CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 JULY 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.
Elgar: Quartet in E minor (arr D.Matthews), Miniatures for Cello & Strings (arr D.Fraser); Wallfisch/Woods/EngStgO [Lyrita]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Some of Sir Edward Elgar's (1857-1934) music is "Reimagined" on this recent Lyrita release. More specifically, it gives us captivating, arrangements for string orchestra of some pieces by him, these being the only readily available versions in this form currently on disc.
The program begins with English composer David Matthews (b. 1943) reworking (2002-2010) of Edward's three-movement String Quartet in E minor (Op. 83, 1918). The "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") opener [T-1] is pervaded by a couple of capricious melodies [00:02 & 00:43], which are explored and followed by a brief pause. Then a contemplative section [04:41] adjoining a sprightly one [06:35], ends this movement tranquilly.
Next, there's a "Piacevole" ("Pleasing"), "poco andante" ("slowly walking"), C major interlude [T-2] based on a bucolic idea [00:00]. Elgar's wife Alice (1848-1920) loved the original version, which was apparently performed at her funeral. As for the one here, it comes off as a charming intermezzo with a savoring of sadness.
The closing movement [T-3] has an antsy thought (A1) [00:00] that bridges [01:42] into a yearning number (Y2) [01:59]. They're food for a captivating, contrapuntally spiced development [03:04], and Y2-initiated recapitulation [06:04] with frenetic reminders of A1 [07:06]. Then there's an anticipatory pause, after which both ideas power an exciting section [07:53] that ends the work elatedly.
The program continues with English composer Donald Fraser's (1925-2021) eleven-movement suite titled Miniatures for Cello and Strings (2019-2020). A delightful collection of shorter works all drawn from some of Elgar's best loved creations, this was written back in 2020 at the suggestion of our soloist here, British cellist Raphael Wallfisch (b. 1953).
It opens with a couple of old favorites most likely composed back in 1889 or 1890. They're the Chanson de Matin (Morning Song, Op. 15, No. 2) [T-4] as well as its companion Chanson de Nuit (Night Song, Op. 15, No. 1) [T-5], and here they take the form of winsome cello vocalises set to caressing, string orchestra accompaniments.
Subsequently, we get two excerpts based on a couple of well-known orchestral pieces. First there's a playful The Wild Bears [T-6] from Wand of Youth Suite No. 2 (Op. 1b; 1908) and after that, a stately Nimrod [T-7], which is the ninth Enigma Variation (Op. 36; 1898-99).
Next there's a contemplative Romance [T-8] that's a reworking of an eponymous, concertante work for bassoon or cello (Op. 62; 1909-10). This is followed by a melancholy Sospiri (Sighs, Op. 70; 1914) [T-9] and spirited Mazurka [T-10], where the latter is based on the first of Three Characteristic Pieces (Op. 10, No. 1; 1899).
Then Fraser borrows melodies from two songs, giving us a solicitous Pleading (Op. 48; 1908) [T-11] as well as romantic In Moonlight (Op. 50; 1904) [T-12]. They're succeeded with a tender Salut d'Amour (Love's Greeting, Op. 12; 1888) [T-13] that was inspired by Elgar's amorous feelings for his wife Alice (see above). And last but not least, there's the transcription of a piano piece titled Adieu (Farewell; 1932) [T-14], which brings this disc to a lovely conclusion.
Wallfisch delivers a loving, sensitive performance of Miniatures..., and receives superb support from the strings of the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) under their current Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, American-born, British resident Kenneth Woods (b. 1968). What's more, Maestro Woods along with his talented musicians deliver an outstanding account of that initial steroidal quartet.
The recordings were made in September (Quartet...) and October (Miniatures...) of 2020 at the Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, England some 150 miles east of London. They present a generous sonic image in affable surroundings with the solo cello and well highlighted against the other strings.
Generally speaking, the overall sound is characterized by subtle highs, a silky midrange and clean lows, where there's no hint of overhang. Everything considered, this release easily earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220731)
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Rautavaara: Fantasia, In the Beginning, Deux Sérénades (cpte Aho), Lost Landscapes; Lamsma/Trevińo/Malmö SO [Ondine]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016) left a large oeuvre across all genres, and this recent Ondine release gives us four of his late orchestral works, which are of neoromantic persuasion. They're the only readily available versions of them currently on disc, and two are world premiere recordings indicated by "WPR" after their titles.
Three are for violin and orchestra, the first being his Fantasia of 2015 [T-1]. In a single span lasting just over 12 minutes, this is a sublime creation that may bring to mind more contemplative passages in fellow countryman Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto (D minor, Op. 47; 1904, rev. 1905). With soaring as well as pensive moments, it builds to a dramatic climax that suddenly ends with an anguished violin note.
A short orchestral selection called In the Beginning (2015; WPR) follows [T-2]. It was his last work, and considering the importance he placed on titles as well as his affinity for otherworldly concepts, this music may suggest he was contemplating some new existence in another dimension. That said, it's an octatonic-flavored piece with timpanic glissandi, rustling winds, chorale-like brass and shifting string passages.
Back in 1977, American violinist Hilary Hahn (b. 1979) expressed interest in Rautavarra writing a new concerto for her. On that note, remnants of two movements for violin and orchestra apparently penned for Hilary surfaced not long after the composer's demise. Then in 2018 his younger countryman Kalevi Aho (b. 1949), who'd studied with him at the Sibelius Academy (1968-1971), worked them into the next selection titled Deux Sérénades (Two Serenades).
Both are reflective pieces and also draw from earlier works (see the album notes). The first Sérénade pour mon amour (Serenade for my love) [T-3] is an exquisitely amorous morsel just for strings, while its companion Sérénade pour la vie (Serenade for life) [T-4] is more outgoing. Here soaring melodies for the violin along with the other strings as well as woodwinds and horns give us a joyful offering with an "agitated" final coda [05:57] that suddenly ends.
Last but not least, there's Lost Landscapes (WPR), this being a musical travelogue to four places having particular significance for the composer when he was studying abroad. Originally a duo for violin and piano composed back in 2005 for Japanese-born American violinist Midori Goto (b. 1971), he'd later arrange it for violin and strings (2013-15), thereby giving us what's here.
The initial Tanglewood [T-5] commemorates his summer coursework there, while he was on a Sibelius scholarship back in 1955-56. His teachers included Roger Sessions (1896-1985) as well as Aaron Copland (1900-1990), and this takes the form of a passionate paean with a peaceful ending.
It's followed by Ascona [T-6] that's the Swiss municipality, where he studied twelve-tone technique with Wladimir Vogel (1896-1984). Consequently, this piece is appropriately biting and rather sagacious. But then, there's Rainergasse 11, Vienna [T-7], it being the street address of the magnificent 18th century Schönburg Palace.
Back in the spring of 1955, the financially-strapped owners were renting rooms to music students, one of whom was our aspiring composer. Appropriately enough, this selection is a pensive piece invoking thoughts of times long gone by.
Reflection turns to excitement in the final West 23rd Street, NY [T-8], which refers to Rautavaara's digs in Manhattan during winter 1955-56. It suggests busy shoppers crowding narrow sidewalks next to streets full of rushing traffic, and brings this release to a lively conclusion.
Dutch violinist Simone Lamsma gives technically accomplished, sensitive performances of Fantasia [T-1], Deux Sérénades [T-3, 4 & 5] and Lost Landscapes [T-5, 6, 7 & 8]. These are all the more compelling for the superb support she receives from the Malmö Symphony Orchestra (MSO) under their Artistic Advisor, American conductor Robert Trevińo (b. 1984). He and the MSO also make a strong case for In the Beginning [T-2].
The recordings were done 21-23 June of last year in Malmö, Sweden, about 300 air miles south-southwest of Stockholm. They took place at what's known as the Malmö Live Konserthus (Malmö Live Concert Hall), and project a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings. Ms. Lansma is seemingly placed just left of Maestro Trevińo and well balanced against the MSO.
The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by smooth highs in addition to a natural sounding midrange, which are as good as they get on conventional CDs. What's more, the lows are lean and clean reflecting Rautavaara's immaculate scoring. Taking all the foregoing into consideration, audiophiles will not be disappointed!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220730)
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Reinecke, C.: Cpte Pno Trios (incl Beethoven; "Triple" Conc arr C.Reinecke for pno trio); Hyperion Trio [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (2 CDs)
Ever since this website's inception (2006), Danish-born, German composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) has been a CLOFO regular and last appeared in these pages on a Naxos release (see 31 July 2021). Now we get a CPO double-disc album with the Hyperion Trio (HT) playing both works included there plus three new ones, thereby giving us superb performances of all his pieces in the genre. Incidentally, these are the only readily available versions of the additional selections currently on CD.
The first disc begins with HT's reading of Carl's four-movement Piano Trio No. 1 in D major (Op. 38; 1851). Summarizing what we said last year regarding its musical structure (see 31 July 2021), the opening sonata-rondo [D-1, T-1] has a "lento" ("slow") introduction [00:03] soon followed by an "allegro ma non troppo" ("lively but not too fast") main body [01:12]. Then there's a captivating "andante" ("flowing") intermezzo [D-1, T-2], "vivace ma non troppo" ("spirited but not too fast") scherzo [D-1, T-3] and "allegro brillante" ("lively and bright") sonata-rondo finale [D-1, T-4].
After that we get a pair of new selections probably written in 1873, they being two Serenades (Op. 126, Nos. 1 & 2). Both are four-movement works, which he dedicated to his fellow countryman and colleague Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902), whom we lauded in these pages some years ago.
The first one has a winsome, "molto moderato" ("very moderate"), sonata-form-like, opening Adagio [D-1, T-5], featuring a couple of lovely ideas [01:12 & 02:00]. Subsequently, we get a mischievous, "allegretto" ("lively") Intermezzo [D-1, T-6] and proud, "moderato molto" ("very moderate") Fandango (PF) [D-1, T-7]. Then a rondoesque, "allegro con brio" ("fast with vigor") Finale [D-1, T-8] brings things to a sunny conclusion.
Its sibling fills out the disc and begins with a cocky "moderato" ("moderate") Marsch (March) [D-1, T-9] having pervasive suggestions of PF. Subsequently, there's a ternary, "andante sostenuto" ("flowing and sustained") Canon [D-1, T-10], where delicate outer sections [00:00 & 01:49] hug a flighty inner one [00:58-01:48]. This is succeeded by a capricious, 3/4-time, "allegro" ("fast") Humoreske (Humoresque) [D-1, T-11].
Then there's an "andantino con moto" ("leisurely with movement") Andante und Variationen (Andante and Variations) [D-1, T-12]. It has a tuneful opening [00:00] that's the main subject for six subsequent treatments. More specifically, the first five range from running [00:27] to playful [00:55], melancholy [01:17], songlike [02:16] and whimsical [03:19]. Subsequently, a PF-seasoned one [03:56] ends the work in the same spirit it began.
The album's other disc gets underway with Reinecke's four-movement Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor (Op. 230; pub. 1895). This has an "allegro" ("lively"), sonata-form-like opening one [D-2, T-1], which begins with an agitated idea [00:02], followed by a "dolce ed espressivo" ("sweet and expressive") second thought [00:56]. Then the foregoing material is revisited [01:57], thereby initiating a dramatic development [03:53] and forceful recapitulation [05:42]. However, the latter has a restrained coda [07:30] that ends the movement uneventfully.
A subsequent "andante sostenuto" ("flowing and sustained") one [D-2, T-2] is also of sonata-form persuasion. It's a subtle piece of work based on two opening themes, which are respectively introspective [00:01] and cheerful [01:05]. Then the foregoing material is repeated [02:13], engendering an agitated developmental segment [03:23] succeeded by a nostalgic recap [03:52] that concludes things tranquilly.
Next there's a "vivace ma non troppo" ("spirited but not too fast") Scherzo [D-2, T-3] with scampering ditties powering mercurial outer sections [00:01 & 03:58], bracketing a tuneful trio [02:18-03:57]. All of this sets the stage for the "Finale" [D-2, T-4], which is a theme and variations beginning with a delicate main subject (DM) [00:00].
DM undergoes a variety of inventive transformations. These range from quarrelsome [01:13] to complacent [01:42], fugally fidgety [02:06], smilingly songful (SS) [02:34], angry [03:19], romantic [03:48], whimsical [04:49] and chorale-like [05:40]. Then a DM-based triumphant coda [06:12] ends the sonata with an SS-flavored last thought [06:38].
It's followed by another selection also found on that Naxos release (see 31 July 2021), namely Reinecke's transcription for piano trio (pub. 1866-67) of Beethoven's (1770-1827) "Triple" Concerto in C major (Op. 56; 1803-04). Summarizing what we said back then regarding the musical structure, there's an exuberant, opening "Allegro" ("Lively") [D-2, T-5], succeeded by a contemplative "Largo" ("Slow") [D-2, T-6]. Then a "Rondo alla polacca" ("Rondo in the Polish style") [D-2. T-7] closes this disc and album joyfully.
The HT delivers technically accomplished, outstanding readings of it as well as the other four selections included here. Founded back in 1999 by three very talented German musicians (pianist Hagen Schwarzrock, violinist Oliver Kipp and cellist Katharina Troe), this release will leave romantic chamber music enthusiasts anxious to hear any of HT's future efforts.
The recordings were made during April and October of 2019 by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln (WDR) at its Klaus-von-Bismarck-Saal located in Cologne, some 300 miles southwest of Berlin. They consistently present comfortably sized sonic images in a pleasant-sounding venue with the strings positioned just left (violin) and right (cello) of Herr Schwarzrock.
His piano is well captured with just the right amount of percussive bite, and his colleagues' string tone is as good as it gets on conventional discs. By the way, pointy-eared listeners will notice a strange, humming sound (HVAC?) just after the second Serenade's penultimate movement [D-1, T-11; 03:37-03:42]. However, any sonic shortcomings will soon be forgotten with music this appealing!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P220729)
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Takács: Serenade…, Rhapsody…, Conc for Pno..., Passacaglia…, 3 Pieces…; Karmon/Triendl/Christ/Ingol GeChO [Capriccio]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Composer-pianist Jenő Takács (1902-2005) seems to have slipped under the CLOFO radar. However, we finally make up for that with this recent Capriccio release, featuring two of his concertante works as well as three others for chamber orchestra.
He was born in what was Cinfalva, Hungary, and now Siegendorf, Austria, located some 60 miles south of Vienna. Young Jenő then went on to study in that great city at what's now known as the University of Music and Performing Arts. His teachers included Guido Adler (1855-1941), Joseph Marx (1882-1964; see 31 July 2019), Paul Weingarten (1886-1948) and Hans Gál (1890-1987).
The early 1920s saw him tour Germany and Hungary as a concert pianist. Then in 1926 he met Béla Bartók (1881-1945), whose influence led to his incorporating bits of Magyar folk music as well as polytonality into his creations.
From 1927 to 1970, Takács had a long, distinguished, international career as a soloist, composer and teacher (see the album notes). Then he moved back to Siegendorf, devoting his last years to writing music. Consequently, Jenő left a substantial body of works across all genres, and the five here testify to what an accomplished composer he was.
By way of background, the first selection is based on Austrian, Croatian and Hungarian folk material. It began life as a six-movement suite for large orchestra titled Serenade after Ancient Contredanses from Graz (Op. 83; 1966), which is unfortunately not currently available on disc. However, the work became so popular that the composer soon made several other arrangements of it, and we're lucky to have the one for strings (Op. 83b; 1966) here.
This opens with an "allegro moderato" ("moderately fast") marked Ouvertüre (Overture) [T-1], which may bring to mind the first of Schubert's (1797-1828) three Marche Militaires (Op. 51/D733; pub. 1826). Then there's an "andantino" ("leisurely") Serenade [T-2], starting with a lovely melody [00:01] that becomes a searching song [01:36].
The music gets more vivacious in the subsequent "allegretto grazioso" ("lively, but graceful") Kontratanz (Contredanse) [T-3], where perky, venatic outer sections [00:01 & 01:04] bracket a pastoral inner one [00:35-01:03]. Then there's an "allegretto" ("lively") Polka [T-4], which is of folksy, droll disposition.
But things turn a bit more refined with the following "andantino" ("leisurely") Menuett (Minuet) [T-5], and the Hungarian duda may well have inspired the closing "vivace" ("lively") Dudelsack (Bagpipe) movement [T-6]. This is a scurrying piece with a catchy folk tune heard soon after the beginning [00:23-00:46] and brings the work to a merry conclusion.
Next, there's Rhapsody (Hungarian Melodies) for Violin and String Orchestra (Op. 49a; 1941) [T-7]. Here like Bartók, Takács borrows Magyar folk tunes, and starts things off with a captivating csárdás of his own making.
It begins with a leisurely Lassan [00:01], which has a lovely tune played by the soloist (LT) [00:10] as well as plenty of fancy fiddling. Then the pace quickens with a frolicsome Friska [03:00]. This adjoins a songful segment [03:41-04:36] with a demanding violin cadenza [04:37-06:27] sounding like one of those madcap improvisations by some Prímás of long ago. Then all engage in frenzied passages [06:28] that end the piece with a last hint of LT [07:03].
One of the composer's most significant works, his Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra and Percussion (Op.60; 1947-2000), follows. The first of its three movements began life during 1947, only to be revised in 1956, 1977 and 2000, when the composer was 98. Bartók's influence is so pervasive that Jenő's piece may bring to mind his Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (Sz. 106/BB 114; 1936). Also, there are Middle Eastern musical elements present, which reflect the composer's extensive travels.
The initial sonata-formish movement [T-8] begins with an "andante" ("slow"), tension-building orchestral preface [00:01] hinting at what's to come. Then after a moment of silence, the soloist enters [01:52] calling up percussion-laced passages [02:20]. These are followed by a pause and forceful, "allegro vivace" ("fast and spirited") idea (03:15) that's explored. Subsequently, there's another break giving way to a songful, second thought intoned by the strings [06:01] and piano [06:42].
Then a moment of anticipatory silence paves the way for the soloist to lead the tutti into a complex, captivating development [07:44] with ad-lib moments as well as fleeting bits of new thoughts. However, all of this suddenly ends, and after a tension-building break we get what starts out as a sighing recapitulation [11:17]. But then there's another pause, after which a coda with bravura, percussion-reinforced piano passages [12:41] brings the movement to an arresting conclusion.
The middle one is a "Fantasia" [T-9] that opens with the strings playing a pensive theme (PT) [00:01] that's picked up by the soloist [01:16]. Then PT undergoes a tutti exploration, and after a percussive outburst [02:49-02:52], the music subsides into shimmering recollections of PT [03:41].
However, these become combative, percussion-laced ones [04:27] that trail away into memories of PT for glistening strings and a twitchy piano [05:45]. Then the latter become subdued, PT-based string passages [07:56] with an upward gesture for the soloist [08:37], all of which end the movement uneventfully.
The infectious "Finale" [T-10] is a rondo that stylistically reflects the composer's cosmopolitan background, and lives up to its "allegro molto vivace (quasi presto)" ("lively and very vivacious (extremely fast)") marking. More specifically, there's a bouncy, opening announcement for all [00:00] with a percussive whack and tension-building pause. Then a madcap principal ditty (MP) [00:10] having manic, virtuosic piano passages that scurry about, calls up a somewhat more lyrical countermelody (LC) [00:50].
LC transitions into a break and repeat of MP [01:47], which is the subject of a dance-like development [02:09] with flashing runs for the soloist [02:16]. This ends in a quick snare-drum-accented pianistic gesture and tension-building moment of silence. Then LC-reminiscent, cyclic passages for all [03:34] with some colorful castanet work [04:07-04:10], invoke an MP-LC-tinged, fiery, percussion-spiced, pianistic coda [04:22] that closes the piece jubilantly.
Apparently the first movement of an incomplete 1948 piano sonata (never published) was the underlying material for our next selection. It's Jenő's Passacaglia for String Orchestra (Op. 3; 1960) [T-11], which the album notes refer to as "the endpoint of the composer's classicist period".
This work begins with a sad, hymnlike ostinato (SH) that then repeats under each of several variational offspring. These range from antsy [01:25] to despairing [02:05], martial [03:46], timorous [04:54], capricious [06:37] and skittish [07:33], where the latter two are pizzicato-spiced. Then a nostalgic episode [10:06] having virtuosic, cadenza-like, violin passages [beginning at 10:20] ends the work tranquilly with a hint of SH [12:48] and three, subdued notes [12:58-13:08].
The disc concludes on a lighter note with Three Pieces for String Orchestra. These are extracted from a work titled American Rhapsody: Four Pieces - Four Countries (no opus number; 1993), which is the composer's arrangement for strings (quartet or orchestra) of some of his solo piano pieces. By the way, the missing one is called Nigunim and draws upon a Hebrew melody.
What we have here again reflects Takács's cosmopolitan background and takes the form of a tiny, musical travelogue. That said, the opening "Celtic Pastorale" [T-12] conjures images of Hibernia and the Emerald Isle's green fields. After that it's on to Paprika Jancsi" [T-13], which is a puckish, Hungarian-sounding, musical characterization of a European folk puppet figure by that name.
Then the journey ends in "American Rhapsody" [T-14]. This is ternary, A-B-A-structured piece, with "A"s [00:00 & 02:03] based on that old familiar melody for the American folk song Turkey in the Straw [00:04] (see history). They hug a somewhat melancholy "B" [00:46-02:02], which seemingly recalls another one. Then the last "A" brings the work as well as this disc to a jolly conclusion.
These performances feature the Georgian Chamber Orchestra (GeChO aka GKO), which was founded in Tbilisi during 1964. However, it was later exiled and by 1990 these accomplished musicians had moved to Ingolstadt, Germany, some 50 miles south of Nuremberg.
The GKO under American conductor Evan-Alexis Christ makes a strong case for all five selections presented here. A big hand also goes to German violinist Nina Karmon for her splendid playing in the Rhapsody... [T-7]. Likewise, German pianist Oliver Triendl, who's a CLOFO regular (see 30 April 2021), delivers a riveting rendition of the Concerto... [T-8, 9 & 10].
A coproduction of Capriccio and Deutschlandradio Kultur, these recordings were made 13-16 October 2020 in the Ingolstadt Municipal Theatre. They present a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings with the percussion section to the left.
Both soloists are centered, well captured and balanced against the tutti. Moreover, the overall sound is characterized by lifelike highs as well as mids, while the bass is lean and clean with no hint of boominess in the lower registers. Taking all the foregoing into consideration, this release rates an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220728)
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