CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 MAY 2019
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.
Bargiel: Cpte Stg Qts (4), Stg Oct; Sato/Horie/Adler/Freitag/Orpheus Qt [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (2 CDs)
Born in Berlin, Woldemar Bargiel's (1828-1897) half-sister was Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896). Through her, he met Robert (1810-1856) in the early 1840s, who along with his colleague Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) were instrumental in getting this talented youngster to attend what's now known as the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig (UMTL). His instructors included Niels Gade (1817-1890), who's also appeared in these pages (see 31 March 2018).
After graduating in 1850, Woldemar returned home and gave private music lessons, but would move on to teach at conservatories in Cologne (1859-64) and Rotterdam (1864-74). Then he journeyed back to Berlin, and took a lifetime position as professor of composition in that city's University of the Arts.
Bargiel would write a modest body of works, and while a few are symphonic (1852-1864), the majority fall into the chamber category. Five of the latter, all for strings, fill out this exemplary, two-CD album from CPO. They include the composer's four String Quartets, each of which is in four movements, and his sole Octet. These are the only readily available, commercial recordings of them.
Proceeding chronologically, we begin with the three selections on the second disc. They were written while Woldemar was a student at UMTL, the earliest of them being his First String Quartet (1848), which is a remarkably well crafted work for a twenty-year-old.
It opens with a by-the-book, sonata form "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") [D-2, T-4], whose exposition starts with hints [00:00] of a wistful, sighing idea (WS) that's soon heard [00:25]. WS is followed by a related, jolly ditty (WJ) [00:42], which is briefly explored [00:58]. Then the foregoing is repeated [01:32], and there's a WJ-initiated development [03:04] with a fetching, sequential treatment of WS [03:54]. This leads to the return of WJ [05:05] and a recapitulation with a tiny, WS-based coda [05:47] that closes the movement conservatively.
The next "Andante con moto" ("Slow with movement") [D-2, T-5] is a lovely serenade-like offering. It's based on a couple of attractive WS-derived tunes that are respectively yearning (WY) [00:01] and anguished [01:12]. These are briefly examined [01:57] and WY resurfaces [02:50], bringing things full circle.
Then it's on to a "Scherzo -- Trio" [D-2, T-6], whose outer sections [00:00 & 02:00] are powered by a WS-derived, fleeting number (WF). They surround a subdued, searching version of WF [01:02-01:59] and end the movement like it began, setting the tone for the "Presto" ("Very fast") “Finale” [D-2, T-7].
This is a rambunctious rondo with a recurring, WS-WJ-related, playful idea [00:00], which scampers about and undergoes six developmental treatments. The first five are sequentially romantic [01:13], contrapuntal [01:40], distracted [02:02], fragmented [02:35] and amorously lyrical [03:07]. Then a manic sixth [03:36] terminates the Quartet definitively.
A year later Bargiel would pen a Second one (1849), which testifies to the outstanding progress he'd made at UMTL. Moreover, in addition to having greater emotional depth, it's structurally and harmonically more sophisticated.
That's evident right from the start of its initial, sonata form "Allegro appasionato" ("Fast and passionate") [D-2, T-8]. This opens with a mellow, pleading idea (MP) [00:01] that has a furrow-browed Beethoven (1770-1827) air about it.
MP is next examined and succeeded by a related, songlike melody (MS) [01:28] that's briefly explored. Then all of the foregoing is repeated [02:32], after which the return of MP [05:01] engenders an inventive development. Here there's a tender allusion to MS [05:45] and beckoning, imitative passages [06:14] call up a reminder of MP [06:30]. This triggers a nostalgic recap with a frantic MP-based coda [08:40] that ends the movement unassumingly.
Next, a serene "Adagio" ("Slow") [D-2, T-9] opens with a lovely MS-reminiscent, romantic tune intoned by the cello (MR) [00:01]. It fuels a fetching serenade that couldn't be more different from the subsequent "Scherzo -- Trio" [D-2, T-10], which has mercurial, outer sections [00:00 & 02:19] built from an MR-derived, whimsical notion (MW).
They bookend a coquettish treatment of MW [01:31-02:18] and are followed by the Quartet's "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") "Finale" [D-2, T-11]. This is a frolicsome rondo, where agitated versions of MP [00:00] and MS [01:26] chase each other about. But they eventually tire [beginning at 04:04] and bring the work to a tranquil conclusion.
On the heels of the previous selection, Woldemar would write his UMTL graduation piece, which took the unusual form of an Octet scored for double string quartet (1849-50). This was a genre that had appeared some twenty-five years earlier, when German composer Louis Spohr (1784-1859) penned the first of four such works (1823-49).
Then Mendelssohn as well as Bargiel's old teacher Niels Gade (see above) followed suit with ones in 1825 and 1840 respectively. Consequently, Felix's became the role model for Woldemar's, which is in three movements and stylistically speaking, a big quantum leap forward for this budding young composer.
The opening, extended sonata form movement [D-2, T-1] is almost as long as the entire, preceding Quartet, and has an ominous, "Adagio" ("Slow") introduction [00:00]. This sets the mood for the exposition (OE), which begins with a bustling, "Allegro passionato" ("Fast and passionate") idea (OB) [02:19]. OB is subsequently tweaked, thereby spawning a couple of related countersubjects that are respectively flowing (OF) [04:28] and humble (OH) [05:46].
OE is then repeated [06:31] and gracefully transitions [beginning at 09:59] into a development, having a gentle, swaying opening [10:34] with Mendelssohnian overtones. The music becomes increasingly agitated, and gives away to an OB-initiated, modified recapitulation [13:19] with reminders of OF [15:54] and OH [17:27]. This is followed by a dramatic pause, and the movement ends with a tranquil, cadential gesture [18:07].
The next one [D-2, T-2] might best be described as a binary, theme and variations that commences with a pair of contrasting subjects. These are a chorale-like, "Andante sostenuto" ("Slow and sustained") idea (CC) [00:00] in tandem with a skittering "Allegro" ("Fast") one (CS) [01:25], where the latter recalls flightier moments in Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42).
They're succeeded by a sorrowful variant of CC [02:45] and an antsy version of CS with pizzicato accenting [04:07]. But CC makes a melancholy return [05:35], after which a wistful CS [06:09] finishes the movement nostalgically.
Then the work ends with another sonata form utterance marked "Allegro" ("Fast") [D-2, T-3]. This begins with a martial, triumphant thematic nexus (MT) [00:00], followed by a related, contented idea (MC) [01:54]. After that, MT introduces an excited development [02:59] that gives way to a pause and MC-engendered recap [04:56]. The latter has an MT-based, fugal episode [06:32], which turns increasingly frantic and thrashes about, ending the Octet exultantly.
After his graduation from UMTL, Woldemar would only write an additional two Quartets. The Third, which came in 1851, is a compact, articulate work with an initial, sonata form movement marked "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively, but not too fast") [D-1, T-1]. This gets underway with a couple of themes, having an angularity that brings Robert Schumann's String Quartets (1842) to mind.
Respectively quaint (AQ) [00:00] and impulsive (AI) [00:39], they're manipulated [01:48] into a bridge that adjoins an engaging development [03:09]. Then AQ resurfaces, announcing the recapitulation [04:41], which ends the movement uneventfully with a somber reminder of AQ [06:23].
The "Allegro commodo" ("Comfortably fast") [D-1, T-2] is a scherzo. Its outer sections [00:00 & 01:59] feature a dancelike, AQ-related tune (AD), and surround an AD-derived, lyrical, trio episode [01:03-01:55]. But all this frivolity turns to prayerful resignation in the next "Andante sostenuto" ("Slow and sustained") [D-1, T-3], which comes across like a reworking of the "Adagio molto" ("Very slowly") third movement in Schumann's Third String Quartet (1842).
And bringing this delightful piece to a spirited close, Woldemar serves up a "Vivace ed energico" ("Vivacious and energetic") [D-1, T-4] rondo. It has two recurring ideas [00:00 & 00:57] that are derivatives of our old friends AQ and AI above. These are bandied about and bring the work to a "So there!" finish.
While the foregoing quartets were written within the space of around three years, almost forty would pass before Bargiel penned his Fourth and final one (1888). It's among his last works and ranks right up there with his colleague Johannes Brahms' (1833-1897) later chamber music.
The opening "Molto moderato, ma passionato" ("Very moderate, but passionately") [D-1, T-5] begins with two sforzando chords [00:00] succeeded by a comely, winding melodic grouping (CM) [00:09]. CM is repeated [00:41] and explored, giving rise to a related, happy tune (CH) [01:27] that bridges into a CM-initiated, extended development [02:18].
This becomes increasingly agitated, giving way to a dramatic pause and subsequent wisp of CH [04:27]. The latter introduces a contemplative passage [04:36], after which CM starts a recap [05:08] with reminders of CH [06:08]. Then we get an anticipatory break and nostalgic recollections of CM [06:39]. These hint at a CM-based coda that begins vivaciously [06:59], but wanes, ending the movement despairingly.
The succeeding "Andante" ("Slow") [D-1, T-6] starts with a lovely grouping of lullaby-like melodies (LG) [00:01-01:59]. It’s followed by a couple of developmental commentaries that are forceful [02:00] and yearning [02:41]. Then LG returns [03:17], succeeded by a somber rendition of itself [05:48], which concludes this section serenely.
Darkness turns to light in the scherzo, which is marked "Allegro energico, impetuoso" ("Fast, energetic and impetuous") [D-1, T-7], and comes off as advertised. It has saucy, Mendelssohnian outer sections on either side of a restive trio [02:38-04:19], the first bars of which return [05:54] to close the movement contritely.
And wrapping things up, there's a mischievous "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively, but not too fast") rondo [D-1, T-8]. This has three recurring dance ditties that are sequentially furtive [00:00], solicitous (DS) [01:09] and jiggish [01:51]. They're masterfully juggled about, recalling those transcendental moments in Beethoven's (1770-1827) later Quartets (1823-1826), and power a dramatic coda [07:18], which ends this one with a touching reminder of DS [07:28].
The core performing group here is the Orpheus Quartet (OQ) that was founded in 1986 and has since won many prestigious awards. This international ensemble comprised of Finnish-first-violinist Mark Gothoni, American-second-violinist Timothy Summers, Dutch-violist Emile Cantor and Romanian-cellist Laurentiu Sbarcea, delivers commanding performances of the Quartets. The OQ is joined by guest violinists Yume Sato and Amane Harie as well as violist Julia Rebekka Adley along with cellist Eva Freitag for a superb account of the Octet.
A coproduction of CPO and Deutschlandradio Kultur, all of the recordings took place in Berlin. More specifically, the last two Quartets [D-1] were done in 2013 at Siemensvilla. As for the earlier ones and Octet [D-2], they were made on two occasions during 2016 in Studio Britz. Generally speaking, they all project generous sonic images in reverberantly warm surroundings.
That said, the instruments are arranged from left to right in order of increasing size and adequately captured as well as balanced. The string tone on the first disc is characterized by somewhat steely highs, a lifelike midrange, and adequate bass with no hangover in lower cello passages. However, the highend on the second one is more natural sounding, while the mids and lows remain much the same. Taking everything into account, the album falls a bit short of earning an "Audiophile" stripe, but we're lucky to finally have these rare chamber discoveries on disc.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P190531)
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Price, F.: Syms 1 & 4; Jeter/FortSm S [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
What a pleasure to welcome American composer Florence Price (1887-1953) back to these pages (see 8 February 2012)! With this outstanding Naxos release, we not only get the world premiere recording (WPR) of her last, Fourth Symphony, but a new one of the First in a performance finally worthy of this long, overlooked American masterpiece.
She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and showed early musical talent. However, back then Jim Crow Laws were rampant in the southern United States, and educational opportunities for African Americans were limited, to say the least! Accordingly, when she was fourteen, Florence's mother enrolled her in the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Massachusetts, where she studied with George Chadwick (1854-1931, see 19 October 2012) and Frederick Converse (1871-1940, see 8 February 2012).
Upon graduation in 1907, she went back to Arkansas and taught until 1927, at which time the family moved to Chicago. Florence would continue her composition studies there, and then go on to write some 300 works, becoming the first black woman in the United States to be recognized as a symphonic composer.
Our program begins with the prize-winning First of 1932, which was originally subtitled a "Negro Symphony" (see 8 February 2012). It's in four movements with themes that draw heavily on the pentatonic melodies and syncopated rhythms, which pervade Afro-American folk music. In that regard, Dvorák's (1841-1904) From the New World Symphony (No. 9, 1893), Delius' (1862-1934) Florida Suite (1887-9), moments in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's (1875-1912) oeuvre, and William Grant Still's (1895-1978; see 21 December 2009) Afro-American Symphony (No. 1, 1930) come to mind.
The initial, sonata form "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively, but not too fast") [T-1] opens with a captivating, Negro-spiritual-like theme (S1) [00:01] that hints [00:18] at a gorgeous, related flowing melody (SF) soon to come. S1 is explored and then we get SF in all its glory [02:38]. It's cause for some wistful afterthoughts, which turn into an S1-derived bridge [04:09] that calls up a reworking of all the foregoing [04:38].
This is followed by an S1-initiated, lengthy development [09:14] with occasional chimes [beginning at 11:15], possibly representing distant church bells. The music builds in tone poem fashion [beginning at 12:09] to a glorious climax that wanes into wistful remembrances of S1 [14:13] interlaced with a timpani roll [14:18], dramatic pauses and a fateful, brushed cymbal stroke [15:14]. Then a perky, S1-parented recap [15:27] and powerful coda [16:11] end the movement robustly.
Next, a ternary "Largo, maestoso" ("Slow and majestic") [T-2], whose outer "A" sections feature a stately hymnlike tune (SH) [00:00] and lovely, related countermelody [01:56]. They surround a romantic, developmental "B" [04:52] with delicate wind highlighting, and the last "A" [06:48] has more of those "church bells" [09:43], which call to mind Ketèlbey's (1875-1959) Bells across the Meadows (1921). It brings the music to a pious conclusion with a sighing hint of SH for the cello [11:53] and some compassionate strings
The final movements are faster and shorter than their predecessors. More specifically, the third represents a return to one of the composer's favorite folk forms, i.e., the "Juba Dance" [D-3], while the "Finale" is a rondo [D-4]. Suffice to say (see 8 February 2012 for more details), they end this wonderful work with a couple of totally, infectious cavorts.
Also in four movements, the Fourth Symphony (1945, WPR) opens with a modified sonata form one marked "Tempo moderato" ("At a moderate speed") [D-5]. It has an ominous, brass-reinforced introduction [00:00] immediately succeeded by an exposition (EX) that starts with a thematic group (S2) [00:18] built on the melody for the Negro spiritual "Wade in the Water". Subsequently, S2 undergoes an exploration, which is at first commanding [01:15] but becomes rhapsodic [01:43].
Then EX is repeated [04:08] and bridges [beginning at 07:58] into a dramatic, tone-poem-like development of S2. The latter has some arresting pauses, the last of which is followed by an S2-engendered recapitulation [13:06] and exciting coda [14:44] that end the movement definitively.
An "Andante cantabile" ("Flowing and songlike") theme with variations is next [D-6] and commences with a main subject, which sounds like the melody for a Negro spiritual (S3) [00:00]. Oddly enough, except for a couple of notes, S3 could be the old familiar "Going Home" tune in the second movement of that Dvorák Symphony mentioned above.
Consequently, S3 is followed by four groups of treatments, which are generally ornamented [01:06], hymnlike [01:49], playful [02:43] and confident [03:20]. Then it makes a nostalgic return [04:10], bringing this music to a tranquil conclusion.
The third movement occasions another "Juba Dance" [D-7] that starts with a jolly binary idea (JB) whose components are carefree (JC) [00:00] and gleeful (JG) [00:23]. Then JC is repeated [00:52], and we get a change of pace with exotic passages based on an African-sounding version of JC (JA) [beginning at 01:16].
As the perspicacious album notes point out, these evoke Edward "Duke" Ellington's (1899-1974) "Jungle Style" music (1927-38). They also have a westernized version of JA that's somewhat JG-like [03:11-03:36]. It's followed by a JC-based coda [04:31] that ends things much as they began.
This delightful work closes with a catchy "Scherzo" rondo [D-8], powered by an S2-derived, proud thematic nexus (SP) heard at the outset [00:00]. SP then undergoes a martial treatment [00:50] with some side-drum accents [00:57 & 01:04] and what sound like hints of bagpipes [01:12 & 01:20].
Subsequently, SP returns [01:41] and bridges with intermittent, blusterous brass riffs [beginning at 02:20], into a heroic development of itself [03:21]. Then there's a pause, after which a beckoning bassoon [04:28] calls up an SP-tinged, increasingly frenetic coda [04:34].
The latter brings this WPR of a must-have Symphony to an audacious conclusion. And speaking of Price WPRs, her Dances in the Canebrakes (originally for solo piano, 1953) as orchestrated by William Grant Still (see above) in 1953, has just been released on a Cedille disc.
The Arkansas, Fort Smith Symphony under their music director and award-winning, conductor John Jeter makes a strong case for this music by one of their native daughters. Maestro Jeter gets superb playing from these talented musicians, and in that regard, their rendition of Price's First Symphony far surpasses what's previously been available on disc (see 8 February 2012). That said, they deliver an equally impressive performance of her Fourth, which leaves one hoping Naxos may soon give us a companion release with them doing Florence's other two Symphonies.
These recordings were made a year ago in Fort Smith at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center and project an adequately sized but somewhat distant, sonic image in reverberant surroundings. The sound is characterized by crisp highs, a lean midrange and robust bass that goes down to rock-bottom with a hint of hangover. While this CD doesn't fall into the "Audiophile" category, Florence's engaging music will soon have you forgetting any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P190530)
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Rosner, A.: Orch Wks V3 (Sym 6, Nocturne, "Tempus Perfectum" Concert Ov); Palmer/Lon PO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
It's been hard to keep up with the cloudburst of new composers appearing on silver disc these past few years, and here's one who finally makes a long overdue, CLOFO debut. He's New Yorker, Arnold Rosner (1945-2013), who took piano lessons as a boy, which led to his developing an intense interest in classical music. However, his parents felt he should follow more lucrative pursuits, and consequently, he'd go on to get a mathematics degree from New York University in his hometown.
But the lure of music soon prevailed, so in 1966 Arnold entered the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, where he majored in composition. Unfortunately, back then academia was preoccupied with propounding the dodecaphonic music by the Second Viennese School's composers and resultant serialism, which Rosner totally rejected. Consequently, he wrote a groundbreaking dissertation on the works of Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), and was the first to get a SUNY doctorate in music.
Rosner then pursued a highly successful teaching career at New York City area colleges right up until his death in Brooklyn. An active composer all during this period, he’d produce a large body of works across all genres. Three in the symphonic category fill out this third volume of Toccata's ongoing series devoted to his orchestral music, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The program begins with his Nocturne of 1978, which is dedicated to a former student. She was also studying astronomy, and consequently this piece is a tone-poem-like creation with cosmic associations. Moreover, it begins with a sustained note [00:02] and mysterious, undulating passages [00:07] that suggest vast spaces filled with clouds of matter, which soon coalesce into a heavenly body. Then there are outbursts for full orchestra [02:37] that conjure images of giant asteroids colliding with it.
They’re followed by repeated woodwind-celesta-harp riffs [04:23] and a pleasant, animated theme [04:27], possibly representing the first vestiges of life on this new world. Consequently, the music swells into a beautifully scored, dramatic episode [06:00], suggesting the emergence of a thriving, earthlike planet. Then it suddenly wanes [09:50], and the mood of the opening measures is again invoked, thereby ending this astronomical happening full circle.
Next, a concert overture written in 1998 titled Tempus Perfectum [D-2] and modelled after the 16th century canzonas by such composers as Giovanni Gabrieli (1555-1612). The name is a mensural notation term, denoting three beats per measure, which is the prevailing meter throughout the work.
It gets off to an invigorating start with an infectious, hymnlike melody (IH) [00:00] of earworm potential. IH is repeated in ostinato fashion, and intermittently overlaid with an IH-related, triadic, chordal mantra (IC) [00:37]. This begets a fascinating interplay between IH and IC, where the latter brings the piece to an amical conclusion.
The feature attraction here is Rosner's three-movement, Sixth Symphony, which dates from his younger days (1976). Its opening, sonata-form-like "Allegro agitato" ("Fast and excited") [D-3] begins emphatically with a drum whack and roll [0:00]. These are succeeded by an excited, plucky theme for the strings (EP) [00:03] that's soon repeated with brass support [00:15]. EP then thrashes about, waning into a related, antsy afterthought (EA) [00:47].
The previous ideas are subsequently explored [01:15] and undergo an extended, raucous development [01:57]. This has a spooky episode [03:42] adjoining one with pounding drums [05:23] that makes a dramatic bridge [06:22] into mysterious, EA-laced passages [06:37]. They're followed by another episode with even wilder drumming [07:18]. The foregoing may strike some as youthful overkill as it’s succeeded by a fierce, extensive, recap [08:20] that ends the movement maniacally.
The "Adagio" ("Slow") [D-4] starts with an ominous, tam-tam burnished, bass-drum tattoo [00:00], which occasions a haunting preface built on a mournful thought (HM) [00:04]. The music then intensifies, giving way to a dark, despairing theme (DD) that's hinted at by a muted trumpet [02:22] and then played by the strings [02:27]. DD subsequently swells into a powerful climax, only to suddenly die away [03:33], giving rise to an EP-like, quirky tune (EQ) [04:22].
EQ undergoes a dramatic exploration, which waxes and wanes into hints of HM [06:20]. These conjure up HM’s forceful reappearance [07:09], followed by commanding, big-tune versions of DD [07:37] as well as itself [08:43]. Then HM slowly ebbs into the hushed return of EQ [10:58] that closes the movement mysteriously, leaving the listener floating in space.
The last one [D-5] is a grandiose, convoluted structure, which falls into four, general sections, the first being indicated as "Grave" ("Serious") [00:00]. This gets off to an austere start with a forte, chime and brushed-cymbal-embellished drumroll [00:00], immediately succeeded by a stern, towering theme (ST) for full orchestra [00:05]. Then ST appears on the flute [01:12] and in an embellished version played by the trumpet (SE) [01:38].
Consequently, the music shifts gears, and an ST-related, scurrying idea (SS) [02:28] triggers a second, "Allegro" ("Fast") marked section. Here SS is worked into a crazed fugato [02:49] with an ST-related, fleeting countersubject (SF) first heard in the violins [02:55]. SF becomes increasingly frenzied and incites a lumbering, SS-powered canon [03:38]. It’s followed by maniacal, drum-pounding passages [04:25] that suddenly quit, giving way to hints of SF [04:52 & 04:55] and SE [05:04]. These are then juggled about and succeeded by an SF-based stretto [05:55].
The latter ushers in some additional development with a sprightly tidbit [07:51] vaguely reminiscent of the tune for that old favorite, children's song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". This quickly transitions into a penultimate, "Grandioso" ("Grandly") section [08:07], which is a ponderous invocation of ST [08:07] that abruptly stops!
Then there's a pause [09:15] and we get the final, fourth one, which is another "Grave". It begins [09:16] with drum-pounding, dirge-like hints of the opening measures that in light of the previous section, some may find somewhat excessive. Be that as it may, they eventually die away into a soft, celestially blissful episode (SB) [10:30] with reminders of past ideas.
But storm clouds are still brewing, and SB is suddenly interrupted by a tempestuous, wind-swept episode (TW) [11:26]. However, SB keeps returning [11:51, 12:22 & 13:09] despite three more, TW incursions [11:56, 12:41 & 13:30], and has the last say in an elegiacal passage [14:00]. Here the trumpet intones a Taps-like farewell [14:06], after which the Symphony and this CD end not with a bang but a whimper.
As on the previous volume in this series (see Toccata-465), the performances by up-and-coming, award-winning, American conductor Nick Palmer and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) are first-rate. Together they make a strong case for more of Rosner's sagaciously constructed, brilliantly scored works.
The recordings were made three years ago at one of the four venues in the Abbey Road Complex, London, and considering the size of the LPO, presumably Studio One. While it's among the world's largest and best recording venues, the soundstage projected here seems surprisingly narrow and recessed. More specifically, the instrumental timbre is characterized by tinkly highs, a somewhat confined midrange and rock-bottom, but boomy bass.
Had it been better recorded, Rosner's colorfully orchestrated music would have made for a spectacular, audiophile demonstration disk. In that regard, like a couple of last month's releases (see Ponce and Schreck), this one presents a much better sonic image on headphones as opposed to speakers.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P190529)
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Weigl, K.I.: Pno Trio, Vn Son, 2 Vc Pcs (w pno, 1940), 2 Vn Pcs (w pno, 1942); Frühwirth/Kloeckner/Krumpöck [Capriccio]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Back in 2015 the adventurous Capriccio label introduced us to a couple of orchestral pieces by Austrian composer Karl Ignaz Weigl (1881-1949; see 30 November 2015), who later became an American émigré. Now they give us an equally delightful sampling of his chamber music. And two of the four works presented here are world premiere recordings, which we’ve accordingly marked with "WPR".
A student of Robert Fuchs (1847-1927; see 31 March 2018) and Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942), Weigl wrote music of tonal, late-romantic persuasion, which will have great appeal for those liking that of his colleague Franz Schmidt (1874-1939; see 30 September 2016). This is particularly true of the selections on this disc, the first being the last of his violin sonatas (No. 2, 1937; WPR).
In three movements, the opening sonata form "Allegro" ("Fast") [D-1] starts with lilting piano phrases [00:00], over which the violin plays a winsome, timorous theme (WT) [00:05]. Then WT sashays about and is followed by a romanticized version of WT (WR) on the keyboard [01:44]. Consequently, WR motivates a lovely, rhapsodical development [02:17] with frequent reminders of WT.
This turns progressively restless and ebbs into joyful, recapitulative passages initiated by the return of WR on the piano [07:43]. These wax and wane into an excited, WT-based coda [10:55] that ends the movement ebulliently.
The ternary "Adagio" ("Slow") [D-2] begins with a WR-related, contemplative melody for the pianist (WC) [00:00] that's picked up by the violin [01:18]. WC undergoes two treatments, which are in turn increasingly agitated [02:23] and nostalgic [05:13]. Subsequently, WC makes a celestial return [07:27] to end the movement with a feeling of reverent tranquility.
Introspection turns to whimsy in the concluding "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") [D-3], which is a skittish rondo with palindromic manifestations. It begins with a WR-related, pixilated idea (WP) [00:00], having sibling countersubjects that are impetuous (CI) [00:39], waltzlike (CW) [01:02] and cheeky (CC) [01:29]. Then we get slightly varied versions of WP [01:43], CC [02:13], CW [02:48] and CI [03:14], succeeded by additional ones based on CW [03:37], CI [04:04] and WP [04:21]. All this gives way to a CI-CW-CC-related, frantic coda [04:53], which ends the Sonata decisively.
Next up, Two Pieces for Cello and Piano of 1940, this being the only currently available recording on CD. The first "Love Song" [D-4] is a moving arrangement of Weigl's earlier "Liebeslied" for high voice and piano (1936). It couldn't be more different from the following ternary "Wild Dance" [D-5], which starts with passages in keeping with the title [00:00]. They surround amorous ones [01:09-03:00] with a lovey cello solo reminiscent of the previous piece, and bring the work to a rousing conclusion.
Moving ahead a couple of years, we get Two Pieces for Violin and Piano (1942, WPR), which starts with a "Notturno" ("Nocturne") [D-6]. It's an entrancing, songlike miniature that shows what an accomplished melodist Karl was and recalls profound moments in the music of his fellow countryman Franz Schreker (1878-1934). Then, moving eastwards, the composer serves up a "Hungarian Dance" [D-7]. This is a Magyar-folk-tinged ditty with an atmospheric introduction, smacking of Brahms' Hungarian Dances (WoO 1; 1868-80), which is immediately succeeded by a spirited czardas (csárdás).
And rounding things out, his only Piano Trio of 1938-9, which was written just after he came to America. In three movements, it seems filled with an angst that may reflect the distress felt by the composer when Nazi Germany's (1933-45) annexation of Austria (Anschluss Österreichs) in March of 1938 forced him and his family to flee their homeland. That said, the work remains his most popular, with this being its third and arguably best performance on silver disc.
An initial "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [D-8] starts with a manic, searching thematic nexus (MS), having a forceful, opening riff (MF) [00:00], which morphs into a wistful idea (MW) [00:41]. MS is explored and gives way to the return of MW [02:09], thereby beginning an inventive MS-based, developmental serenade.
This becomes quite distraught and brings back MW [06:44] that's food for some subsequent thought. Then excited hints of MF [08:31] lurch into an MS-based recap [08:55]. It builds to a climax that has a big-tune statement of MF [10:18] and ends the movement with sudden finality.
The "Andante" ("Slow") [D-9] opens with the pianist playing chromatic fragments [00:00]. These coalesce into a simple, hymnlike tune (SH) [01:16] with a closely related, underlying countersubject (SC) [02:04]. Then the strings enter [02:17], and there's a captivating contemplation of the foregoing with idée fixe-like references to SC [beginning at 03:21]. After that, the reappearance of SH [08:05] occasions a segment, which brings the movement to a tender conclusion.
Subsequently, we get an "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") rondo [D-10]. This has frivolous, opening passages [00:00] succeeded by an impish, rollicking melody (IR) [00:09] and an IR-related, folk-like, companion tune (IF) [01:19].
Then the music bridges via several anticipatory pauses into a wistful version of IF [01:47], which evokes a skittish development of all the forgoing. This becomes increasingly agitated, giving rise to the return of IF [04:04], which prances about and calls up wisps of MW [04:41] (see above). These bridge into an IR-based, final coda [05:15] that ends the Trio with a touch of anguish.
Our talented soloists here are all young, upcoming musicians. They include German cellist Benedict Kloecker, who just turned thirty, along with Austrian, violinist David Frühwirth (b. 1974) and pianist-conductor Florian Krumpöck (b. 1978). Incidentally, both of the latter are strong advocates of Weigl's music and no strangers to these pages (see 30 November 2015).
As before, David plays a 1707 Stradivarius, for which his technically accomplished, highly sensitive performances are all the richer. His companions give equally good accounts of themselves, and all three deliver a reading of the thematically tortuous Trio that leaves the competition in the dust.
The recordings of the Second Sonata and Two Pieces for Violin were a Capriccio, Deutschlandfunk Kultur coproduction, which took place during 2012 in the Studio Gärtnerstraße Berlin. Then the Two Pieces for Cello and Trio were done some four years later (2016) at the Kurhaus Hotel, in Semmering, Austria, some sixty miles south-southwest of Vienna.
Despite the disparate times and places, they present amazingly consistent, appropriately sized sonic images in warm, pleasantly reverberant surroundings. More specifically, the piano is center stage with the violin and cello comfortably placed just to its left and right. Generally speaking, the string tone is natural and piano, ideally captured with well-rounded notes, having a hint of percussiveness without any digital nasties.
A good balance between the instruments is maintained throughout, and the overall sound characterized by lifelike highs, a clear, well-focused midrange and lean, clean bass. There is some occasional keyboard action noise [T-1, 09:39 & T-3, 00:16], but everything considered, this disc earns an audiophile stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y190528)
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Witte: Vc Son, 3 Pcs (vc & pno); Hutschenruyter, Wouter, Jr.: Vc Son; Hochscheid/Ruth [Audiomax (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
Some seven years ago we told about the fourth installment of MD&G's enlightening series devoted to Dutch Cello Sonatas (see 20 January 2012). Now here's their eighth and final one (click to see Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 & 7). A hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.1) release, it has works by another two, little-known composers, these being the only recordings of this music currently available on disc.
Our concert begins with the three-movement Sonata of Georg Hendrik Witte (1843-1929), whom we told you about last year (see 28 February 2018). Originally written in 1882, he later revised it, and a recently published edition of his final version was used for this recording.
The first movement marked "Allegro appassionato" ("Fast and passionate") [T-1] is a theme and variations, which starts with an angular, winding main subject (AW) [00:00] that brings Robert Schumann (1810-1856) to mind. AW is followed by seven variants, the first three of which are frowning [00:40], delicately flowing [01:48] and staccato-accented [03:34]. Then passionate [04:37], anxious [06:24] and songlike [07:33] ones give way to a jaunty seventh [09:27] that slows, ending the movement tranquilly.
The ternary "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-2] commences with a captivating melancholy theme (CM) [00:00], which somewhat presages the one opening the second movement of Brahms' (1833-1897) Third Violin Sonata (Op. 108, 1886-8). CM is explored and followed by a reassuring countermelody (CR) [02:39] that initiates a spirited, developmental discourse [03:19]. This wanes back into CM [04:47] soon followed by CR [05:52]. Then the movement concludes peacefully with a final wisp of CM [07:08].
A closing sonata form "Allegro con brio" ("Lively with spirit") [D-3] has a searching introduction [00:00], hinting at the upcoming exposition's (EX) first theme, which is an innocent, playful number (IP) [00:54]. IP is succeeded by two related ideas that are tripping (IT) [01:42] and yearning (IY) [02:27], Then EX is repeated [03:45], after which a commanding version of IP [06:50] triggers a romantic development. The latter is followed by an IP-IT-IY-condensed recap [09:41] and IP-based coda [11:57] that ends the Sonata elatedly.
Next, we get Witte's Drei Stücke (Three Pieces) for Cello and Piano, dating from 1882. This was seemingly inspired by Robert Schumann's Drei Phantasie-Stücke (Three Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73; 1849), which is scored for either a solo clarinet, violin or cello along with a piano accompaniment.
Georg's piece opens with a charming "Tranquillo" ("Tranquil") [D-4] based on a comely, cavatina-like melody [00:00]. This is offset by a scherzoesque "Allegro" ("Fast") [D-5], with catchy, outer sections featuring a bucolic, folkish ditty [00:00 & 03:41]. They surround a trio episode [01:33], having a complementary dancelike subject, and bring the piece full circle.
Then there's a closing, ternary one of mixed emotions [D-6]. Here wistful, "Andante con moto" ("Slow with movement") thoughts bracket [00:00 & 03:29] a buoyant, "Allegro appassionato" ("Fast and passionate") segment [01:41] and end the work with a touch of melancholy.
Moving right along, we get a sonata by Witte's younger compatriot, Wouter Hutschenruyter, Jr. (1859-1943), who was born in Rotterdam. He received his first musical training from his father, and would go on to study at one of the local conservatories, where his instructors included Woldemar Bargiel (1828-1897; see the recommendation above) and Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916; see 31 December 2015).
After graduation, Hutschenruyter pursued a conducting career that would take him to Berlin, Amsterdam and Witte's hometown of Utrecht, some 25 miles south of Amsterdam. Then 1917 saw him move back to Rotterdam, where he'd teach until 1925, when he retired to The Hague for the rest of his life.
Wouter’s three-movement Sonata of 1882 is a student piece, which gets off to a subdued "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-7] start with a winding, sorrowful tune (WS) [00:00]. WS is followed by a related, comforting idea (WC) [01:29] that gives way to an agitated development [01:56], having a pensive midriff [02:49-03:33]. Subsequently, WS-engenders a leisurely recap [04:26], where there's a reminder of WC [05:54], after which the movement ends contritely.
Next up, an "Allegro comodo" ("Moderately Fast") “Scherzo” [D-8]. This has an opening section (OS) with a WS-related, lilting melody (WL) [00:00], succeeded by a WO-reminiscent, tender tidbit (WT) [01:47]. OS then gives way to an insistent, WL-WT-derived trio [03:15] and returns [05:15], bringing things full circle.
The concluding, sonata-rondo, "Molto allegro appassionato" ("Very fast and passionate") “Finale” [D-9] is as billed, and starts with suggestions [00:00] of a WL-related dance (WD) that immediately follows [00:14]. WD is succeeded by a folk-song-like companion tune (WF) [01:01], which makes a rhapsodic bridge [beginning at 01:41] into a WD-triggered, vivacious development [02:24] with a concluding reminder of WD [04:25].
This is succeeded by a brief pause, and the cello plays WD [04:38], thereby invoking a romanticized recapitulation. Here WF makes a dramatic return on the cello [05:24] and piano [05:44], followed by a pensive, tension-building afterthought [06:33]. Then a keyboard introduced, WD-based coda [07:25] ends the sonata and this magnificent disc on a real high.
As on MD&G's previous releases in this series (see the opening paragraph), we have Netherlands musicians Doris Hochscheid (cello) and Frans van Ruth (piano) to thank for introducing us to another three, outstanding, little-known pieces. What's more, they give us superb accounts of this music, thereby making a strong case for these Dutch treats.
Made last year, the location for these recordings was the Concert Hall at the site of a former Benedictine Abbey in Marienmünster, Germany, some 200 miles west of Berlin. All three play modes present a comfortably sized, sonic image with the instruments placed center stage in a warm, reverberantly enriching venue.
The piano is well captured with just the right amount of percussive bite, and the cello, lifelike. What's more, they're ideally balanced against one another and the overall timbre is characterized by pleasant highs (particularly on the SACD tracks), a rich midrange, and clean bass with no hint of boominess in the cello's lower registers.
While the stereo tracks put the music in front of you, the multichannel one gives the listener a center, orchestra seat several rows back from the performers. In conclusion, MD&G once again gives us a superb disc that will appeal to all those liking romantic chamber music as well as any audiophiles among them.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y190527)
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