet another, arresting, rhythmic riff (F3) [00:01] that's an integral part of the troubled, first subject (FT). Then there's a nervous bridge [00:34] into an FT-related, lullaby-like, second idea (FL) [01:05], which along with the foregoing comprise the opening statement (O3).

O3 is repeated [02:40], giving way to a dramatic development [05:10], where FT and FL are adeptly juggled about. A subsequent, somewhat condensed O3 recap [06:48], having an FT-tinged coda [09:08] brings the movement to an exciting conclusion.

Placed third in the manuscript, but second as per the printed score, the "Menuetto. Allegretto ma non troppo" ("Minuet. Lively but not too fast") comes next [T-6]. An engaging, ternary piece, the outer sections [00:01 & 03:09] feature a gently swaying, pastoral tune. They surround a "Risoluto fortissimo" ("Tenaciously strong"), determined episode [01:51-03:08] and close the movement in the same spirit it began.

The somber "Adagio" ("Slowly") [T-7], opens with a keening, aria-like theme (KA) [00:01] for the viola, having a curious, cello-pizzicato accompaniment. KA is picked up by the other instruments [00:33], and soon followed by a KA-related, "Con duolu" ("With mourning") idea (KM) [01:46]. Then there's a KM-related, recitative-like bridge [03:30] into a distressed KA [03:56]. This is contemplated and followed by reminiscences of the opening measures [05:55] that give way to a KA-based, pining episode [07:01]. It harbors nostalgic memories of KM [beginning at 07:43], after which KA reappears [09:13], concluding things peacefully.

A delightful three-part, folk-oriented movement [T-8] that's arguably the disc's high point, brings this work to a thrilling conclusion. It begins with a crazed "Allegro assai' ("Very fast") segment, which is fueled by a skittering thematic nexus (SN) [00:01], having hints [beginning at 00:25] of a Czech folk ditty (CF) called "Mela jsem holoubka” ("I had a turtledove"), which is soon to come.

Then after a brief pause, the next section marked "Andante con moto - Air de Bohème" ("Flowing but sprightly – Tune from Bohemia") starts off with a full-blown version of CF [02:30]. It's the main subject for a theme with variations and followed by a third "Allegro assai" ("Very fast"), containing a delightful assortment of ten short treatments.

The first two are innocent [03:00] and dreamy [03:29], after which, we get antsy [04:05], barrel-organ-like [04:34], as well as cantering [05:21] ones. Next, there are imitative [05:58], retiring [06:20], virtuosically frenetic [07:00] and perky [08:51] variants. Then an arresting pizzicato thump on the cello [09:18] triggers the tenth that’s a skittering reminder of CF. It ends the Quartet and this CD exuberantly.

As on Toccata's first Veit installment (see 30 June 2017), the Kertész Quartet again distinguishes itself, giving us enthusiastic, virtuosic accounts of these chamber rarities. Budapest-born, lead-violinist Katalin Kertész and her three English associates turn what in lesser hands might come off as ordinary fare, into a memorable listening experience. Incidentally, they play on what the album notes refer to as historical instruments, which ostensibly adds authenticity to these performances. Be that as it may, there's none of that intonational queasiness sometimes associated with period performances.

The recordings of all four Quartets were made over a three-day period in May of 2016 by the same production staff at St. Peter's Church located in Evercreech, England. The musicians are ideally placed and balanced across a generous soundstage in warm, enriching surroundings. Lifelike string tone characterized by pleasant highs, a rich midrange, and clean lows make this a great sounding disc that all romantic chamber music enthusiasts will want to consider.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y180926)

Amazon Records International