CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 SEPTEMBER 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.
Ichmouratov: "Youth" Ov, "Maslenitsa" Ov, Sym "On the Ruins of an Ancient Fort"; Tremblay/OrFranco [Chandos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Hailing from Tatarstan, Russia, Montreal-resident composer Airat Ichmouratov (b. 1973) is becoming a CLOFO regular with this second release from Chandos featuring three more of his orchestral works (see 30 November 2019). These are the only versions of them currently available on commercial disc.
The program gets off to a zealous start with the composer's "Youth" Overture (Op. 50; 2016), which is dedicated to our performers, the Montreal-based Orchestre de la Francophonie (OrFranco) and its founding music director, conductor Jean-Phillipe Tremblay. It's meant to reflect youth's journey into adulthood, which the composer likens to crossing a windswept, turbulent ocean.
Consequently, the "Adagio magnifico" ("Slow and glorious") opening [T-1, 00:00] has dramatic, drum-roll-enhanced, brass fanfares (DB) [00:01] and a festive, "Allegro maestoso" ("Fast and majestic") idea (FA) [01:04]. FA is followed by a couple of related thoughts, the first being a scampering ditty (FS) introduced by the clarinet [01:21].
FS bridges obstreperously into a "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") cantabile melody (FC) for the strings [03:32]. Then FC fuels some amorous, "Allegro maestoso" ("Fast and majestic") [04:07] and "Allegro vivace" ("Fast and spirited") [04:48] recollections of itself, which smack of Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) symphonies (1866-93).
After that, chortling bassoons and a saucy xylophone [05:39] initiate "Scherzoso" (Scherzoesque"), martial passages. These seemingly express youthful determination to triumph over all of life's stormy trials and tribulations on the way to adulthood [07:13].
They're followed by "Maestoso" ("Majestic") DB [07:22], which give way to a pause and "Allegro vivace" ("Fast and spirited") wisps of FS [T-2, 00:01] with horns and muted trumpets [00:05]. This music becomes "Poco meno mosso" ("A little less lively") with a big tune return of FC [02:16]. Then the pace once again quickens as FS returns engendering "Pił mosso, accelerando poco a poco" ("More lively, accelerating little by little") passages [04:15], and a "Pił mosso" ("More lively") coda [05:10] that ends the work triumphantly.
The next selection, Airat's "Maslenitsa" Overture (Op. 36, 2012), is of religious persuasion. It's a musical characterization of the annual festival by that name held the week before Lent in Belarus and Ukraine.
Accordingly, the opening "Lento religioso" ("Slow and religious") features a hymn tune (SH) for the winds [T-3, 00:00] with tubular chimes, ostensibly imitating the sound of church bells. As noted in the album booklet, the overall effect brings to mind devout moments in Modest Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) opera Boris Godunov (1868-73).
Then piquant winds playing SH [01:48] invoke a "Poco pił mosso" ("A little more lively") episode [02:18], where unison horns play a valiant version of SH (SV) [02:23]. Incidentally, SV contains a major 7th interval (M7), which the composer reputedly considers his personal fate motif.
Be that as it may, this is followed by a subdued, sustained note for the strings [03:22] and reminders of the opening measures [03:25]. They conjure up a drum-roll-introduced "Allegro brillante" ("Joyful and bright") segment [03:54] that has two, SH-related thoughts. These are a flighty, woodwind number [04:17] and scampering tune (SS) for the strings [04:57]. Curiously enough, the music here brings to mind the overture to Mikhail Glinka's (1804-1857) opera Ruslan and Ludmilla (1837-42).
Subsequently, SH returns initiating a "Maestoso" ("Majestic") [07:39] episode. This falls off into a somber, sustained note for the strings, and the oboe begins a "Lento" ("Slow") with a wistful variant of SH [T-4, 00:00]. However, it's interrupted by an SV-reminiscent, drum-roll-introduced, "Allegro brillante" ("Fast and bright") outburst [01:17], and SS-related, "Presto festivo" ("Very fast and festive") segment [01:33].
The latter turns "Moderato maestoso" ("Moderate and majestic") with trumpets recalling SV [02:00]. Then there's a "Poco meno mosso" ("A little less lively") bridge [02:11] into a thrilling, SS-based, "Presto festivo" ("Very fast and festive") [02:35] with whooping brass and pounding drums. It ends the Overture suggesting the merriment also associated with this pre-Lenten celebration.
The city of Longueuil, Quebec, some five miles up the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal, is the location of a national historic site, where a fort once stood (1690-1810). The composer honors this legendary citadel in the closing work, which is a Symphony, subtitled "On the Ruins of an Ancient Fort" (Op. 55; 2015-17).
Having four movements, the first begins "Andante" ("Slowly") [T-5, 00:00] with subdued timpani and bass drum strokes underlying an ominous, brass motif (OB) [00:08], suggesting the Indian tribes in this region prior to the arrival of the French. Then the horns expand OB into a forceful idea (OF) [00:47], somewhat resembling the one opening Shostakovich's (1906-1975) Fifth Symphony (D minor, Op. 47; 1937).
OF is explored in "Moderato espressivo" ("Moderate and expressive") [01:37] and "Pił mosso" ("More lively") [02:55] passages, giving rise to a related, comforting theme (OC) for the strings [03:24]. These two ideas respectively characterize the heroic and irenic aspects of Charles (II) le Moyne de Longueuil (1656-1729), who built the subject fort.
Then both themes undergo tone-poem-like treatments. The first three range from "Poco meno mosso" ("A little less lively") [04:14] to "Moderato" ("Moderate") [05:05] and "Larghetto" ("Rather slow") [06:00] in character.
They're succeeded by another "Andante" ("Slow") [07:12] one, as well as four more of "Allegro con anima" ("Fast with spirit") [09:28], "Maestoso" ("Majestic") [10:35], "Moderato espressivo" ("Moderate and expressive") [11:23] and "Meno mosso, maestoso" ("Less lively, but majestic") [11:32] persuasion. Then a final "Andante" ("Slow") [12:34] with a dramatic, last reminder of OF [15:34] brings the movement to a powerful conclusion.
The next is an "Allegro scherzando" ("Fast and playful") [T-6] offering based on an OC-like, effervescent tune (OE) [00:03] followed by an OF-derived, songful melody (OS) [00:29]. They reflect today's Longueuil, and OE makes it easy to imagine children at play.
Subsequently, the music seemingly limns busy adults [01:20], speeding traffic [02:21 & 03:15], and what could even be a passing parade [04:15]. Then the movement ends boisterously [05:28] with implications of an active nightlife in this town. Incidentally, there are more hints of the Shostakovich Fifth along the way.
A captivating "Largo" ("Slow") [T-7] follows, which we're told honors the memory of Mother Marie-Rose Durocher (1811-1849), who founded a religious teaching institute in Longueuil. It begins reverently [00:00], and there are trumpet solos [beginning at 02:10] reminiscent of that solemn, US Army bugle call known as Taps, which give way to a saucy march [07:37]. This wanes [beginning at 11:30] thereby closing things in the same spirit they began, but with some timpani accents [13:07] plus a couple of church-bell-like chimes [13:22 & 13:27].
The fourth movement [T-8] gets off to an "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") start having a heroic, upward motif (HU) [00:00] spanning another M7 (see above). HU brings to mind a motto in the Shostakovich Fourth Symphony's (C minor, Op. 43; 1935-36) last movement, and is followed by an HU-related, jolly ditty (HJ) for the winds [01:24] that triggers a delightful, jig-like caper. However, the mood turns enigmatic as OB and OF initiate "Andante misterioso" ("Slow and mysterious") passages [03:19], after which "Larghetto" ("Rather slow") ones [05:29] with a pensive cello [05:40] bring back memories of Mother Marie-Rose.
Then with the subsequent, timpani-accented, "Allegro con anima" ("Fast with spirit") [07:48] passages, the work seems to take its inspiration from Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) later symphonies (1904-10). They make a "Poco meno mosso" ("A little less lively") [08:51] bridge into ebullient "Meno mosso, maestoso" ("Less lively, but majestic") [08:57] and "Allegro con brio" ("Fast with vigour") [11:11] ones, followed by a "Festivo" ("Festive") coda [11:31], which ends the work excitedly.
All three selections receive outstanding performances from the OrFranco under Maestro Tremblay. They give highly spirited, yet sensitive accounts of these scores, making a strong case for these Ichmouratov symphonic treats.
Made a little over a year ago at the Concordia University's Oscar Peterson Concert Hall in Montreal, the recordings project a generous, though somewhat withdrawn, sonic image in warm, spacious surroundings. The instrumental timbre is characterized by subdued highs with some brittle moments in the upper strings, but a rich midrange. The low end is very clean and goes down to rockbottom with some pants-flapping, bass drum work.
Everything considered, soundwise this disc falls a tad short of a CLOFO "Audiophile" rating. However, it easily earns a "Recommended" on the basis of these superb, well played late-romantic creations by one of today's most outstanding Canadian composers.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200930)
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Krzyżanowska: Vc Son, Vn Son, Stg Qt; CamVistChEn Soloists & Qt [DUX]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Halina Krzyżanowska (1860-1937; aka Helena) was born to Polish parents in Courbevoie on the northwest outskirts of Paris, and inherited her mother's musical skills. She began playing the piano as a young girl and would soon attend the Conservatoire de Paris (ConP).
At age 12, she'd win a medal for being the ConP's best solfčge student. By way of reminder, this is an exercise used for sight-reading vocal music, where each note of the scale is assigned a monosyllabic name (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do). Sometimes they're also represented with hand symbols, like the ones used in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which were so effectively intoned by John Williams' (b. 1932) music for that film.
Halina also studied piano there, and as a seventeen-year-old, attended and won a first prize, gold medal at a public competition. Additionally, she took harmony, counterpoint and composition courses that undoubtedly account for the refined, Gallic veneer characterizing her music. But underneath that, it has strong cultural ties to Poland and is a delightful, romantic forerunner of what would soon come from another Polish, lady composer, namely Graznya Bacewicz (1909-1969; see 17 August 2011, 28 April 2013 and 30 June 2018).
The year 1889 saw Halina take up permanent residence in Rennes, some 200 miles west-southwest of Paris, and begin giving piano classes at the local Conservatoire. During the 1890s, she also made some very well received concert tours in Europe, and organized concerts at home, featuring Polish music.
An outstanding pianist and valued teacher, Krzyżanowska was also a highly regarded composer, who produced a small body of works across most genres. They include several chamber pieces, some of which are presented here. All three-movement works, these are the only readily available recordings of them currently on disc.
The concert starts with her Cello Sonata (F minor, Op. 47) that may have been written around 1925. The first sonata-form "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") [T-1] has a rhapsodic, opening idea for the cello (RO) [00:00], which bridges into a related, songful melody (RS) intoned by the piano [01:32]. Then an abbreviated RO calls up a thoughtful development [02:19] of the foregoing material [02:19]. It ebbs and flows into the return of RS on the cello [05:51], which initiates a captivating recapitulation that ends the movement wistfully.
An "Andantino" ("Ambulating") marked intermezzo [T-2] is next, where the two instruments engage in a lovely duet based on an RO-related, halcyon melody (RH) [00:00]. This serves as a serene proem to the sonata-rondo, "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") finale [T-3] that opens with a vivacious version of RH (RV) [00:00].
RV bridges into an exultant, countersubject (RE) [00:40] that's examined and wanes into a pause, succeeded by a contemplation of RV [01:42]. Then after another break, there's a lively transition [02:23] into an RV-based, fugato-initiated development [02:33]. It gives way to a spirited, RV-initiated recap [03:12] with exuberant outbursts of past ideas [beginning at 03:57]. This waxes and wanes into an RV-riddled, scurrying coda [05:32] that ends the work emphatically.
Next, the earlier Violin Sonata (E minor, Op. 28; pub. 1915), which also has an opening "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") [T-4]. However, this one is a theme-and-variations that begins with the violin playing a searching main subject (MS) to a fervent, keyboard accompaniment.
Subsequently, the piano takes the lead in a rapturous, first of several variants [01:03]. It's followed by others, ranging from excited [01:43] to anxious [02:28], questioning [04:10] and nostalgic [05:19], Then a euphoric one [06:01] with an MS-based, glorious coda [07:00] ends the movement triumphantly.
The winsome "Andante" ("Slow") [T-5] is based on a captivating, peripatetic tune spun out by the violin, and provides a brief respite before the closing, "Allegro non troppo" ("Fast but not too quickly") marked sonata-rondo [T-6]. The latter opens with an angular, saucy, violin ditty (AS) [00:00] that's seconded by piano [00:20], thereby transitioning [00:39] into a related, lyrical countermelody (AL) [00:46].
AL is explored [00:53] and builds into an AS-initiated, excited development [01:33], followed by a plucky, AS-triggered recap [02:04]. Here AS alternates with respectively amorous as well as nostalgic versions of AL [02:24 & 03:46], and calls up a thrilling coda [04:37]. The latter ends the sonata with a somber AL-afterthought [05:25], succeeded by a pause and an excited AS flourish [05:58].
The program concludes with Halina's String Quartet (A major, Op. 44; pub.1925). Its initial "Allegro commodo" ("Comfortably fast") [T-7] might best be described as a theme-with-contemplations. This has an amorous, opening main subject (MS) soon followed by wistful [00:56], playful [01:27] and whirling [01:51] treatments that bridge hesitantly into a keening one [03:04]. The latter invokes tender memories of MS [04:18, 04:44 & 05:11], after which scampering versions of it [06:08 & 06:24] turn introspective [06:49] and end the movement tranquilly.
An interim "Andante" ("Slow") [T-8] is a captivating serenade based on an MS-tinged, aria-like theme. It whets the appetite for the closing "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") [T-9] that starts with a frisky version of MS (FS) [00:01]. FS is the recurring idea for this delightful rondo, where it undergoes several modifications of varying temperament.
These range from hymnlike [00:30] to yearning [01:57], anxious [02:28] and optimistic [03:14]. Then a cheerful, big-tune variant [04:09] is succeeded by a sentimental treatment [05:04] This gives way to a capricious one [05:42] that turns momentarily nostalgic [06:07-06:36], but ends the work with a cheery, rakish reminder of FS [06:38].
Our artists here are drawn from the Camerata Vistula Chamber Ensemble (CVCE). Taking its name from Poland's legendary river, this group includes six strings, five winds and a piano. The Sonatas receive sensitive, beautifully phrased performances from cellist Anna Wróbel with pianist Małgorzata Marczyk, and violinist Andrzej Gębski accompanied by pianist Grzegorz Skrobińiski. Then four unidentified members of the CVCE give a landmark account of the String Quartet.
The recordings were made on a couple of occasions during the fall of 2019 at the Matecznik-Mazowsze Concert Hall located in Otrębusy, Poland, some 10 air miles southwest of Warsaw. They project aptly sized, centered sonic images in warm, pleasantly reverberant surroundings.
The sonatas have the soloists on either side of the piano (cello right & violin left). Whereas the Quartet finds the strings comfortably centered from left to right in order of increasing size. The recordings are lifelike with a touch of highend "digitalis". However, a good midrange and clean bass with no hint of muddiness in the cello's lower registers make for an overall acceptable sound.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200929)
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Sawyers: Sym 4, Hommage to Kandinsky (symphonic poem); K.Woods/BBCWalNa [Nimbus]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
London-born Philip Sawyers (b. 1951) began playing the violin at 13, and started writing music shortly thereafter. He's since become another promising British composer like his younger compatriot Robin Stevens (b. 1958), whom we told you about last month (see 31 August 2020).
Both attended the Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England, and subsequently, Sawyers has produced a notable number of works across most genres. These include four symphonies, and Nimbus has already released his well-received First (2004; see NI-6129), highly acclaimed Second (2008; see NI-6281), as well as the Third (2016; see NI-6353), which was a Gramophone Magazine "Critics' Choice" back in 2017.
Now they give us the Fourth (2018) coupled with one of his earlier, large-scale, symphonic poems, these being the only versions currently available on disc. The album booklet has prolix comments by both the composer and conductor regarding both works, so we'll just hit the high points in the following commentary.
The Symphony is atypically in three movements, the first being a "Moderato" ("Moderate") marked, sonata-form-like one [T-1]. It has a brass, timpani-bass-drum punctuated preface [00:03] that calls up a perky, piquant motif from the oboe (PP) [00:22], followed by the first violins playing a related, twelve-tone-like, lyrical theme (PL) [00:27]. These ideas give way to a contrapuntally spiced development [00:45], where various keys battle with one another and call up a dynamic recapitulation [08:47]. The latter has a big-tune reminder of PL [09:32], which parents a tragic coda [10:16] that closes the movement despairingly.
A mercurial scherzo is next [T-2] with outer "Presto" ("Very fast") episodes [00:00 & 06:12] based on a scampering, melodic inversion of PL (PS) [00:00]. Both have waltzlike as well as fugal segments, and surround a PS-related, "Moderato" ("Moderate") trio [04:34-06:11]. Then the movement ends excitedly with a "pił moss" ("more lively") [09:47] last thought.
The final "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-3] starts with a somber funeral march [00:01], which waxes [03:28] and wanes [03:59] into a serenade-like episode. This has a PP-PL-reminiscent, wistful idea (PW) introduced by the winds [04:22] that's soon lyricized by the first violins [05:48].
Then the foregoing is suddenly followed by a couple of forte, drum-pounding, aggressive sections [07:13 & 08:37] with recurring references to PW. These ebb into a chorale-like version of PW [10:49], which turns triumphant with memories of past ideas, and is succeeded by a PP-based coda [14:48] that concludes the Symphony exultantly.
From what the composer tells us, it seems the seeds for his symphonic poem titled Hommage to Kandinsky (2014) were planted back in 2006, when he attended a "Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction" exhibition at the Tate Modern Gallery of Art in London. Then with the commissioning of a new work from him by the Grand Rapids Symphony (GRSO) located in Michigan, USA, this piece blossomed forth! Incidentally, his First Symphony (see above) was also written for the GRSO.
Russian-born Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) pioneered abstract art, and judging from what Sawyers says, this music expresses his emotional responses to the paintings, rather than being programmatic depictions of them. Structurally speaking, it's similar to Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) symphonic poems (1886-1915), and scored for a large orchestra (see the album notes).
This music is theme-and-variations-like. Moreover, after a somber, pianissimo introduction (SI) [T-4, 00:02], we get a binary main subject, having an audacious, march-like, first idea (AM) [01:15], which was apparently inspired by Wassily's "Composition IV" (1911), and then a related, lyrical second (AL) [02:07].
A variety of treatments follow, ranging from contemplative [02:44] to martial [03:59], whimsical [04:32], flowing [05:10], songlike [05:41], scampering [08:11] and mysterious [09:31]. These are succeeded by belligerent [11:30], peaceful [14:32], as well as distraught [17:23] ones Then there's a scherzoesque number [19:23], which transitions into a remembrance of SI [21:38] and an extended reworking of AM [22:50].
This bridges into AL-like passages [25:41] with a last hint of AM on the oboe [26:44], followed by a fortissimo, drumroll-reinforced, brass outburst [26:59]. Then like fresh paint on a canvas drying and fading, the latter wanes away thereby ending the work tranquilly.
Outstanding performances by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBCWalNa) under American-born, UK-resident conductor Kenneth Woods make a strong case for Sawyers' music. Moreover, Maestro Woods' careful phrasing, expressive, dynamic shadings and well-judged tempos bring out all the subtleties in these superbly crafted works.
Produced last January in association with the BBC and BBCWalNa, the recordings took place at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, Wales, some 130 miles east of London. They project a wide, but somewhat withdrawn sonic image in spacious, affable surroundings, and the orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs with some bright spots, but an acceptable midrange. As for the low end, it goes down to rock bottom; however, the bass drum is a bit boomy. Everything considered, while the overall sound is serviceable, it won't win any "Audiophile" awards.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200928)
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Vieuxtemps: Vn & Orch Wks (5 and Duo brillant with vn & vc); Kuppel/Bogatyrev/Bosch/Qatar PO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
With this welcome release from Naxos, Belgian-born, violinist-composer Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) makes a long overdue return to CLOFO. One of the greatest violinists during the romantic period of music, Henri concertized all over Europe as well as in Russia and the United States.
He was born some 45 years after that outstanding French violinist Pierre Rode (1774-1830; see 30 March 2015 as well as 30 November 2015 and 31 July 2018. What's more, Vieuxtemps came between two other, great Belgian virtuosi, namely Charles-Auguste de Bériot (1802-1870; see 30 April 2017) and Eugčne Ysa’e (1858-1931; see 21 September 2011). Incidentally, he was a student of the former and would go on to teach the latter.
Henri composed a notable number of orchestral works featuring the violin. These include seven, completed concertos (1840-1870) as well as a number of shorter concert pieces, six of which fill out this CD.
The first selection is his Fantaisie, "Souvenir de Russie" (Op. 21; 1840) [T-1] that was written and premiered in Russia under the name Souvenir de Moscou. It has an "Andante moderato" ("Moderately slow") orchestral preface, followed by a lovely melody for the violin [00:44], which undergoes a virtuosic elaboration.
Then the piece concludes with a captivating episode [05:16] based on some melodies from Russian composer Alexey Verstovsky's (1799-1862) opera, Askold's Grave (1835; currently unavailable on disc). This was the most popular of Alexey's six efforts in the genre, but has since faded into obscurity. The three tunes Vieuxtemps borrowed from it all appear in the third act. They include ones from two of Torop's songs [05:41 & 06:16] as well as a spirited, Slavic folk dance [06:39] that ends the Fantasie in thrilling fashion.
The British Isles figure heavily in the next selection titled Old England (G major, Op. 42; 1865) [T-2]. This is a vivacious capriccio that has some timeless 16th and 17th century English melodies. Three of them are from "The Oak and the Ash" [00:05], "Sally in Our Alley" [05:40] and "The British Grenadiers Song" [08:25]. Then a rousing "Rule Brittania" [11:09] ends the work triumphantly.
Next, we get the three-movement Duo brillant (A major, Op. 39; 1861), where the violin is joined by a cello. At only fifteen-minutes, it's a miniature double-concerto, which the album notes tell us served as an inspiration for Brahms' (1833-1897) ever popular effort in this genre (Op. 102; 1887).
The curt, opening "Maestoso" ("Majestic") [T-3] is a proud offering, soon succeeded by a brief, moving "Adagio" [T-4]. Then there's a catchy "Allegretto" ("Lively") [T-5], which is almost half as long again as the previous two movements combined. It has a demanding cadenza with both soloists [05:07-06:35] and ends excitedly.
This sets the stage for the next Andante et rondo (E major, Op. 29; pub. 1853) [T-6] that also exists in a version with piano accompaniment (currently unavailable on disc). It opens with a tuneful serenade for soloist and tutti [00:00], which wanes into an "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") rondo [03:53]. This is based on several delightful tunes that parent episodes of differing temperament, and close the work in jolly fashion.
Next there's Air varié avec introduction de l'opéra "Il pirata" de Bellini (Variations with Introduction from Bellini's Opera "The Pirate"), Op. 6 (pub. 1837) [T-7]. It's a set of variations on a melody from Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini's (1801-1835) work by that name (1826), and begins with festive orchestral fanfares [00:00] reminiscent of those opening the opera's overture.
The soloist soon plays a melody [00:22] presaging the subject Bellini theme (SB), which then appears in the orchestra [02:19]. SB is picked up by the violin [02:39], thereby becoming fuel for some inventive variations. The first three are sequentially ornate [03:38], coloratura-like [05:05] and flirtatious [06:13]. Then a frenetic fourth [07:38], which is a bravura display of fiddle fireworks, ends the piece in a blaze of glory.
Bringing this CD to a colorful conclusion, there's Hommage ą Paganini (Op. 9; pub. 1846), where Henri honors that renowned, Italian, virtuoso (1782-1840). Based on two ideas smacking of the latter's 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (Op. 1; 1802-17; see 28 February 2019), it's a short, showy work with some attention-grabbing, violin special effects.
That said, after a few, opening violin pyrotechniques, we get the first of those themes [00:49] soon followed by its companion [01:35]. They respectively call to mind the old familiar 24th Caprice and lesser-known 7th. Both are ideally suited to the rondoesque passages that conclude this delightful work and disc.
The performances are by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO) under German conductor Marcus Bosch, and feature its concertmaster, German violinist Retto Kuppel, and principal cellist, Russian Kirill Bogatyrev. Both soloists give technically accomplished, stunning renditions of Henri's flashy scores, and receive enthusiastic support the QPO.
These recordings were made over a four-day period, early last year at Auditorium 3 of the National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar. They present a suitably sized, sonic image in pleasant surroundings with the soloists centered in front of the QPO, seemingly just left (violin) and right (cello) of Maestro Bosch.
The overall sound is generally serviceable with the violin and cello well captured as well as balanced against the tutti. As for the instrumental timbre, it's characterized by somewhat thin, bright highs, an acceptable midrange, and clean lows, where a bass drum occasionally plumbs the depths.
While this release doesn't rate an "Audiophile" stripe, its musical content is extraordinary. That said, come 2021, it may well qualify as one of the "Best Finds of Last Year".
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P200927)
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