CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
(CLOFO)
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS



28 FEBRUARY 2020

CROCKS NEWSLETTER

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.



The album cover may not always appear.
Eller: Sym Poems (Night Calls, White Night, Twilight, Dawn); Elts/EstNa SO [Ondine]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
The Helsinki-based Ondine label follows up their enterprising release of orchestral music by Estonian composer Heino Eller (1887-1970; see 28 February 2019) with this worthy successor, featuring four of his symphonic poems. The first three are the only readily available versions now on CD, and the composer tells us the initial Night Calls (1920-21) [T-1] was inspired by a storm he experienced one night at a seaside resort near St. Petersburg, Russia.

In extended sonata form, the opening statement (OS) has a menacing preface streaked with instrumental flashes of lightning. This gives way to an antsy, tremolo-spiced, first subject (A1) [01:25], which undergoes a brief exploration, containing a curious, pixilated idea (P2) [03:14]. Then there are two more thoughts that are respectively searching (S3) [03:38] and contemplative (C4) [04:16].

C4 bridges [05:39] into a tempestuous development, suggesting torrents of rain [06:18], wind-swept shores [07:17], chromatically churning seas [08:05] and monster waves [08:46]. However, the foregoing subsides into the return of A1 [09:32], initiating a recapitulation with P2 [10:53], S3 [11:26] and C4 [12:05], where it would seem the storm gets a "second wind". This is succeeded by a dramatic coda [13:21] that waxes and wanes into an OS-spiced, closing episode [15:51]. Here the forces of nature ostensibly return to normal, concluding the work tranquilly.

Next, there's White Night, which is a symphonic suite of seven, descriptively titled, programmatic miniatures, dating from almost twenty years later (1939), Stylistically an amalgam of Grieg (1843-1907), Sibelius (1865-1957) and Ravel (1875-1937), there's a Nordic as well as impressionistic feel about this work. What's more, the varying moods set in each of its sections follow a palindromic pattern.

Moreover, the fourth miniature is a pivotal point, after which the next three are sequentially of similar temperament to the third, second and first. Bearing the title "IV. Camp Fire" [T-5], it's a delightfully tuneful, swirling piece that conjures images of effulgent flames leaping into the night sky.

This lies between "III. Reminiscences" [T-4] and "V. Fisherman's Song" [T-6], both of which are nostalgically yearning, except for a sprightly dancelike snippet in the latter [02:56-04:44]. However, those on either side of them are vivacious. To wit, there's "II. Dance Rhythm" [T-3] and "VI. March Rhythm" [T-7], each being high-stepping numbers with rustic, Estonian-folk overtones.

Moving to the outer limits, we get similarly titled "I. White Night" [T-2] and "VII. White Night" [T-8] that conjure up boreal images of nocturnal, snow-covered, starry landscapes. The last closes this brilliantly scored work with a feeling of awe.

Filling out the CD, there's what might jokingly be called Heino's answer to Cole Porter's (1891-1964) "Night and Day" (1932), namely Twilight (1917) and Dawn (1918, orchestrated 1920). But all kidding aside, the album notes tell us these are "his most popular and accessible works, sometimes performed as a pair." Be that as it may, the former [T-9] is a serene utterance based on a gentle, modal theme (GM) heard at the outset. GM then appears in three delicate guises [01:22, 02:52 & 04:05] and ends this nocturnal offering in the same spirit it began.

The composer at one time implied Dawn [T-10] expressed his love of nature and the Estonian countryside. Accordingly, it's a heartfelt work, which opens with soft, swaying phrases, engendering a wistful, captivating thought for the oboe (WC) [00:10]. After that, the strings pick up on WC [01:15] and the music becomes increasingly agitated, presumably announcing the first streaks of daylight.

All this gives way to a sudden pause followed by a flighty, woodwind segment [02:09] that may represent morning birds. Then a drumroll [02:38], rotund bassoon version of WC [02:43] and timpani-enforced, rising passages [03:11], ostensibly limn sunrise. After that, WC makes an insistent return [03:27], seemingly as Old Sol breaks free of the Horizon and shines forth in all his glory [04:28].

Subsequently, the music waxes and wanes into a WC-tinged, peaceful afterthought [05:53] and sublime coda [06:31], which could be interpreted as nature forever renewing itself. In any case, it brings the tone poem to a fervent conclusion.

Once again, the musicians of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra under their fellow countryman, conductor Olari Elts, deliver beautifully played, highly sensitive readings of these Baltic bygones. This album will have great appeal for all late-romanticists, and is a must for those who got its predecessor (see 28 February 2019).

The recordings were made over the past two years at the Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn, which is an agreeably, reverberant venue. They project a consistently generous sonic image that will particularly appeal to those liking a more spacious sound. The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange and lean, clean bass, thereby earning this disc an "Audiophile" rating. On that note, these pieces call for conventionally sized forces, so don't expect it to plumb the depths of today's better sound systems.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200228)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com Records International


The album cover may not always appear.
Labor: Pno Qnt (pno, vn, va, vc & dblb), Pno Qt; Triendl/Karmon/Sachse/Grimm/de Groot [Capriccio]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Austrian pianist-organist-composer Josef Labor (1842-1924) was born to German-speaking parents in Horowice, Czech Republic, some thirty miles southwest of Prague, and became blind at age three, when he contracted smallpox. But despite that handicap, he became a highly successful musician, who's best remembered as a distinguished teacher.

On that note, one of his students was Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961, see 30 November 2015), who lost his right arm in World War I (1914-18) and subsequently inspired a number of left-hand, concertante pieces from several great composers. More specifically, they included the likes of Richard Strauss (1864-1949), Franz Schmidt (1874-1939), Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), Paul Hindemith (1895-1953), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976).

As for Josef's creative efforts, he'd leave a small body of works mostly in the chamber category, two of which fill out this new Capriccio release. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc, and the concert begins with his four-movement Piano Quintet in E minor (Op. 3, circa 1880). Like Schubert's (1797-1828) piscine Op. 114 (D667, 1819), this calls for a double-bass instead of the usual second violin, and sounds all the richer for it.

The initial sonata-form "Allegro" [T-1] is based on a pensive, first theme (P1) heard at the outset. This is examined and succeeded by a related, headstrong second (H2) [01:20]. Then there's a repeat of the foregoing [02:02] and an endearing development [04:27]. The latter gives way to an H2-triggered recap [08:45], where the return of P1 [09:16] ends the movement uneventfully.

Next, a capricious "Scherzo" [T-2] that begins with an H2-like, fickle idea (HF) [00:00], which after a brief pause, ushers in a P1-tinged, reserved thought (PR) [00:46]. Then HF returns [02:25] with some interim, PR-related, droll, chugging double-bass passages [03:00-05:03], bringing things full circle.

Capriciousness turns to cerebration in the "Andante" [T-3], where an opening, P1-reminiscent, songful theme is the subject for three, reflective variations. These range from agitated [03:19] to yearning [05:19] and canonically hymnlike [07:24], thereby ending this affecting movement reverentially.

The final rondoesque "Allegro" [T-4] has a robust preface hinting at an imminent, recurring thematic nexus. The latter starts with a P1-spiced, scampering idea (PS) [00:16], which is briefly examined and bridges into a sibling, laid-back melody (PL) [01:23]. PL is then explored [02:16] and repeated [03:07], whereupon it undergoes some further development [05:32]. This wanes into a PS-PL-derived postscript [06:26] followed by a dramatic pause. Then the Quintet comes to a busy conclusion with a PS-fueled, frenetic fugue [07:15] à la J.S. Bach (1685-1750).

Filling out this noteworthy release, there's the composer's Piano Quartet in C major (not "Quintet" as initially indicated in the album notes). Published in 1893, the work was premiered the following year to good reviews, and apparently became popular with Viennese audiences.

Also in four movements, the "Allegro" opener [T-5] begins with rustling strings (RS) [00:02] prefacing an endearing, peripatetic theme (EP) [00:04]. EP undergoes a vivacious exploration, followed by an amorous version of itself (EA) [01:32]. Then all of the foregoing is repeated [03:01], and there's an EP-initiated, chromatically spiced, developmental discussion between the four instruments [05:57].

This becomes increasingly animated and ends with a big-tune return of EP [08:32] succeeded by a brief pause. Then RS [08:51] along with EP [08:54] initiate a lovely recap, where tender memories of EA [09:45] wend their way into an EP-EA-powered coda [11:44] that ends the movement definitively.

The "Adagio" [T-6] is based on a wistful idea heard at the outset. It undergoes a couple of anguished treatments, which make for a melancholy movement, whose mood carries over into the next "Quasi allegretto" ("Somewhat joyful") [T-7]. This might best be described as a lachrymose scherzo, having outer sections based on a somber, yearning melody with some teardrop pizzicato. They surround a tipsy trio [02:15-03:14] and bring things to a nostalgic conclusion.

Last but not least, there's another "Allegro" [T-8] that's the most audacious music on this disc. It's an absolutely thrilling round, having a march-like, main idea (MM) [00:00], bearing an uncanny resemblance to the tune for the timeless, children's song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". MM alternates with inventive variants of itself that range from flamboyant [00:36] to fugally frantic [01:22], hymnlike [02:11] and scampering [04:16]. Then a valiant version of it [05:24] ends the Quartet triumphantly.

German pianist Oliver Triendl, who's a CLOFO regular (see 28 February 2019), gives superb accounts of these appealing rarities and receives outstanding support from his talented, string-playing associates. They include fellow countrymen Nina Karmon (violin), Pauline Sachse (viola) and Justus Grimm (cello) in the Quartet, all of whom are joined by Dutch, double-bassist Niek de Groot for the Quintet.

Together they deliver technically accomplished performances. What's more, their attention to dynamics, phrasing and rhythmic detail make a strong case for some music that in lesser hands might come off as ordinary fare.

A coproduction of Capriccio and DLF Kultur (Deutschlandradio Kultur), the recordings were made two years ago in that legendary Berlin venue, Jesus-Christus-Kirche (see Jesus Christ Church Dahlem). They project an appropriately sized, sonic image in a warm, resonant space, for which the music sounds all the richer. More specifically, the strings have a lifelike tone and are comfortably positioned from left to right in order of increasing size, with the piano beautifully captured between them.

The instruments are well balanced against one another, and these recordings are characterized by pleasant highs, an elegant midrange and clean lows with no hangover in the cello or double-bass's lower registers. Everything considered, this is an "Audiophile" release. On that note, pointy-eared listeners will hear a strange squeak in the Quintet's last movement [T-4 at 02:21]. Maybe somebody stepped on a resident church mouse?

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200227)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com Records International


The album cover may not always appear.
Moszkowski: Orch Wks V1 (Johanna d'Arc: Sym Poem in 4 Mvmts); Hobson/SinfaVars [Toccata]
One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother playing machine-gun-like, rhythmically riddled passages on the family piano. Then as a teenager, I discovered these were from Moritz Moszkowski's (1854-1924; see 31 January 2016) frenzied Caprice espagnol (Op. 37, 1885).

Soon thereafter I was taken with an LP of his Second Piano Concerto (E major, Op. 59, 1897). This has a catchy motif in the last movement (click to hear), which for some long-forgotten reason was cause for me and my music-loving friends to jokingly sing "Why am I so lonesome? I wish I had a dog! I wish I had a dog!"-- Cole Porter (1891-1964), eat your heart out! -- But enough adolescent nonsense!

Polish-born, German-trained Moritz left a large body of works across all genres, a substantial number being in the orchestral realm. Unfortunately, they dropped out of sight in the early 1900s when concert audiences turned their attention to what they considered more fashionable music, such as the dodecaphonic creations then being turned out by the Second Viennese School.

However, tastes change! Moreover, since the mid-1900s, with the advent of the LPs (1948) and CDs (1982) there's been a resurgence of interest in forgotten works by Romantic composers like Moszkowski. That said, as of this writing he's featured on some 150 CD albums, this invaluable Toccata release being one of the most recent.

It's the world premiere recording of his Johanna d'Arc, subtitled "Symphonic Poem in Four Parts" (Op. 19, 1875-6), which was inspired by German poet-playwright Friedrich von Schiller's tragedy Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans, 1801). And as a detailed musical analysis of this highly programmatic work can be found in the album notes, we'll just cover the high points.

That said, each part is prefaced with a descriptive header, the first one being "Joan's pastoral life. Her exalted mission is revealed to her in a vision." [T-1]. Accordingly, this gets off to a guileless, bucolic start [GB], invoking images of Joan as an innocent country maid. It's followed by a subdued, mystic, harp-violin-accompanied episode (SM) [06:36], representing her divine vision.

After a momentary pause [11:30], the music transitions into a more dramatic treatment of the opening ideas with march-like passages suggesting her upcoming, military exploits. Then it bridges into a glorious coda [20:49] with pizzicato-spiked, closing measures [22:30] that end things somewhat capriciously.

The next "Inner conflicts -- Recollections" [T-2] limns Joan's troubled state of mind as she wrestles with how to accomplish the mission set for her by those heavenly voices. Here a tranquil preface adjoins a harried segment, which waxes and wanes into a courageous theme (CT) [05:02]. CT undergoes a captivating treatment with chromatically spiced, cantering passages [06:57] that may portend Joan on horseback. Subsequently, a big-tune return of CT [08:28] ebbs into a reminder of GB [10:33], and after a thoughtful caesura [10:50], this part closes with peaceful memories of its opening measures.

Then there's "Procession of the conquerors to the coronation at Rheims" [T-3], which takes the form of majestic march reminiscent of those in Wagner's (1813-1883) operas, but with Slavic overtones. Here a regal thematic nexus (RN) [00:09] with a singing countermelody [03:59] is set forth and briefly explored [05:07]. RN then returns [06:09] and waxes imposingly, thereby ending this part in jubilant triumph.

But glory turns to grief in the next "Joan in prison. Her release from chains. Triumph, death and apotheosis." [T-4]. It has an ominous opening, where cellos and basses play a doleful motif (DM) [00:01], presaging the tragic events to come. However, the music then takes on a deceptively exuberant, martial air [00:53], presumably recalling Joan's past triumphs.

Subsequently, agitated passages [01:35] conjure up more DM-based ones [02:25], which initiate a nostalgic segment [03:18] with allusions to past ideas. This seemingly reflects her being put in prison, but soon gives way to a pause and drumroll-introduced section [05:33]. Here heroic, thematic references to Joan ostensibly imply her release from a chained environment and journey to the stake.

These ebb into an episode [08:20] based on SM (see the first part), which builds, ostensibly limning her spiritual triumph. After that, it comes to an awesome climax, presumably as she's surrounded by flames. Then the music briefly wanes, only to become even more powerful as her soul journeys to Heaven, thereby bringing this memorable work to a dramatic conclusion.

English conductor Ian Hobson and the superb, Warsaw-based Sinfonia Varsovia (SV) give us an outstanding performance of another, long forgotten, orchestral work (see 31 May 2018). Again, he elicits superb playing from the SV musicians, making a strong case for some music by a romantic composer who's finally getting the attention he deserves. Incidentally, violinist Jakub Haufa gets a big hand for his heartfelt playing in those SM passages [T-1, 06:36; T-4, 08:20].

Made two years ago in Polish Radio's Witold Lutoslawski Concert Studio, Warsaw, the recording projects a wide, recessed soundstage in an affable venue with a substantial echo. The highs have a bit of "digitalis", but the mids are convincing. As for the bass, it's clean and goes down to rock bottom with some seismic, bass drum thumps that will exercise your woofers. This CD will appeal to those liking wetter sonics, and leave ardent romanticists anxiously awaiting Toccata's next volume in this series.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200225)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com Records International


The album cover may not always appear.
Volbach: "Es waren zwie Königskinder" Sym Poem; Sym in b; Berg/Münster SO [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Like a refreshing soda pop, the CPO catalog effervesces with delightful bubbles of discovery. A case in point is this release, featuring music by German-born and trained Fritz Volbach (1861-1940), who hailed from Wipperfürth, located about thirty miles northeast of Cologne.

Best remembered as a musicologist and teacher, towards the end of World War I (1914-18) he moved to Münster some eighty miles north-northeast of Cologne, where he became that city's first, general music director. Consequently, Volbach had a number of outstanding associates that included Richard Strauss (1864-1949), Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949; see 23 February 2011) as well as Franz Schreker (1878-1934). Incidentally, he established a close friendship with Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), whose oratorio The Dream of Gerontius (1899-1900) he'd championed in Germany during the early 1900s.

Also a distinguished conductor and composer, Volbach wrote a small number of significant, late-romantic works, four of his finest being a sole symphony and three shorter tone poems, all scored for large orchestras. These were highly regarded and often played during his lifetime, but forgotten when concert programs increasingly featured more progressive compositions by Fritz's colleagues.

Now thanks to CPO, we get to hear his Symphony as well as one of those poems, both of which show the influence of Wagner (1813-1883) and Brahms (1833-1897). The program begins with "Es waren zwei Königskindersee" ("Once there were two children of royal birth", Op. 21, 1901) [T-1], which was written between the two others poems, respectively titled "Ostern" ("Easter", Op.16, 1895; currently unavailable on disc) and "Alt Heidelberg, du feine" ("Old Heidelberg, the Splendid", Op. 29, 1904; currently unavailable on disc).

Based on an eponymous folk ballad (see the album notes for German and English texts), it opens with a tender, glowing theme (TG), indicating the love between a boy and girl, who are each children of monarchs, ruling kingdoms separated by a deep body of water. Then TG is repeated in a more lush, romantic setting [01:50] and succeeded by a related, distraught thought (TD) [03:16], presumably indicative of their frustration at not being together.

TD adjoins a wistful episode [04:44], which ends with a valiant variant of itself [06:00] that bridges into rippling, wavelike passages [06:50], followed by rhythmically repetitive ones [08:52]. All of this implies our youth's diving into the waters and swimming away to reach his beloved.

However, a tension-building pause and drum-roll-introduced, ominous segment [12:07] ostensibly depict his exhaustion and subsequent drowning. Then the music wanes into memories of the opening measures [15:15], succeeded by a glorious epilogue based on a big-tune, version of TG [16.44]. Described by the composer as "a joyful hymn of praise to the power of love triumphing over the waves", it ends this effecting tone poem on a romantic high.

Moving ahead almost ten years we get Volbach's major orchestral effort, his four-movement Symphony in B Minor (Op. 33, 1909). The opening, sonata-form "Lebhaft und trotzig" ("Lively and Defiant") [T-2] immediately lives up to its markings by beginning in Beethoven (1770-1827) furrow-browed fashion with a portentous idea (SP) [00:01]. SP is explored and gives way to a related theme of condolence (SC) [02:13], which along with SP makes a captivating, Mahler (1860-1911) reminiscent bridge into an SP-initiated, agitated development [05:37] with contrapuntal spicing.

This is followed by an SP-big-tune triggered recap [07:37], having fond memories of SC [08:05] that fade into a pregnant pause [09:03]. Then shimmering, pp strings and more recollections of SC are interrupted by heroic hints of SP [10:02]. These call up a powerful coda [11:52] that ends the movement definitively.

Next, a brief, A-B-A-C structured "Scherzo. Presto" [T-3] with winsome "A"s [00:01 & 02:47]. They're each based on SC-reminiscent, respectively martial (AM) and waltzlike themes, whereas "B" [01:25] features a flighty number (BF) succeeded by a droll idea. Then "C" conjoins AM to BF, bringing the music to a whimsical conclusion.

Frivolity turns to solemnity in the third "Adagio molto" [T-4], which in retrospect must rank with the finest, slow symphonic movements written in the late 19th and early 20th century. Here an opening, moving, chorale-like melody (MC) reminiscent of what one might find in late Bruckner (1824-1896) waxes and wanes in a series of powerful, MC-related treatments [00:01, 06:26, 09:28 & 12:08].

The album notes speculate the preceding movement could be interpreted as Christ's suffering on the cross. Consequently, they go on to say the closing one, marked "Mächtig, feierlich -- Lebhaft, bestimmt" ("Powerful, Solemn -- Lively, Resolute") [T-5], ostensibly equates to his resurrection, which recalls Volbach's "Easter" mentioned above.

In any case, this sonata-form-like movement is all the more dramatic for some ad libitum support from the organ, and begins with a triumphant segment based on an opening, brass-reinforced hymn tune (HT). The foregoing calls up a fugato-introduced, exuberant episode (EE) [02:02] with a violin-prefaced, wistful passage [03:23-04:54]. Then there's a spirited, episodic development of all the foregoing material [04:55].

It's followed by subdued [07:13], sweeping [08:54] and grandiose [09:45) reminders of HT that fade into a pensive violin afterthought [10:49]. But EE makes a big-tune return [11:30], presumably as Christ's spirit ascends into Heaven, thereby closing this superb, undeservedly forgotten Symphony with a feeling of divine triumph.

Curiously enough, the Münster Symphony Orchestra (MSO) was founded by the composer back in 1919, and now under their current general music director, German conductor Gola Berg, they deliver highly committed, sensitive performances of both works. MSO's glowing accounts give their hometown boy his just rewards for this outstanding music, despite an occasional intonational anomaly.

These recordings are of live performances that took place early last year at the Münster Theater. However, clever miking plus some skillful postproduction touch-ups and editing have eliminated any extraneous audience noise or applause.

They project a generous sonic image in warm, pleasant surroundings. The instrumental timbre is characterized by delightful highs, a rich midrange and clean bass. Conventional CD's of romantically sized orchestras don't get any better sounding than this one, thereby earning it an "Audiophile" stripe.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200225)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com Records International


The album cover may not always appear.
Weinberger: Six Bohemian Songs &..., Orch Exs fm Schwanda… (6), Ov to The Beloved...; Steffens/RheinPfSt P [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Four years ago we told you about a Capriccio release having Czech composer Jaromír Weinberger's (1896-1967) Six Bohemian Songs & Dances (see 30 June 2016). Now CPO serves up a more recent rendition of them, along with seven, expanded, concert versions of orchestral selections from his operas Schwanda the Bagpiper (Švanda dudák, 1926) and The Beloved Voice (Milovaný hlas, 1930; not currently available on disc).

While two of the six Schwanda numbers are the familiar "Polka" and "Fugue", these are the only currently available versions of the other four now on disc. That also holds true for the seventh selection, which is the Overture to The Beloved Voice.

Written in 1926, Schwanda the Bagpiper was on overnight success that by the early 1930s had been translated into seventeen languages and performed over 2,000 times. With a libretto based on a Czech folk tale that concerns faithfulness and love, this magnificent score is rooted in Bohemian folk melodies and spiced with masterful, contrapuntal touches as well as chromatic colorations along with striking key changes (see the album notes for more details).

The Opera's spirited, fugally flavored Overture gets the disc off to a rousing start [T-1], and has a brief passage in the closing measures, reminiscent of Smetana's (1824-1884), tone poem The Moldau (Vlatava) from his symphonic cycle My Country (Má Vlast, 1874). It's followed by a couple of fetching dances, namely a saucy "Odzemak" [T-2] and captivating "Furiant" [T-3]. The latter has flighty sections that alternate with waltzlike ones, and smacks of Dvořák's (1841-1904) Slavonic Dances (Op. 46/B83, 1878 & Op. 72/B147, 1886-7).

Next, there's the "Prelude" [T-4] to Act II, which is a funeral-march-like, frigorific utterance that sets the stage for the opening scene. This takes place in the "Kingdom of the Ice Queen", where Schwanda plays that legendary "Polka" [T-5], which gets the shivery sovereign's entire court dancing.

Subsequently, our hero journeys to Hell -- shades of Berlioz (1803-1869) Damnation of Faust (1845-6) and Liszt's (1811-1886) A Faust Symphony (1854-7) -- where he entertains the Devil's minions with that equally famous "Fuga" [T-6], done here in an expanded version, which includes organ. This music also reflects Schwanda's release from the nether regions and joyous reunion with his wife. It brings what amounts to a delightful orchestral suite from the opera to a sublime "everyone lived happily ever after" conclusion.

The program continues with those Bohemian Songs & Dances of 1929 [T-7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12], whose musical content has already been discussed in these pages (see 30 June 2016). Suffice it to say these performances are more lush, and comments regarding their overall sound are included below.

Closing out this welcome release, there's that Overture to Weinberg's opera The Beloved Voice [T-13]. With a libretto based on Austrian writer Robert Musil's (1880-1942) eponymous novel of 1928, this is a love story with some interesting twists.

Like the Schwanda Overture, Smetana's spirit is present, but this time near the beginning. Moreover, there are moto-perpetuo string flourishes akin to those opening his Bartered Bride (1866). Then we get a couple of fetching, folkish melodies that are bandied about. They call up a frisky march (FM) [03:42] that has a theme [04:39] somewhat reminiscent of one towards the end of Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971) Firebird Ballet (1910). Subsequently, FM builds to a festive climax with itinerant memories of past ideas, thereby ending the work and this CD jubilantly.

Done eleven years ago, these performances by the German Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic (RPSP; see 31 August 2019) under their then music director, Karl-Heinz Steffens are superb. They give enthusiastic accounts of all these selections, easily surpassing those that have already appeared on disc.

The recordings were made at the RPSP's home hall in Ludwigshafen, some 300 miles southwest of Berlin. They project a wide, comfortably recessed sonic image in a pleasantly reverberant venue. The sound is characterized by sparkling highs, a convincing midrange, and with scoring that calls for large orchestral forces plus organ, the bass goes down to rock bottom. What's more, there are some pants-flapping lows that will challenge the most sophisticated sound systems -- Audiophiles take note!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y200224)

- AVAILABILITY -
Amazon ArkivMusic.com hbdirect.com Records International


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