CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 JULY 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.
Braunfels: Don Gil, Prelude; Divertimento; Ariel's Song; Serenade: Bühl/Vien RSO [Capriccio]
SUGGESTED (1 CD)
Starting with the very first CROCKS Newsletter published back in 2006, late-romantic, German composer Walter Braunfels (1882-1954) has been a CLOFO favorite! Moreover, during the past few years we've regularly sung his praises in a continuing series of reviews (see below), and now add this new Capriccio release.
Granted its selections are duplicated on other discs as shown in the following table; however, the CD here provides a memorable cross section of Walter's many orchestral works. Consequently, this release earns a "SUGGESTED" rating as CLOFO readers still unfamiliar with Braunfels' music should definitely give it a try!
Walter began his career as one of Germany's most highly regarded opera composers, and he'd produce ten of them during his lifetime. That said, things get underway with an orchestral excerpt from his 1921-23 comic opera Don Gil of the Green Breeches (Don Gil von den grünen Hosen), Op. 35 (not currently available on disc).
Based on Spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina's (1583-1648) eponymous comedy (1615), this had an extremely successful Munich premiere (1924). However, one critic found the libretto fell dramatically short of the play, while the composer apparently thought the work didn't turn out as lighthearted as he'd originally intended.
Be that as it may, the tuneful Prelude [T-1] has capriciously heroic passages that alternate with a couple of winsome, romantic ones [01:49-02:25 & 03:49-05:13] and end the piece exultantly. Some may find similarities to moments in the third act Prelude of Wagner's (1813-1883) Lohengrin (1847) as well as Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche), Op. 28, TrV 171; 1894-95.
The next selection is the 1929 Divertimento for Radio-orchestra (Divertimento für Radio-Orchester), Op. 42. It was believed lost during World War II (1939-45), but handwritten source material discovered in Vienna allowed the reconstruction presented here. Incidentally, Walter originally studied law and economics; however, this five-movement work will make you glad he would pursue a career in music.
The opening "Mäßig bewegt" ("Moderately Moving") [T-2] is a lovely rhapsody with a couple of sensuous saxophone solos. It's followed by an exhilarating dance movement marked "Gemessen, doch immer bewegt" ("Measured, but Always on the Move") [T-3] having a central, 20s dance-hall-like waltz [00:38-02:22]. Then we get a melodic "Langsam" ("Slowly") change of pace with captivating solo wind and expressive string passages [T-4].
After that there's a searching impressionistic "Zeitmaß der Sarabande" ("Tempo of a Sarabande") [T-5] having some pensive saxophone and horn solos. This may bring to mind the instrumental version of Ravel's (1875-1937) Menuet antique (Ancient Minuet), M. 7 (1895, orchestrated 1929). Then the work concludes with a flighty, moto-perpetuo-like "Sehr lebhaft" ("Very Lively") [T-6]. Here all the performers get a chance to show their stuff, thereby ending this charming piece on a real high.
Shakespeare's (c. 1564-1616) The Tempest (1610-11) was the inspiration for Braunfels' Ariel's Song (Ariels Gesang) of 1910 [T-7]. It's a delicate melodic interlude bringing to mind lighter moments in those Berlioz (1803-1869) works associated with “The Bard of Avon”.
And filling out this disc there's the enchanting, four-movement Serenade in E♭ major, Op. 20 (1910). Here the initial "Leicht bewegt" ("Somewhat Sentimental") [T-8] opens with a binary pastoral idea (BP) whose first part is a five-note horn motif (FH) [00:02] that brings to mind "Der Anstieg" ("The Ascent") near the beginning of Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) An Alpine Symphony (Eine Alpensinfonie), Op. 64 (1911-15). FH will infect the entire work and adjoins a second, delicate, coquettish thought (DC) for winds and strings [00:05].
Then the latter play a relaxed countermelody (RC) [02:10], which transitions anxiously into a somewhat ominous sounding development [03:41]. This gradually brightens and some introspective passages restore the opening mood. After that a reminder of FH [07:51] ends the movement tranquilly.
A subsequent "Lebhaft, ausgelassen" ("Lively and Playful") [T-9] is a scherzoesque morsel incorporating a jittery variant of BP. On the other hand, the succeeding "Ruhig" ("Peaceful") [T-10] begins with a relaxed, repeated FH-related figure, over which a lilting variant of RC soon appears [00:06] giving rise to a lovely rhapsodic episode.
This proceeds attacca into the final movement [T-11] marked "Die Achtel fast so rasch wie bisher die Viertel" ("Eighth Notes About the Same Speed as the Previous Quarter Ones") [T-11]. It commences with a rhythmically altered version of FH [00:00], which sounds like the Ride of the Valkries (RV) [00:08] in Wagner's Der Ring des Niebelungen (1853-74). And speaking of Wagner, it was a performance of his Tristan und Isolde (1857-59) that inspired young Walter to pursue a career in music.
Returning to the work at hand, RV along with bits of BP are next explored and elicit a dramatic romanticized version of DC [02:25]. Then recurring, ever more forceful memories of RV [03:21] and FH [03:23] bring the Serenade to a triumphant conclusion.
Fresh from their wonderful American composer William Dawson (1899-1990) disc (see 31 October 2020), the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, this time under German conductor Gregor Bühl, gives stirring accounts of these Braunfel's delights. They make a strong case for music by a composer who'd been forgotten up until the heyday of the silver disc. It was only then that he was rediscovered by a couple of the more enterprising labels.
These recordings were made a year ago at the Radio Kulturhaus in Vienna and present an adequately sized sonic image in pleasant surroundings. The orchestral timbre is characterized by lifelike highs, a convincing midrange as well as clean bass. While this CD falls a tad short of demonstration quality, generally speaking the sound is good.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, S210731)
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Reinecke, C.: Pno Trio No. 1 (w Beethoven; "Triple" Conc arr C. Reinecke for pno trio); D.&V.Ceccanti/Fossi [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
German composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) like his younger compatriot Walter Braunfels (1882-1954, see above), has been a CLOFO regular ever since its inception back in 2006. On that note, most recently we told you about a marvelous CPO release with all five of Carl's string quartets (see 31 December 2019).
He also wrote two numbered piano trios, and here Naxos gives us the world premiere recording of the first one. What's more we get his superb transcription for the same instruments of Beethoven's (1770-1827) "Triple" Concerto in C major, Op. 56 (1803-04). The album booklet has extensive notes regarding Reinecke, who was additionally a distinguished conductor, teacher, writer and painter. Consequently, we'll proceed directly to the music at hand.
Carl's four-movement Piano Trio No. 1 in D major, Op. 38 (1851) is reminiscent of its dedicatee, his good friend Robert Schumann (1810-1856). It also calls to mind Carl's associate Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), who greatly admired his music.
Things get started with an initial sonata-rondo [T-4], which has a "lento" ("slow") introduction [00:00]. This hints at a recurring, lovely tuneful melody (RT) that soon follows in full [01:12], thereby beginning what will be the "allegro ma non troppo" ("lively but not too fast") marked remainder of the movement.
Then RT reappears [01:33], bridging into a related compassionate idea (RC) [02:05], thereby completing the exposition, which is then thoughtfully reexamined [03:21]. The foregoing gives way to an RT-initiated, captivating development [05:25] and urgent recapitulation [06:57]. A subsequent RT-RC-based zealous coda [09:48] ends this definitively.
The charming "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-5] is an intermezzo based on an RT-reminiscent, folksongish tune [00:06] having a complementary berceuse-like countermelody [00:48]. They're the subjects of a mordent-laced duet for the strings set to a supportive keyboard accompaniment. Here the music waxes romantically and ends with recollections of the opening measures that bring things full circle.
Then it's "Scherzo" time [T-6]! This is a ternary, "Vivace ma non troppo" ("Spirited but not too fast"), A-B-A offering, where the "A"s are powered by an RT-derived, binary ditty with a scampering first part (RS) [00:00] and gentle waltzlike second (RW) [00:15]. They surround a dramatic "B", which is in essence a pair of RW-RS-based, developmental trios [01:12-02:31 & 02:32-04:06], and end the movement like it started.
The "Finale" [T-7] is an "Allegro brillante" ("Lively and bright") that's also of sonata-rondo persuasion (see above) and begins with an RT-reminiscent, headstrong number (RH) [00:00]. It's followed by an RC-like, amative one (RA) [00:52] and they're explored [01:50], after which RA [02:14] initiates a development [02:32-04:03] and recap [04:05].
The latter is a capricious piece of work. Here bits of RH alternate with RA ones of varying temperament, which range from imitative [04:48] to forceful [05:38], wistful [06:00] and exultant [06:52]. Then the preceding call up a scurrying piano launched coda [07:45] that ends the piece with a jolly, definitive "So There!" cadence [07:54].
Turning to the opening selection, we get Reinecke's transcription (published c. 1866-67) of Beethoven's three-movement "Triple" Concerto in C major, Op. 56 (1803-04). Maybe Carl got the idea from the great German master himself, who'd made a similarly scored arrangement of his Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 36 (1801-02) not long after he wrote it (c. 1803-04; see Naxos-8570255).
The initial "Allegro" ("Lively") [T-1] has a hesitant introduction [00:01] with several tension-building pauses. This hints at a canorous melody (BC), soon played in full on the violin [01:02] and seconded by the cello [01:17]. BC invokes a captivating examination of the previous material [01:40], after which there's a fortissimo piano riff [02:18] that calls up an engaging duet for the strings.
This is followed by a tender version of BC (BT) [03:37], which fuels a gorgeous rhapsodic episode. The latter then gives way to the return of BC [05:02], and suffice to say the music takes an extended, rigorous, developmental journey with bravura flourishes delivered by everyone. Subsequently, the big-tune return of BC for all [15:02] evokes an excited piano-initiated, BC-based coda [16:46] that ends the movement exuberantly.
The brief "Largo" ("Slow") [T-2] is a contemplative utterance based on a dulcet melody (BD) first played on the piano [00:00] and violin [00:18]. Then BD is explored by the strings [01:41] to a cursive keyboard accompaniment, after which they play some weeping passages [04:15].
These proceed attacca into the closing "Rondo alla polacca" ("Rondo in the Polish style") [T-3], which begins with a dancelike number (BD) [00:00] that will be the movement's recurring idea. Incidentally BD may bring to mind a theme in Frédéric Chopin's (1810-1849) "Krakowiak" Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in F major, Op. 14 of some twenty-five years later (1828).
Be that as it may, BD is jiggled about and repeated [01:00], soon bridging into a lively development [01:14], which gradually wanes. However, that ubiquitous BD returns [03:40 & 04:41] and Beethoven dishes up a related headstrong tune (BH) [05:16] that's toyed with.
Not to be outdone, BD sneaks back [07:18] and is repeated big time by everyone [07:33]. This gives way to a BH-initiated frolicsome episode [07:50], where there are virtuosic runs for all [08:18]. Then the pace briefly wanes [beginning at 09:17], only to resume with a fleeting version of BD [09:34] succeeded by a frenetic one [10:26]. These call up a related fugal tidbit [11:25] that transitions into a strummed BD variant [12:11]. The latter builds into forceful reminders of BD [12:41] that end the work joyfully with a "So there!" cadence [13:08].
An Italian trio delivers spirited, sensitive accounts of both selections. Made up of brothers Duccio (violin) and Vittorio (cello) Ceccanti along with pianist Matteo Fossi, hopefully these internationally acclaimed musicians will soon make a Naxos return appearance and give us Carl's Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 230 (c. 1895; currently unavailable on disc).
The recordings were made during 15-17 February 2019 at the Piano et Forte Recording Room in Perugia, Italy some 100 miles north of Rome. They project a convincing, well-focused sonic image of this distinguished threesome in somewhat dry surroundings.
More specifically, the piano is centered with the strings just to its left (violin) and right (cello). All three instruments are realistically captured and well balanced against one another. However, this music would have blossomed even more had these recordings been done in a concert venue.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y210730)
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Wordsworth, Wm.: Orch Wks V3 (Vc Conc, Sym 5); Arnicans/Gibbons/Liep SO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
A couple of years ago British composer William Wordsworth (1808-1988), who was a distant relative of that renowned eponymous English poet (1770-1850), made his CLOFO debut (see 30 November 2019). Now thanks again to the adventurous Toccata label, here's a welcome follow-on release with two additional orchestral works, these being their first concert hall performances. Since a good summary of William's background along with musical analyses of both selections can be found in the album notes, we'll limit our commentary.
His three-movement Cello Concerto, Op. 73 (1962-63), starts with an "Allegretto" ("Lively") [T-1] having two ideas for the orchestra, which are respectively scalar (S1) [00:01] and heroic (H2) [00:31]. Then the soloist enters [00:50] initiating a discussion for all based on these thoughts.
This leads to an antsy "con brio" ("with spirit"), fugally spiced ditty (A3] [01:59] and some further exploration of past themes. Subsequently, a clarinet spins out an expansive melody (E4) [03:32]. E4 is taken up by the cello [03:48], thereby becoming food for an expressive statement [04:08] and brief development [04:49]. The latter builds to an orchestral climax [06:17] plus a demanding lengthy cadenza for the soloist [06:42], who ponders the foregoing ideas.
Then the tutti edge their way back in [09:37], triggering two exploratory episodes. While the first [09:57] has flashes of E4 [09:57] and A3 [10:33], the adjoining one is based on H2 [11:05] as well as S1 [11:53]. These give way to the cellist [12:53], who is soon joined by the orchestra [13:11] in some E4-S1-spiced afterthoughts that end the movement tranquilly.
A ternary, A-B-A "lento" ("slow") "Nocturne" is next [T-2]. Here there are somewhat impressionistic "A"s hugging a terse, tempestuous "B" [03:04-04:03]. They have flute recollections of S1 [00:17] as well as a new, tender cello melody (TC) [02:09].
The last "A" starts "calmo" ("calmly") with TC [04:04] and assumes the mood of the opening one, only to be interrupted by a tidbit of "B" [05:29-05:45]. Then some gong-celesta-harp seasoned passages [05:46] lead to tranquil moments that close this movement in subdued celestial fashion.
An "Allegro vivace" ("Fast and spirited") sonata-rondo [T-3] wraps things up, and begins with giddy orchestral flourishes [00:01], portending what will be a recurring theme. It's an S1-E4-derived, jaunty ditty (SE) soon played by the cello [00:48] to an impish tutti accompaniment that becomes rather martial [01:26]. Then the soloist toys with SE [01:36] and we get a "pomposo" ("outspoken") secondary idea (OS) [02:05].
Subsequently, the foregoing thoughts undergo an engaging development [02:38], where the cello launches an SE-based frenetic fugue [03:23]. This builds to a drum-gong-reinforced explosive climax [04:00], which ends with some upward piano notes and an anticipatory pause. Then, although it's not marked as such in the score, there's what amounts to a captivating, whimsical cadenza for the soloist [04:23-05:46].
Next, skittish bits of SE [05:47] initiate a spirited recap having remembrances of OS [07:01]. These adjoin rising-falling passages [08:03] followed by a rousing coda [08:09]. Here an excited cello and boisterous orchestra bring the work to a forceful, resplendent conclusion.
The program concludes with William's Symphony No. 5 in A minor, Op. 68 (1957-60), this being one of the eight he'd write. In three movements, the first is an "Andante maestoso" ("Slow and majestic") [T-4] that begins with a dour, ascending motif (DA) [00:01]. And in the context of this work, DA is analogous to Hector Berlioz' (1803-1869) "idée fixe" as it pervades the entire piece.
Then the cor anglais plays a DA-derived, poignant second idea (DP) [01:17], and there's a third DA-related swaying riff (DS) [03:05]. They're the thematic material for the dirge-like remainder of the movement.
Towards its end a soaring violin [11:31] and avian calls on the clarinet [12:06] add a nocturnal, oneiric feeling to things. Then there are DS-DP-DB tinged passages [13:40], after which the music slowly fades away.
This score calls for a humongous percussion section that requires four players, and they all get a good workout in the following "Allegro" ("Fast") scherzo [T-5]. It gets off to a capricious start [00:00] with dissonant bits for the harp, xylophone and violins, who are soon fitfully joined by the rest of the orchestra. All this gives rise to spasmodic whiffs of DA [01:39] that coalesce into a puckish cavort [01:58]. Then there's a flute introduced delicate, DA-related tarantella number (DT) [02:32] set to an ethereal harp-celesta-violin accompaniment.
However, the latter suddenly quits, only to have the music sneak back [03:25] with hints of the movement's opening measures. These become quite belligerent with brass outbursts [03:37], one of which [04:21] may bring to mind the opening theme from Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Fate Symphony (No. 4, Op. 36; 1877). Then the music ebbs [05:01] into agitated passages [05:24] having a curt reminder of DT [05:59-06:04]. But all this momentarily wanes [06:12], thereby giving rise to a fortissimo chord [06:26] that ends the movement explosively.
The final one [T-6] brings this commanding symphony to an impressive conclusion, and for the most part resembles a passacaglia having a DA ostinato. It has a DA-based, "Andante largamente" ("Slow and expansive"), fugal introduction [00:01] for the strings. But brass fanfares [02:47] and pounding timpani [02:51] transform this into an august procession that soon turns "Allegro" ("Faster") [03:15].
Then with a couple of DT-reminiscent, fidgety fugal episodes along the way [04:42-05:18 & 07:09-09:02], the music makes a nostalgic, ultimately percussion-laced, jubilant progress [11:37]. The foregoing evokes an impressive DA-related coda [12:17], which ends the work triumphantly.
German-born-and-trained cellist Florian Arnicans delivers a technically superb yet highly sensitive account of the Concerto. He receives superb support from the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra under acclaimed British conductor John Gibbons, who are no strangers to these pages as they gave us the first two volumes of this composer's orchestral works (see Toccata-0480 and 30 November 2019). Hopefully, they'll soon dish up more of Wordsworth's symphonies on Toccata.
Made last February at the Great Amber Concert Hall in Liepāja, Latvia, these recordings project a consistently generous, but somewhat distant soundstage in agreeably reverberant surroundings. The Concerto finds the cellist positioned just left of center stage and well captured as well as balanced against the tutti.
The orchestral timbre in both works is characterized by generally pleasant highs with occasional steely spots, but acceptable mids and clean, low bass. The sound is for the most part good; however, it falls a bit short of "Audiophile". That said, this release will appeal to listeners liking wetter sonics, while those preferring a more focused image will find it comes across better on headphones.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P210729)
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