CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
28 FEBRUARY 2023
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.
Berry, C.R.: Orch Wks V1 (Olympic... Ov, Sym 4, Sym 5); Suben/MoravPO/Kuchar/LvivNPOUkr/PolWPOLub [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Charles Roland Berry (b. 1957) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but raised in Escanaba, Michigan, where he sang in a choir. Consequently, young Charles developed an interest in vocal music by the likes of Palestrina (1525-1594), Bach (1685-1750), Haydn (1732-1809) and even American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000).
During the early 1980s he attended the University of California in Santa Barbara, some 100 miles west-northwest of Los Angeles, where he studied under Peter Racine Fricker (1920-1990) and had weekly private lessons with Paul Creston (1906-1985). Then in the late 1980s Berry presented a series of chamber concerts in San Francisco, for which he wrote his first significant pieces. Subsequently, he worked at Tower Records (shades of yours truly) and as a sales representative for classical labels.
However, with the mid-1990s collapse of the brick-and-mortar record industry, Berry moved to Seattle, Washington, where he pursued a number of diverse jobs that weren't music-related. But he's since resumed his musical endeavors and written a significant number of works that include five symphonies. While the first two are now withdrawn, the Third appeared on disc back in 2008 (see Centaur CRC-2898) and is now joined here by a Fourth and Fifth.
Charles makes some interesting observations about the state of today's classical music (see the album notes), and says his motivation for writing the above was "to generate paying jobs for performing musicians..." He then tells us the three pieces on this release were penned in styles that pleased him, and no attempt was made to sound modern or impress his contemporaries. Incidentally, all of them are first recordings.
The concert opens with his Olympic Mountains Overture (2003) [T-1], which he says is meant to musically describe the moods and sounds of the Olympic National Park in Washington State. Incidentally, the scoring calls for a wind machine that represents what the composer calls "swirling snows above the tree line."
It has a tempestuous opening [00:00], which wanes into a fugal episode [00:45], where we soon hear that wind machine [01:10]. This adjoins skittish passages [02:12], which bridge into a rhapsodic, percussively-laced, somewhat bluesy segment [02:35]. The latter then ebbs and flows into insistent afterthoughts [10:22] that end the piece uneventfully.
The five-movement Symphony No. 4 (2017) reflects the composer's interest in the pentacle-related and occult fields, as well as Freemasonry (see the album notes). Berry is a Master Mason, and each of this work's movements is associated with one of the Five Elements and Five Senses.
An opening "Allegro (Fast)" Water-Taste one [T-2] is an aqueous utterance based on a flowing melody [00:00]. The latter undergoes treatments that could represent a babbling brook [00:56] as well as a drenching downpour [03:29], after which this movement ends graciously.
The next "Adagio (Slow)" Earth-Touch [T-3] is of wistful disposition. It would seem to commemorate those lost, loved ones we can no longer make physical contact with.
But sadness turns to joy in the succeeding, radiant "Andante (Flowing)" Fire-Smell [T-4]. This has a merry beginning [00:00] that's followed by rapturous dance passages [03:57] and a concluding, amorous waltz [06:25].
Subsequently, there's an "Allegro (Fast)" Spirit-Sight [T-5], which begins delicately with ideas like those in Water-Taste (see above). These are the subject of an orchestral conversation between a string quartet of soloists and its other members. However, the foregoing gives way to chromatically restless passages [03:25]. Then a trumpet [06:02] invokes gallant ones [06:59] that end the movement valiantly.
The curt, final "Vivace (Spirited)" Air-Hearing [T-6] is based on an opening, huff-and-puff theme [00:00]. Presumably, it's meant to laud earth's atmosphere, which makes life possible and is also the medium for human communications as well as music. Here stormy episodes juxtapose pastoral ones [01:05 & 02:32], where the latter close the work contentedly.
Berry's four-movement Symphony No. 5 (2021) completes this release. The initial Allegro (Fast) [T-7] begins with a lofty idea (LI) [00:01] that will haunt the entire work. But for now, LI powers a distraught episode, where it's explored and makes a forceful reappearance [03:10] followed by a pause. After that the oboe [04:43] initiates fleeting moments with argumentative trumpets [05:39] and casual horns [06:01]. Then the strings recall LI [07:54], thereby invoking passages that end the movement triumphantly.
The succeeding Andante (Flowing) [T-8] is a melancholy theme-with-variations based on an LI-reminiscent, sad main subject (LM) introduced by the woodwinds [00:01]. LM undergoes several variational treatments that range from pensive [00:30] to searching [01:11], dramatic [01:50], contemplative [04:01], martial [05:12] and playful [06:50]. Then an LM-based coda [07:49] concludes the movement tranquilly.
Subsequently, there's an Allegro (Fast), scherzoesque one [T-9]. Here an LI-related, whimsical, percussive-pizzicato-laced ditty [00:00] alternates with a more melodic version of itself [00:38], which closes the movement lovingly.
Then there's yet another Allegro (Fast) [T-10]. This begins with LI-tinged string passages [00:00] that bridge into contemplative ones [00:27]. These evoke an LI-derived big idea [02:54], which fuels a powerful episode that brings the symphony and this disc to a breathtaking conclusion.
These works feature different orchestras. More specifically, Olympic Mountains Overture has the Moravian Philharmonic under Joel Eric Suben (b. 1946). Symphony No. 4 is done by the Lviv National Philharmonic of Ukraine, and Symphony No. 5, the Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic of Lublin, both of which find Theodore Kuchar (b. 1963) on the podium. They all deliver outstanding performances of this rare repertoire.
As for the recordings, they took place at different times and locations. Olympic... [T-1] was done 8 June 2003 in Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic, 130 miles east-southeast of Prague. Symphony No. 4 [T-2 thru 6] came about 17-20 November 2020 at Philharmonic Hall, Lviv, Ukraine, 300 miles west of Kyiv. And Symphony No. 5 [T-7 thru 10] was laid down 15-18 May 2022 at Philharmonic Hall, Lublin, Poland, 100 miles southeast of Warsaw.
Consequently, the sound is somewhat inconsistent, but generally good. Moreover, all three recordings present generous sonic images in pleasant venues and effectively capture this composer's colorful scoring.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P230228)
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Brazilian Music for Chamber Orchestra (see A.F.Braga, A.C.Gomes, L.Miguéz & A.Nepomuceno); Thomson/EngChO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
With this release Naxos continues their survey of Brazilian music (see 31 May 2022). Here we're treated to some delightful shorter works for chamber orchestra written in the 1893-1902 timeframe by four different composers.
Antônio Carlos Gomes (1836-1896) was born in Campinas, some 250 miles west of Rio de Janeiro. He was a highly successful composer, who left a large oeuvre across most genres. What's more, Gomes spent a great deal of time in Italy and is best remembered for his operas.
He penned a couple of orchestral works, one of which is our first selection. It's his Sonata para cordas (Sonata for Strings) that was written in Milan during 1894. The first of its four movements is an "Allegro animato (Fast and animated)", sonata-form one [T-1]. This opens with two ideas, which are respectively flighty 00:01] and lyrical [01:06]. These are skillfully developed [02:26] and recapitulated [03:27] with a jubilant coda [05:26] that ends the movement in merry fashion.
Then there's an "Allegro scherzoso (Fast and scherzoesque)", skittering second [T-2], having a lovely, songlike trio [01:53-02:50]. It's followed by a "Largo (Slow)" third [T-3], which is the longest one. This is a ternary, A-B-A-structured piece, where delicate "A"s [00:00 & 05:47] based on a gentle theme [00:39] hug a fickle "B" [04:01-05:46] with a coy idea, and bring the movement full circle.
The composer may have had some child's toy in mind when he wrote the concluding "Vivace (Spirited)" O Burrico de Pau (The Wooden Donkey) [T-4]. Be that as it may, this is a pizzicato, col legno spiced piece with trotting ostinatos and even a few heehaws [01:42]. It ends the work with a big 🙂.
Antônio Francisco Braga (1868-1945) hailed from Rio De Janeiro and would first study music at home. Then in 1890 he went to France, where he furthered his academic pursuits with Jules Massenet (1842-1912) at the Conservatoire de Paris. Francisco subsequently spent a couple of years in Germany and was greatly influenced by Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) music.
The year 1900 saw him return to Rio, where he'd live out his years as a distinguished teacher-conductor-composer, and leave a substantial body of works. Francisco is represented here by his Madrigal-Pavana (Madrigal-Pavane) (1901) [T-5]. Lasting only a little over 4 minutes, it's scored for strings, and has a charming, songful melody [00:00 & 03:33] on either side of a gracious, dance tune [02:09-03:32].
Alberto Nepomuceno (1864-1920) has already appeared in these pages, and his background was well covered in the newsletter of 30 June 2019. Suffice to say he left a substantial body of works across all genres, and two of his orchestral ones are next. The first is an arrangement he did for string orchestra of the last three movements from his four-movement Suíte à Antiga (Suite Antique) for piano (Op. 11; 1893).
The initial Minuet - Trio [T-6] has outer sections based on a delicate, dance melody [00:00 & 02:13] that bracket a proud segment [01:05-02:12]. Then there's a melancholy Aria [T-7], succeeded by a captivating Rigaudon [T-8]. Here playful passages [00:00, 03:25, 04:34] alternate with pensive ones [01:35, 04:10] and bring the work to a sprightly conclusion.
It's followed by Alberto's single movement Serenta (Serenade) of 1902, which is also scored for strings [T-9]. This is a ternary, A-B-A-structured tidbit, where delicate "A"s [00:00 & 03:07] based on a lithe melody [00:02] surround a somewhat ponderous "B" [01:50-03:00].
Composer Leopoldo Miguéz (1850-1902) was born in Niterói, which lies along the eastern shore of Guanabara Bay just across from Rio de Janeiro. But at age two (1852), he and his family moved to Vigo, Spain. Then when he was seven (1857), they took up residence in Porto, Portugal, where Leopold would study violin as well as harmony and counterpoint.
The year 1871 saw him move to Rio, become a bookkeeper and found a firm that sold musical instruments. He then went back to Europe in 1882, where he followed a number of musical pursuits. However, Miguéz returned to Rio in 1884 and had a highly successful career until his death at 61.
He left a significant oeuvre, and his five-movement Suíte à Antiga (Suite Antique) for Chamber Orchestra (Op. 11; 1893) is next. The opening, "Moderato (Moderate)" Prelúdio (Prelude) [T-10] is a tuneful, contrapuntally spiced number, which is followed by a melancholy, "Andante (Slow)" Sarabanda (Sarabande) that's solely for strings [T-11]. But things turn playful in the next "Allegro moderato (Moderately Fast)" Gavota (Gavotte) [T-12].
Subsequently, there's an "Andantino (Walking speed)" Ária e Double (Aria and Reprise) [T-13]. This begins with a piquant air for the oboe [00:00] that's picked up by the strings [00:35], and succeeded by a complementary countermelody [02:23]. Then after a brief pause, the foregoing is food for a cheerful redo [05:19], which features the flute and ends this movement uneventfully.
The closing "Allegro vivace (Fast and Spirited)" Giga (Gigue) [T-14] is a frolicsome, fugally spiced number based on a capricious opening ditty [00:00]. It brings the work and disc to a capricious conclusion.
That Naxos CD mentioned above featured British conductor Neil Thomson (b. 1966), who returns here to give us more Brazilian music, this time with the English Chamber Orchestra (ECO). Together they deliver enthusiastic, memorable accounts of these symphonic rarities, and it'll be interesting to see what Maestro Thomson comes up with next.
These recordings are in line with a project of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote music by Brazilian composers dating as far back as the 18th century. They were made 17-18 January 2022 at All Hallows' Gospel Oak Church in London and present a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings. The overall sound is about as good as it gets on conventional CDs, thereby earning this release an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y230227)
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Ķeniņš: Symphony No. 2 "Sinfonia concertante", Symphony No. 3, Symphony No. 7; Soloists/Poga/LatvNaSO [Ondine]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Tālivaldis Ķeniņš (1919-2008) was born in Liepāja on Latvia's Baltic Sea coast some 120 air miles west-southwest of Riga. "Tāli" began playing the piano as a five-year old, and started writing music at age eight.
As a young man, his first academic pursuits were diplomatic studies in Grenoble, France. He then moved to Riga in 1940 and took composition courses at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music. But with the Soviet occupation of his country towards the end of World War II, "Tāli" was forced to move back to France in 1944, where he studied music at the Conservatoire de Paris (1945-1951). While living there he also began a highly successful career as a pianist and composer.
The year 1951 saw him emigrate to Canada and take up residence in Toronto, the capital of Ontario. Tālivaldis would live out his years there and establish himself as a renowned composer as well as a highly honored teacher at the University of Toronto. He'd leave a significant oeuvre across most genres, which includes eight symphonies. Three of the latter fill out this recent Ondine CD, thereby completing their survey of them (see Ondine 1350-2, 1354-2 & 1388-2).
It begins with his Symphony No. 2, subtitled "Sinfonia concertante" (1967-68), which is somewhat of a triple concerto for flute, oboe and clarinet. In three movements, the "Lento (Slow)" first [T-1] is a spirited dialogue between those woodwinds and the rest of the orchestra.
Then there's a "Molto moderato (Very moderate)" marked Tema e variazioni (Theme and Variations) [T-2]. This is based on the melody for a lullaby (ML) of the Mi'kmaq people, who are some of Canada's First Nations ones.
It's played by the oboe [00:08-01:04] and then the clarinet [01:37-02:29], after which there are five variants. These range from chorale-like [02:58] to melancholy [03:52], whimsical [05:28], indifferent [06:25] and conversational [07:41]. Then ML makes a rueful return [09:30], thereby ending this movement somewhat sorrowfully.
But regret turns to recalcitrance in the closing "Molto animato e marcato (Very animated and forceful)" one [T-3]. Here defiant passages [00:00] adjoin a saucy fugue [01:26] with some vivacious afterthoughts [02:50 & 03:04], the last of which ends the symphony in much the same mood as it began.
The Symphony No. 3 (1969-70) is a chromatically spiced, three-movement work. Its opening "Allegro moderato (Moderately fast)" one [T-4] features a dark, peevish idea (DP) heard at the outset [00:00]. DP becomes increasingly agitated, and then wanes into a contemplative episode [04:10] that closes the movement tranquilly.
Subsequently, there's a "Lento inquieto (Slow and restless)" second [T-5]. It starts with a wistful, DP-related thought that undergoes a number of treatments. These range from spacey [01:12] to irascible [02:38] and retiring [04:15 & 05:54], after which a resigned variant [07:10] ends things uneventfully.
However, the pace quickens in the final "Molto animato e brioso (Very animated and spirited)" one [T-6]. It begins with a brash, DP-related theme [00:00] that thrashes about and ebbs into a songful episode [00:54]. The latter then escalates [beginning at 04:09], thereby calling up heroic passages [05:28] that end the work abruptly.
Filling out this release there's the Symphony No. 7 (1980), which the album notes refer to as "a symphony in the form of a passacaglia". It has four movements, the first being a brief, lusty, "Moderato (Moderate)" marked "Intrada" [T-7] with a dour, four-note motif (DF) [00:00-00:17] that will pervade the entire work.
This suddenly ends, and after a short, anticipatory pause, we get the next movement, which is called "Passacaglia" [T-8]. Here DF is the basis of an underlying ostinato [00:00], over which DF appears in several guises that range from searching [02:01] to flighty [03:26], twitchy [05:28] and choralelike [07:14].
Then after another brief break there's a capricious, "Allegro molto (Very fast)" one [T-9], which proceeds attacca into the final "Aria" movement [T-10]. This has a mezzo-soprano who sings a poem by the composer's father Atis Ķeniņš (1874-1961) that's like a "song of destiny" (see the album notes for Latvian and English texts).
It's taken from his 1913 collection known as The Land of Potrims, who was the ancient Latvian God of Sun and Sowing. This captivating, dramatic offering may remind you of moving moments in Mahler's (1860-1911) Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth); 1908-09). It brings the work and this disc to a peaceful conclusion.
As on Ondine's previous Ķeniņš releases (see above), the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra (LNSO) is featured here. Under Riga-born conductor Andris Poga (b. 1980), who was the LNSO's Music Director from 2013 through 2020, they deliver what will probably be definitive accounts of these symphonies for some time to come.
Flautist Tommaso Pratola, oboist Egils Upatnieks and clarinetist Mārtiņš Circenis, who are all LNSO principal players, get a big hand for their outstanding solo work in Symphony No. 2 [T-1 thru 3]. While Latvian mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde deserves a standing ovation for her contribution to the Symphony No. 7 [T-10].
These recordings took place in 2021 at the Great Guild Hall located in Riga. The Symphony No. 7 one was done on 30 August and 2 September, while the other two were made 13-16 December. All three present consistently generous sonic images in a pleasant venue with the soloists well captured and highlighted against the LNSO. The overall orchestral timbre is characterized by brisk highs, cogent mids and powerful, transient bass. The sound is all the more vibrant for the composer's colorful scoring.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y230226)
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Williams, Adrian: Symphony No. 1, Chamber Concerto "Portraits of Ned Kelly"; Woods/EngSO [Nimbus All]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
With this recent Nimbus Alliance release we welcome British composer Adrian Williams (b. 1956) to these pages. He was born in Hertfordshire, England, some 20 miles north of London, and began playing the piano at the tender age of four. By eleven Adrian was actually writing music and at 13, studying composition with Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989). This led to his taking piano and composition courses at the Royal College of Music in London, where he was an award-winning student.
Adrian graduated in 1978 and began a highly successful career in music. Moreover, 1980 saw him become Composer in Residence at the Charterhouse School. Then during the 1980s he moved to Herefordshire, which is a county along the England-Wales border that's become his current base of operations.
Between 2019 and 2021, Williams was "Composer-in-Association" (now "Emeritus") with the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) based in Worcester some 120 miles northwest of London. His Symphony No. 1 of 2020 was written for them at the request of our conductor here, Kenneth Woods (b. 1968), who's its dedicatee.
In four movements, the opening "Maestoso - Stridente (Majestic - Jarring)" [T-1] begins with a dramatic theme (DT) [00:00] that will color the entire work. Here DT undergoes a series of captivating treatments, the last of which [13:24] ends the movement suddenly. Then there's a colorfully scored, obstreperous "Scherzando" [T-2] with wisps of DT.
As for the following "Lento (Slow)" one [T-3], it was inspired by some grim pictures of the desolation resulting from Australian bushfires of 2019-20. Consequently, this is DT-tinged, sad music with lachrymose moments and lengthy, serene sections.
The closing "Energico - Dolente (Energetic - Sad)" [T-4] comes off like a brilliantly scored symphonic poem. So, in hopes of giving you a better feeling for the music, we'll make up an underlying story.
This begins with agitated, DT-flavored passages [00:00], where it's easy to imagine some militant knight. But these wane into amorous ones [01:51], seemingly with the appearance of his inamorata. After that, the mood turns momentarily belligerent [08:03], ostensibly with the arrival of an evil foe.
However, our hero soon dispatches him, and romance again fills the air [08:47]. Then the music becomes increasingly passionate [09:21], and ebbs into stalwart passages [10:21] that bring the symphony to a tumultuous ending of cinematic proportions.
One of the composer's friends in Herefordshire (see above) was artist Sidney Nolan (1917-1992), who did a series of paintings depicting the exploits of Australian bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly (1854-1880). These were the inspiration for Adrian's Chamber Concerto of 1998, which he refers to as "Portraits of Ned Kelly" [T-5].
Accordingly, it's somewhat programmatic, and the album notes make a comparison to Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche), Op. 28; 1894-95. In one continuous movement, this is a virtuosically demanding, concertante piece featuring 11 soloists (see the album notes).
It begins with unruly, restless passages [00:00] succeeded by agitated ones [02:39]. Then there are searching [07:11], yearning [10:45] and anxious [12:42] episodes. These are followed by a songful section [16:34] that ends the work with some twitchy last thoughts [21:42] and a final yelp [22:02].
The ESO under its Artistic Director and Principle Conductor Kenneth Woods (see above) give us articulate, rousing accounts of this music. Also, the concerto soloists (see the album notes) deserve a big round of applause for their technically accomplished playing.
These recordings took place on 8 April (Chamber Concerto) and 1-2 December (Symphony) 2021 at the Wyastone Concert Hall in Monmouth, Wales, some 120 miles west-northwest of London. They present a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings with the soloists well captured and balanced against the orchestra. The instrumental timbre is characterized by agreeable highs, lifelike mids, and lean, transient bass.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P230225)
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Wolf-Ferrari: Suite veneziana, Triptychon, Divertimento, Arabesken; Haider/Ovieda Filarmonía [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
This was originally released back in 2010 on the now defunct PhilArtis label (PAV-0902). Those loving romantic orchestral rarities who never got that disc will definitely want this Naxos reissue.
The composer was born in Venice on 12 January 1876 to a German painter father called August Wolf and a Venetian mother, whose maiden-name was Emilia Ferrari. At first, he wanted to become an artist like Dad, so he studied intensively in his hometown as well as Rome and Munich. But in Germany, young Ermanno decided to pursue music and took lessons from Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901).
Then in 1895 he changed his last name to Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) and began a highly successful career as a composer. Best known in his earlier days for some delightful operas, such as Il segreto di Susanna (Susanna's Secret) of 1909, he would later write some orchestral works, which are sampled here.
The four-movement Suite veneziana (Venetian Suite) (Op. 18; 1935/36) is of melancholy disposition. It reflects troubled times in the composer's life, which included health and financial problems, as well as the fact that his works were being performed less frequently.
The initial "In laguna (In the Lagoon)" [T-1] is based on an earlier, unfinished song (see the album notes for the text). It's a longing tidbit with amorous as well as nocturnal overtones.
This is followed by two numbers that are respectively titled "Barcarola (Barcarole)" [T-2] and "Notturno - Canali solitari (Nighttime - Lonely Canals)" [T-3]. The former could be the melody for a Venetian gondolier's song, while the latter is a boat ride on deserted waterways. Then there's "Alba di festa (Festive Dawn)" [T-4], which starts somewhat cheerfully, only to become increasingly apathetic and end the work uneventfully.
The next Triptychon (Triptych) in E major (Op. 19; 1936) would seem to have been inspired by the churches of Venice. Having three movements, the first "In excelsis (On high)" [T-5] is a pious passacaglia with a devout ostinato [00:00-01:12].
It's followed by "Agli eroi caduli (For the Fallen Heroes)" [T-6], which is a dramatic keening. Then a "Preghiera (Prayer)" [T-7] with organ accompaniment concludes the piece reverently.
Prayer turns to play in Ermanno's five-movement Divertimento in D major (Op. 20; 1936-37). The initial "Variazioni su un tema capriccioso (Variations on a Capricious Theme)" [T-8] is a delightful cavort based on a playful ditty (PD) heard at the outset [00:00] Then PD undergoes seven treatments that are sequentially venatic [00:32], cantabile [01:08], fickle [01:49], nostalgic [02:19], vivacious [03:16], amorous [03:50] and pixilated [05:54].
The next "Canzone pastorale (Pastoral Song)" [T-9] is a lovely, bucolic offering, which is succeeded by a sighing "Siciliana" [T-10] of wistful demeanor. However, the closing "Rondo Finale" [T-11] takes the form of a spirited romp, that's riddled with past ideas and concludes the work with a smiling, fortissimo "So there!" cadence [04:25].
As regards the closing Arabesken (Arabesques) in E minor (Op.22; 1937) [T-12], it has the annotation "Variations on an aria by Ettore Tito". He was an Italian artist (1859-1941) and good friend of Ermanno's, who even painted his portrait.
Apparently, Tito became drawn to music at age 65 and wrote the sorrowful tune (ST) that's the main subject of this piece. ST is heard at the outset [00:00] and then repeated [01:12], after which there are playful [02:17], martial [03:26] as well as affectionate [04:32 & 05:50] treatments of it. Then a magnificent, fugal one [07:12] adjoins a valiant version [10:18] that ends the work and this release triumphantly.
The Ovieda Filharmonia (OFIL) is the featured orchestra here. Located midway along Spain's northern coast some 230 air miles north-northwest of Madrid, it's under Austrian-born-and-trained Friederich Haider (b. 1961), who was then its principal conductor. Together they give wonderful accounts of everything here.
The Arabesken and Suite veneziana recordings were made 13-16 October 2008, while the Triptychon and Divertimento ones took place during 27-29 May and 1-2 June 2009 respectively. All were done at the Principe Felipe Auditorium located in Oviedo.
They present consistently generous sonic images in a superb venue. The orchestral timbre is characterized by satisfactory mids and lows. However, the highs aren't as good as those on more recent conventional discs. Incidentally, there's a momentary dropout towards the end of the last selection [T-12, 11:02]. Maybe these recordings are showing their age!
Taking everything into consideration, this release falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating. However, with music this engaging, any sonic shortcomings will soon be forgotten.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P230224)
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