CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 APRIL 2021
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.
Dubois, T.: Pno Qnt in F major (w vn, va, ob & vc), Pno Qt in A minor (w vn, va & vc); Triendl/Various Soloists [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
French composer Théodore Dubois (1837-1924) has been a CLOFO regular for sometime (see 19 December 2011, 31 May 2015 & 27 February 2019). And with Good Friday having occurred not long ago, he's best remembered for a moving oratorio commemorating that, namely his Les sept paroles du Christ (The Seven Last Words of Christ; 1867).
Now CPO gives us this new release with two of his greatest chamber creations. Granted both have appeared on disc in the dim distant past; however, lovers of romantic French music in this genre who missed out on them will definitely want these. What's more, the recordings are arguably better performances and superior sounding than their predecessors.
Those liking the piano quartets of César Franck (1822-1890; FWV 7 of 1878-79) and Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924; Op. 15 & 45 of 1876-86), as well as the latter's keyboard quintets (Op. 89 & 115 of 1887-1921) will find the works here very appealing. Dating from the first decade of the 20th century, while they break no new ground, they're beautifully written, captivating pieces.
Both in four movements, the program begins with Théodore's Piano Quintet in F major (1905), which is unusual in that one of the two violins usually associated with works such as this is replaced by an oboe. It gives the music a Gallic piquancy that points the way towards such later French pastries as Francis Poulenc's (1899-1963) Suite française (French Suite, FP 80a; 1935).
The opening "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-1] gets off to a soft, whimpering start [00:01], after which the oboe sings a graceful chanson-like tune (GC) [00:05]. GC is picked up by the other instruments, explored and bridges into a wistful countermelody (GW) [01:53].
GW triggers a delightfully inventive development [02:42], followed by a GC-introduced recapitulation [05:00]. Then runs on the piano [06:49] are succeeded by a GW-related, captivating afterthought [06:53]. This has a reminder of GC [07:19] that calls up a jubilant coda [07:46], thereby ending the movement with a Franckian feel.
Next, there's an A-B-A structured, "Canzonetta. Tranquillo" ("Tranquil Song") [T-2]. Here the "A"s [00:00 & 03:33] are based on an innocent, pastoral tune (IP) [00:15], which as the album notes point out is along the lines of Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without words; 1829-45). They bracket an IP-derived, scampering "B" [02:08-03:24], and leave the listener wondering if Dubois may have had some French folk number in mind.
Be that as it may, the gorgeous "Adagio non troppo" ("Slow but not overly so") [T-3] is an aria-like offering. This features an IP-reminiscent, winsome melody (IW) [00:00] that brings to mind the composer's compatriot and colleague Jules Massenet's (1842-1912; see 31 January 2021) operas (1865-1912).
Subsequently, Théodore serves up a vivacious, sonata-rondo-like "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") [T-4], where ideas from the previous movements resurface in Franckian "cyclic form". The opening statement starts with a GC-suggestive, scurrying motif (GS) [00:00], which gives way to a GW-related, demure theme introduced by the oboe (GD) [00:07]. Then the foregoing ideas are repeated [01:01] and undergo an extended development with remembrances of GC [01:59, 03:01] along with IW [04:28].
After that, a GC-related, scampering idea [05:02] triggers a recapitulation. Here GD reappears [05:22 & 07:04], and GC fuels a big-tune version of itself [07:29] powering a coda [08:12], which ends the work exultantly.
Then our oboist departs, leaving his fellow musicians to give us Dubois' Piano Quartet in A minor (1907). A more vivacious creation than its predecessor, this has three "Allegro" ("Fast") movements as well as a peripatetic "Andante" ("Slow").
The initial "Allegro" [T-5] sports an "agitato" ("agitated") marking and begins with a tuneful, roving idea (TR) [00:00], which is explored [00:37]. TR is followed by a related, lyrical thought (TL) [01:32] that's pondered [02:12]. Then all of the foregoing is repeated [02:40], initiating a superb, contrapuntally spiced development [05:12].
The latter gives way to the insistent return of TR [07:41], triggering a dramatic recap with a reminder of TL [09:19]. Subsequently, TR becomes increasingly excited [10:35], thereby calling up a frantic coda [11:16], which brings the movement to an urgent conclusion.
Next, there's a "molto espressivo" ("very expressive") marked "Andante" [T-6] that stays on the move with a TL-reminiscent, ambulatory main thought (TA) [00:22]. TA undergoes several, variational treatments of differing mood with the first four ranging from rhapsodic [01:23] to expansive [02:17], capricious [03:19] and waltzlike [03:49]. They're followed by brash [04:44], amorous [05:13], martial [06:11], nostalgic [06:24] as well as furtive [06:45] ones. And then TA returns [07:15], ending things quietly with sighing bits of itself [08:10].
The subsequent "Allegro leggerio " ("Fast and to be played lightly") [T-7] is a scherzo in all but name. It's a scampering tidbit, where Mendelssohn (1809-1847) once again comes to mind (see above), namely the pixilated passages in his A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). Moreover, the movement's outer sections are based on a TL-related, flighty number (TF) [00:00]. They surround a tuneful trio [01:18] having a tiny, TL-based fugato [01:48], and end things full circle.
Last but not least, there's an "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") [T-8], where the composer's use of Franckian "cyclic form" (see above) is again evident. This has a TR-like, bounding first theme (TB) [00:00] and related caressing second (TC) [01:21], which gives way to a big-tune recollection of TA [02:07] (see above).
The foregoing material is jostled about. Then TB resurfaces [03:31] with a brief reminder of TF [04:13] (see above), and turns somewhat mystical (TM) [05:09]. Subsequently, TM ebbs and flows into a TB-based coda [06:52] that ends the Quartet emphatically.
Here our old friend, German pianist Oliver Triendl (see 30 April 2015, 31 October 2017, 28 February 2019 & 28 February 2020) once again "tickles the ivories", giving us enthusiastic, compelling performances of both works. He receives superb support from his compatriots, namely violinist Nina Karmon, oboist Stefan Schilli, violist Anja Kreynacke and cellist Jakob Spahn. They make a strong case for these captivating, French chamber selections.
A coproduction of CPO and Deutschlandfunk Kultur (DLFK), the recordings were made last February in DLFK's Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall), Cologne. They present an appropriately sized sonic image in warm, accommodating surroundings, where the piano is centered with the other instruments just left (violin & oboe) and right (viola & cello) of it. All are well balanced against one another.
The oboe as well as piano are ideally captured, while the string tone is characterized by lifelike highs, articulate mids and clean lows with no hint of hangover in the cello's lower registers. Audiophiles may want to take this disc along on their next highend shopping expedition.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y210430)
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Spanish Pno Concs (3 by 18th C cmpsrs; see M.Martinez, Narro & Palomino); Mestre/Borysiuk/Iberian PO [Haenssler]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
This album's cover title is a trifle misleading! Moreover, while Narro and Palomino are authentically Spanish composers, Martinez was a Viennese-trained one of Iberian heritage, who had a highly successful career as a concert pianist. What's more, a violin concerto by Palomino is also included.
These four works have been reconstructed, revised and edited by the conductor-pianist featured here, Melani Mestre. Each of them is in three-movements, the first being sonata-formish ones, and except for the Martinez, they call for string orchestra accompaniments. All are world premiere recordings and the only versions currently available on disc.
The concert begins with Manuel Narro's (1729-1776; see album notes) Concerto for Cembalo and Orchestra in G major, which probably dates from 1767. While "cembalo" is Italian for "harpsichord", the version done here is for piano.
The opening "Allegro presto" ("Extremely fast") [T-1] starts with a perky, fetching tune (PF) in the strings [00:00]. PF is followed by a related, lyrical countersubject [00:33], and the soloist enters [01:12], picking up on them with virtuosic flourishes as well as some help from the tutti. Then these ideas are developmentally tossed about by all [03:02], and PF returns in the strings [04:19]. It's seconded by the piano [04:23], after which the movement ends with exuberant hints of both thoughts.
The next "Andante giusto" ("Flowing and precise") [T-2] is a gentle utterance, where the soloist plays a songlike, extended melody to a caressing accompaniment. Then there's another "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-3] that's a captivating discourse for tutti and piano. It brings the work to a no-frills conclusion.
Mariana Martinez (aka Marianna Martines or Marianne von Martinez; 1744-1812) Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A major is one of four, and may have been written around 1775. In any case, it shows the influence of an acquaintance with whom she frequently performed, namely Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)!
Many will find this the most appealing work here. Besides shades of Wolferl, there are moments tinged with "Papa Haydn" (1732-1809), who was apparently a neighbor and presumably friend of hers in Vienna. There's also an Italian feel reminiscent of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach's (1714-1788) music in this genre.
The initial "Allegro con spirito" ("Fast with spirit") [T-4] presents two, related ideas. The first [00:00] has horn calls, giving it a venatic feel, while the second is a playful number [01:22]. They're the subjects of an accomplished, developmental discourse [02:03] that ends the movement in the same spirit it began.
Then there's a minuet-like "Andante comodo" ("Moderately flowing") [T-5] based on a charming tune [00:00], where orchestra and piano gracefully move about. It's a lovely respite, after which both engage in a sprightly "Allegro assai" ("Very fast") [T-6] that brings the work to a complaisant conclusion.
Turning to José Palomino (1755-1810; see album notes), there's his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G major (1785). This is a Spanish-flavored sibling of Wolfie's works in the genre (1767-91).
The lead-off "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-7] opens with the tutti playing a delicate, wispy theme (DW) [00:00], having a yearning countersubject (DY) [00:47]. Subsequently, the soloist picks up on DW [01:36] and examines it with encouragement from the strings, who recall DY [03:05]. Then it plays a scampering version of DW (DS) [03:54], succeeded by a tutti, DW-initiated development [04:55].
This adjoins the reappearance of DS in the strings [06:07] and piano [06:44], thereby beginning a perky recap that ends the movement with an upbeat, "So there!" cadence [07:57]. However, the mood turns sentimental in a short but sweet "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-8] based on a comely, cantabile melody [00:01].
And winding things up, a "Rondo" [T-9] with a tripping, somewhat Magyar-flavored ditty (TM) that smacks of the Haydn (1732-1809) Concerto for Keyboard in D major's (H 18 no 11; 1784) opening theme. Here TM is bandied about, bringing the music to a smiling conclusion.
Billed on the album cover as a "Bonus", José's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in G major fills out this release. Possibly written as early as the 1770s, it has an accompaniment dating from 1804 and begins with an "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-10], having a march-like, orchestral preface. This hints at a winsome, valiant melody (WV) soon played by the soloist [00:33], who toys with it, thereby introducing a related, sanguine thought (WS) [01:07].
The foregoing ideas are examined with virtuosic flourishes and give way to a WS-parented, introspective development [03:44] having bravura, violin passages. Then there's a WV-triggered recap [06:10] tinged with WS [06:19], which calls up a WV-WS-based coda [07:07] that ends things matter-of-factly.
Palomino then gives us a charming "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-11] with a delicate orchestral opening [00:00], which evokes a WV-reminiscent, rhapsodic idea (WR) from the violin [01:06]. WR is contemplated, and this short-lived movement concludes in an unresolved state, hinting at the closing "Rondo" [T-12].
Suffice to say, the latter will sound familiar as it bears a strong, structural resemblance to the one in the composer's above piano concerto, and TM (see above) is once again the recurring tune. TM is tossed about in similar fashion, thereby bringing the work to a rousing conclusion.
The performances are by the Iberian Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) under internationally acclaimed, Catalan conductor Melani Mestre. He's also the pianist, while violinist Natalia Borysiuk, who it would seem is a member of the IPO, holds forth in the last concerto. Señor Mestre has unearthed many undeservedly neglected Spanish works, and along with Señora Borysiuk, they deliver definitive performances of four more on this enterprising disc.
Done during November 2016 at the Can Roig i Torres Auditorium in Barcelona, Spain, the recordings project an appropriately sized sonic image in a warm venue with just the right amount of reverberation. The soloists are centered and perfectly captured as well as balanced against the orchestra.
These concertos are scored for moderately sized forces commensurate with the classical period of music (circa 1750-1830). The overall sound is characterized by pleasant highs with a bit of sparkle and a superb midrange. As for the lows, there are no earthshaking moments, but just lean, clean bass with no hint of hangover in the lower strings. Taking everything into consideration, this release is as good as conventional CDs get!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y210429)
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Tchaikovsky, Alexander: Orch Wks V1 (Sym 3, Sym 7 "Quarantine..." for Stgs, Perc & Pno); Vasiliev/Siber SO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Not to be confused with his eminent but unrelated namesake, Peter Ilyich (aka Pyotr Ilyich, 1840-1893), Russian, composer-pianist Alexander Tchaikovsky (b. 1946) makes his CLOFO debut here. Regarded today as one of that country's most outstanding musical figures, Alexander has written a large body of works across all genres, which include fourteen operas, three ballets and seven symphonies.
Two of the latter fill out this adventurous, recent Toccata release, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc. As there's a detailed musical analysis of both in the album notes by distinguished, English, pianist-composer-musicologist Jonathan Powell (b. 1969), we'll just hit their high points. Suffice to say at the outset that those loving Dmitri Shostakovich's (1906-1975) symphonies (1924-71) are in for a real treat.
The program opens with Symphony No. 7, Op. 139 (2020) scored for strings, percussion and piano; however, the latter doesn't appear until the very end of this work. Subtitled "Quarantine Symphony", it was begun during the first days of social distancing brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. What's more, the composer tells us he had Peter's Pathétique Symphony (No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74; 1893) in mind, as that was written during a cholera epidemic (1826-1837), which was the cause of his illustrious countryman's death.
Unfortunately, not long after Alex finished the work, fate intervened, and he came down with COVID-19. This prevented him from attending the work's premiere in Siberia on 13 September 2020, under the conductor and orchestra featured here. But we're happy to report he survived, and hopefully this newsletter finds him fully recovered.
In two movements, the initial one begins "Andante" ("Slow") [T-1] with a sighing, wistful thought for the first violins (SW) [00:01]. SW makes a jagged bridge [01:07] into a busy idea [01:23] with rhythmic accents [01:33] smacking of moments in Stravinsky's (1882-1971) The Rite of Spring (1911-13), more specifically the section titled "Dances of the Young Girls".
Then the foregoing is explored and wanes, evoking a remembrance of SW [03:14]. This becomes agitated [04:06], only to be followed by a pause and "meno mosso" ("less agitated") passages [05:21]. These escalate into frenetic ones [06:20] that bring the movement to a vivacious conclusion.
As the album notes point out, the subsequent "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-2] brings to mind similarly marked ones in Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) later symphonies (1908-10). It begins with a keening, chorale-like melody (KC) [00:01] that would seem in memory of those who've succumbed to COVID-19.
KC is cause for a heartfelt contemplation with a subsequent, gently rocking ostinato [04:35], which invokes irenic, hints of the Symphony's opening measures [04:46]. Then the latter turn songful [05:45], making a celestial ascent and descent into SW-suggestive, three-note motifs [08:04]. These spawn a mournful melody [08:50] that's the subject of a fugue, which brings the work to a tragic, percussion-laced conclusion.
The Symphony No. 3, Op. 75 was seven years in the making (1995-2002) and calls for enormous forces (see the album notes). Alexander tells us it uses material from his sketches for a projected ballet that unfortunately never came to fruition. More specifically, this was to be based on Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky's (also spelled Dostoyevsky; 1821-1881) novel The Devils (aka Demons; 1871-72).
A three-movement work, the opening "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-3] is a dark undertaking. Initially, it has pulsating, tuned-percussion-spiced moments out of which a reverent, "choralish" motif (PC) slowly materializes [04:33].
PC is followed by brass outcries [05:04] plus skittish passages [05:42] that call up a busy episode. This might well characterize a speeding locomotive [06:56], and may make some think of Swiss composer Arthur Honegger's (1892-1955) Movement Symphonique titled "Pacific 231" (H 53; 1923-24).
Subsequently, the music takes on a more measured pace, only to achieve a monumental climax with shrieking brass chords. These give way to subdued, PC reminiscences [11:47] that turn increasingly distraught with pounding timpani. Then they wane into resigned, brass chords [15:28], which end the movement peacefully.
The second [T-4] shows the work's balletic connections (see above) as it's a diabolical waltz sequence that gets off to a drum-pounding, demonic, "allegro molto" ("very fast") start [00:00]. This slackens into a somewhat, sensual section (SS) [01:44] that makes a "meno mosso, tranquillo" ("less lively, tranquil") [02:59] transition into a coy, sentimental number (CS) introduced by a solo violin [04:50]. CS ebbs and flows into vivacious passages [07:46], which evoke a tumultuous, last waltz episode with three, dramatically spaced, forte chords [09:20, 09:21 & 09:25].
Then the movement proceeds attacca into the concluding one [T-5]. This has a commanding, brass-ridden "andante" ("slow") preface [00:00] that calls up a, yearning section [02:02], followed by a "poco più mosso, misterioso" ("a little more lively, mysterious") segment [03:28]. Here low string pizzicati underlie weighty, horn-and-wind ideas, which the album notes find somewhat suggestive of those in Anton Bruckner's (1824-1896) symphonies (1863-96).
After that, there are "andante" ("slow") [06:00] passages with a violin-introduced, delicate melody [06:10]. They then become "maestoso" ("majestic") [08:02] and fall away into tender, swaying ostinati [09:16]. These revisit the Symphony's opening measures and bridge into reminders [10:36] of those imposing brass passages heard at the work's outset.
However, they're soon succeeded by a highly romantic, "adagio" ("slow") synthesis of the preceding movement [10:56]. Then at its height, this music turns savagely demonic [14:06], bringing the work to an abrupt close that's a bit reminiscent of the Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) choreographic poem La valse's (The Waltz; M 72; 1919-20) ending.
The Siberian Symphony Orchestra (SSO) under its artistic director and principal conductor, Dmitry Vasiliev (see 21 December 2012 and 12 March 2014), deliver energetic, totally committed performances of both works. Moreover, they will probably be the definitive accounts of these Russian rarities for some time to come.
Made on 19 May 2019 (3rd Symphony) and 20 September 2020 (7th Symphony) in Omsk Philharmonic Hall, Siberia, the recordings consistently project a wide soundstage in pleasant surroundings. However, the orchestral timbre is a mixed blessing!
More specifically, the highs are generally good, but there's a steeliness about the strings' upper registers reminiscent of those old Soviet Melodiya discs. While the midrange is acceptable, the lows go down to rock-bottom, but become very boomy in bass-drum-accented passages. Consequently, those having systems with tone and/or equalization controls may want to tweak them accordingly.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P210428)
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