31 MARCH 2024


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.

The album cover may not always appear.
Bacewicz: Orch Works V1 (Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4, Overture); Oramo/BBC SO [Chandos (Hybrid)]
Polish composer-violinist Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) has been a CLOFO regular (see 30 November 2023), and now makes a triumphant return to these pages with this recent, Chandos hybrid, CD2/SACD(2/5.0) release. She left a significant oeuvre across all genres, and this is their first volume devoted to her orchestral works. It features the last two of her four symphonies plus an earlier, standalone overture, and you'll find the album booklet has some interesting information regarding her life and times.

The concert begins with this gifted lady's, four-movement Symphony No. 3 (1952), which is absolute music. However, there's an underlying emotionality about the first [T-1] that almost seems to tell a story. Moreover, it starts with a powerful, brass-reinforced "Drammatico (Dramatic)" preface having a willful motif (WM) [00:03]. Then there's a "Molto allegro energico (Very fast and energetic)", sonata-form-like episode [00:51] with a WH-hued, scampering theme (WS) [01:06] adjoining a curt, timpani-roll introduced, WM-reminiscent outburst [01:24].

After that, WS is examined [01:41], giving way to a WS-derived, lyrical idea (WL) [02:30], which is explored and launches a "Mosso (Lively)" development [03:02]. However, the latter wanes into a similarly marked, WS-initiated recapitulation [05:54] with a reminder of WL [06:30]. This has a WS-based coda [07:19] with a "Vivo (Lively)", timpani-laced ending [07:45] that closes the movement forcefully.

The "Andante (Slow)" second [T-2] is an attractive offering, which begins with a WL-tinged, delicate, pizzicato-spiced tune (WD) [00:00]. This builds into a couple of sweeping, colorfully scored, tone-picture-like segments [beginning at 00:31 & 02:04]. Then a WD-based thought sires a songful, "Un poco più mosso (A little more lively)" marked section [03:35-05:50] and subsequent, rather bucolic, "Temp I (Initial tempo)" passages [05:51] that end the movement tranquilly.

A "Vivace (Spirited)", scherzoesque one is next [T-3]. This has merry outer sections [00:00 & 02:35] based on a WM-tinged antsy number. They surround a trio-like one featuring a folksongish melody [01:28] and bring things full circle.

The Finale [T-4] has a "Moderato (Moderately paced)" introduction that mimics the work's opening preface (see above). Then there's a "Allegro con passione (Fast with passion)" marked sonata-form, remaining portion of it, which starts with a WM-related, boisterous idea (WB) [01:57].

WB is subsequently examined, succeeded by a hymn-like version of WM (WH) [03:12], and the foregoing material undergoes a frenetic development [04:16]. Then WH calls up a devout recapitulation [06:59] with a vivacious coda [08:28] that ends the work fervently.

Next up, the Symphony No. 4 of 1953, which was dedicated to the great Polish conductor-violinist-composer Grzegorz Fitelberg (1879-1953), who'd died that year. The first of its four movements begins with an "Appassionato (Spirited)" preface [T-5, 00:01] followed by an "Allegro inquieto (Fast and lively)" thematic nexus (TN) [00:23]. Then TN wanes into a songlike melody (SM) [02:08], which undergoes a blusterous exploration [02:37].

But this soon gives way to a saucy tune (ST) [03:25] reminiscent of Maurice Ravelís (1875-1937) "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" in his 1922 orchestral version of Modest Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) solo piano suite titled Pictures at an Exhibition (1874). Then the foregoing material undergoes an SM-introduced, affecting treatment [03:46]. However, this suddenly stops and a subdued reminder of ST [05:01] calls up an increasingly animated, ST-TN-SM-filled segment. It has a "Più mosso energico (More lively and energetic)", ST-based coda [07:04] that brings the movement to a clamorous conclusion.

The "Adagio (Slow)" movement [T-6] begins with a laidback variant of ST (SL) [00:01], which is the subject for subsequent, through-composed, pensive passages. These range from serene [01:14] to intense [02:05], resigned [02:44] and powerful [03:05]. Then the latter wane into a gently swaying version of SL [04:39] that ends things tranquilly.

A "Vivace (Spirited)" Scherzo is next [T-7]. This has an ascending chromatic-scale-like phrase [00:00] followed by a playful, puckish tune (PP) [00:10], which pervades its outer sections [00:10 & 02:53]. They surround a PP-derived trio [01:51-02:52] and close the movement full circle.

The last one [T-8] gets off to an ominous "Adagio mesto (Slow and sad)" start [00:00] hinting at a feisty, high-strung theme (FH) that's soon to come. Then we get the "Allegro furioso (Fast and furious)", sonata-form-like remainder of this movement [beginning at 00:58], where FH appears in full [01:13].

FH is explored [01:52] and followed by a related, doleful thought (FD) [02:48] with underlying bits of FH [beginning at 03:50]. Then FD initiates a dramatic development [04:23], and FH triggers a vivacious recapitulation [05:12] with an effulgent, FD-based coda [07:00] that brings the symphony to a blazing conclusion.

As an encore, there's Grażyna's Overture of 1943 [T-9], which was seemingly written to raise the spirits of Polish audiences during those terrible World War II (WWII) years. It begins with a single timpani playing a four-note motif (FNM) [00:00], which is also that renowned, opening rhythmical signature of Beethoven's (1770-1827) Symphony No. 5 (1804-08). But what's more, FNM mimics the "dot-dot-dot-dash" standing for the letter "V" in Morse code, and was used by the BBC during WWII to symbolize victory for the Allies.

Then FNM launches and becomes the recurring figure in a scurrying episode that turns quite martial [00:22]. But the music subsequently ebbs into an "Andante (Slow)", lyrical section [01:12] having some FNM spicing [01:49, 01:59]. However, the pace soon quickens with FNM-riddled, "Allegro energico (Fast and energetic)" passages [02:13] having frequent "saltando (Jumping)" moments. All this seemingly reflects the triumph of life over death, thereby ending the work and disc exultantly.

These performances are by the London-based BBC Symphony Orchestra (BBC SO) under their Chief Conductor, Finnish-born-and-trained Sakari Oramo (b. 1965). Maestro Oramo and this renowned group of musicians deliver superb accounts of all three works. Their attention to detail and enthusiastic playing make a strong case for some superbly crafted music. Consequently, many will find their renditions of these pieces the best to date.

The recordings were made 13-14 February 2023 in the Concert Hall of Fairfield Halls, which is an arts and entertainment centre in Croydon, England. Each of the stereo tracks project ideal sonic images in a superb venue. More specifically, the orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a full midrange and clean bass.

The same holds true for the multichannel one, which will give those having home theater systems an ideal orchestra seat. But no matter how you play it, the dynamic range is awesome, so be careful about your level settings, particularly if you're listening on headphones. In any case, this release deserves an "Audiophile" stripe.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240331)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Ballard, L.W.: The Four Moons, Devil's Promenade, Fantasy Aborigine..., Scenes from Indian Life; Jeter/FortSm S [Naxos]
This enterprising Naxos release gives us world premiere recordings of music by a newcomer to these pages, namely American-Indian composer Louis Wayne Ballard (1931-2007). He was born in what was then known as Devil's Promenade near Quapaw, Oklahoma, some 90 miles northeast of Tulsa, and had a Cherokee father, but a Quapaw mother. Incidentally, his Quapaw name was "Honganozhe", which means "One Who Stands with Eagles".

Six-year-old Louis began his education at the Seneca Indian School (1872-1980) that was in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, 20 miles south-southwest of his birthplace. After that, he attended a local Baptist Mission School where he apparently studied piano, and would graduate in 1949 as the class valedictorian.

Ballard then went on to study at the University of Oklahoma (1949), Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (1951) and University of Tulsa (UT, 1954), thereby getting bachelor's degrees in music theory and education from the latter. After that he taught at various schools throughout Oklahoma, and was the music director for a couple of churches in Tulsa as well as Pawhuska.

However, Louis returned to UT in 1960, and got a master's degree in composition. He'd also study privately with Darius Milhaud (1892-1974), Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) and Carlos Surinach (1915-1997), who were concurrently in the U.S.

Subsequently, he had a very distinguished career as a teacher and administrator. Then in 1962 the Ballard family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Louis spent the rest of his life, and left a significant body of works across most genres. Unfortunately, there's no readily available listing of them as of this writing.

Stylistically, Louis's music is wide-ranging with atonal and even dodecaphonic moments. What's more, it's frequently based on traditional American-Indian songs and dances. This is very evident in his The Four Moons (Ballet Pas de Quatre) of 1967, which was written to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Oklahoma's statehood. It has rhythmic elements borrowed from the music of numerous tribes, and originally featured four ballerinas, who were of Shawnee, Choctaw, Osage and Cherokee descent.

The initial Overture [T-3] is in three sections. The first called "Land-Rush" has a rustic preface [00:00] followed by increasingly frenzied passages [00:36]. After that there's a proud "Statehood" [01:32] and captivating "Pow-Wow" (aka "Powwow) [01:56].

Then we get a haughty "Entr'acte: Pas de Quatre" [T-4, 00:00]. It adjoins a spirited "Dance of the Four Moons" [T-5, 00:00], which has American-Indian, mythological associations (see the album notes). This also sets the stage for the next four numbers, which were for those ballerinas mentioned above.

These are a haughty "The Shawnee Variation" [T-6], coy "The Choctaw Variation" [T-7], dramatic "The Osage Variation" [T-8] and somewhat pensive "The Cherokee Variation" [T-9]. Then there's a "Finale: Pas de Quatre" [T-10], which has an imposing preface [00:00]. This is followed by playful passages [00:31] that become increasingly intense and end the work forcefully.

Moving ahead six years, we next get Devil's Promenade (1973) [T-1], which is named after the composer's birthplace (see above). And incidentally, the scoring includes a number of American-Indian percussion instruments (see the album notes).

It has a drum-laced, combative opening [00:01] that intensifies. Then this bridges [03:41] into an "Andante cantabile (Flowing and songlike)" episode [04:06] based on a Sioux Ghost Dance melody soon heard in full on the English horn [05:08]. This escalates into reminiscences of the opening measures [08:33], which bring the piece to a driving conclusion.

Ballard wrote six numbered symphonic poems, which have the words "Fantasy Aborigine" in their titles. That said, our next selection is his Fantasy Aborigine No. 3, Kokopelli (1977) [T-2]. It honors a Hopi deity, who among other things represented the spirit of music. Consequently, Louis considered him the American-Indian counterpart of Orpheus in Greek mythology.

Like the previous selection, this one calls for several American-Indian percussion instruments (see the album notes). It opens with bellicose, rhythmically jagged passages [00:00] that wane into a more laid-back segment [03:39]. This has a couple of short outbursts [05:13, 05:28], but turns quite lyrical.

Subsequently, poignant drum beats [08:45] introduce a wild section, which becomes quite pensive [09:43]. However, it then turns increasingly martial and accelerates into frenzied closing moments with some arresting chime strokes [12:40].

After that, this disc closes with the composer's four Scenes from Indian Life, the first three of which were written during 1963, and the last added in 1994. While the earlier ones are satirical and reflect Indian-related incidents the composer observed from his home in Santa Fe, the last resembles a travelogue.

Its opening "Two Indians, One Navajo, One Taos" [T-11] seems like a comical conversation where a clarinet and trombone represent the protagonists. Then the ideas here are explored in the next two scenes, the first being a busy "Building a Wall, Adobe House" [T-12], whose closing section [00:30] has a metronome marking of "♩ = 110". It's followed by a more methodical "Indian Friends Finish the Wall" [T-13], which has a "Meno mosso (Less Lively)" beginning [00:00] that turns increasingly industrious and ends things with great finality.

The "Feast Day" fourth scene [T-14] is in Ballad's words "the world of the Rio Grande". It's festive music with an opening, convivial thematic nexus [00:00] that's food for some colorful scenic treatments. The first three are respectively mutable [01:15], proud [02:07] and delicate [03:03]. Then there's a boisterous fourth [03:48] that just quits, thereby ending this work somewhat perfunctorily.

All four selections receive superb performances from the Fort Smith Symphony (FortSm S), based in Fort Smith, Arkansas, some 100 miles southeast of Tulsa. Under their Music Director John Jeter (b. 1963, see 30 June 2023), they deliver animated accounts of each work, which well reflect the spontaneity and directness that often characterizes American Indians.

These recordings were made 23-24 April 2023 at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center located in Fort Smith. They project consistently generous sonic images of this music in sumptuous surroundings, and the overall sound is about as good as it gets on conventional discs. Those American-Indian instruments called for in Devil's Promenade [T-1] and Fantasy Aborigine No. 3... [T-2] add an exotic flavor, and audiophiles won't be disappointed!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240330)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Crossing the Divide (see Nichols, Charles): Beo String Quartet [Centaur]
Here are four intriguing works for string quartet by American composer-violinist Charles Nichols (b. 1967), who's also a computer music researcher. By way of background, he studied and earned music as well as computer-related degrees from Eastman, Yale and Stanford.

While Charles has had a distinguished teaching and business-related career since 1991, he's also come up with a number of unique creations. As for the four on this disc, they feature the Beo String Quartet, whose name is the Latin verb for "make happy".

The first and third of them employ many computer-related contrivances (see the album booklet). Figuratively speaking, they're a "Crossing of the Divide" between conventional classical music and that employing computers.

Moreover, the initial At the Boundary (2014) [T-1] is for amplified string quartet and computer. The title reflects the album's name in that this work is an amalgam of technically challenging music as well as that which is still fun to play and hear.

Having four attacca movements, the first gets off to a twitchy start [00:00] hinting at a wistful theme that finally appears in full [02:28]. The latter recurs in the next two, which are respectively retiring [04:32] and soporific [06:07]. Then a somewhat swaying movement [09:11] ends things peacefully.

The next selection is a conventional string quartet titled Verdigris (2021). This is based on music Nichols wrote for some radio programs documenting the history of Butte, Montana, and each of its three movements are in sections with terse, informative markings.

Its first [T-2] has respectively "Buoyant" [00:00], "Curious" [03:50] and "Celebratory" [05:21] ones, while the second [T-3] serves up "Searching" [00:00], "Melancholy" [02:40] as well as "Pleading" [05:53] sections. Then a third movement [T-4] gives us "Sweet" [00:00], "Joyful" [01:09] and "Jubilant" [01:26] numbers, followed by "Sorrowful" [01:36], "Soulful" [03:20] plus "Grieving" [05:12] ones that bring the work to a dark conclusion.

The third selection called Or Be Forever Fallen (2017) is like the first in that it's for amplified string quartet and computer. This was written for the Beo String Quartet, who premiered it at Virginia Tech, where the composer currently teaches. Incidentally, the name is taken from English poet John Milton's (1608-1674) epic poem Paradise Lost (1658-1663).

This has three titled movements, each with more of those terse, informative markings. The initial "Toile of Battle" [T-5] features 'Trudging' [00:00], 'Labored' [02:10] and 'Wailing' [04:38] segments, while the middle "Wearied Virtue" [T-6] has 'Laborious' [00:00], 'Heavy' [02:56] as well as 'Anxious' [04:26] ones. Then a last "Rolling in the Flood" [T-7] sports 'Riotous' [00:00], 'Savage' [02:38] and 'Threatening' [04:10] moments, which end things ominously.

Another conventional string quartet called In Gratitude (2019) follows. Nichols tells us in the album booklet that it's a "musical autobiography" of his undergraduate years at Eastman, and honors American violinist-teacher Charles Castleman (b. 1941), who was one of his instructors. This has three movements, each having more of those terse, descriptively marked segments.

The first [T-8] features an extended melody that's sequentially 'Searching' [00:00], 'Plodding' [02:07] and 'Plaintive' [03:07]. On the other hand, the middle movement [T-9] has 'Striving' [00:00], 'Focused' [01:47] as well as 'Determined' [02:14] segments. Then the last [T-10] contains 'Peaceful' [00:00], 'Flowing' [00:42] in addition to a 'Reflective' one [01:57] that ends the work and this disc pensively.

The Beo String Quartet (violinists Jason Neukom, Aviva Hakanoglu [T-1 & 8-10] / Andrew Giordano [T-2 thru 7], violist Sean Neukom, cellist Ryan Ash) is featured throughout and its musicians deliver impeccable performances. What's more, they get some sui generis, electronic support from the composer in At the Boundary [T-1] and Or Be Forever Fallen [T-5 thru 7].

Two of these recordings were made 18-20 January [In Gratitude; T-8 thru 10] and 2-5 March [At the Boundary; T-1] of 2021 at Neukom Studios (no details available) in Blawnox, Pennsylvania. The others took place 26 June to 2 September [Or Be Forever Fallen; T-5 thru 7] and 31 August to 1 September [Verdigris; T-2 thru 4] of 2022 at Neukraft Studios (no details available) in Etna, Pennsylvania.

Soundwise, the computer-related ones speak for themselves. As for the other two, they present a generous sonic image of the Beo String Quartet in pleasant surroundings, where there's no feeling of that confinement sometimes experienced with studio recordings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240329)


The album cover may not always appear.
Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra, Partita for Violin and Orchestra, Novelette; Tetzlaff/Laivuori/Collon/FinRSO [Ondine]
Last year we told you about a superb disc with symphonic selections by three composers, one of them being Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994; see 30 November 2023). Now Ondine gives us a release devoted entirely to him.

Witold was born, trained and spent most of his life in Warsaw, where he'd become an internationally acclaimed composer, and leave a significant body of works. Those liking the ones here will also want to investigate his four symphonies on Ondine (see ODE-1320-5 & ODE-1332-5).

The program begins with one of his best-known creations, namely the three-movement Concerto for Orchestra (1950-54). Like Béla Bartók's (1881-1945) eponymous piece (1943), Lutosławski's employs folk music motifs, but they're from Mazovia, Poland and used more subtly.

It has an opening "Allegro maestoso (Fast and majestic)" Intrada (Introduction) [T-1], which we'll refer to as "AI". This begins with insistent marchlike passages [00:01] overlaid by a catchy folk motif (CF) [00:05]. CF is explored [00:11] and followed by treatments that range from playful [01:35] to robust [02:10] and increasingly forceful [02:55, 03:51]. Then the last one wanes into a pause, after which subdued reminders of CF [04:57] end the movement tranquilly.

The subsequent "Vivace (Spirited)" Capriccio notturno e Arioso (Lively Nocturne and Aria) [T-2] has outer sections [00:00, 04:18], where it's easy to picture an evening with flashing fireflies. These surround an ardent, fanfare-introduced songlike one [02:23-04:17], and close things much like they began. Then there's a Passacaglia, Toccata e Corale (Passacaglia, Toccata and Chorale) [T-3]. This is almost three minutes longer than the combined length of its predecessors, and the work's highpoint.

The opening "Andante con moto (Slow with movement)" Passacaglia begins with pizzicato double basses plus harp playing a recurring ostinato theme (OT) [00:00], which underlies increasingly agitated passages. Then these wane into an "Allegro giusto (Lively and precise)", OT-based Toccata [05:53] with recollections of AI [06:45]. This is followed by the aforementioned Chorale [08:44]. However, the Toccata returns [10:27] and escalates into a powerful version of that Chorale [14:38], which ends the work triumphantly.

Next up, there's the composer's five-movement Partita for Violin and Orchestra (1988), which is based on an earlier version that's just for violin and piano (1984). What's more, the even-numbered movements here are marked "Ad libitum (Aleatory)" (AL), and for the most part just copies of those in the original piece.

These act as attacca links between the odd-numbered movements, which are this work's lifeblood. Moreover, the "Allegro giusto (Lively and precise)" first [T-4] is courante-reminiscent with antic sections [00:00, 02:26] on either side of an eerie number [01:48-02:25]. Then there's a spooky, barely audible bridge [03:30] into the initial AL one [T-5].

This is rather wistful, and soon invokes the "Largo (Slow)", airish third movement [T-6]. It starts with a melancholy, folklike tune [00:00], which undergoes several treatments, ranging from nervous [01:32] to pensive [02:37] and insistent [03:49]. But then a whispering one [06:03] adjoins that second AL movement [T-7]. The latter is rather skittish and soon underscored [00:27] by some increasingly loud strokes on what sound like tubular chimes (aka tubular bells).

They herald a "Presto (Very fast)", gigue-like fifth movement [T-8]. This starts with a couple of more chime strokes and buzzing string passages [00:00] with an anguished violin [00:06]. Then there are haunting moments [00:53], which turn increasingly agitated, and see the return of that piano [02:15]. These are followed by a pause, after which a frenetic episode [02:45] ends the work definitively.

The closing selection is Witold's Novelette, which was written in 1979 at the request of the great Russian cellist-conductor Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007). He was then music director of the National Symphony Orchestra based in Washington, D.C., and they premiered it the following year (1980). That said, the work is a fifteen-minute, five-movement musical counterpart of its literary namesake. Consequently, this piece is quite programmatic, but you'll have to make up your own underlying story.

Anyway, the opening "Announcement" [T-9] has forceful passages [00:00, 00:31, 00:46] that alternate with subdued, aleatoric ones [00:07, 00:33, 00:47]. Then a final commanding episode [00:57] turns aleatoric [00:59] and gradually wanes, thereby ending things uneventfully. However, more action is soon to come in the form of three, subsequent "Event" movements.

The First Event [T-10] starts with a mercurial theme [00:00] that parents whimsical passages [00:32], which end in the same spirit as they began. And after that we get a capricious Second Event [T-11], where quizzical, woodwind-based outer sections [00:00, 02:10] surround a raucous moment [02:00-02:09] and end things much like they started. Then there's a zany Third Event [T-12], which comes off like a short scherzo.

It's followed by what's fittingly called a Conclusion [T-13] that begins with bizarre, persistent passages [00:00], which get increasingly intense. These give way to pensive ones [02:42] that become more and more deranged, only to wane into a peaceful episode [02:43]. However, the latter builds and dissipates presumably closing things. But then a forceful reminder [06:01] of the work's opening measures brings it as well as this disc to a cogent conclusion.

These performances are by the Helsinki-based Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FinRSO) under their chief conductor, British-born Nicholas Collon (b. 1983). They deliver superb accounts of all three works, and German violinist Christian Teztlaff (b. 1966) as well as Finnish pianist Jouko Laivuori (b. 1959) get a big round of applause for their admirable playing in the Partita.

The recordings took place during April (Concerto), September (Partita) and December (Novelette) of 2022 in the Helsinki Music Centre's Main Concert Hall. They present an impressive sonic image in magnificent surroundings that enrich the sound of these works. Generally speaking, the instrumental timbre is characterized by highs and mids, which are almost as good as they get on conventional discs, while the bass is very clean and goes down to rockbottom.

At this point we should also note that the Partita [T-4 thru 8] is a live recording. However, careful microphone placement, skillful postproduction touch-ups and adept editing preclude any extraneous audience noise or applause. That said, the violin and piano are centered, well captured and highlighted against the orchestra.

Taking everything into account, this release earns a a strong recommendation. What's more, those who have other renditions of these selections may well find the combined efforts of Maestro Collon, Herr Tetzlaff, Herra Laivuori and the FinRSO outdo them. So, give this disc a spin!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240328)