CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 OCTOBER 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.
Adam, A.: Orfa (Romantic Ballet in Two Acts); Salvi/Sofia PO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
It's been too long since French composer Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) was mentioned in these pages (see 31 May 2015)! However, he makes a welcome return with this new Naxos release featuring the penultimate of his fourteen ballets, which is titled Orfa (1852). What's more, it's the world premiere recording based on a new edition of the original manuscript. The underlying story is riddled with Norse mythology, and the album notes have a wealth of information regarding the work, so we'll just hit the high points.
Act I is set on a snowy plain near Iceland's capital of Reykjavík, and in the foreground there's an altar with a statue of the Nordic god of fire known as Loki. That said, it opens with an "Introduction" titled "Le Rendezvous (The Gathering)" [T-1]. This gets off to a commanding start as some young people including the maiden Orfa as well as her fiancé Lodbrog assemble [00:01]. Then they do six dances, which range from sprightly [01:33], to waltz-like [04:41], fickle [06:12], vivacious [07:27], searching [08:27] and wistful [10:48], the latter having an edgy tidbit [12:29] that brings things to a quick ending.
Subsequently, there's a "Pas de trois" called "Les Scandinavians (The Scandinavians)" [T-2]. It's a jolly number with five winsome episodes [00:00, 01:13, 02:10, 03:07 & 04:24], where they celebrate their Nordic heritage, and followed by a "Pas de deux" known as "Les Fiancés (The Betrothed)" [T-3] for Orfa and Lodbrog. The latter has a dramatic preface [00:00] that adjoins six engaging segments [00:25, 02:19, 03:23, 04:18, 06:34 & 07:16].
These are succeeded by a "Mazurka" titled "Les Traîneaux (The Sledges)" [T-4], which is a spirited dance, where it would seem more people arrive on sleds and are a source of entertainment. At this point the scenario becomes very involved, but it's summarized in the album notes, so from here on we'll just discuss the music.
That said, the next "Apréz le divertissement (After the Entertainment)" [T-5] begins hesitantly [00:00] but becomes suddenly agitated [02:36], thereby giving way to a tranquil segment [03:21]. However, the latter escalates into blusterous moments [05:15] followed by a frenetic dance (FD) [05:29] and laidback passages [07:09]. Then FD resumes [08:21], eventually calling up a triumphant tidbit [10:03] that ends this act dramatically.
Act II takes place at the site of Loki's palace, which is located on the edge of an Icelandic volcano. The first of its three parts is titled "Les Séductions (The Seductions)" [T-6], and the album's back cover seemingly implies it's in four segments, but gives no indications as to where they start. Anyway, for what it's worth, these are respectively titled "L'Orgueil (Pride)", "Écho d'Orfa (Impersonation of Orfa)", "Écho de la Gourmandise (Impersonation of Gluttony)" and "Orfa et la Luxure (Orfa and Luxuriousness)".
The music here is theme-and-variations-like, and gets off to an engaging start [00:00] featuring a gentle number (GN) [00:21], that's the underlying, melodic idea for all the subsequent dances in this part. Then there's a startling, drum-roll [03:00], followed by four dances that are sequentially tender [03:06], delicate with a solo violin (DV) [05:48], rousing [08:04] as well as complacent [08:37].
Then DV returns [09:58] giving rise to four more that are respectively antsy [10:57], whimsical [12:05], commanding [12:53] and waltz-like [13:54]. The latter bridges via solo clarinet passages [14:47] into a searching one [15:05], which ends this part tranquilly. It also calls up the "Deuxième partie du deuxième acte (Second Part of Second Act)" [T-7] that begins with a mazurka-like ditty [00:00] having hints of DV. This is succeeded by scurrying [01:12], majestic [02:00] and flighty [02:50] moments.
Subsequently, there's a break [03:47], after which regal fanfares [03:49] herald a proud dance [04:11] that ebbs into a melancholy number having weary winds [06:23]. But this transitions into tripping passages [08:07] that end in a pause. Then a nostalgic thought [08:51] invokes harp-and-cello-enhanced, celestial moments [09:52], which bring this to a serene conclusion.
The third part titled "Pas de deux et Apothéose (Duet and Apotheosis)" [T-8] begins with three fortissimo chords [00:00] and a harp-introduced, delightful, DV-reminiscent episode also featuring a violin [00:17]. This is followed by a magical, scampering dance with more violin [03:09]. Then a proud, deific segment [04:09] gives way to related jaunty [05:27] as well as flighty [06:27] ones.
After that a cocky dance [07:09 & 08:45] brackets a tuneful number [07:57-08:44], and there's a transitional pause succeeded by what would seem to be that "Apothéose (Apotheosis)" [09:49]. This begins pensively and builds, thereby invoking a beatific final segment [10:48], which closes the work triumphantly.
This performance is by the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) under Scottish-Italian conductor Dario Salvi (b. 1975). They deliver a magnificent account of a balletic rarity, which is all the more colorful for some superb playing by violinist Kalina Hristova [T-6, 8], who's the SPO's concertmaster, and harpist Vesela Trichkova [T-1, 5, 7, 8].
The recording was made on 15 [T-2, 3, 4, 5] and 16 [T-1, 6, 7, 8] April 2022 at Bulgaria Hall in Sofia. It presents a wide sonic image in an enriching venue with the soloists well captured and highlighted. The overall sound is characterized by highs that are quite acceptable for a conventional CD. As for the midrange and bass, they're both very good. Audiophiles won't be disappointed!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y231031)
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Bruk: Orch Wks V4 (Sym No. 15 "Reflections", Sym No. 16 "The River Dnieper"); Resnis/LithNat SO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Here's a welcome fourth volume in the Toccata label's ongoing survey of Ukrainian-born, Russian-trained Fridrich Bruk's (b. 1937) orchestral works (see 31 December 2022). It gives us two more of the twenty-three symphonies he's written to date, and since the album booklet has detailed analyses of them, we'll just hit their high points. Suffice to say at the outset that both are scored for large forces with elaborate percussion, and these are world premiere recordings.
The program opens with his Symphony No. 15 "Reflections" (2015). The composer says in essence that each of its three movements is programmatic, but their underlying stories are left to those hearing them.
"Reflection I" [T-1] starts with animated moments [00:00] that give way to pensive ones [01:39]. The latter wax and wane into wistful thoughts 02:42]. However, they suddenly stop and we get a troubled tidbit [03:12] with terrifying tam-tam strokes [03:46].
The latter call up delicate passages [04:05], which turn increasingly raucous and evoke a flighty utterance [05:36]. This ebbs into a break followed by restrained thoughts [06:12 & 07:31] that intensify. Then after a pause, there's a martial episode [09:12] with more of those tam-tam strokes [10:19]. It's succeeded by two somewhat lyrical passages [10:39 & 11:36], which close the movement uneventfully.
"Reflection II" [T-2] has an uneasy beginning [00:00] that builds, but suddenly ends. Then a brief break ushers in pleading passages [03:04], which become intense [05:30] with pounding drums [06:19 & 07:02] and more of that tam-tam [07:15]. It's followed by a dead silence as well as peaceful reminiscences of the opening measures [07:37]. These are marimba-flavored and bring things to a pastoral ending.
"Reflection III" [T-3] opens vivaciously [00:00] and features some roaring drums [00:58]. The latter then wane into restrained passages [01:09], which close with that tam-tam. Then subdued passages [02:15] adjoin a martial episode [02:58] with an explosive finish [04:38].
Subsequently, there's a peaceful dancelike number [04:44], which waxes and wanes into memories [06:58] of the opening measures. These become increasingly frenetic and have an arresting break quickly succeeded by a wild coda [07:48] that brings the work to a zealous conclusion.
Bruk's Symphony No. 16 "The River Dnieper" (2016) follows. It has four movements, which reflect the composer's love for Ukraine, where he was born in Kharkiv and would spend his childhood. Incidentally, this release couldn't be more timely, considering that country's ongoing conflict with Russia. But returning to the work at hand, the extensive percussion section includes a celesta and marimba as well as a piano.
The first movement titled "The Interrupted Melody" [T-4] has a calm, itinerant opening [00:00]. Then the pace quickens [02:20] with skittish segments [03:18, 04:56 & 05:56] that make a timpanic transition [07:53] into troubled, yearning moments [08:11 & 08:57]. These call up a capricious tidbit [10:07] followed by pensive afterthoughts [11:18, 11:32 & 12:56]. They adjoin a closing, percussively-spiced coda [13:08] with fractious, final measures [13:42].
Next there's "The Story of Chernobyl" [T-5]. This is a haunting, scherzoesque piece, which is Bruk's musical commentary on the nuclear calamity that occurred there in (1986). Here highly agitated outer sections [00:00 & 03:37] bracket a grim trio [01:22-03:36] and end things full circle.
Subsequently, we get "The River Dnieper" [T-6], which begins [00:00] with reminders of the foregoing movement that suggest a quickly flowing, busy waterway. These wane into a songlike section [02:45] having relaxed passages respectively highlighting piano [05:06] and marimba [05:12].
All this becomes increasingly forceful with more of that ubiquitous tam-tam [06:30], but suddenly quits. Then there's a chaotic episode [06:53] having recordings of birdsong and rushing water, which slowly dies away. It's succeeded by subdued passages [08:13] that close this movement somewhat sorrowfully.
However, "Storm and Enlightenment" [T-7] has a tempestuous opening [00:00] with pious, chiming passages (PC) for piano and tubular bells [00:48-01:30]. These give way to some chromatically spiced ones [01:31] that adjoin a sighing, contrapuntal segment [02:26].
The latter is soon followed by a captivating, cello-introduced episode [02:58]. This has contemplative moments respectively featuring the clarinet [03:15], marimba [03:35], bassoon [03:51], trumpet [04:27] and piano [04:53]. Then there are ethereal passages [05:21] that seemingly represent "Enlightenment". These gather strength, thereby calling up transcendent, PC-reminiscent memories [07:10] that end this work and disc affectingly.
Latvian conductor Imants Resnis (b. 1949) and the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (LNSO) deliver meticulously crafted performances of two colorfully scored, symphonic rarities. Maestro Resnis's attention to detail brings out their many structural subtleties (see the album booklet). They leave one hoping that he'll soon give us more of Bruk's efforts in this genre that have yet to appear on disc.
The recordings took place during September 2015 [T-1, 2, 3] and June 2016 [T-4, 5, 6, 7] at Congress Hall located in Vilnius, which is the capital of Lithuania. They present a consistently spacious sonic image in reverberant surroundings with the many solo instruments well captured and highlighted against the other LNSO musicians.
As both works call for large forces with elaborate percussion, the overall orchestral timbre is characterized by vivid highs, a rich midrange and clean bass that goes down to rock bottom. All this will challenge the best sound systems, and the release should particularly appeal to audiophiles liking wetter sonics. Those preferring a drier, more focused symphonic image should try auditioning it on headphones.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P231030)
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Heise: Stg Qts V1 (Nos. 1, 2 & 3); Nordic Stg Qt [Dacapo]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
With this recent Dacapo release, Danish composer Peter Arnold Heise (1830-1879) makes his long overdue debut in these pages. Born in Copenhagen, he came from a cultivated family. Young Peter started studying music with Andreas Peter Berggreen (1801-1880), and was writing songs by the age of 13.
Despite his parent's desires for him to become a lawyer, Heise went on to further his musical education in Germany between 1852 and 1853. He'd attend what's now known as the University of Music and Theatre "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" in Leipzig, where one of his instructors was fellow countryman, composer Niels Gade (1817-1890; see 31 March 2018).
In 1857 he became a teacher and organist at the Sorø Academy located in Sorø, Denmark, some fifty miles west-southwest of Copenhagen. And the year 1859 saw him marry a very wealthy lady named Vilhelmine (aka Ville; 1838-1912).
Then in 1865, Peter retired and they moved to Copenhagen, where he devoted himself to composing right up until his untimely demise at 49. Heise would leave a large body of works, most of them being voice-oriented. These include many songs that became very popular, as well as the opera Drot og marsk (King and Marshal) of 1875-77, which some consider the finest Danish one written during the romantic period.
As for his six string quartets, apparently the scores were kept by a cellist friend, and when he died in 1909 Vilhelmine put them away. Consequently, they didn't start resurfacing for concert performances until 1931. Then it wouldn't be until 2022 that Toccata made the world premiere recordings of all six. The first three are included on this volume, and the others will soon follow on a second.
All of the ones here are four-movement works with the Quartet No. 1 in B minor having been written during the winter of 1851-52. There's a classical concision about this, and it begins with an "Allegro (Fast)" sonata form movement [T-5]. This has a vivacious first idea [00:01] and more lyrical second [01:01]. Then the foregoing is repeated [01:48] and followed by a somewhat naive development [03:31]. But young Peter serves up a captivating recapitulation [04:10], which brings the movement to a quick conclusion.
Subsequently, there's a "Larghetto (Rather Slow)" one [T-6] that's a delicate offering. Here songlike sections reminiscent of Schubert (1797-1828) [00:01, 01:28, 03:20, 05:32] alternate with ones that bring Mozart (1756-1791) to mind [00:57, 02:27, 04:51], and then it concludes tranquilly.
The next "Scherzo" [T-7] is marked "Prestissimo (Very quick)" and has vivacious outer sections [00:00, 02:47]. They bracket a serene, folklike trio [01:15-02:46] somewhat reminiscent of Haydn (1732-1809), and end the movement full circle.
After that there's an "Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited)" fourth one [T-8], which starts with a nervous theme [00:00]. This is the subject of a consummate fugue [00:22] with a coda [05:58] that ends the work excitedly.
The Quartet No. 2 in G major (1852] has an "Allegro molto vivace (Very fast and vivacious)", sonata form first movement [T-1]. More specifically, the exposition opens with a scampering theme (S1) [00:00). This is explored [00:26], thereby giving way to a more lyrical second one [01:08]. Then S1 initiates a busy development [01:38] and thrilling recapitulation [04:12] having an arresting coda [05:25], which ends things with a decisive "So There!" cadence [05:54].
The subsequent "Largo (Slow)" [T-2] is of doleful disposition. Here lachrymose passages [00:01, 03:11, 05:24] alternate with sobbing ones [02:26, 04:53] and bring this movement to a pizzicato, teardrop-like conclusion. [06:18].
Then Heise serves up an "Allegro (Fast)", scherzoesque one [T-3] with charming "Menuetto (Minuet)" outer sections [00:00 & 01:59]. They hug a timid trio tidbit [01:22-01:58] somewhat reminiscent of Beethoven (1770-1827), and close the movement full circle.
Its "Allegro molto (Very fast)" fourth movement [T-4] is another sonata-form-like one. The opening exposition (OE) has three ideas that are respectively jumpy (J1) [00:01], scurrying [00:40) and haughty [01:05]. Then OE is repeated [01:28] after which a wistful version of J1 [02:55] initiates a serene development. This is followed by a frenetic recap of OE [04:16] that ends the quartet jovially.
The Quartet No. 3 in B flat major (1852-53) is the most accomplished one on this release. The first movement [T-9] like those of its predecessors is in sonata form. It has a "Moderato assai (Very moderate)" introduction [00:01] hinting at a lively idea (L1).
L1 soon appears [01:25] and starts the remaining "Allegro assai vivace (Very fast and vivacious)" portion, and is followed by a tuneful thought [02:46]. Then the foregoing is repeated [03:16], thereby calling up a development [05:07] having a lively bagpipe-like moment [05:25-05:49]. And after that, L1 evokes a rousing recapitulation [06:24] with a comely coda [08:25], which brings things to a pleasant conclusion.
The next "Scherzo" [T-10] is marked "Presto agitato (Very fast and excited)". It has spunky outer sections [00:00, 03:42] that surround a songlike one [01:57-03:41] and end the movement very much like it started.
Then there's an anguished, "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)" third [T-11], which opens with weeping [00:01] and sighing [00:52] passages. These give way to a brief, more hopeful spot [02:26], but sadness returns [03:20] bringing things to a dark conclusion.
The "Molto allegro (Very fast)" marked "Finale" [T-12] has rapid shifts between minor and major that portend the music of Heise's younger compatriot Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). These create a sense of urgency throughout it.
Structurally speaking, this resembles a sonata rondo, and begins with an impelling thematic nexus (TN). Then restless [01:39], airy [02:32] and assertive [03:03] variants of TN initiate a captivating development [03:21] with a closing violin cadenza [05:22]. The latter is followed by an ebullient, recapitulative coda [05:22], which ends the work and disc with a big 🙂.
The Nordic String Quartet delivers letter-perfect accounts of all three works. Its musicians (violinists Heiðrun Peterson, Mads Haugsted Hanse, violist Daniel Eklund, cellist Lea Emilie Brødal) exhibit an attention to dynamics, phrasing and rhythmic detail that make a convincing case for this music, which in lesser hands would come off as more ordinary fare. Hopefully their second volume with the remaining three quartets will be as good.
These recordings were made at the Garnisonskirken in Copenhagen on 24-25 February (No. 2), 12-13 June (No. 1) and 11-12 September (No. 3) 2022. They present a consistently generous, well-focused sonic image in surroundings that enrich the sound. The instruments are generously spaced from left to right in order of increasing size. They're also well captured and balanced against one another.
The overall string tone is pleasing. More specifically, the highs are as good as they get on conventional discs, while the midrange and bass are superb. Taking everything into consideration, this disc earns an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y231029)
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Melchers, M.: Symphony, La Kermesse, Élégie; Martín/Gävle SO [Ondine]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Swedish composer Melcher Melchers (aka Henrik Melcher Svensson; 1882-1961) was born in Stockholm and as a 14-year-old (1896) began violin lessons at the Royal College of Music (RCM). He graduated in 1903 as a fully qualified music teacher and violinist, after which he played in various local orchestras, and studied composition with the eminent Swedish contrapuntalist Johan Lindegren (1842-1908).
However, 1905 saw him move abroad to further his musical education in Paris, where he'd live for the next fourteen years. Melchers began his career there by giving music lessons, and in the 1908-1912 time-frame studied with Georges Caussade (1873-1936) at the Conservatoire de Paris. He then became quite active in Parisian music circles and got to know Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983) as well as the other members of Les Six.
The year 1919 found him moving back to Stockholm, and then during 1921 he studied conducting in Brussels as well as Sondershausen, some 100 air miles southwest of Berlin. But after that, Melchers returned to Stockholm, where he taught and became a member of the RCM faculty (1925) right up until his retirement in 1947. He then devoted the rest of his life to composing; however, as of this writing there's no comprehensive catalog of his works.
This release begins with the world premiere recording (WPR) of his La Kermesse [T-1] (1920) that's a symphonic poem inspired by Peter Paul Rubens' (1577-1640) eponymous painting (1635-38). It pictures an ebullient, rustic festival in Flanders, and accordingly has a vivacious preface [00:02] hinting at an elegant, waltzlike theme (EW) that soon appears [00:58].
Subsequently, EW undergoes a spirited exploration and makes a joyful return [03:42]. The latter is succeeded by a fugal transition [05:53] into a subdued, EW-based episode [07:50]. This adjoins whimsical passages [09:24] followed by a joyous remembrance of the opening measures [11:47] that ends the piece with a festive flash of EW [12:58].
Another WPR follows, namely Melchers' symphonic poem titled Élégie (Op. 15; 1919) [T-2], which was written in memory of his mother, who'd just passed away. Consequently, it opens with sad passages [00:01] having tearful [02:57] as well as weeping moments [04:49] that build into a compelling, grief-stricken episode [06:30]. Then the foregoing is followed by melancholy thoughts [07:22], which would seem to be fond memories of "Mom" that bring this selection to a nostalgic conclusion.
Next up, the feature attraction, namely his sole Symphony in D minor (Op. 19; 1925). Incidentally, you may find it brings to mind César Franck's (1822-1890) only work in this genre (1887-88), which is not that surprising as he was one of the composers that Melchers most admired during his years in France.
The first of its three movements is an "Allegro moderato (Moderately fast)" one [T-3]. This has a troubled preface [00:01] hinting at a restless idea (R1) that soon follows [01:36]. Then R1 is explored and succeeded by a related, pastoral thought (P2) [02:25].
P2 is contemplated, becomes quite forceful [03:48] and ebbs into a sinister return of R1 [04:32], which initiates an extensive, dramatic development of both ideas. Then R1 resurfaces [10:45], thereby starting a thrilling recapitulation of the foregoing. This waxes into a forceful version of R1 [15:24] that gently fades away ending the movement peacefully.
The next one marked "Andante molto sostenuto (Very slow and sustained)" [T-4] is of melancholy disposition and begins with a pianissimo preface [00:02] followed by a doleful melody (DM) for the cor anglais [01:05]. DM is then the subject of a heartrending lament that adjoins an arresting brass outburst [04:35], heralding ominous passages [05:52]. These have a brass-introduced idea [05:56], which may seem strangely familiar as it's a retrograde version of DP. However, DP returns [08:45] to end the movement quietly and much like it began.
A concluding "Allegro molto brillante ed energico (Very fast, bright and energetic)" one [T-5] is a scherzoesque, theme-and-variations-like creation that begins with a vivacious main subject (VM) [00:01]. Then VM is repeated [01:04] and undergoes several treatments, the first of which [02:17] is laidback and features the cor anglais mentioned above.
Subsequently, there are four respectively dancelike [02:57], contemplative [04:01], passionate [05:05] and antsy ones [06:09]. Then the latter becomes a serene sixth [07:21] that blossoms into an exuberant seventh [08:25], which closes the work and disc in rousing fashion.
The performances are by the Gävle Symphony Orchestra based some 100 miles north of Stockholm. Under its principal conductor, Spanish-born Jaime Martín (b. 1965), these fine musicians make a strong case for their fellow countryman's music.
The recordings were made 13-16 June [T-3, 4, 5] and 17-18 December [T-1, 2] 2022 in the Gävle Concert Hall. They present consistently generous sonic images in a superb venue that enriches these French-flavored works. Moreover, the orchestral timbre is characterized by highs, which are as good as they get on conventional discs, an articulate midrange and clean lows.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y231028)
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