CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 AUGUST 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.
Axiotis, G.: Sunset, Prelude & Fugue, A Love Trilogy…, Remembrance…, Lyrical..., Like A…); Fidetzis/NewFestOSOS [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
A couple of months ago we introduced you to a composer with Greek connections (see 30 June 2022). Now here's another courtesy of those adventurous Naxos folks, namely Georgios Axiotis (1875-1924).
He was born in Mariupol, Ukraine, which recently made the headlines as one of those cities captured by invading Russian forces. But returning to the composer, 1887 saw him and his family move to Athens, where young Georgios began his music studies. Then around 1895 he continued his training in Naples, Italy at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella (CPSM), where by 1901 he'd received his diploma as well as an honorable mention.
Shortly thereafter young Georgios moved back to Athens and became very involved in Greek, cultural life. More specifically, by 1903 he'd become director of the now seemingly defunct Conservatory of Piraeus. While there he wrote an essay that alienated his influential counterpart at the Athens Conservatoire.
More specifically, Axiotis used the term "Germanisation" to disparage the latter institution's overemphasis on German music in its coursework. What's more, he encouraged a syllabus more oriented towards Greek folk music as exemplified in Béla Bartók (1881-1945) and Zoltán Kodály's (1882-1967) works, which frequently reference that of Hungary.
The upshot of all this came in 1905 when he resigned his directorship and moved to the Greek Cyclades Island of Mykonos, some 30 miles north of one bearing this label's name. He'd spend the rest of his life there composing, and even served as President of the Mykonos Community during 1915.
Georgios left a meager number of works, most of which are undated. None have ever been published, and his music has rarely been performed or recorded. Consequently, he remains unknown to today's concert audiences.
That said, Greek conductor Byron Fidetzis (b. 1945), who's on the podium for this release, restored and edited all six selections presented here. Generally speaking, they're beautifully scored orchestral works of late-romantic persuasion. Five of them are world premiere recordings and so indicated by a "WPR" after their titles in the text below.
The concert's opening number called Sunset (WPR) [T-1] was written no later than 1923. This might best be described as a "tone-painting" tinged with Eastern-sounding, Greek modal moments. More specifically, it has a subdued opening [00:01] with a brief outburst [01:05-01:20], which one could envision as representing the sun's last rays.
Subsequently it would seem that old Sol sets, and there's a momentary pause followed by a nocturnal sounding segment [03:25]. Here it's easy to imagine twinkling stars as well as soft breezes [04:28]. Then the foregoing waxes and wanes into tranquil reminders of the work's opening passages [07:14], thereby bringing things full circle.
Next there's a selection called Prelude and Fugue [T-2], which apparently began life sometime prior to 1914. There were only error-ridden bits and pieces of it that Maestro Fidetzis painstakingly worked into what's here (see the album booklet).
The prelude starts with a proud, confident idea (PC) [00:00], which undergoes a romantically dramatic exploration. And after that a PC-related, main subject (MS) begins the fugue [05:38]. This becomes increasingly martial with a drum roll [06:38], trumpet calls [06:41] and piping piccolos [07:23].
However, the music suddenly quits, only to be followed by several MS-based treatments, which range from stately [08:28] to triumphant [09:46] and whimsical [10:51]. Then a forceful one [11:14] powers a rousing coda that ends the piece with a definitive "So there!" cadence [11:27].
In two letters written during 1915 and 1924, the composer discusses his "four-part Symphony Suite" (see the album booklet). Three of them were apparently forerunners of our next selection titled A Love Trilogy - Symphonic Impressions (WPR).
This is a tripartite "tone-painting" tinged with Greek folk melodies. It concerns a young man and his ladylove who meet on three different occasions. That said, the first "On the mountain" [T-3] opens with some soothing, amorous passagework (SA) [00:00]. This flows into three towering episodes [06:03, 07:18 & 08:51] -- maybe the composer had Mount Olympus in mind. Be that as it may, the last one wanes into memories of SA, thereby concluding this section peacefully.
The subsequent "On the plain" [T-4] takes the form of a striking, SA-related intermezzo, which begins with avian-like calls [00:00] that invoke pleasant pastoral passages [05:01] with what seems like the musical representation of a babbling brook [06:57]. Then things become rather grandiose [08:48], only to slowly fade away with memories of SA.
A final "At the ball" [T-5] begins with a subdued, SA-reminiscent introduction [00:00] that bridges into a related, perky dance ditty [02:14]. The latter starts a somewhat rondo-like revel, where it's the subject of several treatments. These include playful [02:31], martial [03:01], flighty [03:12], melancholy [04:04], capricious [07:56], heroic [08:40], as well as whimsical [09:23] ones. Then remembrances of the opening measures appear [09:57] and bring things full circle.
Moving right along, there's Remembrance of a Ball (WPR) [T-6], which might be from the mid-1910s. It's a mini-tone-poem that may bring to mind moments in Russian composer Anton Arensky's (1861-1906) Suite No. 2 for Orchestra "Silhouettes" (Op. 23; 1892).
The Axiotis has a measured, nostalgic introduction [00:00] that undulates into a sentimental, waltz sequence [02:03]. Then the opening measures undergo a lyrical, developmental treatment [04:21], which waxes and wanes back into the waltz [08:11]. However, this time around the latter closes the piece with an antic coda [08:49].
Next, we're treated to the composer's Lyrical Intermezzo (WPR) [T-7]. No date is readily available, but according to the album booklet it's the first in a series of his Intermezzi. However, no information regarding the others could be found as of this writing.
The one here reflects the multinational influences young Georgios encountered during his training at the CPSM (see above). That said, it could be an orchestral arrangement of something sung in a verismo opera. More specifically, there's a passionate, recitativeish section [00:00] followed by a dulcet, aria-like one [01:41] that comes to a moving, tranquil conclusion.
The last selection, which is titled Like a Game (WPR) [T-8], remains a bit of a mystery. To wit, there are no details regarding its composition, and apparently this piece wasn't performed publicly until 2012.
A "sonata-formish" creation, it opens with a mischievous fanfare (OF) [00:00] hinting at a naive first theme (MN) [00:09] and lullaby-like second (ML) [00:33]. Then the foregoing material is explored [01:06], MN repeated [01:20], and there's an MN-initiated vivacious development [01:54] with ML-based, rhapsodic passages [04:11-04:51]. The latter adjoin an OF-initiated recap [04:52] that ends things with an MN-based, triumphant coda [06:34].
These performances by the New Festival Opera-Symphony Orchestra Sofia under Maestro Fidetzis (see above) make a strong case for some resurrected, Greek, romantic orchestral rarities. Those liking symphonic repertoire from this period of music will love everything here!
The recordings were made at the Auditorium of the National Academy of Music in Sofia, Bulgaria, which is around 500 miles north of Mykonos (see above). They present consistently robust sonic images in a pleasant venue.
The orchestral timbre is characterized by glassy highs, a vivid midrange and lean, clean bass. More specifically, the composer's brilliant scoring is well captured thanks to careful microphone placement and highlighting. However, there are a couple of awkward edits in Remembrance... [T-6, 06:21] as well as Like... [T-8, 04:59]. All of this makes for a good-sounding disc that doesn't quite earn an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P220831)
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Spoliansky: Orch Wks (My Husband and I Ov, Boogie, Symphony in Five Movements); Mann/Liep SO [Toccata]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Russian-born, German-trained composer Mischa Spoliansky (1898-1985) made a cameo appearance in these pages seven years ago (see 23 February 2015). Now here's a CD from the adventurous Toccata label devoted entirely to his orchestral music.
We first note that with the rise of Nazism, the year 1933 saw him flee Berlin for London. He lived there for the rest of his life, and soon became the Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979) of the British film industry. That said, the three selections included here were penned during his years in England. All are world premiere recordings, and the album booklet has extensive details regarding his background as well as their structure. .
Back in 1967 Mischa wrote both the music as well as libretto for an opera intended for the London stage. Titled My Husband and I, it calls for a small orchestra and our concert begins with the Overture [T-1]. This gets off to a rushing start (RS) [00:00], soon followed by a mischievous, waltzlike melody (MW) [00:30].
MW is followed by a flowing countersubject [01:41], and both are food for some lovely afterthoughts [02:32], which suddenly stop! Then bits of RS [03:46] invoke MW memories [03:55]. These call up recollections of the opening material and a drum-roll-introduced coda [05:23] that end things jovially.
Few details have surfaced regarding the next selection, which bears the bizarre title Boogie [T-2] (1958). That said, it's a colorfully scored, bravura piece calling for a conventionally sized orchestra, where one of the percussionists plays a drum kit.
This work has a stately introduction (SI) [00:01] reminiscent of subdued moments in Hamilton Harty's (1879-1941) arrangement (1923) of George Frideric Handel's (1685-1759) Water Music (1717). Then it suddenly bursts into a rousing, boogie-woogie (BW) episode [00:47].
The latter could easily be underlying music for some film that takes place beneath the "big top". More specifically, it's easy to imagine a variety of circus performers such as trapeze artists [00:53 & 06:11], jugglers [03:50] and clowns [07:01] doing their thing. Then recollections of SI [09:45] bring this to a vivacious conclusion with a frenetic, BW-SI-based coda [10:23] that closes the piece emphatically.
The album notes refer to the concluding selection as his "magnum opus". It's his Symphony in Five Movements (c. 1941-69), which existed in fair copies of two complete manuscripts as well as other bits and pieces that our man on the podium, British conductor Paul Mann (b. 1965), has skillfully reworked into what's here. Lasting almost an hour, this comes off as more of a five-part tone poem than a formally structured symphony. And in that regard, Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) efforts in the genre (1888-1910) come to mind.
The first movement (M1) titled "...and thus was man created/...und so ward der Mensch" [T-3] finds Spoliansky forgoing the usual, sonata-form structure for an episodic one. Its "Monumentale (Monumental)" marked preface has a sequence of six bombastic pronouncements (BP) [00:01-00:50] based on an initial, three-note motif (TM) [00:01-00:08] (see the album booklet).
Each is followed by a substantial "risonanza (resonance)" marked pause, where Mischa's manuscripts call for something he refers to as an "Echo apparatus". Apparently, this was some electronic device designed to create a lingering sound. However, Maestro Mann prefers the natural reverberation of the superb venue where this recording was made, rather than resorting to any artificial gimmickry the composer may have had in mind.
Be that as it may, BP is succeeded by a TM-based, hymnlike section (HS) [01:02] with some lower string pizzicato for which HS sounds all the more reverential. Then forté reminders of TM [02:51 & 03:04] call up a scherzando (scherzo-like) episode, where playful outer parts [03:12 & 05:49] hug a lovely trio [03:39-05:48] with piquant con amore (with love) and con sentimento (with Feeling) passages for the cor anglais (English horn) [03:59 & 04:21].
Subsequently, there's an engaging dancelike section [07:28] followed by a songful one [09:33]. Both are TM-riddled, and give way to the return of M1's [T-3] opening measures. These end the movement with a great sense of triumph, presumably celebrating humankind's creation.
A garrulous xylophone starts the second "Ode to Love/An die liebe" movement (M2) [T-4] in bustling fashion [00:00]. Subsequently, the strings introduce a tender, amorous theme (TA) [00:58], which invokes romantic, rhapsodic thoughts. But lest things turn into a romantic wallow, the composer gives us a "Pastorale (Pastoral)" middle section [02:32] that's an arcadian offering with avian woodwind calls.
Then a brief pause is followed by nostalgic passages [03:25] where TA returns [03:28] and is soon worked [05:21] along with bits of BP into a cinematic peroration (CP) [05:41]. However, this wanes thereby ending the movement peacefully.
After that it's "scherzotime" as chortling bassoons and lower strings launch the middle one (M3), which is marked "Humoresque: Of Laughter" [T-5]. This is a "Rubato (Syncopated)" number where the composer would seem to be demonstrating his inherent sense of humor.
Moreover, there are cantankerous drumming, tipsy clarinet (TC) [00:27], lovey-dovey violin and lewd trombone passages that have "bawdy" marked glissandi. What's more, there's an infectious, last coda [05:00], which sounds like it was penned by a 20th century Papa Haydn, who'd had one too many beers.
Drollery turns to despair in the fourth "Of Weeping (Lament)/des Menschen ganzer Jammer" movement (M4) [T-6]. This is a musical keening, which considering Spoliansky's Jewish roots and earlier years in Berlin (1914-1933), may well have been inspired by the Holocaust. That said, it starts with a TM-tinged, woeful idea [00:01], which undergoes several treatments. These range from lachrymose [00:36] to agitated [01:23], pining [01:46], emotionally intense [02:46] and wistful [04:08].
Then the composer serves up a "Moritat (Death/Murder)" episode [05:03], which is a theme-and-variations. This has an opening main subject that's an austere, modally-tinged melody (AM) played by the cor anglais (English horn) [05:03]. AM undergoes several transformations [beginning at 05:29] with increasingly complex scoring. More specifically, one [07:31] has a tolling church bell [07:58], while its follow-on [08:12] contains sinister drum rolls [08:24, 08:36] and a quote from the German National Anthem [08:25].
All this is succeeded by a closing "Chant" section [09:26] that's a grief-stricken, TA-related outpouring. This begins softly, but becomes a towering protestation, which slowly ebbs away in much the same spirit as M2's [T-4] closing measures.
However, the foregoing proceeds attacca into the fifth, "And a new life blooms from the ruins/Neues Leben blüht aus den Ruinen" movement (M5) [T-7]. It's opening section [00:00] may bring to mind moments in the first movement of Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Pathétique Symphony (No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74; 1891-93).
This is offset by a scherzoesque tidbit [01:28-02:55] and lethargic section based on a gently winding melody introduced by the clarinets [02:56]. The latter then wanes, and there are brass outbursts [04:40, 04:45 & 04:51] eliciting triumphant reminders [04:57] of M5's opening as well as recollections [05:51] of moments in M4. Subsequently, there are DT memories [06:41] that are transformed [beginning at 07:47] into CP thoughts [09:31].
After that a perky march [11:07] is followed by recollections of TA [12:26] and that tipsy clarinet in M3 [T-5]. Then there's a "Tempstuoso (Tempestuous)" finale [14:54], whose beginning smacks of moments in the last movement of Beethoven's (1770-1827) Choral Symphony (No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125; 1822-24). But returning to the music at hand, soon there are powerful remembrances of HC [15:30] as well as BP [17:03] that bring the work and this disc to a glorious conclusion.
During the composer's many years in London, our conductor Paul Mann, who's a champion of contemporary British symphonists (see the album booklet), got to know and admire his music. Consequently, we owe a debt of thanks to Maestro Mann and the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra (aka The Amber Sound Orchestra) for these superb, ground breaking performances.
These recordings were made 22-26 November 2021 at the Great Amber Concert Hall in Liepāja, Latvia, some 120 miles west of Riga. They project a generous sonic image in ideal surroundings with the composer's brilliant scoring well captured thanks to some skillful microphone placement and highlighting.
The instrumental timbre is characterized by lifelike highs, a rich midrange and very clean bass that will test the limits of your audio equipment. Moreover, the sound is as good it gets on conventional symphonic discs, thereby earning this one an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220830)
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Stojowski: Symphony in D minor (Op. 21), Suite for Orchestra in E♭ major (Op. 9); Wit/DSpRh-Pf [Capriccio]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
At first glance you might think that's Stokowski on the album cover, but it's pianist-composer-pedagogue Zygmunt Stojowski (1870-1946), who left a modest oeuvre across a variety of genres. He was one of Poland's most significant Polish musical figures, whose compositions fall stylistically between those of fellow countrymen Frédéric Chopin (1810-1840) and Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). Now Capriccio gives us a CD having two of his lesser-known orchestral works.
It begins with the premiere recording of his Symphony in D minor (Op. 21; 1898), which was the only one he ever wrote. In the usual four movements, the first [T-1] is sonata-form-like and opens with an "andante mesto (slow and sorrowful)" preface [00:02]. This has a dark thought (DT) introduced by the bass clarinet [00:03], which is repeated [00:22], explored [00:38] and followed by a dramatic, solo-timpani roll (DR) [01:25] heralding the movement's "allegro moderato (moderately fast)" main body.
This starts with a DT-derived, martial idea (DM) [01:27] that's examined [01:44]. Then DM and DT undergo an imaginative, late-romantic-flavored, two-part development [03:26 & 05:39]. There are a couple of attention-getting DRs here, the last of which calls up a peremptory DM [08:27] that begins a captivating recapitulation with a DR-DT-DM-based coda [12:54], which ends the movement triumphantly.
The next Andante (Slow) [T-2] has a DT-like preface starting with a repeated, descending five-note motif (D5) [00:01, 00:15 & 00:49] that hints at a wistful theme (DW) soon played by the clarinet [01:02]. DW parents some oneiric, nocturnal-hued passages (ON) [01:57] followed by agitated, contrapuntally-riddled ones (AC) [03:27]. Then the latter gradually subside back into more ON [05:20]. But, those AC suddenly reappear [07:37], and some ON afterthoughts [08:26] bring things to a peaceful conclusion.
Tranquility turns to whimsy in the "molto vivace (very vivacious)" Scherzo [T-3]. It has flighty sections based on a DM-DT-derived ditty [00:00]. These alternate with ones featuring a more expansive idea [01:41] somewhat reminiscent of Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla. Then a carefree, curt coda [06:29] ends this with a two note, pizzicato "So there!" cadence.
The sonata-formish, "allegro con fuoco ma non vivace (fast with fire, but not spirited)" Finale [T-4] has an initial, D5-related, perky number (DP) for the horns [00:00] that's exuberantly investigated [00:16]. Subsequently, a lovely, sibling melody (DL) [02:13] undergoes a rhapsodic exploration [02:47], which escalates into two forceful reminders of DP [03:32 & 03:41].
These trigger a contrapuntally tinged, extended development of DL and DP [beginning at 04:08], followed by a DL-initiated, exuberant recapitulation [08:01]. The latter has hints of ideas in previous movements as it builds to a valiant, DP-based coda [10:51] that brings the work to a commanding conclusion.
Filling out this CD, there's Zygmunt's three-movement Suite for Orchestra in E♭ major (Op. 9; 1898), where Stojowski's roots are very evident. Titled "Hommage á Hans von Bülow", it honors and was dedicated to one of Germany's most distinguished conductors of the 19th century (1830-1894). Incidentally, Hans greatly admired this piece, as did Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) and Brahms (1833-1897).
The opening Thème varié (Theme and Variations) [T-5] has scoring that may remind you of Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Op. 56a; 1873). However, the Stojowski opens with a main subject (MS) [00:02] based on a Polish Marian hymn (click to hear).
Subsequently, MS undergoes four treatments that are sequentially celestial [01:13], flighty [02:26], whimsical [03:17] and pious [05:09] with prayerful cello solos [05:47, 06:15 & 06:44]. These are followed by an MS-based fugal paean [07:07] with a monumental restatement of MS [09:17], which brings this movement to a towering, beatific conclusion.
Each of the last two borrow from Polish folkdances that have been popular since the early 1800s. That said, the Intermède polonais (Polish Interlude) second [T-6] is marked "tempo di mazurka, con anima (mazurka tempo, with spirit)". It takes the form of an infectious, A-B-A-structured caper, where cocky "A"s [00:00 & 05:42] bracket a bashful "B" [02:07-05:41] and end things with a jocund flourish [05:03].
The closing Reverié et Cracovienne (Reverie and Krakowiak) [T-7] has a "lento (slow)", romantic opening where a somber preface [00:01] adjoins a dulcet melody (RD) [00:21]. Then the foregoing is reprised [00:56], and RD undergoes an examination [01:51], which bridges into an "allegro (fast)" developmental section [02:11]. Here RD is tossed about, giving rise to a related vivacious idea (RV) [02:53] that starts the dance referenced in the movement's title.
This ends with a brief pause followed by a "lento (slow)" episode [05:27] having melancholy cello remembrances of RD [05:45]. The latter are cause for a sad pause, but then there's an "allegro (fast)", spirited transition [07:03] into antsy recollections of RV [07:34]. These become increasingly frenetic [08:06], thereby building to a euphoric coda [08:32] that brings the work and disc to a powerful, timpani-accented conclusion.
These performances feature the Deutsche Staatphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz (German State Philharmonic of Rhineland-Palatinate), which is based in Ludwigshafen, Germany, some 300 miles southwest of Berlin. Under Polish conductor Antoni Wit (b. 1944), it delivers superbly played, fetching accounts of two Polish curios. What's more, Stojowski's brilliant scoring gives the orchestra members a chance to show their stuff, and his music couldn't be in better hands!
The recordings were made 25-28 May 2021 at the Ludwigshafen Concert Hall. They present a generous sonic image in affable surroundings with the many solo numbers and passages for small instrumental groups well captured.
Generally speaking, the overall sound is characterized by highs, which are as good as they get on conventional discs, a lush midrange and clean bass that goes down to rockbottom with no overhang in the lower registers. Consequently, this release easily earns an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220829)
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