CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 OCTOBER 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.
Since the first of the year there have been an increased number of noteworthy discs with unusual repertoire. In order to cover more of these in the time available for each newsletter there's a little less detail than usual.
Gernsheim: Stg Qts 1 & 3; Diogenes Qt [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
CPO scores again with another welcome release of music by German composer-conductor-pianist Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916; see the album notes for a breviloquent biography), who's appeared in these pages on several occasions (see 13 December 2015). Now they give us the initial volume devoted to his five String Quartets. It includes Nos. 1 and 3, both four-movement works, this being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The First (1872) gets off to an impressive start with a sonata form "Allegro energico" [T-5] based on two thematic groups that are respectively troubled [00:02] and songlike [01:17]. An amalgam of both ends the movement definitively, after which there's a melancholy "Andante con moto" [T-6] offset by an "Allegro" scherzo [T-7]. The latter has carefree outer sections, which surround a flighty trio (FT) [03:51-05:26], and close this section with a last reminder of FT [08:25].
Then it's on to the final "Rondo all'Ongarese" ("Hungarian Rondo") [T-8], which recalls the similarly titled last movement of his good friend Johannes Brahms' (1833-1897) Piano Quartet No. 1 (G minor, Op. 25, 1855-61). A high point in Friedrich's chamber music, here a recurring, Magyar folk ditty [00:02] is interspersed with several treatments of differing temperament. They range from sorrowful [00:43] to skittering [01:31], serenade-like [03:08], fickle [05:12 & 05:56] and frenetic [06:16], thereby bringing this Quartet to an exciting csárdás conclusion.
Gernsheim's Third of 1885 is a more chromatic, subtle work that show's his mastery of the art form. It brings to mind Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) as well as Richard Strauss (1864-1949), both of whom thought highly of him. That said, the initial "Allegro" [T-1] is a gorgeous, lyrical, agogic-accented, emotional offering that recalls Richard's chamber music of the 1880s.
It's followed by a scherzo [T-2] where perky, pizzicato-tinged passages bookend a related, waltzing trio [02:15-03:02] and end the movement with a saucy "So there!". Then, there's a dreamy "Andante molto cantabile" ("Flowing and very songlike") [T-3] that has the pathos of Mahler's more sorrowful lieder.
However, bereavement turns to bliss for most of the closing "Tema con Variazioni" ("Theme and Variations") [T-4]. Here a puerile march tune heard at the outset [00:02] appears in a number of colorful guises. These range from antic [00:41 & 00:58] to cocky [01:17], retiring [01:42], waltzlike, with pizzicato-accenting [02:10], and reserved [02:26].
Then there's a virtuosic vociferation [03:49], smacking of Paganini's 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (Op. 1, 1802-17; see 28 February 2019). It's succeeded by a "Più animato ma pesante" ("More animated, but serious") contemplative thought [04:11] that ends the work with a "shade of sadness".
The Diogenes Quartet (DQ) has introduced us to a number of long-buried, chamber music treasures (see 18 December 2013), and do so again with this release. Their enthusiastic, yet sensitive readings make a strong case for these Quartets, and will leave you anxious to hear the remaining three. Incidentally, the DQ doesn't take its name from that ancient Greek philosopher (c. 412-323 BC) and "Cynic", but the Swiss publishing company known as Diogenes Verlag.
These recordings were made in 2017 at the Himmelfahrtskirche in the Sendling borough of Munich, Germany. They present a distant, broad sonic image in reverberant surroundings with the instruments generously spaced, well captured and balanced against one another.
The string tone is lifelike with pleasant highs, a good midrange and clean bass with no boominess in the cello's lower registers. While this release will appeal to those liking wetter sonics, listeners who prefer a more upfront, focused soundstage may find it wanting.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191031)
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Holbrooke: Sym 3 "Ships", "The Birds of ..." Sym Poem, "The girl I left behind me" Vars; Griffiths/SaarbKaisGer RP [CPO]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
The lines from Psalm 107:23 KJV (see 31 January 2018), "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters" seem appropriate to the major work on this recent CPO album. It's the Ships Symphony (No. 3, 1925) of British composer Josef (sometimes spelled Joseph) Holbrooke (1878-1958), who left a large oeuvre. This is the only version currently available on disc.
Also called Nelson Symphony or Our Navy, it's scored for an orchestra of Romantic proportions, and in three programmatically titled, tone-poem-like movements. The album notes have a detailed analysis of this as well as the two, shorter, companion pieces, and accordingly, we'll just hit their high points.
The Symphony's first "Warships" movement [T-19] opens with a heroic, martial motif (HM) [00:00], adjoining a derivative, lyrical idea (HL) [01:13]. Subsequent passages conjure images of a large task force underway. These ebb into a related, docile melody (HD) [02:57], which parents a dramatic development, suggesting some great sea battle. Then there's an HD-initiated recapitulation [11:43] with reminders of HL [13:33] and HM [14:02]. It engenders an ecstatic coda [15:27] that ends this naval engagement victoriously.
"Hospitalships" [T-20] ostensibly pays tribute to the victims of war. It begins with a sorrowful, sighing motif (SS) [00:01] and SS-related, wistful theme, featuring a weeping, alto saxophone (SW) [00:30]. SW seems in keeping with their cargo, and undergoes a tenebrous exploration. This is interrupted by a sforzando chord, followed by an SW-related rocking idea (SR) [04:18].
SR gives way to a colorful development, after which SS starts a recap [09:11] with the return of SW [09:40 & 11:07], which turns into an exultant episode [11:49]. But this wanes with harp-celesta-decorated, melancholy passages into subtle reminders of SR [13:06] and SW [13:27] that end the movement darkly.
Dysphoria turns to euphoria in the closing "Merchantships" [T-21], which seemingly reflects Britain's domination of the seas back in Holbrooke's time. It starts with a pert, rising flourish followed by a solo trumpet playing HM [00:01] that's worked into a jolly, bustling tune (JB) [00:21]. JB undergoes a spirited exploration succeeded by a laid-back bridge into the melody for the old sea shanty the "In Amsterdam there lived a maid" (aka "The Maid of Amsterdam"; early 1600s) [01:58], which we'll call "MA".
MA fosters some engaging, variational treatments, ranging from obstreperous [03:32] to skittish [06:42], loving [08:10] and haughty [09:32]. Then HM returns [10:14], calling up a flighty variant of MA [10:51] that becomes stately [11:01] and invokes a thrilling coda [11:32], which closes the symphony in a blaze of Britannic glory. Incidentally, the preceding movement is for the most part a "theme and variations" that was a structure the composer had used earlier for three, stand-alone, symphonic works, one of which is our next selection.
It's his Op. 37b (1904-05; see 21 December 2012) based on the melody for the 16th century, English folk song, starting "I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill" (aka "The Girl I Left Behind Me"). This was a companion piece to his Op. 37 (1900) that used the tune from the children's song "Three blind mice" (see 31 July 2009), and was followed by an Op. 60 (1904-14) with the old, familiar one for "Should old acquaintance be forgot" (aka "Auld Lang Syne"; see 31 December 2016).
But returning to "The Girl...", it opens with an impish introduction [T-2] immediately followed by the main subject (MG) [T-3]. Then there are fifteen, highly imaginative variations, the first three being of jolly [T-4], eerie [T-5] and hymnlike [T-6] disposition.
After that we get a trio of dance variants that take the form of a mazurka [T-7], jig [T-8] and waltz [T-9]. Subsequently, keening as well as martial ones [T-10 & T-11] are succeeded by a tipsy offering [T-12] with a reference to Auld Lang Syne [00:03] (see above).
These conjure up a queasy transformation [T-13], hinting at the sad sea-song Tom Bowling (c. 1810), and a cocky treatment [T-14] with bagpipe-like allusions to the tune for the Irish ditty Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms (1808). By the way, Ivy Leaguers will recognize the latter as the melody for Fair Harvard.
The foregoing gives way to a loving variation [T-15] with a droll reference to Rule Britannia [00:27]. It's followed by tempestuous and eerie ones [T-16 & T-17], after which MG returns in sprightly, sparkling fashion [T-18]. Then there's an arresting pause and brass fanfare [00:51], calling up snatches of the melody for the British Grenadiers' traditional marching song [00:57]. This triggers a frantic coda [01:10] that has a saucy reminder of MG's opening measures [01:15], and ends the work with an abrupt, "So, there!" [01:19].
Completing this release, there's Holbrooke's 1923 tone poem The Birds of Rhiannon [T-1], whose themes are taken from the composer's operatic trilogy based on Welsh mythology, The Cauldron of Annwn (1909-28; currently unavailable on disc). Their relationship to these stage works can be found in the album notes, and consequently, we'll only summarize the music.
It opens with a French horn playing two motifs that are respectively stately (S1) [00:00] and heroic (H2) [00:24]. S1 is picked up by the rest of the orchestra and undergoes an exploration. This is cut short by the return of H2 [02:15], which invokes an S1-related, gentle melody [02:23] that's briefly interrupted by an urgent figure (U3] [03:02].
Subsequently the oboe introduces amorous passages [03:13], which wane into jaunty ones [04:27]. These give way to a peaceful recollection of S1 [05:32], followed by a lilting thought (L4) [05:54]. L4 invokes an engaging development of the foregoing, and has dotted-note riffs (D5) [09:05], auguring the theme for the subject birds (B6) that's soon to come. Then the music slowly fades, B6 makes a flighty, full-fledged appearance [12:22], and this delicate tone poem ends in midair with our avian friends on the wing.
English conductor Howard Griffiths has championed Holbrooke's music (see 31 December 2016) and does so again here, but with the Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern German Radio Philharmonic (Deutsche Radio Philharmonic Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern). This orchestra has headquarters in both of these cities, which are about forty miles apart near the northern part of Germany's border with France.
Its musicians under Maestro Griffiths give superb performances of these British rarities. What's more, his attention to dynamics, phrasing, as well as rhythmic detail make a convincing case for some music that in lesser hands might come off as ordinary fare.
The recordings were made in early 2016 at the Great Studio (Großen Sendensaal) of Saarland Broadcasting (Saarländischer Rundfunk) located in that city some 100 miles southwest of Frankurt, Germany, and project a wide sonic image in a reverberant venue. The instrumental timbre is characterized by steely highs, a pleasant midrange and clean bass. While this album falls short of an audiophile rating, it delivers serviceable sounding accounts of these works.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191030)
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Kovařovic; Stg Qts Cpte (3); Stamic Qt [Supraphon]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
It's been almost a decade since we told you about the Stamic Quartet's (SQ) stunning album with the first recordings of Czech composer Josef Bohuslav Foerster's (1859-1951) five String Quartets (see 29 October 2010). Now they turn to his compatriot Karel Kovařovic (1862-1920).
Best remembered as a conductor, he'd leave a small body of works mostly for the stage. However, these would also include three String Quartets that were never published, but have come down to us as manuscripts. They're the basis for the world premiere recordings presented on this recent Supraphon release.
The refreshingly youthful, four-movement First was written at the tender age of seventeen (1879), and smacks of Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) efforts in the genre (1823-1847). It begins with a model, sonata-form "Allegro moderato" [T-5], whose opening statement (OS) has two themes that are respectively playful (SP) [00:00] and lilting [01:03]. OS is repeated [02:03], developed [04:04] and recapitulated [05:07], bringing things full circle.
Next, a lovely "Andante" theme-and-variations [T-6] with an SP-related, cantilena-like main subject (SC) heard at the outset. SC is followed by four variants, the first three of which are sequentially flighty [01:10], pleading [02:18] and sorrowful [03:27]. Then a contented fourth [04:35] closes the movement tranquilly.
There's a change of pace with a subsequent, playful "Scherzo" [T-7], where tripping, "Allegro", outer passages surround a whimsical trio [00:56-01:55]. This sets the mood for an "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire"), exhilarating "Finale" [T-8], which ends the work jubilantly.
Eight years later he'd pen a Second Quartet (1887), dedicated to his older colleague Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), who thought highly of it. Again, in four movements, this time around Karel's role model seems to have been his fellow countryman Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884).
It also gets off to a sonata-form, "Allegro moderato" [T-1] start; however, the one here is more romantic with ideas that are successively yearning [00:00] and withdrawn [01:11]. Then the composer reorders the central movements, giving us a "Scherzo" and subsequent "Andante con variazioni" ("Slow with variations").
The former [T-2] has fickle "Presto" segments bookending a delicate, singing trio episode [02:54-04:40]. While the other [T-3] features a comely, wistful, opening main subject (CW), followed by five transformations. The first four of these are weeping [01:54], elated [03:33], pensive [05:11] and perky [06:50], after which a shortened, nostalgic variant of CW [07:36] ends the movement in the same mood it began.
Then there's a delightful, dancelike, "Allegro non troppo" ("Fast but not too quickly") sonata-rondo [T-4] with a frivolous, binary, recurring thought (FB) [00:00]. This appears in a couple of developmental guises, one being a fughetta [02:58], and fuels a coda [06:42] that closes the work smilingly.
The Third Quartet of 1894 would have also been in four movements, but the composer stopped working on it just before he got to the penultimate one's ending. This is too bad as what we have here shows great promise, making it a teaser for something that might have rivaled one of Dvořák's later efforts in the genre (1881-95).
It opens like its predecessors with a captivating, sonata-form, "Allegro moderato" [T-9], featuring a winsome thematic nexus. Here there are passages resembling that old familiar melody heard near the beginning of Smetana's tone poem "Vltava" ("The Moldau"), which is the second in his cycle of six known as Má Vlast (My Country, 1874).
Succeedingly, Kovařovic serves up a "Scherzo" [T-10], having "Presto", polka outer sections on either side of a quaint ländler [01:56-03:32]. Then the Quartet ends all too soon with a despairing "Adagio" [T-11], for which the work is all the sadder as it reminds us the composer would never finish this promising effort.
As on their Foerster disc (see 29 October 2010), we have the SQ to thank for more undeservedly neglected, romantic Czech chamber discoveries. These rarities have come down to us in manuscript form, and the SQ's careful preparation of the source material as well as technically accomplished performances make a memorable listening experience of music that in lesser hands would be ordinary fare.
Made last year at Jacob’s Ladder Evangelical Church, Prague, the recordings project an appropriately sized sonic image with the artists ideally spaced and balanced. While the overall string tone is pleasant, it's a tad thin and would have come off better in Super Audio. Incidentally, pointy-eared listeners may notice some isolated rustlings of unknown origin.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191029)
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Leigh, W.: Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings (w Rorem, Kalabis & Nyman); Vinikour/Speck/Chic P [Cedille]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Now here's a novel release from Çedille dedicated to the Czech, husband-and-wife team of composer Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006) and harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková (1927-2017). They greatly helped give an instrument associated with the Baroque, a new lease on life in a modern day concertante role.
The Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959; see 31 May 2018) and Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) harpsichord concertos (1923-35) started the trend, and this enterprising album gives us four more lesser-known ones. It also includes an informative booklet with a detailed discussion of the music, and consequently, we'll only cover the high points.
Proceeding chronologically, the program begins with the Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings (1934) by a very talented English composer named Walter Leigh, who unfortunately died just short of his 37th birthday (1905-1942). Lasting about nine minutes, it's his best-known work and in three movements.
The outer "Allegros" are respectively impellent with a showy cadenza [T-1], and then jiggish [T-3]. They surround a rueful "andante" [T-2] and close this neo-classical gem in rousing fashion.
Then there's the world premiere recording of American Ned Rorem's (b. 1923) Concertino da Camera of 1946, scored for harpsichord and chamber ensemble (violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, bassoon & cornet). Another three-movement offering, it opens with a jolly, toccata-like one with a demanding cadenza [T-4]. This is succeeded by a wistful second [T-5], after which a perky, reel-like third [T-6] brings the work to a flippant conclusion.
Moving ahead almost thirty years, we next get Kalabis's Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (1974-75). It's dedicated to his wife (see above), and at almost half an hour, the longest work here. Set in three movements, the first [T-7] is skittish with a contemplative cadenza, whereas the second [T-8] takes the form of a somber dialogue between soloist and tutti.
The closing one [T-9] has a frantic beginning, followed by a thoughtful discourse between harpsichord and tutti [02:36-06:28], after which the music becomes even more frenetic. Then calming passages [08:13] lead to soothing ones accompanied by a solo violin [09:59]. But the other strings soon make a somber reappearance, and the work ends indecisively. Incidentally, those liking this should try a Hungarian counterpart of it by Viktor's colleague down Budapest way, Ferenc Farkas (1905-2000; see 30 April 2016).
Last but not least, there's more English fare with Michael Nyman's (b. 1944) Concerto for Amplified Harpsichord and Strings (1994-95), which was written for Polish-born, French harpsichordist Elisabeth Chojnacka (1939-2017). Of minimalist persuasion, there's enough variety to preclude its becoming one of those mind-numbing, interminably repetitive "vitreous" creations.
This music is also closely linked to a couple of Michael's earlier solo harpsichord works (see the album booklet). Namely, his oddly titled The Convertibility of Lute Strings (CL) written in 1992 (currently unavailable on disc), and Tango for Tim (TT) of two years later (1994).
In five adjoining sections, the initial one [T-10] starts with the soloist playing a somewhat tone-row-like version of CL's opening (CT) set to an ominous string accompaniment. CT grows increasingly agitated with a couple of tension-building, interim pauses, and turns into an infectious interlude with folkish overtones [T-11].
Then TT appears [T-12], parenting an embellished episode, followed by a searching one [T-13] that becomes assertive [01:22]. All this is cause for a wild, TT-based toccata-cadenza [T-14]! This calls up vivacious recollections of CT [T-15] with some jazzy hints of TT [01:29], which end the Concerto jocundly.
Our soloist, American-born Jory Vinikour delivers splendid readings of these selections, playing a 2012 Chinnery harpsichord modeled after Taskin (Leigh, Rorem & Kalabis), and then a 2011 Irvin one of Franco-Flemish design (Nyman). Both magnificent, modern-day instruments, the latter seems a little more robust, probably because it's "Amplified".
Be that as it may, Vinikour receives elegant support from members of the Chicago Philharmonic (CP) and wears two hats for the Rorem, where he conducts from the keyboard. Then CP Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Scott Speck takes the podium for the others.
The recordings were made on three occasions between November 2016 and May 2018 in the Chicago area at Wentz Hall (Nyman), Feinberg Theater (Leigh & Kalabis) and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (Rorem). They present amazingly consistent, generous sonic images in enriching venues. Vinikour is centered just in front of the tutti, and ideally captured as well as balanced against them. We might also add that harpsichords can have rather noisy actions, but the ones here are very well behaved.
Generally speaking, the overall instrumental timbre is characterized by sparkling highs, a lifelike midrange and clean bass. What's more, the string tone is as good as it gets on conventional CDs, making for a disc that easily earns an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y191028)
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Rhené-Baton: Vn Sons 1 & 2, Vc Son, Pno Trio, Ste Ancienne (vn & pno); Wolferl Trio [Brilliant]
RECOMMENDED (2 CDs)
The Timpani label was a great source of rare, romantic French repertoire (see 30 November 2016), and is sadly no more! However, Brilliant now takes up the cause with this two-CD album of music by conductor-composer Rhené-Baton (R-B; 1879-1940). Born Rhené-Emmanuel Baton in Courseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy of a Breton family, he strongly identified himself with the culture of Brittany, some 150 miles west-southwest his hometown. And in that regard, the music here is tinged with folk melodies from that region.
He'd leave a significant oeuvre across several genres that would embody a number in the chamber category, five of which fill out this release. With the exception of the Trio, these are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
They include both of his Violin Sonatas, the First of which is from 1921, and comprised of spirited "Allegros" on either side [D-1, T-1 & T-3] of a comely "Larghetto" [D-1, T-2]. However, the Second (1927) is a single "Allegro comodo" ("Moderately fast") [D-1, T-4] theme-with-variations. Here an infectious opening main subject [00:03] undergoes a series of inventive, treatments [beginning at 00:42], the last being a spirited coda [16:47] that brings the piece to a mercurial conclusion.
In between them, R-B penned a three-movement Cello Sonata (1923). The starting one [D-2, T-1] opens with an "Andante", longing thought (AL) [00:15] followed by a troubled "Allegro" one [01:56]. Subsequently, the two are dramatically explored and bridge into a middle, introspective "Andante" [D-2, T-2].
Then the music switches gears, and we get a more hopeful third [D-2, T-3], where a playful "Allegro" number (PA) precedes a tuneful "Largo" derivative. These alternate, after which AL makes a big tune return [05:12] and wanes, thereby giving moving closure to this lovely work.
The composer's only Piano Trio would follow a year later (1924). Also, in three movements, the first [D-2, T-4] has an initial, AL-like "Lento" melody [00:02], which appears in several different guises. These include a lovely waltz treatment [05:06-07:03] and an amorous last [08:34] that tranquilly ebbs away.
After that, the mood turns vivacious with a lively movement titled "Divertissement sur un vieil air Breton" ("Divertimento on an old Breton air") [D-2, T-5], having the folk song "Gwin ar c'hallaoued" ("The wine of Gaul") as its subject (WG). Then there's a reflective one [D-2, T-6] with a pair of WG-related ideas of reserved [00:02] and troubled temperament [02:39]. They undergo a variational development, and a WG-related, nostalgic afterthought [08:29] brings the Trio to a restful conclusion.
Called Suite Ancienne (Ancient Suite, 1933), the remaining selection is a set of four dances for violin and piano. These harken back to French Baroque times and recall those atavistic creations of the composer's colleague Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), namely Le tombeau de Couperin (1914-7, orch. 1919). The opening "Prélude" [D-1, T-5] is a fickle contrivance followed by a sinuous "Aria" [D-1, T-6]. Then a jaunty "Gavotte" [D-1, T-7] and jocose "Gigue" [D-1, T-8] end this delightful artifice playfully.
All of our artists (violinist Leonardo Micucci, cellist Robert Mansueto & pianist Francesco Basanisi) hail from Italy, and call themselves the Wolferl Trio, presumably after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's (1756-1791) childhood nickname. They give committed, well-played accounts of this music, and do romantic, chamber music fans a great service by introducing them to these Breton rarities.
Made during the summer of 2017 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica's Studio 1 located in Rome, the recordings project a consistently narrow sonic image. In that regard, some may find this album sounds best on headphones.
The instruments are generally well captured, but could have been better highlighted against one another. Consequently, this disc isn't about to win any "Audiophile" awards, but its superb musical content will have you soon forgetting any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191027)
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Weigl, K.I.: Vc Conc, Vc Son, 2 Pcs (vc & pno), Menuetto (vc & pno); Wallfisch/Milton/BerCnH O/Rushton/York [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
CPO has released some outstanding CDs with cello concertos of exiled Jewish composers, featuring soloist Raphael Wallfisch. These have included one with those of Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco (1895-1968) and Hans Gál (1890-1987; see 31 January 2018), as well as another coupling Berthold Goldschmidt's (1903-1996) with that of Franz Reizenstein (1911-1968; see CPO-555109).
Now they give us the world premiere recording of another by Karl Weigl (1881-1949), who's appeared often in these pages (see 31 August 2019). And as a bonus, there are four of his shorter works for cello and piano.
The three-movement Concerto of 1934, written in the composer's hometown of Vienna, is out of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and headed towards Richard Strauss (1864-1949). The fetching, sonata form, first [T-1] has martial as well as pastoral passages and is followed by a wistful middle one [T-2]. The latter engenders a comely, sinuous idea, which brings to mind the slow movements in Anton Bruckner's (1824-1896) Symphonies (1863-96)
Subsequently, there's a rondoesque third [T-3] with a whimsical recurring number (WR) [00:15] that smacks of Mahler's more capricious moments. This movement has a delightful, Italian-like, rustic dance episode [03:03-04:42], and ends the Concerto with a WR-based, flighty flourish [06:50].
Moving on to the chamber selections, we get a work titled Two Pieces for Cello and Piano, which was penned six years later (1940; see 31 May 2019), after Weigl moved to the US. The first "Love Song" [T-4] is an instrumental version of his 1936 eponymous work for voice and piano (currently unavailable on disc). A longing, chromatic utterance that brings to mind Richard Strauss, it's a complete contrast to the companion "Wild Dance" [T-5]. This is a ternary, A-B-A-structured utterance with frenetic, diabolical, sul ponticello-spiced "A"s. They surround a gentle, swaying "B" and end the piece feverishly.
Then there's Menuetto [T-6] of 1948 for the same combo. It's a reworking of the middle movement from Karl's Viola Sonata (1940) that's a delicate harkening back to the Classical period of music.
And filling out the album, his 1923, three-movement Cello Sonata, which owes much to Brahms (1833-1897). The sonata form opener [T-7] is a dramatic, virtuosic piece of writing with subdued moments. These augur a keening, central "Larghetto" [T-8] for a despondent piano and mourning cello.
But gloom turns to glee in the contrapuntally laced, cheery final rondo [T-9] that's a carefree round for the two instruments. Based on a fleeting ditty, interspersed with a folksy, fetching tune [01:41], it ends the work and this exceptional CD exuberantly.
As on those CPO discs mentioned above, British cellist Raphael Wallfisch makes a strong case for more, undeservedly neglected cello rarities. He's given superb support in the Concerto by the Berlin Concert House Orchestra (BCHO) under Australian conductor Nicholas Milton.
The chamber selections find Raphael adeptly accompanied by a couple of his fellow countryman. They include his partner on many past occasions, pianist John York (Two Pieces & Menuetto; see list-1 & list-2), and Edward Rushton (Sonata), who's concertized with Raphael's son Simon (see list).
A coproduction of CPO and Deutschlandradio Kultur, these recordings were made on a couple of occasions at different locations. The Concerto was laid down in 2017 at the BCHO Großer Saal (Great Hall). It projects a generous, lush sonic image in pleasantly reverberant, well-appointed surroundings. The cello is ideally captured as well as balanced against the orchestra, and the instrumental timbre is uniformly pleasant from top to bottom.
The chamber selections were taped a year later (2018) at the Nimbus Wyastone Estate Concert Hall near Monmouth, Wales. They present an ideally sized soundstage with both instruments beautifully captured in an enriching venue. That said, all these recordings are "Audiophile" quality.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y191026)
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