CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 SEPTEMBER 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.
Anderson, A.J.: Pno Qts 1 & 2; Austra Pno Qt [Navona]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
With this recent, winsome release from Navona, it's a pleasure to tell you about some chamber music by up-and-coming, Australian composer Andrew Anderson (b. 1971). His two Piano Quartets to date fill out this CD, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The First of 2010-11 is in four untitled movements, the opener being a sonata-rondo. It begins with a relaxed, folk-song-like tune for piano (RF) [00:00], which is picked up by the strings [00:25] and vigorously explored. Then after a brief pause, there's a three-note, rhythmic riff (TR) [01:12] that will punctuate the movement, but for now gives rise to an agitated version of RF (RA) [01:27].
RA is explored, occasions a related, yearning countermelody (RY) [02:50] and initiates an engaging development [04:27]. This ebbs and flows with dramatic pauses into the return of TR [07:53], RA [07:55] and RY [08:57], which calls up an RA-triggered coda [09:20] that brings the movement to a jolly conclusion.
A slow, theme-with-variations second one [T-2] has an RF-reminiscent, melancholy main subject (RM), heard at the outset [00:00]. RM is followed by several treatments of differing temperament, which range from increasingly confident [01:34, 01:59 & 02:44] to ethereal [03:07], anxiety-ridden [03:43 & 04:42] and lachrymose [05:34]. Thereupon, a resigned repeat of RM [07:02] and last suggestion of RF [07:36] end this movement in the same spirit it began.
Anderson then serves up a scherzo [T-3] whose outer sections feature an RA-like, flighty ditty [00:18] and lyrical countermelody (RL) [00:33]. They surround a trio that's an RL-based berceuse [03:04-05:09] and conclude the movement as it opened.
The fourth [T-4] gets off on the same foot as the first, but after an isolated, transitional chord [01:22], turns into a sonata-rondo with a recurring, RA-like, skittering tune (RS), heard at the outset [01:31]. RS is explored and bridges into a cantilenaish version of itself (RC) [02:54], after which it returns [03:45], invoking a dramatic development.
Subsequently, an amalgam of RS and RC [05:32] begin a deceptive recap that no sooner seems to have ended the work than the composer gilds the lily with a consummate, RS-based fugal coda [07:03]. Here there's a big-tune version of RF [08:30], which brings things full circle. This wanes into some curt, antsy, RS-tinged last thoughts [09:20] that close the Quartet in spirited fashion.
Completed eight years later, the Second (2018) is a significantly more progressive piece with impressionistic overtones. It's in what Anderson calls two parts, each having an "Introduction" based on the same doleful idea (ID).
The first [T-5] opens with ID played by the viola [00:00], violin [00:19] and cello [00:37]. This ushers in a "Larghetto" ("Rather slow") [01:06], where metronomically rhythmic keyboard passages underlie ID-related, sustained ones for the strings. Then descending piano notes [06:53] begin an "Andante" ("Moderately"), having snatches of ID [07:22] that the composer describes as "syncopated chorale fragments". It contains a contemplative "Lento" ("Slow") [08:51-11:00], and ends this part glowingly with a radiant, abbreviated version of ID [11:57].
The closing one [T-6] has an ID "Introduction" intoned solely by the cello [00:00]. This is immediately followed by a "Largo" ("Slow") that begins with an ID-derived, melancholy motif (IM) [00:27], which undergoes a prolonged, repetitious development. Then we get a "Ritmico, alla breve" ("Rhythmically concise"), agitated treatment of IM [07:14], conjoining another "Largo" [09:48] with an ID-parented, searching cello melody (IS) [09:57].
Subsequently, there are alternating "Ritmico, alla breve" and "Largo" episodes, where the music waxes [11:43, 12:30 & 13:22] and wanes [12:16, 13:09 & 13:46] into what's marked on the score as the "ecstatic and colossal" return of ID [14:03]. This fades giving way to a reappearance of IS on the cello [16:05], which is brushed aside by manic passages for all [17:10]. These end with a cadential rhythmic flourish that brings the work to a definitive conclusion.
Andrew's music is well served by the Australian Piano Quartet (APQ), whose members (violinist Kristian Winther, violist James Wannan, cellist Thomas Rann and pianist Daniel de Borah) are some of his countrymen's finest instrumentalists. Their technically proficient, carefully phrased, enthusiastic accounts of these Quartets certainly qualify him as one of the most promising composers from the land "Down Under". Stay tuned!
Done last year in Australia at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music's Recital Hall West, the recordings present an ideally sized sonic image with the APG strings comfortably centered from left to right in order of increasing size with the piano just behind them. All are well balanced against one another in a spacious, reverberant venue, for which the music is all the richer.
The string tone is as good as it gets on conventional discs, and characterized by pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange, plus low, clean bass with no boominess in the cello's lower register. The piano fares equally well with pleasantly rounded notes across its entire spectrum. In short, this CD easily earns an "Audiophile" stripe. That said, discerning listeners may notice what sounds like a dog bark towards the end of the Second Quartet [T-6, 12:44].
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y190930)
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Fürstenthal: Chbr Wks V1 (Son for 2 Obs & Pno, Pno Trio, Va Son, Vc Son, Vn Son); Rossetti En [Toccata]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
The saga of central European composers forced to flee their homeland with the rise of Nazi Germany (1933-45) and its anti-Semitic policies is revisited with this Toccata album. It features music by Viennese-born Robert Eugen Fürstenthal (1920-2016), who like his older compatriot Karl Ignaz Weigel (1881-1949, see 31 August 2019) would become a US émigré.
Robert's life story (see the informative album notes) reads somewhat like the script of a 1940s Hollywood movie. Suffice it to say he was a musically talented youngster, who'd become an accountant and not turn to full-time composing until after his retirement in 1985. Consequently, he'd leave a limited oeuvre, consisting of 160 songs and vocal pieces, as well as around forty chamber works. Five of the latter are included here, these being the first recordings of them to appear on disc, and stylistically speaking, all harken back to the late Romantic.
Although these have opus numbers, their order apparently makes no sense, and we're not told when they were written. That said, the concert begins with his Sonata for Two Oboes and Piano in D minor (Op. 56), which is in five movements. The opening "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-1] is a plaintive, piquant, imitative-laced, duet for the winds, which is followed by a chromatically peripatetic "Lento" ("Slow") [T-2].
Then there's a spirited "Scherzando" [T-3]. Its outer sections are reminiscent of the opening from the later Brahms (1833-1897) Piano Concerto's (No. 2, 1878-81) second movement and surround a tiny trio [00:55-01:13] based on a giddy ditty.
A subsequent "Intermezzo" [T-4] lives up to its "Cantabile" ("Songlike") marking with an attractive tune for the oboes. Then a fetching "Rondo" [T-5] of "Allegretto" ("Lively") persuasion, but with nostalgic touches, brings this piquant piece to a sprightly conclusion.
Moving right along, we get three sonatas for solo strings, all of which are in four movements and have the usual piano accompaniment. The first is the composer's sole one for the cello (Op. 58). It opens "Allegro moderato" [T-6] with that instrument playing a dotted, weeping melody (DW), which is soon seconded by the piano and subsequently explored. Then there's a pause-bracketed bridge [01:48] into a DW-reminiscent, sad song [02:16] that ends the movement emphatically.
The succeeding, lovely "Andante" [T-7] (timing of 01:50 on back album cover should be 02:47) has a lieder-like melody, smacking of Hugo Wolf (1860-1903), who was one of Robert's favorite composers. It's followed by a perky "Scherzando" [T-8], and then the work closes with a "Grave" ("Serious") [T-9]. Despite a brief, hopeful episode [01:11-02:09], this ends the work in much the same mood it began.
Next, his only Viola Sonata (Op. 57), whose first movement [T-10] has a "Lento" preface, starting with an austere, rising thought for the viola (AR) [00:00], which is presently joined by the piano. AR has hints of a waltzlike number (AW) that's soon intoned by the viola [00:41].
Then the music turns "Allegretto" with an AW-related hesitant idea (AH) [01:33], which brings to mind Brahms' chamber music (1854-91). The foregoing becomes the subject of an exploratory rhapsody, after which an AH-derived, lyrical idea [04:54] ends the movement tranquilly.
A succeeding, impish "Scherzando" [T-11] is fueled by an AR-derived, mischievous ditty (AM) [00:00] with a passing reference to a related, Ländler-like tune [01:00-01:22], This is succeeded by a "Lento" [T-12], which is a compelling contemplation of a sorrowful, distant cousin of AM, and the work's center of gravity.
The rondoesque finale [T-13] has an opening, flighty, AW-AM-amalgamated tune that alternates with some brief variants of itself. These range from lullaby-like [01:05] to songful [01:53], after which a scampering one [03:58] closes the work excitedly.
The third Sonata is for violin, and going by its Op. 43 designation, would seemingly be the second of three. There's a detailed analysis of it in the album notes, so consequently, we'll just cover the high points.
It begins "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast and with fire") [T-14] with a piano tremolo [00:00] and cocky, angular thematic nexus (CA) for the violin [00:03]. CA's elements are then explored, subsequently giving way to a recap with reminders of them, the last of which concludes the movement on a somber note.
Next, there's a lovely "Lento" [T-15] built on an attractive flowing melody, and a whimsical "Scherzando" [T-16], where robust passages are interspersed with tuneful ones. The latter sets the tone for the closing "Andante con variazioni" ("Fast with variations") [T-17] that starts with a comely, swaying main subject. It's followed by six variants, the first five being respectively meandering [00:41], aggressive [01:15], precious [01:58], confident [02:47] and retiring [03:37]. Then an exuberant sixth [04:37] ends the sonata on a high.
Last but not least, this adventurous release concludes with Robert's Piano Trio (Op. 65), whose unusual progression of keys suggests he may have merged a second uncompleted one into it (see the album notes).
A three-movement work, the first "Moderato, ma con spirito" ("Moderate, but with spirit") [T-18] opens with a serpentine, edgy theme (SE) that undergoes a candid development [00:54]. This becomes quite tuneful [01:35] and gives way to a forceful recap [02:48] that closes the movement peacefully.
The middle "Cantabile" ("Songful") [T-19] is a ternary, A-B-A utterance with keening "A"s and a related, "più mosso" ("more lively") "B" [01:37-02:05]. It sets the mood for the opening of the last movement [T-20].
This starts "Andante" with an SE-like, antic introduction for the strings [00:00] having a nervous keyboard accompaniment. It augurs a succeeding "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively, but too fast") idea (SA) soon played by the piano [00:36], which undergoes an exploration with hints of a gorgeous variant of itself (SG). Then SG appears in full bloom [03:18], thereby concluding the Trio smilingly.
As regards these performances, they're by an ensemble (pianist John Lenehan, oboists Malcolm Messiter & Christopher O'Neal, cellist Timothy Lowe, violist Sarah-Jane Bradley, violinist Sarah Trickey) named after British poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), whose creations reputedly inspired works by many 19th and 20th century composers. We're told the group's members call themselves this because they're passionate about these pieces as well as other repertoire from that time. And in that regard, they deliver committed, well played accounts of all five selections.
These recordings were made over several days in November/December 2018 at St. Silas the Martyr Church in the Kentish Town area of London. They consistently project appropriately sized sonic images in propitious surroundings with all of the instruments well captured and balanced against one another. More specifically, the opening Sonata has the oboes on either side of the piano, while the other selections find the string players comfortably spaced left (violin, viola) and right (cello) of it.
The overall instrumental timbre is good. Moreover, the highs are generally pleasant, except for an occasional shrill spot, while the midrange is lifelike, and bass, clean with no hangover in the cello's lower registers. Audiophiles won't be disappointed!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y190929)
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Marx, J.: Pno Concs (No 1 "Romantic", 1916-20 & No 2 "Castelli Romani", 1929-30); Lively/Sloane/Bochum SO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Back in 1998 the earlier of these two, superb, little-known piano concertos by late romantic, Austrian composer Joseph Marx (1882-1964; see 31 July 2019) first appeared on disc along with his friend and fellow countryman Erich Wolfgang Korngold's (1897-1957; see 31 March 2019) only effort in the genre (for the left hand, 1923). Then seven years after that (2005), it came out on another label coupled with Joseph's later one. That CD has long since disappeared, but now Naxos gives us this bargain-priced, carbon-copy rerelease of it.
Both are demanding works written by a man, who like his Russian counterpart, Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), was also an outstanding pianist. These gained an international reputation, and were favorites with such great soloists as Walter Gieseking (1895-1956) and Jorge Bolet (1914-1990 ), who performed them under many distinguished conductors, including Felix Weingartner (1863-1942), Clemens Kraus (1893-1954), as well as Karl Böhm (1894-1981).
Our concert opens with the earlier Romantisches Klavierkonzert (Romantic Piano Concerto), which Marx began sketching in 1916, but wouldn't complete until 1920. And let us note at the outset, when you push play on your CD machine and hear nothing, it hasn't quit on you as this disc has an inordinately long lead-in.
The first of its three movements is a sonata-form-like "Lebhaft" ("Lively") [T-1], which after that dead air mentioned above, gets off to a promising start with a gorgeous, glowing theme (GG) from the orchestra [00:08]. This is soon picked up by the piano [00:25], and becomes the subject of some virtuosic interplay between soloist and tutti that's followed by a related, melodious countersubject (GM) [01:56].
Then there's a brief pause, succeeded by a tranquil version of GG [02:57], which initiates a chromatically consummate development. This waxes and wanes with a GM-tinged, rhapsodic episode along the way [05:50-08:47] into a GG-big-tune-engendered recapitulation [10:51]. Here there are many bravura passages delivered by the soloist, in addition to highly romantic ones for all. They call up a GG-based, thrilling coda [16:25] that ends the movement exultantly.
A middle one marked "Nicht zu langsam" ("Not too slow") [T-2] is an oneiric creation, that opens with a subdued, melancholy thought for the orchestra [00:00], which is picked up by the piano [01:40]. This gives rise to a contemplation of varying mood that at times brings Debussy (1862-1918) and Scriabin (1872-1915) to mind. The music here ranges from confident [02:18] to songlike [03:07], triumphant [04:23], retiring [05:44], expansive [06:44] and nostalgic [08:25], thereby bringing things to a tranquil conclusion.
The "Sehr lebhaft" ("Very lively") third movement [T-3] is structurally akin to the opening one and begins in the same spirit with a catchy, ebullient tune (CE) for the tutti [00:00]. CE is enthusiastically seconded by the soloist [00:17], and becomes the subject of a playful bravura-laced, badinage twixt the two, succeeded by a related, peripatetic idea (CP) [02:05].
CP then transitions into laid-back versions of CE [04:15] and itself [04:41], which engender a consummate development, having effulgent, cadential passagework for the piano. All of this climaxes in a big-tune version of CE [07:43] that fathers a dramatic recapitulation. Here a fetching discourse between soloist and tutti [09:11] elicits a frenetic CE-CP-based coda [12:20], closing the work with a romantic radiance.
On one of his trips to Italy -- his mother was part Italian -- Joseph visited the Castelli Romani (Roman Castles), which is a set of rocky towns and ruins perched on the wooded Alban Hills just east of Rome. This scenic area was the inspiration for his other Concerto, which dates from 1929-30 and is accordingly so named.
Premiered in 1931 with Walter Gieseking as soloist and Karl Böhm conducting (see above), its three, programmatically titled movements are a travelogue of impressionistic, tonal snapshots for piano and orchestra. Moreover, the first "Villa Hadriana" ("Hadrian's Villa') [T-4] limns that famous Roman Emperor's estate in Tivoli.
The music here may remind you of Ravel's (1875-1937) contemporaneous Piano Concertos (1929-31). Or maybe even German-born, American émigré composer Charles Martin Loeffler's (1861-1935; see 31 May 2015) A Pagan Poem (1906), which is not a concerto per se, but features the piano in an obbligato role.
But returning to the Marx, it has a palatial, tutti introduction [00:00], majestically embellished by the soloist [00:13], and calls up a commanding Gregorian motif (CG) [00:51] that will flavor the work. All this gives way to a melodically meditative episode for the soloist [01:32] with a CG-derived, endearing, lyrical thought (CL) [02:17]. It sets the mood for what's soon to come.
Then the orchestra joins in [04:31], and pentatonic-laced passages with occasional martial touches invoke images of beautiful forests, lakes and gardens, surrounding classically proportioned buildings filled with art treasures from around the world. Subsequently, more animated, CG-based measures [06:51] with a reminder of CL [08:45], ostensibly build into an evocation of the Roman Empire's more glorious days, thereby concluding this picture postcard triumphantly.
The next titled "Tusculum" [T-5] is a placid, pastoral, rondoesque movement, honoring a site, where there are extensive ruins of what was once a Roman City. It has a warm orchestral introduction [00:00] with GC-tinged, caressing, keyboard passages. Then an extended, ancient-sounding, modal melody (AM) [01:10] with a more detached moment for the piano [01:42-01:59] instills a feeling of days long gone.
After a brief pause, the soloist evokes a searching treatment of AM [02:34] that bridges into a nostalgic one [03:41], with what seems like a fleeting memory of ancient Rome's might [04:32]. This wanes into piano-introduced, pensive passages [05:05], presumably reflecting Tusculum in its heyday. Here there are streams of keyboard sunshine [06:02-06:28], and AM returns [06:55] with memories of the opening measures, to end this tonal painting suspended in time.
We then journey to "Frascati" [T-6], which is internationally known today for the white wine of that name. However, it's also an important archaeological site, dating back to ancient Roman times, and the tutti get things off to a "Presto" ("Very fast") start [00:00] somewhat like the Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) Pines of Rome's (Pini di Roma, 1923-24) opening measures. Do you suppose he knew the Marx and was thinking of those beautiful forests surrounding Frascati?
In any case, the soloist next launches into a fetching, tarantella number (FT) [00:05], suggesting some local celebration is underway. This is picked up by the orchestra [00:21], thereby becoming the food and drink for a jolly episode with several thrilling moments. Then the music fades into a pp trickle of piano notes [03:38] and jolly bassoon passages [03:49], presumably as tipsy villagers make their way home.
After a substantial pause, impressionistic passages [04:03] usher in two adjoining, FT-derived, Ravelian waltz sequences [05:16 & 06:53], the second of which has a colorful snippet featuring a mandolin [07:34-08:11]. Then a flippant FT [08:12] initiates dramatic, virtuosic remembrances of the work's main ideas interspersed with some tension-building pauses.
All the foregoing culminates in a big-tune, campanologically embellished version of CG (see above), which brings the work full circle, and begins a striking coda [11:24] that ends it ecstatically. Moreover, internationally acclaimed, American-born, French-trained pianist David Lively's technically accomplished, ardent account of this little-known Concerto makes it all the more impressive, and that holds for his performance of the earlier one too!
His efforts are well complemented in both by the Bochum Symphony Orchestra, which is based some 40 miles north of Cologne, Germany. Under their music director, American-born conductor Steven Sloane, these musicians deliver superbly played renditions of both works. Together they make a strong case for some undeservedly neglected concertos that arguably rank with the finest to come out of the Romantic period.
The recordings were made during January 2004 at the Bayer Erholungshaus (Bayer Recreation House) Auditorium located in Leverkusen, seven miles north of Cologne Germany. They present a wide sonic image in reverberant surroundings that make it all the more diffuse. And in that regard, the piano seems spread across the soundstage.
The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by glassy highs, a distant midrange and lean bass. Pointy-eared listeners will also detect a faulty edit in the First Concerto [T-2, 02:07]. However, while this disc is not demonstration quality, it's a repast of superb, well-performed music at a low bill of fare that easily makes up for any sonic shortcomings. In that respect, those who shied away from these Concertos when they first appeared as full-priced CDs, can now get both on this single, low cost Naxos.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P190928)
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Matthews, D.: Sym 9, Dbl Conc (vn, va & stgs), Vars for Stgs; Woods/Eng SO/Trickley/Bradley/Woods/Eng StgO [Nimbus]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Five years ago we told you about British composer David Matthews' (b. 1943) Seventh Symphony (see 14 April 2014), and since then he's been a busy bee and cranked out two more. This welcome Nimbus release gives us his latest effort in the genre along with two earlier works for strings. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The concert opens with his five-movement, Ninth Symphony of 2016. The first "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-1], is in sonata form and starts with a catchy, vernal tune (CV) [00:02] that began life the previous year on the occasion of the 2015 winter solstice. This had prompted David to write his wife a note in the form of a "little carol" with CV as its melody and words about the coming of spring (see the album booklet).
CV permeates the work, thereby making it somewhat of a modern-day Schumann (1810-1856) Spring Symphony (No. 1, 1841). But for now, it's chromatically explored with occasional drumroll accents and gives way to an antsy countermelody [01:43]. Both ideas then undergo a colorful development with more percussive spicing, followed by a somber version of CV (CS) [04:42]. This initiates a recap coda that ends the movement in wistful tranquility.
As in his Symphony No. 4 (1990), the inside movements consist of scherzos on either side of a slow one. This grouping starts with a "Molto vivace ed energico" ("Fast and furious") [T-2], which has CV-derived, frenetic, blues-tinged outer sections. They're wrapped around a laid-back trio [02:05-03:34], and end in "fortissimo" ("forceful") haste.
The middle "Poco lento e cantabile" ("Somewhat slow and songlike") [T-3] is a lovely offering that David tells us is an extended version for full orchestra of his string piece, A June Song (2015; currently unavailable on disc). It could almost be a CV afterthought, and has a closing coda [05:27], where an E flat clarinet plays bits of a local thrush's song he heard while revising this movement.
It's succeeded by that other scherzo, which is marked "Ombroso" ("Shadowy") and consequently not as wild as its predecessor. A tiny, delightful waltz number [T-4] set to a pizzicato accompaniment, the music here is a respite before the Symphony's imposing finale.
Marked "Velato, Urgente" ("Veiled but Urgent") [T-5], the composer says this was inspired by the Jan Sibelius (1865-1957) Third Symphony's (1907) last movement. That said, the Matthews begins quietly with a solo violin reminder of CS [00:01], followed by restless, CS-tinged, tremolo-string-accented passages [01:55]. These become increasingly agitated with brass outbursts and fall away into subtle intimations of CV [04:17]. The latter then build into a big tune, brass chorale-like statement of it [05:37] that seemingly ends the Symphony with the triumphant arrival of Spring.
Our performing group is the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO), whose string players wear two hats, considering they also make up the acclaimed English String Orchestra (EStgO; see the selections below). Under their Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Kenneth Woods, they give a spirited account of this music. Moreover, it must rank as one of the best contributions to the 21st Century Symphony Project initiated by Maestro Woods and the ECO back in 2016.
Made last year in a venue known as St. George's Bristol, which is a former church in that city, located some 100 miles west of London, the recording presents a generous, well-positioned sonic image in an enriching acoustic. The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a convincing midrange and clean, rock-bottom bass.
Now, it would seem the members of the ESO woodwind, brass and percussion sections go out for a tall one, leaving the EStgO for the two remaining string selections. The first of these is a set of Variations (1986), which is another of those cart-before-the-horse ones (see 30 April 2018), where the composer doesn't present the main subject (MS) until just before the work's end. And in that regard, we'll just say at this point, MS is the melody from a piece by one of Germany's best-known composers.
The work begins with eight variations, the first (V1) [T-6] being a fidgety treatment of MS that closes with whining violins and grumbling double basses. Then MS is turned into a sad "Sicilienne" ("Siciliana") [T-7], which ends with a hint of V1, succeeded by two variants that are respectively bizarre [T-8] and ominous [T-9]. Subsequently, Matthews serves up a reverent fifth [T-10] that's an MS-instilled canon with an underlying, bass-pedal-point and descanting, rhapsodic violin.
After that we get a couple of scherzoesque transformations, the first [T-11] having MS-derived, chromatically capricious, outer sections wrapped around a trio [00:43-01:09] based on a related, yearning motif (MY). Then there's a fleeting second [T-12] in four "verses", where the composer successively augments each with an additional part.
A subsequent MY-based chorale prelude [T-13] sets the tone for the pious entrance of MS [T-14], which is none other than the melody for one of old, J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) Chorales, namely "Die Nacht ist kommen" ("Night's darkness falleth", BWV 296, date unknown). This suddenly gives way to a scurrying V1-derived epilogue [T-15] that turns spastic and closes the work with a twitchy forte "So there!" cadence.
Bringing this release to a fetching conclusion, there's David's Double Concerto for violin, viola and strings (2013), which he says was inspired by one of his favorite works, namely W.A. Mozart's (1756-1791) Sinfonia Concertante for the same solo instruments (K 364, 1779). He also notes that instead of a virtuosic rivalry between the soloists, the Mozart imparts a feeling of their coming together in friendship, and that's what he's tried to express here.
A three-movement work, the first is a modified, sonata form "Allegro grazioso" ("Lively, but graceful") [T-16]. Its opening statement starts with a busy, CV-like (see above) thematic nexus (BC) for the tutti [00:01] that's picked up by the violin and viola [00:43]. Then BC undergoes a contrapuntally spiced exploration, which bridges [02:51] into a dramatic dialogue for the soloists [03:00] rather than the usual development.
Here there are manic, cadenza-like passages for both, after which a harmonically robust version of BC initiates a recapitulation [05:38]. This contains anguished remembrances of BC for everyone, and ends the movement uneventfully.
The "Lento" ("Slow") [T-17] has a haunting tutti preface [00:01] and upward, swirling passages for the soloists [00:31] that become pensive. They transition into an avian-associated episode [03:02-04:50], where the composer's keen ear for birdsong (see the above Symphony) is again apparent as the violin and viola imitate nightingales. Then the movement ends contemplatively with recollections of its opening material and more calls from our feathered friends.
David tells us the concluding "Presto scorrevole" ("Fast and facile") [T-18] is based on the finale of his Ninth String Quartet (2000; not currently available on disc), which he modelled after the Chopin (1810-1849) "Funeral March" Piano Sonata's (No. 2, B 128, 1837-9) last movement. An eerie, "rondoesque" creation, this starts with BC-reminiscent, scampering, pizzicato-spiced passages for both soloists and tutti (BS) [00:01]. These engender a related, Irish-jig-like ditty (BI) [01:13] that cavorts about with BS, bringing the work and this delectable disc of discovery to a cursory conclusion.
English violinist Sara Trickey along with violist Sarah-Jane Bradley are well paired in the Double Concert, and give a loving, yet technically accomplished account of it. Their efforts are all the more striking for the dedicated support they get from Conductor Woods and the EStgO, who also deliver a magnificent reading of the Variations.
Although the string selection recordings were also done in 2018, they took place a few months after the symphonic one and at The Priory Church, located in Great Malvern, about 50 miles north of Bristol. Yet, despite the different venues, all three project cognate sonic images in similar sounding spaces.
Characterized by pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange and clean bass, the string tone is as good as it gets on conventional discs. What's more, the soloists, who are positioned slightly left (violin) and right (viola) of center stage, are ideally highlighted against the EStgO. In conclusion, taking these as well as the above recording into account, this Nimbus earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y190927)
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Pedini: La Follia (vars aft Corelli), 3 Pcs (stgs); Ugoletti: Vars on La Follia, Il sentiero...; Nazzaro/KLK Stg O [Brilliant]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Brilliant lives up to its name with this engaging release, having the only currently available recordings on disc of six selections for string orchestra by contemporary Italian composers Carlo Pedini (b. 1956) and Paolo Ugoletti (b. 1956). The two have known each other since 1979, when they were students of composer-pedagogue, Fannco Donatoni (1927-2000; see 31 January 2017) at the Chigiana Musical Academy (Accademia Musicale Chigiania) in Siena (aka Sienna), Italy.
The CD includes a work by each of them based on an old dance tune called La Follia (Follies of Spain), which we'll refer to as "LF". Both pieces are along the lines of a Violin Sonata by their compatriot, Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), namely, his Op. 5, No. 12 of 1700. And like that work, it takes the form of a theme with variations.
Pedini, who was born in Perugia, has a significant oeuvre across all genres. The program starts with his La Follia (2007-8), whose opening "Tema di Corelli" ("Theme of Corelli") [T-1] introduces LF [00:00]. It's repeated [00:39] to another rhythmical accompaniment and followed by seven variational developments.
The first is an "Introduzione e danza" [T-2], where an accordion-like, harmonic segment prefaces a catchy, syncopated foxtrot number [01:58]. This has decorations supplied by two violins [02:40-03:20] and gives way to a "Pizzicato scherzando" [T-3]. The music here is as advertised and opens with LF-derived, skittering passages [00:00], over which those violins sing LF [01:20].
Next, there's an "Idea fissa" ("Idée fixe") [T-4], where shimmering strings and an LF-based ostinato engender wistful memories of LF [00:10]. These set the stage for a weeping "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-5] that's offset by a confident, fetching "Fuga" ("Fugue") [T-6] built on LF.
The latter gives way to a penultimate transformation with the strange title "Anni '80" ("Years of the 80s") [T-7]. The composer's album notes, seemingly imply this is meant to parody Italian popular music of the 1980s. More specifically, it's replete with those slippery harmonies that pervade the songs of those times.
And in conclusion, there's a Latin-tinged "Rondò impazzito" ("Rondo loco") [T-8] based on an LF-derived melody, smacking of the Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) Broadway musical, West Side Story's (1957) America number. It has some colorful pizzicato spicing and ends the work adeptly.
The other three Pedini selections on this disc are shorter, stand-alone works written between 1991 and 2016. "Canone di Pedini" ("Pedini's Canon") of 1999 [T-10] is Carlo's take on the first section of that old chestnut, German composer Johann Pachelbel's (1653-1706) Canon and Gigue in D Major (3 violins and continuo; c. 1680). He tells us the underlying ostinato is based on "Un giorno qualunque", which is presumably the Italian popular song "In un giorno qualunque" ("On an ordinary day") by singer Marco Mengoni (b. 1988). But this didn't appear until 2010, so maybe Carlo is also a clairvoyant!
Anyway, we soon get a comely, ambulatory melody (CA) [00:10] vaguely reminiscent of the Elgar (1837-1934) Enigma Variations' (Op. 36; 1898-9) main subject. CA then appears in different guises that range from pizzicato-spiced [02:55] to twitchy [03:47] and grandiose [05:50], where the last ends the work with an enervated sigh.
This is followed by an "Adagio" ("Slow"; 1991) [T-11], which the composer says was a preparatory study for the finale of his oratorio Il mistero Jacopone (The Mystic Jacopone, 1989-93). This is about the Franciscan, mystic poet Jacopone da Todi (1228-1306), and the music here is presumably a reworking of Palestrina's (1525-1594) motet Super flumina Babylonis (1581). That said, it begins softly, becomes increasingly agitated and quietly subsides, leaving one with a sense of awe.
Concluding the Pedini portion of the program, there's "Canova 2016" [T-12] whose name commemorates the occasion of this piece's premiere. More specifically, it took place that year in the composer's hometown of Perugia (see above) at the Academy of Fine Arts (Accademia di Belle Arti di Perugia), which houses some works by the great Italian sculpture Antonio Canova (1757-1822).
The composer tells us he tried to capture the lifelike delicacy of his marble creations, and accordingly this piece takes the form of a ten-minute character piece. It opens with a ponderous, repeated motif for the lower strings that are gradually joined by those of higher register. Then the music becomes more detailed, which seemingly suggests Canova sculpting a block of inanimate marble into some lissome, human figure of lasting beauty.
Turning to Paolo Ugoletti, who was born the same year as Pedini (1956), but in Brescia, some 200 miles north-northwest of Perugia, we get "Il sentiero dei castagni" ("The Chestnut Path") [T-9]. Dedicated to our conductor, Ferdinando Nazzaro, this is a fifteen-minute tone picture ostensibly celebrating a scenic nature path, winding through a Chestnut tree forest somewhere in the Apennines.
Initial shimmering strings make it easy to imagine the first rays of sunshine, breaking through the clouds on a lovely spring morning. And peripatetic passages imply a leisurely stroll along this trail through the beautiful countryside. Subsequently, the music intensifies seemingly as Old Sol climbs higher, giving rise to warm, vernal breezes. Then rapturous passages ostensibly limn the warming of the midday sun, and quietly end in midair, suggesting nature's boundless beauty.
Last, but not least, we have this composer's Variazioni sul tema della Follia (Variations on the Theme of La Follia) [T-13] that is a set of nineteen, adjoining treatments of LF. The first is melancholy [00:00] and followed by two, which respectively feature special string effects, namely glissando [00:39] and tremolo [01:08].
After that, things get rhythmically wild-and-woolly with sequentially agitated [01:42], twitchy [02:11] and lurching [02:41] variants. They're offset by a chorale-like offering [03:20], that gives way to an excited eighth [03:45], headstrong ninth [03:57], as well as a bluesy tenth [04:21].
Subsequently, there are sorrowful plus weeping treatments [05:12 & 05:59]. However, these are soon succeeded by whimsical [07:13], insistent [08:03], resigned [09:06] and exuberant [09:42] ones. Then a reflective variation [10:51] turns flighty [11:43], engendering a headstrong nineteenth [12:08] with tinges of the tenth. It ends this work and release on a real high.
Our performing group here is the KLK String Orchestra. While the meaning of that acronym was nowhere to be found, we're told these musicians are members of the KLK Symphony Orchestra, who are drawn from the finest in the Ukraine. Under founder-music-director, Italian conductor-educator Ferdinando Nazzaro, they deliver superb accounts of the above. These energetic, yet sensitive performances make a strong case for two, up-and-coming, composers, both of whom are countrymen of Maestro Nazzaro.
The recordings are from live performances that took place on six occasions during 2016 through 2018 at the Lviv (aka Lvov) Concert Hall in the Ukraine. The good news is that clever microphone setups plus skillful postproduction touch-ups and editing preclude any extraneous audience noise or applause. However, on the negative side, the sonic images projected vary from ideally spread to distant and more confined, but in a pleasant, warm acoustic. That said, pointy-eared listeners will detect an edit in "Canova 2016" [T-12] where the soundstage briefly narrows [07:24-08:16].
Generally speaking, the string tone is acceptable. More specifically, it's characterized by bright highs, a rich midrange as well as clean lows with no sign of hangover in either the cello and or double basses' lower registers. While the CD falls short of an audiophile rating, with engaging music like this, any sonic shortcomings will soon be forgotten.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P190926)
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