CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 NOVEMBER 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.
Hiller, F.: Piano Quartet No. 3, Piano Quintet; Triendl/Minguet Qt [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND(1 CD)
This recent CPO disc features a composer who just over the past ten years has at long last begun to receive the attention he so richly deserves. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885) was a musical wunderkind, who began playing the piano at age 10. He was well traveled, and could count Beethoven (1770-1827), Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) as well as Robert Schumann (1810-1856) among his close associates.
Ferdinand would distinguish himself as an outstanding concert pianist, conductor and musicologist. He was also a prolific composer, who left a large oeuvre across all genres. Two of his finest in the chamber category fill this disc, these being the only readily available versions of them currently on CD. Both make great demands on the pianist, and will bring similar works by Mendelssohn as well as Schumann to mind.
Our concert begins with his Piano Quartet No. 3 in A minor (Op. 133, 1870). The first of its four movements is a sonata-form-like "Allegro appassionato (Fast and spirited)" [T-1], which has an exposition featuring a jaunty thematic nexus [00:01]. This undergoes a consummate development and recapitulation that ends things with a forceful "So there!" cadence [11:38].
Subsequently, there's a tender "Adagio espressivo (Slow and expressive)" [T-2] one based on an initial, august idea played by the cello [00:01]. This is food for a comely serenade, which is followed by an "Allegretto grazioso (Lively, but graceful)" intermezzo [T-3] that harbors a perky cantabile tune [01:30, 04:08 & 05:25].
Then there's a rondo of "Allegro con fuoco (Fast with fire)" temperament [T-4] based on an eloquent, binary idea (JB) whose components are sprightly [00:00] and tuneful [00:21]. JB recurs in a variety of guises that range from restless [00:47] to headstrong [03:26], delicate [05:44], and pensive [08:38], where the last becomes increasingly excited, thereby ending the work exultantly.
Ferdinand's Piano Quintet in G major (Op. 156, 1872) fills out this disc, and is a worthy successor to Schumann's ever popular one (Op. 44, 1842). The Hiller is a four-movement work that gets off to an "Allegro con anima (Fast with spirit)", sonata-form start [T-5].
This is based on two ideas that are respectively carefree (C1) [00:00] and busy (B1) [00:38]. These then undergo a lengthy, searching development [03:02] followed by an excited recapitulation [09:14] with a frenetic coda [11:30], which ends the movement forcefully.
After that we get a songful second [T-6], featuring a C1-like idea. It's the basis for a ternary episode whose sections are sequentially marked "Adagio espressivo (Slow and expressive)" [00:01], "Adagio molto espressivo (Slow and very expressive)" [02:25] and "L'istesso tempo (At the same speed as before)" [05:19]. Then all of the foregoing is repeated, but with different scoring, thereby closing the movement full circle.
The subsequent "Allegro con animo (Fast with spirit)" intermezzo [T-7] is somewhat of a theme-and-variations with a flighty main idea heard at the outset [00:00]. This undergoes three treatments, which are sequentially searching [00:51], playful [01:46] and songlike [02:27]. Then a whimsical one [03:58] ends things curtly.
Next, there's an "Allegro con molto fuoco (Fast with much fire)", sonata-rondo-like finale [T-8]. This is a consummately thrilling piece of work based on a C1-B1-derived binary idea, whose components are respectively scurrying [00:01] and tuneful [00:22].
These recur and are interspersed with several related treatments, which range from twitchy [00:49] to amorous [01:31], lyrical [03:00], sentimental [04:05] and dancelike [07:52]. Then there are a couple of graceful ones [08:56 & 10:32], each of which becomes progressively more agitated, thereby closing the Quintet and this disc in thrilling fashion.
German pianist Oliver Triendl, who's a CLOFO regular (see 31 May 2022), delivers superb accounts of another two undeservedly neglected chamber music selections. He gets outstanding support from the Cologne based Minguet Quartet (1st violinist Ulrich Isfort, 2nd violinist Annette Reisinger, violist Aroa Sorin and cellist Matthias Diener). Together they make a strong case for Herr Hiller's music.
These recordings were made during 30-31 January (Quartet) and 10-11 April 20-21 (Quintet) of 2010 by Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln (West German Broadcasting Cologne) at the Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal in that city, which is some 300 miles west-southwest of Berlin. They project an appropriately sized sonic image in pleasant surroundings.
The strings are placed from left to right in order of increasing size, and their overall tone is pleasing with no overhang in the cello's lower registers. As for Herr Triendl's piano, it's well captured and highlighted against them. Everything considered, conventional discs of chamber ensembles don't get any better sounding than this, thereby earning it an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y221130)
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Malipiero, G.F.: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2, Per una favola cavalleresca; Chiavacci/La Vecchia/OrSinfaR [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Venice-born Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882-1973) makes a welcome return to these pages (see 31 January 2017). He's not to be confused with grandfather Francesco (1824-1887), father Luigi (1853-1918; see the album notes) or nephew Riccardo (1914-2003), all of whom had strong musical associations.
Gian Francesco was a prolific composer who left a large oeuvre across all genres, and this new Naxos release gives us three orchestral ones. They include two concertos plus the world premiere recording of a suite-like piece. As the album notes provide considerable detail regarding this music, we'll just hit the highpoints.
The program gets underway with his Violin Concerto No. 1 (1932), which is in three, modally-tinged movements. The first "Allegro con spirito (Fast with spirit)" [T-1] is a cheerful dialogue for soloist and orchestra that may remind you of fellow Venetian Antonio Vivaldi's (1678-1741) many works in this genre.
Then there's a reserved, pastoral-sounding "Lento, ma non troppo (Slow, but not overly so)" [T-2], which strangely enough may bring to mind English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams' (1872-1958) The Lark Ascending (1914, rev. 1920). But the pace quickens with the closing Allegro (Fast) [T-3] that gets off to a running start, which invokes an extensive, demanding cadenza [01:58-05:46]. This gives way to tranquil memories of past ideas and some frenetic last thoughts [08:48] that end the work definitively.
Per una favola cavalleresca (From a Chivalrous Tale) dates from 1914-15 and was probably revised sometime around 1920. It draws from orchestral episodes in the composer's opera Lancelotto del lago (Lancelot of the Lake), which is based on the legend of King Arthur (see the album notes). But returning to the music here, it consists of four related tone-picture-like episodes that have a cinematic sweep.
The first three are respectively mystical [T-4], adventurous [T-5] and reflective [T-6], where the latter has a repeated, captivating 6-note motif [04:16-4:20] that has lunar associations. Then there's a dynamic fourth [T-7] with gallant as well as tragic passages reflecting King Arthur's demise. However, somewhat hopeful ones [06:32] conclude the piece, possibly depicting Queen Guinevere's thoughts of future days with Lancelot.
Filling out this release, there's the Violin Concerto No. 2 (1963). Unlike the previous selections, this is an acerbic, atonally-spiced, contemporary-sounding creation that may remind you of works by those composers who belonged to the Second Viennese School.
In three movements, the initial "Allegro (Fast)" [T-8] is an animate, matter-of-fact conversation for soloist and orchestra. However, there's a searching, peripatetic mien about the "Non troppo lento (Not too slow)" middle one [T-9].
Then an "Alquanto mosso (Somewhat lively)" third [T-10] starts with a drum-roll-brass flourish [00:00] followed by a manic episode for the violin and accompaniment [00:02] having a dramatic cadenza [02:03-03:09]. Subsequently, there are profound passages [03:20] recalling the Concerto's opening. These are all the more sorrowful for a pining oboe [06:57], and end the work as well as this disc somewhat dejectedly.
These performances feature an all Italian cast, namely violinist Paolo Chiavacci (b. 1962) along with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma (Rome Symphony Orchestra) under its artistic director and conductor Francesco La Vecchia (b. 1954). They deliver definitive accounts of both concertos and introduce us to a colorful rarity by this composer.
Rome was the location for all three recordings. More specifically, the Violin Concerto No. 2 took place on 15-16 June 2012 in OSR Studios. The others were done during January (Per una favola cavalleresca) and May (Violin Concerto No. 1) 2013 at the Auditorium Conciliazone.
While the latter project a generous sonic image in an enriching venue, the other one presents a more confined soundstage in a drier setting. However, Signor Chiavacci's violin was well captured and highlighted on both occasions.
That said, the overall instrumental timbre in all three works is characterized by satisfactory highs, decent mids and clean bass. While this CD won't win any "Audiophile" awards, the music here is of such great interest that pointy-eared listeners will soon forget any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P221129)
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Novák, Jan: Orch Wks V1 (Pno Conc, Oboe Conc, Concentus biiugis...; Soloists/Tardanová/EnOpDivCO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Jan Novák (1921-1984) was born in Nová Říše, Czech Republic some 80 miles south-southeast of Prague, and is not to be confused with his better-known countryman Vítězslav (1870-1949). Jan belonged to that generation of Moravian composers who used local folk material in their music.
The album notes have a wealth of information regarding his life as well as the selections here, so we'll limit our commentary to the high points. Accordingly, we'll start by pointing out that during his earlier years, Jan had frequent difficulties with the presiding Soviet authorities. Consequently, he moved to Denmark in 1968, then Italy (1970) and finally Germany (1977).
He'd leave a significant number of orchestral works, a sampling of which comprise this release. Those here are each three-movement concertos that will remind you of his older, ever popular compatriot, Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959), with whom he once studied (1947-1948). Incidentally, the first two are premiere recordings and the only versions currently available on disc.
This CD begins with Jan's Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra of 1949, whose first movement is marked "Allegro sostenuto - Allegro con spirito (Fast and sustained - Fast with spirit)" [T-1]. A fickle piece of work, here rhythmically scurrying passages alternate with lyrical as well as bucolic ones.
Subsequently, there's a delicate, "Andante pastorale (Slow pastoral)" [T-2], where the piano has a couple of pensive solos [05:22 & 07:13]. However, all this is just a respite before the frenetic, closing "Allegro (Fast)" [T-3]. It has recollections of past ideas and a lengthy, demanding cadenza [07:55-09:26], after which this piece comes to an animated, abrupt conclusion.
In 1952, Novák wrote a Concerto for Oboe and Chamber Orchestra. It has a vivacious, sonata-form, opening "Allegro (Fast)" [T-4] based on a couple of piquant themes, which are respectively twitchy [00:18] and tuneful [01:57]. These undergo a virtuosic development [02:59], succeeded by a somewhat jazzy recap [04:01] with an upbeat coda [04:41] that ends things suddenly.
The following "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)" [T-5] starts with a four-note motif [00:00-00:16] that's identical to one heard at the outset of Antonín Dvořák's (1841-1904) Requiem (1890). It's the musical seed for this rhapsodic movement, which has a lengthy, bravura cadenza [05:38-06:25] and nostalgic, last afterthoughts.
Then we get another animated, sonata-form "Allegro (Fast)" [T-6]. However, this time around there's an aura of neoclassicism present, which may bring to mind Antonio Vivaldi's (1678-1741) many oboe concertos (early 1700s). Moreover, Novák serves up a carefree introduction [00:00] and first theme [00:05] followed by a wistful second [01:27]. These are food for a mischievous development [02:18] and comely recap [04:02] having a chirpy coda [05:24] that brings the piece to a jolly conclusion.
This release is filled out with Jan's Concentus biiugis for Piano Four Hands and String Orchestra (1977). Incidentally, "Concentus biiugis" means "Two Together" in classical Latin, which the composer spoke fluently. But returning to the piece at hand, it's arguably one of his finest, and comes off sounding like a concerto for two pianos that will remind you of Martinů as well as Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971).
The initial "Allegro energico (Fast and energetic)" [T-7] is a syncopated, neoclassical romp with fleet-footed outer sections [00:00 & 05:40]. These hug a brief, contemplative segment [04:46-05:39] and end the movement frenetically.
It's succeeded by a "Lento (Slow)" marked one [T-8] with an impressionistic introduction [00:00] for the strings. Then they deliver a plucked, somewhat spooky walking bass line 01:26], over which our pianists play what sound like improvisatory passages. Subsequently, the music becomes shivery with frequent repeated notes [04:08]. However, this subsides [beginning at 06:36] into tender reminiscences of the opening measures [07:39] that gradually fade away.
Then there's a marvelous "Allegro (Fast)" rondo [T-9], whose beginning has machine-gun-like repeated notes for the soloists [00:02] which conjure up a bustling episode [00:45]. It's followed by sequentially laidback [02:30], happy [02:49], contrapuntally spiced [03:16], declaratory [05:54], antsy [07:19] and exultant [07:49] ones, thereby ending this work and disc jubilantly.
These performances feature the Ensemble Opera Diversa Chamber Orchestra, which is based in Brno some 60 miles east of the composer's hometown (see above). Under its principal conductor Gabriela Tardanová, they give outstanding support to all the soloists here, namely pianist Alice Rajnohová, oboist Vilém Veverka and the piano duet team of Lucie Schinselová and Kristýna Znamenáčková.
The Concerto for Piano... recording was made on 21 November 2015 at the Meeting House (Besední Dům) in Brno and presents an appropriately sized sonic image in a pleasant venue with just the right amount of reverberation. The soloist is centered, well captured and balanced against the orchestra, while the overall instrumental timbre is about as good as it gets on conventional discs. That said, all of this holds for the Concerto for Oboe..., except it was done on 19 September 2015 and finds the soloist a bit left of Maestra Tardanová.
As for the Concentus biiugis..., it was also made in Brno, but on three separate occasions during May and November 2019. These recordings took place in the Brothers of Charity Monastery hall (no image readily available) and yield a sizable sonic image in spacious, reverberant surroundings. You'll find the piano centered, well captured and highlighted against the orchestra.
While the instrumental timbre is generally good, some listeners may feel the overall sound here is too wet. Consequently, this release doesn't earn an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P221128)
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Taneyev: String Trio in E♭ major, Piano Quartet in E major; SpecConcBer [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Russian composer-pianist-musicologist Sergey (Sergei) Ivanovich Taneyev (1856-1915) was a student and good friend of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). In his later years, Sergey would also become a distinguished teacher, who could count Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915), Sergei Rachmaninov (aka Rachmaninoff; 1873-1943) and Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) among his pupils.
He left a considerable number of works, two of which in the chamber category are featured on this recent Naxos release. We might also note that his renowned teacher once said, "he is the finest master of counterpoint in Russia, and I even doubt that he has an equal in the West." Both selections here would seem to bear that out.
The concert begins with his String Trio in E♭ major (Op. 31, 1910-11). This was originally for violin, viola and tenor viola (aka tenor violin), whose tessitura is slightly lower than a standard one's. However, that instrument is no longer readily available, so the version here is an arrangement where it's been replaced by a cello.
Having four-movements, the first is an "Allegro con brio (Fast with vigor)" [T-1] where affable outer sections hug a consummate fugue. Then it's on to an "Allegretto vivace (Lively and spirited)", delightful Scherzino (Joke) [T-2], which could well be based on some Russian folk melody.
After that there's a hymn-like "Adagio espressivo (Slow and expressive)" movement [T-3], smacking of more reverent moments in Beethoven's (1770-1827) late string quartets (1825-26). But piety turns to playfulness in the "Presto (Very fast)" rondoesque finale [T-4]. Here a frisky recurring thought suffused with suggestions of ideas in the first movement bring the work to a jolly, contrapuntally laced conclusion.
Jumping back five years, we get Taneyev's Piano Quartet in E major (Op. 20, 1906). This has a bravura keyboard part, which the composer intended as a show-off vehicle for himself. That said, the first of its three movements is an ebullient, sonata-form "Allegro brillante (Joyful and bright)" with contrapuntal spicing [T-5]. This is based on a couple of captivating ideas that are fuel for a dramatic development and forceful recap, which ends things exultantly.
The middle "Adagio piů tosto largo (Slowly and soon wider)" [T-6] is a gorgeous, romantic offering, that's somewhat of a theme-and-variations based on a lovely main idea (LM) heard at the outset. It's followed by a stunning "Allegro molto (Very fast)" finale [T-8], which is mostly a virtuosic romp. However, an LM-based, "Moderato serafico (Moderate and seraphic)" last episode [10:57] brings the work and this disc to a blissful conclusion.
These performances are by members of the Spectrum Concerts Berlin, which is a chamber ensemble that was founded back in 1988 by its current Artistic Director Frank S. Dodge (b. 1950). The musicians featured here are violinist Boris Brovtsyn, violist Gareth Lubbe and cellist Alexey Stadler, who are joined by pianist Eldar Nebolsin for the Quartet. They give superb accounts of both works, which make this release a "must" for those who love early 20th century chamber music.
A coproduction of Naxos and Deutschlandfunk Kultur, the recordings were made 21-23 April 2021 in a studio setting, namely Saal 3 (Room 3) of the Haus des Rundfunks (Broadcast House), Berlin. Accordingly, they project a compact sonic image in somewhat dry surroundings.
The strings are adequately captured as is Nebolsin's piano, which is centered just behind them. However, these recordings would have sounded much better in a more spacious venue. Consequently, this release gets a strong recommendation for its musical content, but falls short of an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P221127)
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