19 OCTOBER 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. The album cover may not always appear.
Brüll, I.: Vn Conc, Macbeth Ov; Jadassohn: Seren 5 (fl & stgs);
Hoffman/Hall/Laus/Malta PO [Cameo Cl]
Brüll, I.: Seren 2; Jadassohn: Seren 1 in 4 Canons, Seren 2;
M.Stravinsky/Malta PO [Cameo Cl]
Cameo Classics' exploration of little known orchestral music by Austrian Ignaz Brüll (1846-1907) and German Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902, see 9 June 2009), who was also a renowned professor at the Leipzig Conservatory (LC), resumes with these two releases. Incidentally the Brüll selections now include a complete version of his violin concerto, whereas Cameo only gave us its slow movement on a previous release. These are the only currently available recordings of the works included here.

The disc pictured above and to the left opens with Brüll's concert overture "Macbeth" after Shakespeare's play. Written around 1885, the composer never provided a program for it other than the title. Oddly enough the first measures are vaguely reminiscent of the rising River Rhine motif heard at the outset of Wagner's (1813-1883) Der Ring Des Nibelungen (1853-74). The music then blossoms into a rollicking equestrian theme conceivably representing Macbeth.

This is followed by a more sedate idea, which might be associated with his scheming wife. Brass flourishes then herald a triumphal march that could signify his victory over enemy forces. But the music suddenly darkens, and the overture ends tragically.

Dating from 1882, the violin concerto must rank with the composer's finest works! And we have our conductor here Michael Laus to thank for putting together this performing version from three disparate sources that included the original manuscript.

The initial allegro is the most extensive of its three movements with two memorable themes worthy of Brahms (1833-1897), who thought very highly of his Austrian contemporary. It's beautifully structured with soaring lines for the soloist, a couple of challenging cadenzas, and poignant wind passages.

The andante is a captivating aria for the violin set to a pleasing orchestral accompaniment made all the more appealing by additional wind solos, particularly for the first horn. Somewhat reminiscent of Dvorák (1841-1904), Ignaz, who was born in Moravia, seems to be showing his Czech roots.

The final allegro is a catchy cavort with a couple of folkish dance-like ideas that play rondo leapfrog with one another. There are several spots calling for virtuosic displays from the soloist, including a final fireworks-filled coda that ends the concerto in high spirits.

The CD closes with the last of Jadassohn's five serenades for orchestra (see below), which dates from 1882. An infectious offering in four movements scored for flute and strings, it shows what an extraordinary tunesmith Salomon was. In fact, from the melodic perspective many may find it the high point of this disc.

The initial allegro [track-5, 00:00] begins almost like a Mozart (1756-1791) flute concerto, but soon turns delightfully skittish, entering the world of Mendelssohn (1809-1847). It then segues via a sustained flute note into the next andante [05:44], which is an exquisite rhapsody for the soloist set to a tender accompaniment. This is easily the equal of anything by the composer's more illustrious colleague at the LC, Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, see 31 August 2006).

It's followed by an elegant classical minuet with two contrasting trio ideas, the first of which is a somewhat droll ursine fugato. The work then concludes with a busy tarantella [track-8], where a pesky Mendelssohn flute fly flits about eventually giving us another honey of a Jadassohn melody [04:11]. A frenetic coda ends the serenade beamingly.

Violinist Ilya Hoffman's impassioned performance of the concerto certainly makes up for occasional intonational anomalies in his upper range. While flutist Rebecca Hall is magnificent in the would-be flute concerto of a serenade. The orchestral support from the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra may not be the last word in refinement, but under their music director Michael Laus its members give dedicated performances of everything, including the overture.

Made last year in Floriana, Malta at Robert Sammut Hall, which is a large nineteenth century neo-gothic church, the recordings on this disc create a wide, deep soundstage in a reverberant acoustic. The balance between soloists and tutti in the concertante works is good, while the overall instrumental timbre is a bit on the bright side with some digital grain in upper violin passages. Be that as it may, just remember with repertoire this rare we're lucky to have what's here!

The other disc pictured above and to the right begins with the second of Brüll's three serenades (see 9 June 2009). Probably written around the late 1870s, it's in three movements and scored for a good-sized orchestra. Lovely melodies and structural informality turn the opening allegro into a tone painting that might well describe a summer's day in the country.

The march that follows begins on little cat feet, but immediately becomes a proud equine prance with colorful wind figurations. More of the latter introduce the final allegro, where a couple of attractive tunes are imaginatively tweaked. Gathering harmonic density along the way, it ends what till now has been a Mendelssohnian frolic in a more serious Brahmsian frame of mind.

The program continues with the first of Jadassohn's five orchestral serenades (see above) whose full name is Serenade in Four Canons (1872). Despite the title and claims by some of Salomon's contemporary critics that his music was academic, this is another melodic gold mine from one of the nineteenth century's most under-appreciated composers!

In five movements, the opening one gets off to a deceptively serious start that quickly gives way to a twitchy theme having an accompaniment marbled with canonic imitation (CI). This adds a catchy copycat whimsicality to the proceedings, and is used to great effect in the charming minuet, romantic adagietto and flighty intermezzo that follow. More specifically, it gives the first of these a delicate classical feel, makes the next all the more amorous, and turns the last into a flight of fancy scherzo.

As for the finale, it begins with a heroic big-boned melody for full orchestra, after which trumpet and horn calls announce a rustic dance-like ditty followed by a lyrical third idea. All are cheerfully elaborated and reprised, ending the serenade optimistically.

The second of Jadassohn's orchestral serenades (see above) fills out the disc. Dating from 1875, it has three movements with the beginning one in two-connected sections [track-9]. The first part is a festive "Intrada" whose opening measures suggest those from Wagner's overture to Die Meistersinger (1861-67).

This transitions directly into the second [03:49], which is a lissome melancholy "Nocturne". Its main theme recalls the big tune from Les préludes (1848-53) of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), who at one point taught Jadassohn privately in Weimar, Germany.

Next we get a minuet that falls somewhere between the scherzos of Mendelssohn and Bruckner (1824-1896), but there’s a mischievousness, particularly in the wind writing, that seems to be a Jadassohnian stylistic trait. It's a perfect teaser for the joyous finale, which is a magnificent edifice built from a number of memorable tunes. Then a energetic coda with more of those waggish winds ends the serenade in high spirits.

The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra is once more featured here, but this time under conductor Marius Stravinsky (no relation to Igor). The performances are in the same ballpark with those above. However the recordings, which were done at the same location, but a year earlier, project a soundstage that's more forward. The orchestral timbre is not as bright, to the point where the highs may sound a bit rolled off with a tad less digital grain than before.

Pointy-eared audiophiles may notice a couple of edit dropouts [track-1, 01:50 and 01:52], and what sounds like an overload snap [track-10, 07:27; right channel]. But to repeat, with repertoire this rare we're fortunate to have what's here, and recording producer David Kent-Watson gets a vote of thanks for making these discs possible.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P121019, P121018)

Records International
Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Chadwick, G.: Adonais Ov, Cleopatra, Pastoral Prel, Sinfta in D; Lockhart/BBCCon O [Dutton]
Most everyone's heard of the "Russian Five," but how about the "Boston Six?" Well they were a group of American composers who lived and worked in the New England area of the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century. They included John Knowles Paine (1839-1906), Arthur Foote (1853-1937, see 23 February 2010), Edward MacDowell (1861-1908), Horatio Parker (1863-1919, see 18 April 2006), Amy Beach (1867-1944), and George Chadwick (1854-1931), who's featured on this invaluable new release from Dutton. A boon to American music fans, three of the four selections are world premiere recordings indicated by "WPR" after their titles.

Chadwick wrote several works inspired by figures from ancient Greek and Roman times, and his Thalia (1882), Melpomene (1887), Euterpe (1903) and Aphrodite (1911) have already appeared on disc. Now, this release gives us two more.

The first of these is his elegiac overture Adonais (Adonis, 1899; WPR), who was a Greek god apparently associated with life, death and rebirth. In sonata form, it opens with a slow funereal section followed by a couple of engaging thematic groups occasionally reminiscent of Brahms (1833-1897). These ideas undergo a solid development where another couple of memorable melodies are introduced. A sobering recapitulation ends the overture in quiet tragedy. By the way the composer once referred to this as his best work.

Then there's the symphonic poem Cleopatra (1904; WPR) for large orchestra. It reflects the influence of Richard Strauss (1864-1949), who visited Boston in 1904, conducting performances of his own works.

The liquescent opening suggests the queen at sea on her luxurious barge. Martial heroic music representing Mark Antony, and a lovely melodic section signifying Cleopatra follow, and then a bellicose development, telling of Antony's defeat. A thrilling final coda recalling previous material could be interpreted as representing their suicides, and the immortality of their love.

Thoughts of the merry month of May, and chirping early morning birds apparently inspired Pastoral Prelude (1890; WPR). Music doesn't get any more ebullient than this Chadwickian delight. Full of winsome melodies and beautifully orchestrated, it was evidently written at a particularly fulfilling time in his life.

By 1894 Chadwick had written three symphonies (the first is currently unavailable on disc), and would go on to pen two more unnumbered ones. They were the ever popular Symphonic Sketches (1895-1904) in addition to the Sinfonietta in D major (1904), which fills out this CD.

Written for the New England Conservatory student orchestra, there's a simplicity and youthfulness about this work that must have made it great fun to play. In four movements the first two are merry march-like affairs that at times recall Debussy (1862-1918), Ravel (1875-1937), Bizet (1838-1875) and Berlioz (1803-1869 ). The third is a scherzo with a skittishness resembling the livelier moments in Symphonic Sketches, and contains one of Gerorge's best tunes.

The finale movement [track-7] has anxious outer sections surrounding a somber somewhat threatening episode. At one point [02:30] there's a sinister phrase reminiscent of Saint-Saëns' Omphale's Spinning Wheel (1871-72, see 31 July 2012), but it ends in an effervescent coda of jubilation.

Chadwick couldn't be in better hands than with the twentieth conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, American-born Keith Lockhart on the podium! He elicits spirited performances from the BBC Concert Orchestra that bring out all the fine points of these colorful American scores.

Made at Colosseum Town Hall, Watford, England, the recordings are very good and project a generous clearly focused soundstage clad in an appropriately rich acoustic. The orchestral timbre is pleasing with crystalline highs, a musical midrange and solid lows. American music enthusiasts and audiophiles will definitely want this.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y121017)


The album cover may not always appear.
Enescu: Pno Trios 1 & 2 (in g, 1897 & in a, 1916), Seren (pno trio); Brancusi Trio [Zig-Zag]
Romanian by birth, George Enescu (1881-1955) was a child prodigy who excelled on the violin as well as the piano, and would go on to write a substantial amount of distinguished music. But except for his two Romanian Rhapsodies (1901), his career as a virtuoso performer never allowed him enough time to get the vast majority of his works before the public. Fortunately with the advent of the silver disc his audience is now growing faster than ever, finally giving his oeuvres the attention they so richly deserve.

He makes his CLOFO debut here with this new Zig-Zag Territories release featuring some recently discovered chamber music. This includes his two completed piano trios (there's a third unfinished one), and a shorter occasional piece for the same ensemble. With the first trio being a youthful effort and the second coming some twenty years later, you'll find a striking stylistic difference between them. By the way these are the only currently available recordings of either.

The early trio is in G minor (c. 1897) and consists of four movements. Their solid construction reflects George's years of training in Vienna and Paris, while the work as a whole exudes a confidence that make it hard to believe it was written by a teenager.

It begins with an engaging virtuosic romp of an allegro harboring superb melodies spiked with that angularity found in Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) music. A charming, ternary A-B-A allegretto follows [track-2]. This has folkish dance-like outer sections bookending a wistful central episode (WC) [02:27].

The mood of WC pervades the reverent "andante", which features a stunning chorale-like tune recalling Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), and is all the more memorable for its captivating simplicity. An energetic presto having a couple of engaging themes adroitly mosaicked with cyclic references to past ideas, concludes the trio in bravura fashion. Its final coda is based on the movement's opening, and ends the work on an austere note.

The lovely occasional piece Sérénade lointaine (Serenade of the Past, 1903) that follows is in the same ballpark with Gabriel Fauré's (1845-1924) more dreamy chamber offerings. Made up of a gorgeous subtle theme followed by a couple of sublime variations, one wonders where this late romantic gem's been hiding all these years!

Closing out this disc we have the later trio in A minor dating from 1916. In just three movements it presents an entirely different side of Enescu's musical personality. With a chromaticism of Expressionistic proportions, as well as melodic and rhythmic twists reminiscent of Eastern European folk music, Enescu conjures up a sound world all of his own.

The opening allegro is an otherworldy reverie of proprietary Enescu construction. Here disembodied folk-tinged melodic motifs played by the strings swirl around a piano accompaniment that serves as the structural glue for this movement. It's entirely different from the following allegretto, which is an ear-catching theme and variations.

The main subject here is haltingly impressionistic with Romanian folk overtones, while the variants are distantly related metamorphoses. The general optimism that prevails throughout is in direct contrast to the foreboding opening of the finale.

This begins with the strings intoning an anguished lament to a funeral march piano accompaniment. But the music suddenly takes on an antic air with runs and dissonant chords on the piano in addition to some cheeky pizzicato. A spirit of whimsicality pervades the rest of the movement, which ends the work with virtuosic flourishes and a jubilant final cadence.

The performances by the Brancusi Trio are excellent, which is not surprising considering all of its lady artists have had distinguished careers as soloists in Europe and the United States. They play the earlier pieces with an economy that precludes their ever sounding cloyingly romantic. While their careful attention to detail and phrasing in the later trio insures the listener never becomes lost in this chromatically peripatetic music.

Made at the Church of Bon Secours in Paris, some close miking would seem to account for the surprisingly confined soundstage projected by the recordings. The string tone is for the most part natural with only a couple of violin upper end hot spots, while the piano is convincingly captured. The balance between the instruments is good, but the music would have been more affecting had there been a greater feeling of space between and around them.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P121016)


The album cover may not always appear.
Pettersson: Sym 6; Lindberg/Norkk SO [BIS (Hybrid)]
Almost a year ago to the day we told you about a BIS disc that was a must for fans of Swedish composer Allan Pettersson (1911-1980, see 26 October 2011), and here’s another! While the earlier one premiered the first of his seventeen symphonies, this new hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), release is devoted to his neglected sixth, and blows away what little competition there is from both the performance as well as sound standpoints.

In a single hourlong movement contained on one track, it must rank as among the most individual symphonic creations to come from a twentieth century composer. Granted it does make considerable demands on the listener to be fully appreciated, however it's well worth the effort. To these ears it seems to be in five contiguous arches, and in hopes of making it a bit more digestible, the starting times for each are given.

The symphony occupied Pettersson for four years during the 1960s (1963-66), which was an extremely difficult time for him. He was not only at a stylistic crossroads, but also began experiencing the first acutely painful symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which would plague him for the rest of his life.

All this distress seems to inhabit the ominous opening measures of the first arch [00:03] played by the low strings. Some of the motifs that will infect the entire work appear, and then an agitated theme [03:27] spiked with those short insistent riffs (SIRs) that are a Pettersson trademark. This is subjected to an anguished extended metamorphic development in which more SIRs help stitch the music together.

More low strings then begin a threatening percussion-accented second arch [18:30] with strange birdcall-like SIRs [18:45]. The music builds to a couple of horrendous crescendos, the last trailing off into a series of pedal points and drum rolls.

A brass chorale then announces the symphony's third arch [25:05] that's probably best described as an agonized meditation. This fades into a more melodic fourth arch [37:59] which commences with a melancholy aria. It’s based on a tune borrowed from the last of the composer's twenty-four Barefoot Songs (1943-5) entitled "Han ska släcka min lykta" ("He Will Extinguish My Light").

A reserved elaboration somewhat reminiscent of spun-out Richard Strauss (1864-1949) follows, and transitions into a fifth and final arch {47:51]. Its SIRs-riddled sedate opening soon erupts into convulsions with percussion-accented twitches from the brass and an explosive catharsis for full orchestra. The music then trails off to almost nothing, and the symphony ends in an epilogue [56:35] of peaceful resignation, allaying the gloom that seemed to characterize its opening measures.

Holding the listener's attention in great expanses of music such as the first movement of Mahler's third symphony has always been a challenge for conductors. And at only a few seconds short of an hour, that's certainly true of the monster monolithic symphonic rumination here. But as on his previous Pettersson release for BIS (see above), conductor Christian Linberg is completely in sync with the score, and turns it into a riveting listening experience. The indefatigable Norrköping Symphony Orchestra serves him well in a performance that reveals every nuance of this emotionally convoluted work.

Made at the Louis de Geer Concert Hall, Norrköping, Sweden, the stereo tracks project a generous soundstage in a warm acoustic well suited to the extreme dynamics of Pettersson's at times violent music. Calling for a large orchestra, the BIS engineers have captured in demonstration-quality sound every detail of this intricate score.

The instrumental timbre is very musical in all three play modes with clear bright highs and deep tight bass. That said, the violins do sound a bit more natural on the SACD tracks, and the multichannel one will give you a front orchestra seat. Those with home theater systems may well find it preferable to the stereo tracks.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y121015)


The album cover may not always appear.
Raykhelson: Va Conc, Vn Conc; Bashmet/Sachenko/Slatkovsky/Vandelli/NovaRossSt SO [Toccata]
Please welcome Russian-born Igor Raykhelson (b. 1961) to these pages! Here's someone who began his career as an itinerant jazz pianist, but a meeting with his compatriot violist-conductor Yuri Bashmet in 1998 convinced him to become a self-taught composer.

Thanks to the adventurous folks at Toccata Classics we're fortunate to have these world premiere recordings featuring two of his major concertos. Originally released last July, distribution problems made it difficult to get this disc in America. But now that Toccata has joined the Naxos stable of labels that should no longer be the case.

The four movement concerto for viola completed in 2005 was commissioned by, and dedicated to Bashmet. The initial largo [track-4] begins with the low strings paraphrasing the dark opening measures (DO) [00:00] of Schubert's (1797-1828) Unfinished Symphony (No. 8, 1822). The viola then enters [01:26] playing the first four notes of his Arpeggione Sonata (1824), which along with DO serves to unify the work.

A somber moving discourse between soloist and tutti reminiscent of Delius (1862-1934) follows with an unexpected oblique orchestral reference [03:39] to the big tune (BT) from Rachmaninov's (1873-1943) second piano concerto (1900-01). You'll also be surprised to find a prominent part for piano, which enters fairly early on [05:59] playing something similar to the first few notes of Beethoven's (1770-1827) Moonlight Sonata (No. 14, 1801).

The music gradually brightens with an infectious perky middle episode where the soloist does a jazzy gigue to a romantic orchestral accompaniment spiked with woodblock knocks ŕ la Prokofiev (1891-1953). All this culminates in more veiled references [10:01] to BT, a tam-tam enhanced climatic chord for full orchestra, and a return to the subdued mood of the opening.

A brief tipsy waltz with a virtuosic part for the viola follows. Then we get a beautiful andante [track-6] where the homage to Rachmaninov becomes even more apparent in the piano part [00:00], and a clarinet solo [01:58] recalling BT. Hearing Bashmet's loving performance of this movement, it's easy to understand why many consider the viola the most amorous of stringed instruments.

Not one to get into a romantic wallow, Raykhelson then gives us a raucous finale [track-7]. It begins with a jazzy aggressive percussion-spiked episode worthy of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), and features a naughty bravura viola part. A curious repentant bluesy passage that starts like a sonata for viola and piano follows [02:29], concluding with a cyclic reference in the low strings to DO [04:27].

But all hell breaks loose again [04:58] with some hot cymbal brush work, whacks on the drum set, and more woodblock knocks. The spirit of Bernstein returns to end the concerto in an irreverent romp with the viola sounding as insolent as you'll ever hear it!

The violin concerto of two years later (2007) is dedicated to the composer's second wife, and by his own admission the most romantic work he's written to date. In the usual three movements, the opening sonata form moderato [track-1] begins with passages for solo piano, which is given a significant accompanying role as it was in the viola concerto.

The soloist senza vibrato, and orchestra soon enter introducing a couple of amorous themes. These undergo a heart on sleeve elaboration recalling the more emotional moments in Miklós Rózsa's (1907-1995) concert works. And then the movement ends much like it began.

A rhapsodic love elegy for soloist and strings follows [track-2]. Wide-ranging spun-out melodies for the violin and a chromatically diverse accompaniment ensure it never becomes overly romantic. The former are the thematic basis for the closing allegro [track-3], where tango and bossa nova rhythms lend a South American air. The concerto ends with a fiendish cadenza and flashy final flourishes for soloist and tutti.

Violinist Nikolay Sachenko is superb, and so is the support he receives from the Novaya Rossiya State Symphony Orchestra (NRSSO) under Italian conductor Claudio Vandelli. As for the other concerto, Yuri Bashmet once again shows why many consider him the greatest violist living today. When he plays there's absolutely no hint of the intonational instabilities that frequently plague lesser performers. Also the NRSSO, this time under Russian conductor Alexander Slatkovsky, gets another big round of applause for their ardent support.

A studio production made at the Moscow State House of Recording in 2007, the violin concerto presents a generous soundstage in a warm acoustic. The violin tone as well as the orchestral timbre is resplendently lush, with a good balance between soloist and tutti.

The recording of the viola concerto was done two years later (2009) at a live performance in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow. But there's no sign of an audience thanks to what must have been some clever miking and editing,

The soundstage is large and in a reverberant acoustic with Bashmet adequately highlighted, however the sonic image does seem a bit skewed to the left channel. That said, the overall viola tone and instrumental timbre are quite natural, assuring a generally pleasing listening experience.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P121014)