31 JULY 2012


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.
Friskin: Pno Qnt, Phant (stg qt), Elegy (va & pno), Phant (pno qnt); Dubois/Rasumovsky Qt [Nimbus A]
Scottish-born musician James Friskin (1886-1967) emigrated to the US in 1914, and is probably best remembered as a founding faculty member at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he'd teach for the rest of his life. But he was also an accomplished composer, who before he left England studied at the Royal College of Music (RCM) with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1954, see the newsletter of 17 August 2011), apparently becoming one of his favorite students.

Written between 1907 and 1912, the four chamber pieces on this new Nimbus Alliance CD are considerably more sophisticated than his earlier efforts undoubtedly due to his years with Stanford. The only currently available recordings of them, the disc begins with the four movement piano quintet of 1907.

The initial sonata form allegro [track-1] opens with a short dramatic motif [00:01] followed by a fetching bouquet of melodic ideas that may be folk related. The first [00:27] and fourth [04:44] of these are of impish disposition, which seems a recurring stylistic trait of Friskin's music. The second [02:02] as well as the third [03:49] are rhapsodic. The lyrically lithe fifth (LL) [05:44] is followed by a development and recapitulation ending in a gorgeous coda [10:15] based on LL.

The composer's impishness is again apparent in the will-o'-the-wisp scherzo [track-2]. In fact, the album notes tell us the second idea [00:59] quotes some unidentified popular Scottish song that for one reason or another grossed out Sir Charles.

The adagio [track-3] begins with a sighing sad theme (SS) in the strings [00:00] that may bring to mind the big tune in the last movement of Dvorak's (1841-1904) New World Symphony (No. 9, 1893). The piano ponders this only to be interrupted by a couple of interjections from the strings. An attractive Scottish-flavored tune (AS) follows on the viola [02:52], becoming the subject of a developmental conversation that also recaps SS. The movement then ends in a moving coda based on SS [06:48].

The modified sonata form fourth movement [track-4] begins with an urgent fourteen-note motif (UF) [00:00] set to that Morse Code letter V rhythm that pervades Beethoven's (1770-1827) fifth symphony (1807). A sad variant of AS (SV) soon follows [00:14], and then a brief animated development with more of those Friskin imps [01:42 and 02:30].

Atypically at this late stage in the game a new flowing two-part melody (FT) that's a distant cousin of LL is introduced [03:02], becoming fuel for further development along with SV and UF. The recapitulation starts by recalling FT [07:38] and AS [08:49], with the latter eventually worked into a thrilling impish final coda.

The twelve-minute Phantasie for String Quartet (c. 1909) [track-5] also begins with the "V" rhythm mentioned above, and features another assortment of attractive tunes. These include a gorgeous introspective number [02:33] that reappears in rondo fashion, and is the keystone of the joyful conclusion.

James met English violist-composer Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) at the RCM, and would become a great admirer of hers. He would eventually go on to marry her in 1944 after she was forced by the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945) to stay in the US.

Taking this into consideration, it's entirely possible the following Elegy for Viola and Piano (1912) was written for her. This also seems in keeping with the ardency of this romantic rhapsody for the most amorous of stringed instruments.

The concert concludes with Phantasy for Piano Quintet from 1910 [track-7]. The most complex piece here, it's an amazing accomplishment for a twenty-four-year-old, and bears repeated listening for full appreciation. No wonder Stanford thought so highly of Friskin!

In a single movement lasting almost twenty minutes, it opens with an enervated sorrowful idea (ES) [00:00], followed by a manic variant of same (MV) [01:22], and a somber weeping melody (SW) [02:44]. A perky scherzoesque diversion is next [03:18], and then a rapturous sonata from section based on a winsome romantic melody (WR) [04:42] already hinted at by ES and MV.

This segues into a slow fugato passage [11:53] that introduces a driving follow-on sonata from episode [12:02] whose main subject is MV. There are memories of SW [13:09] and WR [15:24] in its closing measures, which erupt in a thrilling WR-based final coda [16:29], ending the phantasy in a state of passionate ecstasy.

Pianist Catherine Dubois delivers technically accomplished, sensitive accounts of the three piano works, while her teammates, the Rasumovsky Quartet, are a mixed blessing. More specifically their playing is for the most part accomplished, but there are some intonational anomalies in the high strings, and the viola in particular. It makes one wonder whether they were sight-reading these scores. But as we've noted before, with repertoire this rare and interesting we're lucky to have what's here!

Done at Champs Hill, West Sussex, England (see the newsletter of 26 October 2011), the recordings project an adequately proportioned, clearly focused soundstage in a warm acoustic. The balance between the instruments is ideal with the piano having a well-rounded tone. The strings sound generally pleasing, but there is some occasional high frequency haloing in their upper registers.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P120731)


The album cover may not always appear.
Hashimoto, K.: Sym 2, Scherzo..., 3 Wasan (barit & orch); Fukushima/Yuasa/Tokyo Geidai P [Naxos]
Initially self-taught, Japanese composer Kunihiko Hashimoto's (first name also spelled Qunihico, 1904-1949) early works were of late-romantic persuasion with impressionistic and expressionist overtones. Then he developed an interest in microtonal as well as dodecaphonic music, and was on his way to establishing himself as a member of the avant-garde.

This led him to study in Vienna for three years (1934-7) with Egon Wellesz (1885-1974), a private pupil of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), who’d fled the rising tide of Nazism in Europe, eventually moving to Los Angeles in 1934. Hashimoto would even stop there on his way back to Japan for a few pointers from the twelve-tone master himself.

Unfortunately, after his return and right up until his death there was little tolerance for modernism in the "Land of the Rising Sun." Accordingly he'd revert to his earlier late-romantic style as exemplified by the three works on this disc. Incidentally two are world premiere recordings, and so indicated by "WP" after their titles.

His second symphony of 1947 (WP) was commissioned to celebrate Japan's adoption of a new post World War II democratic constitution. Also known as the Celebration Symphony, it's in two movements with the last being a novel Hashimoto creation that subsumes the other two usually found in a typical romantic symphony.

The opening one is a captivating twenty-minute sonata-rondo allegro [track-1]. It begins with a relaxed rocking theme (RR) [00:02], which is briefly elaborated and followed by a related chirpy idea (RC) [02:32]. Both are then subjected to an engaging series of developmental transformations.

These may bring Dvorak's (1841-1904) later symphonies to mind, and are interspersed with recurring remembrances of RR and RC. A couple of passages [01:52, 06:55 and 16:03] resemble the "Tartar Invasion" music from Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh Suite (1907), and another [13:28] d'Indy's (1851-1931) Istar Variations (1896, see the newsletter of 25 April 2010). The movement ends with recollections of RC [16:43] as well as RR [17:59], and a capricious coda based on both [19:50].

The finale [track-2] is a theme with nine variations having an invigorating main march subject [00:00] derived from RR. The first six variants range from perky [01:08] and flighty [02:07], to amorous [03:09], restless [5:09], unwieldy [06:31] and regal [08:02].

The bouncy pixilated seventh [08:54] could be considered the symphony's scherzo. While the triumphant eighth [10:13] and joyful chime-embellished ninth [11:49], which has hints of RC and RR, act as a powerful final movement for the symphony.

The Japanese Buddhist monk Shinran (1173-1263) wrote many hymns, or wasan, some of whose verses are the texts for Three Wasan of 1948 (WP, see the album notes for English translations). Scored for baritone and orchestra, Hashimoto has come up with an interesting form of hybrid lied that lies somewhere between a chant and an aria.

The first two wasan begin with mysterious orchestral introductions after which the soloist sings something arcane about music and heaven. The more melodic third is a refulgent description of the spiritual light emitted by lotus flowers, which have great significance for Buddhists.

The disc closes with Scherzo con sentimento (1928) [track-6]. This is an orchestral version of the second Scherzando e sentimentale movement from Three Characteristic Dances for Strings (1927), and the most contemporary piece here. It's an amalgam of Western neoclassical and Japanese styles with a sound all of its own.

Immediately approachable, it begins with isolated hushed pizzicato notes for the low strings [00:02] that gain in tempo, pitch and intensity as they make their way up through the violins and woodwinds. The harp joins in briefly [02:27], and a solemn western theme is then introduced [02:36] by the strings.

This is subjected to a brief dramatic elaboration, after which an easternized version of it appears [04:41], and the two ideas undergo an extended moody development. Initially this borders on the impressionistic with an arresting glissando [08:14] followed by kotoesque passages for harp, solo violin and woodwinds.

The pace then accelerates [09:55], and the music builds in intensity achieving several dramatic climaxes, the last of which [12:33] ends [13:04] somewhat like Dukas' (1865-19350 The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897). The piece concludes with decelerating passages, and a final touch of pizzicato for the low strings recalling its opening.

Conductor Takuo Yuasa and the Tokyo Geidai Philharmonia along with baritone Akiya Fukushima in the Three Wasan give stirring accounts of everything here. Their performances are a welcome addition to an earlier Naxos release of Hashimoto's orchestral music that included his first symphony (1940).

Made at Sogakudo Concert Hall in Tokyo, the recordings are good with a realistic well-proportioned soundstage in a warm acoustic. The orchestral timbre is convincing, but with a hint of grain in forte upper violin passages. Mr. Fukushima's voice is beautifully captured.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P120730)


The album cover may not always appear.
Saint-Saëns: Nuit..., Spartacus Ov, Coronation March, etc; N.Järvi/RScotNaO [Chandos (Hybrid)]
As far as single disc compendiums of French composer Camille Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) shorter orchestral works are concerned this new Chandos hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), release buries the competition! With nearly eighty minutes of music, there are several fascinating rarities as well as some old chestnuts. And all of them are played to the hilt in audiophile sound!

The program begins with the ever popular "Bacchanale" from the third act of Samson and Dalila (1877). A wild dance done by the Philistines to celebrate their victory over the Hebrews, this performance must be one of the most exciting on record.

Saint-Saëns' four symphonic poems are next beginning with Le rouet d'Omphale (Omphale's Spinning Wheel, 1871-72) [track-2]. An all-time favorite with a distinct whirring rhythm, it has a sinister theme [03:06] older listeners may remember as the signature tune for the 1930-50s radio program The Shadow.

Then we get Phaëton (1873) [track-3], who was the son of the Greek Titan sun god Helios (sometimes known as Apollo). It tells of his attempt to drive his father's solar chariot across the sky. This ends catastrophically as he loses control, forcing Zeus to kill him with a thunderbolt to save the Earth from incineration. Scored for large orchestra with four timpani, Zeus' intervention [06:28] is one of the wildest moments in all of Saint-Saëns.

The next selection, Danse macabre [track-4] of 1873-4, could be considered the Gallic counterpart of Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) Night on Bare Mountain (1866). With a screeching violin, ossiferous xylophone, Dies Irae related themes, and grotesque repeated rhythms, it's easy to picture nocturnal spirits of the dead cavorting about in some cemetery. Then as rosy fingered dawn appears, the cock crows [05:42] and all those ghostly revelers sink into the ground.

Almost twice as long as any of the preceding tone poems, La jeunesse d'Hercule (The Young Hercules, 1877) [track-5] is the most sophisticated. It's a symphonic study inspired by the youthful heroic exploits of the Roman demigod Hercules (Heracles in Greek mythology).

After a subdued introduction, a rising gallant theme (RG) [01:06], innocent playful idea (IP) [03:45] and busy whistling motif (BW) [05:13] appear. The latter is developed in a delightful animated dance-like episode hinting at IP [06:46]. The pace then subsides [07:23] with peaceful remembrances of RG [08:00] as Hercules seems to be taking a deserved rest from his "Twelve Labors." But not for long as he resumes his activities, and the poem ends in a thrilling fugue-initiated [09:57] final coda based on RG, IP and hints of BW.

A timeless Saint-Saëns war-horse, the Marche militaire française from the Suite algérienne of 1880 (see the newsletter of 15 January 2008) needs no introduction. Suffice to say it's great to hear it in a performance that captures all the French piquancy characterizing its opening, as well as the majesty of the rousing finale.

And now for one of Camille's most delightful creations, the overture to his little known one act opéra comique known as La Princesse jaune (The Yellow Princess, 1872). This is one of those pieces with such an abundance of catchy melodies and rhythms you'll never tire of it.

A graceful opening anticipates the world of Ippolitov-Ivanov's (1859-1935) Caucasian Sketches (1894). But the tempo soon picks up as the music moves farther east with an Oriental episode (OE) [02:28] having three sprightly Japanese-sounding motifs [02:30, 02:47 and 03:16]. There's also what's probably meant to be the sound of a Buddhist temple bell [02:47], as well as some wonderfully infectious modulations [03:38]. The overture then ends with a joyous recap of OE [04:23], leaving the listener wanting to hear it all over again!

This exceptional CD closes with three selections that will be new to most. The first, Une nuit à Lisbonne (A Night in Lisbon, 1880), was described by the composer as "a little barcarole," and dedicated to the King of Portugal, who must have loved this tiny gem.

In 1863 Camille won the annual Société de Ste Cécile music competition with the grand concert overture we're fortunate to hear next [track-9]. Entitled Spartacus, it was inspired by the Thracian gladiator (c. 109-71 BC) who led an unsuccessful slave uprising against the Roman Republic back in 73-72 BC.

It opens dramatically with stabbing ff chords (SF) [00:00], spiky rhythmic flourishes (SR) [00:07], and a tragic sinking motif (TS) [00:12]. These are briefly elaborated and followed by a lovely hopeful theme (LH) [03:39] and a militaristic development. The latter becomes increasingly turbulent in the manner of Liszt's (1811-1886) Les préludes (1848-53), finally giving way to a brief subdued interlude recalling LH [07:32]. The overture then ends in a triumphant march [09:56] based on SR, TS and SF, presumably honoring Spartacus' heroic death for a just cause.

The disc closes with Marche du couronnement (Coronation March). Written for the crowning of Edward VII in 1902, the rhythmically animated opening section gives way to a winsome stately theme (WS) [01:49]. Interestingly enough this was taken from a sixteenth-century air the composer had discovered in the Buckingham Palace music library, and already used in his opera Henry VIII (1883). The march ends with WS in Edwardian big tune regalia, concluding this magnificent disc splendiferously.

Conductor Neeme Järvi (b. 1937) may have been seventy-four when these recordings were made, but he conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) with the zest of a Gustavo Dudamel (b. 1981)! His supercharged performances leave the competition in the dust, setting a new standard for everything on this consummately programmed disc.

Made in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, the recordings project a wide, deep soundstage in all three play modes. The surrounding acoustic is comfortably reverberant in CD or SACD stereo, and gives the listener a virtual orchestra center seat in multi-channel.

As for the instrumental timbre, it's musical but like other RSNO productions done in this venue, there's occasional grain in massed high violin passages, particularly on the CD track. The midrange is lucid, and the bass well defined all the way down to rock bottom regardless of play mode.

All things considered, this release is a must if you like Saint-Saëns no matter how many recordings of the familiar selections you have! And enterprising listeners can minimize the expense by selling all those old CDs this Chandos will undoubtedly supersede!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y120729)


The album cover may not always appear.
Weinberg, M. (Vainberg): Stg Qts Cpte V6 (2, 12 & 17); Danel Qt [CPO]
This sixth volume completes the Danel Quartet's survey of Polish-born composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg's (1919-1996) seventeen string quartets (see the newsletter of 26 October 2011). As a creative body of work they're on a scale with the fifteen of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), who'd become a close associate of Weinberg after he fled Poland at the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945) and took up residence in Moscow (1943).

Incidentally, the composer's Russian years have lead to confusion over the English spelling of his name, which transliterated from the Cyrillic alphabet becomes "Moisey Vainberg," or even "Vaynberg." Consequently, it's advisable to try all these variants in addition to "Weinberg" when searching for his music online. It should also be noted that the album notes by Weinberg expert David Fanning are superb! Consequently you may want to check out his book Mieczyslaw Weinberg, In Search of Freedom (2010).

The concert begins with the final 1987 four-movement version of the second quartet. Originally a three-movement work written in 1939-40, Weinberg would completely revise it some fifty years later. In the process he'd also add an allegretto that eases the transition between the disparate andante and concluding presto. The end result is a work of neoclassical transparency.

The opening allegro [track-1] is somewhat simian with a mischievous main theme [00:01], fidgety rhythms and imitative monkey-see-monkey-do figurations. While the following andante [track-2] has weeping outer sections [00:01 and 07:10] surrounding a perky inner one [04:11]. Oddly enough there's a recurring motif [04:24] vaguely reminiscent of the main idea in Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) Danse macabre (1873-4, see the recommendation above).

That afterthought allegretto is next [track-3]. Disappearing as suddenly as it surfaced, it's a gossamer creation that clings to life by a single thread. There's a fragility in direct contrast to the testy pizzicato-laced final presto [track-4] that follows. This has twitchy twists and turns reminiscent of the more animated moments in Shostakovich's late quartets, and ends the work starkly with two plucked pistol shots. Those liking this quartet should also investigate Mieczyslaw's first chamber symphony (1986-7), which is based on it.

The four movement twelfth quartet dating from 1969-70 is a much more contemporary sounding piece with aspects of Béla Bartók's (1881-1945) milestones in this genre (1908-39). The initial largo [track-5] is enveloped in a dodecaphonic haze that dissipates only briefly revealing a writhing rhythmic torso [02:18-04:30]. The sense of desolation created extends to the next allegretto [track-6], which is a barren landscape with isolated avian chirps the only sign of life.

It's followed immediately by a presto [track-7], which is a wiry pizzicato-stabbing virtuosic exercise in precision quartet playing. It's truculent music where the players lunge at each other in a four-way knife fight that ends with the first violin squealing like a stuck pig! As the excellent album notes point out there are affinities with the likes of Lutoslawski (1913-1994) and Penderecki (b. 1933, see the newsletter of 7 January 2009).

The final moderato [track-8] is the longest most progressive movement, and will require repeated listening to fully grasp. It opens with an exclamatory six-note motif (ES) played by the viola over a walking bass line (WB) for the cello [00:00]. A discussion between the four strings involving ES and WB follows with the violin playing a conspicuously childish singsong ditty (CS) [01:07 and 02:10].

The conversation then subsides into a hushed mysterious contrapuntal section (HMC) [03:20], which intensifies with ES-related cries from the upper strings [04:09]. This transitions via a dissonant passage [05:23] into mysterious muted remembrances [05:59] of the movement's opening measures with more ES outbursts [06:36, 06:42 and 07:58].

The quartet then comes to a complete stop [08:48], resuming after a couple of seconds in what might best be described as a coronary coda! Sounding like the musical equivalent of heart failure, this begins pp [08:51] with irregular faltering notes. These culminate in wrenching strained passages for the upper strings and a brief paroxysmal episode for the cello [10:41]. Hushed passages with hints of HMC [11:24] follow, ending with isolated pizzicato [12:10] and finally col legno [12:37] notes that just quit -- praise the Lord, and pass the nitroglycerin!

The final volume in this series ends appropriately with Weinberg's seventeenth and last quartet dating from 1986. A tad more cheerful than the twelfth, it’s in four contiguous subsections that play as a single seventeen-minute movement in an oddball sonata form having a distended development.

The opening allegro [track-9] begins with a disjointed bouncy theme (DB) [00:01] succeeded by a folkish droning ditty (FD) [00:28]. These are subjected to an off-the-wall chromatic development with some contorted cello passages [03:19]. The latter gradually slow, transitioning into an andantino cello lament [track-10], with the other strings playing a conciliatory role.

This extends right into the next lento section [track-11], which starts somewhat more optimistically. However, it soon turns into a crescendo of anguish, ending with a cello pedal point that introduces the final allegro [track-12]. Twittery passages hinting at the quartet's opening measures are first heard here, and then we get a long overdue forceful recapitulation of DB [02:23] and FD [02:42]. These are worked into a manic coda that concludes the quartet in a state of crazed ecstasy.

The Belgian-based Danel Quartet is one of today's finest specializing in outstanding lesser known repertoire like that of Weinberg. And we're lucky to have such committed, stirring performances of this Polish expatriate’s quartets (see additionally CPO-777313, 777392, 777393, 777393 and 777566). You may also want to investigate their exploration of music by Ernst Toch (1887-1964, see the newsletter of 20 May 2006) and Ahmed Adnan Saygun (1907-1991, see the newsletter of 7 January 2009).

Made in the identical studio with the same personnel as the previous volume, these recordings are equally superb, and present a modest soundstage in an ideal acoustic. There's just enough reverberation to allow the music comfortable breathing space without masking the subtle detail of Weinberg's sometimes spider web scoring. As before, CPO has faithfully captured the Danel’s exceptionally rich ensemble sound, making this a disc that should appeal to audiophiles as well as modern music lovers.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y120728)



The album cover may not always appear. The album cover may not always appear.
Fragoso: Vn Chbr Wks Cpte (Vn Son, Ste Romantique, Pno Trio); Damas/Hong/Lawson [Brilliant]
Kapp, E.: Fl Concs (2, w Eespere, Eller); M.Järvi/K.Järvi/EstNa SO [Est Rec]
Released back in 2010-11 these two exceptional CDs for some reason or another slipped under most everyone's radar. Late romantic enthusiasts will find the music on them, which dates from between 1916 and 2003, a welcome discovery.

The album pictured above and to the left includes the complete chamber works with violin by Portuguese-born António Fragoso (1897-1918). A victim of the 1918 flu pandemic, his untimely death at age twenty-one robbed the world of a highly promising composer. Written between 1916 and 1918, the three works included here bear this out. These are the only currently available recordings of them.

The sole movement from his unfinished violin sonata of 1917-18 is first on the program. Masterfully constructed and with a couple of killer themes, there's a Gallic gracefulness about this rhapsodic outpouring that puts it right up there with the chamber music of César Franck (1822-1890), Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), and Albéric Magnard (1865-1914). What a magnificent start to a work that had it been completed might have eclipsed their violin sonatas.

Suite romantique (Romantic Suite, 1916) for violin and piano is next. In four divergent chromatic movements, it's again reminiscent of the French composers mentioned above, but there's also a modality hinting at the impressionism of Claude Debussy (1862-1918). The dramatic peripatetic opening one entitled "prelude" is followed by a dramatic intermezzo and lilting berceuse, which floats effortlessly on soft breezes. The final nocturne invokes the eternal night sky filled with twinkling heavenly bodies and shooting stars.

This disc closes with António's four-movement piano trio, which also dates from 1916 and has many characteristics in common with the preceding suite. It's the work of a teenager who'd already developed a mature style, and would have most certainly gone on to become a major late romantic presence.

The grace and charm of the first allegro are exceptional, while the beautiful halting lento inspires hushed reverence. The composer then offsets these with a diminutive whimsical scherzo in which the violin has some off-the-wall flights of fancy.

A sense of order and direction is restored in the final allegro, which begins with a wonderful "walking" theme. This is alternately developed and restated in rondo fashion, after which the trio ends with a final sweeping bow. Hearing this music by a youngster with such great promise, one is all the more saddened by his early demise.

Portuguese violinist Carlos Damas, Chinese cellist Jian Hong and American pianist Jill Lawson make up the international cast represented here. They give us technically accomplished, sensitive readings of all three works that make an even stronger case for these exceptional discoveries.

The recordings were made in a Lisbon studio, and project an optimally sized soundstage in a warm discriminating acoustic. They're characterized by silky strings and well-rounded piano tone with the performers ideally placed and balanced.

Turning to the other disc, we get a captivating collection of pieces for flute and orchestra written by Estonian composers between 1952 and 2003. The program begins with Eugen Kapp's (1908-1996) concerto of 1975, which is atypically in two short contrasting movements. The first one entitled "aria" is a lyric reverie for the soloist set to a velveteen tutti accompaniment. The contrasting second is a scherzo with perky folkish dancelike ideas, and a demanding cadenza.

The next selection is a 2005 arrangement for flute and orchestra by American composer Charles Coleman (b. 1968) of Heino Eller's (1887-1970) Three Pieces, which were originally for flute and piano (1952). The composer referred to this in the manuscript as a "Pastoral Suite," and accordingly it begins with "In the Valley." This could be a tone painting inspired by a summer day spent in some verdant vale. The following "On the River" is a gently rocking invocation of a cool meandering mountain stream, while there's a bucolic innocence about "In the Meadow" suggesting young shepherds and grazing sheep.

Another selection by Kapp, his concertino of 1965, is next. In the usual three movements, it begins with an alluring allegro that contains a couple of gorgeous melodies, and a spectacular cadenza. The laid-back andante is an Estonian lyrical masterpiece with the appeal of Edvard Grieg's (1843-1907) "Morning" from his incidental music for Peer Gynt (1874-5). The finale is a delightful rondo based on a bustling catchy recurring tune that’s tossed back and forth by soloist and tutti. It ends the piece with a big grin!

The disc concludes with René Eespere's (b. 1953) two flute concertos. There's a sense of anguish underlying the first (1995) explained by the composer's having discovered a flutist friend had been diagnosed with a fatal disease. A sophisticated thematic scheme and imaginative orchestration, which includes the subtle use of tuned percussion, make for a brilliant score that many may consider the standout on this disc.

Rather than writing out the flute part for this three movement work, Eespere has given the soloist motifs on which to improvise. And to give the work stability, many of the flutist's ad libitum excursions are supported by composed harp, clarinet and/or violin accompaniment, giving the work a concerto grosso feel.

The first larghetto [track-9] has the flute intoning an insistent wistful motif (IW) [00:03] that floats above the tutti like a feather on the wind. The somber largo [track-10] is based on an IW-derived subject (ID) [00:01] on the flute. It's underscored by violin and harp along with occasional support from vibraphone and celesta, which adds an otherworldliness to the proceedings.

The final andante [track-11] begins with a churning episode for flute and orchestra. This alternates with more subdued ones featuring the soloist accompanied by violin and later vibraphone. A peaceful developmental interlude for flute, violin and harp follows [03:08], eventually recalling ID [05:08], and ending the concerto as it began.

The thirteen-minute single movement second concerto [track-12] of 2003 exhibits the same captivating thematic characteristics and scoring as its predecessor, but with the addition of occasional aleatoric passages. However, the latter are used sparingly, and never throw the piece into disarray. If anything they add even more sonic luster to this later effort.

It begins with an icy introduction for shivering flute and orchestra followed by a haunting introspective theme played by the soloist [01:05]. A mysterious developmental dialogue follows [01:39] with scurrying passages interrupted by sudden stops and starts [03:03]. All this gradually transforms into a sustained meditative episode [07:20], where the flute sings a lovely aria to a caressing orchestral accompaniment. More of those frosty passages follow [10:38], and then after a brief pause soloist plus tutti race to the finish line [12:49], ending the concerto abruptly.

Estonian-born conductor Neeme Järvi (b. 1937, see the Saint-Saëns recommendation above) has always championed the music of his native country (see Chandos-10441 and 24126). Now his flutist daughter Maarika and conductor son Kristjan, along with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ENSO), further the cause with this release.

Ms. Järvi's exceptional playing is characterized by gorgeous tone that would do justice to Edgard Varèse's (1883-1965) Density 21.5 (1936). She also gets high marks for her inspired improvisation in the Eespere first concerto. Her performances are made all the more alluring by the outstanding support received from her conductor brother and the superb musicians of the ENSO. This disc is a must for romantics as well as flute enthusiasts.

Made in the Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn, the recordings are clear, projecting a spacious soundstage in a resonant acoustic. The flute is perfectly captured and balanced against the orchestra, whose timbre is musical with vitreous highs and a tight low end. Audiophiles liking wetter sonics will be delighted.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y120727, Y120726)