31 MAY 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.
Rózsa, M.: Overture to a Symphony Concert, Hungarian Serenade, Tripartita; Bühl/DSpRh-Pf [Capriccio]
Hungarian composer Miklós Rósza (1907-1995) is probably best remembered for his wonderful film scores that accompanied such extravaganzas as Quo Vadis (1951), Julius Caesar (1953), Ben Hur (1959) and King of Kings (1961). However, he also wrote many concert hall works, three of which in the orchestral category are featured on this recent Capriccio CD.

By way of background, Miklós was born in Budapest, and at age five got piano as well as violin lessons from family members. Also in his early years at school, he became interested in classical repertoire, and during holidays in northern Hungary, got to know local folkmusic. The latter as with Bélá Bartók (1881-1945) and Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) would stylistically speaking greatly influence Rósza's creations.

Then in accord with his father's wishes, the year 1925 saw him move to Germany, where he studied chemistry at the Leipzig University. However, Miklós was set on becoming a composer, and soon transferred (1926) to what's now known as the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig. He also began composing, and graduated cum laude in 1929.

After that, Rósza engaged in a somewhat lackluster musical career there. But at the suggestion of French organist-composer Marcel Dupré (1886-1971), in 1931 he moved to Paris where his efforts met with greater success. Here he was introduced to the possibility of writing film music by Swiss-French composer Arthur Honegger (1892-1955).

Financially speaking, these were hard times for him. So around 1937 at the urging of Hungarian screenwriter Ákos Tolnay (1903-1891), he moved to England. Once there, he began composing scores for London Films, which was then under its founding-director, fellow countryman Alexander Korda (1893-1956). These would include such classics as The Four Feathers of 1939.

However, that year also saw the outbreak of World War II, which resulted in both Korda and Rósza moving to Hollywood. Miklós would live out his life there, and leave a considerable legacy of film scores as well as concert music.

Some of the latter is sampled on this CD, the first selection being his Overture to a Symphony Concert (Op. 26a, 1963) [T-1]. This is a revised version of an earlier eponymous work (Op. 26, 1955), and begins with festive brass fanfares [00:01], which resemble more pompous moments in his award-winning score for Ben Hur (1959).

They hint at an imperious idea that soon appears in full [00:31]. This gives way to respectively vivacious [01:51] as well as tuneful [02:27] thoughts, which are explored [03:44]. Then these return [05:44, 06:16], become increasingly forceful, and call up reminiscences [07:52] of the opening measures that end the work decisively.

It's followed by Rósza's Hungarian Serenade (Op. 25, 1945), which is a modern day version of an 18th century divertimento. This has five movements whose melodies were inspired by Magyar folkmusic, and it begins with a "Marcia (March)" [T-2]. Here a jolly, martial opening tune [00:01] is succeeded by a related, somewhat cocky one [01:30]. Then these undergo a playful treatment [02:22], which becomes commanding [03:14] and ends the movement with a fortissimo flourish [03:59].

The next "Serenata (Serenade)" [T-3] has a soft preface [00:01] followed by a lovely subdued theme [00:11]. The latter soars to impassioned heights [03:40], but then slowly wanes, thereby bringing things to an uneventful conclusion.

After that, we get a "Scherzo" [T-4], whose outer sections [00:00, 03:22] feature a flighty theme heard at the outset. They surround a comely episode [00:56-03:21] based on an attractive melody, and end the movement full circle.

Then there's a serene "Notturno (Nocturne)" [T-5], which opens with a restful thought [00:01]. This engenders tranquil passages, where it's easy to imagine a moonlit night with twinkling stars.

Subsequently, Miklós serves up a rousing "Danza (Dance)" [T-6], and right from the start [00:00], this brilliantly scored piece smacks of Hungarian folkmusic. More specifically, there are some sassy numbers [00:09, 01:16, 02:45], which cavort about and bring the work to a colorful conclusion.

This release is filled out with his "Tripartita" (Op. 33, 1972), whose title is an acronym. More specifically, "Tri" indicates the work's three movements, while "partita" seemingly refers to some of Johann Sebastian Bach's (1685-1750) pieces bearing that name (BMV 825-830).

The first movement is a martial-sounding "Intrada (Introduction)" [T-7] that starts with a wily first tune [00:01]. This becomes increasingly belligerent and adjoins a somewhat hymnlike one [01:28] having some explosive outbursts. Then the foregoing gives way to reminiscences of the opening measures [02:56], which build into a combative episode [03:36] that ends the movement abruptly.

An "Intermezzo arioso (Airy interlude)" is next [T-8]. It begins with a wistful theme [00:01] that's contemplated, becomes increasingly troubled, and evokes reminiscences [04:02] of the opening measures. These have somewhat brighter figurations [04:28], which build into dramatic passages [05:28, 06:35]. Then the latter wane, thereby adjoining some wispy, afterthoughts [07:03] that end the movement somberly.

The "Finale" [T-9] has a frantic preface [00:00] soon followed by an agitated theme [00:07], which undergoes several treatments. They range from capricious [00:57] to celestial [02:02], vehement [02:12], oneiric [02:58], bombastic [05:24], contemplative [06:24], combative [06:52] and skittish [07:50]. Then a heroic one [08:36] closes the work and disc with a triumphant coda [09:29].

These performances are by the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz (DSpRh-Pf) based in Ludwigshafen, some 600 miles west-northwest of Budapest. Under internationally acclaimed, German conductor, Gregor Bühl (b. 1964), they give superb accounts of all three selections. These pieces show that although Rósza was one of the greats at scoring films, he was equally talented when it came to writing music for the concert hall.

The recordings were a coproduction of DSpRh-Pf, Deutschlandfunk Kultur (DLF Kultur), Südwestrundfunk (SWR) and Capriccio. They were made 13-17 February 2023 in Ludwigshafen Philharmonie Hall, and present a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings. The overall sound is characterized by pleasant highs, a good midrange and clean bass, but would have fared even better had this been an SACD.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240531)


The album cover may not always appear.
Suppé: Fantasia Symphonica, Orchestral Overtures (2), Preludes (2), Rudner/Tonkünstler O [Naxos]
This composer was born in Spalato (now Split) lying on the coast of Dalmatia (now Croatia), and his lengthy full name, Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo de Suppé (1819-1895), must still be one for the record books. Better known as Franz von Suppé, he had an Italian-Belgian father, Viennese mother, and spent his early years in that country's city of Zadar, where he first took music lessons and began composing.

One of Franz's first teachers was Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), who was also a distant relative. Then after Dad died in 1835, he moved with Mom to Vienna and continued studying music. Incidentally, one of his mentors there was Simon Sechter (1788-1867), who also taught Franz Schubert (1797-1828) as well as Anton Bruckner (1824-1896).

Suppé began conducting in 1840, and from 1844 on, composed music for many stage works. These earned him the title of "The Viennese Offenbach", and for the most part they're best remembered for their colorful overtures.

This release opens with one that's become a world favorite, namely his "Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant)" of 1846 [T-1], which prefaced an eponymous play (aka "Poet and Farmer") by Austrian, writer-actor Karl Swiedack (1815-1888). Moreover, the underlying story is about a heartbroken poet, who holidays in the mountains, thereby creating great discord between some local ladies and their suitors.

It has a brassy, solemn introduction [00:02] adjoining an "andante (slow)", amorous segment [01:17]. Then the latter is followed by an "allegro (fast)", unruly one [03:58] with a waltzlike counterpart [05:41]. After that, the foregoing power captivating passages [06:23] with a scampering coda [09:34] that ends the work exultantly.

Next, we get the world premiere recording (WPR) of Franz's four-movement Fantasia Symphonica (Symphonic Fantasy) of 1859, which was lost and only recently found by our conductor here, Ola Rudner (b. 1953). That said, the first "Adagio non troppo (Slow but not overly so)" marked one [T-2] is sonata-form-like.

Its exposition starts [00:00] with drum-roll-prefaced, imposing, brass-plus-woodwind passages. They're succeeded by an "allegro (fast)" theme for the strings [02:26] that has wind retorts, and transitions into a lovely, oboe-introduced melody [03:32].

Subsequently, these ideas are food for a captivating, contrapuntally laced development [04:06], as well as a comely recapitulation [09:00]. Then the latter has a coda [09:48], which hints at all past thoughts and ends jubilantly.

The following "Andante con moto (Slow with movement)" one [T-3] offers a delicate opening theme for strings with woodwind spicing [00:00]. This gives way to a somewhat flighty number where those winds are joined by a harp [02:42]. Then the foregoing is empowered with trombones [03:26], but wanes [03:54] into oneiric reminiscences of past thoughts [04:32]. Although the latter have some dramatic moments [05:16-06:27], they conclude things tranquilly.

An "Allegro scherzoso (Fast and playful)" third is next [T-4]. It's based on respectively fickle [00:00] as well as songful [00:30] ideas, and has impish outer sections [00:00, 02:52]. These surround a somewhat wistful trio [01:51-02:51], thereby bringing things full circle.

The "Allegro ma non troppo (Lively but not too fast)" last movement [T-5] starts with a binary theme, which has a vivacious first part [00:00] that adjoins a martial second [00:19]. This is the subject of five treatments, the first four being sequentially capricious [01:08], exuberant [02:54, skittish [04:16] and fugally fidgety [06:06]. Then an exultant fifth [08:07] with a rousing coda [08:41] ends the work triumphantly.

Returning to this composer's music for the stage, the following two selections are drawn from his opera "Des Matrosen Heimkehr (The Sailor's Homecoming)". This was written in 1885 to a libretto by Austrian author, Anton Langer (1824-1879). The underlying story concerns the return of a navy sailor, who's been at sea for twenty years on a ship called the Delfino.

First we get the "Act I - Präludium (Prelude)" [T-6]. This has a tranquil opening [00:00] that builds into increasingly agitated passages [01:07], which apparently depict stormy sea conditions for the Delfino. Subsequently, these ebb into closing memories [03:16] of the opening moments.

Then there's the "Act I Scene I - Tanz der Schiffsjungen (Dance of the Cabin Boys)" [T-7]. Here the Delfino's young crew members celebrate their homecoming with a polka-like number. This is a ternary, A-B-A offering with euphoric "A"s [00:00, 01:32] on either side of a delightful "B" [00:47-01:31].

Another WPR follows [T-8]. This time it's the "Ouvertüre: Präludium (Overture: Prelude)", which may have been written around 1873 for an Historisch-Additionelle Ausstellung des Carl-Theaters (Exhibition at the Carl Theatre).

This has a contemplative opening [00:00] with brass accents [00:01] and pensive woodwinds [00:06]. It's succeeded by some leggiero (nimble) numbers for the winds [00:48, 01:24, 01:49] that are interspersed with orchestral snippets [01:07, 01:37, 02:15].

However, the music soon wanes into reminiscences [02:56] of the opening moments. These bridge into a couple of waltz-like numbers for winds and strings [03:39, 04:34] with full orchestral accents [04:09, 05:05]. Then related passages featuring a solo flute [05:30] slowly fade away, thereby ending the piece uneventfully.

Last, but far from least, there's another overture that's become a world favorite. It's Suppé's "Ein Morgen, ein Mittag, ein Abend in Wien (aka Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna)" of 1843-44 [T-9], which was written for Austrian dramatist Franz Xaver Told's (aka Franz Xaver Told von Doldenburg, 1792-1849) eponymous play (1844).

As the title implies, it's a tripartite piece, and begins with "Morning" music, which limns breakfast in this city's Graben. Here rousing wake-up calls (WC) [00:00, 00:23] give way to a lovely melody featuring a solo cello {00:53]. But then another WC announces "Noon" [03:47] at the Prater. This invokes some rather Italian-sounding passages [04:10], which by today's standards might suggest we're having pizza for lunch.

After that, a spirited WC-based segment [06:17] seemingly reflects some vivacious "Night" activity in the Schönbrunn Palace's historic Gardens. Then a WC-based coda [08:06] brings the work as well as this disc to a stunning conclusion.

The Austrian Tonkünstler Orchestra (Tonkünstler O) under award-winning, Swedish conductor Ola Rudner (see above) delivers magnificent accounts of all these selections. Their renditions of those two well-known overtures [T-1, T-9] rank with the best. What's more, these musicians not only make a strong case for a couple of lesser-known pieces [T-6, T-7], but give us invaluable WPRs of two others [T-2 thru 5, T-8].

These recordings took place 27-29 October 2022 at the Auditoreum in Grafenegg, Austria, some 40 miles west-northwest of Vienna. They project consistently hefty sonic images of this colorfully scored music in ideal surroundings. The orchestral timbre is about as good as it gets on conventional CDs, thereby earning this an "Audiophile" stripe.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240530)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Unbounded: Music by American Women (see Beach, A.; Higdon, J.; Moore, D.R. & Smith, I.B.); Wohn/Phelps [Delos]
In the past the classical music world has centered around European men. Consequently, this recent Delos release provides a welcome change as it gives us music by four American women, played by two American ladies.

The CD begins with composer-pianist, Amy Beach's (1867-1944) four-movement Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor (Op. 34; 1896). Its "Allegro moderato (Moderately fast)" opening one [T-1] has a wistful preface [00:00] followed by a couple of captivating ideas [00:59, 01:45]. Then the foregoing material is explored [04:05] and returns [05:51], thereby waning into a subdued coda [08:33], which ends the movement quietly.

After that Amy serves up a "Molto vivace (Very vivacios)" scherzo [T-2] with playful outer sections [00:00, 03:38]. They surround a pensive trio [01:51-03:37] and bring things full circle.

A "Largo con dolore (Slow with sorrow)" movement is next [T-3], and begins with an anguished thought [00:00] that's cause for an extended contemplation. Back in Beach's day, this movement was apparently a favorite with audiences, who at one performance burst into applause right after it was played.

But grief turns to glee in the "Allegro con fuoco (Fast with fire)" fourth [T-4], which has a lively preface [00:00] hinting at a vivacious idea soon heard in full [00:21]. The latter then undergoes some treatments that range from amorous [01:30] to fugal [03:37] and rhapsodic [05:18, 05:55]. Then an ebullient one [07:34] concludes the work exultantly.

Turning to the music of Dorothy Rudd Moore (1940-2022), we next get her Three Pieces for Violin and Piano" (1967). Titled Vignette [T-5], Episode [T-6] and Caprice [T-7], they're respectively antsy, reflective and fickle.

Then it's on to Jennifer Higdon's (1962) Smoky Mountain Air (2021) [T-8]. She spent some of her childhood in Tennessee, and this selection honors Jennifer's fond memories of days in the that state's Great Smoky Mountains. Consequently it's a quaint, bucolic workout just for solo violin.

Both of the last selections are by Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999), the first being her Sonata for Violin and Piano (1947). She wrote this while completing graduate work at the Juilliard School, and it's in three-movements that are of neoclassical persuasion.

The "Allegro cantabile (Fast and songful)" opener [T-9] is sonata-form-like. This begins with a couple of ideas that are respectively tuneful [00:00] and somewhat jazzy [01:17]. Then there's a pause soon followed by a quirky development [02:36]. And after that, Irene serves up a delightful recapitulation [04:56], which ends the movement playfully.

An "Andante con sentimento (Slow with feeling)" one is next [T-10]. It's a ternary, A-B-A offering with "A"s [00:00, 02:43] based on a lovely laidback thought [00:09]. They embrace a curt "B" [01:55-02:42], and bring things full circle.

Then there's a "Vivace (Spirited) " third movement [T-11], which has a scurrying idea [00:00] succeeded by a more complacent one [00:30]. These give way to a brief pause and become material for a pensive segment [01:23]. However, they subsequently return [02:22] to end the work on a happy note.

After that we get a short encore, namely Irene's Remembrance (1941) [T-12]. While no underlying story is readily available, it's of romantic demeanor and based on a warm opening melody [00:00]. This gentle music brings the disc to a lovely conclusion.

The performances are by violinist Dawn Wohn and pianist Emely Phelps. They deliver superb accounts of everything, thereby making a strong case for the four American women composers represented here.

These recordings were made 10-12 August 2022 at the University of Wisconsin located in Madison. More specifically, they took place at the Hamel Music Center in its Collins Recital Hall. This is a pleasant venue, where both artists were centered and their instruments well captured for all five selections. Consequently this release gets an "Audiophile" rating.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240529)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Van Bree, J.B.: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2; Utrecht String Quartet [MD&G]
Here's a little-known, Netherlands composer-violinist-conductor whose music is well worth your attention. Johannes Bernardus van Bree (1801-1857) was born in Amsterdam, but the the year 1812 saw the family move to Leeuwarden, some 60 miles north-northeast of there.

His father was an important musical figure in that town, and gave his son violin lessons. Subsequently, Johannes helped Dad teach, tune pianos and accompany local dances. Then at fourteen he was hired by a wealthy, local family as a violin instructor for their daughters. These people had an extensive library, which allowed him to broaden his musical horizons.

The year 1820 saw the Van Brees move back to Amsterdam. By this time, Johannes had become an accomplished violinist, fine pianist, and was largely self-taught when it came to writing music. Consequently, he began a highly successful career as a conductor-composer (see the informative album booklet).

Johannes would live out his years in Amsterdam, but die an untimely death at only 53. However, he left over 200 works across all genres (no complete listing readily available as of this writing), and they include four string quartets. While the last of these is now lost, the first two fill out this recent MDG release. Both are early romantic, four-movement pieces.

The String Quartet No. 1 in E flat major (c. 1834) has an "Allegro moderato (Moderately fast)" first movement [T-5] with a lovely opening thought [00:00] followed by related, more agitated one [01:00]. These are the subjects of a subsequent, engaging conversation between all four instruments [02:44]. This gives way to a brief pause [03:34] and then continues [03:35], thereby turning quite animated [04:12].

After that, the previous material is developed [05:54], becomes quite spirited [06:33], and wanes into remembrances of the opening measures [07:35]. These adjoin a commanding coda [09:09], which ends the movement forcefully.

Then there's aa "Adagio ma non troppo (Slow, but not overly so)" one [T-6]. This begins with a tender, extended theme [00:00] having a related, lovely countermelody [01:34]. They're the basis for a captivating polyphonic serenade that comes to a tranquil conclusion.

A "Vivace (Spirited)" Minuetto (Minuet) is next [T-8]. It's a ternary, A-B-A-structured number with dignified "A"s [00:00, 03:21] featuring a catchy tune heard at the outset. These bracket a Trio [01:43-03:20] having a related lilting melody, and bring things full circle.

Its last movement is a "Vivace (Spirited)", rondo-like one [T-9] with a recurring, merry melody that's heard at the outset [00:00] and repeated [00:24]. This is the basis for interspersed sections that are fugal [00:47, 03:40] and sometimes a tad sad [01:44, 04:37]. But in the end, it returns [05:20], thereby ending the quartet exultantly.

The String Quartet No. 2 in A minor (c. 1840) is dedicated to German violinist-composer Bernhard Molique (1802-1869). The "Adagio ma non troppo (Slow, but not overly so)" sonata-form first movement [T-1] has a beguiling exposition with three themes that are respectively flighty [00:00], impulsive [00:47] and warm [01:16]. Then the foregoing is repeated [02:37] and undergoes an engaging development [05:04]. This contains a closing fugal episode [05:31-06:54], followed by a refreshing recapitulation [06:55] that closes the movement delicately.

A saucy Scherzo is next [T-2]. It has outer sections [00:00, 03:14] featuring a capricious, opening number. These surround a lovely trio [01:42-03:13] based on a related, somewhat amorous tune, and end the movement like it began.

The "Adagio (Slow)" one [T-3] is a ravishing rhapsody. Here a gorgeous opening thought [00:00] is the material for a couple of songlike treatments [02:20, 03:20]. Then it returns [04:31], thereby bringing things to a compelling conclusion.

After that, we get an "Allegro vivace (Fast and spirited)", rondoesque fourth movement [T-4], which starts with a scampering idea [00:00] followed by a complementary, tuneful one [00:36]. These undergo an increasingly agitated exploration that seemingly ends the piece [02:30]. But then the opening ideas return in reverse order [02:32], chase each other about, and end the work matter-of-factly.

These performances are by the Utrecht String Quartet, which is known for championing unjustly forgotten works by a variety of composers (see MDG 603-1923-2, 603-1840-2, 603-2245-2 & 603-2286-2). Based some 20 miles south-southeast of Amsterdam, its members include Finnish violinist Eeva Koskinen, Australian violinist Katherine Routley, Russian violist Mikhail Zemtsov and German cellist Sebastian Koloski. This international team of virtuosos delivers superb renditions of both works, and hopefully they'll soon give us Johannes's third effort in the genre.

The recordings were made 15-17 March 2023 in the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) of Abtei Marienmünster (Marienmünster Abbey), Germany, some 200 miles east of Utrecht. They project a wide sonic image in warm surroundings with the instruments positioned from left to right in order of increasing size. The overall string tone is very good with no hint of boominess in the cello's lower registers, thereby earning this release an "Audiophile" stripe.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240528)