CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
19 DECEMBER 2011
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.
Amirov/Nazirova: Pno Conc... (w Adigezalov, Badalbeyli, Guliyev); Various/Yablonsky/RP O [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
The folk music of Azerbaijan, and mugam in particular, pervades the five symphonic selections making their disc debuts on this recent Naxos release. A winning synthesis of East and West, four of them feature the piano, and the fifth a vocalizing soprano. Five of this country's most celebrated composers are represented, including Farhad Badalbeyli (b. 1947), who's also one of the pianists here.
After a puzzling ten-second lead-in, the concert begins with the three movement Concerto for Piano and Orchestra after Arabian Themes from 1957 by probably the best known Azerbaijani composer, Fikret Amirov (1922-1984). Written in collaboration with associate pianist-composer Elmira Nazirova (b. 1926), it's a most enjoyable pastiche of exotic Eastern melodies served up in Western concerto form.
The initial Arabian sounding allegro couldn't be more spirited. On the other hand, the following andante begins somberly with the piano soon playing a theme ornamented with what could be flecks of the Dies Irae. An animated dancelike central episode follows, but the sobriety of the opening measures returns, ending the movement dramatically. The concluding allegro is an exciting bravura race between soloist and tutti with a fiery cadenza and frenetic closing coda concluding this colorful concerto in Rachmaninov (1873-1943) country.
The fourth and last piano concerto (1994) of Vasif Adigezalov (1935-2006) is next. Also in three movements, there's a melodic and rhythmic drive like that found in mugam (see above). It opens with an insistent extended theme (IE) that's expanded and followed by a melodically subdued idea. Both undergo a spirited development, which ends in a magnificent march tune [track-4, beginning at 09:33]. A recapitulation of IE follows, concluding the movement quietly and bringing Aram Khachaturian's (1903-1978) only effort in this genre (1936) to mind.
The initially restful andante builds to a thundering crescendo, after which the music once again becomes lyrically relaxed. The movement then ends in peaceful rusticity only to be followed by a hyper final allegro. This opens with boisterous percussively accented passages for orchestra along with some keyboard fireworks, all of which are reminiscent of Prokofiev (1891-1953). But the furor suddenly gives way to a romantic rhapsodic episode that peaks and subsides into a demanding machine gun cadenza. The orchestra then reappears, ending the movement much as it began, but in a final shower of virtuosic sparks.
Three occasional pieces fill out the program beginning with Tofig Guliyev's (1917-2000) Gaytagi, which is a dance for piano and orchestra. Originally only for piano (1958, currently unavailable on disc), the composer orchestrated it in 1980, giving us a catchy kinetic number resembling the lezghinka from Khachaturian's Gayne Ballet (1942, revised 1952 and redone 1957). There's even a shout from the musicians reminiscent of that in Delius' (1862-1934) Eventyr (1917).
The last two selections are programmatic offerings by Badalbeyli (see above), beginning with The Sea for piano and orchestra (1977), which features groundswell romantic melodies and wavelet pianistic embellishments. It ends curiously with unresolved "tides out" harp arpeggios, and is a worthy successor to Sir Hubert Bath's (1883-1945) Cornish Rhapsody (1944).
But the Wicked Witch of the East suddenly appears changing the tripedal piano into a bipedal soprano for Shusha (2003), which except for a few closing words is a vocalise of endearing romantic persuasion. It honors the Azerbaijani city of that name, which is one of the country's most distinguished cultural centers. Hearing it, Rachmaninov's ever popular Vocalise (1912, revised 1915) inevitably comes to mind.
Mr. Badalbeyli is also our soloist for the Amirov/Nazirova and Guliyev selections, as well as his own The Sea, giving us technically accomplished, heartfelt performances of these rarities. The same can be said for pianist Murad Adigezalzade and soprano Joan Rodgers in the other two works. The support provided by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) under Dmitry Yablonsky is committed and enthusiastic, ensuring a memorable listening experience when you spin this disc.
Made in the RPO's home venue, Cadogan Hall, London, the recordings project a well-proportioned soundstage in an ideally reverberant acoustic, which was originally a Byzantine style church. The sound is extremely clear bordering on bright with a pleasing orchestral timbre. The piano is well placed and balanced, but there is a digital edge to it, as is also the case with Ms. Rodgers otherwise gorgeous voice.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P111219)
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Ben-Haim: Sym 1, Fanf..., Sym Metamorphosis on "Wer nun..." (BWV 642); Yinon/HanNDR RP [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Munich-born Paul Frankenburger began his musical career in 1920 as a successful German pianist, conductor and composer, but with the rise of Nazism, fled to Palestine in 1933. He then changed his name to Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984), under which he'd go on to become one of Israel's leading composers, and most revered teachers.
Highly prolific, Ben-Haim left a rich symphonic legacy, which is sampled on this new release from CPO. Incidentally, these are the only versions of the three selections included here currently available on CD.
The composer tells us his three-movement first symphony of 1939-40 is not programmatic, but its sinister mood inevitably reflects the horrors of World War II (1939-1945) then beginning to envelop Europe. Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) ghost pervades the work right from the start with a three-note descending riff (TD) that's a quote from the opening of his Resurrection Symphony (No. 2, 1884-86, revised 1893-96).
Agitated passages with frequent references to TD follow, and then a subdued introspective episode. However, reminders of TD along with shivering string passages are heard as the movement increases in intensity and seems to end climatically. But after a brief pause it resumes with a delicate TD-based melody on the flute. This slowly builds via a malevolent Mahlerian march that concludes the movement powerfully.
The mysterious East dominates the extended theme permeating the slow movement. This seems in keeping with what the album notes tell us is a melodic quote from a Persian Jewish song setting of Psalm 121. The music begins in restrained fashion, building to an initially confident towering climax. However, it suddenly turns dissonantly pessimistic as the movement slowly fades into ambivalent quietude.
The final presto begins with percussive outbursts followed by scurrying tarantella-like passages (STs) that briefly give way to an Eastern-sounding chorale tune (EC) [track-3, beginning at 01:20]. The pace becomes more hectic accented by explosive bass drum strokes along with flashes of tam-tam, and then slows as EC reappears. But the STs soon resume, building to a monumental final chord that ends the symphony in guarded optimism.
Dating from 1950 and originally for brass band, Fanfare for Israel is heard next in an arrangement for full orchestra done shortly after it was written. Lasting about seven minutes, opening drum rolls and brass flourishes herald a subdued hymnlike tune, which gathers strength, concluding the piece triumphantly.
The program closes with Symphonic Metamorphosis on a Bach Chorale from 1968, where the subject tune (ST) is J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) organ arrangement of "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" ("Whoever Lets Only Our Dear God Govern," BWV 642) from Das Orgelbüchlein (The Little Organ Book, BWV 599-644, 1708-14). The most progressive of Ben-Haim’s pieces here, ST is first stated and then undergoes a series of six transformations, each wrapping fragments of it in different stylistic attire.
Subdued winds and strings introduce ST, after which the brass suddenly interrupt with the first metamorphosis [track-5, beginning at 02:17], which is an aggressive "recitative." This transitions into a hushed dark "passacaglia" [track-5, beginning at 04:39] that slowly intensifies. Thunderous low-end percussion then announces the next "capriccio" transformation [track-5, beginning at 07:32], which is a refreshingly whimsical change of pace.
After a brief pause, the fourth metamorphosis follows [track-5, beginning at 10:08] in the form of another "recitative." However, this time ST is reshaped into a restrained, Eastern-sounding cantilena. It seems appropriately in keeping with Ben-Haim's conversion from a composer of German to Israeli persuasion. The music then glides effortlessly into the penultimate transformation, which is a relaxed "ricercare" [track-5, beginning at 13:35] contrapuntally marbled with streaks of ST.
This blossoms into the concluding "coda" segment [track-5, beginning at 15:15] that begins triumphantly, only to end in an ff chord of desperation, followed by a long pause and sinister whimpers of ST. Considering the Six-Day War of 1967, maybe the composer had foreboding thoughts about the future of Israel when he wrote this.
Down through the years no conductor has done more to resurrect undeservedly neglected twentieth century symphonic repertoire than Israel Yinon (b. 1956). And once again we have him to thank for this enterprising disc! You'll not only find all three selections have rewarding inherent musical value, but Maestro Yinon elicits sensitive committed performances, this time from North German Radio (NDR) Philharmonic Hannover, that show them off to best advantage.
A coproduction of CPO and NDR, the recordings were made at their large studio in Hannover, and project a bowed soundstage in a warm acoustic, where the outer strings seem considerably closer than the central part of the orchestra. The instrumental timbre is a mixed blessing with winds, brass and percussion convincingly captured, but the violins sound a bit brittle. Rock bottom lows and powerful bass drum strokes (see above) will delight Audiophiles.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P111218)
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Cobos: Sym Wks Cpte (Sym "Cursus Vitae", Agonía Recurrente, Jungla); Temes/Cast-León SO [Verso]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Born in Valladolid, Spain on 20 April 1927, Luis de los Cobos would study law and music there, eventually getting a doctorate in jurisprudence. However his musical interests prevailed! So when politics necessitated his leaving the country in 1952, he went to Rome where he studied conducting for a year, and then Paris for a two year stint at the Paris Conservatory.
But despite all that musical training, he chose to pursue a law career in Geneva and later Vienna, where he lives today, with music as a sideline. Hearing this disc makes one wish he'd chosen the other way around! It includes world premiere recordings of the three orchestral works he's written to date, which reveal a composer of considerable talent.
The CD begins with his symphony subtitled "Cursus Vitae" ("Life's Course") written in 1955-56 when he was just twenty-eight. It's hard to believe a composer so young could find inspiration in cradle-to-grave subject matter, let alone create such a sophisticated work. In that regard, Cobos showed the score to the great Ataúlfo Argenta (1913-1958), who was so impressed he planned to conduct its premier in 1958. Unfortunately Argenta’s untimely death would deny classical music lovers this undiscovered masterpiece for forty years, until it was finally premiered in 1998 by the artists on this release.
Dedicated to Argenta and in four movements, the opening one seems to reflect Cobos' Paris years. It’s in two connected sections, the first being a staid reverent introductory adagio that brings César Franck to mind (1822-1890). The second, an ambulatory allegro [track-1, beginning at 02:08] generally adhering to sonata form, opens with several memorable thematic episodes that take their cue from Albéric Magnard (1865-1914) and Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931, see the newsletter of 10 May 2011). Ranging from ruminative to militaristic, nostalgic and amorous, they're subjected to some exquisite chromatic manipulation, then recapped with the movement ending martially.
The next andante is one of a kind! What starts off as a solemn funeral procession suddenly turns into a captivating, jazzy sounding combination of Gershwin (1898-1937, see the newsletter of 22 November 2010) and Hindemith (1895-1963) [track-2, beginning 04:43]. The movement then ends in much the same spirit as it began, providing a complete contrast to the following allegretto. This is a folkish confection with airy opening and closing sections featuring a lovely melody sung by the flute. They surround an engaging plucky central passage [track-3, beginning at 01:15] that's quite scherzo-like.
The final presto begins with scampering, heroic passages (SHs) having brass fanfares worthy of Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). The tempo suddenly slows, introducing a sad, rapturous episode [track-4, beginning at 03:50] featuring solo violin. But it's short-lived as the opening SHs return only to end abruptly with a tolling bell. Considering the work's subtitle, maybe this signifies life's end, and the jubilant coda that completes it, consolation or man's spiritual transcendence. Whatever its meaning, this powerful conclusion makes the symphony all the more memorable.
The program continues with Agonía Recurrente (Recurrent Agony) of eleven years later (1967), which the composer subtitled Meditatión Sinfónica (Symphonic Meditation). It had to wait until 2006 for its premiere, thanks again to this conductor and orchestra. The most progressive piece here, it might best be classified as a tone poem, but the album notes give no hint of any underlying program. That said, it's an intensely dramatic, chromatically searching, beautifully orchestrated piece, which considering its title seems to conjure up images of mental turmoil.
Reserved and miasmic at the beginning, it builds with a mechanistic precision worthy of Alexander Mosolov’s (1900-1973) Iron Foundry (1926-28, see the newsletter of 30 April 2008) and what sound like bits of the Dies Irae [track-5, beginning at 07:02], to some shattering climactic moments. The last of these is followed by a deathly silence, after which the music resumes pianissimo to the sound of a bell. The piece ends with an upward unresolved flourish, leaving the listener in limbo.
The CD concludes with Jungla (Jungle) for string orchestra of 1963, which Cobos revised for its belated 2005 premiere. The album notes tell us the title refers to life's trials and tribulations, which would seem in keeping with this complex offering. In roughly six adjoining sections, the first is searching with sweeping phrases featuring some solo violin work. It ends all aquiver, and after a brief pause we get a baleful lethargic waltz (BL) [track-6, beginning at 04:14] with more solo violin passages. These give way to pizzicato-laced ones that introduce an animated driving episode (AD) reminiscent of a Handel (1685-1759) concerto grosso.
After another pause there's a momentary reminder of BL [track-6, beginning at 07:26] and AD that ushers in a hope-filled, chromatic melody [track-6, beginning at 08:37]. A clever development utilizing contrapuntal elements and additional solo violin embellishments follows [track-6, beginning at 09:38], bringing Bernard Herrmann's (1911-1975) suite for strings from his score for the film Psycho (1960) to mind (see the newsletter of 27 November 2009).
It culminates in an agitated bravura coda [track-6, beginning at 13:44] that ends the piece with a perfunctory, tonally restless final cord. In retrospect Jungla might best be described as a modern day concerto grosso, bringing to mind the three by William Alwyn (1905-1985, see the newsletters of 21 September 2011).
As mentioned above, our artists here, conductor José Luis Temes and the Castile and León Symphony Orchestra, can take pride in having premiered the first two selections. Granted this may not be a world-class ensemble, but their committed dramatic performances of all three works make a strong case for a Cobos revival. You won't be disappointed!
Made in the Miguel Delibes Cultural Center Symphony Hall, Valladolid, Spain, the recordings are adequate, but not about to win any audio awards. They project a recessed soundstage in a crisp acoustic, producing an orchestral timbre that's skewed towards the upper frequencies. The disc seems cut at a very high level with instrumental clarity and focus preserved, but at the expense of rather steely sounding strings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P111217)
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Dubois, T.: Fant... (vc), Ste Conc (vc & pno), Conc Cap (pno), etc; Coppey/Heisser/Poi-Char O [Mirare]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
A couple of years ago we raved about some chamber music by French composer Théodore Dubois (1837-1924, see the newsletter of 28 January 2009), and here's an equally outstanding release with four of his works for cello and/or piano with orchestra, plus a moving symphonic memorial to the victims of World War I. Considering their potential appeal, it's surprising to find these are the only recordings of them currently available on disc, but better one than none with music of this quality!
The opening Fantaisie-Stück for cello (published in 1912) is an undiscovered virtuosic gem in three linked movements. The initial allegro [track-1] has two memorable contrasting themes that show off the soloist's entire range. The first is vivacious (V1) [track-1, beginning at 00:02] as opposed to the flowing second (F2) [track-1, beginning at 02:35], both of which Dubois alternates in rondo fashion. Do you hear moments not that far removed from Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Don Quixote (1896-97)?
The moving andante [track-2] opens with the cello stating a romantic third idea (R3) [track-2, beginning at 01:40], which is a synthesis of V1 and F2. It becomes increasingly agitated, transitioning into the concluding allegro [track-3] that's a twitchy tarantella. It gives the soloist a chance to show off his technical prowess, and includes a fourth motif which is a variant of R3 [track-3, beginning at 00:54]. An abortive fugue [track-3, beginning at 01:37] and some last minute cello pyrotechnics end the piece on a high.
Piano and cello join forces for the four movement Suite concertante (c. 1912), which the composer tells us was meant to embody musical ideals as opposed to being a virtuosic showpiece. And it would seem he accomplished this from the very beginning with a searching first movement that's a measured combination of Gallic melodies and Wagnerian chromaticism. The interplay between soloists and tutti holds the listener's attention right from a piano introduction à la César Franck (1822-1890).
While the foregoing is concerto-like, the next three movements have an informality and variety of mood typically found in a suite. The first of these is in essence a fleeting scherzo, where the soloists and orchestra dosido around each other. However, the next larghetto couldn't be more different! It's an orchestral elegy with piano and cello figurations, as well as brass highlighting adding a martial touch.
But the mood does a one-eighty in the final allegro, which starts off with a folk ditty recalling ones Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931, see the newsletter of 10 May 2011) loved to borrow. The cello picks it up, after which the piano introduces a stunning distantly related melody (SD) [track-7, beginning at 01:31]. A development with a wealth of fragments from foregoing themes follows, and then SD returns in the orchestra with big tune status [track-7, beginning at 04:21]. An intricate thrilling final coda, once again hearkening back to previous motifs, ends this neglected treasure in cyclic fashion.
The cellist goes out for a short beer, while the piano takes center stage for the Concerto capriccioso dating from some thirty-five years earlier (c. 1876). In simple ternary form, it begins with an introductory keyboard passage [track-8] not far removed from Beethoven's (1770-1827) late sonatas (1818-22). The orchestra then enters [track-9], soon joined by the soloist in a lively combined statement and development episode (LC) recalling Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) earlier piano concertos (1858-69), and anticipating Godard’s (1849-1895) concertante works we recently told you about (see the newsletter of 7 October 2011).
This transitions via a bare-bones cadenza into a laid-back rhapsodic section [track-10] with a piano trill that calls up the concluding allegro [track-11]. It recaps LC with some colorful harmonic modifications, and ends the concerto in bravura passages for both soloist and tutti that would bring audiences to their feet!
Next the orchestra gives us In memoriam mortuorum (In Memory of the Dead, c. 1917), which is an elegiac symphonic chant in tribute to victims of The Great War (World War I, 1914-1918). At just over five minutes and scored for minimal forces, it's a moving homage with lachrymal oboe solos.
The CD concludes as the cellist returns for a brief encore, the Andante cantabile of 1914 in a version with orchestral accompaniment. An aria for cello with a melodic simplicity and sincerity that make it one of the composer's best known and loved creations, it's a memorable ending for this remarkable disc of discovery.
Jean-François Heisser, who's both our pianist and conductor, is joined by cellist Marc Coppey along with the Poitou-Charentes Orchestra (OPC) for these selections. Both soloists are technically accomplished, delivering sensitive committed performances of everything they play. Consisting mostly of faculty members from conservatories in the Poitou-Charentes region of France, the OPC acquits itself very well across the board, making this release all the more indispensable.
Made in the Theater-Auditorium of Poitiers, France, the engineers have really outdone themselves in this superb venue with recordings that project a magnificent soundstage in a warm nourishing acoustic. The overall instrumental timbre sparkles with a musicality that finds the soloists convincingly captured and perfectly balanced against the orchestra. Romantic audiophiles will find this a superb demonstration disc, even if it doesn't occasion the extended frequency and dynamic ranges associated with more robust romantic scores.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y111216)
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Longo, Ac.; Pilati: Pno Qnts; Ciccolini/CircArtEn [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Naxos delivers another inventive release with this disc featuring world premiere recordings of two piano quintets by Neapolitan composers Achille Longo (1900-1954) and Mario Pilati (1903-1938). Romantics will find much to enjoy in these little known pieces, which lie in the stylistic spectrum of music by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936, see the newsletter of 1 March 2007), Idebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968, see the newsletter of 10 September 2010), and Luciano Berio (1925-2003).
One of Longo's prize pupils was legendary pianist Aldo Ciccolini (b. 1925), who knew and loved his quintet (1934) right from its inception. At age eighty-eight, and in one of his rare latter-day appearances, we're lucky to have him as soloist here. In three-movements [tracks-4, 5 and 6], the initial moderato is alternately pensive and anguished with some lovely melodic expanses. Brilliant passages for the piano shown off to great advantage by Signor Ciccolini turn it into a mini-concerto.
As far as slow movements in late romantic chamber music are concerned, you'll find the following largo ranks with the best. The strings dominate this sad songful offering, which harkens back to Respighi's Adagio con variazioni (Adagio with Variations, 1920).
It’s a complete contrast to vivacious final allegro! With its jazzy hammering piano-accented riffs, this has a recurring melody that sounds like a cross between a college football song [track-6, beginning 01:06] and something out of a Poulenc (1891-1964) ballet. It ends this fearless concerto with an irreverence that along with its total lack of nationalistic coloring must have alienated Italian Fascist critics of the day, but will leave you grinning!
Despite having been written six years earlier, Pilati's quintet (1927-28) is much more contemporary sounding. Also in three movements [tracks-1, 2 and 3], the first opens querulously, becoming increasingly lyrical and eventually glowing with a late romantic radiance. These contrasting moods make for an exceptionally affecting movement, which ends in peaceful resignation.
The next section starts out sounding a bit like skittering Mendelssohn (1809-1847), but soon turns maniacally driven. The pace then slackens as the music becomes nostalgic with some lovely rhapsodic passagework (LR) for piano [track-2, beginning at 03:05] and later violin. This builds to a thematic climax that fades into a recapitulation of the opening measures and hints of LR as the movement ends.
The finale begins with a nervous repeated motif (NR) that soon transforms into a Latin folkish-sounding ditty [track-3, beginning at 00:58]. A lovely cantalena belying the movement's animato marking follows, and then the quintet concludes with a spirited return of NR. This masterfully crafted piece leaves the listener wondering what other delights Pilati might have come up with had he not died at the early age of thirty-five.
The string players for both quintets are drawn from the Circolo Artistico Ensemble, which specializes in rare early twentieth century Italian chamber repertoire. Violinists Giuseppe Carotenuto and Nicola Marino along with violist Giuseppe Navelli and cellist Manuela Albano acquit themselves very well, giving enthusiastic support to pianist Dario Candela in the Pilati, and as noted above, the great Aldo Ciccolini for the Longo. Considering Ciccolini's intimate association with his mentor's quintet, this would have to be considered a definitive performance.
These studio recordings project a narrow soundstage in a dry acoustic with the instruments close together, but well focused and balanced. The string sound is generally musical with a touch of occasional glare, while the piano is impressively captured, particularly in the frequent rhythmically percussive passages found in both scores. You may notice a fleeting dropout in the last movement of the Pilati [track-3, during 01:37], although this may just be on the review copy.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P111215)
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Brazilian Sym Dances (12 by 10 Brazilian 19-20th c cmpsrs); Minczuk/SãoPau SO [BIS (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 SACD)
Hearing these twelve symphonic dances on this recent BIS hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) disc, it's easy to understand why Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) became fascinated with Brazilian music during his years as a French attaché in Rio de Janeiro (1917-1919). Consequently you'll detect echoes of them in his La création du monde (1919) and Saudades do Brasil (1920-21).
A jewel box of Latin American baubles, it begins with a couple of infectious numbers by Alberto Nepomuceno (1864-1920). The first is the captivating prelude to his unfinished opera O Guaratuja (1904) [track-1]. And no you haven't lost your mind if you sense an air of Scandinavia about it, considering Alberto married a Norwegian, spent considerable time in Bergen, and was a friend of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907).
However, the next selection couldn't be more Brazilian. It's a batuque (samba) which originated as a piano piece called Danças dos Negros (1888; currently unavailable on disc), and later became the fourth movement of Nepomuceno's orchestral Série Brasileira (Brazilian Set, 1891) [track-2]. It may bring Delius' (1862-1934) Florida Suite (1887) to mind, and is a perfect companion piece for the following samba from Alexandre Levy's (1864-1892) Suíte Brasileíra (1890, currently unavailable on disc) [track-3].
We couldn't have a Brazilian version of American Bandstand without something by Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), whose Dança Frenética (Frantic Dance, 1919) is next [track-4]. The most contemporary sounding selection so far, it’s a tiny colorful terpsichorean tone poem that's quite cinematic. And at just over five minutes, there's not a wasted note, proving he could be very succinct when he wanted.
The program continues with a congada (congo) from Francisco Mignone's (1897-1986) opera O Contratador de Diamantes (The Diamond Contractor; 1921, currently unavailable on disc) [track-5]. With African-Brazilian Catholic religious associations, this ultimately fulminant dance begins in restrained lyrical fashion, but ends in a percussion-laced audio orgy.
Another batuque (see above), this time the captivating finale from a suite entitled Reisado do Pastoreio (untranslatable; 1930, currently unavailable on disc) by Oscar Lorenzo Fernández (1897-1948) is next. A favorite of Toscanini (1867-1957) and Bernstein (1918-1990), it's become a pops standard, and presaged the opening from Alberto Ginastera's (1916-1983) ballet Estancia (1941).
Then we have three dances by Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993) from 1928. The opening melodically austere Dança Selvagem (Savage Dance) [track-7] is rhythmically possessed, while there's a jazzy fluidity about Dança Negra (Negro Dance) [track-8]. The final Dança Brasileira [track-9] is a light-hearted pops standard in the Leroy Anderson (1908-1975, see the newsletter of 25 November 2008) tradition that will be familiar to most.
But clouds roll in for Edino Krieger's (b. 1928) Passacalha para o Novo Milênio (Passacaglia for the New Millennium), presumably written around 2000 [track-10]. The most formal piece here, it starts off on the same footing as Bartok's (1881-1945) Concerto for Orchestra (1942-43, revised 1945) and Music for strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936). At first threatening, the mood lightens as the instrumentation turns brighter. It then ends with a fugal episode that erupts into triumphant closing measures ostensibly welcoming the new millennium.
The next composer represented is Antônio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994), who needs no further introduction than to say he wrote the legendary song "Garota de Ipanema" ("The Girl from Ipanema," 1962), and collaborated on the score for the ever popular film Black Orpheus (1959). We have here the third movement entitled "A Chegada dos Candangos" ("The Arrival of the Workers") from his five-movement Sinfonia da Alvorada (Symphony of Dawn; 1960, currently unavailable on disc) [track-11]. What begins a bit like Villa-Lobos' O Trenzinho do caipira (Little Train of the Caipira, 1930) soon turns into a sassy lilting number by someone whom many consider the patron saint of bossa nova. You'll love it!
The concert concludes with César Guerra-Peixe's (1914-1993) Mourão (no date given) as arranged by Clóvis Pereira (b. 1932) [track-12]. Reminiscent of something you might hear at a Western hoedown, it'll leave you ready to trip the light fantastic.
With a Brazilian conductor and musicians, one couldn't ask for a more appropriate dance band. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) is in full swing under conductor Roberto Minczuk, who delivers lively performances guaranteed to excite the most lethargic of listeners.
The recordings were made in the OSESP's home, the Sala São Paulo, which before its conversion to a concert venue was the vast main hall of a railway station. The soundstage is therefore immense, and in a cavernous reverberant acoustic. This makes for a softly focused orchestral image, and should appeal to those liking wetter sonics.
Brilliantly scored and calling for all sorts of exotic percussion, the instrumental timbre is characterized by titillating highs and seismic lows with the former even more impressive in the SACD modes. The latter won't win any prizes for transient response, but come off a trifle cleaner in multitrack, which puts you in a center front row orchestra seat. As is usually the case with BIS, the dynamic range is considerable.
One last thought regarding BIS's ongoing survey of Brazilian delights. How about giving us some of Hekel Tavares' (1896-1969) symphonic music?
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y111214)
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