CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 AUGUST 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.
American Quintets (3 20th C. ones; see Sam.Barber, A.Beach & F.Price); KalChColl [Chandos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
This CD gives us three American Quintets, and while Samuel Barber's (1910-1981) Dover Beach (Op. 3; 1931) has made several disc appearances over the past twenty-five years, the other two selections are much rarer fare penned by ladies. That said, the album booklet has extensive background notes on all three composers. Consequently, our commentary will be limited to some general remarks regarding the structure and sound of these pieces.
It's been a little over two years since we told you about music by African-American composer Florence Beatrice Price (née Smith, 1887-1953; see 31 May 2019). Now this release gives us the world premiere recording of her Piano Quintet in A minor. Its date remains unknown, but stylistically speaking this was probably written around 1936, when she penned one in E minor (currently unavailable on disc).
In four movements, the first is of sonata-rondo persuasion [T-5], and the opening statement begins with an "Allegro non troppo" ("Lively but not too fast") headstrong thought (H1) [00:00]. H1 is explored and followed by a lovely, "Più mosso" ("More moving"), African-American-spiritual-derived second idea (A2) [02:08], which brings to mind a similarly oriented tune in Antonín Dvořák's (1841-1904) From the New World Symphony (No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95/B 178; 1893].
A2 will become the recurring idea, but for now it's pondered, after which H1 calls up a dramatic "Allegro" ("Lively") development [04:15] with virtuosic touches for all. Then there's a recap with respectively "Andante" ("Flowing") [06:18 & 10:45] as well as "Adagio" ("Slow") [07:20 & 07:46] remembrances of A2. These are interspersed with bits of H1, and an A2-H1-based "Presto" ("Fast") [11:47] ends the movement excitedly.
The second one [T-6] starts "Andante con moto" ("Slow with movement") with Price conjuring up another of those delightful, A2-like tunes (A3) [00:24]. The latter is the subject of an endearing reverie, where it undergoes several treatments of differing temperament. These are sequentially confident [02:57], reserved [03:51] and cantabile [04:22]. Then a "Meno mosso" ("Less lively') pious one [05:52] is followed by a "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") remembrance of A3 [06:04]. It's the basis for a "Coda" [07:12] that brings this movement to a tranquil conclusion.
Marked "Juba", the third one [T-7] finds the composer revisiting that African-American eponymous dance once done by slaves on US plantations. Incidentally, it's very similar to the one that concludes her earlier Piano Concerto in One Movement (1932-34; not currently available on disc). Strangely enough, there's music much like this in the opening section of Frederick Delius' (1862-1934) Florida Suite (1887-89).
Returning to the Price, it's a ternary, A-B-A piece. Here "Allegro" ("Lively") "A"s based on a catchy number [00:00 & 02:22] surround a more introspective "Più mosso" ("More moving") "B" [01:25-02:21], where there are what sound like touches of boogie-woogie [01:57-02:05]. Be that as it may, the last "A" has a high-stepping coda [03:31] that ends things with a big 🙂.
Then there's a spirited "Scherzo" [T-8], lasting only about 2½ minutes. This "Allegro" ("Lively") marked tidbit features a catchy, scurrying jiglike ditty [00:00]. The latter surrounds a gorgeous, trio countermelody [00:27-01:16] and triggers a spirited "Coda" [02:15], which brings the work to a spunky conclusion.
Moving right along to the other lady composer, there's Amy Beach's (1867-1944) Piano Quintet in F♯ minor (Op. 67; 1907). This owes a great debt to Johannes Brahms' (1833-1897) F minor one (Op. 34; 1864) as she borrows some ideas from its "Finale".
Amy's first movement [T-1] is in sonata form and begins with an ominous "Adagio" ("Slow") introduction [00:02] followed by a flowing, chromatic, "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") theme (FC) [01:32]. The latter is explored and gives way to a gentle, tender "Più mosso" ("More moving") second idea (GT) [03:05], which undergoes a "Poco più tranquillo" ("A Little more tranquil") development [03:35] that turns "Più mosso" ("More moving") [04:04].
Subsequently, FC launches a compelling "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") recap [05:01] having nostalgic "Poco più tranquillo" ("A Little more tranquil") memories of GT [05:37] as well as FC [06:42]. These wax and wane, thereby ending the movement peacefully.
Beach next serves up one [T-2] with a subdued "Adagio espressivo" ("Relaxed and expressive") opening featuring a GT-related, caressing melody (GC) for the strings [00:01]. GC is then picked up by the piano [00:41] and undergoes a "Poco più mosso" ("A little more lively") exploration [04:30].
This is succeeded by a "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") repeat of GC [06:23] and some further afterthoughts. These become "Poco più mosso" ("A little more lively") [06:59] and wane into "Adagio espressivo" ("Relaxed and expressive") ones [08:09] having a last, wistful memory of GC [08:20] that closes the movement tranquilly.
The third one [T-3] starts "Allegro agitato" ("Fast and excited") [00:00] with hints of a GT-reminiscent, harried theme (GH) that soon follows in full [00:17]. GH undergoes an exploration, which turns "Più lento" ("More slowly") [03:12], and then there's a "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") [04:09] episode that has a shivering, fugal treatment of GH [04:25].
But the latter suddenly stops, and we get melancholy "Adagio come prima" ("Slowly as before") passages [05:09], which bridge into "Tempo I" ("Initial tempo") remembrances of GH [06:27]. These evoke a pragmatic "Presto" ("Fast") [08:45] that ends the work definitively.
This release is filled out with Samuel Barber's (1910-1981) Dover Beach (Op. 3; 1931) for voice and string quartet, which is a setting of English Victorian poet Matthew Arnold's (1822-1888) four-stanza, eponymous lyric rune (1851).
It opens with a wavelike accompaniment [00:00] and hints of the work's melancholy main melody (MM) [00:03]. Then the soloist, who's a bass in this performance, enters [00:15] with the first of four stanzas. This is a glowing description of the prevailing scene with an allusion to "The eternal note of sadness...".
After that, there's a pause and instrumental flourish [02:57] introducing the next stanza [03:08]. It references Classical Greek tragedian Sophocles (497/6-406/5 BC) and postulates thoughts "Of human misery" he had on the Aegean Sea. This is a more dramatic offering and sets the tone for the concluding two stanzas [03:54 & 04:43], which follow attacca. Then towards the end of the last, the cello recalls MM [05:46], and the soloist sings the remaining three lines [05:59], thereby invoking the work's opening mood.
This is the debut album of the new Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective (KCC), which is atypically a flexible ensemble of talented musicians. Its mission is to devise innovative programs of chamber music like the one here, which features both of KCC's Artistic Directors, namely pianist Tom Poster and violinist Elena Urioste.
They're joined by violinist Melissa White, violist Rosalind Ventris along with bass Matthew Rose and give magnificent accounts of the three, lesser-known American works included here. This release will leave listeners anxiously awaiting KCC's next offering.
These performances were laid down over three days during September 2020 at Potton Hall, which is a recording studio located in Dunwich, England, some 100 miles northeast of London. They present an appropriately sized sonic image, where the strings are positioned from left to right in usual quartet fashion with pianist Poster and bass Rose centered between them.
Both soloists are adequately captured as well as balanced against the strings. That said, the overall sonics are characterized by pleasant highs, lifelike mids and clean lows with no hangover in the cello's lower registers. All in all, the sound is generally good, but would have been even better in more ambient surroundings. Consequently, this CD falls a tad short of an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P210831)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
Boissier: Glamour Concerto, Philip Marlowe Concerto, Sonata Appassionata; Seferinova/Williams/Ukr Fest O [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Here's music by a young French composer that inveterate moviegoers will love. Corentin Boissier (b. 1995) was born in Suresnes, some five miles west of Paris, to cultured, art-loving parents. Consequently, when he was only two, his father began playing him short, simple, melodic excerpts from classical pieces.
This awakened an early love for serious music, and by age six Corentin was composing at the piano. Then in 2012 he entered the Conservatoire à rayonnement régional de Paris, where he studied harmony, counterpoint as well as orchestration, and graduated "with highest distinction". Subsequently, the year 2015 saw him continue his education at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he'd get Master's degrees in composition (2019) and orchestration (2021), both again "with highest distinction".
Boissier has a widespread knowledge of orchestral works by Romantic and Post-Romantic composers as evidenced by a terrific compendium he made of his favorite ones (click to see). As for his own output, to date he's shunned the avant-garde for music along the lines of that by those composers he so greatly loves.
As of this writing he's penned a significant oeuvre across all genres (click to see). The selections here are each three-movement works featuring the piano. Two are concertos with cinematic overtones, and the third is a sonata, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc. Incidentally, the album booklet includes detailed analyses of all three by the composer, so we'll limit ourselves to general comments about them.
The Glamour Concerto, Op. 7, started life as a solo piano piece (2012), which Boissier later orchestrated (2016). The composer tells us it "must be appreciated in the spirit of Hollywood film music of the 1940s".
He then goes on to say the opening Allegro (Fast) marked "Glamour appassionato" [T-1] is meant to suggest a young man and woman meeting in New York, where they fall in love. Accordingly, it's a delightful romantic wallow that those loving Richard Addinsell's (1904-1977) Warsaw Concerto (1941) will adore!
More specifically, this is a loosely structured, sonata-form-like creation with a commanding introduction [00:00] and three attractive themes that are respectively amorous [00:00], passionate (AP) [02:07] and vivacious [02:58]. They fuel dramatic passages that end this movement in grand romantic fashion.
The middle one is titled "Manhattan Waltz Romance" [T-2], and the composer says listeners might imagine this as a romantic dinner for our young couple at some Manhattan restaurant. Here their growing love for one another is represented by a sentimental, Moderato, tempo di valse (Moderate, waltz speed) melody (SW) introduced by the cor anglais [00:16]. Then SW appears in several appealing guises that owe a debt to Rachmaninov (1873-1943), and there's an SW-based, swish, closing coda [06:50].
Corentin takes us just south of Manhattan for the last movement, which is titled "Spanish Lovers in Brooklyn" [T-3]. Accordingly, it would seem our couple is of Hispanic descent. Maybe the composer had in mind that Puerto Rican heroine Maria of Leonard Bernstein's (1918-1990) West Side Story (1957).
Be that as it may, the movement begins Andante (Flowing) with an impassioned tutti outburst [00:00] followed by the soloist hinting at an Hispanic-flavored idea (AH) soon intoned by all [00:50]. AH is the material for passages of increasing intensity that call up a fiery restatement of AP (see above) by the piano [02:10].
Subsequently bits of AH are intertwined with ideas from previous movements and it's the basis of a demanding keyboard cadenza [04:16-05:00]. Then AH returns big time for all [05:01], and some final protestations [06:21] build into a frenetic coda [07:07], which brings the work to a rousing "Rachmaninovian" conclusion.
The program continues with Boissier's Sonata Appassionata (Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 18; 2015), where his love of Chopin shows. The initial Allegro impetuoso - quasi una fantasia (Fast, impetuous and in the manner of a fantasy) [T-4] is as billed. Moreover, after a declamatory introduction [00:00] there are two searching thoughts [00:22 & 01:15] that are food for an extended musical meditation. It ends excitedly with a coda [10:56] that smacks of the main theme from Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Op. 43; 1934).
Two sonata-form movements fill out the work, the first being an Andante espressivo (Expressively flowing) "Intermezzo" [T-5]. This is a gorgeous utterance based on a couple of gently rippling thematic groupings [00:08] and sets the tone for the Allegro appassionata (Fast and passionate) "Finale" [T-6].
The latter has two captivating ideas that are respectively passionate [00:07] and tuneful [02:02], after which there's a dramatic development [02:59]. Here there are passages reminiscent of the Habenera number in Bizet's (1838-1875) Carmen (1873-74) [03:42]. Then a virtuosic recapitulation [05:09] and coda [06:18] close the work ardently.
Then it's movie time again with the Philip Marlowe Concerto, Op. 8 (2013, rev. 2018). The composer says the piece pays homage to the music found in those American film noir classics such as Murder, My Sweet (Dick Powell; 1944), The Big Sleep (Humphrey Bogart; 1946) and Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947), which feature that famous private detective.
Unlike the romantic scores that inspired the previous Concerto, this one honors ones of a manic, suspenseful nature. Consequently, in hopes of accentuating that, the orchestral part calls for brass, strings, percussion and harp, but none of those typically soft-spoken woodwinds.
Having three linked movements, it's overall structure somewhat resembles a single, large-scale, sonata-form work. Accordingly, the opening "Allegro drammatico" ("Fast and dramatic") [T-7] could be considered the exposition. It's in keeping with the musical accompaniments to the above films' "opening-credits".
More specifically, there's a commanding orchestral introduction [00:00], after which the soloist plays a compelling idea (EC) [00:14]. This is followed by a romantic one (ER) [00:32], which the composer tells us is meant to represent Marlowe's first meeting with the movie's "femme fatale". Then both ideas undergo a highly dramatic exploration.
This proceeds attacca into the next Lento (Slow) [T-8], which is in essence a development. It takes the form of a passacaglia that begins with sinister tutti hints of an EC-derived ostinato [00:00] soon heard on the piano [00:42]. Here there are also several transformations of ER [beginning at 04:14].
The latter adjoin an EC-triggered, closing Allegro ferroce - tempo di toccata (Fast and furious - toccata speed) [T-9], which serves as the recapitulation, where all the opening movement's thematic ideas reappear. These are reworked into a tempestuous episode, where tam-tam-accented, fulminant closing passages [04:15] end the work with explosive finality.
Highly gifted Bulgarian pianist Valentina Seferinova delivers impassioned accounts of these selections. She receives magnificent support from the Ukrainian Festival Orchestra under internationally acclaimed, American conductor John McLaughlin Williams. That said, these talented musicians make a strong case for some music, which successfully captures the mood of 1940-50s Hollywood films.
The Concerto recordings were made during late February and early March 2019 in Organ Hall, Lviv, Ukraine, about 250 miles southeast of Warsaw. They present an enormous sonic image in cavernous surroundings with the piano placed center stage. That said, Ms. Seferinova's remarkable efforts could have been a bit more highlighted.
Recorded a month later at the Malambo Studio in Bois-Colombes, some six miles north-northwest of Paris, sonically speaking, the sonata fares much better as the piano is beautifully captured. Everything considered, this release falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating; however, it easily gets a "Recommended" one.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P210830)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
Russian Piano Trios V5 (3 by 19-20th C 20th cmpsrs; see Dyck, Sternberg & Youferov); Brahms Trio [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
The Moscow-based Brahms Trio concludes their superb survey of works by Russian composers with this 5th and final installment (see volumes 1, 2, 3 & 4). Many will find it the most interesting yet as these are world premiere recordings of three undeservedly forgotten ones!
Vladimir Dyck (1882-1943) was born in Odessa, and probably began his musical studies at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory (SPC). One of his teachers would have been Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), who may have suggested that he further his education at the Paris Conservatory (PC).
Be that as it may, in 1899 young Vladimir moved to the City of Light, and completed his musical education at the PC, where one of his instructors was the great French, organist-composer Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). An outstanding student, he took French citizenship in 1910, and became one of that city's most distinguished musical figures up until 1943. Then because of his Jewish associations, he and his family came to a tragic end (see the album notes).
Considering Dyck's formative years were in France, it's not surprising that stylistically speaking, his Piano Trio in C minor (Op. 25; 1910) is of Gallic rather than Slavic persuasion. That said, the first of its four movements is a sonata-form one [T-1], whose opening statement has an ominous "Largo molto sostenuto" ("Slow and sustained") introduction [00:01]. This hints at a fluent, melancholy idea (FM) soon to come.
Subsequently, the music turns "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively but not too fast") as we get FM in full [00:51]. It's repeated [01:17) and explored, giving way to a related cantabile idea (FC) [02:02]. Then FM initiates [02:42] a superbly crafted, dramatic development that waxes and wanes into a remembrance of FC [06:51]. This calls up a nostalgic recap, which becomes increasingly excited. It invokes an FM-based coda [09:15] that ends the movement with a casual, wave-of-the-hand cadence [09:45].
The next is an "Allegretto grazioso" ("Lively bur graceful") Scherzo [T-2], which begins with an FC-reminiscent, perky, pizzicato-spiced ditty (FP) [00:00] adjoining a romantic countersubject (FR) [00:42]. Then FR and FP undergo a captivating contemplation [beginning at [02:09] that turns nostalgic [03:35]. After that, remembrances of the opening measures [04:10] bring the movement to a contented conclusion.
But the foregoing feelings of well-being turn rather austere in the third one [T-3]. Marked "Andante sostenuto" ("Slow and sustained"), this starts with three ominous piano chords [00:00] that may make you think of the motif opening Rachmaninov's (1873-1943) Prelude in C sharp minor for piano (Op. 3, No. 2; 1892).
Be that as it may, they presage a lovely songful melody [00:10] that's the lifeblood of a gorgeous serenade. This has all the charm and grace of the slow movement in his teacher's (see Widor above) Piano Trio in B♭ major (Op. 19; 1874). That said, the music here is a rhapsodic outpouring that closes tenderly.
Then things come to a stirring conclusion with an "Allegro con brio" ("Fast with vigor") marked sonata-rondo [T-4]. Its opening statement has an initial, attention-getting, forte piano chord [00:00], followed by a thematic nexus (TN) with commanding [00:01], lyrical [00:24] and spirited elements [00:47].
TN is the subject matter for several, adjoining developmental treatments of varying disposition. These range from pensive [01:07] to flighty [02:36], big-tune [03:44], scurrying [04:22], as well as nostalgic [05:06]. Then it parents a thrilling recap [06:56] and valiant coda [07:54] that bring the work to a glorious conclusion.
Our next selection is by pianist-teacher-composer Constantin von Sternberg (1852-1924). Born of German parents in Saint Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, he'd study in Germany, where his teachers included Carl Reinecke (1824-1910; see 31 July 2021) as well as Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Interestingly enough, after several years of concertizing in Europe, Asia and America, he became a US citizen during the early 1880s. Then 1890 saw him found the Sternberg School of Music in Philadelphia, where he lived out his years.
Constantin wrote a significant amount of chamber music, and our concert continues with his Piano Trio No. 3 in C major (Op. 104; 1912). The last of this composer's three numbered ones, it has Teutonic overtones, which is not surprising when you consider his German schooling.
In three movements, the sonata-form first is marked "Allegro con spirito" ("Fast with spirit") [T-5]. It opens with a cheery, folkish dance (CF) [00:00] that's examined and transitions into a tender, waltzlike one (TW) [01:14]. The latter calls up a gentle development [02:07], after which we get a CF-initiated recap [03:02]. This has a delicate CF-TW-based coda [04:30] that closes the movement cheerfully.
Next there's an "Andante" ("Flowing") "Tema con variationi" ("Theme with variations") [T-6]. This begins with a reverent, chorale-reminiscent main idea (RC) [00:00] that's succeeded by several treatments. These range from yearning [00:28] to skittish [00:54], rhapsodic [01:20] and fugally antsy [02:05]. Then RC becomes an Austrian ländler (AL) [03:08], after which it returns [05:19] with a hint of AL [05:35] that ends things in charming fashion.
And last but not least, Sternberg serves up a "Rondo" [T-7]. An "Allegro con umore" ("Fast with humor") marked playful tidbit, this starts with a catchy riff [00:00] somewhat reminiscent of one in the last movement of the Piano Concerto in E major (Op. 59; 1898) by Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925), whom Constantin may have known during his days in Germany. It adjoins a droll ditty [00:04] and together they're the recurring material for a lighthearted, three-way discourse that ends the work congenially.
This release closes with a more all-around, Russian-sounding piece by Sergey Youferov (1865-c.1927). Born in Odessa like Dyck (see above), he studied at the SPC, where one of his teachers was Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936). Sergey was an important musical figure in his country from the late 1870s through early 1900s, but little is known about him after 1917.
Apparently, he left a significant body of works across most genres, and in the chamber music category, there's his Piano Trio in C minor (Op.51; 1911). Having three movements, the sonata-form-like first's [T-8] opening statement begins with a "Moderato" ("Moderately") marked, ominous introduction [00:00]. This hints at the Slavic-sounding, main idea (SM) that soon follows [01:24].
SM subsequently undergoes a development [beginning at 02:01], which includes several variational treatments. These are sequentially lyrical (SL) [02:56], waltzlike (SW) [03:45], anxious [04:49] as well as nostalgic (SN) [05:22] in temperament. Then there's a brief caesura and lullabyesque afterthought [05:41], succeeded by a commanding SM [08:47].
The latter initiates a recapitulation, where we get the return of SL [10:23], SW [11:13], and an agitated SN [11:36]. The latter is cause for a forceful return of SM [12:09]. This parents a coda [12:44] that turns frenetic, thereby ending the movement decisively.
The middle "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-9] opens with pensive piano runs [00:00] and a melancholy melody (MM) for the violin [00:07] somewhat reminiscent of "Der Abschied" ("The Farewell") in Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) Waldszenen (Forest Scenes) for solo piano (Op. 82, No. 9; 1848-49). MM is the subject of a somber discussion between the three instruments and makes a final reappearance [07:29], bringing the movement full circle.
It's a respite before the grim closing one [T-10], which has an "Allegro" ("Fast"), sinister, funeral-march-like number (SF) heard at the outset [00:00]. SF then undergoes a somewhat more optimistic exploration [03:20] that bridges back into it [06:08].
And after a pause, the composer serves up a lovely aria-like idea, which is cause for a brief serenade. However, that inexorable SF creeps back [09:12], bringing moments a bit reminiscent of darker ones in Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Pathétique Symphony (No. 6 in B minor, Op.74; 1893). SF then wanes, ending the work and this CD tragically.
Founded in 1990 by pianist Natalia Rubinstein, the internationally acclaimed Brahms Trio includes violinist Nikolai Sachenko and cellist Kirill Rodin. Here they deliver technically accomplished, enthusiastic yet sensitive accounts of three additional, recondite, Russian selections in that genre (see their previous volumes 1, 2, 3 & 4).
These recordings were done during February and April of 2018 in the Moscow Conservatory's Grand Hall (see close-up). They're all the richer for having been made in this legendary venue, which is one of world's finest! That said, the instruments are placed center stage with the strings respectively left (violin) and right (cello) of the piano.
They're each ideally captured as well as balanced against one another, thereby yielding a consistently generous sonic image. Conventional chamber music CDs don't get any better sounding than this, and audiophiles with a penchant for Russian, romantic piano trios won't want to be without it.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y210829)
|- AVAILABILITY -|
|- RECOMMENDED CLASSICAL MUSIC WEB SITE OUTLETS -|
|IF YOU OR ANY OF YOUR FRIENDS WOULD LIKE TO BE NOTIFIED WHENEVER THERE'S A NEW CROCKS NEWSLETTER ON CLOFO.COM, JUST CLICK THE E-MAIL ADDRESS BELOW AND LET US KNOW.|
|- SEE OTHER CLOFO SERVICES -|
|AUDIOPHILE SELECTIONS||BEST FINDS OF LAST YEAR||CLOFO HOME PAGE||CLOFO RECOMMENDATIONS||OTHER CROCKS NEWSLETTERS|