CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 NOVEMBER 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.
Klebanov: Pno Trio 2; Stq Qts 4 & 5; ARC En [Chandos]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Some seven years ago the Canadian ARC Ensemble began a "Music in Exile" series (see Chandos 10769, 10877, 10983 & 20170). Now here's a fifth volume devoted to chamber works by Jewish-Ukrainian composer Dmitri Lvovich Klebanov (1907-1987).
Born in Kharkiv (aka Kharkov) about 400 miles northeast of Odessa, little "Mitya" began violin lessons at six and was soon regularly playing in concerts at an Aunt's home. The lad must have been a wunderkind as only a year later he gave his first public recital. Incidentally, Dmitri also developed a passion for the piano and apparently spent a great deal of time improvising on it.
All this led to his attending what's now called the Kharkiv National Kotlyarevsky University of Arts (KNKU), where upon admission Dmitri was the youngest student. Then after graduating in 1926, he became a violist with the Leningrad Opera Orchestra located in today's Saint Petersburg some 700 miles north of Kharkiv. Subsequently, the 1930s saw him pursue a very successful conducting career and go on to teach at KNKU.
These were good times, but hard ones soon followed with the growing cultural repression as well as increased antisemitism in the Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union (1922-91) under Joseph Stalin's (1878-1953] rule (1922-53; see the album notes). Even so, Klebanov left a large body of works across all genres. They include nine symphonies, several operas and ballets, nearly two dozen film scores, plus a considerable number of chamber pieces. Some of the latter are sampled here, these being premiere recordings and the only examples of his oeuvre readily available on disc.
Proceeding chronologically, our concert opens with the String Quartet No. 4 (1946), which is one of six such works. This was dedicated to Klebanov's fellow countryman, composer-conductor-musicologist Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921), who was assassinated by a Soviet-secret-police organization known as the Cheka.
In four movements, the first [T-1] is a theme and variations (T&V), whose "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") opening starts with a main subject (MS) [00:02] that's the melody for Leontovych's song "Shchedryk" ("Little Swallow"; 1916). The tune comes from a Ukrainian folk chant welcoming the New Year, and will be familiar to most as the one American composer-conductor Peter Wilhousky (1902-1978) used for his ever popular Christmas "Carol of the Bells" (c. 1930).
MS next undergoes a couple of "Allegro" ("Fast") treatments that are respectively fickle [00:38] and mercurial [02:03]. Then it makes a "Poco sostenuto" ("Somewhat sustained") return [03:38] bringing the movement to a wistful conclusion.
The subsequent "Larghetto" ["Rather slow") [T-2] begins with an MS-derived, "Mesto" ("Rueful") idea (MR) [00:00] that turns "Marciale" ("Martial") [00:42]. Then there's a "Cadenza tempo rubato poco a poco più mosso" ("Syncopated, increasingly lively cadenza") [01:11], which becomes "Moderato animato" ("Moderately animated") [01:43].
After that, "Agitato poco a poco più mosso" ("Increasingly excited") passages [02:53] and even "Più mosso" ("More lively") ones [04:07] call up an MR-based "Allargando" ("Inceasingly majestic") coda [04:46] that ends things decisively.
Next there's a "Scherzando" ("Scherzo") [T-3] featuring Leontovych's melody for his choral miniature Dudaryk, which is named after a Ukrainian bagpipe known as the duda. This opens vivaciously [00:00] and becomes "Poco meno mosso" ("A little less lively") [00:48]. But the music soon turns "Adagio" ("Slow") [02:14] and then "Allegro" ("Fast") [02:29], thereby ending the movement excitedly.
The last one [T-4] gets off to an "Allegro" ("Fast") start with a lively introduction [00:00]. It adjoins a capricious thought [00:25] that has a melodic tidbit (MT) [00:57-01:03] strongly resembling the first measures of a tune known as an Arabian riff. Then there's an MT-parented, lovely "Tranquillo" ("Tranquil") theme (ML) [01:14) followed by "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") remembrances of this movement's opening [01:38]. These wax and wane into the "Tranquillo" return of ML [2:42], which invokes a twitchy recapitulative coda [03:06] that ends the work elatedly.
Moving ahead twelve years there's Klebanov's Piano Trio No. 2 (1958). This is structurally as well as harmonically much more sophisticated than the above Quartet, while at the same time a throwback to the romantic music in this genre by the likes of Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and even Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
The first of its four movements [T-5] has an "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") introduction featuring a delicate dreamy theme (DD) [00:01] that undergoes an exploration, which becomes "Agitato" ("Excited") [02:12]. Subsequently, there's a related lyrical idea (DL) [03:01] that's examined in passages, which turn "Poco più mosso" ("A little more lively") [05:10] as well as "Più mosso" ("More lively") [05:43].
Next there are "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") recollections of the opening measures [06:34] that call up forceful, "Agitato" ("Excited") DD [07:13] and DL [08:01] variants. These wane into a nostalgic episode [08:50], which brings the movement to a sedate conclusion.
A brief "Scherzo" ("Joke") is next [T-6]. It begins with a scampering, whimsical ditty (SW) [00:00] that gives way to a "Meno mosso. Quasi Valse" ("Less lively. Like a waltz") number [01:17]. Then a "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") iteration of SW [01:48] closes this movement full circle.
But levity turns to longing in the third "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-7], where there are passages which bring Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) more moody moments to mind. It has what's seemingly a reference [03:38-03:44] to that old foreboding sequence known as the Dies Irae, which is subjected to a "Poco più mosso" ("A little more lively") march-like treatment [03:56-04:31].
The latter is followed by a "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") searching meditation [04:54] of the foregoing. However, this somewhat brightens [beginning at 08:29], giving way to an anticipatory pause and beaming coda [10:06] that ends the movement with a ray of hope.
This sets the tone for the closing one [T-8], which gets off to an "Allegro" ("Fast") start having a twitchy idea [00:00] somewhat akin to the Modeste Mussorgsky (1875-1937) Pictures at an Exhibition's (1874) "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks". It adjoins "Adagio" ("Slow") passages [01:40] that recall more reserved moments in the first movement. Then somber "Tempo rubato" ("Syncopated") ones [03:23] end the work with an aura of despondency.
Bringing this singular release to a close there's the String Quartet No. 5 (1965), which was written when Soviet cultural repression had somewhat subsided. Consequently, this is the most avant-garde selection here as there are elements of dissonance and polytonality. In that regard it calls to mind the string quartets (1935-74) of the composer's fellow countryman Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), whom he'd met on several occasions.
In three movements, the first [T-9] is basically a T&V, whose "Allegro non troppo" ("Lively but not overly so") opening begins with a folksongish main subject (FM) [00:00]. FM then undergoes respectively fractious [00:31] as well as commanding [01:07] treatments. These are succeeded by "A tempo tranquillo" ("At a tranquil tempo") transformations that are respectively furtive [01:42] and songlike [02:11], after which playful [03:00] in addition to headstrong [04:13] ones appear "A tempo appassionato ("At a spirited tempo").
Subsequently Klebanov serves up pensive [06:34] as well as questioning [07:38] "Allegro non troppo" ("Lively but not overly so") variants, plus a flighty "Allegro" ("Fast") one [08:16]. Then the latter bridges into an "Andante non troppo" ("Slow but not overly so") somber remembrance of FM [10:11], thereby ending things tranquilly.
The middle movement [T-10] is another T&V, but this time with an Andante ("Slow") beginning that introduces a plucky pizzicato main subject (PM) [00:00], followed by lyrical "Più mosso" ("More lively") [00:34] and Meno mosso" ("Less lively") versions of PM [02:18]. These give way to two "Agitato" ("Excited") transformations [03:09 & 04:32] having a Meno mosso" ("Less lively") sibling [05:31]. Then there's an initially pizzicato-spiced, "Tempo rubato" ("Syncopated") variant [05:57] that wanes, bringing the movement to a peaceful conclusion.
The final one [T-11] is a ternary tour de force, where FM and PM are the prime ingredients. Here animated outer sections, respectively marked "Vivace" ("Spirited") [00:00] and "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") [05:27], surround a contemplative "Andante" ("Slow") episode [02:37-05:25]. All this ends the work in fervent fashion.
As on their previous Chandos release (see 30 November 2020), the ARC Ensemble delivers superb accounts of all three selections, making a strong case for these Ukrainian rarities. And by way of reminder, "ARC" is an acronym for those artists associated with The Royal Conservatory of Music based in Toronto, Canada. More specifically, the ones here include violinists Erika Raum and Marie Bérard, violist Steven Dann, cellist Thomas Wiebe plus pianist Kevin Ahfat.
The recordings were made over a three-day period last January in Koerner Hall at the Conservatory. They present an ideally sized sonic image in a superb venue that enriches the sound. The strings are comfortably positioned from left to right in order of increasing size with the piano centered between them, and all of the instruments are well balanced against one another.
The string tone is as good as it gets on conventional discs, and the piano beautifully captured. Everything considered, this release earns another "Audiophile" rating for Chandos.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y211130)
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Papandopulo: Pno & Stg Wks (Concertino…, Fantasy, Lyrical…, Rapsodia…, Three…); Treindl/Coeytaux/Szigeti/Ioniţă [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
After a four-year hiatus, please welcome Croatian composer Boris Papandopulo (1906-1991) back to these pages. Previously, we told you about some orchestral pieces in CPO's invaluable investigation of his oeuvre (see 8 September 2014 & 31 May 2017), and with this release they turn their attention to his chamber music. More specifically, it includes five selections scored for piano and strings. Each three-movement works, these are the only readily available versions currently on disc.
The album notes provide a wealth of information regarding circumstances surrounding the composition of each piece. Accordingly, we'll just discuss the music in general terms. That said, the concert opens with his Concertino in modo antico (Concertino in the Old Manner), Op.56 (1935), which is scored for piano, two violins and cello.
Neoclassicism is a predominant factor here. Moreover, there are shades of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), whom the composer had met as a youngster. Incidentally, the great Russian Master had taken an active interest in Boris's career, and at one point even wrote a letter of recommendation that led to his pursuing some rewarding studies in Vienna.
Returning to the work at hand, this was written when he was teaching in Split, and may well have been something for his students to play. It opens with a sonata-form "Overture" [T-1] that has a busy tune (B1) [00:02] with Slavic overtones adjoining a related cantabile number [00:52]. They undergo a vivacious development [01:48], followed by a straight-forward recap [03:15] and B1-derived fugato coda [05:03] that ends the movement in jolly fashion.
Next there's a ternary-structured "Aria" [T-2] featuring a wistful theme [00:01]. It's a berceuse-like contemplation which has recitative-reminiscent outer sections on either side of an amorous songful one [02:42-04:10]. Then Boris serves up his version of a "Tarantella" [T-3] that's based on those Southern Italian folk dances associated with the lycosa tarantula spider. This brings the work to a spirited conclusion.
The subsequent selection dates from 1950 when Boris was living in Sarajevo. It's his Fantasy for Violin and Piano, which stylistically speaking is of neoromantic disposition. This is probably explained by the fact that composers then living in Communist countries were subject to an anti-formalist edict requiring them to write music having mass appeal.
Accordingly, the initial "Allegro appassionato" ("Fast and spirited") [T-4] starts with a lovely sweeping idea (LS] [00:01], which may remind you of more flowing moments in the Brahms (1833-97) Violin Sonatas (Op. 78, 100 & 108; 1878-88). It's followed by a related, tuneful countermelody [01:01], and the two are material for several variational treatments with virtuosic spicing. Then a subdued LS on the piano [06:22] ends this movement tranquilly.
After that there's an "Andante tranquillo" ("Tranquilly flowing") [T-5] one, which is a moving, A-B-A utterance based on an initial, doleful, folkish thought (DF) intoned by the violin [00:01]. Here heartfelt, contemplative "A"s surround a "B" with funeral-march-like piano passages [04:25-05:32], and end this movement in the same spirit it began.
The oriental-sounding third [T-6] has a "Tempo libero, quasi cadenza" ("At a leisurely tempo, like a cadenza") opening [00:01], which calls forth some fancy fiddling that would have challenged the likes of Paganini (1782-1840). It's soon succeeded by an "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") episode [01:09], which is in essence another crazed "Tarantella" (see T-3). This brings the work to a corybantic close.
Moving ahead some thirty years, the next piece is his Lyrical Trio (1982) scored for violin, cello and piano. It was written while the composer was living in Tribunj, located along Croatia's Adriatic coast some 50 miles northeast of Split, and then Opatija on the Peninsula of Istria, around 200 miles north-northeast of there.
An "Overture" [T-7] gets things underway, where Neoclassicism is again much in evidence. It opens with a somewhat impressionistic idea [00:01] that's repeated to an increasingly agitated accompaniment. Then this busy movement comes to a wild conclusion [04:08], which according to the album notes "uses elements of Istrian folk music". Be that as it may, a twittering piano passage [05:35] ends things on a frivolous note.
With that anti-formalist edict mentioned above no longer effective by the time he wrote this, Boris is stylistically much more adventurous in the following "Elegy" [T-8]. It begins with a twelve-tone theme [00:01], which undergoes a series of captivating treatments. These include a dance-like one [03:28] with gaida-reminiscent moments [03:52-04:06], and a pensive thought [05:04] that brings the movement to a somber conclusion.
However, the Trio concludes on a festive note with a rousing "Danse" [T-9] based on three folk-derived ideas (see the album notes for details). Respectively cocky [00:05], commanding [00:23] and coy, these are skillfully juggled about, thereby ending this piece with great brio.
Like our opening selection, Boris wrote his Rhapsody Concertante (1938) in Split. Scored for cello and piano, it's a consummate, virtuosic challenge for any cellist. The influence of Sephardic music is very apparent in the opening "Introduzione" ("Introduction") [T-10]. Marked "Tempo libero, quasi improvisito" ("At a leisurely tempo, like an improvisation"), this is an Eastern-sounding essay that's as billed.
It adjoins an Andante sostenuto ("Slow and sustained") "Arioso" ("Aria") [T-11], which is a neoromantic offering based on an extended, oneiric thought for the cello. Here the piano provides sympathetic support laced with harp-arpeggio-like passages.
Then there's a scherzoesque "Danza" ("Dance") [T-12]. Another of the composer's infectious, Croatian folk-music-like creations, it's in ternary, A-B-A form with "A"s featuring an infectious ditty [00:03]. They cavort around a "B" [01:52-02:59] having a somewhat anguished melody, and end things with a big 🙂.
This disc concludes with what would be Papandopulo's last work, namely his Three Musical Movements for Orlando of 1990. It was written for the now defunct Croatian piano trio named in the title, and penned under difficult circumstances as the composer's eyesight was failing. However, his powers of expression were just as strong as ever!
That said, an opening "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-13] gets off to an austere start with a dramatic main idea (DM) for the cello [00:02], which is soon joined by the piano [00:46] and violin [01:26] in passages giving way to a folkish, free-for-all [01:43]. Here there are a couple of bizarre scherzo-like episodes [03:16 & 04:12], after which a hint of DM [04:53] ends things in the same spirit they began.
The middle "Andante tranquillo" ("Tranquilly flowing") [T-14] has a dreamy introduction [00:00] that invokes a delicate, songful melody [00:16]. This is examined and bridges into a perky version of itself [03:40], after which reminders of the opening measures [04:41] end this movement tranquilly. Then a whimsical Allegro vivace ("Fast and spirited") [T-15] featuring a zany ditty [00:01] with Mephistophelian overtones brings this disc of discovery to an abrupt, capricious conclusion.
These superb performances feature an international group of musicians. German pianist Oliver Treindl is no stranger to these pages (see 30 November 2019). He's joined by French violinists Amaury Coeytaux and Vanessa Szigeti (second fiddle in the Concertino...), plus Romanian cellist Andrei Ioniţă. All virtuosos in their own right, they deliver technically accomplished, enthusiastic, yet sensitive accounts of all five selections, thereby making a strong case for these little-known chamber works.
A coproduction of CPO and Deutschlandfunk Kultur (DLFK), the recordings were made during early February 2016 at DLFK's Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall) in Cologne, Germany. They project an appropriately sized sonic image in warm, pleasant surroundings with the instruments all centered and well highlighted.
Herr Treindl's piano is ideally captured with just the right amount of percussive bite, while the string tone is as good as it gets on conventional CDs. Generally speaking, the sound is characterized by pleasant highs, a good midrange and clean bass with no overhang in the cello's lower registers. Everything considered, this disc earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y211129)
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Arensky: Egyptian Nights (Complete Ballet); Yablonsky/Moscow SO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Back in 1995-97 the now defunct Marco Polo label released ballets by composers Anton Arensky (1861-1906) and Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873-1945). Naxos reissued the latter some months ago (see 28 February 2021), and here's the other. Every Russian balletomane who didn't get the originals will want both!
Born to affluent, music-loving parents in Veliky Novgorod (aka Novgorod) 250 miles northwest of Moscow, Anton Arensky was a child prodigy who'd begun composing by the age of nine. Then in 1879 the family moved to Saint Petersburg some 100 miles farther north, where he'd study at the local conservatory, one of his teachers being Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908).
After graduating in 1882, he became an instructor at the Moscow Conservatory and could count Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) as well as Rheinhold Gliere (1875-1956) among his students. Then at the recommendation of Mily Balakirev (1837-1910), the year 1895 saw Arensky succeed him as director of the Grand Church at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.
Anton held this position until 1901, then retired with a large pension. This allowed him to devote the rest of his life to composition with occasional appearances as a conductor and concert pianist. At this point we might also note that according to Rimsky-Korsakov, Arensky had a drinking problem and was an inveterate gambler during his years in Moscow. Unfortunately, these indulgences persisted into his later life, which led to tuberculosis and an early death at forty-four in a Finnish sanatorium.
His Egyptian Nights of 1900 is based on Russian writer Alexander Pushkin's (1799-1837) eponymous story (1835). The album notes give descriptive titles for each of its thirteen dance episodes, as well as a good outline of the ballet's scenario. And in regard to the latter, the underlying story involves a young maid called Bérénice and her betrothed, who's a handsome lad named Amoun. Unfortunately, he falls in love with Queen Cleopatra, thereby creating a love triangle.
As for the music, Arensky borrows melodic material from a number of other sources, one being British cultural anthropologist Edward William Lane's (1801-1876) book titled Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836). That said, the Ouverture ("Overture") [T-1] features an elegant regal theme (ER) [00:01] reputedly derived from one in that publication.
ER is followed by a related tuneful number (ET) [01:01] and then repeated [01:37], thereby calling up a searching development [01:56] of the previous material. This adjoins amorous harp-arpeggio-laced passages [03:16] having a gorgeous, flowing version of ET [03:21] that's explored. Then reminiscences of the opening measures [04:24] give way to an ET-based coda, which gently transitions into the first of those dance episodes.
The first four [T-2, 3, 4 & 5] introduce the three main characters as well as the Queen's male minion Arsinoë, and there's a rhythmic angularity reminiscent of Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) music. Then a wistful number [T-6] with extensive solo violin work accompanies the "Poisoning Scene" involving Amoun (see the album notes) -- shades of William Shakespeare's (1564-1616) Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595).
Towards the end, trumpet flourishes [04:24] announce the return of Cleopatra's lover, Roman General Marc Antony (83-30 BC). This is followed by two exotic numbers, the first being "Dance of the Jewish Girls" [T-7] based on the melody for the Passover-related Miriam's Song of Joy [00:05]. The second "Dance of the Egyptian Girls" [T-8] has an ostinato [00:02] derived from another melody found in the Lane book mentioned above. Then there's a serpentine-sounding, solo "Snake-charmer" one for Arsinoë [T-9].
After that we get a fetching diatonic "Dance of the Ghazis" [T-10], honoring triumphant Muslim warriors. This apparently borrows a tune from an unidentified piece by French composer Jean-Benjamin de la Borde (1734-1794; no works readily available on disc). Then a flashy harp cadenza [T-11] sets the mood for a "Pas de deux" [T-12].
This is presumably based on a theme that appears in one of French musicologist Guillaume-Andre Villoteau's (1759-1839) publications regarding Egyptian music (1807-30). In any case, it's a coy waltz with dainty outer sections hugging a skittish one [01:21-02:34]. But the mood shifts from kittenish to commanding with brass-dominated passages [T-13] portending the return of that Roman General.
That said, trumpets announce the "Solemn Entry of Anthony" [T-14], which borrows melodic material from German musician Emil Naumann's (1827-1888) scholarly "Illustrierte Musikgeschichte" ("Illustrated Music History"; 1885). A martially majestic number, it has a couple of subdued, Eastern-sounding moments (SE) [00:31, 01:22 & 02:20] and ends radiantly with a lyrical, ER-SE-reminiscent thought [04:49].
Things come full circle in the "Finale" [T-15], which gets off to a festive, ER-laced start that calls up happy recollections of past numbers [beginning at 00:43] and closes with an attention-getting fortissimo chord [01:23] succeeded by a dramatic pause. Then those ER passages return [01:25] only to slowly wane, where as per the flowery album notes, "Antony and Cleopatra sail away in boats decked with garlands of roses".
The foregoing is followed by another pause, after which there's a subdued version of ER [03:50]. Here, Amoun realizes how foolish he's been, and to quote the album write-up, "throws himself down at the feet of Bérénice, who forgives him, as the curtain falls."
This recording features the Moscow Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under Russian-born, American-trained cellist-conductor Dmitry Yablonsky (b. 1962). He along with the MSO's superb musicians delivered what was and still is the definitive account on commercial disc of a forgotten, choreographic delight.
Made during 1996 in Moscow's Mosfilm Studio, this CD presents a somewhat recessed sonic image in pleasant surroundings. More specifically, the instrumental timbre is characterized by those steely highs, which characterized Russian recordings of that time. As for the midrange, it's a bit compressed, while the lows are generally good despite some boomy bass drum strokes. That said, with tune-strewn music like this, you'll soon forget any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P211128)
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