CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 APRIL 2022
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.
Kleiberg: Violin Concerto 2, Cello Concerto Dopo & Viola Concerto; Thorsen/Sjölin/Ringstad/Szilvay/Trondheim SO [2L]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 SACD & 1 BRAD)
With this release, the 2L label makes its first appearance in these pages. And by way of background the name is a moniker for the Lindberg Lyd production company, which was founded by Norwegian sound engineer Morten Linberg (b. 1970) in 1992 and gave birth to this label during 2001. The album gives us three concertos by his fellow countryman Ståle Kleiberg (b. 1958), which are presented on an SACD as well as a companion BRAD (Blu-ray Audio disc).
First there's his Violin Concerto No. 2 (string orchestra; 2017), and according to the composer, "the work's three movements were inspired by the titles of three series of paintings by Pahr-Iversen" (Norwegian painter, b. 1937). Moreover, the opening Tempo rubato (Syncopated speed) [T-1] is associated with one called Ikon (1997-2007).
This has contemplative, opening passages for the strings [00:04] with a descanting soloist [beginning at 01:04]. Then the music makes an increasingly dramatic bridge into a demanding, extended violin cadenza [03:01], after which a tenebrous tutti return to end the movement somberly.
The middle Alla marcia (Martial) [T-2] honors Don Quixote's Army (no image readily available). It's an antsy, quixotic offering with perturbed pizzicato and strummed-guitar-like moments. Then a Rubato e espressivo (Syncopated and expressive) [T-3] limns Pahr-Iversen's The Gates Unfold (1981). This takes the form of a mournful dirge with a keening violin, thereby ending the work somewhat despondently.
Our concert continues with what's called Cello Concerto Dopo (with string orchestra; 1993) [T-4]. The composer tells us the piece was strongly influenced by a war then underway in the Balkans. This conflict, particularly in the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, had brought on a Holocaust-like "ethnic cleansing" similar to that experienced in Europe some 50 years earlier. To quote the composer, "The music is a testament to the grief and pain of this bleak re-treading of earlier pathways".
That said, the work is in one fifteen-minute movement, where the cello delivers a despairing disquisition made all the more sorrowful by sympathetic support from the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra (TroSO) strings. Here the soloist has the last say [11:26] with cadenza-like, afterthoughts that bring the piece to a remorseful conclusion.
Filling out this album, there's Kleiberg's Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (2019), which is another painting associated work, namely Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's (1863-1944) The Dance of Life (1899-1900). This was the last in his series of pictures known as The Frieze of Life (1890s), whose major themes are love, death and anxiety.
Having three movements, the first [T-5] comes across as a musical representation of the "love" aspects of human nature. Here orchestra [00:02] and soloist [01:00] intone an amorous, adagio (slow) preface with some fancy fiddling [01:47-02:08]. Subsequently, both call up an impassioned andante (flowing) episode [02:34] with an extended, searching viola cadenza [06:07-07:34]. Then the orchestra triggers an allegro (fast) section [07:36] where the music waxes and wanes into an ardent ending.
At only half the length of the outer ones, the middle adagio (slow) movement [T-6] could be interpreted as "death" related. In that context, it would appear to be limning fond memories of the recently departed.
Then an allegretto scherzando (lively and edgy) [T-7] marked third seemingly characterizes "anxiety". Here antsy outer sections [00:01 & 05:32] with "The Scream" (1893) like rhythmic twitches and motivic riffs reminiscent of that old harbinger of doom, the Dies Irae, surround a worried viola cadenza [03:18-05:31]. They bring the concerto and this intriguing album to a vivacious conclusion.
All hailing from Norway, violinist Marianne Thorsen, cellist Fredrik Sjølin, violist Eivind Ringstad and conductor Peter Szilvay along with the TroSO (see above) deliver technically accomplished, totally committed performances of this music. These three Kleiberg concertos couldn't be in better hands!
As for the recordings, they took place during June and August 2020 at the Olavshallen Large Hall in Trondheim, Norway, some 300 miles north of Oslo. Produced and made under the supervision of Norwegian sound engineer Morten Linberg (see above) they're presented on an SACD as well as that BRAD mentioned above. They present generous sonic images in sumptuous surroundings with the soloists centered and ideally captured as well as balanced against the TroSO.
The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs and lifelike mids. As for the low end, with the conventional forces called for here, it's very clean but doesn't plumb the depths evident on discs with more elaborately scored works.
The SACD offers superb conventional and Super Audio playback. As for the companion BRAD, it has a video menu displaying the album cover, "tracklist" choices, a credit shuttle, and four other audio-setup playback options. Avid audiophiles will be beside themselves!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220430)
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Margola: Piano Trio (with Ghedini and Rieti); Mythos Trio [Brilliant]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Just six months ago Brilliant Classics gave us a winning CD of rarely heard French chamber music (see 31 October 2021). Now they follow up with one featuring three, twentieth century works for piano trio by Italian composers.
The program starts with Franco Margola's (1908-1992) three-movement Piano Trio in A (1934-35). This was highly regarded by his fellow countryman, renowned composer-pianist Alfredo Casella (1883-1947), who championed it in Italy as well as abroad.
The initial Allegro vibrato e veemente (Fast, tremulous and vehement) [T-1] is in sonata-form. It begins with a captivating, thematic grouping [00:02] that's repeated [01:17] and undergoes a romantic development [02:09], followed by an amorous recapitulation [05:08]. The latter ends the movement tranquilly, thereby setting the mood for the middle one.
Marked Molto sostenuto e vibrato (Very sustained and tremulous) [T-2], this is the work's emotional core! It's based on a lovely, opening cantilena [00:01], which is the subject matter for a gorgeous, rhapsodic contemplation.
The final Vigoroso con fuoco (Strong with fire) [T-3] is structurally similar to the first movement and begins with a vivacious number [00:01]. The latter is succeeded by a tuneful, recurring thought [00:58] that makes this rondo-like. Then there's a deft development [03:30] and spirited recap [05:51] that ends things definitively.
Turning to the music of Giorgio Federico Ghedini (1892-1965), our concert continues with his Duo Intermezzi (Two Intermezzos), where there's a directness that seemingly reflects the composer's love for Renaissance (1400-1600) and Baroque (1600-1750) music. Moreover, the first Tranquillo (Tranquil) [T-4] is a sensitive rumination, while its Bizzarro (Bizarre) companion [T-5] is capriciously whimsical.
Filling out this striking release, there's a work by Vittorio Rieti (1898-1994), who studied with Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) and Alfredo Casella (1883-1947). However, with the rise of Fascism, 1940 saw him emigrate to the U.S., where he pursued a highly successful musical career, during which he penned our next selection, his three-movement Piano Trio of 1972.
Its initial Allegro con fuoco (Fast with fire) [T-6] is an energetic offering that starts with a scurrying, binary idea (SB) [00:01], which has what might best be described as a "heehaw" for the cello [00:39]. All this is followed by a lyrical thought [01:06]. Then SB initiates a lively development [01:48] and perky recap [03:39] that ends the movement snappishly.
The middle Adagio cantabile (Slow and songful) [T-7] starts with a bewitching melody introduced by the cello [00:02]. It's the basis for a lovely aria succeeded by a brief break [02:17]. Subsequently, the music turns more lively as the piano begins a limber, contrapuntally spiced episode [02:18]. This turns hesitant [05:22] with a closing, nostalgic piano postscript [05:54].
Then we get an Allegro (Fast) [T-8] based on an animated thematic grouping [00:01], which is food for a vigorous development [01:08]. It's succeeded by a "catch-your-breath" pause [03:05] and bumptious recap [03:06] that ends the trio and disc in merry fashion.
Founded back in 2012, the Rome-based Mythos Trio (violinist Giuliano Cavaliere, cellist Rina You, pianist Marios Panteliadis) delivers thrilling, technically accomplished accounts of these selections. They make a strong case for some rarely heard chamber works.
Made 22-23 June 2021, the recordings took place at the Pontificio Instituto di Musica Sacra's Sala Accademica, Rome, Italy. They present a generous sonic image of these musicians with the strings comfortably placed left (violin) and right (cello) of the piano. All are well balanced against one another in this superb venue, for which the music is all the richer.
The string tone is as good as it gets on conventional discs, while the piano is ideally captured with well-rounded notes having just the right amount of percussive bite. That said, there's no hint of boominess in the cello or keyboard lower registers, and this disc easily earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220429)
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Wordsworth, Wm.: Orch Wks V4 (A Spring Ov, Confluence…, Jubilation…, Sym 7); Baltābola/Gibbons/Liep SO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
On the heels of their third volume devoted to British composer William Wordsworth's (1908-1988) orchestral works (see 31 July 2021), the enterprising Toccata label now gives us a fourth. All the selections are first recordings, and the album booklet has a good summary of William's background. It also contains musical analyses of them, so we'll just hit the high points.
Not to be confused with that renowned, eponymous English poet (1770-1850), who was a distant relative, he left a large body of works across all genres. Proceeding chronologically, the earliest one here is his Jubilation: A Festivity for Orchestra, Op. 78 of 1965 [T-9].
This starts with a side-and-bass-drum accented, pomposo, quasi maestoso (outspoken, somewhat majestic) marked trombone idea (PT) [00:00] having Scotch-snaps. Then the first violins introduce a related, allegro (fast) spirited tune [00:24], followed by a lilting oboe number [00:59].
These are food for an articulate development [01:36] having contrapuntal tidbits [01:46], a songful episode [03:08], playful passages [04:27] with humorous whoops [04:32], and an extended martial segment [04:40]. The latter turns antsy [06:34] giving way to a pause, after which a returning, quasi maestoso (somewhat majestic) version of PT [10:38] ends the piece triumphantly.
Five years later William completed A Spring Festival Overture, Op. 90 (1970) [T-1]. This is a testimonial honoring the vernal renewal of nature's life forces, and the adagio, non troppo (slow, but not overly so), bucolic opening has bits of avian calls for the winds [00:18, 00:42 & 01:11]. Then the pace turns allegro (fast) with a dramatic, central development [01:26] that gives way to a brief hint of the work's initial measures [07:37]. However, they're soon cast aside by a curt outburst [07:59], which ends the piece forcefully.
During 1976 Wordsworth penned Confluence: Symphonic Variations, Op. 100 [T-10]. It takes the form of a study (no underlying story provided) that begins with contemplative passages [00:01], where the cor anglais plays a melancholy main subject (MS) [00:24]. Then the music turns allegro risoluto (fast and tenacious) [01:56] as MS parents several treatments of different temperament.
These range from searching [02:02] to assertive [02:55], martial [04:20], reflective [05:13], agitated [07:31] and heartrending [08:44] with a soulful violin [08:48-09:30]. The latter has guitar-like, pizzicato tremolo strumming in the lower strings [11:01] like some found just before the final cadenza in Elgar's (1857-1934) Violin Concerto, Op. 61 (1910). It invokes a striking, MS-based fugue [12:21] that ends the piece succinctly.
The year 1980 saw the composer complete his Symphony No.7, "Cosmos", Op. 107. His next to last work in the genre, the album notes say this piece "is a musical expression of Wordsworth's deep interest in the origin and nature of the universe."
Scored for large forces, it's in a single movement that starts with an Allegro largamente (Fast and expansive) introduction [T-2]. This has subdued string chords [00:01] underlying a nebulous, rising-falling idea for the winds [00:24], all of which we'll refer to as "SN".
Subsequently, the music takes the form of a passacaglia-like set of variations having an SN-derived ostinato. That said, these become increasingly structured with a Poco stringendo (Little by little faster) sixth [T-3] and Allegro con brio (Lively with spirit) [T-4] seventh. Maybe William had the formation of our solar system in mind.
Then there's a commanding, Tempo I (Initial tempo) [T-5] recollection of SN. It adjoins a Sostenuto (Sustained) extended development [T-6] of the main ideas, which builds into a dramatic Largamente (Expansive) climax [T-7] that could well be a musical representation of the star-studded universe. Consequently, subdued, Tempo I (Initial tempo) SN memories [T-8] evoke a tranquil, celestial coda, which seemingly ends the symphony somewhere in outer space.
As on the preceding volume (see 31 July 2021), British conductor John Gibbons leads the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra (LSO) for these performances. That said, the LSO's lead violinist, Līga Baltābola, gets credit for her sensitive playing in Confluence... (see above).
The Symphony... recording was done during February, 2021, and the others were made the following June. All took place in the Great Amber Concert Hall, Liepāja, Latvia, and consistently present a generous sonic image in agreeably reverberant surroundings.
The orchestral timbre in all four works is characterized by pleasant highs with occasional steely spots, a good midrange and clean, low bass. The sound will particularly appeal to those liking wetter sonics, while those preferring a more focused image may want to try listening on headphones.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P220428)
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