31 MAY 2021


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.

The album cover may not always appear.
Karnavičius: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2; Vilnius Stg Qt [Ondine]
Since the late 1800s three generations of individuals named Jurgis Karnavičius have made significant contributions to the Lithuanian classical music scene. More specifically, there's the composer (1884-1941), who's featured here, as well as his concert-pianist son (1912-2001) and grandson (b. 1957).

Dad was born in Kaunas, but grew up in Vilnius, about 60 miles east-southeast of there. Subsequently, the year 1903, saw him journey to St. Petersburg, Russia, where he got a law degree from the local university (1908).

Young Jurgis then went on to study at that city's distinguished conservatory (SPC), where his instructors included such greats as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908; see 14 July 2014), Anatol Liadov (aka Anatole or Anatoly; 1855-1914) and Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936; see 12 April 2012).

After graduation in 1913 he started teaching music there, but with the outbreak of World War I (1914-18), Karnavičius was conscripted into the Russian army (1914). After that things went from bad to worse as he was captured by the Germans (1915) and spent three years in Vienna's Josefstadt Prison.

Upon his release (1918), he returned to St. Petersburg, then known as Petrograd, where he became actively involved with its music circles. However, with the formation of the Soviet Union (1922-1991), the city was renamed Leningrad in 1924, and by 1926 Jurgis had been appointed chairman of its Contemporary Music Association. That said, he shunned the avant-garde for music having a romantic disposition like that of his teachers.

But these politically troublesome times throughout Russia resulted in the composer and his family moving back to Kaunas during 1927. He then spent the rest of his life there composing as well as teaching at the local conservatory. And incidentally, in 1949 this merged with the one in Vilnius to become what's now known as the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre.

Karnavičius left a modest number of compositions. The larger scale ones include two operas, four ballets and some incidental music for theatrical productions. Then there are also four string quartets (1913-25), the first two of which -- each four-movement works -- fill out this exceptional Ondine release. Both world premiere recordings, these are the only versions currently available on disc.

Written in 1913 not long after he graduated from SPC, the String Quartet No. 1, Op. 1 shows Jurgis's studies had given him a thorough command of counterpoint. The work begins with a sonata-form "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-1], whose opening statement has a folkish dance tune (FD] [00:02]. FD is followed by an exploration [00:35], hinting at a related, songlike number (FS) that's soon heard in full [01:26] and cause for an extended, rhapsodic examination [01:49].

Subsequently, FD initiates an impassioned development [03:47] with wisps of FS [beginning at 04:50] and a vivacious recap [06:10]. The latter has nostalgic memories of FS [07:14] that make an amorous bridge into an FD-based afterthought [09:24], which ends the movement tranquilly.

A lively scherzo is next [T-2]. It has almost identical "allegro" ("fast") outer sections, each being ternary, A-B-A utterance with "A"s based on a flighty ditty [00:00, 00:55, 04:45 & 05:42] and "B"s having a related, anxious tune [00:29 & 05:14]. They bracket a thematically similar, coy, "moderato" ("moderate") trio (MT) [01:34-04:44], and the last of them hints at MT [06:09] before closing this delightful cavort full circle.

Merriment turns to melancholy in the succeeding slow movement [T-3]. It begins with an "andante" ("slow"), pensive theme [00:00] (AP) that's repeated [00:51]. AP is food for four sequentially meditative, variation-like developments, the first being of an apprehensive, "poco piů mosso" ("a little more lively") nature [01:48]. It's succeeded by three "moderato" ("moderate") ones, which are respectively restless [03:05], hymn-tune-reminiscent [04:27] and searching [06:45]. Then a pious, "poco piů lento" ("a little more slowly") postscript [07:57] ends the movement reverently.

The frolicsome, "allegro" ("fast"), sonata-rondo finale [T-4] has an opening statement with four spirited motifs, which we'll refer to as S1 [00:00], S2 [00:21], S3 [00:46] and S4 [00:55]. The preceding are developmentally tossed about [01:56] and wane into a pause followed by a songful treatment of S4 [02:36]. Then S2 becomes the subject of a consummate fugue [03:57] with reminders of S1 [04:34] and S3 [05:06]. These ebb into another pause, after which an excited recap of all the motifs [beginning at 05:59) brings the work to a joyful conclusion.

Next up, the more structurally as well as harmonically complex String Quartet No. 2, Op. 6 (1917). Written under far from ideal circumstances while Jurgis was in captivity (see above), it's an introspective creation, whose first movement [T-5] has a somber, "molto moderato" ("very moderate") introduction [00:00]. This hints at a troubled thematic nexus (TN) [00:22] that immediately starts the "allegro moderato" ("moderately fast") main body of the movement.

TN is the basis for an extended, dramatically intricate development [beginning at 01:56], followed by a recap of the opening measures [06:25]. Then there's some additional, agitated developmental passages [beginning at 07:31], which wane into foreboding reminiscences of TN [11:41] that conclude the movement on a tragic note.

The mood brightens in the following scherzo [T-6]. Here a couple of playful tunes are the subject matter for "allegretto" ("lively") outer sections [00:00 & 06:35]. They bookend a thematically related "sostenuto" ("sustained") [03:27-06:34] and bring the movement full circle.

But things turn disconsolate in the searching "Andante" ("Slow") [T-7], which is an emotional outpouring based on a heartfelt notion that undergoes several devout, variational treatments. These range from searching [01:41, 02:29] to songful [03:54], anxious [05:13 & 05:59] and resigned [7:06, 09:21 & 09:59], with the last of them bringing this music to a despondent conclusion.

Then it's "allegro" ("fast") sonata-rondo time again (see above). This one has an opening statement featuring a confident, swaying theme (CS) [00:00] and a related, tender tune (CT) [00:54]. Subsequently, CS evokes a moving development [01:54] with nostalgic memories of CT [02:44], which wane into a stirring, CS-initiated recapitulation [04:59]. Here CS reappears several times with hints of CT. Then CS makes a final, big-tune entrance [07:31] and powers an excited coda [07:47] that ends the work with four, emphatic forte chords [07:56-08:00].

Since its debut in 1965, the prize-winning Vilnius Quartet (VQ; first-violinist Dalia Kuznecovaitė, second-violinist Artūras Šilalė, violist Kristina Anusevičiūtė, cellist Augustinas Vasiliauskas) has gained international acclaim. Consequently, Ondine couldn't have picked a more appropriate group of performers when they commissioned the VQ to record all four of their fellow countryman's works in this genre.

These musicians deliver superb accounts of the ones here. What's more, those liking this CD can look forward to an upcoming release with them playing the other two, which will hopefully appear in the not too distant future.

The recordings were done a year ago at the Lithuanian National Philharmonic's home concert hall located in Vilnius. This is a pleasant venue, where they present consistently wide, somewhat distant sonic images with the instruments centered and placed from left to right in the usual quartet configuration.

The string tone is characterized by generally pleasant highs with a bit of glitter, while both the midrange as well as low end are clean with no hint of boominess in the cello's lower registers. Depending on your audio equipment and speaker placement, some may find the sound more satisfying on headphones.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P210531)


The album cover may not always appear.
Romberg, A.J.: Syms 1 & 3, Die Großmut des Scipio Ov; Griffiths/Phion OG&O [CPO]
Not to be confused with his cousin, cellist-composer Bernhard Romberg (1767-1841; see CPO-777969), this welcome, recent CPO release is devoted exclusively to the orchestral works of Andreas Jakob Romberg (1767-1821), who was born in Vechta, Germany, some 250 miles west of Berlin. A wunderkind, Andreas studied violin with his musician father and was giving public performances by the age of six! He then became a Teutonic forerunner of Paganini (1782-1840) and made extensive concert tours throughout Europe, thereby gaining international fame.

A.J. also played in the Bonn court orchestra, but the year 1793 saw him take up residence in Hamburg, where he had a highly successful career. Then in 1815 he moved almost 250 miles south to Gotha. There he succeeded Louis Spohr (1784-1859) as conductor of the court orchestra, and would live out his life.

Romberg left a substantial body of works across most genres. These were written during a very interesting time, more specifically, the years bridging the last of the Classical period (1730-1820) with those beginning the early Romantic era (1800-1910). His oeuvre includes eight operas as well as ten symphonies (only six have come down to us), and music from both of these categories fills out this CD.

The two, four-movement symphonies included here were composed around the same time as Franz Joseph Haydn's (1732-1809) London Symphonies (1791-95), and are similarly structured as well as scored (see the album notes). Incidentally, they're the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

But turning to his operas, things get off to a lively start with the Overture from his one-act, last one titled Die Großmut des Scipio (The Magnanimity of Scipio, Op. 54; 1816) [T-1], this being the only part of it currently available on disc. The music brings to mind Mozart's (1756-1791) opera seria known as La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus, K. 621; 1791). And in that regard, it has late 18th century roots, but is headed towards such early 19th century, French stage work overtures as Louis Ferdinand Herold's (1791-1833) Zampa (1831; hear a Hoffnung-like satire of the latter).

Returning to Herr Romberg, the plot concerns Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio (agnomen Africanus, 236-183 BC) and the compassion he showed after his ultimate defeat of the Carthaginians in the Battle of Ilipa (207-06 BC) on the outskirts of what's now Seville, Spain. Moreover, the story involves two main protagonists named Althea and Allucius, who's her betrothed. She's been taken hostage after the aforementioned confrontation, and Scipio returns her to Allucius along with the ransom he's paid for her release.

The music begins with a Scipio-associated commanding, valiant theme (CV) [T-1; 00:02], having a martial countersubject (CM) [00:23]. They're followed by a related, affectionate melody (CA) [01:01] that seemingly reflects the relationship between Althea and Allucius. Then the foregoing thoughts undergo a searching exploration [01:58] that calls up a dramatic recap [02:46]. Here remembrances of the foregoing ideas evoke a CV-CM based, blithe coda [04:57], which ends things, anticipating the Opera's joyful, final turn of events.

Next up, the Symphony No. 1 in E♭ major, Op. 6 (1793-94). Its first movement [T-2] has an "adagio" ("slow"), affecting introduction [00:00] that hints at an imminent, lyrical, recurring idea (LR) soon to come. Then the "allegro con spirito" ("fast with spirit"), rondoesque main body (RMB) of this movement starts with a full version of LR [01:14]. LR adjoins a forceful countersubject [01:27], is repeated [01:41] and alternates with developmental passages [02:17, 04:17, 05:29 & 06:50]. LR then fuels a thrilling coda [07:43] that brings the movement to an elated conclusion.

A succeeding "Andante" ("Slow") [T-3] is similarly structured to RMB. It's based on an LR-related, peripatetic tune (LP) [00:00], interspersed with five variational treatments of LP. These are sequentially searching [01:10], whimsical [01:42], wistful [02:17], demurring [02:48], as well as martial [03:22], and then LR ends this section full circle [04:19], bolstered by a final, forceful, forte chord.

Subsequently, there's a "vivace" ("fast") "Menuetto" ("Minuet") [T-4], which is a scherzo-like piece of work with outer sections having a gallant, genial tune (GG) [00:00 & 02:47]. They lie on either side of a "Trio" [01:25-02:46], featuring a relaxed, waltzlike GG-variant.

The sonata-form "Finale" [T-5] has an opening statement (OS) with a whirling, first idea (OW) [00:00] that as the album notes observe resembles a tarantella. OW is followed by a related, folksong-like second [00:45], after which OS is repeated [01:14], thereby initiating a brisk development [02:25]. Then OW triggers an abbreviated recap [03:09] with a forceful coda [03:46] that ends the work definitively.

Moving ahead three years, the disc concludes with Andreas's Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 33 (1797). Like its predecessor above, the first movement [T-6] also has an "adagio" ("slow") introduction [00:00]. However, this time around it's fanciful and suggests an impending, waggish, waltz-like number (WW).

Then WW [00:43] kicks off an "allegro vivace" ("fast and spirited"), "scherzando" ("scherzoesque"), wind-timpani-tap-spiced remainder of the movement. Here WW makes four additional appearances, each invoking a different, developmental treatment based on itself [01:14, 02:51, 04:29 & 06:51]. After that, it powers a vivacious coda [08:25], which closes things exultantly.

The "andantino" ("leisurely") marked second [T-7] is a theme and variations that gets underway with the main subject that's a WW-like, sanguine, songful thematic nexus (WS) [00:00]. WS then sires five contrapuntally spiced variants that are sequentially melancholy [01:16], innocent [01:59], commanding [02:52], jaunty [03:57] and confident [04:15], thereby ending this movement in good spirits.

Next, a "Menuetto" ("Minuet") [T-8] with outer sections featuring a WS-related, flighty ditty [00:00 & 02:12]. They surround an atypical, tiny trio [01:16-02:11) that comes off like a tonal snapshot of a passing storm, and concludes this brief essay full circle.

The "Finale" [T-9] is a "vivace" ("fast") tour de force with outstanding contrapuntal spicing, and brings to mind the Mozart (1756-1791), Jupiter Symphony's (No. 41, K. 551; 1788) last movement. It has a WS-related, busy first theme (WB) [00:00] adjoining a complementary, imperious second (WI) [00:12], both of which are explored [00:23].

Then WB initiates a superb development [01:08], having an exemplary fugue that after a couple of dramatic pauses calls up a recap [03:34] with yet another stunning one. The latter wanes into reminiscences of WB [05:21], which invoke a WB-triggered coda [06:13] that ends the work and this marvelous release with a triumphant "So there!" cadence [06:40].

Once again CPO calls upon British conductor Kevin Griffiths (b. 1978) to continue his exploration of Andreas Romberg's symphonic music (see CPO-555175). Here he leads the Phion Orchestra of Gelderland and Overijssel (POGO), which is based in Enschede, Netherlands, around 90 miles west of Amsterdam. Together they give articulate, enthusiastic performances, which make a strong case for these German rarities, and leave you wanting to hear more by this sadly neglected composer.

Made over four days in late June 2018 at the well-appointed Enschede Muziekcentrum, these recordings are acceptable. They consistently present appropriately sized sonic images in pleasant, reverberant surroundings.

The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by pleasing highs with occasionally edgy upper string passages, a compact midrange and clean bass. However, don't expect any earthshaking moments with the "Haydnesque" forces called for here.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P210530)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Wranitzky, Paul: Orch Wks V1 (Sym in C, Sym in B♭, Die Post... Ov, Das Fest... Ov & Serenade); Štilec/CzPard ChPO [Naxos]
Like Romberg (1767-1821) above, Paul Wranitzky's (1756-1808) productive years came just before and after the turn of the 18th century. Born Pavel Vranický in what's now Nová Říše, Czech Republic, which is around 100 miles southeast of Prague, he first studied music in his native country. But 1776 saw him move permanently to Vienna, where he Germanized his name and gained a reputation as one of Europe's most gifted musicians.

A contemporary of Haydn (1732-1809), Mozart (1756-1791) and Beethoven (1770-1827) -- all acquaintances who thought highly of his music -- Paul was very productive as evidenced by his leaving a substantial oeuvre across most genres. These include around a dozen operas, somewhere between 40 and 50 symphonies, as well as at least 56 string quartets.

Now the adventurous Naxos label gives us their first volume in a new series devoted to the orchestral works of this "neglected master". All of the selections here are world premiere recordings, and the only versions currently available on disc.

It opens with the Overture to his two-act opera Die Poststation, oder Die unerwartete Zusammenkunft (The Post Station, or The Unexpected Meeting; 1794) [T-1]. Presumably this is a Singspiel along the lines of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio, K 384; 1782).

The Wranitzky setting is an inn of a mail coach terminal, where some travelling, love-struck couples are spending the night. They're being pursued by family members, who catch up with them and include a husband thought to be dead.

Accordingly, the music has a somnolent, "poco adagio" ("somewhat slow") preface [00:01], followed by a capricious, sonata-form, "Presto assai" ("Very fast"). The latter begins with a delightfully rollicking theme (DR) [00:42], succeeded by a DR-derived, fickle idea [01:30]. These are developed [02:23] and recapped [03:23], bringing things to a merry conclusion.

Moving on to a more substantial work, there's Paul's four-movement Symphony in C major, Op. 19 (1792), bearing the protracted title "Grosse Sinfonie bei Gelegenheit der Erhebung Franzens zum Deutschen Kaiser" ("Grand Symphony on the Occasion of the Elevation of Franz to German Emperor"). As per its lengthy billing, the work celebrates the coronation of Franz II (aka Francis II, 1768-1835). He was the last Holy Roman Emperor and reigned for fourteen years (1792-1806).

Consequently, the music is highly festive fare spiked with trumpets and timpani. Moreover, the first movement [T-2] has an august "andante maestoso" ("slow and majestic") introduction [00:00] hinting at an undulating, jaunty idea (UJ) soon to come. Then after a dramatic pause, there's an "allegro vivace" ("fast and spirited"), sonata-form episode, whose opening statement (O1) begins with UJ in full bloom [01:31].

UJ makes a lively bridge into a tuneful, related countersubject (UT) [02:24], and the foregoing is toyed with, giving way to a repeat of O1 [03:56]. This parents a dramatic development [05:22], followed by a UJ-initiated recap [07:44]. Then some string afterthoughts [08:38] invoke a UJ-derived coda [10:04] that ends the movement with a definitive "So there!" cadence [10:31].

The succeeding "Andante con moto" ("Slow with movement") [T-3] is a ternary, A-B-A-structured one with charming, waltzlike "A"s [00:00 & 04:40] on either side of a regal, commanding "B" [02:12-04:39]. And then we go to court with a similarly laid out "Menuetto" ("Minuet") [T-4], where elegant "A"s [00:00 & 02:48] bracket an "allegretto", carefree "B" [01:52-02:47].

A vivacious sonata-rondo is the basis for the "presto" ("very fast") marked "Finale" [T-5]. This has a busy opening statement (O4) with a UJ-related, scampering theme (US) [00:00] adjoining a complementary, lilting one (UL) [00:29]. These undergo an exciting exploration [00:50] with some martial, brass moments [01:18-01:29], and O4 resurfaces [01:39], calling up a mercurial development [02:57]. The latter is followed by that irrepressible US [04:27], which begins a recapitulation with a US-UL-derived coda [05:28] bringing the work to a jubilant ending.

Next, a selection from the composer's set of Drei grosse Sinfonien (Three large Symphonies) published six years later (1792). By the way, "large" refers to the expanded orchestral forces required for them, and not their length! That said, the one here is the Symphony in B♭ major, Op. 33, No. 1.

Also in four movements, the initial "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") [T-6] starts with a beguiling, canorous motif (BC) [00:00] that may remind you of robust moments in Mozart's later symphonies (1782-88). BC is succeeded by a playful variant (BP) [00:11] in addition to a lyrical one (BL) [00:54].

Subsequently, the foregoing is explored [01:24], repeated [02:07], and a hint of BL initiates a development [03:58]. Then BC triggers a recap [05:55] as well as an excited coda [07:43], which ends the movement exuberantly.

Things turn bucolic in the following "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-7]. This features a distantly, BL-related pastoral thought [00:00] that's the subject of a tranquil conversation between strings and winds with muted-horn support.

Then there's an "allegro vivace" ("fast and spirited") marked, rustic, ternary, A-B-A "Menuetto" ("Minuet") [T-8]. Here "A"s [00:00 & 04:34] having a BC-derived, folksy dance (BF) [00:00], surround a "B" [03:05-04:33] with a waltzlike version of BF, and end the movement full circle.

The "Finale" [T-9] is an "allegro vivace" ("fast and spirited") rondo based on a recurring, BC-fathered, giddy ditty (BG) heard at the outset [00:00]. It will bring to mind similarly disposed final movements in Haydn's (1732-1809) London Symphonies (1791-95), such as the Miracle (No. 96, D major, Hob. I/96; 1791). BG alternates with three developmental episodes [01:19, 03:29 & 05:09] and powers a thrilling coda [05:39] that ends the symphony smilingly.

A couple of orchestral excerpts from Wranitzky's two-act opera Das Fest der Lazzaroni (The feast of the Lazzari; 1794) fill out this release. The story takes place during "The Age of Revolution" (1789-1848) in Naples, where the Lazzaroni were the poorest, lower class people. One of them named Grisaldo has a son in love with Rosaura, the daughter of a wealthy mariner known as Albamonte. And to complicate things, a young nobleman called Cassandri, who's been rescued from a shipwreck, has also fallen for Signorina Rasaura.

As the curtain goes up, the scene is presumably the Gulf of Naples, where we see Cassandri's vessel foundering in monstrous waves brought about by an ongoing, violent tempest. All this is appropriately depicted in the accompanying Overture [T-10], which begins with fateful, "adagio" ("slow"), timpani-reinforced passages [00:00] that call up "allegro non troppo" ("fast but not to quickly") ones [00:32]. These limn howling, piccolo-accented winds (HW), timpanic rolls of thunder as well as monstrous, scalar waves, which are all the more threatening for embedded dissonances, tremolos and fitful sforzandi.

At one a somewhat sanguine melody [02:24] introduces a brief ray of hope. However, this makes a fateful bridge [03:09] into even more, peril-fraught reminiscences of the opening measures [03:58]. These wane into an HW-tinged coda [04:56] that ends the Overture pessimistically.

Turning to the opera's second act, there's a scene where Cassandri woos Rosaune by hiring some musicians to play her a Serenate (Serenade). It's the closing selection on this infectious disc, and in three sections, the first being an "Allegro maestoso" ("Fast and majestic") [T-11]. Here, after a compelling fanfare [00:00], the violin and oboe engage in an amorous duet [00:42]. Then there's a curt, coy "Andantino" ("Leisurely") [T-12] featuring rosy winds.

The latter is immediately succeeded by a skittish "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-13], which starts with a two-part, bustling ditty [00:00] that's repeated [00:30]. Subsequently, the music wanes fitfully [00:54], and ends deceptively [01:09], only to forcefully resume [01:11]. Then it again fades [01:43], presumably as the musicians disappear into the night, thereby bringing things to a tranquil conclusion.

These performances are by the Czech Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra (CPCPO), based some 70 miles north of the composer's home town. Under their native conductor Marek Štilec (b. 1985), the CPCPO delivers committed, enthusiastic accounts of some Classical period, symphonic rarities by a too long forgotten composer. What's more, this being just the first release in Naxos' new series devoted to Wranitzky's orchestral fare, hopefully more delights will soon follow!

The recordings were made during November 2019 at the Dukla Culture House located in Pardubice, Czech Republic. They project an appropriately sized sonic image in a warm venue with just the right amount of reverberation.

The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs with a touch of "digitalis" in the violins' upper registers, but a rich midrange. As for the lows, they're clean, but with the classically proportioned CPCPO, don't expect any pants-flapping, bass-drum strokes. Everything considered, the sound is about as good as it gets on conventional CDs.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y210529)

Amazon Records International