CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 MAY 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.
Brincken: Orch Wks V1 (Sym 4, Capriccio for Piano & Chamber Orch; Brincken/Held/RScotNa O [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Composer-pianist Alexander Brincken (b. 1952) was born during the years of the Soviet Union (USSR, 1922-1991) in what was then called Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Of German, Russian and Georgian descent, between 1960 and 1980, he studied piano, composition and musicology at what's today known as the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
These academic pursuits gave him a solid background in the works of Germanic composers ranging from J.S. Bach (1685-1750) up through Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), but little exposure to Russian music, except that of Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943). However, his attending Leningrad Philharmonic concerts during the 1960-70s familiarized him with symphonic creations by the likes of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), Richard Strauss (1864-1949), Franz Schmidt (1874-1939; see 30 September 2016), Béla Bartók (1881-1945), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Alban Berg (1885-1935) and Paul Hindemith (1895-1963).
Alexander then pursued a career in Leningrad that included teaching at a couple of prestigious institutions as well as concertizing. But 1992 saw him move to Switzerland, where he took up residence in Lucerne, located some twenty-five miles south-southwest of Zurich. He's since engaged in similar activities, and would become a naturalized citizen of that country in 1998.
As of this writing, Brincken has produced a substantial body of works across most genres, which have been well received in Europe and abroad. They include a number in the orchestral category, two of which fill out this recent Toccata release, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The Fourth (G minor, Op. 27; 2014-15) of his five Symphonies to date begins the program. And going by his profuse album notes, he tells us that stylistically speaking it's of Austro-Germanic, late-romantic persuasion. What's more, he draws a parallel between this and Bruckner's Sixth Symphony (1879-81), which Anton once referred to as his "jauntiest".
In the conventional four movements, the composers describes the first [T-1] as "diffuse and rhapsodic" with "some vestiges" of sonata form. He also rightfully observes there's a "strong concertante" element present as it's riddled with instrumental solos.
The music begins "Moderato" with soft, sad riffs [00:01] hinting at an imminent, melancholy melody (MM) [01:04], smacking of darker passages in Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) Ten Symphonies (1888-1910). MM then undergoes a moving treatment that builds to a dramatic climax, suddenly succeeded by an "Allegro" ("Fast"), MM-reminiscent, capricious tune (MC) [04:30]. MC is next explored and reinvokes up MM [07:27], which engenders big-tune passages that end with a sudden caesura.
Then a somewhat diabolical reminder of MC [09:10], which at first becomes increasingly outspoken, wanes into an MM-MC-amalgamated idea (MA) [10:40]. Subsequently, MA parents a chorale-like episode [13:49] that comes to a formidable climax, thereby concluding the movement with a flash of hope.
The "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-2] is a highly moving, ternary, A-B-A offering, having cantilena-like "A"s based on a euphoric, sanguine tune (SG) introduced by the horn [00:09]. Brincken says SG came to him during a glorious, sunny, summer day back in 2014 when he was boating on Lake Lucerne", which is just east of what's now the composer's hometown. He also describes SG as "in the sublime 'golden' key of E♭ major".
That said, the "A"s surround a "B" [04:21-07:26], where Alexander shows his Russian roots. Moreover, this has a tintinnabulary, walking bass line, over which there's a Slavic, chorale-like descant. What's more, it smacks of moments in Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) penultimate, operatic masterpiece The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (1903-05). Incidentally, he later fashioned this into a stunning, eponymous Suite for Orchestra (1905).
The last "A" begins [07:27] in the same spirit as the first. However, this one becomes a towering climax of hope [11:13] that fades into a doleful afterthought [14:46], which brings the movement to an unresolved, despondent ending.
Then things turn "Allegro ben ritmato" ("Fast and rhythmical") in a sonata-rondoesque, Mahlerian "Scherzo" [T-3]. This begins with a saucy, impish ditty (SI) that empowers a consummate, opening fugue, which triggers music aptly described by the composer as grotesque and sarcastic. While there are a couple of woodwind-initiated, frolicsome diversions along the way [02:19-02:47 & 04:16-05:31], it closes the movement with demonic insistence.
A subdued, ominous drumroll and anxious passages start the sonata-form-like, "Allegro molto" marked "Finale" [T-4]. They're followed by an opening statement, having two, related ideas, which are respectively flighty (AF) [01:08] and resigned (AR) [02:00]. Then there's a development commencing with a feverish exploration of AF [03:28] that waxes and wanes into a rhapsodic treatment of AR [05:49].
This adjoins AF-based, vivacious, exploratory passages [07:12], which usher in an AF-ornamented, brass-accented, big-tune rendition of AR (AB) [beginning at 08:33]. AB then fades into a barely audible, drumroll that invokes a growling coda [11:53]. This has seven, angry forte chords for full orchestra, which end the Symphony dramatically.
The following Capriccio for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (Op. 11, 1985) was written in Leningrad, and came at a time when the Soviet cultural authorities had issued edicts that discouraged a young, budding composer like Brincken from freely expressing himself. Consequently, there's a quirky capriciousness about this music that almost seems like Alexander's thumbing his nose at them in a work of social protest. More specifically, he capitalizes on the piano's percussiveness to create a feeling of cantankerous commentary on Soviet Society.
Structurally speaking, the piece might best be described as a theme-and-variations-like suite in five, attacca episodes. Strangely enough, it bears a stylistic resemblance to moments in Swiss composer Frank Martin's (1890-1974) works. This would imply Alexander knew his music while in Leningrad, which makes one wonder if that might have had something to do with his move to Lucerne (see above).
The opening "Meditazione I" [T-5] is a highly chromatic, "Martinesque" tidbit, which begins with a contemplative theme (CC) for the soloist [00:00] that's taken over by the tutti [00:53]. They're soon joined by the piano [01:33], and CC then undergoes an increasingly intense exploration.
The latter launches an energetic "Toccata" [T-6], where a skittish CC [00:00] is the subject for a virtuosic discourse between the piano and orchestra. It invokes a "Capriccioso" [T-7] featuring a flighty, Eastern-sounding version of CC [00:00] that the composer says is Armenian related.
Then the foregoing wanes into a "Meditazione II" [T-8], which like the work's opening one, begins with CC [00:00]. However, at a little over ten minutes, this is the longest episode here and takes the form of a dark elegy with a keening, keyboard cadenza [06:33-08:42]. The latter invokes a weeping clarinet [08:43] and lachrymose passages that give way to a sustained high note, which calls up the closing "Coda" [T-9].
Here we get drumroll-accented, low woodwinds chortling a rhythmically spastic version of CC [00:03]. They're soon joined by the soloist [00:32], and all engage in a grotesque episode with spastic outbursts, antic pauses and a final cry of protest, all of which may remind you of wilder moments in Sergei Prokofiev's (1891-1953) Piano Concertos (1911-32).
Brincken gives a finger-fireworks-filled performance of the Capriccio, and Swiss conductor Rainer Held along with members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) couldn't be more supportive. As for the Symphony, Maestro Held and the RNSO deliver a magnificent rendition of it, making one wonder why this silver disc debut has been so long in coming.
These recordings were done a year ago in the RSNO Centre Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, and project generous, sonic images in reverberant surroundings. The Symphony calls for fairly large forces, and the overall instrumental timbre is a mixed bag. Moreover, it's characterized by somewhat glassy highs, a rich, bordering on dense, midrange and rockbottom, occasionally boomy bass. As for the more conservatively scored Capriccio, the tutti are well captured with the soloist centered and ideally highlighted in front of them. Taking all of the foregoing into account, the sound on this disc is very serviceable, but doesn't quite earn an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200531)
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Kapp, A.: Sym 4 "Youth...", The Last Confession (vn & stgs; w Artur Lemba & Lüdig); Ruubel/N.Järvi/EstNa SO [Chandos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Early last year we told you about some exceptional symphonic music by Estonian composer Heino Eller (1887-1970; see 28 February 2019). Now Chandos gives us an equally memorable disc of six orchestral selections by three of his contemporary, compatriots, namely Artur Kapp, Artur Lemba and Mihkel Lüdig, all of whom also studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory (SPC), where Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was one of their instructors. As presented here, these are the only readily available recordings of them currently on disc.
Artur Kapp (1878-1952) left a significant oeuvre that includes Five Symphonies, the Fourth of which, titled "Youth Symphony", is presented here. This was written in 1948, not long after the Soviet Union (USSR, 1922-1991) occupied the Baltic States and commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of what was then known as the "All-Union Leninist Young Communist League" -- What a mouthful!
On that note, it was awarded a second-place, Stalin Prize in 1950. Incidentally, Reinhold Glière's (1875-1956) "The Bronze Horsemen" Ballet (Op. 89, 1948-49), and Dimitri Shostakovich's (1906-1975) "Song of the Forests" Oratorio (Op. 81, 1949) as well as his film music for "The Fall of Berlin" (Op. 82, 1949) were the first-place winners.
The manuscript has "Classical Symphony" parenthesized on the title page, and like Prokofiev's (1891-1953) similarly tagged First effort in the genre (D major, Op. 25; 1916-17), that moniker is much in keeping with Kapp's music. Moreover, unlike its five moody predecessors, this is a folk-tune-riddled, structurally compact, lightly textured, playful work, which harkens back to the composer's younger days.
In four movements, the opening, sonata-form one [T-8] begins with a drumroll introduced, gallant theme (GT) [00:03]. GT is explored to a shimmering, string accompaniment (SS) [00:15] that brings to mind moments in Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42), and gives way to a related, sprightly thought (GS) [00:57]. GS then takes on a brief, hymnlike demeanor (GH) [01:32], initiating a clever development of the foregoing [02:16], succeeded by an anticipatory pause.
This gives way to the return of SS [03:16] and GT [03:18], which trigger a festive recap. It has a series of GT-based sequences, and after another pause, wisps of GS [03:55] call up GH [04:29] as well as reminders of the opening measures. These bridge into what begins like a final triumphant coda [05:33]. But the composer pulls the rug out from under us, and we're left hanging as the movement ends in medias res!
Next, a theme and four variations [T-9] that starts with a noble, main subject (MS) somewhat reminiscent of GT. MS is followed by a variant of insistent character [00:39] and one, which takes the form of an engaging minuet [01:08]. Then we get a flighty, pastoral variation with avian flute calls [02:25], succeeded by a brief pause and fetching, waltzlike fourth [03:46]. The latter has moments smacking of Ravel's (1875-1937) Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911) as well as La valse (1920), and concludes this "Kapptivating" movement lightheartedly.
Subsequently, Artur serves up a concise, comely "Andante" with woodwind flavoring [T-10]. which gives way to a fourth, "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast"), rondoesque cavort [T-11]. This has a scurrying introductory phrase, after which GH (see above) and it would seem the melody for the Estonian folk song that starts "Kui mina alles noor veel olin..." ("When I was a child a-playing..."), are amalgamated into a glorious, recurring idea (GG) [00:04].
GG takes on several guises, ranging from playful [00:37] to valiant [03:19], retiring [04:05] and confident [05:23]. Then the last of these builds into a big-tune version of GG [05:42] that ends the symphony triumphantly.
We're also treated to an additional, much shorter, Kapp selection on this CD, which reflects his having been a highly regarded church organist. Titled The Last Confession [T-7], it's a recent transcription for violin and strings by American composer Charles Coleman (b. 1968) of an eponymous, violin and organ work (1905; currently unavailable on disc).
The piece begins with somber strings suggesting the melody for the Lutheran chorale (LC), "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein" ("Oh God, look down from Heaven"; 1524). Then the soloist makes a sighing entrance [01:18] and engages in a lovely, LC-based rhapsody set to a reverent accompaniment. Here the music waxes and wanes into violin trills [06:39] along with the gorgeous, nostalgic return of LC's opening phrases [05:42], thereby ending this sublime creation somewhere in Heaven.
Moving right along, we get a selection by composer-pianist Artur Lemba (1885-1963). He left a large body of works that include five piano concertos, the First being the one on this disc. Written in 1905, it was premiered three years later (1908) with the composer as soloist on the occasion of his graduation from the SPC (see above). Artur's Memoirs reveal the percussionist was a seventeen-year-old, fellow student named Sergei Prokofiev, who'd go on to write five of his own (1911-32).
What we have here is the composer's 1910 revision of this youthful work, which is a tune-swept, virtuosic showpiece of romantic proportions. In three movements, the first [T-2] opens with the orchestra hinting at a folk-song-like theme of Rachmaninov (1873-1943) persuasion (FR), soon played by the piano [00:45]. FR is elaborated, and then there's a charming bridge [01:55] into keyboard repeats of FR [02:41] with bravura flourishes [03:15].
These fuel a gorgeous, jubilant outburst for all [03:50] that wanes into ominous tidbits of FR [04:17]. These give way to agitated, piano passages [04:30], which invoke a moody developmental episode for everyone. Subsequently, the piano returns with a big tune version of FR [06:47] that fuels a highly romantic recap with wistful memories of it in the tutti [08:45]. Then there's a grandiose reminder of FR on the piano [09:16], which is joined by the orchestra [09:49], thereby bringing the movement to an exultant conclusion.
The slow one [T-3] is of ternary, A-B-A construction and has a wistful tutti preface, suggesting an FR-derived, pining melody (FP) soon introduced by the soloist [00:36]. FP is the basis for the "A"s that surround a cheerful "B" based on a hopeful countermelody (FH) opined by the flute [01:40]. Then the other members of the orchestra join in along with the soloist [02:06], who embellishes these proceedings. Subsequently, the music flows into the closing "A", which is announced by the nostalgic reappearance of FP for all [02:54]. It waxes and wanes, ending things in the same spirit they began.
An infectious rondo [T-4] closes this delightful, romantic romp. This is based on a couple of recurring ideas, the first being an FR-derived, jaunty ditty (FJ) introduced by the tutti [00:02]. Then FJ is picked up by the soloist, who goes on to play a meditative version of FP (FM) [01:03]. FM is next explored and followed by the spirited return of FJ on the flute [01:55], after which scurrying, FJ-laced, developmental passages lead to a cadenza [03:03].
This is a contemplation of FP [03:06], that's soon joined by the orchestra [03:57]. Then memories of FM [04:16] give way to the return of FJ for the piano [04:50] and tutti [05:04]. It's followed by a reminder of FM for all [05:38], which suddenly turns FJ-like [06:01], thereby ending the Concerto ecstatically with a flamboyant, finger-fireworks-filled coda
Last but not least, this fetching release features three orchestral selections by Mihkel Lüdig (1880-1958). He was an organist like Kapp and became an esteemed teacher in Tallinn, which lies midway on Estonia's north coast along the Gulf of Finland. However, he was more importantly a leading organizer of musical events in his country, and apparently considered composition a sideline. Consequently, he left only a limited, although noteworthy, oeuvre.
The works here are miniature, tone-poem-like offerings, which would seem to have underlying programs, although none are provided. They show his penchant for coming up with melodies inspired by local folk music, and in that regard, bring to mind the music of Russian composer Anatole Liadov (also spelled Lyadov, 1855-1914) and his Norwegian counterpart Edvard Grieg (1843-1907).
The opening Overture-Fantasy No. 2 (B minor; 1945) [T-1] came towards the end of World War II (1939-45), which seemingly explains the music's martial overtones. Moreover, it starts with restless passages [00:04] that build [beginning at 00:13] into a victorious march number (VM) [01:51].
Then there's a rustic, songlike segment [02:16] with a lovely violin solo (VS) (02:39]. But this suddenly gives way to a heroic version of VM [02:56], followed by a keening episode [03:22] and plaintive pause [03:50]. Subsequently, somber reminders of VM [03:52] engender a dramatic conclusion based on past material, where VM has the last say [08:26], thereby ending the piece triumphantly.
Lüdig was a great nature lover, and this is reflected in his Midsummer Night (1910) [T-5], which the album notes say was inspired by folk mythology associated with the summer solstice. Moreover, it begins with falling passages that seemingly limn sunset, after which a piquant oboe thought [00:44] suggests night embracing what could be a clement, forest setting. And after a brief pause, there's a wistful, nighttime melody (WN) [01:37], which becomes perturbed and gives way to a comely, folk-like idea (CF) that suggests the rising moon [02:30].
CF is succeeded by a pause-bound, arching phrase [03:35-03:57] and animated passages [04:00], that conjure images of emerging nocturnal creatures. Then there's a long caesura [04:52-04:57], after which high, shimmering strings [04:58] and the return of WN [05:04] end the piece, presumably as the sun rises on another beautiful day somewhere in Estonia.
Completing the Lüdig portion of this CD, we have his Overture-Fantasy No. 1 (B minor; 1906) [T-6] that would seem to reflect happier times for the composer than when its similarly named successor was written. This music commemorated the opening of the Vanemuine Theater Building located in Tartu, some 100 miles southeast of Tallinn, and starts with hints of a noble, nationalistic-sounding theme (NN) that soon takes shape [00:22]. NN bridges into a related, merry ditty (NM) introduced by the flute [01:22], which is derived from the tune for the Estonian folk song that starts "Üles, üles, hellad vennad..." ("Up, up, dear brothers...").
Then there's another one of those long, Lüdig caesuras [01:56-02:00] (see above), after which shimmering strings [02:01] preface piquant, oboe-initiated, wistful memories of NN [02:06]. These bridge into a big-tune, bass-drum-accented version of same [03:02], which calls up a developmental section [03:47] with scurrying passages and brass flourishes.
It ends with a curt, tension-building pause and massive drumroll [04:20] that wanes into the subdued return of NN [beginning at 04:25]. Then NN becomes increasingly animated and spiced with reminders of NM [beginning at 05:36]. They initiate a NN-based coda that ends the piece perfunctorily with a forte chord for full orchestra.
All three composers couldn't be better served as these performances are by their hometown band -- the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (EstNa SO) or Eesti Riiklik Sümfooniagorkester (ERSO) -- under compatriot Neeme Järvi (b. 1937). He's been the EstNa SO's Principal Conductor and Artistic Director for the past ten years, and together they deliver superb, sensitive accounts of all six selections.
Also a big round of applause goes to Estonian pianist Mihkel Poll as well as violinist Triin Ruubel, who's the ERSO's leader, for their deeply felt, stunning accounts of Lemba's Concerto and Kapp's The Last Confession.
These recordings were made on three occasions during 2017 and 2018 at the Estonia Concert Hall in Tallinn, and project generously proportioned, amazingly consistent soundstages in reverberant surroundings. Both soloists are centered and convincingly captured as well as balanced against their respective tutti.
The overall instrumental timbre is characterized, by pleasant highs, a full-bodied midrange and lean, clean bass that goes down to rockbottom with some pants-flapping whacks on the bass drum. This release will definitely appeal to audiophiles liking wetter sonics, but those preferring a drier, more focused symphonic image may find it wanting.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200530)
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Mayseder: Vol. 6 (Pno Trios 1 & 2, Vn Son 2); Lissy/Grün/Gelleva [Gramola]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Here's a sixth volume from the Austrian Gramola label devoted to music by one of their native sons, namely violinist-composer Joseph Mayseder (1789-1863), who's fast becoming a CLOFO regular (see 30 June 2019). He left a significant body of chamber works, which included four Piano Trios as well as an equal number of Violin Sonatas. The first two in the former category are here along with the second from the latter, all of which are premiere recordings.
Each of these works is in three movements, and his First Piano Trio (B♭ major, Op. 34; 1820) begins the concert. Its initial sonata-form "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-1] starts with a cheerful, flighty tune (CF) [00:01] having a reserved countermelody (CR) [00:17]. Then the foregoing undergoes an exploration where we get a CF-reminiscent, tripping idea (CT) [00:55] followed by a CR-related, wistful thought CW [02:04]. The latter engenders a jolly bridge [02:42] into a CF-triggered, melancholy development [04:07] and gleeful recap [05:39] with reminders of CT [06:01] as well as CW [06:29]. Then a CF-flavored coda [07:16] brings the movement to a fetching conclusion.
A moving "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-2] based on a songlike, yearning melody (SY) [00:00] provides a brief respite. Here SY undergoes a couple of captivating treatments succeeded by a momentary pause, after which the pianist surprises us with a scampering version of SY (SS).
SS begins a final "Rondo, Moderato" [T-3], where it's soon repeated [00:47] and appears in headstrong [00:59], amorous [01:23], as well as coloratura [01:48] guises. Then a reminder of SS [02:54] leads to restless [03:38], playful [04:42] and capricious [06:17] treatments of it that end the work with a grin.
The composer's Second Violin Sonata (E minor, Op. 42; 1823) is next. Its opening "Allegro" [T-4] is a waltz, which starts with a flowing, melancholy theme (FM) [00:00] followed by an agitated countersubject (FA) [00:46]. FA then conjures up a graceful version of itself (FG) [01:26] that is explored and accelerates into a perky episode [03:15].
Subsequently, there's a nostalgic development [04:13] with memories of foregoing thoughts. Then a big-tune version of FM [05:45] heralds a recap, where the return of FG [06:16] is followed by spirited, running passages [07:01]. These bridge into a cheeky version of FG [07:56], which invokes a merry, virtuosic coda [08:23] that ends the movement with a smiling, tip-of-the-hat cadence.
The contemplative "Adagio" [T-5] has a gentle preface [00:01] for both instruments and a lovely aria, featuring the violin [01:00]. The latter brings to mind themes from the slow movements of Beethoven's (1770-1827) Violin Sonatas (1797-1803), as well as the keyboard accompaniments found in Franz Schubert's (1797-1828) more emotional songs (1811-27).
Next, Mayseder serves up a complete change of pace with a sonata-rondoesque "Finale, Allegro" [T-6]. This has a catchy, opening thematic nexus (CN) [00:00] that's explored [01:11] and bridges into a related playful one (PN) [02:00]. The foregoing material is toyed with [02:27] and followed by the return of CN [03:44] and PN [05:17].
Then there's a PN-derived, skittering bridge [05:42] into a chorale-like contraction of CN [05:56] with phrases [06:29 & 06:37], which strangely augur the melody for that beloved, American hymn by Reverend Robert Lowry (1826-1899), "Shall We Gather at the River" (1865). All this engenders a CN-related, bustling coda [06:40], which ends the Sonata with some virtuosic fireworks.
Filling out this disc, Gramola gives us Joseph's winsome, melodious, Second Piano Trio (A♭ major, Op. 52; 1834). This was very popular during the composer's later years, and performed by many outstanding musicians of his day. These included such greats as Bernard Molique (1802-1869; see 31 August 2019), Franz Liszt (1811-1886) and Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881; see 30 April 2017).
The initial sonata-form "Allegro moderato" [T-7] begins with an attractive, folk-songish tune (AF) [00:00], having a commanding countersubject (AC) [00:41], both of which are repeated [01:09]. Then there's a related, infectious dance ditty (AD) [02:02] that's briefly explored and followed by an AF-initiated, piano-run-embellished development [03:30] of the previous ideas.
This gives way to the big-tune return of AC [04:36], which calls up an AD-based, magnificent fugue [04:51]. This invokes a powerful AC [05:37] that elicits nostalgic recollections of itself [06:09]. These are succeeded by an AC-AF-based, breathtaking coda [07:20] that ends the movement flamboyantly with a splash of AF [07:50].
The ternary, A-B-A "Adagio" [T-8] has a sighing introduction hinting at a somnific, lullaby-like melody (SL) soon to come [00:42]. SL fuels the "A"s, which surround an anxious, "B" development [02:08-03:40] and end the movement in the same spirit it began.
Apparently the "Finale, Allegro" [T-9] was very enthusiastically received, when the work premiered back in April 1835. That's understandable, considering this is a totally infectious, combination rondo-theme-and-variations based on a catchy main subject (MS).
It begins with a scampering introduction hinting at MS, which soon follows [00:22]. MS then takes on a beefy character [01:47] that turns "waltzish" [02:30] and bridges into a repeat of itself [03:52]. This becomes quite nostalgic [04:25], presaging Chopin's (1810-1849) more delicate solo keyboard fare (1817-47), and assumes a carousel-waltz-like guise [05:51], which turns flighty [06:16]. Subsequently, there are a couple of anticipatory pauses [06:39] and an MS afterthought [06:43]. Then the composer serves up an exhilarating coda [07:11] that brings the work to a cocky conclusion.
Austrian violinist Raimund Lissy and cellist Maria Grün along with Bulgarian pianist Srebra Gelleva deliver spirited renditions of these selections. Lissy and Gelleva are in fine form for all of these pieces; however, there are what seem like a couple of intonationally queasy cello passages in the Second Trio.
The recordings were made between January 2018 and April 2019 at Tonstudio Wavegarden in Mitteretzbach, Austria, some sixty miles north of Vienna. They present a limited soundstage in a warm studio venue, where the piano is centered with the strings just left (violin) and right (cello) of it.
The instrumental timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, as well as a clean midrange and bass with no hangover in the cello's lower registers. That said, this release would have earned an "Audiophile" rating had there been a greater sense of space around the soloists, thereby giving Mayseder's cultivated music more room to breathe. In that regard, some may find this CD presents a more lifelike sonic image on headphones as opposed to speakers.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200529)
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Stanford, C.: Stg Qts 1, 2 & 6 (prep J. Dibble); Dante Qt [SOMM]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Irish-born, British composer-teacher-conductor Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) left a substantial body of works across all genres, and with this release, the Dante Quartet (DQ) completes their welcome survey of his eight in that format (see 30 November 2016 & 31 December 2018). It includes the world premier recording of his Sixth, and arguably preferable performances of the earlier ones than the only other, somewhat dated versions of them still extant on disc.
As far as string quartets go, Sir Charles got off to a late start as he was almost forty before he began writing them. But he'd make up for lost time by completing the initial two within a few weeks of each other, during August and September 1891.
Both are in four movements, and the First (G major, Op. 44) has an opening, sonata-form "Allegro assai" ("Very fast") [T-1], whose exposition begins with a comely folk-song-like melody (CF) [00:02]. CF is examined, giving rise to a thematic nexus, containing three, related components, which are respectively yearning (CY) [01:14], capricious (CC) [01:52] and rhapsodic (CR) [02:05].
Then CR triggers a jumbo, consummate development [02:46] of the foregoing material that wanes into a CF-initiated recap [05:19] with reminders of CC [06:06] and CY [06:19]. Subsequently, there's a CR-derived sequence [07:00] adjoining a fugato [07:12], which ebbs into a CF-based, serenade-like coda [07:46] that ends the movement blithely.
Next, a delightful scherzoesque, A-B-A-B-A offering [T-2], having "Poco allegro e grazioso" ("Somewhat fast and graceful") "A"s [00:00, 02:21 & 03:42] based on a CY-reminiscent, waltzlike idea (CW), heard at the outset. They alternate with trio-like, "Presto" ("Very Fast") marked "B"s [01:43 & 03:05], featuring a CY-related, skittering ditty (CS), which smacks of pixilated moments in Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). Then the last "A" has an airy afterthought [05:07] that brings this music to a casual conclusion.
The succeeding "Largo con molto expressione" ("Slow and very expressive") [T-3] is one of the composer's most heartfelt, affecting utterances. It opens with an extended melancholy theme (EM) [00:00 & 01:04], which undergoes a moving development [02:18].
Then EM returns [05:45] and bridges [07:02] with some spicy pizzicato along the way [07:35], into a nostalgic EM postscript [08:20]. It has imitative memories of EM [09:03] and ends on an unresolved, sustained note [10:14] that's followed attacca by the last movement.
This is a virtuosic, "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") rondo [T-4] based on a binary idea (BI), which is an infectious gigue tune (BG) [00:00], adjoining a related, lyrical thought (BL) [01:06]. Then there are a couple of contrapuntally-laced explorations of BI [01:48 & 02:31], and after a pause, BL surfaces [03:18]. It wanes into an accelerating return of BG [beginning at 04:04], which calls up a couple of ff chords [04:35]. These are immediately followed by a BI-based frenetic afterthought [04:37] and thrilling coda [04:52] that end the work exultantly.
The Second Quartet (A minor, Op. 45) gets underway with another of those A-B-A-B-A movements (see above). However, this one [T-5] features "A"s based on a "Molto moderato" ("Very moderate"), pious, contrapuntally tinged tune (PC) [00:01, 05:02 & 07:14] and "B"s, having a related "Più moto" ("More quickly"), songlike melody [01:24 & 06:15]. The final then "A" closes the music peacefully.
A subsequent "Prestissimo" ("Very quick") [T-6] calls to mind more vivacious moments in Beethoven's (1770-1827) late quartets (1810-26). It features perky, outer sections based on a PC-derived, high-stepping ditty (PH) [00:00] wrapped around a trio [00:41-01:35] with a complementary, bagpipe-like tune initially set to a drone bass.
The next "Andante espressivo" ("Expressively flowing") [T-7] is a reworking of the first movement. Here Sir Charles gives us contemplative "A"s [00:00, 02:48 & 05:31] and agitated "B"s [01:34 & 04:42]. The final "A", which is spiced with some pizzicato, terminates things in affable fashion.
Then the work comes to a perky, "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") [T-8], rondo conclusion. This has a recurring theme with two components, where seemingly Dvorák's (1841-1904) Slavonic Dances (1878-87) color the first (RD) [00:00], and Brahms' (1833-1897) Hungarian counterparts (1868-80), the second (RB) [01:13].
RD is then repeated [02:11] and followed by a singsong rendition of RH [02:36] that transitions into a wistful variant of RD (RW) [03:28]. This becomes contrapuntally agitated [beginning at 03:49], giving way to RH thoughts [04:42], a pregnant pause and remembrances of RW [05:57 & 06:49]. The latter call up a whirling, RB-RD-based coda [07:18], which ends the Quartet with a curt, no-nonsense, "So there!" cadence [07:40].
Filling out this CD, the DQ serves up Charlie's Sixth effort in the genre of some twenty years later (A minor, Op. 122; 1910), This was probably performed a couple of times back in 1911, but subsequently fell into oblivion, and was never published. However, as with his Seventh Quartet on their previous release (see 31 December 2018), British musicologist and Stanford authority Professor Jeremy Dibble used what original material survives to prepare a working score for what's presented here.
In three movements, the initial sonata-form "Allegro molto moderato" ("Fast, but very moderate") [T-9] is for the most part a restive piece of work. The opening statement features an angular, meandering idea (AM) [00:01] followed by a related, sighing one (AS) [00:58]. Both are food for an antsy development [02:12], after which AM's reappearance [04:02] announces the recapitulation. Here there are passionate memories of AS [05:00], and then AM invokes shivering, lower strings [06:07] and excited passages [06:28]. These ebb into fleeting hints of AS [07:20] that end the movement tranquilly.
A middle "Andante quasi lento" ("Flowing somewhat slowly") is an endearing, ternary, A-B-A utterance [T-10] with "A"s [00:00 & 04:46], featuring a lovely melody of Hibernian hue (LH) [00:10]. They embrace a troubled "B" [02:23-04:45] based on a sorrowful relative of LH (LS) [02:28], which is all the more bereaved for some sobbing tremolo plus teardrop pizzicato [04:08]. Then an even warmer "A" closes the movement with a "Col intimissimi sentimento" ("With very intimate feelings") marked remembrance of LS [07:00] that brings the movement to a celestial conclusion.
The composer closes this consummate Quartet in rousing fashion with an "Allegro scherzando" ("Fast and playful") [T-11], which begins with teasers for an imminent, flighty, whimsical thought (FW) [00:12], FW in then explored, and spirited wisps of AM [00:51] invoke a related, lyrical theme (AL) [01:12] that's cause for a brief serenade.
This is succeeded by a pause and FW-triggered, contrapuntally spiced development [01:57] with more hints of AM [02:12]. Subsequently, there are a couple of Mendelssohnian, pixilated episodes [02:48 & 03:07], the last of which announces an amorous return of AL [03:43]. Then tenuous passages [04:36] with a couple of tension-building pauses lead to a perky, FW-based fugue [04:49]. This becomes increasingly jubilant with elated reminders of AS [05:40], thereby ending the work exultantly.
As on their previous explorations of this composer's Quartets (see 30 November 2016 & 31 December 2018), the DQ delivers equally dashing, technically accomplished, authoritative accounts of these remaining three. Sir Charles couldn't have better advocates!
The recordings were made a little over a year ago at St. Nicholas Parish Church in Thames Ditton some 20 miles southwest of London. They project an appropriately sized sonic image in affable surroundings with the instruments comfortably spaced from left to right in order of increasing size, and well balanced against one another.
The string tone is characterized by somewhat shrill highs, a pleasant midrange and clean bass with no hint of boominess in the cello's lower registers. While the sound is very serviceable, this release falls a tad short of demonstration quality.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200528)
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