CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 JANUARY 2020
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.
This newsletter has less detail than usual because of time-consuming issues brought about by the CLOFO web-hosting service's efforts to make a buck.
Cooke, A. Pno Trio, Pno Qt, Pno Qnt; Pleyel En [MPR]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
A nonagenarian, who'd die a few weeks short of his 100th birthday, British composer Arnold Cooke (1906-2005) had a highly successful career, which lasted seventy years. Consequently, he left a significant oeuvre that included some forty-five chamber works, three of which are featured on this MPR release. All are world premiere recordings and significant additions to the body of late-romantic music in this genre now available on disc.
Cooke would earn degrees as well as teach at several prestigious English universities, and also spend three years in Berlin (1929-32) studying with Hindemith (1895-1963). The latter's influence along with that of Brahms (1833-1897), Bartók (1881-1945) and even Shostakovich (1906-1975) is apparent in the selections presented here.
The concert starts with his only Piano Trio in C (1941-4), there having been a youthful effort (early 1920s) that's now lost. This surviving one was long in the making due to Cooke's service with the Royal Navy during World War II (1939-45), and is of somber disposition, presumably reflecting those troubled times.
Stylistically, its three movements are of Brahmsian persuasion with suggestions of Hindemith. More specifically, the first [T-1] is a captivating sonata-form creation, while the second [T-2] takes the form of an anxious contemplation. This sets the tone for a nervous, rondo-like third [T-3], which brings the Trio to a harried conclusion.
Then a violist joins the above musicians for the composer's only Piano Quartet of 1948-9, whose score has come down to us quite fortuitously (see the informative album notes). While the spirits of Brahms and Hindemith are again present, this is a more adventurous, chromatically flavored work set in four movements, the first [T-4] being another fetching, sonata-form one.
It's followed by a skittering, contrapuntally spiced "Scherzo" [T-5] and winsome, wistful "Lento" [T-6]. Then an antsy "Rondo" [T-7] based on a capricious, recurring idea ends the Quartet with a fractious fugato.
After that another violinist comes on stage for Cooke's sole Piano Quintet (1949). The most progressive music here, it's very much in the shadow of Hindemith with tinges of Bartók and even Shostakovich. This is again a four-movement work with a sonata-form first [T-8], which this time around is a canonically spiced essay of much greater severity.
The subsequent "Scherzo" [T-9] takes the form of a busy, whimsical tidbit that couldn't be more different from the effecting, doleful "Andante" [T-10]. However, melancholy turns to merriment in the closing "Allegro" [T-11], which is a virtuosic, counterpoint-laced utterance with a manic, madcap coda that ends the Quintet abruptly.
Made during 2017 (Trio) and 2018 (Quartet & Quintet) in the Royal Northern College of Music's Carole Nash Room, Manchester, England, the recordings present a narrow soundstage in a dry venue. From the sonic standpoint, these are not "Audiophile", but acceptable sounding accounts of some music that's been in hiding far too long.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200131)
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Dalberg: Cpte Stg Qts (3); Nordic Qt [Dacapo (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
While Britain was the setting for the previous disc, this one takes us to Scandinavia for some chamber music by Danish composer Nancy Dalberg (maiden name Hansen, 1881-1949). A student of Johan Svendsen (1840-1911) and Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), she was creatively active for a much shorter time than Arnold Cooke (1906-2005; see above) and would consequently leave a considerably smaller oeuvre.
All of her String Quartets are presented here on this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) Dacapo release. These are the only versions of them currently available on disc, with the First and Third being world premiere recordings.
Nancy's initial effort of 1914-15 is in four movements and begins with a rigorous "Allegro" [T-1], having a couple of plaintive motifs (PMs) that undergo a convoluted, contrapuntal development. This ends with a jittery coda, and is followed by a merry tuneful "Scherzo" [T-2], which smacks of "Papa" Haydn's (1732-1809) later quartets. Then a keening "Adagio" [T-3] based on those PMs is followed by a "Vivace" marked finale [T-4]. It has frenetic passages, which house laid-back ones recalling past ideas, and bring the piece to a rhythmically restive conclusion.
Four years later, she'd pen a Second Quartet (1922), which is also in four movements. The opening "Moderato" [T-5] has two thematic groups that are respectively anguished and agitated. These power an informed development and end the movement in the same spirit it began. Then a titillating, pixilated "Scherzo" [T-6] serves as a brief diversion before the pious, pleading "Andante" [T-7]. Subsequently, the composer terminates the Quartet definitively in a commanding, rondoesque "Allegro" [T-8] that has an assertive, recurring number interspersed with wisps of past thoughts.
Her Third of 1927 is a more progressive, structurally compact, chromatically tinted, three-movement work. Dedicated to Nielsen, it brings his last effort in the genre (1906, rev. 1919) to mind. The initial "Allegro" [T-9] begins with a vivacious, willful melody soon followed by a related, oneiric countersubject. The two are developed and recapped, bringing the music to a frantic conclusion.
Then a lovely lilting tune is the basis for an attractive middle movement [T-10]. It has some fugal touches and bridges right into the final "Tempo giusto" [T-11]. Here mercurial outer sections bracket a bizarre, dancelike one, thereby ending the Quartet and this disc of discovery on a jubilant note.
The Nordic String Quartet (NSQ) was formed in 2013 by musicians from Denmark and Sweden. They feel a special commitment to rare repertoire by Scandinavian composers, and demonstrate this with their splendid performances of these little-known works by Nancy Dalberg.
Made in 2018-19 at the Royal Danish Academy of Music Concert Hall, Copenhagen, the recordings sound consistent and project an appropriately sized soundstage in a splendid venue. The strings are arranged from left to right in order of increasing size, and well balanced against one another. The string tone is good, and particularly lifelike in the SACD play modes. The multichannel one gives the listener a virtual, center orchestra seat a few rows back from the NSQ. Everything considered, this disc earns an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200130)
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Gál, H.: Va Wks V1 (Ste Conc, Divert w Vn, Son w Pno, Trio w Ob & Vn); Pakkala/Oramo/Ostro ChO/Soloists [Toccata]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
British-émigré, Austrian composer Hans Gál (1890-1987), who's the equivalent of an airline "Frequent Flyer" on CLOFO (see 31 August 2018), makes another welcome appearance here as Toccata continues their invaluable series devoted to his music. This time around they give us the first installment of Hans' works featuring the viola. It includes one that's in essence a concerto, plus three chamber pieces. Two of the four are the only currently available versions on disc, and accordingly marked "OCAD" after their titles. Both are world premiere recordings.
The program begins with Suite Concertante for Viola and Orchestra (Op. 102a, 1949-50; OCAD), which was originally envisioned to be a piece for alto saxophone or viola. In four movements, the first [T-1] marked "Cantabile" ("Songlike") is based on a gorgeous, fluent melody and comes off as advertised. However, the next, sonata-form "Furioso" [T-2] is a volatile discourse involving a quirky first and serene second idea, where the former has the last say.
Then there's a "Con grazia" ("Graceful") minuet [T-3], having delicate outer sections that court a flirtatious trio. But dalliance turns to drollery in the fourth "Burla" ("Joke") [T-4], which has a busy cadenza and ends the work with a big 🙂.
Hans penned a set of three divertimenti for different pairs of instruments. While the first two (Op. 90, Nos. 1-2; 1958, 1967) are currently unavailable on disc, the third Divertimento for Violin and Viola (Op. 90, No. 3, 1969) is our next selection. A four-movement work, the initial sonata-form "Meditazione" [T-5] is a bucolic rumination with a pair of fetching themes. Then it's on to a scampering "Foletti" ("Elves/Sprites") [T-6], succeeded by a delicate, balletic "Figurina" ("Fairy") [T-7]. And bringing this tasty treat to a coltish close, there's "Burletta" ("Burlesque") [T-8], where skittish passages enclose a comely cantilena.
The next selection is his only Sonata for Violin and Piano (Op. 101, 1942). Although it was written when the composer's life was marked by some personal tragedies as well as the horrors of World War II (1939-45), this is a positive, three-movement work.
Here a captivating, confident initial "Adagio" [T-9] is followed by a winsome, Viennese-waltz-flavored "Quasi menuetto tranquillo" ("Like a tranquil minuet") [T-10]. Then an arresting "Allegro risoluto e vivace" ("Tenaciously fast and vivacious") [T-11] sports a cheeky march tune that plays tag with a related, consoling idea. The latter makes a humble final appearance, ending the Sonata in much the same spirit it began.
Last but not least, we get the Trio for Oboe, Violin and Viola (Op. 94, 1941; OCAD) that's chronologically the third of four works, which each call for a woodwind and two strings, the others featuring a clarinet (Serenade, Op. 93, 1935), flute (Huyton Suite, Op. 92, 1940) and treble-recorder or flute (Trio-Serenade, Op. 88, 1966; currently unavailable on disc). Like the preceding Divertimento, it gets off to a rustic start with the first of its four movements being a "Pastorale" [T-12]. This invokes images of peaceful meadows and pipe-playing shepherds surrounded by woolly audiences.
Then there are two intermezzi, respectively marked "Grazioso" ("Graceful") [T-13] and "Agitato" ("Excited") [T-14]. The former is scherzoesque with perky, piquant oboe ditties. On the other hand, the second comes across as rather spooky, where the instruments play eerie, agitated motifs.
The concluding "Meditation on a Scottish Tune" [T-15] calls to mind the composer's later years in Edinburgh (1940-87). A theme and variations, its main subject (MS) [01:28] is the tune for the folk song "Lament for MacGregor of Ruaro", which undergoes several imaginative treatments. Then MS makes a final appearance combined with memories of the opening movement, thereby ending the work and this wonderful disc in the hills of Scotland.
Our soloist here is Finnish-born Hanna Pakkala, who is principal violist with the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra (OCO). She and the OCO under its Artistic Director and Principal Guest conductor Sakari Oramo deliver a splendid performance of the Suite, after which Hanna goes on to give equally accomplished readings of the chamber selections. She's joined by pianist Irina Zahharenkova for the Sonata, then violinist Reijo Tunkkari in the Divertimento and Trio, where oboist Takuya Takashima gives a superb account of himself.
The recordings took place in Finland on separate occasions over the past two years. Those for the first three works were made at Snellman's Hall, located in Kokkola. The Trio was done some 50 miles east-northeast of there at Akustiikka, which is a concert venue in Ylivieska.
Despite their different times and locations, they project amazingly consistent, somewhat cavernous sonic images in reverberant surroundings. The viola is well captured throughout as are the other instruments in the chamber works. It's also appropriately highlighted against the OCO, whose overall instrumental timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a rich midrange and clean, lean bass. This release gets an "Audiophile" rating with the proviso that those liking a dry sound may find it a little wet for their tastes.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200129)
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Goddard, M.: Allaqi (stg qt), Wind, Sand & Stars (stg trio), Three Wings (stg qt); Archytas En [Paladino]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
With this Paladino release of music by Marcus Goddard (b. 1973), it seems that as of late CLOFO has Canadian-based composers coming out of the woodwork (see 31 March 2018, 31 August 2019 and 30 November 2019)! Born in Burlington, Vermont, he holds music degrees from the Universities of Michigan and Indiana (IU), where he also studied trumpet. Goddard has since gone on to become an internationally known virtuoso on that instrument, as well as a highly regarded, frequently commissioned composer.
Also an enthusiastic educator, he's tirelessly shared his musical expertise as a performer and composer with students of all ages. In that regard, Marcus has been on the IU faculty as well as those of other academic institutions in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. That said, he's currently the Composer in Residence and Principal Trumpet with that city's Symphony Orchestra.
To date Marcus has written some fifty works, and refers to the three chamber ones included here as among his best. While these show minimalist influences, there's a vibrancy and lyricism that preclude the monotony many find in the music of composers belonging to this school. Incidentally, these are the only recordings of the last two selections currently available on disc.
Simply titled Allaqi, the lead-off work is his first, string quartet, which was completed in 2009. Apparently inspired by the throat singing of the Inuit people and awesome Arctic landscape where they live, its name is their word for a clearing in the sky, or cloud-break. Be that as it may, this award-winning work has had nearly 100 performances in America and Europe.
In a single movement [T-1], it starts off with an agitated, "throaty" motif (AM) played by all four strings. This undergoes a couple of treatments that vary from plucky and pizzicato-spiced to waltzlike. Then after a transitional pause, there's a TM-based, hymnlike, rhapsodic invocation of what could be deep blue skies. Subsequently, the music resumes in the same spirit it began, ending the work full circle.
Next, his string trio (2011) called Wind, Sand and Stars, which was sparked by French, writer-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's (1900-1944) eponymous memoir (1939) detailing his 1935 plane crash in the Sahara Desert. In five programmatically titled movements, the initial "Wind" [T-2] is a blustery utterance that's somewhat reminiscent of AM (see above) and has a wistful central episode.
After that there's "Night Music 1 - Sands of Destiny" [T-3] and "Night Music 2 - Elegies" [T-5], which invoke nocturnal images of star-studded, desert skies. They surround a musical physics lesson titled "Celestial Mechanics" [T-4], where repeated rhythmic figures seemingly represent the ceaseless, circulatory movements of heavenly bodies. Then the work concludes with "Stars - In the Lap of the Gods" [T-6] that has troubled passages followed by deific ones, thereby suggesting mankind's future lies in the hands of the gods.
Then we get Three Wings, which is the composer's second, string quartet dating from 2016. It was motivated by and takes its name from words beginning the fifth line of German, Benedictine abbess, writer-philosopher Hildegard von Bingen's (1098-1179) sacred chant O Virtus Sapientiae (O strength of Wisdom). Like its predecessor, this is a one movement work [T-7] that also lasts about twelve minutes.
The music falls into three general sections, seemingly characterizing those "Wings", which are metaphoric aspects of "Wisdom". The first starts with flighty passages, presumably symbolizing a heavenly ascent. These bridge into subdued ones that could be interpreted as representing divine wisdom. Then after a significant pause, there's an imploring second ostensibly depicting its earthly counterpart. And finally, the composer serves up a third, which is an amalgam of all the foregoing, thereby suggesting "Wisdom's" universal presence.
Our performers are drawn from an international collective of world-class, chamber musicians known as the Archytas Ensemble. This was formed in 2016 and named after that Ancient Greek, who was a Pythagorean polymath. They give technically accomplished, dedicated accounts of these selections, making a strong case for this trenchant music.
Made in early 2017 at the Ryerson United Church, Vancouver, the quartet recordings present a broad but convincing sonic image, and the trio, a somewhat narrower one. The string tone is as good as it gets on conventional discs, and the instruments are well balanced, making for an "Audiophile" release.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200128)
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Miguez: Vn Son; Velásquez, G.: Vn Sons 1 & 2; Baldini/Fernandes [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Here's Naxos Records' second release in their promising, new "The Music of Brazil" series, which began with a disc devoted to Alberto Nepomuceno's (1864-1920) works (see 30 June 2019). Now they give us three romantic violin sonatas written around the turn of the 20th century.
There's one by Leopoldo Miguez (1850-1902), and two from the pen of Glauco Velásquez (1884-1914), these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc. Both men were active in Brazil at a time of great political as well as social upheaval, namely when it transitioned from the New World's only monarchy into a Republic.
Brazilian-born, composer-violinist Miguez received his training in Spain, Portugal and France. Then around 1885 Leopoldo returned home and established himself in Rio de Janeiro, where he had a highly successful musical career. For the most part, it involved administrative duties associated with organizing and running the new Republic's National Institute of Music (NIM). He also used this as an opportunity to disseminate what he considered the best works of the day, and being a champion of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Dick's creations were much in evidence.
With all his managerial responsibilities, Miguez would produce only a limited number of works, his sole, four-movement Violin Sonata (1885) being the one here. This has a song-like, melodic nexus of Wagnerian persuasion (SW), which dominates its initial, sonata-form "Allegro" [T-4]. That said, SW pervades the piece, and its recurrence brings to mind César Franck's (1822-1890) cyclic form, which Leopoldo must have studied during his years in France.
But for now, SW undergoes a contrapuntally spiced, captivating development, after which it returns, powering a dramatic coda that closes the movement exultantly. Then there's a ternary "Andante" [T-5] beginning with an SW-derived, gently winding, angular theme reminiscent of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). This is followed by a related, flighty idea, and comes back in a more romantic setting, bringing things to a moving conclusion.
Next, we get a perky "Scherzo" [T-6], having SW-like, antsy outer sections wrapped around a pensive, fugato trio. Subsequently, the composer's French connection resurfaces in a Gallic-hued, final "Vivace" [T-7] that's a charming rondoesque cavort. It's based on an SW-reminiscent, scampering ditty that fuels a big-tune coda, which concludes the work jubilantly.
Leopoldo's younger colleague, Glauco Velásquez was born some thirty years after him in Naples, Italy. He was the illegitimate son of a Portuguese baritone and came to Brazil at age eleven (1895), where he first lived with his mother. An extremely gifted young man, Glauco started composing when he was nineteen (1902) and went on to study at NIM, where our old friend Alberto Nepomuceno (see above) taught. He then began a promising career, but this was tragically cut short when he died of tuberculosis at age thirty (1914).
Consequently, he only left around 120 works, most of which are songs with piano accompaniment. However, there are also a few outstanding chamber pieces, two of them being the other violin sonatas presented here. Dating from 1909 and 1911, both are three-movement works [T-1,2,3; T-8,9,10] of Gallic disposition that like the Miguez, harken back to the music of Franck (see above). That said, there are also suggestions of Fauré (1845-1924) and Chausson (1855-1899).
Highpoints include the First Sonata's closing "Agitato" [T-3], which anticipates the impressionism of Debussy (1862-1918) and even Ravel (1875-1937). As for the Second, it has a spellbinding, middle "Adagio" [T-9] and compelling "Finale" [T-10].
Internationally acclaimed, Italian violinist-conductor Emmanuele Baldini and award-winning, Brazilian pianist Karin Fernandes deliver technically accomplished, passionate accounts of these little-known works. Both artists give careful attention to dynamics, phrasing and rhythmic detail, thereby bringing out all the delicate nuances that abound in this music.
Done over a three-day period in 2014 at the Teatro Humboldt, São Paulo, Brazil, the recordings project an appropriately sized sonic image in warm, reverberant surroundings. Comfortably placed just left (violin) and right (piano) of center stage, the instruments are beautifully captured as well as balanced against one another. Violin sonatas don't get any better sounding on conventional discs, thereby earning this one an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200127)
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