CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 DECEMBER 2019
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.
Bright, D.: Pno Conc 1, Vars for Pno & Orch; Gipps: Pno Conc, Ambarvalia; Ward/McLachlan/Peebles/RLiver PO [SOMM]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
This recent SOMM release of four works by two English women composers not only serves up world premiere recordings of selections by both, but restores Ruth Gipps' (1921-1999) superb Piano Concerto (see 21 December 2012) to the catalog of currently available CDs. While Ruth has appeared in these pages a couple of times (31 October 2018), Dora Bright (1862-1951; see the informative album notes) is a most welcome newcomer!
She was a gifted child, who'd go on to study piano and composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Thereupon Dora had a highly successful career performing all over the Continent, and would also leave a substantial body of works. Unfortunately, many of them are now lost, but those that have survived include four scored for piano and orchestra. Two of the latter are concertos, the earlier of which, dating from 1888, begins this disc.
In the usual three movements, the opening "Allegro" [T-1] is built around an attractive thematic nexus, having echoes of Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) earlier piano concertos (1858-75). This is cause for a delightful badinage between soloist and orchestra with a finely wrought, extended cadenza. The latter invokes the return of the tutti, and the movement ends in spirited fashion.
Then there's a brief "Intermezzo" [T-2] based on a captivating, lullaby-like idea, which as the album notes point out, may bring to mind American composer Edward MacDowell's (1860-1908) piano music. It's followed by a commanding, sonata-rondo "Finale" [T-3], which begins with a side-drum tattoo that calls up martial passages interspersed with lyrical ones. These engender a magnificent coda, recalling the Concerto's previous ideas, and bring it to a rousing conclusion.
Next, some more "Brightwork" in the form of Dora's Variations for Piano and Orchestra of 1910, which was her last composition in this genre. It opens with a flowing, somewhat wistful main subject (FW) [T-4], followed by seven imaginative treatments. The first six range from coquettish [T-5] to willful [T-6], introspective [T-7], waltzlike [T-8], casual [T-9] and contemplative [T-10]. Then a scherzoesque, fugato-introduced seventh [T-11] that's the most extended variation ends the piece tranquilly with nostalgic wisps of FW.
Moving right along to the music of Dora's younger colleague Ruth Gipps, we get her sole Piano Concerto of 1948, which is also in three movements. The initial "Allegro" [T-12] gets off to an impressive, romantic start, which brings to mind concertante works for this instrument by the likes of Sirs Arnold Bax (1883-1953) and Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) with a little Rachmaninov (1873-1943) thrown in for good measure. It features a heroic idea along with a couple of related ones that become the subjects of a captivating, developmental dialogue for soloist and orchestra.
This has a perky toccata-like episode [07:18] followed by dramatic tutti passages wrapped around a demanding cadenza [10:05]. These wane into increasingly intense remembrances of past ideas, which invoke a powerful coda [14:03], ending the movement in grand romantic fashion.
Generally speaking, the middle "Andante" [T-13] is in ternary form with winsome outer sections based on a delicate pastoral theme worthy of Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). They surround a related, rustic, dance-like segment [02:43-04:19] and close this section in the same spirit as it began.
Then the work concludes with a vivacious, "Vivace" rondo [T-14] that's a colorfully scored, neoclassical caper based on a catchy, capricious ditty (CC) [00:00]. With a stretch of the imagination, CC brings to mind the melody accompanying "This is the Army, Mr. Jones" in Irving Berlin's (1888-1989) song for an American film of 1943. It was very popular during the years surrounding the end of World War II (1939-45), and maybe Ruth had the tune in the back of her mind when she wrote this movement.
In any case, CC is the subject of a lively interplay between soloist and tutti. It concludes with scampering piano passages [05:09] that call up a rousing recollection of CC for all [05:23], which ends the Concerto forcefully.
And filling out this release, there's Ms. Gipps' brief orchestral study of 1988, honoring her recently deceased colleague Adrian Cruft (1921-1987). A charming pastoral work, it's titled Ambarvalia after the Roman, agricultural fertility rite held each May.
The music is in A-B-A form with delicate "A"s based on a somewhat nostalgic thought, conjoining a melancholy "B" [02:34-04:16]. There are plaintive oboe passages throughout, and in that regard, the composer was very accomplished on that instrument, having studied it with Sir Eugene Goossens (1893-1962) during her days at the Royal College of Music, London.
British pianist Samantha Ward delivers outstanding renditions of the Bright selections, while her fellow countryman and colleague Murray McLachlan serves up the best account of Gipps's Concerto currently available on disc. Both are given sensitive, committed support from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under award-winning, English conductor Charles Peebles. These artists make a strong case for a couple of lady composers, who made significant contributions to the world of classical music when it was dominated by men.
Done earlier this year at The Friary in Liverpool, the recordings present a wide, withdrawn sonic image in reverberant, but pleasant surroundings. The piano is centered; however, it comes off as rather lean sounding, and could be better highlighted. The instrumental timbre is characterized by tinkly highs, a recessive midrange and lows with occasional bass drum hangover. What this disc lacks in sound quality, it makes up for by giving us serviceable accounts of some superb, rarely heard music.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191231)
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Graener: Orch Wks V4 (Vc Conc, Vn Conc & Fl Conc); Sinkevich/Raudales/Dohn/Schirmer/MunR O [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
A CLOFO regular, German composer Paul Graener (1872-1944) makes a welcome reappearance with this new CPO release in their series devoted to his orchestral works. The previous installment included Paul's sole Piano Concerto (1925; see 30 April 2015), and now they give us his remaining, three efforts in the genre. These are each three-movement works, which came after the aforementioned one and feature, cello, violin and flute respectively.
The one for Cello, which was probably completed in 1927, is dedicated to the composer's compatriot and close friend cellist Paul Grümmer (1879-1965), who premiered the work that year with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. It's scored for chamber forces with a token percussion section that includes a piano, which makes periodic, curt comments throughout the piece. In that regard, do you suppose this may have started out as a concertante work for that instrument?
The opening "Allegro" [T-1] has a perky, halting, orchestral preface featuring an angular cocky theme (AC), and is followed by the cello bridging into a related, amorous melody (AA) [00:42]. The two ideas become the basis for a concise, developmental repartee that ends the movement abruptly.
A moving "Adagio" is next [T-2], and begins with the wind instruments intoning an AA-reminiscent, longing thought. It's picked up by the soloist and examined with caressing tutti support, which includes distinctive piano passages.
Then the Concerto closes in a rondoesque "Vivace" [T-3], having an AC-derived, tarantella-like, recurring ditty (AT) heard at the outset. AT is the subject of a cheeky dialogue for all, ending with a side-drum tattoo. And after a pert pause, the cello launches into a jolly AT treatment [01:08], bridging into a nostalgic recollection of AA [03:17]. This is interrupted by a rascally AT [03:48], calling up an antic coda [04:57] that ends the work laughingly.
Generally, of a more serious demeanor, the Violin Concerto (1937) seemingly reflects the unsettled times in Germany when this composer and his fellow musicians were subject to the ethnic as well as culturally repressive dictums of the ruling Nazi Party (1933-45; see 10 May 2011). Moreover, the initial "Allegro moderato" [T-4] begins with subdued, orchestral passages reminiscent of more introspective moments in the music of Paul's colleague Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949; see 23 February 2011). They introduce two, expansive themes that are respectively tender (ET) [00:01] and yearning (EY) [00:53].
Then the soloist picks up on ET [01:35], giving rise to a gorgeous, rhapsodic exploration of the foregoing ideas, and plays an EY-related, flighty tune [03:14]. Subsequently, these thoughts fuel a dramatic, developmental episode with the tranquil return of ET on the violin [06:35]. This invokes a moving recap that has a curt cadenza [07:13-07:48] and majestic ET-initiated coda [10:13], which ends the movement definitively with two forte chords for all.
The interim "Langsam und verhalten" ("Slow and restrained") [T-5] is as billed and features an EY-like, pining theme. It undergoes several keening mutations, but closes hopefully. Then melancholy turns to merriment in the final "Allegro ma non troppo, ben marcato" ("Lively and not too fast, but well accented") [T-6], which is a delightful rondo.
A jolly variant of EY (YJ) heard at the outset [00:00] is the main motif. YJ may remind you of the Purcell (1659-1695), Abdelazer Incidental Music's rondeau (1695), which Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) borrowed for his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946).
Be that as it may, YJ recurs interspersed with treatments that range from rustic [00:50] to amorous [01:57], flighty [03:27], songlike [03:53] and playful [04:27], Then there's an expectant pause and spectacular cadenza written by Graener himself [05:39-06:29], which triggers a thrilling, YJ-based coda. This brings the work to an exultant conclusion.
The Flute Concerto of 1944 would be Paul's last completed work (see 6 January 2011). A blithe, charming creation, you'd never guess it was written during the composer's darkest hours. Moreover, he and his wife had been forced to leave Berlin when their home was destroyed during the incessant, Allied bombing of that city towards the end of World War II (1939-45). What's more, he was in declining health, and would die in a Salzburg hospital not long after finishing it.
An opening "Un poco Allegro ma moderato" ("Somewhat Fast, but moderate") [T-7] begins with gentle, rustling measures for the tutti, who soon play a fetching, folklike ditty (FF) [00:03] that's picked up by the soloist [00:31]. Then there are a couple of lovely countersubjects [00:52 & 01:19], and all the foregoing ideas engender a comely development. Subsequently, FF [04:28] invokes a cheery recap with a nostalgic, last remembrance of itself [05:46], thereby ending the movement peacefully.
A brief, jaunty "Andantino" [T-8] features another couple of attractive, folkish tunes and is a relaxed, dance-like interlude before the vibrant "Rondo" finale [T-8]. The latter is built on Hans Georg Nägeli's (1773-1836) melody for the song "Freut Euch des Lebens" ("Enjoy Your Life", 1793), which became very popular throughout Germany. This undergoes a couple of transformations, which surround a pensive passage [02:27-03:05] as well as a volatile, virtuosic cadenza [03:48-04:14], and bring the Concerto to a merry conclusion.
An international cast of soloists, hailing from Russia (cellist Uladzimir Sinkevich), Guatemala (violinist Henry Raudales) and Germany (flutist Christiane Dohn), play the above to perfection. They're given outstanding support from the Munich Radio Orchestra (MRO) under German conductor Ulf Schirmer, who was then the MRO's Artistic Director. Herr Graener couldn't be better represented, and arguably these renditions are the best currently available on disc!
A coproduction of CPO and Bavarian Radio (BR), the recordings were made between April 28 and May 2, 2014 in BR's Studio 1, Munich, and project a withdrawn sonic image in accommodating surroundings. The soloists are satisfactorily captured, and balanced against the tutti.
The orchestral timbre is characterized by occasionally brittle highs, an acceptable midrange and lean lows. While this isn't demonstration quality sound, with engaging music such as this, any sonic shortcomings will soon be forgotten.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191230)
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Reinecke: Cpte Stg Qts (5); Reinhold Qt [CPO]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (2 CDs)
Born in Altona, a few miles east-northeast of Hamburg, Germany, Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) was one of the most accomplished musicians of his time. A talented violinist, pianist and highly esteemed pedagogue, he would teach at several prestigious institutions.
His students included a number of composers who've appeared in these pages; namely, Edvard Grieg (1843-1907; see 12 July 2013), Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924; see 31 December 2018), Amanda Maier (1853-1894; see 31 December 2018), her husband Julius Röntgen (1858-1932; see 31 May 2017), Christian Sinding (1856-1941; see 17 August 2011) and Felix Weingartner (1863-1942; see 8 April 2013).
Also, a distinguished conductor as well as composer, Carl would leave a large oeuvre across all genres. These encompass a significant body of chamber music, which originally included seven string quartets, two of which have been lost. However, the five surviving ones, all four-movement works, fill out this welcome CPO release, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
Proceeding chronologically, the First (Op. 16, circa 1845) is an amazingly accomplished creation for a twenty-year old. With delicately wrought themes that seem of folk persuasion, it consists of a captivating, sonata-form, "Allegro agitato" [D-1, T-9], which is followed by a melancholy "Andante" [D-1, T-10], having a more hopeful midsection.
Then there's a busy "Scherzo" [D-1, T-11] that smacks of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), whom Reinecke knew and studied with in Leipzig. It's followed by a perky "Finale" [D-1, T-12], which brings this youthful delight to a merry conclusion.
The Second, dating from some six years later (Op. 30, 1851), may remind you of Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) String Quartets (Op. 41, Nos. 1-3, 1842). In that regard, Robert thought very highly of Carl and even dedicated his Fugues for Piano (Op. 72, 1845) to him.
Returning to the Reinecke, we get a vivacious, tuneful "Allegro" [D-1, T-1], succeeded by a gorgeous, cantilena-like "Andante" [D-1, T-2]. Then a wee, waggish "Scherzo" [D-1, T-3] sets the mood for the scurrying, sonata-rondo "Finale" [D-1, T-4], which ends things assertively.
Twenty-three years would pass before Carl penned a Third Quartet (Op.132, 1874). This was written during his long tenure as Music Director (1860-95) of the great Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (LGO). A more polished, progressive creation, it opens with a playful "Allegro" [D-2, T-5] and heartfelt "Lento" [D-2, T-6], presaging Brahms' (1833-1897) later, chamber works.
After that, instead of the usual scherzo, there's a chromatically, yearning "Molto moderato" [D-2, T-7]. But then an exuberant "Finale" [D-2, T-8] closes things on a festive note.
The composer's Fourth offering in the genre (Op. 211, 1890) also dates from his LGO years and is characterized by exigency as well as economy of means. Moreover, the first movement [D-1, T-5] has somber "Lento" passages followed by dauntless, "Allegro" ones. Subsequently, there's a sorrowful "Adagio" [D-1, T-6]; however, grief turns to jollity in a petite, pizzicato-spiced "Scherzo" [D-1, T-7]. This sets the mood for the cheeky 'Finale" [D-1, T-8], which ends with a big 🙂.
Coming a year before Carl's demise, the immaculately constructed, Fifth Quartet (Op. 287, 1909) would be his penultimate composition. Unlike the music of that day by Richard Strauss (1864-1949), Jan Sibelius (1865-1957), Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Béla Bartók (1881-1945) and Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), it harkens back to Brahms, whom Reinecke highly regarded.
The work seems a moving remembrance of past times and begins with a nostalgic "Allegro" [D-2, T-1], succeeded by a longing "Adagio" [D-2, T-2]. Then there's a restless "Allegretto" [D-2, T-3], where there's a recurring melody [beginning at 00:54], which possibly by design, seems to recall the one accompanying, "Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay", in American composer Stephen Foster's (1826-1864) song Old Black Joe (pub. 1860).
Be that as it may, the work then closes with a mercurial "Finale" [D-2, T-4]. Here a reserved, majestic thought (MP) [00:00] gives way to an ebullient second (ES) [00:43]. ES is explored and followed by a caressing third (CT) [02:26], which undergoes a tender development [02:46]. The latter modulates into the return of ES [04:47] that bridges with hints of CT into a stern reminder of MP [05:35]. This triggers a magnificent CT-ES-MP-based coda that ends the Quartet on a joyful note.
The Reinhold Quartet (violinists Dietrich Reinhold and Tobias Haupt, violist Norbert Tunze, cellist Dorothée Erbiner) deliver superb accounts of these selections. And interestingly enough, all these musicians are members of Reinecke's old alma mater, the LGO (see above).
Made in 2017 (Quartets 1, 2 & 4) and 2018 (Quartets 3 & 5) at the Großer Lindensaal, Markkleeberg, some five miles south of Leipzig, Gemany, the recordings present a broad sonic image in pleasantly reverberant surroundings. The instruments are comfortably placed and balanced against one another from left to right in order of increasing size. Incidentally, the 2018 performances sound a tad closer and richer than the earlier ones.
The overall tone is characterized by a good midrange and bass. However, as is usually the case with strings on conventional discs, there are occasional bright spots in the highs. Consequently, this album won't win any audiophile awards.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191229)
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Thieriot: Cpte Stg Trios (2); Lubotsky Trio [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
This new Naxos release is most welcome as it serves up more selections by an undeservedly neglected German composer, whom we've touted in these pages (see 8 February 2010 and 8 September 2014), namely Ferdinand Thieriot (1838-1919). He left a large oeuvre, which includes a significant number of chamber works. Those liking Johannes Brahms' (1833-1897) music in that genre (1854-94) will love this CD.
It has world premiere recordings of Ferdinand's two String Trios, both scored for violin, viola and cello. While their dates aren't readily available, stylistically speaking they seem out of the 1860s, but wouldn't be published until 2003-04.
The First is in five movements and begins with a sonata-form "Tempo moderato" ("At a moderate speed") [T-1] that smacks of Schubert (1797-1828). This has an opening statement (OS) based on a songlike theme (SS) [00:00] and related, yearning idea (SY) [00:58]. Then OS is repeated [02:18], after which there's an engaging development [04:40], followed by a dramatic recap [06:30] with an SS-triggered coda [08:16] that ends the movement confidently.
The second "Adagio" [T-2] is a moving A-B-A-B-A serenade, whose "A"s feature a fetching amorous melody (FA) [00:00, 02:28 & 04:00], and "B"s, a somewhat halting one [01:21, 03:48]. It's succeeded by a quaint "Menuetto" [T-3] with an angularity reminiscent of Robert Schumann (1810-1856).
Then we get a "Poco Adagio, quasi Variazioni" [T-4], which is a gallant theme with variations, having an SS-reminiscent, expansive main subject (SE) [00:00] that undergoes four treatments. These range from nervous [01:01] to chorale-like [01:57], excited [02:50] and reverential [03:43], with the latter ending the movement prayerfully.
But piety turns to merriment in a rollicking, sonata-rondo "Vivace" ("Lively") [T-5], having a couple of recurring, infectious tunes. The first is an SS-like, vivacious, contrapuntally spiced ditty (SV) [00:00], and the other, an FA-reminiscent, folkish melody (FF) [00:40]. These surround an SV-fugato-initiated developmental segment [02:45], having a sad reminder of FF [03:16]. Then FF begins a recap [04:39], adjoining an SV-based, captivating coda [04:55] that closes things with a definitive "So there!"
The four-movement, Second Trio is a more concentrated work, which like its predecessor, gets off to a sonata-form, "Tempo moderato" ("At a moderate speed") start [T-6]. Here the opening statement has a question-and-answer, first thought (QA) [00:00], succeeded by a related, furtive one (QF) [01:17]. After that, QA initiates a development [02:23], and QF, a recap [04:16], having a QA-based, coda [05:33], which ends the movement darkly.
Then there's a charming, ternary, scherzo-like, "Intermezzo" [T-7] that brings to mind more pixilated moments in Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). This has flighty, outer sections [00:00 & 02:58], featuring a scampering tune, wrapped around a wistful segment [01:11] with a melancholy melody.
Next, an "Andante lento" ("Flowing slowly") [T-8] that's a theme and variations, whose main subject is a pleasing, sinuous melody (PS) heard at the outset [00:00]. PS undergoes five transformations, the first four being cantilena-like [01:03], wistful [01:56], cocky [02:55] and rhapsodic [03:35]. Then a resigned fifth [04:03] brings the music to a tranquil conclusion.
The final "Allegro non troppo" ("Fast but not too quickly") [T-9] is an engaging sonata-rondo, which starts with a recurring, folk-song-like, thematic nexus (RF) [00:00]. RF is repeated [01:40], calls up a whimsical development [01:57], and returns [03:44], giving rise to a coda [04:11] that ends the trio definitively.
Our performers here include internationally well-known, award-winning, Russian violinist Mark Lubotsky, Swedish violist Katarina Andreasson, and Mark's wife, cellist Olga Dowbusch-Lubotsky. Collectively known as the Lubotsky Trio, they give dedicated performances of these chamber rarities.
Made last summer at an unidentifiable church somewhere in Sweden, the recordings present a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings. The instruments are placed from left to right in order of increasing size, and well balanced against one another. Some may find the sound skewed a bit left and want to tweak their balance controls accordingly.
The overall string tone is typical of that found on conventional CDs and consequently a bit cold. However, these winsome works will soon have you forgetting any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191228)
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Waghalter: Stg Qt ; Strasfogel: Stg Qt 1; Rathaus: Stg Qt 5; PolStgQtBer [EDA]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Written between 1900 and 1954, these string quartets are by composers of Polish-Jewish origin. Waghalter and Strasfogel were born in Warsaw, while Rathaus hailed from Ternopil (now in Ukraine). All studied in Germany and began highly successful careers there; however, they were cut short with the rise of the Nazi Party (1920-45) and its anti-Semitic policies.
Consequently, as Schoenberg (1874-1951), Korngold (1897-1957, see 31 March 2019), Tansman (1897-1986, see 30 June 2017), and Zeisl (1905-1959, see 15 November 2013) had done, all three fled Europe, and came to the US. They lived out their lives in New York City, where they became valued members of the classical music community.
Ignatz Waghalter (1881-1949; see 31 May 2015) studied in Berlin, where his mentors included Philipp Scharwenka (1847-1917) and Friederich Gernsheim (1839-1916; see 31 October 2019). He'd leave a small body of works that include several chamber pieces, and his sole, four-movement, String Quartet (1900-01) gets this disc off to a magnificent start.
Written when he was only twenty, it opens with a winsome, sonata-form "Allegro Moderato" [T-1] based on a couple of lovely melodies. These show what an accomplished tunesmith he was and smack of Dvorák's (1841-1904) works in the genre (1869-95).
The first movement's question-answer, closing measures [07:01] anticipate the next "Allegretto" [T-2], which is a folksy offering, where a dance [00:00] and songlike number [02:31] alternate with one another. The latter has the last say, bringing the movement to a peaceful conclusion that sets the mood for a somber "Adagio" [T-3] based on a searching thought [00:00]. This is the subject of a moving contemplation, which takes on a couple of comely guises.
After that there's another "Allegretto" [T-4], but this time it's a theme and variations, whose main subject is a whimsical ditty heard at the outset [00:00]. This undergoes a variety of transformations, the first eight ranging from skittering [00:20] to rapturous [00:37], pizzicato [00:54], antic [01:20], cantilenaesque [01:41], loving [02:14], twitchy [02:57], as well as hymnlike [03:16]. Then a merry variant [03:51] with an exultant midriff [04:20-04:41] and a nostalgic one [05:06] are followed by a cheeky riff [05:22] that ends the Quartet with a toss of the head.
Written some thirty years later, we get a quartet by another twenty-year-old, namely Waghalter's compatriot, Ignace Strasfogel (1909-1994; see the informative album notes), it being the First (1927-28) of his two such efforts. A superbly crafted, highly expressive work, one can understand why he was one of Franz Schreker's (1878-1934) favorite pupils. That said, it's a bird of a different feather compared to the Waghalter!
Moreover, this is a much more avant-garde, condensed creation that's only in two movements, and flirts with the dodecaphony of the Second Viennese School. Accordingly, it brings to mind Alban Berg's (1885-1935) works in the genre (1910-26).
The opening "Adagio" [T-5] gets off to a haunting start with a meandering, twelve-tone-like idea (MT) [00:00]. MT is repeated [01:19], and the music becomes increasingly troubled, building with a passing, MT-based fugato episode [02:05] to a spooky climax. This wanes into a somber reminder of MT [04:42], followed by a deathly pause and animated coda [04:59] that ends the movement fitfully.
Then it's on to a brilliant "Allegretto" [T-6], which at twice the length of its predecessor is a moving, MT-pervaded, polyrhythmic offering. Here a weeping preface [00:00] with sorrowful passages, having some teardrop pizzicato, is succeeded by couple of keening passages [03:43, 05:00]. These give way to a pregnant pause and remembrances of the movement's opening measures [05:31]. These conjure up a dramatic treatment of MT that close the work definitively.
Moving ahead almost another thirty years, this invaluable release ends with the Fifth Quartet (1954) of the preceding composers' colleague, Karol Rathaus (1895-1954). The last completed effort in his significant oeuvre, it has three alternately slow and fast movements.
Stylistically speaking, this follows in Strasvogel's footsteps. Moreover, it starts with a benign, twelve-tone-flavored motif (BT) [T-7; 00:01] that will pervade the work. Consequently, the Quartet is probably best described as representative of what Schoenberg referred to as "developing variation". In that regard, the initial "Allegretto" [T-7] is rondo-like, where BT recurs interspersed with variants that are flighty [00:58, 01:32] and vivacious [03:51]. Then an ominous one [04:32] ends the movement despairingly.
The middle "Largo" [T-8] begins with rustling passages and a romantic motif (RM) [00:18] that's worked with hints of BT [beginning at 00:39] along the way into a frenzied episode wrapped around a contemplative one [03:34-05:26]. Then the music wanes, and after a pause, a subdued RM ends things tranquilly.
Subsequently, Rathaus serves up a contrapuntally spiced, "Allegro" of rondo demeanor [T-9]. Here chromatically restless bits of RM [00:00] are tossed about with snippets of BT [00:47]. These bridge into insistent passages [02:15] that call up an RM-based fugal segment [02:40], which launches a romantic treatment of RM [03:23]. This comes to a quiet conclusion, but just as soon as you think the Quartet is over, a wild, BT-derived coda [04:12] ends the work full circle.
The Polish String Quartet Berlin makes a memorable first appearance in these pages, delivering elegant performances of all three works. While the first two are the only versions currently available on disc, their incisive, letter-perfect rendition of the Rathaus surpasses the aging competition out there.
A coproduction of EDA and Deutschlandfunk Kultur, the recordings were done in one of the world's legendary venues, the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, (Jesus Christ Church Dahlem), Berlin. They present an ideally sized soundstage with the performers perfectly placed, captured and balanced in enriching, reverberant surroundings. This disc will be particularly appealing to those liking wetter sonics.
The overall string tone is as good as it gets on conventional CDs, and characterized by pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange, as well as clean bass with no hangover in the cello's lower registers. This release easily earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y191227)
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