CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
28 NOVEMBER 2012
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.
Juon: Pno Qnt 2, Pno Sxt; Triendl/Grossenbacher/Carmina Qt [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Born in Russia of a Swiss father and German mother, Paul Juon (1872-1940; pronounced "you-one") began his musical training at the Moscow Conservatory in 1888, where his teachers included two of Russia's most distinguished composers, Anton Arensky (1861-1906, see 16 August 2010) and Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915, see 10 May 2011). Then in 1894 he moved to Berlin and completed his studies at the Hochschule fŁr Musik, now known as the University of the Arts.
Journeying back to Russia in 1896, he'd teach music theory and violin for a year. But missing the intellectual stimulation he'd experienced in Germany, he returned to Berlin and became a professor of composition until his early retirement to Switzerland in 1934.
With a background like that it's not surprising to find his oeuvre generally characterized by a Germanic structural rigor along with Slavic melodic and rhythmic elements stemming from his self-confessed love of Russian folk music. This is true of the piano quintet and sextet presented here, which date from the middle of his career. Incidentally these are the only currently available recordings of either on disc.
The piano quintet of 1909 is the second of two, the first having been recommended in these pages five years ago (see 28 March 2007). In four movements it includes the usual strings, and not two violas as indicated in the album notes. Much more progressive than the earlier sextet, the opening allegro [track-6] is chromatically adventurous with a harmonic density recalling Brahms (1833-1897). While melodically as well as rhythmically it brings Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and Medtner (1880-1951) to mind. The movement is particularly notable for its lovely rhapsodic conclusion.
A naughty pizzicato-accented scherzo [track-7] with folk overtones follows. Then we get a harmonically searching slow movement [track-8] with ominously dark passages bordering on the expressionistic. It concludes with a delicate flame of hope that's quickly extinguished by the opening of the last movement [track-9].
This begins with a blustering episode [00:01] succeeded by a snappish riff (SR) [00:44], and a lithe romantic melody (LR) [01:26] having an amorous countersubject (AC) [02:38]. All are subjected to an inventive development with some austere contrapuntal contortions. The quintet then ends joyously with a recap of LR [05:22], AC [06:43] and a more subdued version of SR [07:23], followed by a folksy dancelike SR-based coda [08:51].
The sextet for two violins, viola, two cellos and piano of 1902 is in five movements, and would seem to owe a great debt to Brahms. The initial moderato [track-1] begins with a very Russian-sounding theme played by the piano thatís immediately elaborated by the strings. A couple of other engaging thematic ideas follow, and are subjected to a consummate development with some harmonically adventurous passages. All are finally recapitulated, concluding the movement much like it began.
The theme and variations thatís next [track-2] extends into the following minuet and intermezzo movements. It begins with a simple folk-like melody (SF) [00:01] on the piano followed by five variants. The first of these is a faster version of SF for strings [01:39], the second an embellished rendering again featuring the piano [02:56], and the third a charming gavotte [04:11]. An insistent fourth [05:39], is followed by a tragic fifth [06:45], which turns hymnlike [07:23] to conclude the movement.
However, there's more to come in the next minuet [track-3] where a delightful skipping sixth variation [00:01] surrounds a songlike seventh [01:45]. But that's not all, as Juon then gives us an intermezzo [track-4] made up of a jubilant eighth transformation [00:00] followed by a big tune recap of SF [01:37].
The exciting finale [track-5] has a couple of memorable ideas that chase each other about in rondo fashion. There are hints of past motifs, and then the sextet ends in a manic coda with some keyboard pyrotechnics and frenetic fiddling.
The composer was an outstanding pianist, so it's not surprising to find challenging keyboard parts in both works. Our soloist here, Oliver Triendl, meets these demands head-on, giving us stirring accounts of them. The members of the Carmina Quartet with the assistance of cellist Thomas Grossenbacher in the sextet are equally fired up! All deliver technically accomplished, enthusiastic performances, making a strong case for some seldom-heard, unjustly neglected scores.
A coproduction with Swiss Radio, the recordings were made in a Zurich studio, and project a moderate soundstage in a warm chamber venue. The piano is well captured except for some occasional action noise, while the strings are clearly focused but with occasional bright spots. While the overall instrumental balance is good, the piano is placed to the right, and would have been better highlighted had it been more towards the center.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P121128)
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Lilburn: Stg Qt, Str Trio, Vn Son, Duos (6, 2 vns), Canztas (2, vn & va); NZSMChPl [Atoll]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn (1915-2001) makes a triumphant return to these pages (see 1 November 2006) with this new release from the Atoll label featuring some of his finest chamber music for strings. The works included were written after he'd studied at the Royal College of Music (1937-40), where Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) would be his principal teacher, and become a close lifelong friend. As of this writing, these are the only available recordings on disc.
Lilburn composed only two works for string quartet, an early Phantasy (1939; currently unavailable on disc), and the quartet of 1946 that begins this CD. In three movements, the opening andante [track-1] is a moving melancholy meditation with occasional agitated points of inflection. But the mood shifts to puerilely playful in the brief allegretto [track-2], as opposed to alternately skittish and lyrical in the folksky final allegro [track-3]. Flashes of the English countryside may come to mind in the latter.
Also in three movements, the string trio from 1945 is more harmonically advanced. The first allegro [track-13] finds the instruments engaging in a rigorous imitation-laced developmental dialogue. The severity of the opening movement is moderated by a lovely lyrical allegretto [track-14] spiked with twitchy rhythmic passages hinting at the concluding allegro [track-15]. The latter, which sports a couple sprightly tunes, is contrapuntally spiced and ends the trio on a whimsical note.
The violin sonata of 1950 is in a single movement [track-4] comprised of four connected sections. The first begins with a solemn introduction on the piano [00:01] soon joined by the violin playing an extended agonized theme [00:32]. The music then turns optimistically animated with an antsy violin number [02:44]. This is impishly elaborated, and then we get the next section [05:51], which is a lament for the violin with weeping piano accompaniment.
Grief turns to mania in the next part [08:03], where the violin rhapsodizes with virtuosic abandon. Then the sonata concludes [10:57] with a return to the somber mood of the opening.
The six Duos for Two Violins from 1954 anticipate Frank Martin's (1890-1974) …tudes for Strings (1955-6). The first two are respectively searching [track-5] and folk-dance-like [track-6], while the third is reminiscent of Bartůk (1881-1945) [track-7]. The last three are sequentially frisky [track-8], lachrymal [track-9], and flirtatious [track-10].
Two canzonettas for violin and viola are next (1942 and 1943). Both are from incidental music Lilburn wrote for a couple of Shakespeare plays. The first [track-11] is a sad lovelorn tune set to a plucked accompaniment, while the fleeting second resembles a round.
Our artists here are violinist Martin Riseley and the New Zealand School of Music Chamber Players. They deliver magnificent accounts of everything, once again making a strong case for the music of this unjustly neglected composer from "Down Under."
The quartet and duos were done at Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's (b. 1961) Park Road Post Production facility, and the others at the Expressions Arts and Entertainment Center in and around Wellington, New Zealand. The recordings are excellent and sound amazingly consistent, projecting appropriately proportioned soundstages in warm surroundings. The balance between the various instruments is ideal, the string tone natural, and the piano beautifully captured. Audiophiles will not be disappointed!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y121127)
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Parry, C.H.: Magnificat, Te Deum, Birds Ste, etc; Roocroft/N.Jšrvi/BBCWalNa C&O [Chandos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Sirs Charles Hubert Parry (1848-1918, see 26 March 2010), Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924, see 22 November 2011) and Edward Elgar (1857-1934, see 31 May 2010) were the predominant British musical figures for the latter half of the Victorian through the Edwardian eras (c. 1870-1918). But it would seem Parry has received short shrift in these pages, so it's a pleasure to welcome this new Chandos release with selections spanning his creative career.
They include five works for chorus and orchestra (see the album notes for the texts) as well as a symphonic suite. And all except for his ever popular Jerusalem (1916) are world premiere recordings.
The program opens with the Te Deum of 1911 for chorus and orchestra written for King George V's (1865-1936) coronation of that year. Six trumpets, some sustained low notes, and hints of the familiar St. Anne ("O God our help in ages past") and Old Hundredth ("All people that on earth do dwell") hymn tunes make it a regally sonorous piece. However, there's an underlying restraint that must have been appropriate to the ceremony's more solemn moments.
The concert continues with the choral song England from 1918, whose text is a paraphrase of John of Gaunt's famous second act monologue in Shakespeare's (1564-1616) The Tragedy of King Richard II (c. 1595). Lasting only three and a half minutes, it's set to one of those inspiring melodies British composers of this period regularly came up with.
While most are familiar with Vaughan Williamsí (1872-1958) incidental music for the 1909 Cambridge University production of Aristophanes' (c. 446-386 BC) play The Wasps (see 18 April 2006), Parry's for their earlier 1883 one of The Birds has remained undiscovered. But no longer with the inclusion of the six-part suite from it featured next!
The delightfully airy "Introduction" gives way to a twittering "Entry of the Birds," which ends as they all take flight. The following "Entre'acte" brings Wagner's (1813-1833) Ring Cycle (1854-74) to mind. The succeeding "Waltz" begins in whirling mirthful fashion, only to end emphatically with brass and timpani reinforced chords.
An "Intermezzo" provides a dreamy interlude that contrasts effectively with the final "Bridal March of the Birds." The latter is another of those British imperial big tune numbers anticipating Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches (1901-30, see 15 March 2008). The album notes tell us it would see service again on the occasion of Princess Elizabeth's wedding in 1947, as well as that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.
A beloved old chestnut is next, the song Jerusalem from 1916 set to the opening lines of William Blake's (1757-1827) Milton a Poem (1804-10). Done here with Parry's original orchestration, the two stanzas are sung by soprano and chorus respectively. You'll find it a refreshing change from the more vaunting Elgar version of 1922.
Next up, The Glories of Our Blood and State, which is an 1883 setting for chorus and orchestra of a poem from James Shirley's (1596-1666) drama The Contention of Ajax and Ulysses (c. 1659). Parry greatly admired and even tried to study with Brahms (1833-1897), who it would seem was the inspiration for this piece. More specifically, his Ein Deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem, 1854-68) comes to mind.
The disc concludes with Parry's Vulgate Latin setting of the Magnificat for soprano, chorus and orchestra. Written in 1897, it would be dedicated to Queen Victoria in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee celebrated that year.
In five sections with an emphasis on counterpoint and other Baroque devices, it seems to take its cue from the Magnificat (BWV 243, 1728-31) of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), whom Parry greatly revered. A jubilant orchestral opening introduces the soprano and chorus, who engage in an exultant exchange made all the more compelling through the use of some Bachian-flavored counterpoint.
The second part is a beautiful contemplative aria for the soprano. While the third, which is a choral meditation with a moving violin obbligato, must be one of the least known, but loveliest moments in all of Parry. The soloist then returns in the spirited fourth section, extolling the triumph of the poor over the rich and mighty.
The last part begins with a pensive episode for winds and six-part chorus. This introduces an exciting final fugue, which ends the work gloriously and with a final reminder of its opening measures. A major discovery, many may find this the standout selection here!
Conductor Neeme Jšrvi, this time with the BBC Wales National Chorus and Orchestra, turns in performances every bit as accomplished as those on his earlier Saint-SaŽns disc for Chandos of last summer (see 31 July 2012). And soprano Amanda Roocroft deserves a big round of applause for her Jerusalem and Magnificat solos.
Made in Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales, the recordings project a wide deep soundstage in a reverberant acoustic. The balance between the forces is fine with the soloist and chorus positioned a bit behind the orchestra.
The instrumental timbre is very musical with clean highs, but there are some bleary droning low "jug-organ" pedal points in the Te Deum. The voice quality is generally acceptable except for some digital kazoo-like artifacts in louder passages. Had this been a hybrid disc there probably wouldn't have been any of the latter on the Super Audio tracks.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P121126)
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Ries, Ferd.: Pno & Orch Wks Cpte V5 (Concs 2 in Eb & 8 in g, etc); Hinterhuber/Grodd/NZ SO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Naxos' traversal of German-born Ferdinand Ries' (1784-1838) complete works for piano and orchestra (see 13 December 2010) concludes with this fifth volume. In addition to being a composer, Ries was a highly successful concert pianist who was much in demand throughout Europe. So it's not surprising he wrote eight concertos to showcase his own talent, and delayed their publication as long as possible to keep them exclusively for his personal use.
The fact he assigned them opus numbers in order of their appearance in print creates great confusion today as to their compositional chronology. However, after some extensive sleuthing it would appear the ones here were probably the second (Eb major, 1808) and last (G minor, 1832-33) to be written.
These concertos span his career, and both follow an allegro-larghetto-rondo schema. They show the influence of Beethoven (1770-1827), who was Ries' mentor and close friend. However, there's a melodic flow, tonal coloring and rhythmic piquancy like that found in Hummel (1778-1837), Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and Chopin (1810-1849).
The earlier concerto opens the disc, and starts with the orchestra proclaiming a couple of rousing militaristic ideas. The piano enters in bravura fashion reiterating them, and launches into a fiery cadenza. A developmental dialogue for soloist and tutti with some lovely solo keyboard work follows. Then the opening ideas are reprised, and the movement ends in great pomp.
The larghetto begins with pizzicato strings and a moving clarinet solo. The piano writing is rhapsodic, and there's a chromatic adventurousness that puts the music ahead of its time.
After a brief cadenza, the piano plays an animated ditty that's the main subject for the final movement [track-3], which is another of those catchy rondos Ries had such a knack for writing. This one's no exception, and has a contrasting central episode based on what he marked in the score as an "Air russe" (AR) [05:08]. The initial theme returns after AR, and the concerto ends with some final keyboard fireworks and an exuberant tutti.
Ries' facility with rondos is again apparent in the next selection, which is the Introduction et rondeau brillant from 1825 [track-4], not be confused with his identically named effort of 1835 (see 13 December 2010). Incidentally, both pieces are in the same ballpark with Mendelssohn's Capriccio brillant (1825) and Rondo brillant (1834), also for piano and orchestra.
The Ries begins with a commanding tragic orchestral opening, which sets the stage for the soloist, who plays a somber nostalgic melody (SN) [01:48] in the minor. But every cloud has a silver lining as a descending piano scale ending in a drum roll announces the lighthearted rondo conclusion. The soloist then plays the main recurring theme (MR) [04:34], which is SN transformed into a major key.
MR makes a variety of colorful appearances in clever altered guises, finally returning after another drum roll in SN form [16:15]. This unifies the work, which ends cheerfully in an MR-based coda with soloist and tutti sprinting for the finish line.
Filling out the CD we get the eighth and last concerto, which commences in furrow-browed Beethoven fashion. However, colorful scoring featuring the horns in particular, a busy challenging piano part, and a couple of winsome melodies turn this into a Ries creation. An immaculate development succeeded by a thrilling recap follows. Then the movement ends with some spectacular tickling of the ivories, and an excited horn-emblazoned tutti.
The larghetto gets off to a graceful start, presaging Chopin's later lyricism. There are a couple of intense moments harkening back to Beethoven, but more horn solos give it a Ries sound and end the movement with a little help from the flute.
Another of the composer's infectious whirlwind rondos [track-7], which may have been influenced by the livelier movements in Mendelssohn's concertos for two pianos (1823 and 1824), concludes the work. It gets off to a chugging orchestral start, after which the piano enters with some twitchy figurations. Tutti and then the soloist give us another of those engaging subject tunes (ES) [00:48] that make Ries rondos so memorable. Oddly enough this one sounds somewhat Eastern, recalling Haydn (1732-1809), Mozart (1756-1791) and Beethovenís infatuation with Turkish music.
Some piano pyrotechnics follow, and ES recurs in a variety of fetching forms with frequent opportunities for the soloist to show off his technical prowess. The music then becomes more rhythmically active, and builds in dramatic intensity ending the concerto in a feverish flurry of notes.
Up-and-coming Austrian pianist Christopher Hinterhuber and German conductor Uwe Grodd are once again featured on this release, but this time with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO), which began the series (see Naxos-8557638, 8557844, 8570440 and 8572088). As before Hinterhuber's playing is exceptional, and characterized by a lightness of touch and precision that turn these works into minimasterpieces. The same can be said of the support provided by Maestro Grodd and the NZSO.
Although six years separate this volume from the first, both were made at the Michael Fowler Center in Wellington, New Zealand, and sound amazingly alike. The recordings project a fairly wide soundstage in a resonant acoustic that should appeal to those liking wetter sonics. Soloist and tutti are consistently well-balanced with a slight hint of digital graininess in some of the more complex keyboard as well as massed string passages. Those reservations aside, most should find this another irresistible bag of Ries's pieces!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P121125)
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Salonen, E.-P.: Vn Conc, Nyx; Josefowicz/Salonen/Fin RSO [DGG]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
With the cryptic album title "Out of Nowhere," DGG gives us another noteworthy release of Finnish conductor/composer Esa-Pekka Salonen's (b. 1958) music (see 13 July 2009) featuring world premiere recordings of two relatively new works. Once again they show him to be a brilliant colorist (see 12 September 2012), and generate a phenomenal amount of that boundless kinetic energy found in his other previous symphonic creations.
Written in 2009 for our violinist here, Leila Josefowicz (b. 1977), the concerto is in four movements. The first entitled "Mirage" finds the soloist darting and hovering like a dragonfly over a sparkling lake created by the celesta, glockenspiel, harp and vibraphone. Threatening winds and strings soon interrupt the violin's aleatory aerobatics, but it returns in an even more virtuosic role spiraling above the rest of the orchestra.
The music transitions via a sustained high note into the next "Pulse I" movement [track-2], which is a brief mournful postscript set to a slow timpanic tattoo. It's the calm before the storm of "Pulse II" where all hell breaks loose! This is one of Salonen's most affecting kinetic displays to date, and begins with arresting ossiferous percussion and frenetic violin passages. These are followed by a pounding tutti phrase a bit reminiscent of the Sabre Dance [00:17] in Aram Khachaturian's (1903-1978) Gayaneh Ballet (1942-57).
Organized mayhem then ensues with fiddle fireworks and a clarinet solo [00:56] bringing to mind the opening of Stravinsky's (1882-1971) Rite of Spring (1911-13). The movement is filled out with more bravura writing for the soloist and additional episodes of Technicolor Stravinskian chaos in the orchestra.
Peace is restored in the final "Adieu", which is the longest movement. It's an affecting wistful contemplation in which the soloist has a soul-searching monologue over an anguished orchestral accompaniment with a couple of seismic percussive outbursts. The work concludes with the soloist playing a languorous melody over a diffuse ambivalent accompaniment. A slow fade ends this eclectic concerto in oblivion.
The twenty-minute tone poem Nyx (2010) [track-5] is named for the Greek goddess of night, who was also associated with sleep and dreams. No underlying program is provided, so here's a fictitious one to help describe the music.
It opens with calls from four horns that might well represent Nyx leaving her sacred cave to spread nighttime over the land [00:02]. The mood becomes more threatening with an impressive percussive-laced crescendo as the darkness intensifies [02:04]. Succeeding soporific passages suggest someone asleep [03:13], and rhythmic twitches would seem to imply their entering a REM dream state [04:52]. Here fantastic chimeras materialize and fly about [05:24]. Then they dissipate revealing an exotic landscape with overtones of Ravel (1875-1937) illuminated by blazing multicolored suns [07:57].
In some of Salonen's most dazzling music to date, one of these stars becomes unstable in passages sometimes reminiscent of Richard Strauss (1864-1949) [09:39]. It erupts into a supernova [13:13] whose blinding light startles the sleeper, who awakens relieved to find the first rays of morning sun coming through the bedroom window [14:31].
A peaceful conclusion follows as Nyx returns to her diurnal grotto [15:12], and night becomes day. The poem ends on a sustained note for the strings [18:37] punctuated by a harp glissando [19:04], and final morning-bird-like chirp from the flute and celesta [19:06].
With only fifty minutes of music this full price release is not exactly a steal. However, the exemplary playing of the soloist-dedicatee and what must be considered definitive performances by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under the composer certainly justify the expense. Also with music this new it'll be a long time before either selection makes a bargain label appearance. So as the old expression goes, "you pays your money and you takes your chances," but rest assured contemporary music enthusiasts won't be disappointed!
What's more, the Finnish engineers give us one of the most spectacular sounding Red Book CDs to appear in a long time! Made at the Helsinki Music Center, the recordings project a wide, deep, immaculately focused soundstage in an ideal acoustic.
Ms. Josefowicz' violin is celestially silky, and perfectly balanced against the orchestra. The instrumental timbre is natural across the extended frequency spectrum engendered by Salonen's brilliant scoring. More specifically the highs are brilliant but totally musical, while the lows, which go down to rock-bottom, are absolutely clean!
The composer's dramatic use of percussion -- beware of flying voice coils -- significantly widens the dynamic range. As a consequence the restrained opening makes the disc appear to be cut at a relatively low level, and you're accordingly advised to adjust the volume on one of the louder passages, e.g., track-1, beginning at 01:13. Audiophiles will definitely want this along on their never ending search for the perfect sound system.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y121124)
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Schumann, Geo.: Sym in b (2nd of 3), Seren (2nd of 2); Gedschold/Mun RO [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
A few months ago we told you about some commendable German chamber music by a couple of brothers, Georg (1866-1952, see 6 January 2012) and Camillo Schumann (1872-1946, see 10 March 2011). Now CPO gives us world premiere recordings of two works from Georg's substantial symphonic output. A wunderkind who'd become a brilliant pianist and violinist, his music is in the tradition of Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Robert Schumann (1810-1856, no relation) and Brahms (1833-1897), rather than Liszt (1811-1886) or Wagner (1813-1883).
The leadoff Symphony in B Minor of 1887 was the second of three unnumbered ones, the first being a student work of 1885. Itís a youthful masterpiece that won first prize in an 1888 Leipzig competition, and in the usual four-movement. The opening allegro is notable for the ease and grace with which the composer manipulates some memorable melodies. The music literally flows, and in that regard may at times call to mind Smetana's (1824-1884) "Moldau" from Ma Vlast (My Country, 1874).
The following slow movement is a lovely pastoral rhapsody for winds and strings in the spirit of Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). It's the exact opposite of the winsome scherzo, whose antsy mazurka-like opening and closing surround a lyrical nostalgic trio section. Occasional contrapuntal touches make it all the more colorful.
The rousing finale has a couple of attractive ideas that are respectively folk-dance-like and expansive. They chase about in a "rondoesque" romp with hints of past motifs flitting about, and then the symphony ends ecstatically.
The disc is filled out with a serenade for large orchestra dating from 1902, which was a successor to one Georg wrote as a student in 1886. Reminiscent of Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) lighter tone poems, it's a programmatic work, which the composer tells us is about a rejected lover (see the album notes).
In five movements the opening "Auf dem Wege" ("On the Way") gets off to a merry start. It depicts the entrance of two sweethearts, whom we'll call Tristan and Isolde for argument's sake, and a group of individuals who scorn Tristan's suitability for Isolde. An amorous episode featuring the horn could represent his infatuation with her. While nervous string passages may reflect ridicule heaped upon him by his assembled critics. The movement then ends affably like it began.
The next "Nšchtlichter Spuk ("Nocturnal Phantom") is a featherlight spooky offering again reminiscent of Mendelssohn's A Midsummernight's Dream. It apparently represents the secret machinations of those wanting to separate the lovers. While "Stšndchen" ("Serenade") is a reaffirmation of Tristanís affection for Isolde intoned by an amorous clarinet.
But the critics prevail, and the two break up in the following "Intermezzo". This opens with a sighing riff that ushers in a sad wind-dominated waltz of regret. The serenade then concludes in a colorful "Finale", which is a tarantella of ridicule where Tristan's detractors would seem to be running him out of town. The closing measures are for the most part tragic, but there's a dusting of cheekiness that leaves the listener half smiling.
Conductor Christoph Gedschold elicits fine performances of both pieces from the Munich Radio Orchestra. This is music that requires special care and handling to be at its best, and Gedschold attention to melodic, rhythmic and dynamic detail assure just that.
Coproduced with Bavarian Radio and recorded in one of their Munich studios, the disc projects a perfectly proportioned, well-focused soundstage in a warm ideally reverberant acoustic. The orchestral timbre is musically natural across the entire frequency spectrum, which is characterized by lustrous highs, and some clean lean low bass in the last movement of the serenade. Audiophile romantic music enthusiasts should definitely give this disc a spin!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y121123)
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