CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 AUGUST 2018
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.
Diethelm: Syms 1, 3, 4 "Homage…", 5 "Mandala", Sym Ste "Saturnalia", Sym Prologue; Held/RScotNa O [Guild]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (3 CDs)
Around three years ago, Guild issued a superb album of music by Swiss composers, which featured a profound choral symphony by Carl Rütti (b. 1949; see 30 September 2015), and some captivating short works for string orchestra by his older colleague Caspar Diethelm (1926-1997). This left many listeners wanting to hear more of Caspar's symphonic fare, which hasn't been available until this recent, three-CD Guild release. It's a significant sampling of same that well makes up for the wait!
By way of background, he first studied music in his hometown of Lucerne, Switzerland, and would also take private lessons from Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) as well as Paul Hindemith (1895-1963). In that regard, the latter's practical, Gebrauchsmusik ("utility music") style seems to have rubbed off on him.
Diethelm would pursue an extremely successful career as a conductor and teacher. He'd also write around 350 works, almost a third of which are for orchestra. Six of the latter are featured on this album, namely four of his eight symphonies as well as an extensive suite and short, stand-alone prologue.
We should also note he was a perfectionist and strove to make his music readily accessible. Consequently, he revised each of these at least once, and it’s the final versions that are included here. They’re the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The composer's daughter Esther has given us detailed analyses of all six (see the album booklet). However, Daddy wrote intricately structured, thematically fickle music that's constantly on the move and hard to describe in words. Hopefully, the timings given below will help nail down her comments.
The program begins with his Symphonic Suite "Saturnalia" of 1982, which he revised in 1994. An informally structured set of seven dancelike movements, this takes its inspiration from the ancient Roman festival referenced in the title. The first "Allegro moderato - in modo rustico" ("Moderately fast - in a rustic way") [D1, T-1, 00:00] comes off as advertised with themes that according to the album notes, "hint at basic motifs found in Swiss folk music".
After that the pace quickens in an "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") [D-1, T-2], which begins with a hypnotic, railroad-like rhythm (HR) [00:00] that will infect the entire movement. HR is quickly overlaid with two ideas that are respectively fractious [00:04] and serpentine [00:29].
Then there's a pastoral, songlike third subject (PS) [01:10], which we're told is based on an "alpine fifth", presumably referring to what's more familiarly known as a perfect fifth. Be that as it may, all three themes are adeptly jostled about, and towards the end, PS reappears [04:41]. This engenders a lovely, closing episode, where it's easy to imagine the view from some Alpine mountain top overlooking a beautiful valley.
The composer refers to the following "Lento" ("Slow") [D-1, T-3] as a complex funeral march in keeping with a Greek tragedy. Accordingly, it opens with a relentless plodding beat [00:00], over which the English horn intones a forlorn keening melody (FK) [00:09] that gives way to a modal, chorale-like countersubject (MC) in the brass [00:48].
FK and MC are explored leading to a haunting episode [03:13], followed by lugubrious strings introducing more funereal passages [04:03]. These are riddled with memories of FK as well as MC, and there are a couple of intense, grief-stricken outbursts. The latter are succeeded by final appearances of MC [07:02] and FK [07:34] as the music vanishes into oblivion.
The mood becomes whimsical in the next "Allegro, quasi scherzo" ("Fast, like a scherzo") [D-1, T-4]. This starts off with a kooky, bitonal (aka polytonal) ländler (KB) [00:00], which is the recurring idea for this rondoesque offering. KB is followed by a pounding segment [01:13] and subsequent, scurrying variant of itself [01:38], having a frivolous afterthought [01:59]. Then a gliding version of KB surfaces [02:24] that's upstaged by a heroic number [03:15]. But not to be outdone, a carefree KB [03:41] appears, turns increasingly agitated, and the movement ends in a sudden forte chord.
The fifth one is a lighthearted "Allegro con spirito ("Fast, with spirit") [D-1, T-5] that falls into four arches, the first two of which are respectively busy [00:00] and pastoral [01:09]. Next there's a buffoonish third [02:33] with chortling winds [beginning at 02:43] as well as reminders of past ideas. Then a recap-like fourth arch [03:40] recalls the first and ends the movement exultantly.
Joy turns to grief in the macabre, penultimate "La maschera di morte" ("The Mask of Death") [D-1, T-6]. Marked "Largo con espressione" ("Slow, with expression") it opens with ominous, tam-tam-reinforced timpani strokes (TT) [00:00] and some gloomy, double bass pizzicato. Subsequently, the brass intones a lugubrious chorale (LC) [00:20], which is the subject of a morose meditation, that’s offset by a searching, sanguine episode [03:04]. Then the latter vanishes with the return of LC [03:37] and more dour passages. These have subdued reminders of TT [05:04] and close the movement in deathly silence.
The concluding seventh one marked "Finale: Allegro molto vivace" ("Finale: Lively and very vivacious") [D-1, T-7] gets off to a spirited start with a rhythmically driven angular idea (RA) for the strings [00:02]. They’re soon joined by the rest of the orchestra with the oboe introducing an RA-related, wistful countersubject (RW) [01:06]. Then RA and RW play a developmental, rondo-like game of tag [beginning at 01:38]. It’s succeeded by an RA-RW derived coda [05:39], which brings the suite and this first CD to a joyous, triumphant ending.
Moving on to the second disc, we get Diethelm's four-movement, Fifth Symphony, subtitled "Mandala", which was completed in 1980-1 and extensively revised four years later (1985). Despite the Hindu-Buddhist symbol referenced in the title, the composer tells us this is absolute music with no underlying story.
He goes on to add his intention was to create a work, which like its moniker would be an aid to meditation. On that note, Diethelm was apparently captivated by the eternal circle of the cosmos and life pictured in a mandala. He'd even go on to revisit the concept in his Consolatio fur Streichorchester (Consolation for String Orchestra, 1996; see 30 September 2015).
The first "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [D-2, T-1] is in sonata form and begins with a searching, fractious thematic nexus (SF) [00:01] that may bring to mind the opening of the third movement in Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler Symphony (1934). SF is followed by a related, chorale-like subject (SC) [01:36], which leads to a dynamic development [02:23] of both, where bellicose passages surround palliative ones [04:19-05:01]. Subsequently, there's a sighing SF-introduced, recap [06:20] with SC [08:27] that’s the basis for an epilogue-like coda [09:29], which ends the movement tranquilly.
A "Vivace" ("Vivacious') scherzo is next [D-2, T-2], where fitful SC-tinged outer sections [00:00 & 07:12] bracket two yearning ones [04:08 & 06:03]. It's succeeded by a "Larghetto" ("Rather slow") [D-2, T-3], which starts with an ambling, melancholic melody (AM) [00:00] that gives way to more hopeful passages [03:14]. But the latter become increasingly despondent [beginning at 04:28] with a couple of anguished outbursts.
Then AM returns in the strings [06:48], and the music builds to another grief-stricken climax. This fades into more optimistic thoughts [08:58] followed by an AM-based, closing coda [10:53], where the music ebbs away with subdued timpani strokes.
The Symphony's spirited "Finale: Allegro energico" ("Finale: Fast and energetic") [D-2, T-4] is a theme and variations cast in sonata form. Moreover, it’s in eight, conjoined sections, reflecting the importance of that number in a mandala (see above).
Sequentially, they consist of the theme, six variations and a concluding epilogue, all of which make for a rigorous, intellectually challenging, convoluted movement. That said, there’s not enough space to get into a detailed analysis here (see the album notes), and arguably, all this structural complexity diminishes the music’s emotional impact.
The initial statement [00:00] is made up of the theme and first two variations, while the following pair constitute the development [06:38]. Then numbers five and six form the recapitulation [09:58], after which there’s that final epilogue [11:59]. Here ideas from the previous three movements resurface, bringing the Symphony to a sublime, pastoral ending.
A Symphonic Prologue for Orchestra [D-2, T-5], which began life in 1974, but was reworked in 1985 and 1993, fills out this disc. It commences with a glib, giddy notion (GG) [00:00] and GG-related songful tune (GS) [00:39]. These are prosaically tossed about with some ostentatious percussion, and then there's a GG-GS-related respite [02:44], cut short [04:08] by a reworking of the opening measures. This leads to a GG-fueled coda [06:59] that brings the work to a joyous conclusion.
Turning to the third CD, we get Diethelm's First, Third and Fourth Symphonies, each of which is in four movements. These span a thirty-year period in his creative years, with the First having been written in 1962-4, but later revised between 1978 and 1983.
It's opening "Allegro energico" ("Fast and energetic") [D-3, T-1] starts with a jittery, chromatic theme (JC) [00:01] that's tweaked and followed by a related, dancelike number (JD) [00:56]. This leads to a JC-launched, dodecaphonic-tinged development [03:04], which attests to Diethelm's past studies of twelve-tone technique. Then the return of JC [06:22] and JD [06:41] initiate a recap coda that ends the movement indifferently.
A placid "Adagio" ("Slow") [D-3, T-2] is next. Along the lines of a theme and variations, it begins with a nebulous, peripatetic main subject [00:00], which engenders five episodes of varying disposition. The first four are sequentially yearning [01:33], martial [02:50], retiring [04:02] and diffident [05:58]. Then a funereal, weeping fifth [07:21] brings the music to a wistful conclusion.
But the mood brightens with a catchy, "Vivace" ("Spirited"), dance movement that's a surrogate scherzo [D-3, T-3]. It has outer, sections [00:00 & 04:24] based on a twirling, German-Swiss "Zwiefacher"-like, folk ditty. These surround a perturbed trio section [03:31-04:23], and end things like they started.
The "Finale: Allegro con slancio" ("Finale: Fast with enthusiasm") [D-3, T-4] is a sonata-rondo, which begins with a volatile, twitchy tune (VT) [00:00] that will recur in different guises throughout the movement. These range from rhapsodic [00:25 & 01:11] to queasy [01:54], stalking [02:39 & 03:12], nimble [03:57], nervous [04:21] and hymnlike [06:03]. The latter bridges into reverent passages [06:55] that end this Symphony full circle with a definitive, forte, VT pronouncement [08:13].
Franz Joseph Haydn (FJH, 1732-1809) figures heavily in the two symphonies filling out this CD, as they're both modelled after his London ones (Nos. 93-104) of two centuries earlier (1791-5). In essence, Casper tells us he was trying to write modern day, large-scale orchestral works, which retained the underlying structural simplicity found in music of the Classical period.
His Third Symphony of 1969-70 appears in its revised, 1995 version and begins with a dreamy "Sostenuto ("Sustained") introduction [D-3, T-5, 00:00]. This sonata form movement then turns "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") with three saucy tunes that are ländleresque (SL) [00:57], waltzlike (SW) [01:55] and skittish (SS) [02:32]. They are deftly developed [03:10], and then SW launches into a zippy recapitulation [04:25] with a jolly coda [05:15] that ends the movement gleefully.
A keening "Adagio cantabile" ("Flowing and songlike") [D-3, T-6] is next. It's fabricated from an opening, lugubrious, meandering dirge (LM) [00:00], which at one point takes on the aspect of a funeral march [02:57]. Curiously enough, there's a tick-tock-like, underlying rhythm that makes one wonder if the composer might have had "Papa" Haydn's" Clock Symphony (No. 101, 1793-4) in mind.
Then the work reverses course with an "Allegro con spirito" ("Fast, with spirit") scherzo [D-3, T-7]. This has delightful outer sections, both of which are based on two childlike ideas that are playful [00:00] and mischievous [00:07]. They surround a curt quirky episode [01:23-02:13], and end this movement, setting the tone for the last.
It takes the form of an effervescent rondo [D-3, T-8], and gets off to a bustling start with two recurring subjects. These are a bubbly, hiccupping motif (BH) [00:00] and an urbane, undulating melody [00:33]. They engender some nine developmental iterations that are searching [01:16 & 01:33], flirtatious [02:17], combative [02:48], valiant [03:26], anxious [04:03], resolute [04:41] and tranquil [05:13 & 05:29]. A subsequent, BH-triggered coda [05:55] closes the symphony smilingly.
Filling out this disc, there’s Diethelm's Fourth Symphony, where he acknowledged his debt to FJH by subtitling it "Hommage à Joseph Haydn". It first saw the light of day in 1971, but like the other works here, underwent later reworking, this time in 1986 as well as 1993.
Like its immediate predecessor, this begins with a sonata form movement [D-3, T-9]. Marked "Allegro assai" ("Very fast"), the opening statement has two related themes, the first being of binary persuasion (BT) with sunny [00:01] and overcast [00:14] components. BT is succeeded by a delicate dancelike, second (DD) [01:00], which is tweaked.
After that, BT and DD are repeated [01:50], giving way to an engaging development [02:33]. Then there’s an exciting recap [04:29] and a chime-introduced, BT-derived epilogue-coda [05:28] that ends the movement piously.
Next, it's scherzo time again with a "Molto allegro e con fuoco" ("Very fast and with fire") [D-3, T-10, 00:00]. This starts with a tangle of energetic riffs, having avian, woodwind shrieks [00:48] and percussive conniptions [01:08 & 01:34]. Then there's a tiny tuneful trio [02:42-03:13], after which the kinetic chaos resumes, building to a manic dance bit [04:39-04:45] that ends things with a forte stomp.
The subsequent "Lento" ("Slow") [D-3, T-11] is in three parts. The first two are searching contemplations, which are respectively only for winds [00:00] and strings [02:26]. Then a subdued tam-tam stroke (STS) [04:41] announces the third, where the preceding ones are superimposed on each other, bringing the music to an anguished conclusion.
Wrapping things up, there's an "Allegro energico" ("Fast and energetic") [D-3, T-12], which is yet another sonata form creation. A lusty, dancelike offering, the opening statement has two themes, namely a headstrong, folksy first (HD) [00:00] and wriggling, rustic second (WR) [01:04]. They undergo an articulate development [01:50] with waning hints of WR [02:42] that are followed by a pause.
Then there’s an HD-initiated recap [03:03] with an HD-suggestive, waltz tidbit [03:33], succeeded by highly agitated passages [03:45]. These slow, giving way to another STS [04:59] and subsequent, HD-parented coda [05:04]. The latter ends with a rising, tam-tam-timpani-reinforced, forte riff [05:14] that closes the Symphony ecstatically.
Swiss conductor Rainer Held leads the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for all six selections. Hearing these finely etched performances, it's easy to understand why he's one of today's most sought after international conductors. His careful phrasing and attention to rhythmic detail are most welcome when it comes to sorting out Caspar’s convoluted music.
The recordings were made two years ago over a five-day period at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Scotland, and consistently project a somewhat withdrawn sonic image in pleasant surroundings. The instrumental timbre is characterized by vitreous highs in massed upper string passages, a tight midrange, and rock-bottom, clean bass.
While this isn't demonstration quality sound, we're lucky to have what's here. Moreover, the album introduces us to some rarely heard, fastidiously written, intellectually challenging music that will require repeated listening to be fully appreciated.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P180831)
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Gál, H.: Chbr Wks V3 (Pno Qt, 4 Vn Sonatinas of 1934 & 1956); Kertész/Blakey/Nash/Briggs [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Those liking Austrian composer Hans Gál's (1890-1987) String Quartets (see 23 February 2011) will definitely want this new Toccata release with more of his chamber works. It gives us an earlier Piano Quartet as well as four later Sonatinas for violin and piano. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The CD opens with his four-movement Piano Quartet, which was probably written in 1914. Generally speaking it's stylistically similar to his Five Intermezzi for string quartet of the same year (see 23 February 2011). Like that, there are tinges of Eastern Europe folk music that recall Brahms' (1833-1897) Hungarian Dances (1852-69) as well as Dvorak's (1841-1904) Slavonic counterparts (1878-86). Also, as the composer's daughter points out in the informative album notes, there's a metrical freedom, producing an unpredictability that's a predominant aspect of her father's style.
This work begins with a sonata form "Allegro energico un poco sostenuto" ("Fast and energetic, but a little sustained") [T-1], whose opening exposition (OE) has two binary subjects (B1 & B2). B1 sports a hop-and-skip, confident, first idea (HC) [00:00] that will be the thematic seed for the entire work. It's succeeded by a sighing, lyrical second (SL] [00:21], after which B1 is toyed with, and followed by B2.
B2 starts with a yearning variant of SL [01:21] that gives way to an HC-related, twitchy companion [01:59], and a repeat of OE [02:30]. This initiates a perky development [04:52] with some dramatic harmonic sequences. Then HC returns [09:09] and announces a thrilling, B1-based recap-coda, where SL comes back big time [09:32]. It brings the movement to an exultant ending with the piano pounding out HC's first three notes [09:49].
The subsequent "Andante con moto" ("Flowing with movement") [T-2] is a combination theme with variations and rondo. It gets underway with tinkling, keyboard passages [00:01], and a charming main subject, which is an HC-derived berceuse (HB) that’s played by the strings (HB) [00:05], and then the piano [00:42].
HB is succeeded by the first of four variants, which is dancelike [01:19]. Then there’s a reminder of HB [02:10] and subsequent pixilated treatment [03:02], smacking of Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). This is followed by the return of HB [04:11], which invokes two more variations. These are respectively flowing [04:49] and hymnlike [05:23], after which HB takes a last bow [06:15], bringing the movement to a placid, tranquil conclusion.
The mood turns anxious in the succeeding "Agitato" [T-3], which is a rondoesque scherzo. This gets underway with three, HC-reminiscent ideas that are sequentially swirling [00:00], insistent [00:37] and waltzlike (HW) [00:52]. These chase each other about and end the movement with a final "So there!"
A theme and variations with a sonata form superstructure brings this delightful creation to a close. Marked "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and vivacious") [T-4], the opening statement (OS) consists of an HC-related, swaggering main subject (HS) plus the first three variants.
HS begins in the strings [00:00], and is reinforced by the piano [00:15], while the two subsequent variations are respectively dainty [00:35] and plucky [00:56], with the latter having some pizzicato spicing. As for the third [01:24], it's haunted by the ghost of Brahms and may bring to mind the familiar 15th of his 16 Waltzes for Piano 4 Hands (Op. 39, 1865).
The development encompasses the next five treatments. These are sequentially aggressive [01:49], coquettish [02:11], contemplative [02:36], tentative [03:02] and songlike [03:27]. Then HS begins a literal recapitulation of OS [04:32], but this time around it's followed by HS-related, charging keyboard passages [07:13]. These bridge into a rousing coda [07:20] that brings the Quartet to a spirited conclusion.
The release is filled out with four Sonatinas for violin and piano, the earliest of which was just recently discovered. It was written in 1934 as a Christmas present for an aspiring young violinist, who was none other than the composer's eleven-year-old son Peter. This was never published; however, the others, which date from 1956, appeared in print as a set of three marked Op. 71. At only eight to twelve minutes each, all four are intimate miniatures that are more contrapuntally oriented and stylistically advanced than the preceding work.
"Peter's Sonatina" (1934) is in three movements, the first two being a pensive "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-13] and melancholy "Lento cantabile" [T-14]. These are immediately appealing, lieder-like creations sung by the violin to a loving piano accompaniment.
Then there's a sprightly "Allegretto giocoso" ("Lively and playful") rondo [T-15] with four thoughts that are respectively playful [00:00], pouty [00:32], waltzlike [00:46] and musing (TM) [01:18]. These are juggled about [beginning at 01:37], and the piece ends sedately with TM having the last say [02:42].
Turning to the Op. 71 collection (1956), the three Sonatinas therein are structurally as well as chromatically more progressive. No. 1 has only two movements and opens "Allegretto" ("Lively") [T-5] with a delicate, rocking theme [00:00] succeeded by a questioning idea [00:44]. All of the foregoing is then repeated [01:17] and contemplated [02:31], bringing the movement to a hushed conclusion.
Next, we get a vivacious "Temo con variazioni" ("Theme with variations") [T-6] based on an initial titillating, somewhat tipsy tune (TT) [00:00]. TT is followed by five variants that are sequentially eager [00:28], gliding [00:52], skittish [01:23], songlike [01:48] and flirtatious [02:30]. Then there's a TT-derived coda that begins hymnlike [03:34] and turns twitchy [03:47], ending the work uneventfully.
The concluding Sonatinas are both in three movements, and No. 2 gets off to an "Allegro" ("Fast") start [T-7] with an infectious, itinerant thematic nexus (CI) [00:00] that's repeated [01:24]. It's followed by a fugally spiced development [02:48], whose last measures close the work with a subtle reminder of CI [04:46].
A caressing "Cavatina" ("Song") [T-8, 00:00] adds a romantic touch. Then this petite treat concludes with an "Alla Marcia" [T-9], having high-stepping outer sections [00:00 & 02:26] wrapped around an HS-related midriff [01:31-02:23]. It ends this piece with a wink of the eye.
Sonatina No. 3 opens "Andantino" ["Leisurely") [T-10] with a pious, hymnlike melody (PH) [00:00] that's repeated [00:41]. It's succeeded by a folkish, bouncing ditty (FB) [01:24], which may bring to mind the "Rondo alla Turca" (aka "Turkish March") movement of Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11 (1781-3). Then a secularized variant of PH appears [02:28], there’s a splash of FB [03:20], and the movement quietly subsides with a last hint of PH [03:32].
The penultimate "Alla serenata" ("Serenade-like") [T-11] is as billed, and in ternary, A-B-A form. Here tender, swaying "A"s [00:00 & 02:46] are sung by the violin to a guitar-like, strummed piano accompaniment. They surround a narrative, matter-of-fact "B" [01:09-02:37], and bring the movement to a peaceful conclusion, only to be followed by a virtuosic "Rondo" [T-12]. It features an innocent, stuttering tune [00:00], and ends this Sonatina with a warm 'Good night!"
Based in Britain, our four lady soloists on this disc make a strong case for these rarely heard chamber selections. Hungarian-born-and-trained, violinist Katalin Kertész along with pianist Sara Beth Briggs give sensitive, articulate performances of the Sonatinas. Then they're joined by violist Nichola Blakey and cellist Cressida Nash for a rousing interpretation of Hans' youthful Quartet.
The recordings were made last year at Millfield School's Johnson Hall in Somerset, England. They project a narrow sonic image that would be more convincing if the soloists were a bit further apart. The string tone is characterized by bright highs and lean bass, while the piano is well captured with just the right amount of percussive bite. This disc isn't demonstration quality, but the sound gives us a serviceable account of some wonderful, late-romantic chamber music that's been hidden away far too long.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P180830)
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Krug: Stg Sxt (2 vns, 2 vas, vc & db), Pno Qt; Linos En [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Not to be confused with Joseph Krug (1800-1866) of Mainz, Germany, who founded that world famous Champagne House in Reims, France, this is composer, conductor, pianist and teacher Arnold (1849-1904), whose hometown was Hamburg. He first studied at the National Academy of St Cecilia in Rome, and then went on to the Leipzig Conservatory, where Carl Reinecke (1824-1910; see 24 July 2008) was one of his teachers.
Arnold would write around 150 works that are mostly vocal or for solo piano. However, there are some orchestral ones that include a couple of symphonies, as well a few chamber pieces. The latter are represented here by two selections, these being the only recordings of them readily available on disc.
The opening one is a three-movement String Sextet that was completed in 1865, and published two years later with the words "Preis-Sextett" ("Prize-Sextet") printed on the title page. This moniker bears a word of explanation, considering it's related to the work's genesis and original scoring.
Moreover, back in 1896 German composer-luthier Alfred Stelzner (1852-1906) organized a music competition at the Dresden Conservatory for works that included two new stringed instruments of his design. As indicated above, Arnold's piece was the winner, and had parts for both, which were respectively known a "violotta" and "cellone". The former’s range was somewhere below the viola but higher than a cello, while the other’s fell between the cello and double bass.
In Krug’s original version of the Sextet, they were accompanied by two violins, viola and cello. However, the version presented here replaces them with another viola and a double bass. Incidentally, one of the other submissions was from Arnold's contemporary Felix Draeseke (1835-1913; see 26 April 2017), namely his First String Quintet of 1897, which calls for a violotta.
The Sextet begins with a sonata form "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-1], having an initial, impatient Beethoven (1770-1827) riff [00:00]. It gives way to a caressing, romantic idea (CR) [00:21], which is out of Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and headed towards Brahms (1833-1897).
CR is subsequently tweaked and followed by a wistful, demure countersubject [02:10], after which the two undergo a consummate development [03:03]. This becomes increasingly agitated, waning into a carbon copy recap of the opening [05:54]. The latter then closes with a rapturous coda [09:04], which ends the movement ecstatically.
A middle one marked "Adagio tranquillo" ("Tranquilly flowing") [T-2] is in ternary "A-B-A" from, and the work's emotional center of gravity. The "A"s feature a gorgeous, passionate melody (GP) [00:00] that anticipates those ravishing themes, which would soon come from the pen of Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
"B" starts with a whimsical discourse for all six instruments [02:37], which gives way to a fetching GP-related, melancholy tune (GM) [04:01]. This becomes the subject of a searching contemplation [05:27] with a hint of GP subsequently resurfacing [06:48]. It announces the final "A" [08:05], which concludes the movement full circle.
Krug ends the work with another sonata form one marked "Finale. Allegro" [T-3]. It gets off to a busy start [00:00] with a playful, swirling tune (PS) [00:04], followed by a GM-reminiscent hymnlike number (GH) [01:20]. After that GH is examined, bridging into an imaginative development [03:27] of both ideas. Then the return of PS [04:33] announces a recapitulation, which soon includes GH [05:51]. This adjoins a PS-based, cheery coda [07:34] that ends the Sextet smilingly.
The disc is filled out with the composer's Piano Quartet written in 1878-9 just after his return from Italy. At almost forty minutes, it's a substantial chamber work that's another one of those undiscovered romantic treasures unearthed by CPO.
This is a shape-shifter, considering it starts off as absolute music and turns programmatic. To wit, the first two of its four movements fall into the former category, while the last ones were inspired by German writer Victor von Scheffel's (1826-1886) epic poem Der Trompeter von Säckingen (The Trumpeter of Säckingen; 1853). Incidentally, the Scheffel gained great popularity, and some five years later, Krug’s colleague, Alsatian composer Viktor Nessler (1841-1890) would write an eponymous opera (1884) based on it.
The Krug gets underway with a sonata form "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-4], where the piano first plays an angular, headstrong theme (AH) [00:00] that brings Robert Schmuann's solo keyboard works (1829-54) to mind. AM is picked up by the strings [00:40], toyed with and followed by a comely, folkish cavatina-like melody (CF) introduced by the cello [02:31].
CF is then repeated [03:07] and becomes the subject of a brief, delightful serenade, which transitions into an AM-triggered, arresting development [04:32]. The latter has a glorious, soaring, CF-reminiscent, sequential episode [05:35] and subsequent AM-inflected passages [06:03], which lead to a CF-initiated recap [07:38]. Here reminders of AM [09:31] make an animated transition into a virtuosic AM-CF-derived coda [12:51], which closes the movement definitively.
A ternary, A-B-A “Adagio” (“Flowing”) [T-5] follows, having outer "A" sections based on an exquisite binary theme (EB) [00:00] with a delicate, first part adjoining a winsome, complimentary second [01:24]. They embrace a central "B" that features a lovely countersubject (LC) [03:22], and closes with hints of EB [04:48]. These usher in the return of "A" [06:09], having last reminders of EB [08:22] and LC [08:47], which bring things to a tranquil conclusion.
After that, it's on to the programmatic part of this Quartet. Moreover, the final two movements have underlying stories reflecting the Sheffel mentioned above.
The first of these is a scherzo titled "Nächtlichter Ritt" ("Night Ride") [T-6]. It’s marked "Allegro molto feroce e vivace" ("Lively, very fierce and vivacious") [T-6] and in three parts. The outer ones [00:00 & 03:56] depict a frantic, satanic ride into the nether regions. They surround a related, playful trio section [01:56-03:53], and end this infernal excursion pessimistically.
But all turns out well with the final "Carneval" ("Carnival") [T-7], which brings the work to an "Allegro carnevalesco e molto animato" ("Lively, carnivalesque and very animated") [T-7] conclusion. Krug heads the score with quotes from Sheffel's poem, describing the rampant revelry surrounding the annual Roman Carnival. The movement is a colorful depiction of same, and a complete contrast to the austere first and bizarre third.
A modified sonata form offering, it begins with a jocund, rollicking ditty (JR) [00:00], succeeded by a related, inviting dance number (JI) [00:40]. JI sashays about and bridges into a variational development [02:27], where JR appears in several different guises. These range from fickle [02:45] to commanding [03:36], tarantella-like [03:50] and dreamy [05:34].
Then JR announces a recap [05:56], where ID soon returns [06:26], giving rise to rhapsodic passages [07:14]. These end the quartet in a jubilant, tintinnabular coda [08:36], where it would seem all the bells in Rome ring out for this festive occasion!
Our musicians belong to the German-based Linos Ensemble (LE), whose praises we've sung before (see 23 January 2015). Reputedly named for the Greek god of melody and rhythm (aka Linus of Thrace), the LE has issued several prize-winning recordings of little known chamber gems. Their pianist Konstanze Eickhorst along with her fellow string players deliver outstanding performances of these two undeservedly neglected romantic works.
A coproduction of CPO and German Radio (DLF), the recordings were made back in 2014 at DLF's Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall), Cologne. They project an ideally sized sonic image in a warm venue with just the right amount of reverberation to bathe these selections in a romantic glow. The instruments are well placed and balanced with the piano center stage for the Quartet. It’s beautifully captured with just the right amount of percussive bite, while the strings are lifelike, making for a demonstration quality disc.
- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y180829)
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Künneke: Herz über Bord (operetta w Marszalek; rcn Gerihsen); Soloists/Marshall/ColWDR C&O [Capriccio]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
No stranger to these pages, Eduard Künneke (1885-1953) makes a welcome reappearance (see 23 February 2015 and 31 December 2017). He wrote some twenty operettas, and was in many ways the German counterpart of that legendary, Austro-Hungarian composer of light, stage fare, Franz Lehár (1870-1948; see 7 October 2011). And now the adventurous Capriccio label gives us a reconstructed version of the complete score for his Herz über Bord (Heart Overboard) of 1935.
Let us say at the outset that one operetta aficionado found this delightful release wanting (click here), making one wonder if he got up on the wrong side of the bed the day he played it. In any case, this is the only recording currently available on disc. However, there's no libretto, and we couldn't find one on the Internet, but the album booklet has a scanty plot synopsis in addition to German-English texts for four of the songs.
Completed in 1935, it became a big hit, and by 1937 had seen some 500 performances in Germany alone. This is quite surprising when you consider anti-Semitism was rampant after the Nazis took control (1933), and the composer's wife as well as the work's librettists -- Max Bertuch (1890-1943) and Kurt Schwabach (1898-1966) -- were of Jewish descent.
The work's phenomenal success was due in no small part to its having some of the most infectious music Künneke ever wrote! Colorfully scored for an orchestra that includes saxophones, accordion, banjo and a percussion section augmented with two pianos and a drum kit, it abounds with wonderful 30s tunes set to toe-tapping rhythms. Incidentally, Eduard's longtime friend, German conductor-composer Franz Marszalek (1900-1975), who championed his operettas, wrote two of the songs [T-2 & 12].
Regrettably, only a piano score and orchestral fragments from a later Marszalek arrangement have come down to us, but fortunately, they were enough for this reconstruction by German composer Michael Gerihsen (no background information currently available).
The work calls for four vocal soloist and some occasional choral support. The dialog is limited to a music-accompanied, three-minute "Melodram" ("Melodrama") [T-15] that ends the third of its four acts. As for the story, it's about two pairs of lovers and their money-motivated, marital shenanigans. Film buffs may find this brings to mind a Hollywood movie released the same year, namely Gold Diggers of 1935.
The scenario centers around a beautiful, professional swimmer named Lilli Brand (soprano), her husband-to-be Albert (baritone), and Lilli's childhood friend Hans (tenor), who's engaged to an actress known as Gwendolin (soprano). The Act I curtain rises to a jaunty, piano-dominated orchestral ditty (JD) [T-1, 00:00], revealing the interior of Lilli's apartment.
Several of her male admirers are there to celebrate a competition she's just won, and they join in a fetching chorus set to JD [00:38]. Soon Lilli comes in and greets them somewhat distractedly [02:17] as she's more concerned about her imminent wedding to Albert. But high spirits prevail, and this number closes festively, after which Hans, who’s been summoned by her, makes an unusual entrance.
He lives in Lilli’s building, and having climbed over the roof, comes in through one of her windows. Hans then sings the first of those Marszalek numbers mentioned above [T-2, 00:00] with some support from the assembled guests [00:57]. Subsequently, Lilli delivers a lovely maudlin lied [T-3] about love, and the two engage in a saxophone-cosseted duet [T-4] with a lovely swaying refrain (LS) [00:33].
Here they ostensibly profess their friendship for one another, and he gives her a letter that was mistakenly put in his mailbox. She reads it, and we learn Lilli's to inherit a substantial sum from her uncle, providing she marries Hans.
Then the plot thickens in a mischievous, ensemble number [T-5], where a catchy, capricious riff (CC) [00:27] announces the arrival of Albert and Gwendolin. They're told about the letter's content, and the four decide on some connubial chicanery to insure Lilli gets her money. Moreover, she'll wed Hans but within a year, divorce him and marry Albert as originally planned.
This selection closes with everyone engaging in an antic outburst [06:39], followed by a duet for Albert and Gwendolin [T-6] set to a playful 1920s, dancelike number (PD) [00:00]. Then there's a terrific ensemble piece [T-7] that has a frivolous, swaggering introduction [00:00]. It's followed by an amorous aria for Hans [01:35], after which all join in a PD-accompanied refrain [02:52] that brings this act to a rousing conclusion.
In the meantime, Lilli and Hans get married, and the next two acts take place aboard a pleasure liner, on which they're honeymooning. The newlyweds are being chaperoned by none other than Gwendolin and Albert, who join them in an opening, gossipy, "Haben Sie gehört?" ("Have you heard?") quartet [T-8, 00:00] with the other passengers eventually joining in [01:57]. Then we get a busy duet for Albert and Lilli [T-9, 00:00] with a catchy, rolling refrain (CR) [00:32), which concludes with them affectionately waltzing about [03:17].
This leads to a follow-on, waltz scene [T-10, 00:00] sung and danced by the male passengers along with Gwendolin. It has intimations of that ever popular, American tune by James P. Johnson (1894-1955; see 31 March 2011) known as the Charleston (1923) [beginning at 00:55], and is one of the work's high points. It comes in two parts [beginning at 00:00], the second [01:38] being even more lively than the first, and sets the mood for a subsequent "Wer tanzt heut mit mir?" ("Who's dancing with me today?") waltz for everyone [T-11]. The latter brings the act to a delightful "3/4" time conclusion.
Act III was originally prefaced with an orchestral "Intermezzo", which is included on a track at the end of the operetta [T-18], reputedly for "dramaturgical reasons". However, many listeners may want to play this next, so we'll comment on it now.
A kind of symphonic prelude, the music begins with drum rolls and pounding chords for full orchestra (PC) [00:00], succeeded by strutting piano passages [00:14]. A medley of three dance ditties follows with seductive saxophones intoning the first [00:26], which is none other than LS (see above). Then there's a CR-reminiscent, castanet-accented one [01:12], and a closing, jazzy, blues number [02:09] that brings George Gershwin (1898-1937) to mind.
Picking up where we left off, Act III opens with Albert delivering that second Marszalek song [T-12, 00:00] (see above). It’s a cantering ditty, where he confesses to being a lightweight in past affairs of the heart. Then there’s a lilting waltz-duet "Wenn das Herz auch sprecht" ("When the heart speaks out") for Lilli and Hans [T-13, 00:00], which smacks of Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899). After that, Albert and Gwendolin serenade us with a giddy, poetic number [T-14, 00:00] where they declare their affection for each other.
Then this act closes with that "Melodram" ("Melodrama") [T-15] mentioned above. In it we learn Hans was so overwhelmed by his love for Lilli and the threat of an imminent divorce that unbeknownst to her, he's left the boat, and taken the liner’s passenger dinghy to a nearby Italian fishing village. The Ship’s Captain tells Lilli what's happened, and she jumps overboard, thereby giving the work its title, and like an Esther Williams (1921-2013) of 1935, swims away to join Hans.
The fourth and final act takes place in that villaggio, where all four protagonists have gathered to sort things out. Moreover, Hans and Lilli will have to tell the other couple they're deeply in love and plan to stay married. Of course, this will throw a monkey wrench into the works! But like all feel-good, "Silver Age" operettas of that day, everything comes around swimmingly, so to speak.
Sure enough, the opening quartet, which begins "Das erste Wort ist meist das schwerste Wort" ("The first word is usually the heaviest word") [T-16, 00:00] reveals Albert and Gwendolin must have had a little something going on the side, because they're now totally smitten with each other and want to marry. This occasions a terrific closing number for all four protagonists plus chorus [T-17, 00:00] with final remembrances of PC [00:47], which brings this beguiling creation to a joyous conclusion.
Sopranos Annika Boos (Lilli) and Linda Hergarten (Gwendolin), tenor Martin Koch (Hans), baritone Julian Schulzki (Albert) and speaker Martin Krasnenko (Ship's Captain), are in fine voice for this aquatic antic. British conductor Wayne Marshall and the West German Radio (WDR) Chorus and Orchestra of Cologne give them first-rate support.
A coproduction of Capriccio and WDR, the recording sessions took place over a ten-day period in June of last year at the Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal, Cologne. The disc projects a comfortably sized sonic image in warm, but lively surroundings that add even more sparkle to this irresistible 1930s gem.
The singers are comfortably spaced, ideally captured -- voices on conventional CDs don't get any better than this -- and perfectly highlighted against a well-balanced chorus and orchestra. The colorful scoring comes across with a silvery upper end, and solid, natural-sounding midrange -- oh, those saxophones! As for the lows, they're very clean with periodic, pants-flapping whacks on the bass drum. Audiophiles who love operetta won't want to be without this one!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y180828)
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Roskott: Vn Conc, Vn Son; Takayama/Negrutiu/Kim/ShenCon SO [Centaur]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Everyone's heard of Phoenix, Arizona, but what about Phoenix, Maryland, some 20 miles north of Baltimore? Well in 2006, this was the site of a catastrophic gasoline leak, which back in those days occasioned the largest amount of money in legal damages ever paid for an oil spill (1,000,000,000)!
But more importantly, it was also the hometown of American composer Carl Roskott (1953-2008), who makes his first appearance in these pages with this new release from Centaur Records. He studied at the Peabody Institute, Baltimore, and New England Conservatory, Boston. Carl would also spend two summers at Tanglewood (1973 & 1979), where he became a close associate of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990).
Roskott then followed a highly successful career that for the most part involved conducting and teaching. As for his compositional efforts, he began writing outré, contemporary works. However, his time on the podium inspired a great love for past classics as well as his buddy Leonard's music, and lead to a complete, stylistic change of heart (see the informative album notes by American conductor Paul S. Kim).
Moreover, in the mid-1970s, he abandoned avant-gardism for established, tonally based methods of composition, which inform both works presented here. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
His three-movement Violin Concerto completed in 1984 gets off to an "Allegro Spirito" ("Fast and spirited") [T-1] start with an angular, cocky theme (AC) for the soloist [00:00] set to a bounding tutti accompaniment. This transitions into a gorgeous, expansive melody for the violin (GE) [00:46] conjuring up images of windswept, verdant meadows. After that, GE is explored, repeated [02:07] and wanes into a pensive developmental episode [02:45] with virtuosic flourishes.
Subsequently, a lumbering bassoon [04:35] introduces highly agitated passages for the soloist, which turn into a lively country dance [05:29]. It’s followed by a carnival-like waltz number [05:49], some dreamy recollections of GE [06:10] and an anticipatory pause. Then there's a demanding cadenza [07:23] that closes with heavenly allusions to GE [08:40], and is followed by the tutti, playing AC [09:22]. This triggers a frenetic, fiddle-laced coda, which ends the movement frenetically.
The middle "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-2] begins with a weeping violin and keening orchestra intoning an AC-derived, sorrowful melody (AS) [00:00] with sporadic, AC-GE-reminiscent embellishments [beginning at 00:38]. AS is the subject of a moving, melancholy exploration [01:40] with some despairing brass figures [beginning at 02:07], which bring Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) more fateful moments to mind.
After that, the soloist introduces a consoling theme [03:07], which occasions an optimistic episode. However, this turns fretful [05:55], becomes increasingly tragic and then suddenly reverses course, bursting into a momentary, GE-reminiscent ray of hope [07:49]. It gives rise to nostalgic passages that recall AS [08:33] and bring the movement to a tranquil conclusion.
The closing "Variations" [T-3] is in eleven successive sections consisting of a theme, nine variations and a rousing finale. It opens with the orchestra playing a comely “Allegro Maestoso” (“Fast and Majestic”), folk-tinged main subject (CF) [00:00] that’s followed by a brief pause.
Then the fun begins with those nine variants, which the album notes say, “reflect multiple styles throughout Western history…” Accordingly, we've made some subjective observations, regarding the period and nationality each seems to represent (see the table below). We’ve also included a descriptive word or two that you can click to bring up well-known works, which seem in the same stylistic ballpark.
The ninth "Hoedown" variation probably reflects Carl's extensive association with the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is followed by that finale mentioned above. Here CF makes a colorful, big tune comeback [11:50] with violin and brass embellishments. Then soloist and tutti launch into a brusque, fiddle fireworks riff [12:53] that ends the Concerto definitively.
This release is filled out with Roskott's four-movement Violin Sonata of 1985. The initial, modified-sonata-form "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-4] opens with a mesmeric, vertiginous theme (MV) spun out by the violin [00:00]. It's followed by an MV-related, searching countersubject (MS) [00:32], after which MV returns [00:55], announcing a development [01:11]. The latter becomes increasingly querulous and leads to a recap with sad memories of MV [04:48] and MS [05:06]. These give way to more optimistic passages [06:29] that end the movement with a last ray of hope [06:56].
Next, a somnambulant "Sempre pianissimo e misterioso" ("Always soft and mysterious") [T-5] starts with hesitant keyboard passages [00:00]. These suggest an eerie, wandering idea (EW) presently played by the violin [01:45], which is followed by a more lyrical, flowing version of EW (EL) [03:02]. EL initiates a haunting meditation [03:38], smacking of Alexander Scriabin's (1872-1915) mystically impressionistic works. It then gives birth to an innocent, nursery-tune-like idea [03:38]. This is explored and wanes into the return of EL [07:27], which fades, bringing the movement to a dark conclusion.
However, more cheerful days lie ahead with the next two, the first being a "Scherzo: Presto" [T-6]. This begins with a frolicsome section (FS), having two themes that are respectively impish [00:00] and nonchalant [00:44]. It's followed by an undulating episode, featuring a sing-song tune [01:42]. Then the foregoing ideas engage in some rondoesque, developmental leapfrog [beginning at 02:31], where they sometimes change their temperament. But in the end, FS reappears [05:20], ending the movement full circle.
The final "Vivace" ("Vivaciously") [T-7] will have a familiar ring! Moreover, it pays homage to Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) as there are allusions to the opening and closing "Shrovetide Fair" scenes in his ballet Petrushka (1911, revised 1947).
This movement hits the ground running with the violin playing a twitchy, angular subject (TA) [00:00] containing a Petrushka-tinged riff (PR) [00:37]. Then TA is followed by a wistful, meandering, keyboard number (WM) [00:50] that's picked up by the violin [01:05].
Subsequently, all the foregoing ideas undergo a vivacious development [beginning 01:18] with a TA-related jazzy episode [01:47], having another dash of PR [02:17]. This gives rise to the reappearance of WM [02:52], which turns romantically flowing [03:08]. Then bits of TA surface [03:24], heralding deranged passages [03:54], where there are references to a striking clock [04:15]. These are Petrushka-related and immediately followed by more PR-engendered passages [04:36] that bring the Sonata to a thrilling conclusion.
Japanese-American violinist Akemi Takayama plays up a storm in both selections and is well-partnered with Romanian-American pianist Silvan Negrutiu for the Sonata. Both make a strong case for this challenging, dynamic chamber work -- Aspiring violinists and pianists take note!
As for the Concerto, Maestro Kim (see above) and the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra (SCSO) based in Winchester, Virginia, give Ms. Takayama, who's a member of the SCSO, outstanding support. Together they deliver a magnificent performance of a little-known 20th century work that's a significant addition to modern day violin literature.
Five years separate these recordings, the earlier one being the Concerto, which was made in 2012 at Shenandoah University's Armstrong Concert Hall, Winchester, Virginia. It projects an adequately sized sonic image in a pleasant venue, but the overall sound is thin. Moreover, the instrumental timbre, including Ms. Takayama's violin, is characterized by steely highs, a clean, although minimal midrange, and lean bass. That said, a good balance is maintained between soloist and tutti throughout.
The Sonata recording is of 2017 vintage, and was set down at Sono Luminus Studios in Boyce, Virginia, some ten miles southeast of Winchester. It finds the soloists comfortably balanced to left (violin) and right (piano), but the string tone is similar to that in the Concerto, and the piano sounds somewhat shallow. However, as we’ve noted before with music this engaging, pointy-eared listeners will soon forget any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P180827)
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