30 JUNE 2023


The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.

The album cover may not always appear.
Bacewicz: Symphony No. 3, Symphony No. 4; Borowicz/ColWDR [CPO]
It's been five years since Polish composer-violinist Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) last appeared in these pages (see 30 June 2018), and we welcome her back with this recent release from the enterprising folks at CPO. Here they begin a survey of her complete symphonic works with the last two of her four symphonies. They're both in four movements, and these are the only readily available versions of them currently on disc.

Grażyna was born in Łódź (Lodz) some 85 miles west-southwest of Warsaw, and showed great talent as a violinist at a very early age. Consequently, she went on to study violin and composition at what's now known as the Chopin University of Music. Then after graduating in 1932, Bacewicz spent the next year in Paris furthering her musical education with the doyenne of 20th century music teachers, Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979).

Subsequently, she became an important figure in Polish musical circles and developed a penchant for neoclassicism along with the use of folk materials in her creations, just as Béla Bartók (1881-1945) had done. Despite the cultural repression her country suffered under Nazi Germany (1939-45) as well as the Soviet Union (1945-56), and her untimely death at 59, she left a substantial oeuvre.

The Symphony No. 3 dates from 1952, and its first movement [T-1] has a raucous, brass-reinforced, "Drammatico (Dramatic)" preface featuring a willful motif (WM) [00:01]. This is followed by "Molto allegro energico (Very fast and energetic)", sonata-form-like passages [00:58], which have a WM-related, skittering theme (WS) [01:13] with a brief, WM-tinged incursion [01:31].

Then WS is examined [01:50], giving way to a WS-derived, lyrical idea (WL) [02:37] that's explored and initiates an increasingly spunky development [03:23]. The latter wanes into a WS-initiated recap [06:43] with a reminder of WL (07:16]. This builds into a WS-based coda [08:53] having a timpani-laced ending [09:17], which closes the movement forcefully.

The "Andante (Slow)", second one [T-2] is a lovely offering that begins with a pizzicato, WL-like delicate ditty (WD) [00:01] that builds into a couple of sweeping, colorfully scored, musical landscapes [beginning at 00:31 & 01:56]. Then a WD-based tune parents a dramatic, "Un poco più mosso (A little more lively)" section [03:31-05:22] and subsequent pastoral one [05:48], which ends things tranquilly.

After that, it's on to a "Vivace (Spirited)", scherzoesque movement [T-3] with rollicking outer sections [00:00 & 02:43] based on a WM-tinged busy ditty [00:08]. They surround a trio-like inner one featuring a folksongish number [01:34] and bring this music full circle.

The Finale [T-4] has an introduction [00:01] that's a "Moderato (Moderately paced)" version of the work's opening preface (see above). Then we get its sonata-form, "Allegro con passione (Fast with passion)" marked remainder, which starts with a WM-related, boisterous idea (WB) [01:44].

WB is subsequently explored and followed by a hymn-like version of WM (WH) [02:57]. Then the foregoing material undergoes a frenetic development [04:07], and WH invokes a fervent recapitulation [06:46]. The latter has a wild, WB-infected coda [08:17] that ends the work thunderously.

The Symphony No. 4 was written a year later (1953) and begins with an "Appassionato (Spirited)", vivacious preface [T-5, 00:01] followed by an "Allegro inquieto (Fast and lively)" thematic nexus (TN) [00:23]. Then TN wanes into a songlike melody (SM) [01:52], which undergoes a blustery exploration [02:16]. This suddenly gives way to a saucy tune (ST) [02:59] that may remind you of Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937) "Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" in his 1922 orchestral version of Modeste Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) solo piano suite titled Pictures at an Exhibition (1874).

Then the foregoing material undergoes an SM-introduced, dramatic development [03:42]. However, this suddenly stops, and a subdued reminder of ST [04:26] calls up an increasingly animated ST-TN-SM filled recap. It has a "Più mosso energico (More lively and energetic)", ST-based coda [06:26] that brings the movement to a clamorous conclusion.

The "Adagio (Slow)" one [T-6] begins with a laidback variant of ST (SL) [00:01]. which is the subject matter for subsequent, through-composed, contemplative passages. These range from serene [01:04] to intense [02:03], resigned [02:29] and powerful [03:02]. Then the latter wanes into a gently swaying version of SL [04:17] that ends the movement peacefully.

A "Vivace (Spirited)" scherzo comes next [T-7]. This has an ascending, chromatic-scale-like phrase [00:01] followed by a playful, puckish tune [00:11] that pervades its outer sections [00:01 & 03:06]. They surround an impish, folk-song-like trio [01:57-03:05] and close the movement full circle.

The last one [T-8] has an ominous, "Adagio mesto (Slow and sad)" opening [00:01] hinting at an upcoming, feisty, high-strung theme (FH). Then we get the "Allegro furioso (Fast and furious)", sonata-formish remainder of this movement [beginning at 01:07], where FH soon appears in full [01:21].

FH is explored [02:00] and succeeded by a related, doleful number (FD) [02:37] with underlying bits of FH [beginning at 04:03]. Then FD initiates a dramatic development, and FH triggers a vivacious recapitulation [05:31]. The latter has an effulgent coda [07:13] that brings the symphony and disc to a blazing conclusion.

Polish conductor Łukasz Borowicz (b. 1977) and the WDR Sinfonieorchester (aka WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne) based come 300 miles west-southwest of Berlin, deliver magnificent accounts of both selections. They make a strong case for a couple of works that rank with those by such well-known compatriots of the composer as Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937), Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986; see 30 June 2017) and Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994). Hopefully Maestro Borowicz will soon give us more of this lady's music.

These recordings were produced by the WDR and made during 20-26 November 2021 in Cologne, presumably at their concert broadcasting studio. They present an adequately sized, sonic image in agreeable surroundings, which will appeal to those liking a drier sound. The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs and mids, while the lows are clean with some pronounced timpani passages that'll give your woofers a real workout.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y230630)


The album cover may not always appear.
Price, F.: Concert Overtures Nos. 1 & 2, Songs of the Oak, The Oak, Colonial Dances, Suite of Dances; Jeter/WPR [Naxos]
With this recent release, Naxos gives us another winning CD of additional orchestral music from American composer Florence Beatrice Price's (1887-1953) considerable oeuvre. She's been a CLOFO regular for some time (see 31 March 2022), and now we get six more selections, these being the only readily available ones on disc of the versions performed here.

Apparently, Price thought Negro spirituals were a form of American folk music, which was very much worth exploring in her concert works. Consequently, both of the first two selections here do just that.

Moreover, her "Concert Overture No. 1" (1939) [T-1] is a symphonic contemplation of the melody for "Sinner, Please Don't Let This Harvest Pass" (SP; see text). That said, the work begins with SP [00:01], which undergoes several captivating treatments, which range from searching [00:47] to valiant [01:16], complacent [02:58], pastoral [05:00], heroic [06:14 & 06:40] and martial [08:37].

Then the latter gives way to a nostalgic remembrance of SP [09:06] that calls up two big tune versions of it [09:30 & 10:44]. These escalate into a thrilling, SP-based coda [11:23], which ends the work dramatically.

"Concert Overture No. 2" (1943) [T-2] draws on the melodies of three spirituals, namely "Go Down, Moses" (GD; see text), "Nobody Knows the Trouble I See" (NK; see text) and "Every Time I Feel the spirit" (ET; see text). It starts with a preface hinting at GD [00:00], which soon follows in full [00:51]. Then GD is explored [01:41] and bridges into NK [03:49] that's examined [04:45], thereby calling up a joyous ET [05:54].

Subsequently, all three tunes are material for a couple of moving developmental episodes [06:33 & 08:28]. Then ET triggers a stirring recap [09:35] with a GD-NK-ET-reminiscent coda [12:23], which brings the work to a powerful conclusion.

Two colorful, arboreal tone poems follow. Both date from 1943 and are somewhat atavistic works in that they bring to mind Richard Wagner's (1813-1883) orchestral moments.

"Songs of the Oak" [T-3] opens with a lofty, dignified theme (LD) [00:00], where it's easy to imagine a towering tree, whose many branches hold twittering birds [00:54]. LD waxes and wanes into what seem like distant rolls of thunder [03:47], flashes of lightening [03:51] and pizzicato raindrops [04:07], all of which ostensibly develop into a raging storm [04:41].

This is interspersed with LD-reminiscent, hymnlike moments (LH) [05:58 & 06:25], after which the opening measures return [09:19] and parent a towering version of LD [10:46]. Then the latter ebbs into more avian calls [11:30] as well as recollections of LH [11:54] that end the piece tranquilly.

Continuing in an arborescent vein, we next get "The Oak" [T-4], which is theme-and-variations-like. It begins with a somber, august, idea (SA) [00:00] that undergoes several treatments. These range from mysterious [01:09] to radiant [02:27], spirited 04:36], devout [05:10], enigmatic [06:16] and smiling [07:04] with more of those song birds [07:43-08:12]. Then an imposing one [08:41] with a forceful, SA-based coda [10:13] closes things matter-of-factly.

Florence apparently considered dance a very important part of American musical life, and the last two selections testify to that. While their dates are unknown, seemingly they originated as solo piano pieces, which she wrote in the early 1930s and would later orchestrate.

Be that as it may, the "Colonial Dance" [T-5] is a ternary, A-B-A-structured piece that harkens back to 17-18th century times. The "A"s [00:00 & 03:10] are based on a Scotch-snap-accented, frolicsome ditty [00:00] with a jolly countermelody [00:24]. They surround a minuet-like "B" [02:40-03:09], which is initially tinged with pizzicato strings and some bells.

Our concert concludes with Price's three-movement "Suite of Dances" that's arguably her best-known work. It began life in 1933 as a keyboard piece titled "Three Little Negro Dances" with movements respectively named Hoe Cake, Rabbit Foot and Ticklin' Toes.

Moreover, the "Allegretto (Lively)" opener [T-6] is a capricious piece of cake, while the similarly marked second [T-7] might best be described as fleet-of-foot. Then the Allegro molto (Very fast)" third [T-8] takes the form of a toe-tapping, cavort that ends the work and this disc on a real high.

American conductor John Jeter (b. 1963) continues his invaluable survey of Ms. Price's music, but this time from Germany, where he led the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen (WPR), which is based in Reutlingen, some 350 miles south-southwest of Berlin. Once again, he makes a strong case for a composer who's finally beginning to get the recognition she so well deserves.

These recordings took place 20-22 April 2022 in the WPR's Studio, and present a comfortably sized sonic image in pleasant surroundings. There's none of that feeling of confinement sometimes associated with venues of this type.

The overall orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a good midrange and articulate bass with no hint of boominess in the lower registers. That said, this ranks among the better sounding, conventional CDs, and with music this engaging, audiophiles will soon forget any sonic shortcomings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y230629)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Sgambati: Symphony No. 2 in E♭ Major, Sinfonia epitalamio (Nuptial Symphony); Vecchia/OrSinfaR [Naxos]
Born in Rome, composer-pianist Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914) makes a long overdue reappearance in these pages with this new Naxos disc that gives us world premiere recordings of two orchestral pieces.

He left a modest number of works, which oddly enough for an Italian composer of his day included no operas, but a substantial number of piano pieces. In that regard, he studied with Franz Liszt (1811-1886) and even became a good friend of his. Through him, Giovanni got to know Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who supported the publication of his music (see the album notes).

Probably written in 1883, the four-movement "Symphony No. 2 in E♭ Major" was initially well received, but publishing problems lead to its disappearance. Fortunately, the orchestral parts were found in Rome sometime back in 2008 by British, musician/publisher Roz Trubger (aka Rozalind Trübger; b. 1957). Then during 2010, she realized them into a performing edition, which was the basis for this recording.

The work is of Wagnerian disposition, and its first movement [T-1] has a somber, "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)" preface [00:04] that invokes the "Agitato (Agitated)" remainder of it. The latter begins with a compelling thematic nexus [02:43] that undergoes a masterful development [05:37], followed by a lovely recapitulation [09:08]. Then the foregoing waxes and wanes into a thrilling coda [11:34], which ends things triumphantly.

A subsequent "Allegro vivace assai (Very fast and spirited)" scherzo [T-2] has colorfully scored, outer sections [00:01 & 06:12] featuring a timpani-accented, playful idea. They lie on either side of a songful, harp-laced one [03:49-06:11] and end the movement uneventfully.

The "Andante con moto (Slow with movement)" [T-3] is a gorgeous, theme-and-variations-like, cantabile serenade. It starts with somewhat tentative passages [00:00] hinting at a lovely, delicate melody (LD) soon played by a cor anglais [01:11]. LD then undergoes four treatments that vary from cavatinaesque [03:23] to headstrong [04:14], pastoral [04:48] and dancelike [05:41]. After that a fickle one [08:12] concludes the movement tranquilly.

Subsequently, there's a magnificent "Allegro (Fast)" conclusion [T-4], which begins with a prancing preface [00:00]. This calls up a jubilant number (JN) [00:25] that's examined and repeated [01:04]. JN then triggers developmental treatments that range from heroic [01:31] to nostalgic [03:21], playful [04:37] and aspiring [05:27 & 06:21]. All this is followed by the valiant return of JN [07:07] plus an exultant coda [08:59] that ends the symphony triumphantly.

Turning to the other selection, we get Sgambati's "Sinfonia epitalamio (Nuptial Symphony)". It would seem this is a reworking of something that he considered his third symphony of 1887, which was done for an 1888 concert celebrating the wedding of Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta (1898-1942) and Princess Maria Letizia Bonaparte (1866-1926). That said, it's in essence a three-part, programmatic symphonic poem, whose first section is in a single movement, while each of the following ones have two.

Part I is marked "In chiesa (In church): Preludio e Cantico (Prelude and Canticle)" [T-5]. This has "Adagio cantabile (Slow and songlike)" outer sections [00:02 & 06:27] based on a hymnlike melody (HM) [00:20]. They surround an "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)" [03:27-06:26] middle one with an HM-related flowing tune heard at its outset, and end things peacefully.

The first movement of Part II is titled "In giardino (In the Garden): Festa popolare e nottorno (Popular Festivities and Nocturne)" [T-6]. It opens festively with a vivacious dance number (VN) [00:00], which is examined, and wanes into a moving nocturne [02:23] that concludes this movement soporifically.

However, the festivities resume in Part II's second one, which is marked "In giardino (In the Garden): Ripressa e ridda di fanciulli (Reprise and Children's Dance)" [T-7]. Here VN resumes [00:00], soon bridging into a "Molto vivace (Very vivacious)" episode, where it undergoes several treatments.

These range from scampering [00:57] to coy [01:37], sighing [03:11], skittish [04:24], rambunctious [04:52] and dainty [05:12]. Then a couple of pensive ones [06:03 & 06:38] are followed by an antsy coda [07:01] that ends this part with a forceful "So there!" cadence [07:09].

Part III's first movement is titled "A corte (At court): Minuetto (Minuet)" [T-8]. It begins with a binary theme (BT) having a charming, VN-reminiscent first part [00:07] adjoining a boisterous second [00:40]. Then BT is repeated [01:17] as well as explored [02:02], after which it reappears [04:01 & 04:52], thereby waxing and waning into a peaceful ending.

The second movement of Part III is labelled "A corte (At court): Corteo (Procession)" [T-9]. It has a busy introduction [00:00] hinting at a magnificent, festive, brass-laced march (MF) that soon follows [00:21]. Here Sgambati pens a wonderful trio tune [01:10], which some may find anticipates those in Edward Elgar's (1857-1934) Pomp and Circumstance creations (1901-1930). Then MF is imaginatively explored [02:02], and subsequently returns [05:02] to end the work as well as this disc in a Lisztian blaze of glory.

The Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma (OSR) under its artistic director, Italian conductor Francesco La Vecchia (b. 1954) gives superb performances of both selections. The "Symphony No. 2" done here edges out one on an earlier disc. As for the "Sinfonia epitalamio", it will probably be the definitive version for some time to come.

These recordings were made 9-24 December 2012 at OSR Studios in Rome, Italy. They consistently present a generously sized sonic image in a wonderful sounding venue. What's more, the many soloists in these colorful scores are well highlighted and balanced against the orchestra.

The instrumental timbre is characterized by delightful highs as well as rich mids and clean lows. That said, conventional orchestral CDs don't get any better sounding than this, thereby earning it an "Audiophile" rating.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y230628)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Sivelöv: Symphony No. 1 "Nordico", Symphony No. 5 "Concerto for Orchestra"; Gustafsson/MalOpO [Naxos]
Here Naxos gives music by Swedish composer-pianist Niklas Sivelöv (b. 1968), who makes a very welcome first appearance in these pages. Born in Skellefteå some 500 miles north of Stockholm, he was a gifted youngster who started playing the organ when he was only six, but switched to the piano as a fourteen-year-old. Then at seventeen Niklaus attended the Stockholm Royal College of Music, where he studied keyboard and composition.

Subsequently, Sivelöv furthered his musical education in Helsinki, Bucharest, Trossingen as well as London. He's since become an outstanding, award-winning pianist and performed with many leading orchestras as well as chamber groups, to say nothing of his solo recitals.

Niklas is also an accomplished composer, who's completed six symphonies to date and is now working on a seventh. Here we get two of his efforts in the genre, these being the only readily available versions of them currently on disc.

The Symphony No. 1 "Nordico" (2013) limns Nordic notions, and is scored for an orchestra with a large percussion section that includes a piano. In three symphonic-poem-like movements, the first [T-1] is seemingly a musical invocation of the magnificent forests found in Scandinavia.

It begins with an animated thematic nexus (AN) [00:00] that ebbs into a chorale-sounding section (CS) [02:25] with a brief, churchlike episode [04:20-04:39]. After that AN-reminiscent memories launch a vivacious offering [04:40], which becomes increasingly agitated, but is suddenly followed by wistful thoughts [07:04]. Then more AN-associated moments [08:40] give way to a CS-tinged afterthought [09:55] that ends the movement uneventfully.

According to the album notes, the second one [T-2] is a symphonic elegy, which was originally titled "Ode to Edward Munch". He was a renowned Norwegian artist (1863-1944), whose best-known painting is The Scream (1893).

Marked "Adagio (Slow)", it has a pensive opening [00:01], but the music soon becomes quite peripatetic [04:58] as if one were walking through an art gallery. Then there's a brief pause [07:45] and short orchestral shriek [07:46], presumably as the aforementioned picture comes into view.

Subsequently, the composer serves up a dramatic fermata [07:54-07:58] marked "silent scream". Do you suppose he expected the orchestra members to imagine one? In any case, more ambulatory passages soon follow [08:10], become quite dramatic, and then wane, thereby closing the movement tranquilly.

The "Allegro molto (Very Fast)" last one [T-3] was originally called Firedance of the Witches, which is an apt description of it. In that regard, this is a rhythmically vibrant, clamant creation with wilder moments reminiscent of Hector Berlioz's (1803-1869) Symphonie fantastique (Op. 14; 1830) and Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971) The Firebird (1910). It brings the work to a sudden, stern conclusion.

Moving right along, there's the Symphony No. 5 "Concerto for Orchestra" (2020), whose subtitle immediately brings to mind Béla Bartók's (1881-1945) ever popular, eponymous piece (1943). The Sivelöv is a colorfully scored creation that's again for an orchestra with a large percussion section that includes a piano.

In two "Adagio (Slow)" movements, both are theme-and-variations-like. The first [T-4] has a comely, meandering subject (CM) [00:00]. CM is then the basis for several variational treatments These range from searching [01:17] to vivacious [03:14], melancholy [05:47], penitent [06:36], capricious [07:08], serene [08:11] and jazzy [09:22]. Then the rueful return of CM [11:43] ends this movement somewhat sadly.

The second one [T-5] has feline associations (see the album notes), and begins with a subdued, impressionistic introduction hinting at a lovely, graceful theme (LG), which soon appears in full [02:07]. Then LG becomes more animated [02:33], is followed by a pause [04:31], and there are respectively laidback [04:34], forceful [06:19], triumphant [07:41] as well as nostalgic [09:33] treatments of LG. The latter has a closing bar titled "Silent Tail" [11:29] that ends the work and this disc quietly.

Swedish conductor Joachim Gustafsson (b. 1967) and the Malmö Opera Orchestra (MalOpO), based about 300 miles southwest of Stockholm, deliver superb accounts of both selections. In that regard, the MalOpO musicians deserve a big round of applause for the many, demanding, solo-instrumental passages they play so well, particularly in the later symphony. That said, both works will leave listeners with a strong desire to hear Sivelöv's other five works in this genre.

The recordings were made 7-18 June 2021, presumably in the Malmö Opera House. They project generously sized sonic images of both selections in choice surroundings. All those solo passages are well highlighted, while the overall orchestral timbre is characterized by lucid highs, marvelous mids and outstanding, transient bass where that large complement of percussion instruments will challenge even the most sophisticated audio systems.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y230627)

Amazon Records International