CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 APRIL 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.
Delius: String Quartet in C minor (1888, rcn 2021; with E.Smyth); Villiers Qt [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Back in 1888 Fritz Delius -- later known as Frederick (1862-1934) -- wrote a four-movement string quartet. However, he couldn't get this played and consequently abandoned it, whereupon the score for the two opening ones was lost.
But this turned up at an auction held sometime during 2018. Then in 2021 Daniel M. Grimley (b. 1973), who's a Professor of Music at Oxford University, edited and reunited them with the extant ones, giving us a magnificent, reconstructed version of the whole work, namely his String Quartet in C minor (RT VIII/1; 1888, rcn 2021). This invaluable Naxos release gives us its world premiere recording.
The initial "Allegro assai (Very fast)" movement [T-5] is a sonata-form one, whose opening exposition begins with a searching theme (S1) [00:00] that's explored. Then after a brief pause, there's a melancholy, second idea (M2) [02:00], which is examined. Subsequently, S1 initiates a captivating development [03:31] and nostalgic recapitulation [06:37] that ends this movement excitedly with a succinct, S1-based coda.
Then there's an "Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited)" scherzo [T-6]. It has whimsical outer sections [00:00 & 03:49] sporting a couple of pixilated thoughts. These are wrapped around a lovely, songful, extended trio [00:44-03:48] and bring things full circle.
The "Adagio, con molta expressione (Slow, with much expression)" third [T-7] is like a rondo combined with a theme-and-variations. It has a somber, opening, main subject (SM) [00:01] that sires interspersed variants, which are coquettish [01:13 & 02:24], shy [01:45 & 02:57] and vivacious [02:00 & 03:13]. Then SM returns [03:49], thereby concluding the movement like it started.
A sonata-formish, "Agitato, allegro (Excited, fast)" finale [T-8] begins with an austere, Nordic-sounding theme (AN) that may remind you of Edvard Grieg's (1843-1907) "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from his "Peer Gynt Suite No. 1" (Op. 46; 1874-75). Incidentally, this renowned Norwegian composer convinced Fritz's parents to let him study music and greatly influenced his early works.
But returning to the selection at hand, AN is toyed with and followed by a related, lyrical countersubject (NL) [00:51 & 01:49]. Then AN is the basis for a fugally initiated development [02:35] with a reminder of NL [03:16], and gruff recap [04:30] that ends the Quartet decisively.
It's paired with one by a contemporary of Delius, namely Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), who makes a long overdue, highly welcome return to these pages. But first a few words regarding her background.
Born in the Sidcup area of southeast London, she was the fourth of eight children, her father being a major general in the Royal Artillery. At seventeen (1875) Ethel began studying music with Scottish, musician-composer Alexander Ewing (1830-1895). Then following some confrontations with Dad over her plans to pursue a career in it, the year 1887 saw Smyth enroll at what's now known as the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig.
However, after only a year there, she became dissatisfied with the teaching and left. Subsequently, Ethel took private harmony as well as counterpoint lessons from Austrian, composer-conductor Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900), who was then living in Leipzig. During this time she met such greats as Brahms (1833-1897), Dvořák (1841-1904), Grieg (1843-1907) and Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). Then upon her return to England in 1890, Smyth became friends with Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), who thought very highly of her music.
She spent most of her remaining years in England, and left a significant body of works that include six operas and a substantial number of chamber pieces. The latter category is represented here by her String Quartet in E minor (1902, revised 1912), which is the last of six. Apparently, the first two of its four movements were written in 1902, but she didn't complete the others until 1912. Despite the interim, ten-year hiatus, it's completely coherent and ranks with the best, romantic, English works in this genre.
The opening "Allegretto lirico (Lively and lyrical)" one [T-1] is of sonata-form persuasion, and begins with a pensive, searching theme (PS) [00:01] that bridges into a frisky, spirited number (FS) [01:25]. Then the foregoing material is reworked [02:02], after which PS initiates a dramatic, development [04:42].
This has agitated, virtuosic passages [05:40] that ebb into tender ones [06:25], and subsequently, FS invokes a captivating recapitulation [07:22] with charming, rhapsodic thoughts [09:35]. These wane into a delicate, PS-based coda [12:14] that ends the movement tranquilly.
But the pace quickens in the next "Allegro molto leggiero (Fast and very nimble)" scherzo [T-2]. Here three, mercurial segments surround a couple of more tuneful, trio ones [01:00-02:41 & 03:26-05:06] and bring things full circle.
The "Andante (Slow)" third movement [T-3] opens with a devout idea (DI) [00:00}, followed by a lovely countermelody [01:43] that's explored. Then there's a dancelike episode [02:51] that bridges into a searching one [06:31]. This turns confident [09:13] and invokes a coda [11:35] with a closing hint of DI [11:50].
As for the "Allegro energico (Fast and energetic)" last movement [T-4], it begins with a commanding fugue (CF) based on a vivacious, opening subject (VO) [00:00]. Then CF transitions into a capricious section [01:34] followed by troubled passages [02:43]. These give way to CF-like ones [05:21] and remembrances of past ideas that adjoin a VO-initiated coda [08:45], which concludes the work expeditiously.
These performances are by the Villiers Quartet (VQ), which is named after a noteworthy London street that has musical associations. As of this writing, its members are first violinist Katie Stillman, second violinist Tamaki Higashi, violist Carmen Flores and cellist Leo Melvin. They deliver superb accounts of both works that are not only technically accomplished, but finely nuanced.
Carmen Flores deserves a big hand for her magnificent playing in the Smyth. As for the Delius, it's nice to have a complete version of this early work. Those who liked the VQ's previous release on Naxos (8.573586) with his String Quartet in E minor (RT VIII/8; 1916-17) will definitely want this one.
The recordings were made 14-16 March 2022 at Ayriel Studios in North Yorkshire, England, some 200 miles north of London. They project a lifelike sonic image in warm surroundings, where there's no feeling of that confinement frequently associated with venues of this type. The string tone is characterized by pleasing highs, a rich midrange and clean low end. This is about as good as works of this genre can sound on conventional CDs.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y230430)
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Loewe, C.: Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Symphony No. 2 in D minor, Themisto Overture; Gaudenz/Jenaer P [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Not to be confused with the Loewe of My Fair Lady fame, German composer-conductor Carl Loewe (1796-1869) was also known for his vocal works. In that regard, he was a gifted baritone, who wrote over 400 songs/ballads, and whom some of his contemporaries referred to as "The Schubert of North Germany".
Carl was born in Löbejün, Germany, about 100 miles southwest of Berlin. As a youngster he got his first music lessons from Dad, and then went on to study it at a university (MLU) located in Halle, some 12 miles south of his hometown.
The year 1820 saw Loewe take up residence in what's now Szczecin, Poland, which is about 100 miles north-northeast of Berlin. He worked there as an organist and was also the music director at a local school. Carl composed most of his works in that city. However, around 1866 he moved to Kiel, which is near Germany's Baltic coast some 60 miles north of Hamburg, and would spend his remaining years there.
Loewe's oeuvre includes two, four-movement symphonies, both of which are on this recent release from the enterprising CPO label. Generally speaking these are somewhat programmatic compared to the more absolute ones written by the likes of Beethoven (1799-1824), Schubert (1811-1828), Mendelssohn (1821-1832) and Schumann (1832-1851).
The Symphony No. 1 in E minor's (1834) initial movement [T-5] is somewhat of a theme-and-variations. It opens with a wistful, "Larghetto (Rather slow)" thematic nexus (TN) [00:01] that's the basis for the remaining, "Allegro (Fast)" part. The latter has seven variational treatments of TN, which are sequentially playful [00:53], buoyant [01:14], vivacious [01:40], laidback [02:02], martial [02:51], imploring [03:33] and commanding [04:25]. Then the first four variants are respectively repeated [04:55, 05:16, 05:41 & 06:03] and followed by a valiant, TN-derivative coda [06:54] that ends the movement triumphantly.
A "Larghetto (Rather slow)", ternary, A-B-A one is next [T-6]. This has "A"s based on a captivating, binary thought with a tuneful first part [00:00] adjoining a twitchy second [00:51]. They bracket a confident "B" [02:42-04:14], and the scoring for the final "A" [04:15] includes a bassoon as well as a horn, thereby bringing things to a somewhat dreamy conclusion.
Subsequently, an "Allegro molto (Very fast)" Scherzo [T-7] juxtaposes vivacious segments [00:00, 01:55 & 03:10] featuring a scampering, whimsical number (SW) [00:00] with playful, trio ones [00:43 & 02:12], which have a nursery-rhyme-like ditty (NR) [00:43]. Then an NR-SW-based coda [04:04] ends the movement forcefully.
The concluding "Allegro non tanto (Fast, but not too much so)" [T-8] seems to tell a story (see the album notes), and comes off like another theme-and-variations (see above). This one opens with an excited main subject (EM) [00:00] that's emphatically repeated [00:28].
EM is followed by six variational treatments, the first three being dancelike [01:02], sprightly [02:23] and of a contrapuntally-laced, austere nature [03:15]. Subsequently, there are playful [04:35], martial [05:04] as well as frenetic [06:42] ones. Then the latter bridges into a jubilant, EM-based, coda [07:09], which ends the work triumphantly with a final, "So there!" cadence [07:58].
The Symphony No. 2 in D minor (1835) opens with an "Allegro maestoso (Fast and majestic)", sonata-form movement [T-1]. This begins with a headstrong theme (HS) [00:02] that's repeated [00:42] and followed by a complementary section [01:12]. Then HS [01:35] invokes a dramatic development [02:16] having flighty woodwind passages [03:29-03:39], and a fetching recapitulation [04:13] with an HS-derived coda [05:54] that brings it to a powerful conclusion.
A "Vivace (Fast)" Scherzo is next [T-2]. This features an opening idea [00:00] that could well accompany a cavalry charge in some classic Western film. Here three vivacious episodes [00:00, 04:32 & 07:00], each with a fugal tidbit [01:43-04:31, 04:50-05:07 & 07:19-07:36], surround two, tuneful Trios [02:49-04:31 & 05:56-06:59] and end things full circle.
The succeeding "Andantino grazioso (Leisurely and graceful)" one [T-3] is as billed. More specifically, it begins with a couple of delightful thoughts [00:00 & 00:16] that are food for a bucolic serenade.
Then there's a theme-and-variations-like, final movement [T-4], which opens with a songful, "Adagio espressivo (Slow and expressive)" main subject (SA) [00:01]. SA is followed by two "Allegro (Fast)" variational treatments. These take the form of a timpani-pizzicato-prefaced, skittish offering [01:15] and a brass-heralded, martial one [02:37].
Subsequently, we get two "Adagio (Slow)" variants. The first is subdued [03:17], and after some timpani taps [04:10], there's a reflective one [04:12]. Then with a few more timpani taps [04:39], the pace turns "Allegro (Fast)", and the composer serves up respectively skittering [04:43] and martial [06:03] treatments. The latter calls up a triumphant variant [07:07) with a horn-introduced coda [07:33] that ends the work victoriously.
This disc closes with Loewe's Themisto Overture (1834-35) [T-9] from his incidental music for German dramatist Ernst Raupach's (1784-1852) eponymous tragedy of 1835. The play is based on Greek mythology concerning King Athamas, and has a highly dramatic plot (see the album notes), the spirit of which is succinctly captured in this four-and-a-half-minute piece.
That said, it begins with a "Grave (Serious)" introduction consisting of three fatalistic, fortissimo outbursts [00:00, 00:11 & 00:23]. These give way to an "Allegro assai (Very fast)", scurrying segment [00:40] that invokes a frantic, harried theme [FH] [00:57].
Then FH transitions into a lovely amorous melody [01:46], which is briefly explored. After that, a contentious, FH-based episode [02:54] ends with two chords for full orchestra [04:11], which bring the overture to a theatrical conclusion.
These performances are by the Jenaer Philharmonie based in Jena, Germany, 80 miles south of the composer's hometown. Under their general music director, Swiss conductor Simon Gaudenz (b. 1974), they deliver emotionally charged, superb accounts of Carl's dramatic music.
The recordings were made in the Volkshaus Jena from 17 through 20 September 2019. They project a generous sonic image in an impressive venue, and are generally good. More specifically, the orchestral timbre is characterized by highs, which are at times somewhat shrill, a rich midrange and clean bass. Those with sound systems favoring upper frequencies and having equalization or tone controls may find it necessary to tweak the latter to tame the former.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P230429)
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Mayer, E.: Symphony No. 3 "Military" in C major, Symphony No. 7 in F minor; De Vriend/NDRP [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
It's been a little over two years since German composer Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) appeared in these pages (see 28 February 2021), and we welcome her back with this recent CPO release. Here they continue their invaluable, ongoing exploration of her music (see CPO 555 029-2, 555 094-2 & 555 293-2), and give us two more of Emilie's eight symphonies. Both are four-movement works, and this version of the 7th seems to be the only readily available one currently on disc.
By way of background, Mayer was born in the town of Friedland located in what's now the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, 80 miles north of Berlin. Unfortunately, her mother died when she was only two. Then at five, although she was given a grand piano and began music lessons, young Emilie seemed destined for a domestic life.
However, when she was twenty-eight, Dad committed suicide, thereby leaving her a substantial inheritance. Seemingly this was cause for Fraulein Mayer to turn to music. Consequently, in 1841 she moved to Szczecin, Poland, some 50 miles east-southeast of Friedland, and studied with Carl Loewe (1796-1869; see above). He expressed great admiration for her talent, which made her all the more determined to follow a lifelong career in music.
At Carl's urging, she moved to Berlin during 1847 and continued her compositional studies along with additional courses in counterpoint as well as instrumentation. Then 1850 saw her works increasingly played, and Mayer was appointed co-director of what's now the Berlin State Opera.
Not long thereafter, she travelled extensively throughout Germany, France, Belgium and Austria in conjunction with performances of her music. However, in 1886 Emilie returned to Berlin and once again became an important figure in that city's cultural life. She'd live out her remaining years there, and leave a substantial oeuvre across most genres.
The program begins with her Symphony No. 3 in C major. This dates from around 1850 and bears the descriptive title "Sinfonie Militair (Military Symphony)" -- shades of Haydn's (1732-1809) Military Symphony (No. 100 in G major, Hob I/100; 1793-94).
Mayer's first movement [T-1] has an "Adagio (Slow)" introduction [00:02] hinting at a martial, cocky theme (MC) that's soon to come. Then the pace turns "Allegro con brio (Lively with spirit)" as a full version of MC [01:11] invokes the sonata-form remainder of this movement.
MC is repeated [01:39] and followed by a playful countermelody (MP) [01:51], which is explored [02:05]. Subsequently, the foregoing ideas resurface [03:31], thereby invoking an engaging development. Then MC initiates a dramatic recap [06:55] with an MP-MC-based coda [09:24] that ends the movement heroically.
The next "Un poco adagio (Somewhat slow)" one [T-2] features a binary theme whose first part is a sighing idea (S1) [00:01] with a fortissimo outburst (FO) [01:14] that adjoins a wistful second thought (W2) [01:21] having another FO [01:46]. The latter wanes into an anxious variant of S1 [02:50] and a serene version of W2 [04:03]. Then a pastoral treatment of S1 [05:37] brings things to a tranquil conclusion.
An "Allegro (Fast)" scherzo follows [T-3]. This opens with a scampering section (SS) based on respectively coy [00:00] and whimsical [00:15] ideas. SS is repeated [00:43] and bridges vivaciously into a trio-like episode (TE) [02:15-03:13] featuring a somewhat amorous melody [02:17]. This is followed by a commanding version of SS [03:14] and a hymnlike TE [04:34]. Then an increasingly frenetic SS [05:31] ends the movement much in the same spirit as it began.
The scoring for the work's "Finale Militaire" [T-4] includes piccolo, two additional trombones, triangle, cymbals and a bass drum, which are instruments typically associated with military bands. It has a hesitant "Adagio (Slow)" preface [00:01] followed by bass-drum-accented, vivacious passages [00:42] that begin this movement's "Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited)" remaining moments.
They evoke a plucky march (PM) [01:53], which calls up a variety of subsequent treatments. These range from forceful [02:17] to searching [02:51], whimsical [03:31], flighty [03:58], boisterous [04:34], gentle [05:14], optimistic [05:29], confident [05:59] and courageous [06:28]. Then the last one wanes into a spirited, PM-derived coda [07:37] that ends the work victoriously.
It's followed by Emilie's Symphony No. 7 in F minor, which was probably written during 1855 and/or 1856. This has an "Allegro agitato (Fast and excited)", sonata-form first movement [T-5], whose exposition begins with an agitated prefatory thought (A1) [00:01] hinting at a valorous theme (V2) that soon appears [00:46].
V2 bridges into a winsome tune (W3) [01:38], after which all three foregoing ideas are reworked [02:47], thereby initiating an antsy development [05:24]. Subsequently, A1 [07:19] launches a recapitulation having a valiant version of W3 [08:32]. Then A1 introduces a V2-W3-based coda [09:47] that closes the movement with a fortissimo "So there!" cadence [10:48].
The "Adagio (Slow)" one [T-6] is a theme-and-variations-like offering with an opening, funereal, two-part main subject (FT) [00:01 & 00:32]. Then FT undergoes some developmental treatments, the first three being respectively despairing [00:57], playful [04:40] and belligerent [06:12]. After that a searching fourth [07:04] adjoins a tranquil, FT-based coda [09:09], which brings the movement to a quiet conclusion.
An "Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited)" scherzo is next [T-7]. This has scurrying sections (SS) [00:00, 03:37 & 05:08) that alternate with more tuneful, trio-like ones [01:46, 04:22 & 05:35]. Then an SS-reminiscent coda [06:03] ends it full circle.
The rondoesque "Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited)" finale [T-8] starts with a flighty, attention-getting preface [00:00]. This is followed by a comely, rollicking theme (CR) [00:11] that will recur throughout the movement, but for now it bridges into a songful episode [01:03]. Then bits of CR [01:31] invoke martial developmental passages [01:39].
Subsequently, CR [02:08] parents an engaging section [03:29] with belligerent [03:59] as well as peaceful [04:25] moments. Then CR reappears [04:50] and calls up an increasingly excited section. It has a couple of dramatic pauses plus a final reminder of CR [05:13], which brings the symphony and disc to a rousing conclusion.
A coproduction of CPO and Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), this release features the NDR Radiophilharmonie (NDRP), which is based in Hannover (Hanover), some 150 miles west of Berlin. Under versatile, Dutch-conductor-violinist Jan Willem de Vreind (b. 1962), the NDRP delivers magnificent performances of both symphonies, making a strong case for this lady's music.
These recordings took place 7-11 March 2022 at NDR's Large Broadcasting Hall (Große Sendesaal) in Hannover (Hanover), and present a broad sonic image in spacious surroundings. The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a good midrange and just the right amount of bass. Soundwise this release is about as good as conventional discs get.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y230428)
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Rauchenecker: Symphony No. 1, Sinfonisches Tonwerk imů (w 1 chbr wk); Griffiths/MusikWint/Bohren/Sarastro Qt [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
On the heels of that Carl Loewe (1796-1869) release above, the enterprising CPO label gives us three works by German composer-conductor-violinist Georg Wilhelm Rauchenecker (1844-1906). He was born in Munich, some 350 miles south-southwest of Berlin and studied composition with Franz Lachner (1803-1890; see 30 November 2018). At fourteen (1858) Georg took a job as a violinist with a local court orchestra.
Then in 1860 he went to France where he began a very successful musical career as a soloist and conductor. However, Rauckenecker was a German citizen, and with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), he was forced to leave France.
Georg went to Switzerland, where he held a number of outstanding musical positions, and met Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who soon became a good friend. Incidentally, Georg was one of the thirteen musicians who on Christmas morning of 1870 performed Richard's Siegfried Idyll (WWV 103; 1870) on the stairs of his villa in Tribschen. This was a birthday present Wagner had written for his future wife Cosima, in honor of their son Siegfried (1869-1930).
The year 1884 saw Rauchenecker move back to Germany, where he became conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. This was due in large part to the superb reception that the symphony included here got when he'd performed it there the preceeding year. What's more, he also taught at the Stern Conservatory.
Then in 1885 Georg moved to Kassel, some 200 miles west-southwest of Berlin. However, not long thereafter he took up residence in what's now known as Wuppertal located 100 air miles to the west. Rauchenecker spent his remaining years there conducting as well as teaching, and died of pneumonia brought on by a heavy workload plus one too many drinks. That said, he left around 120 known works across all genres, and a couple of his orchestral ones plus a chamber piece are presented on this CD.
The feature attraction here is his Symphony No. 1 in F minor, which was written during 1875 and would be followed by two more (1885 & 1903-04). Unlike those by fellow countryman Carl Loewe (1796-1869; see above), this is absolute, German Romantic music and somewhat reminiscent of Brahms's (1833-1897) four efforts in the genre (1854-1885).
Having four movements, we must first note that the album booklet's inner title page gives incorrect markings as well as timings for each. However, the right ones will be given as we discuss them. That said, the opening "Allegro ma non troppo (Lively, but not too fast)" [T-2, 11'38] is sonata-rondo-like.
Its exposition begins with an affecting, profound theme (AP) [00:01] that's repeated [00:56]. Then the horn introduces a related, songful melody (AS) [01:49], which will recur throughout the piece. However, for now it invokes wisps of AP [02:38] that blossom into a radiant version of AS [03:07].
This wanes into bits of AP [03:52], which initiate a moving, extended development having heroic [05:17], delicate [08:06] and glorious [09:25] reminders of AS. Then AP begins a recapitulation [10:15] with a triumphant, AS-based coda [11:01] that brings the movement to a magnificent conclusion.
Subsequently, there's an "Adagio con espressione (Slow with expression)" one [T-3, 8'41], which features a lovely opening thought [00:01] and an antsy ditty heard a little later in its scherzoesque midriff [02:40-07:06]. Then both ideas are food for sublime, closing passages [07:07].
Next we get an "Allegro impetuoso (Fast and impetuous)" marked third [T-4, 5'38] that's very much as advertised. Moreover, an initial, captivating, belligerent theme (CB) [00:00] is repeated [00:42] and followed by a related, folk-song-like one (CF) [01:06]. Then CB initiates a development of both ideas [01:56] as well as a brief CB-CF-based coda [05:06] that ends things determinedly.
The last movement [T-5, 10'19] has a "Moderato (Moderately)" marked introduction [00:00] with piquant cor anglais passages and hints of a vivacious, jittery number (VJ) that's soon to come. It's followed by an "Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited)" full version of VJ [01:50], which begins the exposition for the sonata-form remainder of this movement.
Here VJ is explored and succeeded by a related, "Un poco ritenuto (Somewhat reserved)" marchlike theme (VM) [03:01] that's forcefully repeated [03:41, 04:07 & 04:28], thereby ending the exposition. Then subdued, transitory passages invoke a tender VJ [04:46], which begins a superb, contrapuntally spiced development of itself as well as VM. And speaking of VM, it resurfaces [08:03], initiating a glorious recapitulation with a VJ-based coda [09:58] that closes the work exultantly.
The other orchestral selection presented here dates from 1880 and bears the lengthy title Symphonisches Tonwerk im Stil einer Ouvertüre (Symphonic Tone Work in the Style of an Overture) [T-1]. Like the above Symphony, this is absolute music of German Romantic disposition with no underlying story. Structurally speaking it's probably best described as a sonata-form creation preceded by a long introduction.
This begins with a brass-fanfare-ridden preface [00:02] that hints at a proud, heroic theme (PH), which soon follows [01:31]. PH is explored and succeeded by a related, frisky number (PF) [03:20] that's examined. Subsequently, PF wanes into a PH-related songful tune (PS) [04:48] and a triumphant reminder of PH (PT) [05:39].
PT starts the exposition of the remaining, sonata-form portion of this piece, and is followed by a valiant take on PH (PV) [06:36] as well as a lyrical version of PF (PL) [07:54]. Then PL is explored and initiates [08:43] a dramatic, extended development of the foregoing material, which proceeds directly into a PV-triggered, recapitulation [11:11]. The latter has a PH-based coda [13:37] with a last, jolly hint of PS [14:19] that ends the piece jubilantly.
During his earlier years Rauckenecker made appearances as a virtuoso violinist, and the closing selection, his Orientalische Fantasie (Oriental Fantasy) of 1865 [T-6], was a showpiece written for such occasions. Originally scored for violin and piano, he soon penned a version that replaced the keyboard accompaniment with a string quartet (not "Quintet" as indicated in the album notes), and that is what's featured here.
Once again this is absolute, German Romantic music, and the word "Orientalische (Oriental)" is somewhat misleading as there are no explicit Eastern influences. On that note, back in the middle 1800s concert audiences were quite taken with anything exotic, and the composer may well have had that in mind when he named it.
At 13 minutes, it's best described as a violin concerto where the orchestra has been replaced by a string quartet. It opens with an "Andante con espressione (Flowing with expression)" introductory segment [00:01] having a comely, swaying theme (CS) for all [00:20]. CS is followed by shimmering quartet passages [01:45], over which the soloist plays recitative-like ones [01:48]. These wane into memories of CS [03:01] that turn anguished [03:33], and then [beginning at 4:04] this section concludes in the same spirit it began.
An "Allegro con fuoco (Cheerful and with fire)" episode is next [04:42], where the soloist soon plays a CS-related, vivacious ditty (CV) [05:06] that's followed by a tuneful countermelody (CT) [05:33]. The latter is explored [05:50], repeated [06:17] and transitions "più lento (more slowly)" [06:36] into a thrilling CT-based "perpetuum mobile (perpertual motion)" segment (PM) [06:48] with virtuosic moments for the soloist. This ends expeditiously and is succeeded by a brief pause.
Subsequently, there's a "meno mosso (less agitated)" morsel [07:35] that introduces a CS-related, wistful thought (CW) [07:50], which makes an increasingly agitated bridge into CV [10:02] and wisps of PM [10:01]. These invoke remembrances of CT [10:28] that call up a big-tune version of CS [11:02], after which more PM passages [11:28] invoke a grand cadenza for the soloist [11:56]. This is followed by an excited, CT-tinged coda [12:35] that ends the work and this disc in merry fashion.
All these performances feature Swiss musicians. More specifically, violinist Sebastian Bohren (b. 1987) and the Sarastro Quartett (first-violinist Ralph Orendain, second-violinist Roman Conrad, violist Marie-Luise Hermann, cellist Lehel Donáth) deliver a technically accomplished, highly moving account of the closing chamber selection.
As for the preceding orchestral ones, Swiss-resident, British-conductor Howard Griffiths (b. 1950) leads the Musikkollegium Orchestra of Wintherthur, which is located just northeast of Zürich. Together they give us superb readings of music that in lesser hands could come off as more mundane fare.
The recordings were a coproduction of CPO and Swiss Radio (SRF). The chamber one [T-6] was made 21 September 2020 at Radiostudio Zürich, and the others [T-1 & T-2 thru 5] took place 26-29 October 2020 in the Stadthaus Wintherthur.
Despite the different times, locations and numbers of musicians, they present consistently satisfying sonic images in pleasant surroundings. What's more, as regards the chamber selection, there's no feeling of that confinement sometimes associated with studio recordings.
The orchestral timbre of the opening two works is characterized by pleasant highs, a good midrange and clean lows. As for the closing one, all five strings are well captured. Everything considered the sound here is about as good as it gets on conventional CDs.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y230427)
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