CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
28 FEBRUARY 2022
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.
Aachener Walzer: (6 orch wks; see A.Parfenov & P.Tchaikovsky); Goicea/A.Parfenov/Ward/Aachen SO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
This album is named after a work by Russian-born-and-trained André Parfenov (b. 1972), which is based on 16 bars of music Peter Il'yich Tchaikovsky (aka Pyotr Ilyich, 1840-1893) left in a diary when he spent six weeks in Aachen, Germany, some forty miles west of Cologne. During that visit the older composer orchestrated his Mozartiana Suite (No. 4 in G major, Op. 61; 1887), which is also included here along with four additional pieces by the younger one. Incidentally, these are the only readily available versions of the Parfenov selections currently on disc.
The program starts with André's ten-minute Aachener Walzer (Aachen Waltz) [T-1] that seems to have been written last year. The scoring includes a piano, and this recording has the composer at the keyboard.
Stylistically, it smacks of Tchaikovsky as well as the 20th century in that Parfenov's musical personality also shows through. That said, there's a brief preface [00:01] hinting at an imminent, graceful, waltzlike number (GW) [00:09], which is presumably based on the Tchaikovsky fragment mentioned above.
GW invokes a reverent contemplation of itself [00:42], which calls up developmental passages [01:49]. These wax and wane into a cadenza-like keyboard exploration of GW [06:31]. Then after a brief pause, fond remembrances of GW for both piano and orchestra [07:31] fade into midair as if André were wondering what that tidbit in Tchaikovsky's diary might have become.
Some five years ago Parfenov came up with a Werner Sahm Suite for violin and piano (c. 2017). In three movements, he'd later add an orchestral accompaniment to the middle one giving us the succeeding Tango WS [T-2].
Once again, the composer is at the keyboard, but now joined by Romanian-born violinist Ioana Cristina Goicea (b. 1992). That said, this Latin American caper has an animated introduction [00:00] soon followed by a perky number. The latter alternates [00:07 & 01:36] with a lyrical, amorous countermelody [00:36 & 02:35], which ends the piece gracefully.
Ms. Goicea is the soloist for the next selection, which is the composer's two-movement Violin Concerto (c. 2015). The album notes say he once described this work as "about war, peace and human symbiosis", where the conflict in question was apparently World War II (1939-1945). Be that as it may, this work also includes a piano, which seems to function like a continuo.
The initial Moderato (Moderato) [T-3] has an extended, contemplative opening for the orchestra [00:01] that's eventually joined by the soloist [03:11]. Then there are respectively yearning [03:40] as well as playful [05:23] passages, which wax and wane into oneiric ones [07:25] having some reverent violin work. Subsequently, remembrances of the opening measures [10:00] invoke a demanding, aria-like cadenza for Ms. Goicea [10:40-13:29] that ends abruptly.
But it's immediately followed by a closing Allegro con brio (Fast with vigor) [T-4]. This gets off to a vivacious start with a sprightly ditty (SD) for all [00:00]. SD becomes the subject for sequentially flighty [01:07], introspective [01:59], animated [03:01], dancelike [04:03], martial [04:42] and searching [05:54] treatments. Then an anxious one [06:43] with a blazing gong crash [07:57] brings the work to a fiery climax.
The year 2002 found André living in Überlingen, Germany, some 100 miles west of Munich, when a nearby, tragic, mid-air collision between two commercial planes occurred. This killed 71 passengers, which included 49 children from his city, whom he subsequently decided to honor with a nine-part sinfonietta for piano and orchestra titled Überlingen 23:26 (2012; not currently available on disc). Incidentally, "23:26" seemingly reflects the local time when it happened.
With that in mind, the Piloten-Tango (Pilot Tango) from the foregoing follows [T-5]. It starts with André at the keyboard [00:01] playing a proud tune (PT) [00:01] that brings to mind Argentine composer Astor Piazolla's (1921-1992) pieces in this genre. He's soon joined by Ms. Goicea [00:57] and the orchestra [01:58] as the music becomes more animated, subsequently ebbing into a lovely amatory episode [03:09-06:27] with a machismo midriff [05:20-05:40]. Then PT returns [06:28] initiating a brusque ending.
Rounding out the Parfenov selections, there's his Orchestral Suite "Kasimir Malewitsch", honoring a Russian, avant-garde painter by that name (aka Kazimir Malevich, 1879-1935). Its four scenes find the composer once again at the keyboard, and the first Kirchenglocken (Church Bells) [T-6] is a colorfully scored representation of same.
After that we get Verrat (Betrayal) [T-7], which is troubled music where Shostakovich's (1906-1975) percussively spiced moments come to mind. Then there's a Todeschoral (Death Chorale) [T-8, 00:00], which bridges into the last scene titled Perspective des Meisters (Perspective of the Master) [T-8, 03:49]. This is a vivacious offering with a scampering theme [03:54] that brings the work to a forceful conclusion.
Tchaikovsky's Mozartiana Suite (No. 4 in G major, Op. 61; 1887) fills out this release. One of his most endearing works, it's based on some of Wolfie's (1756-1791) little-known, but totally charming, smaller pieces. That said, we'll leave it to our Mozart-savvy readers to figure out what Peter Il'yich borrowed.
Things get underway with an antic Allegro (Fast) [T-9], followed by a mellow Menuet [T-10] as well as prayerful Preghiera [T-11]. Then there's a Theme and Variations based on a mercurial main subject (MS) heard at the outset [T-12].
MS undergoes ten treatments, the first three being sequentially flirtatious [T-13], bumptious [T-14] and coloratura-like [T-15], but with the soloist being a flute. Then there are capricious [T-16], wistful [T-17], pastoral-avian-twitter-decorated [T-18], as well as coy [T-19] ones. They're followed by respectively spunky-pizzicato-spiced [T-20] and rhapsodic [T-21] variants, where the latter features some exquisite, solo work by Ms. Goicea.
After that a tripping treatment [T-22] with a martial moment [00:47-00:56] and lovely clarinet passages [00:57-01:33] calls up wisps of MS [01:34]. They invoke an ebullient version of it [02:35], which ends the work and this delightful disc on a real high.
These performances by the Aachen Symphony Orchestra (ASO) under their chief conductor, London-born Christopher Ward (b. 1980) are first rate. What's more, Ms. Goicea gives a superb reading of the Violin Concerto, while the four other Parfenov pieces find the composer at the keyboard, thereby probably making them the definitive accounts of these works for some time to come. As for the Tchaikovsky, this version is a welcome addition to several others still available on disc.
The recordings took place on 19 and 25 March 2021 at Theater Aachen in Germany. They consistently present somewhat withdrawn sonic images in pleasant surroundings. The piano and violin are placed center stage, where they're adequately captured as well as balanced against the ASO. The instrumental timbre is characterized by agreeable highs, a compact midrange and lean, clean bass. Everything considered, the overall sound is acceptable, but falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P220228)
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Draeseke: Cpte Stg Qts V2 (No. 3 w Scene for Vn & Pno and Suite for 2 Vns); Constanze Qt/Frisardi [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
CPO concludes their survey of Felix Draeseke's (1835-1913) string quartets (see 30 June 2020) with this second volume. What's more, it also has another two chamber works by this outstanding German composer. They're the only readily available versions of these three pieces currently on disc.
The String Quartet No. 3 in C sharp minor (Op. 66; 1895) reflects the composer's great admiration for Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) music. Atypically it's in five movements, the first [T-1] being of sonata-form persuasion.
This has an andante elegiaco (slow and doleful) exposition with two main ideas. Respectively imploring (I1) [00:04] and consolatory (C2) [00:56], both are explored [01:35] as well as repeated [02:12], after which they undergo a captivating development [04:20]. The latter is followed by an I1-initiated recap [06:28], which becomes agitated thereby invoking an I1-flavored coda [08:39]. This ends the movement forcefully with a sforzando chord.
The next [T-2] is a scherzo with allegro spumante (fast and sparkling) outer sections having a puckish theme (P3) [00:00 & 03:07] somewhat reminiscent of those pixilated moments in Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). They surround a poco meno mosso (little less lively) trio [01:22-03:04] based on a P3-related, cantabile thought.
Then there's an adagio non tanto, molto espressivo (not overly slow, and very expressive) marked sonata-form one [T-3] whose opening statement has two extended ideas that are respectively humble (H4) [00:00] and retiring (R5) [01:53]. These are developed [02:40] along with recollections of I1 [03:15], after which an R5-invoked recap [04:39] with an H4-tinged coda [06:19] brings the movement to a quiet conclusion.
The following intermezzo [T-4] is a minuet. Here allegro grazioso (fast but graceful) exterior sections featuring a quaint tune (Q6) [00:00 & 02:20] surround a shy trio with a Q6-related, pochettino meno mosso (little less lively) one [01:03-02:19].
It's a brief respite before the sonata-rondo-like finale [T-5]. This begins with an allegro risoluto (fast and tenacious) number (F7) [00:00] having a hint of C2 [00:47], and a more relaxed, lyrical thought (L8) for the first violin [00:54]. L8 is repeated by the cello [01:27] with some arrestive knocks [02:02-02:03], thereby triggering a developmental episode [02:19].
This has a vivacious fugato [02:30] with two salient caesuras [03:31 & 03:34] and calls up L8 [03:48]. The latter invokes a recapitulation interspersed with some dramatic pauses [beginning at 04:54] as well as a frenetic F7-spiced coda [05:25], which ends the work definitively.
The turn of the 19th century saw the composer complete his Scene for Violin and Piano (Op. 69; 1899) [T-6]. Felix's only work for this combination of instruments, its name has operatic connotations. In that regard, while there's no underling story, the violin could be considered as the counterpart of a vocal soloist, while the piano functions like an orchestra.
This sonata-formish creation lasts ten minutes and begins feurig und leidenschaftlich (fiery and passionate) with a recitative-like introduction [00:00], after which the violin sings a sanguine number (SN) [00:36]. Then SN is explored and followed by a complementary countersubject (CC) [01:50].
Subsequently, both ideas undergo a vigorous exploration [02:35] followed by a bedeutend langsamer (significantly slower) wistful thought (WT) [04:22]. WT parents rapturous developmental passages [05:19], succeeded by the return of SN [06:35] and CC [07:30]. The latter adjoins an animated SN-CC-WT-tinged afterthought [08:14] and SN-based coda [09:26] that ends the piece exultantly.
Draeseke's penultimate chamber work, his Suite for Two Violins (Op. 86; 1911), closes this release. It ranks with the composer's most sophisticated creations from the structural, harmonic as well as contrapuntal standpoints, and has three movements. The first [T-7] marked grave (solemn) begins with one of the violins playing a sad theme (ST) [00:00], which soon becomes all the more sorrowful when the other joins in [00:11].
ST is followed with an ascending-descending idea (AD) [00:56] and a dramatic, virtuosic development [01:26] with staccato spicing. Then there's a caesura succeeded by an ST-initiated, songful recap [05:29] that waxes and wanes into a tranquil, pianissimo conclusion.
A subsequent menuett (minuet) [T-8] has graziös mäßig (graceful, moderately paced) outer sections with a lissome melody [00:00 & 02:31]. These are on a either side of a frisch (crisp) trio featuring a nur ein wenig belebter (just a little busier) nippy number [01:32-02:30], and end the movement like it started.
The rasch und feurig (swift and fiery) finale [T-9] has an initial, bumptious thematic nexus (IB) [00:00] followed by a songful, second thought (SS) [00:42]. SS becomes increasingly agitated, giving way to reminders of IB [01:29] that invoke a contrapuntally laced, virtuosic development. Then the return of SS [04:20] and reminiscences of the Suite's opening measures [05:43] are followed by an IB-based, flamboyant coda [06:48], which ends the work abruptly.
As on CPO's previous volume devoted to the first two of this composer's string quartets (see 30 June 2020), these performances feature the all ladies Constanze Quartet (CQ) based in Salzburg, Austria, some 150 miles west of Vienna. Once again the CQ's talented musicians (violinists Emeline Pierre & Esther Gutiérrez Redondo, violist Patrizia Messana, cellist Marion Platero) pay careful attention to phrasing, tempos and dynamics, thereby bring out all the subtilties of Draeseke's intricately structured music. A big round of applause also goes to Russian pianist Irina Frisardi for her magnificent playing in the Scene... [T-6].
All three recordings were made during March 23-29, 2019 in Salzburg. Those for the String Quartet No. 3... and Suite... took place at the Kirche der Christengemeinschaft (Christian Community Church), while the Scene... was presumably done in the Odeïon Kulturforum Hall.
Despite the different locations, they present consistently generous sonic images in affable surroundings with the musicians comfortably spaced and well balanced against one another. The string tone is characterized by pleasant highs having occasional wiry spots in the violins' upper registers, but the midrange and bass are good with no boom in the cello's lower registers.
Ms. Frisandi's piano [T-6] is well captured with a rounded tone. That said, this CD like its predecessor (see 30 June 2020) gets an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220227)
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Seiber, Mátyás: Besardo-Suite 2, Fantasia..., Sinfonietta, Concert Piece, Vn Son; Karman/Török/WKO Heil/Triendl [Haenssler]
SUGGESTED (1 CD)
With this newsletter, Budapest-born, cellist-composer-pedagogue Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960) makes his debut in these pages. By way of background, between 1918 and 1925, he studied cello as well as composition at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music (FLAM), where one of his teachers was Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967; see 30 September 2017). What's more, he assisted that great composer on some of his Hungarian folk music collecting expeditions.
Then in 1926 Mátyás journeyed to North and South America as a cellist with a shipboard orchestra. This experience acquainted him with jazz, which lead to his teaching it at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, and even writing a textbook on the subject (1929). But the times they were a-changin', and with the rise of Nazism, the reigning German cultural authorities declared jazz "Entartete Musik" ("Degenerate music"). Consequently, he briefly gave courses devoted to it in the Soviet Union.
However, 1935 saw him emigrate to England and permanently settle in London, where he became a British citizen. He'd then pursue a highly successful career as a teacher, music consultant and composer. But all this was cut short by a fatal automobile accident that occurred while he was on a lecture tour in South Africa.
Despite his untimely death, he'd leave a significant body of works across all genres. The first three on this welcome Haennsler (aka "hänssler CLASSIC") release fall into the orchestral category, while the remaining two are later chamber works.
Jumping back to those years at the FLAM, one of his classmates was conductor-composer Antal Doráti (1906-1988), who was a good friend and thought very highly of his music. It was there that Mátyás completed his first effort in the string quartet genre, which Antal then arranged for larger forces, giving us the initial selection on this disc, the three-movement Sinfonietta for String Orchestra (1923).
A pentatonic flavored work, it's awash with Hungarian folklike tunes and brings to mind Kodály's music. The opening, sonata-form-disposed movement [T-1] gets off to a maestoso (majestic) start with a proud Magyar motif (PM) [00:02] followed by songish (PS) [00:11], waltzlike (PW) [00:58] and ominous (PO) [01:45] countersubjects.
Next, an allegro moderato (moderately fast), PM-based fugato introduces a two-part development of the foregoing material [02:26 & 03:54]. This is followed by the recapitulative return of PW [04:55], PO [05:47] and PS [06:23]. Then there's a PM-laced bridge and tension building caesura, after which a forceful forte remembrance of PM [06:56] brings the movement full circle.
It's followed by a pensive lento (slow) one [T-2] based on a longing cantabile thought (CT) heard at the outset [00:00]. CT is repeated [01:44], undergoes some restless contemplations [03:08] and returns [06:04], thereby ending this music tranquilly in the same mood it began.
Then song turns to dance in the closing rondo [T-3], where the composer serves up an allegro (fast), csárdás-like number [00:00]. Here spirited passages [00:00, 01:43 & 02:54] alternate with reserved ones [01:13 & 02:17], ending this delightful selection on a real high.
Moving on to Seiber's London years, in the early 1940s he'd write two suites based on tunes by Burgundian lutenist-composer, Jean-Baptiste Besard (Besardo in Italian; c. 1567 - c. 1625). While both works are named after "J-B", the earlier (1940) is for full orchestra, while its successor of two years later is a string thing and our next selection.
Titled Besardo Suite No. 2 (1942), it's in six brief sections and along the lines of Respighi's (1879-1936) Ancient Airs and Dances (1917-31). That said, the initial one, called Intrada (Prelude) [T-4], is a lovely, laidback utterance, followed by a second named Guillemette - Chorea Rustica (Guillemette's Rustic Dance) [T-5].
The latter is a charming number with delicate outer sections [00:00 & 01:14] on either side of a carefree one [00:39-01:13]. However, things turn melancholy in Gaillarda Dolorata (Noble, Sorrowful Dance) [T-6], where a dolente melody [00:00] prevails. Then grief turns to glee with Branle Commun (Common Country Dance) [T-7], featuring a pair of rollicking, rustic ditties [00:00 & 00:32].
Subsequently, the mood once again darkens in Madrigale (Sad Song [T-8], which is a pensive offering based on two, reverent, hymnlike thoughts [00:00 & 01:19]. But in the end jollity prevails with Courante de Guerre - Canaries (Gallant, Lively Dances) [T-9], where a couple of spirited numbers [00:00 & 00:53] cavort about, bringing things to a jovial finish.
The last orchestral work here is Mátyás's Fantasia concertante for Violin and String Orchestra (1943-44), which along with the remaining two chamber pieces represent a considerable stylistic change from the previous selections. More specifically, they're of dodecaphonic persuasion like the music pioneered by those composers of the Second Viennese School. And on that note, this release earns a "SUGGESTED" rating as conservative CLOFO readers may want to think twice about getting it.
In one movement lasting almost seventeen minutes [T-10], the work begins with a twelve-tone-spined idea (TTF) played by both orchestra and soloist [00:00]. This is the basis for several treatments of varying mood, the first being rather lyrical [00:41].
Subsequently, there are headstrong [01:17], busy [02:25], mystical [03:03, 05:53 & 06:53], capricious [08:54] and dicey ones [10:02]. The latter has an extended, demanding violin cadenza [13:34-15:32], after which the orchestra returns [15:33], calling up a combative treatment for all [15:58] that ends things forcefully.
The earlier of those two chamber selections on this release is titled Concert Piece for Violin and Piano (1954). In a single, eight-minute movement [T-14] the work greatly impressed Hungarian composer György Ligeti (1923-2006) when he saw the score during a trip Siebert made to Budapest shortly after writing it.
Like the preceding Fantasia, this opens with a TTF thought [00:00], which undergoes a variety of transformations. These range from twitchy [00:34] to arialike [01:18], yearning [02:22], cheeky [03:39 & 04:27], passive [04:57], quarrelsome [06:23 & 07:03] and ghostly [07:19]. Then a fleeting one [07:32] concludes the piece pragmatically.
Written shortly before his untimely demise, Mátyás's Sonata for Violin and Piano (1960) fills out this disc, and is the most progressive selection here. In three atonally-colored movements, the initial appassionata e rapsodico (passionate and rhapsodic) one [T-11] starts with a harried, tone row (HT) [00:00]. This adjoins a more contemplative segment [00:41].
Then a rehash of the foregoing [02:14] calls up a couple of HT-based, squirrely episodes [04:30 & 05:24], the last of which bridges into a brief, pensive afterthought [05:43]. This is succeeded by the violin introducing an HT-reminiscent, declamatory coda [06:13], where a pianistic outburst brings the movement to an abrupt conclusion.
The grazioso, danzato (graceful, dancelike) marked, middle one [T-12] is more conventional sounding. It's of scherzoesque disposition with delicate, whimsical outer sections [00:00 & 02:58]. They bracket a related, ethereal, trio-like midriff [01:56-02:57] and bring this movement full circle.
A final lento e rubato (slow and syncopated) utterance [T-13] features an HT-reminiscent, lamentatious thought (HL) [00:00] played by the violin with some underlying keyboard support. HL undergoes several treatments that vary from imploring [00:50] to peripatetic [01:50 & 02:15], coquettish [02:43], shimmering [03:22] and aria-like [03:46]. Then the sonata concludes with a pious one [04:33] that ends pianissimo as the violin plays a heavenly, rising glissando [05:43].
In regard to the performances, the first three selections feature the Württembergisches Kammerorchester (WKO; Württemberg Chamber Orchestra), which is named after a German state where it's based in the city of Heilbronn, some 300 air miles southwest of Berlin. Under award-winning, Hungarian-born conductor Levente Török, the WKO gives superb accounts of these works. A big round of applause also goes to up-and-coming, German violinist Nina Karman, who is the soloist for the Fantasia... and delivers a technically spot-on, yet sensitive performance of it.
That said, Frau Karman is accompanied by her fellow countryman, Oliver Triendl, who's no stranger to these pages (see 31 March 2020 and 30 April 2021), for the remaining chamber selections. Together they make a strong case for a couple of rarely heard works.
All these recordings were a coproduction of Haennsler and Deutschlandfunk Kultur. The orchestral ones took place during May of 2021 at Festsaal Sulmtalhalle in Heilbronn's municipality of Erlenbach. They present an appropriately sized sonic image in a pleasant venue with the solo violin centered and well balanced against the WKO. The string tone is generally good across the entire frequency spectrum, but some may notice a touch of "digitalis" in the violins' upper registers.
The chamber pieces were laid down the following August at the Württemberg Philharmonic's home studio in Reutlingen, Germany, some 50 miles south of Heilbronn. They present a generous soundstage where both artists are placed center stage with the violin just to the left of Herr Triendl's piano. They're well captured and balanced against one another, but pointy-eared listeners may find occasional steely spots in Frau Karman's passages.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, S220226)
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