CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
29 OCTOBER 2010
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.
Foerster, J.B.: Stg Qts Cpte (5), Prayer (stg qt), Stg Qnt, etc; Soloists/Stamic Qt [Supraphon]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (2 CDs)
Following MD&G's enterprising release of his five symphonies (MDG-6321491, 6321492 and 6321493), Supraphon continues the ongoing revival of Czech composer Josef Bohuslav Foerster's (1859-1951) music with this world premičre recording of his complete string quartets. Some of his other rarely heard chamber tidbits featuring strings are also included.
Spanning his entire career, the five quartets rank right up there with those of Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) and Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904), both of whom the composer idolized. And when you hear them you'll scratch your head wondering why it's taken so long for them to make their silver disc debut.
Written in 1888 and dedicated to Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Foerster's first is in four movements and owes a great debt to his two Czech colleagues. But in the case of Dvorák there may have been influence both ways, because it begins with a folkish melody that anticipates the beginning of Antonin's American Quartet (No. 12, 1893). There's also a hint of the opening theme from Beethoven's (1770-1827) Archduke Trio (No. 7, 1810-11), followed by a more imploring idea. These are the lifeblood of the knockout sonata-form opening movement.
The dance-like scherzo and dreamy adagio, which hints at the composer's later style, do not disappoint. The work ends with a balladic allegro where one can imagine Don Juan with guitar in hand serenading his latest lady fair.
Completed just five years later in 1893, the three-movement second quartet is more harmonically adventurous and structurally sophisticated. The opening movement has a mysterious beginning that hints at the gorgeous two-part melody (GT) which soon follows. This undergoes a series of moody developmental transformations, and the movement ends with a wistful restatement of GT. The andante that's next is a moving serenade you'll not soon forget,
The concluding andantino is a theme and variations with an attractive lullaby-like main idea. A couple of the variants are skittish enough to be worthy of Mendelssohn (1809-1847). But Foerster has other surprises up his sleeve, and the quartet concludes mysteriously with an ending that augurs Schoenberg's (1874-1951) Verklärte Nacht (1899), making this one of the greatest romantic chamber music finds of recent times.
That can also be said of the third (1907, revised 1916), which is cast in a single extended sonata form movement of even more advanced harmonic and structural design. The most progressive of his quartets, it’s in the same ballpark with the music of Viteslav Novák (1870-1949) or Josef Suk (1874-1935), and makes a delightful reference to a Czech polka recalling Dvorák’s two sets of Slavonic Dances (1878-86).
It would be another thirty years before Foerster would compose his next string quartet (No. 4, 1944, revised 1945). And with it he'd return to the three-movement format, writing a harmonically as well as thematically dense work of great romantic intensity. You'll find it bears repeated listening to be fully appreciated.
Written the same year he died (1951), the fifth was his last work and has no opus number. It's subtitled "Vestec," which is the village in what's now the Czech Republic where it was composed. Again only in three movements, the composer deliberately never added a fourth, wishing to keep it unfinished as a symbol of his belief that the soul lived on after death.
There's an appealing simplicity and directness about it typically found in the last works of great composers. The first two movements, both allegros, seem to represent a return to the world of Czech folk music as personified by Smetana and Dvorak. The final adagio is utterly sublime, and stands as a moving memorial to this under-appreciated composer.
The string quintet of 1886 is also included. Other than the customary two violins, two violas and cello, the scoring is unusual with one of the violas replaced by a double bass, making the music sound all the richer. It's in two movements subtitled "Viola Odorata" and "Rosa Mystica," implying they’re programmatic. With that in mind the former could be described as a gorgeous violet-hued rhapsody, and the latter, a hymn of hope and salvation associated with the Virgin Mary.
The album is filled out with three occasional pieces that survive only in autograph. There's The Prayer for String Quartet of 1940, which is a moving orison wherein Foerster shows his skill at spinning out a melody. The fleeting Memory (Erinnerung) for String Quartet and Harp of 1901 is so lovely one only wishes it were more lasting.
Finally there's the jocund Allegro giocoso for String Quartet from 1894, which was originally intended to be the last movement of the second quartet. But with a little clever programming, those with CD changers or servers can now tack it on. See if you think Foerster erred in not doing so.
The Stamic Quartet owns these pieces, making a strong case for some music that intrinsically deserves much wider attention. One can't imagine better performances from either the technical or interpretative standpoint. Double bassist Jirí Hudec gets credit for his fine playing in the quintet, and to harpist Jana Bousková we say thanks for the Memory.
Made in At Jacob’s Ladder Church, Prague, the recordings project a rich soundstage in a venue which seems ideally suited to chamber music. The string tone is for the most part silky except for some occasional steely high notes from the violins. Pointy-eared listeners may hear a couple of isolated extra-musical rustles of unknown origin, but they're not so intrusive as to be bothersome.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P101029)
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Gaito: Stg Qts Cpte (2); Sarastro Qt [Tradition]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Records International buyer Jeff Joneikis offers us another winning chamber music discovery (see the newsletter of 21 December 2009) featuring works by Argentinian composer Constantino Gaito (1878-1945). He was born and died in Buenos Aires, but being of Italian parents with steadfast connections to Italy, he received his early musical training in Milan, where he would also take courses with Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924). Consequently you'll find the two string quartets offered here an intriguing blend of the Old and New Worlds (see the informative album notes for more details).
The first quartet of 1916 is in four movements, and begins with an allegro that is exceptional for its rhythmic piquancy and harmonic daring. There's something Gallic about it that brings to mind the quartets of d'Indy (1851-1931) and Ravel (1875-1937) written around the turn of the twentieth century.
The following andante is drop-dead gorgeous, and if anything even more Ravelian, with a tonal fluidity that's highly captivating. But Gaito is not one to let things degenerate into a romantic quagmire, and counterbalances it with a fleeting scherzo brimming with Slavic energy reminiscent of similar movements in Borodin's (1833-1887) two quartets (1875-78 and 1885).
Franckian cyclicity reigns supreme in the last movement right from the opening slow introduction, where the two violins and viola simultaneously reference themes from the three preceding ones. Then after a brief pause, everyone's off and running again, delivering a spirited final allegro with attractive contrapuntal embellishments as well as some delightful harmonic chicanery. Following a display of bravura fireworks, the quartet ends joyfully, leaving one wondering where this piece has been hiding all these years!
Written about 1924 when South Americans began to develop a great interest and pride in pre-Columbian civilizations, the second quartet is subtitled "Incaic" in honor of the Incan culture. In three movements, it's a more straightforward work than its predecessor, and sounds folk inspired in the same sense as Dvorák's (1841-1904) American Quartet (No. 12, 1893). You may even find the thematic material not that far removed from some of the Czech master's.
The opening moderato gets off to a pensive start with a searching hymnlike idea (SH). A tripping, almost oriental sounding tune follows, and Gaito skillfully juggles the two creating a movement that's a melodic masterpiece. Some pentatonic figurations along the way add an exotic Incan air to the movement, which ends much as it began.
The andante is atypical with a slow opening and closing that surround a brief scherzo-like episode. The outer sections feature stretched primitive sounding motifs with some colorful pizzicato accompaniment. The central one is animated and dancelike with cyclic references to SH. It hints at the energetic finale, which is the most complex part of the quartet. Here contrapuntal devices, the canon in particular, are much in evidence. But the highpoint is a lovely lyrical coda with allusions to SH that sets the stage for the forceful no-nonsense ending. You'll love this beautifully constructed infectious music!
The Sarastro Quartet, which is based in Winterthur, Switzerland, does the honors here. Its members make a strong case for Gaito's music, playing it with an attention to rhythmic and dynamic detail that brings out all the subtle nuances of these forgotten scores.
The recordings were produced by the Swiss Radio, and project a generous soundstage housed in a complementary church acoustic. The string tone is for the most part quite natural except for some occasional high end glitter.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P101028)
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Gallagher, J.: Diversions Ov, Berceuse, Sinfta, "Threnody" Sym; Falletta/Lon SO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Over the past eight years, conductor JoAnn Falletta has given us some of the most interesting lesser-known symphonic repertoire available on Naxos (see the Tyberg recommendation below, and the newsletters of 1 November 2006 and 30 May 2008), and she does it again with this release of orchestral selections by American Jack Gallagher (b. 1947). A student of Aaron Copland (1900-1990), Elie Siegmeister (1909-1991), William Bolcom (b. 1938) and George Crumb (b. 1929), Gallagher is one of those rare contemporary composers who write music that's not only immediately appealing, but intellectually satisfying.
The program opens with his Diversions Overture of 1986. It begins in a relaxed Copland manner, soon gathering momentum as a big tune that could be out of a CinemaScope® American Western bursts forth. Brilliantly orchestrated and of impeccable construction, it ends in a peaceful prairie sunset.
The Berceuse (1977) that follows is one of the composer's most popular creations. Lyrically subtle and with a cradle-rocking simplicity bordering on the impressionistic, it's easy to understand why.
In 1989-90 Gallagher wrote a couple of pieces for string orchestra, adding three more in 2006-07 to come up with the five-part Sinfonietta, which receives its world premičre recording here. The movements comprising the expanded work alternate between fast and slow, with the opening one being an energetic "Intrada" that at times smacks of the last movement from Bartok's (1881-1945) Concerto for Orchestra (1942-43, revised 1945).
The delicate "Intermezzo" that follows has all the grace of the previous Berceuse, and is diametrically opposed to the "Malambo" that's next. This feral number is based on the same Argentinean dance tune Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) uses in his Estancia ballet (1941). But restraint once again prevails in the intricately wistful "Pavanne," and the work concludes with a fetching antsy "Rondo" recalling the mood of the "Intrada."
The disc is filled out with the Symphony in One Movement: Threnody of 1991. The mournful impressionistic opening would seem to be an expression of the composer's grief over his mother's death while he was writing the piece. But the music slowly gathers impetus and charges ahead in a series of percussively spiked, colorfully scored passages.
It then dissolves into an arresting lightning-streaked harp cadenza, which may bring to mind Ravel's (1875-1937) Introduction and Allegro... (1905), only to regain momentum as the orchestra lets loose a series of chromatic thunderbolts. The music again briefly abates for another cadenza, this time featuring the clarinet, and somewhat reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) Capriccio Espagnol (1887, see the newsletter of 30 August 2007). The piece ends with more thunderous ff chords punctuated by shrieks from the strings and brass, which recall Bernard Herrmann's (1911-1975) score for Psycho (1960).
Conductor Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra make a strong case for Gallagher's Technicolor scores. Those liking readily accessible symphonic music of late romantic persuasion will not be disappointed.
Done at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, the recordings are excellent and project a convincing soundstage with just the right amount of reverberation. Exceptional clarity characterizes the sound across the entire frequency spectrum without any high end glare. The orchestral timbre is totally natural with silky strings, sonorous winds, and well-delineated percussion. The solo instrumental parts in the symphony are ideally highlighted and balanced against the rest of the orchestra, making the work all the more lustrous. This is a demonstration grade disc.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y101027)
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Mozart, W.A.: Zauberflöte (cpte music & dia); Soloists/Jacobs/RIAS ChC/AAMBer [Harm Mund]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (3 CDs)
Continuing with his acclaimed recorded survey of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's (1756-1791) operas (see the newsletter of 20 August 2009), conductor René Jacobs now gives us Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute, 1791). Originally designed for the stage as a Singspiel, or play with singing, it has a German libretto (see the album notes for the complete text with English as well as French translations, and an excellent plot synopsis) by Bavarian-born impresario, dramatist and actor Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812).
There's a considerable amount of dialogue (fifty minutes worth versus two hours of music), a lot of which is cut today. But that's not the case here where it's presented intact along with all of the music. And through the medium of CD, we get what Jacobs refers to as a Hörspiel, or play similar to what you might hear on the radio.
Jacobs spices up the chatter with all kinds of special effects in keeping with those that probably accompanied the opera when it was first performed in Vienna (1791). These include some dramatic, well thought out instrumental, orchestral and choral ad libs, as well as the frequent use of thunder sheets, drums and other exotic percussion like that found in 17-18th century French opera (see the newsletter of 11 July 2007). There are also improvised preludes and commentaries on the fortepiano (no harpsichord here), which will remind older listeners of that ubiquitous organ in those 1930s-40s daytime radio soap operas. And last but not least, you'll be regaled with some delightful twittering bird calls plus other sonic surprises!
In addition to singing, all of the soloists deliver their spoken lines most convincingly (see Jacobs' must-read album notes). Although occasionally spiked with Austrian dialect, as would have been the case in Vienna, their diction is immaculate. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of German should be able to follow what's going on sans libretto. Those wanting to hear only the music will find the banding detailed enough to effectively program out the dialogue, but it would be a great mistake not to hear it at least once!
With an opera this fanciful, many will find a CD presentation preferable to seeing a staged DVD production, because you can create in your own mind's eye a more credible image of what's going on. It's loaded with Masonic references, and has many associations with ancient Egypt to the point where Mozart right up until the last moment was going to call it Die Egyptischen Geheimnisse (The Egyptian Mysteries). You'll find all this along with several other important underlying concepts explained in the superb album notes.
The overture begins solemnly with ff ascending chords having Masonic significance, and all the dramatic impact of those old familiar ones that open Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Also sprach Zarathustra (1895-96). The music soon takes flight creating an atmosphere of excitement in anticipation of what's to come. Then as the first act curtain goes up, Prince Tamino rushes on stage pursued by a horrible serpent. But not to worry because three ladies of mysterious origin suddenly appear, striking the monster down [CD-1, track-2]. Note the number three, which has Masonic significance and will appear in a variety of contexts during the opera.
In the next scene one of the most loveable characters in all opera makes his appearance. This is the birdcatcher Papageno, which is a comic role that was custom-tailored for Schikaneder. His introductory aria "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja" ("Yes, I'm the birdcatcher") like most of the music here is appealing for its childlike simplicity [CD-1, track-3].
First act highlights from this point on include the legendary florid first aria sung by the Queen of the Night [CD-1, track-7]. An inspired quintet follows wherein those three ladies, who it turns out are her minions, give Tamino a magic flute and Papageno a chest of bells with Harry Potter powers [CD-1, track-8]. The two then set out to find the beautiful Pamina, who's the Queen's daughter and soon to become Tamino's inamorata.
Jumping a bit ahead, three boys (note the number three again) guide the pair to the Temple of Wisdom, where Pamina is in the evil clutches of the Moor Monostatos [CD-1, track-13]. Later there's a festive march and chorus of priests praising their leader Sarastro [CD-1, track-18], and the act ends as he sends Monostatos away and commands his followers to lead Tamino and Papageno into the temple for purification [CD-1, track-19]. Jacobs whips his forces up into one of the most exciting first act Flute finales on disc.
The opening scene for the second act is Egyptiac with numerous pyramids rising from the stage, and begins with a solemn dignified march as Sarastro and his priests enter [CD-2, track-1]. Do you suppose Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) had this in the back of his mind when he wrote the march melody that appears in his concert overture Der Beherrscher der Geister (The Ruler of the Spirits, 1811)? Be that as it may, any doubts about an Egyptian connection are soon dispelled with the next aria by Sarastro asking the gods Isis and Osiris to guide Tamino and Papageno on their way to enlightenment [CD-2, track-3].
There are some wonderful sound effects during the next scenes, and another sublime quintet for the two initiates along with those three ladies [CD-2, track-6]. A catchy aria for Monostatos that may bring to mind Osmin's more tipsy moments in Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction form the Seraglio, 1782) follows [CD-2, track-9]. And no sooner is that over, than thunder and lightning announce the return of the Queen. She shows Pamina a dagger, and commands her to use it on Sarastro [CD-2, track-10]. Then she sings that killer coloratura aria known round the world "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" ("The vengeance of hell boils in my heart"), and descends underground [CD-2, track-11].
Once again Pamina is threatened by Monostatos, but Sarastro intervenes and sings the Masonically meaningful aria "In diesen heil'gen Hallen" ("Within these sacred halls") [CD-2, trck-13]. At this point it becomes clear the relationship between the Queen and Sarastro might best be described in today's terms as "The Wicked Witch of the West" takes on "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."
The scene shifts to a hall where Tamino along with his birdcatcher friend continue their trials. A delightful combination of solemnity and comedy with some entertaining antics involving Papageno, it soon becomes obvious he's incapable of enlightenment. Pamino then enters, and not knowing Tamino is undergoing a trial of silence, becomes distraught when he won't speak to her. She then sings a moving aria "Auch ich fühis, es ist verschwunden" ("Alas, I feel it has vanished"), and leaves in despair [CD-2, track-17]. The scene ends with more amusing shenanigans by Papageno that at one point involve the appearance of six lions [CD-2, track-18] humorously accompanied by bass fiddles (see the Serebrier recommendation below).
The vaulted interior of a pyramid is the setting for the next scene. Sarastro and his priests carrying small pyramids enter and sing a moving chorus, again invoking Isis and Osiris [CD-3, track-1]. The stage is now set for one of the most imaginative finales predating Wagner's (1813-1883) Ring Cycle (1869-1876).
Under the guidance of two armed men, who intone a somewhat sinister Lutheran chorale having Masonic connotations [CD-3, track-8], Tamino undergoes his final trials by fire and water. He succeeds by playing his flute, and is later reconciled with Pamina [CD-3, tracks-9 and 10].
As for Papageno, earlier he sings one of the most endearing arias ever written, "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen" ("A sweetheart or a little wife") [CD-3, tracks-5], using his bells to conjure up a mate. Unfortunately on first appearance she's a candidate for a nursing home! But after some more trials and tribulations she's transformed into the pulchritudinous "Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Papagena," which is cause for a charming duet by the two lovebirds [CD-3, track-13].
In the end, good triumphs over evil as the malevolent Queen and her three ladies along with Monostatos go directly to hell via a trapdoor in the stage [CD-3, track-14]. The sun then comes out, and all the remaining rejoice with a splendiferous chorus thanking Isis and Osiris [CD-3, track-15]. Thus ends one of the few operas ever written with universal appeal to those of all ages and stations in life.
One last thought regarding the work as a whole. Certain keys had physical significance for Mozart, two examples being C major, which represented light-life, and G minor, darkness-death -- see Alfred Einstein's (1880-1952) Mozart: His Character, His Works (1945). Consequently those of a musicological frame of mind will find a tonal analysis of the musical numbers here quite revealing.
The soloists include sopranos Anna-Kristiina Kaappola (Queen of the Night), Marlis Petersen (Pamina) and Sunhae Im (Papagena), tenors Daniel Behle (Tamino) and Kurt Azesberger (Monostatos), baritone Daniel Schmutzhard (Papageno), and bass-baritone Marcos Fink (Sarastro). Every one of them sing and speak their roles to perfection. Special accolades go to Ms. Kaappola for her stunning portrayal of the Queen, where she tosses off those machine gun notes in her second aria with Bartoli (b. 1966) abandon. Papageno is a role many ruin by making it too cutesy, but not Herr Schmutzhard who's to be commended for giving us a convincing as well as loveable birdcatcher.
Just reading his erudite essay included with the album notes one realizes conductor Jacobs knows this opera inside and out. And he goes on to prove it by delivering the most authentic version of it from both the staging and musical standpoints available today. He approaches it with a spontaneity and enthusiasm ideally suited to such an ingenuous creation, getting exceptional performances from all his soloists, the RIAS Chamber Choir and Academy of Ancient Music Berlin (AAMB).
As with his previous releases of Wolfie's operas, he adds that little extra something which will make this the recording of choice for some time to come. And in regard to the AAMB, timpanist Heiner Herzog and percussionist Marie-Ange Petit are to be commended for their outstanding special effects support.
Recorded in the Teldex Studio Berlin, from the soundstage standpoint this is an ideal "radio" production with the soloist-speakers, chorus and orchestra perfectly positioned and balanced against one another. The voice quality and instrumental timbre are extremely clear, but the album seems to be cut at a high level, which may explain some shrillness in massed choral and string passages. It's too bad this isn't available in the hybrid format as was the initial release (no longer available) of Jacob's Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro, 1786), because the SACD tracks on that had none of this.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P101026)
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Serebrier: Sym 1, Nueve (dblb conc), Vn Conc "Winter", etc; Soloists/Serebrier/Bourn SC&O [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Born in Uruguay (1938) of Slavic parents, José Serebrier was truly a wunderkind when you consider he made his conducting debut at eleven, had written a prize-winning overture by the age of fifteen, and graduated from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia at twenty. His teachers there included Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959, see the newsletters of 30 March and 15 May 2008), as well as Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966, see the newsletter of 12 March 2009), and he also studied with Aaron Copland (1900-1990) at Tanglewood in the 1950s.
Many awards and distinctions would soon follow, highlighted during the 1960s with Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) naming him assistant conductor of the newly formed American Symphony Orchestra, and his being asked by George Szell (1897-1970) to be the Cleveland Orchestra's Composer-in-Residence for its 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons. Having since then become one of today's most frequently recorded classical conductors, most know Serebrier only in that capacity. But he's also an extremely gifted composer, and this third CD in Naxos' ongoing series devoted to his symphonic music (see also Naxos 8559183 and 8559303) should go a long way towards making more people aware of that.
The program begins with his first symphony of 1956, which was Serebrier's second orchestral work. Completely tonal and in one movement, it might best be described as a theme with meditative variations. The strings intone an anguished introduction hinting at the main idea, which soon follows [track-1, beginning at 02:36]. It's a rhythmically insistent tune (RI) ideally suited to the diverse mood-altering transformations about to come. These range from pensive to threatening and triumphant. The symphony then ends reverently with what would seem to be church bells tolling in the distance and a monumental chorale based on RI.
The world premičre recording of Nueve (Nine, 1971) is next. This is a single movement concerto for double bass (see the newsletter of 31 October 2009), where the title refers to the nine thematic variations comprising it (see the informative album notes by the composer for more details). It’s a concertante piece of a different feather where the soloist is also suppose to recite a couple of short excerpts from Shelley's (1792-1822) Prometheus Unbound (1820) [track-2, at 00:46-01:09 and 12:05-12:37], although here they’re read by an actor.
Not only that, the score has no bar lines, and the configuration of the orchestra is unusual (see the newsletter of 30 September 2010) to say the least. More specifically, the strings surround some of the brass, with the rest stationed in one of the balconies. And the only woodwinds are two clarinets placed surreptitiously in the audience.
A mysterious piece, the opening is subdued and builds to a jazzy percussive battle in the spirit of Nielsen's (1865-1931) Inextinguishable Symphony (No. 4, 1914-16). The concerto ends with a monumental unison one note crescendo that fades as a wind machine plus vocalizing chorus a lá Vaughan Williams' (1872-1958) Sinfonia Antarctica (No. 7, 1949-52) emerge. In conclusion we hear the last Shelley quotation as tutti and then the soloist follow the chorus into the icy mists.
Another one movement concerto, this time for violin, follows. Written in 1991, it's subtitled "Winter," and meant as a musical characterization of the end of life rather than a season. It opens with a cadenza where the soloist states a laid-back extended romantic theme. The orchestra soon joins in, and the pace accelerates into an allegro with several boisterous bravura outbursts.
Towards the end Serebrier quotes from winter-related works by three other composers. Without looking at the album notes, can you name them [track-3, beginning at 10:40, 11:16 and 11:53]? The concerto concludes with some fancy fiddling accompanied by exultant percussion-spiked vociferations from the orchestra.
Two occasional selections are next, the Tango en Azul (Tango in Blue, 2001) and Casi un Tango (Almost a Tango, 2002). Piazzolla (1921-1992) fans will love the former, which begins with the same macho four-note flourish which ends the composer's Partita Symphony (No. 2, 1958). As for the latter, which is scored for English horn and strings, the word "Almost" is if anything an overstatement when it comes to this lovely melancholy piece. You'll find it more in line with the pastoral offerings of Delius (1862-1934, see the newsletter of 29 September 2009) or Vaughan Williams (1872-1958, see the newsletter of 18 February 2009).
The disc closes with the fourteen-minute symphonic poem They Rode Into the Sunset -- Music for an Imaginary Film (2009), which is another world premičre recording. It's derived from the score Serebrier was writing for a Bollywood film that was never completed.
Despite the American-Western-sounding title of the piece here, the movie was about a young British-schooled composer from India with a progressively paralytic disease. It was going to include a mini-symphony with piano accompaniment, which explains the brief solo appearance of that instrument. With a rich romantic ending for full orchestra and wordless chorus, They Rode... is in the best tradition of Erich Korngold (1897-1957, see the newsletter of 9 August 2007), Alfred Newman (1900-1970, see the newsletter of 9 August 2007) and Max Steiner (1888-1971, see the newsletter of 10 October 2007)
With a composer, who easily qualifies as one of today's finest conductors, interpreting his own music, all of these selections must be considered definitive. The performances he gets from the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra are exceptional, and it's hard to imagine better soloists than double bassist Gary Karr and violinist Philippe Quint. Actor Simon Callow also gets a hand for his dulcet Shelley readings.
Made over two days in the same venue, the recordings are very atmospheric, and will appeal to those liking big soundstages. The one projected here is easily as deep as it is broad, and housed in a wet reverberant acoustic. The instrumental timbre is crystal clear with immaculate transient bass, and highs bordering on the bright side, but not distressingly so. The soloists are well positioned and balanced against the orchestra, as is the chorus. All in all this is audiophile material which will challenge the best sound systems.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y101025)
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Tyberg: Sym 3, Pno Trio; Falletta/Buff PO/Chuang/Ludwig/Mekinulov [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Naxos pulls another rabbit out of its hat of unknown musical treasures (see the Gallagher recommendation above) with these two works by a man who was a victim of the Holocaust. Austrian pianist, conductor and composer Marcel Tyberg (1893-1944) was born and studied in Vienna, before the vicissitudes of World War I (1914-18) prompted his family to move to Abbazia, Italy in 1916.
After his father's death in 1927, he continued living there, supporting himself and his mother by teaching, playing the organ in local churches, and composing ballroom dances (under the pseudonym Till Bergmar), as well as a substantial body of serious music. Although impressionism, neoclassicism and serialism were all the rage back then, he chose to ignore them and remained a dyed-in-the-wool romanticist.
Tyberg completed his four-movement third symphony in the fall of 1943. Sadly it would be his last as the times they were a-changin' with the Nazi takeover of Italy (see the newsletter of 30 September 2010). To wit, when word got out he had a Jewish great-grandfather, he was arrested by the Gestapo, and eventually detained in Auschwitz. Nazi records show it was there that he become part of "The Final Solution" on New Year's Eve 1944.
Fortunately Tyberg had seen the handwriting on the wall, and entrusted all his scores to an Italian doctor friend. These were later passed on to the doctor's son, who being a resident of Buffalo, New York, showed them to conductor JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO). The third symphony was among them, and Falletta was so impressed she and the BPO gave the first performance of it, which was soon followed by this recording.
The opening andante is fraught with sinister overcast brass passages that have more than a passing resemblance to the first movement of Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) third symphony (1893-96, revised in 1906). There are also lilting moments reminiscent of Bruckner's (1824-1896) Romantic Symphony (No. 4, 1874, revised 1878-86) capped with manic Mahlerian bursts of sunshine for full orchestra. There's never an apathetic moment with the movement ending much like it began.
While Gustav's ghost also haunts the relatively brief scherzo, there's a 1930s dance band informality about it where the composer shows the Bergmar side of his character (see above). This and some saucy orchestration make it indigenous Tyberg, anticipating Erich Wolfgang Korngold's (1897-1957) symphony of 1951-52.
It's the perfect foil to the somber adagio that follows. This opens with the strings and brass singing a dark duet set to a mournful melody. But hope-filled solos for the violin, flute and oboe brighten the mood, and the movement ends with a warm autumnal glow.
The rollicking rondo that concludes the symphony has a recurring theme that could almost be out of a score for an American Western (see the Gallagher and Serebrier recommendations above). In that regard Jerome Moross' (1913-1983) main title for The Big Country (1958) comes to mind.
Tyberg really comes into his own here, presenting the listener with a panoply of musical images ingeniously derived from the main idea. This magnificently constructed jubilant music totally belies the fate of its creator, and dramatizes the tragedy of his early demise.
Next up, his piano trio of 1935-36, which qualifies along with the Foerster quartets (see the recommendation above) as one of the best chamber music finds of 2010. The first of its three movements is a sonata form allegro with the harmonic density of Brahms (1833-1897), but themes having a melodic lightness of touch that seems to be a Tyberg trademark. This also extends to the following adagio, which is a fetching wistful rhapsodic dialogue between the strings.
The rondo finale is more in line with Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) two piano trios (1839 and 1835). Here the agitated main idea undergoes a series of metamorphoses exploring every facet of its character. A sense of urgency pervades the whole movement, which ends with a shrug of the shoulders, leaving one anxious to explore Tyberg's other chamber music.
We have conductor Falletta and the BPO to thank for resurrecting this lost symphonic masterpiece. They deliver a magnificent account of it, making its return to the land of the living all the more significant. If the scores exist, maybe Naxos will also give us the first two symphonies.
Violinist Michael Ludwig, cellist Roman Mekinulov, and pianist Ya-Fei Chuang are our soloists for the trio. Their enthusiastic playing makes for an exciting interpretation of this treasurable chamber music, where it's easy to overlook a couple of intonational anomalies.
Both pieces were recorded in the Kleinhans Music Hall, home of the BPO. The symphony is captured in robust sonics across a soundstage that could have been a bit more spread out. The instrumental timbre is good with a touch of digital grain in ff string passages. Perceptive listeners will notice an extraneous click which survived the editing process in the adagio [track-3 at 00:26].
The trio sounds somewhat congested, and would have benefitted from closer miking. There's also some low frequency noise in more subdued moments throughout the piece possibly from outside traffic. Maybe the recording was made at rush hour, but we’re still lucky to have what's here!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P101024)
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