CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 JUNE 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.
Mayer, E.: Overtures Nos. 2, 3, 4 & 6 "Faust", Symphony No. 3 "Military"; Rohde/MeckStaSchw [MDG (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD/SACD)
A CLOFO regular, German composer Emilie Mayer (1812-1883; see 28 February 2021) wrote a large body of works across all genres. These include seven overtures as well as eight symphonies, and now the adventurous MDG label gives us this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) release with four of the former plus one of the latter. As of this writing, these are the only readily available versions on disc.
While the exact dates of the first three overtures presented aren't given, they all premiered back in April 1850. That said, the Overture No. 2 in D major [T-1] gets off to a Maestoso (Majestic) start [00:00] that may remind you of more bellicose moments in Haydn's (1732-1809) Military Symphony (No. 100, Hob I:100; 1793-4).
Subsequently there's a lovely, Andantino (Leisurely) melody (LA) [01:25], after which brass fanfares [01:54] call up an Allegro (Fast) section [02:06] with some vivacious ideas. These undergo a somewhat martial development [03:52], and the return of LA [04:38] evokes a recapitulative episode. Here brass flourishes [07:35] call up venatic passages that end the work in spirited, Rossini-like, stretto fashion.
The Overture No. 3 in C major [T-4] has an ominous Adagio (Slow) opening [00:00], whose first measures hint at a doleful idea that's soon heard (AD) [01:12]. All this is followed by jovial Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited) passages beginning with a jolly theme (AJ) [02:20].
AJ is explored and succeeded by a cheerful version of AD (AC) [03:08]. Subsequently, AC and AJ along with other attractive melodic tidbits are developmentally bandied about [beginning at 04:45]. Then the foregoing gives way to a martial AJ [08:33], which triggers an exuberant coda that ends the work triumphantly.
We get more serious fare with the Overture No. 4 in D minor [T-3]. Moreover, it has an Andantino (Leisurely) "Introduction" that begins with somber hesitancy [00:00] and gives way to a worried first theme (W1) [00:43], which undergoes a harried exploration. Then after a brief pause, there's an Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited) episode launched by a vivacious idea (V2) [01:31]. V2 undergoes a dramatic exploration that bridges into a more relaxed thought (R3) [02:16].
R3 is examined [02:53] and followed by the timpani-reinforced return of V2 [04:00]. This initiates an engaging recapitulative segment with a V2-related, martial outburst [06:04-06:30]. Subsequent scurrying passages [beginning at 06:45] wax and wane into a powerful V2-suggestive coda [07:14], which closes the work with tragic fortissimo chords.
The Faust Overture in B minor (No. 6, Op.46; 1880) [T-2] finds Mayer honoring that great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's (1749-1832) time-honored, eponymous play (1772-1831). It's morose Adagio (Slow) opening seemingly characterizes a fretting Faust. Then there's an Allegro (Fast) segment starting with a rash theme (RT) [03:20], which presumably represents his volatile nature.
RT is explored and gives way to a tender thought (TT) [04:25] as well as a hymnlike one (HT) [04:50], which seem respectively associated with Gretchen's naïveté and piety. Subsequently, HT bridges into a repeated RT [06:04 & 06:34], the last of which calls up reminders of TT [07:06]. These are succeeded by a triumphal HT [07:32] and some TT afterthoughts [07:57].
The latter trigger a captivating development of the foregoing ideas [beginning at 08:13]. This builds into RT-HT-seasoned, climatic closing passages [09:39] with an emotional coda [09:52], all of which suggest Gretchen's salvation (see the album notes).
Emilie wrote eight symphonies, and the last is now unfortunately lost. However, our final selection is a good example of this lady's earlier efforts. It's the third, known as her Military Symphony in C major. While the date of composition is not given, it was premiered in 1850. Consequently, this may have been inspired by the German revolutions of 1848-1849, which Mayer must have experienced as she then lived in Berlin.
A four-movement work, the first [T-5] has an Adagio (Slow) preface [00:01] establishing a sense of anticipation for what's to come. It's followed by a brief pause and the pace turns Allegro con brio (Lively with spirit) [01:16] as we get a march-like exposition (ME) [01:16]. The latter is for the most part repeated [03:47] and bridges into a rousing development [06:06].
Subsequently, ME triggers a triumphal recapitulation [07:28] that waxes into staccato-spiced passages [09:04], where one can easily imagine charging cavalry [09:38]. Then a vivacious coda [10:22] ends the movement victoriously.
The mood becomes rhapsodic in the next Un poco adagio (Somewhat more slow) one [T-6]. Basically, a theme and variations, it opens with a captivating main idea (CM) [00:01] that may remind you of those sublime melodies in Mozart's (1756-1791) late symphonies (1778-88). CM undergoes four treatments, the first three being combative [01:26], innocent [02:52] and confident [04:04]. Then a pastoral one [05:40] with avian calls brings this movement to a tranquil conclusion.
It's succeeded by a delightful, Allegro (Fast) scherzo [T-7]. This has three energetic sections [00:00, 03:08 & 05:24], each based on a couple of playful tunes [00:00 & 00:14]. They're interspersed with two charming, trio-like ones [02:12 & 04:29] having a lovely melody [02:12-02:27] that may bring to mind such Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) classics as An der schönen blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube), Op. 314 of 1867.
The concluding "Finale Militair" [T-8] is scored for additional instruments typically associated with marching bands. More specifically, these include piccolo, trombones, triangle, bass drum and cymbals. A sonata-rondo-like offering, this has an austere, Adagio (Slow) preface (AP) [00:01] followed by an Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited) episode that begins with a scampering thematic group (SG) [00:49-01:47]. SG is succeeded by a proud, march-like number (PM) [01:48], which is a recurring idea.
PM soon reappears [02:38 & 03:11] introducing martial developmental passages [03:24] and a rousing recap [04:39] that gives way to an anticipatory pause. Then reminiscences of AP [06:06] as well as SG [06:44] are followed by PM-based thoughts [07:03]. The latter build into a thrilling climax with a triumphal coda [07:25], which brings the symphony and disc to a thrilling conclusion.
This release features one of Germany's oldest orchestras, the Mecklenburgische Staatskapelle based in Schwerin some 100 miles northwest of Berlin. It's current General Music Director, native conductor Mark Rohde, elicits magnificent performances of these selections, making a strong case for Frau Mayer's music.
The recordings on this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) disc were made 24-27 April 2021 at the Mecklenburg State Theatre (to see photo click here) located in Schwerin, and present a magnificent sonic image in warm surroundings. More specifically, the instrumental timbre is characterized by pleasing highs, lifelike mids and clean bass. Incidentally, the latter goes down to rockbottom in the "Finale Militair" [T-8].
When played in the stereo mode, some may find the SACD track somewhat more natural sounding. As for the multichannel one, it gives the listener a virtual concert hall seat! Everything considered, this disc easily earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220630)
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Papadimitriou, D.: Pno Conc 1, Incompleteness, Pollock, Dreams Errants (excs); Gouvalis/Petrou/Athens StO [MDG (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD/SACD)
In his promotional write-up for this album, Dimitris Papadimitriou (b. 1959) refers to himself as "Alexandrian", which reflects his having been born in Egypt's Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. However, at age 7 the family moved to Greece where young Dimitris studied music. He also notes that while his works are of Greek origin, they're full of other influences reflecting the international community in which he grew up. That said, this release features four selections whose dates are not provided.
It opens with the composer's three-part Piano Concerto No. 1. "Part 1" [T-1] has an anguished drum-reinforced orchestral preface featuring an aggressive idea (A1) [00:00]. Soon the soloist enters playing a lyrical version of A1 [00:27] that's repeated [01:05] and explored [01:30]. Then the foregoing is food for contemplative passages [02:30]. These ebb and flow into forceful remembrances of the initial measures [06:11], which bring this to a decisive conclusion.
The mood turns grim in the theme-and-variations-like "Part 2" [T-2]. It gets off to a keening start with an extended, lachrymose main idea (EL) [00:00]. EL undergoes several treatments, ranging from anguished [01:09] to mystic [02:51], flowing [04:31], tuneful [06:25 & 09:22], bellicose [08:40] and melancholy [09:55]. Then a sullen afterthought [11:34] ends things in pianissimo sorrow.
"Part 3" [T-3] has a despairing orchestral opening [00:00], where a sad songful melody (SS) is soon heard [00:08]. SS is the subject for a dramatic episode [00:53] with bravura piano passages that conjure up an SS-reminiscent, longing theme (SL) [01:51]. The foregoing ideas are then explored and wane into an SS-initiated rhapsody [04:33] based on past material.
This adjoins a pensive section [06:10] where the soloist plays tintinnabular passages. These call up march-like ones [10:37] with triumphal sallies as well as blazing piano moments [11:55] that wax and wane into delicate memories of SL-SS [12:25]. The latter suddenly invoke a victorious return of themselves [12:43], followed by more glorious renditions of same. Then there's a pause and some tranquil, pastoral thoughts. They build into a downward spiral of piano notes [16:06] as well as fortissimo chords for all [16:13] that close the Concerto in heroic fashion.
Dimitris says the next selection called Incompleteness [T-4] is related to Famed Austrian, logician Kurt Gödel's (1906-1978) eponymous theorems. It starts with restful, assured passages [00:00], which transition into increasingly insecure, dissonant ones [beginning at 03:20].
This process is then repeated [03:52] over a longer timescale, and the music abates leaving a barely audible note for the upper strings [08:37]. However, the latter soon turns unresolved [08:44], thereby closing the piece with implications of mankind's continuing search for an ultimate axiom.
Next up, a selection from seven musical portraits of artists that the composer has written to date. It's his Pollock [T-5], honoring the American painter by that name (1912-1956), whose later creations had patterns that seem fractal-like.
Lasting just over six minutes, it gets off to a fitful start [00:00]. However, the music becomes rhythmically insistent [00:19] with repeated notes and colorful, antsy scoring having wind whoops as well as drum accents. All this waxes and wanes into a pause, only to continue [03:56] with even greater insistence. But then the work suddenly ends with a fortissimo shriek [06:04], which brings to mind Pollock's tragic alcohol-related death in an automobile accident. That said, some may want to view an excellent film about him released back in 2001.
This release closes with Dreams Errants, which are four extracts from the composer's twelve-part, balletic Miniatures Suite. By his own admission, they're childish, surrealistic silhouettes, but no underlying scenarios are provided. The initial "Two Sparkling bicycles" [T-6] is a percussively-laced, mysterious offering that's followed by a waltzlike "Rope walkers" [T-7] and an arcane "Fortune teller" [T-8]. Then a reverential "White Nights" [T-9], whose title brings to mind those festivals held in many cities throughout the world, ends things devoutly.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed Greek pianist Titos Gouvelis delivers a technically accomplished, superb rendition of his fellow countryman's concerto. The Athens State Orchestra (ASO) under native conductor George Petrou provide outstanding support and go on to give magnificent readings of the other works. They make a strong case for this music, and these will probably be the definitive performances of everything here for some time to come.
All the recordings on this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) disc were made 4-6 February 2021 in Athens, Greece at Onassis Stegi (to see photo click here). They present consistently vivid sonic images in a striking venue. More specifically, the Concerto finds the piano centered and ideally captured as well as balanced against the ASO. The orchestral timbre is characterized by lambent highs and mids, plus clean bass throughout.
When played in the stereo mode, this disc's SACD track is somewhat more natural sounding, while the multichannel one puts you in a virtual concert hall seat. Everything considered, it easily earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220629)
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Schnelzer: A Freak…, Burn My Letters…, Vn Conc No. 2 (w 3 chbr wks); Gringolts/Crawford-Phillips/VästSinfta [BIS (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD/SACD)
Since the BIS label's last appearance in these pages some six years ago (see 31 August 2016), it now makes a long overdue, welcome return with this recent hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) release. Featuring orchestral as well as chamber selections by Swedish-born Albert Schnelzer (b. 1972), his music has become highly acclaimed and is now played worldwide. What's more, you'll find informative commentary by the composer regarding each piece.
Young Albert started out as keyboardist with a rock music band. However, between 1994 and 2000 he went on to study composition plus conducting at the Lund University's Academy of Music in Malmö, as well as the Royal College of Music, London.
This album has three orchestral works, all being world premiere recordings. Initially there's A Freak in Burbank [T-1], which was completed in 2007. The composer says it's his most frequently performed one in that genre, and he apparently had Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) as well as film director Tim Burton (b. 1958) in mind when he wrote it.
It opens with a twitchy motif (OT) [00:02] followed by reflective passages [00:07] having a similar thought [00:37]. These adjoin a skittish segment [01:10] that wanes into a boisterous episode [03:05]. Then the latter turns reflective [04:42] with some OT outbursts [05:47, 06:05 & 06:13] and there's a tension building hiatus [06:20].
However, succeeding ominous rustlings [06:29] trigger OT-related reminiscences, which give way to a brief pause. Then OT-suggestive passages [07:37] build to a rousing climax with another short break and an impetuous coda [09:01] that ends the piece abruptly.
Our program continues with a selection for solo piano called Dance with the Devil [T-2]. The composer tells us he was thinking of Diabolus in Musica (The Devil in Music) when he penned it in 2000. Accordingly, this is a virtuosic display, which owes a debt to the romantic keyboard works of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) as well as today's heavy metal music.
What's more, Albert determined some of this piece's irregular meter changes by rolling dice. That said, it has bravura, churning outer sections [00:01 & 04:52] around a songlike one [03:31-04:51]. Then a frenetic coda [07:16] with a rising keyboard flourish [07:23] ends the work abruptly.
Returning to the orchestral fare on this disc, there's Burn My Letters - Remembering Clara [T-3], completed in 2019. "Clara" is the German-pianist-composer Clara Schumann (née Wieck; 1819-1896), who was the wife of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). She was also a lifelong friend of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).
Its slow reflective opening [00:01] builds ominously and wanes into a Presto (Fast) segment [02:39], where the work's main melodic idea (MM) [03:08] appears. This has loquacious flute passages meant to represent Clara's energetic lust for life as well as her hectic concert career. And then there are more thoughtful bassoon ones indicative of Brahms' more reserved nature.
MM is subsequently food for an energetic, captivating development [beginning at 04:56]. This wanes into a sad section [07:51], which seemingly reflects the deaths of four of Clara's eight children as well as the tragic mental illness her husband Robert had during his last years. But after a brief pause [08:26] the music becomes more animated and ebbs into subdued, MM-based afterthoughts [10:03]. These then fade away, thereby ending the work like it started.
Next, we get two pieces for violin and piano collectively called Apollonian Dances (2003). These were inspired by the Greek god Apollo, who was associated with music, sunlight and knowledge. That said, first off there's The Birth of Apollo [T-4], which the composer also refers to as The Birth of Melody. It begins with percussive accented, melodic fragments for the violin [00:01] as well as piano [00:06]. These coalesce into a deific violin melody (DM) [03:52] that's contemplated and slowly vanishes.
The second dance is a DM-related, brash number titled Adolescent Apollo [T-5]. It's aptly described in the composer's notes as "fast, energetic, passionate and full of confidence (almost arrogant)". Here klezmer-spiced, vivacious passages for both instruments bookend a demanding, virtuosic, extended violin cadenza [02:39-04:00], and end the work in blazing fashion.
Our violinist is replaced by a cellist, and things turn icy in the following Frozen Landscape (2002) [T-6]. Schnelzer says it's related to youthful memories of a day in the mountains of northern Sweden. Moreover, he describes the piece as "a meditation on a typical Scandinavian winter landscape with the deep snow causing an almost complete silence". Accordingly, this music is a hushed, frigorific introspection.
Then the disc concludes with Albert's Violin Concerto No. 2 subtitled "Nocturnal Songs" (2018). To quote his album notes, "The state between wakefulness and sleep ... a feeling of being weightless, hovering", was the idea behind this four-movement work.
Marked Longo e molto tranquillo (Long and very tranquil), the opening Levitate [T-7] is a musical recreation of the sensation associated with floating in outer space. It gets off to an ethereal start [00:02] that becomes somewhat agitated with searching moments for the soloist [02:34]. Then the foregoing wax and wane into delicate, twinkling, starry-like passages [05:17] with wistful violin thoughts, all of which tranquilly disappear, presumably into the cosmos.
Next there's Bal des Ardents (Ball of the Burning Men) [T-8]. This was inspired by an eponymous painting that depicts a catastrophic, Parisian masquerade ball, which took place in 1393. It's a Moderato con spirito e leggiero (Moderate with spirit and light) offering that might best be described as a spunky minuet for violin and orchestra. It has some pizzicato moments [02:44-02:58] as well as a blazing cadenza [03:27] for the soloist, and then after a short pause, the movement ends abruptly in fiery fashion.
The third one, Procession [T-9], is of Adagio e triste e malinconico (Slow, sad and melancholy) persuasion. It's based on a dream he had, where to use his words, "a number of curious animals walk in a stately procession". He also adds it was not apparent why they'd gathered or where they were going.
This begins with an ominous tam-tam-enhanced drumroll [00:01], from which a march-like cortege having stoic violin passages emerges [00:11]. The forgoing builds with percussive support to a climax suddenly followed by a questioning cadenza for the soloist [04:58-05:27]. Then the orchestra quietly joins in [05:28], and the music mysteriously fades away.
The final Run movement [T-10] characterizes that frequent dream experience of trying to run from something terrifying, but being unable to get away. Consequently, this is a Vivace furioso (Fast and furious) piece of work.
It starts as advertised with scurrying, timpani-accented passages for all [00:00] hinting at a lovely violin tune (LV) that's soon heard [00:39]. LV is somewhat reminiscent of more subdued moments in the initial Levitate [T-7], and will be a recurring idea for this rondoesque romp.
Then the opening kineticism continues [T-10, 01:02], giving way to an LV-based, extended cadenza for the soloist [02:55-04:45]. The latter adjoins reflective orchestral passages [04:46] and skittering violin ones, which bridge into a frantic closing segment [05:46]. This suddenly ends the work and disc with a fortissimo chord [06:09].
The Concerto... receives a definitive performance from its dedicatee, Russian violinist Ilya Gringolts. He gets outstanding support from the Västerås Sinfonietta (VS), which is named for its hometown located some 60 miles west-northwest of Stockholm. Incidentally, this recording finds the orchestra under its Artistic Adviser and Chief Conductor, British-born Simon Crawford-Phillips. He and the VS also deliver intriguing accounts of A Freak in Burbank [T-1] as well as Burn My letters... [T-3].
Regarding the chamber selections, they're all played with great aplomb by Swedish musicians. Dance with the Devil [T-2] features pianist Henrik Måwe, while the other two find David Huang at the keyboard. He's joined by violinist Cecilia Zilliacus in Apollonian Dances [T-4 & 5], and cellist Jakob Koranyi for that Frozen Landscape [T-6].
All recordings on this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) disc were made in the Västerås Concert Hall. The Concerto... dates from November 2019, and the three chamber works followed in June 2020. The other two orchestral selections took place during April 2021.
Despite the different times, they present generous, amazingly consistent sonic images in pleasant, accommodating surroundings, for which the music is all the richer. The overall instrumental timbre is excellent with pleasing highs, a rich midrange and clean low bass that goes down to rockbottom with no hint of boom in the lower registers.
Moreover, the string tone is particularly lifelike in the SACD play modes, and the multichannel one gives the listener a virtual orchestra seat. Everything considered, this disc easily earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220628)
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