CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 JUNE 2015
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.
D'Indy, V.: Orch Wks V6 (Wallenstein, Ste…, Lied (vc), Fervaal Prel III, etc; Gamba/Ice SO [Chandos (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
Chandos concludes their splendid survey of French composer Vincent d'Indy's (1851-1931) orchestral works (see 10 May 2011) with this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), sixth volume. It includes his three-part series of symphonic poems inspired by Schiller's (1759-1805) Wallenstein trilogy (1798-9), and as done here the only recordings currently available on disc of another four selections.
The triptych composed between 1873 and 1881 (revised 1887) shows the influence of Wagner (1813-1883), and begins with Le camp de Wallenstein (Wallenstein's Camp), which brings to mind Smetana's (1824-1884) identically named work of 1858-9. It's a symphonic picture of Prince Wallenstein's Army encampment that falls into two sections. The opening one [T-1] has a heroic rousing theme followed by a perky waltz motif, which is explored.
The second section [T-2] gives us a droll ditty that's the subject of a fugato with bassoons, which the album notes say depicts a group of monks preaching to the crowds. Then after some further development, there's a swashbuckling Wagnerian theme (SW) [01:23] representing the Prince. Previous ideas reappear and build into a dramatic coda, ending this first poem with a powerful restatement of SW [05:03].
The next installment, entitled Max et Thécla, or Les Piccolomini, involves Max the son of Wallenstein's comrade Octavio Piccolomini, and his sweetheart Thécla, who's the Prince's daughter. In four sections the first [T-3] begins quietly with heroic horn calls. Then there's an expansive noble theme (EN) [00:30] representing Max underscored with dire timpani taps, presumably hinting at his upcoming death in battle.
EN is elaborated and immediately succeeded by the next section [T-4] where agitated, warlike passages anticipate Max's future military involvements. There are also wisps of a sinuous caressing idea (SC) [00:52, and 02:41] associated with Thécla. The last of these then transitions into the penultimate section [T-5], which begins with a full statement of SC [00:00].
Here amorous passages combining SC along with EN swell, and are suddenly interrupted by fateful brass outbursts announcing the fourth and final section [T-6], in which there's more battle music. This dies away implying Max's demise, and then the second poem ends on a peaceful optimistic note, presumably recalling his love for Thécla.
The final chapter in this triptych called La mort de Wallenstein (Wallenstein's Death) is also in four sections. The Prince's belief in astrology is reflected in the mysterious beginning one [T-7], where we hear a reference to SW (see above) [01:06]. A troubled second section follows [T-8] where SC and SW are developed. There are moments when Saint-Saëns' (1835-1921) tone poems Le rouet d'Omphale (Omphale's Spinning Wheel, 1871-72), Phaëton (1873) and La jeunesse d'Hercule (The Young Hercules, 1877) come to mind (see 31 July 2012).
The turmoil ebbs and flows, gradually subsiding into an andante third section [T-9] with melancholy memories of SC. But shimmering strings set the stage for last section [T-10]. This is a dramatic coda that begins with fateful brass pronouncements and recalls previous themes. It builds to a tragic volcanic climax implying the treasonous Wallenstein's murder. Then fades into oblivion as he expires, ending this triptych in dark despair.
D'Indy's first opera Fervaal (1889-95, currently unavailable on disc) with its religious subject matter and use of leitotifs recalls Wagner's Parsifal (1877-82). Set in medieval times it takes place in the mountainous Cévennes region of south central France, and concerns the doomed love of the Celtic chief Fervaal for Saracen princess Guilhen. While the previous volume in this series had the opening prelude, the one here is for third and final act [T-11].
At the outset sinister passages with salvos of quadruple brass that includes two saxhorns suggest the Saracen defeat of Fervaal's army. Then the pace slows into a hymnlike closing episode [03:46] that ends the prelude with deeply religious connotations.
Moving back a few years we get the Lied (Song) for cello and small orchestra of 1884 [T-12]. Here a swaying orchestral preface leads to a simple rhapsodic melody and folksy cavatina countersubject. The two then undergo an imaginative development that at times presages Ravel (1875-1937). Towards the end some behind-the-bridge, ethereal high notes for the soloist set to a divine tutti accompaniment conclude the work in heaven.
Based on old dance forms, Vincent's interest in early music is reflected in the next Suite dans le style ancien (Suite in Ancient Style, 1886). Its unusual scoring for two flutes, trumpet and string quartet recalls Saint-Saëns' Septet of 1880, which also includes a trumpet. In this performance the quartet parts are augmented for all of the presiding orchestra's applicable strings.
In five movements the initial "Prélude" [T-13] is a tiny pavane with the delicacy of Fauré's (1845-1924) homonymous piece that was soon to come (1887). While "Entrée" ("Entrance") [T-14] is a sprightly, sinuous minuet-like work, and "Sarabande" [T-15], an affecting laid-back offering.
"Menuet" [T-16] has sprightly outer sections based on a saucy trumpet tune (ST) [00:00] surrounding a lyrical waltzlike inner episode [01:04-], and portends Poulenc's Suite française (1935). The final "Ronde française" ("French Round") [T-17] is a skittering deranged double fugue with a ST-related main subject. It ends thumbing its nose at all those fugal exercises academia forces on aspiring composers.
The disc is rounded out with the two-part Sérénade et valse (Serenade and Waltz) for small orchestra of 1885 based on a couple of solo piano pieces written in 1882. More specifically, they're respectively drawn from the first of Quatre pièces (Four Pieces), and the initial waltz found in a collection of three titled Helvétia.
The serenade [T-18] consists of two coy folkish ditties set to a pizzicato accompaniment, while there's a childlike innocence about the waltz [T-19]. It ends this loveable diptych smilingly, making it some of the most charming d'Indy you'll ever hear.
As on the preceding volumes British conductor Rumon Gamba and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (ISO) give winning accounts of these selections. His rendering of the Wallenstein trilogy seems to hold together better than the only other one currently available on disc, which dates from six years ago. Also all of the many solos called for in these colorful scores are superbly played by the ISO musicians.
While the earlier discs in the series were conventional CDs, Chandos ends with this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), one. Made last year in the Eldborg Concert Hall, Reykjavik, the recordings present a generous but somewhat deeper sound stage in marginally more reverberant surroundings than the previous releases. The instrumental timbre is characterized by sparkling highs that are particularly lifelike on the SACD tracks, a convincing midrange, and clean bass.
The Chandos engineers have skillfully balanced the many solos in all three play modes. Their microphone setup and subsequent mixing puts the listener a few rows back from the orchestra.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y150630)
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Esposito, M.: Vn Sons 1-3, Irish Raps 1 & 2, Irish Mels Op 56 (3), Airs 57 (1); Andriani/Maltempo [Brilliant]
SUGGESTED BEST FIND (2 CDs)
Born in the Neapolitan commune of Castellammare di Stabia, Michele Esposito (1855-1929) studied piano and composition in Naples at a time when German influences were predominant. He then began his career as a pianist in Italy, but on the advice of Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894, see 6 October 2014) moved to Paris in 1878, where he concertized for four years. However, in 1882 he took up a teaching post at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin to support his growing family. He lived there until 1928 when he returned to Italy where he died the following year.
During his time in France and Ireland he composed a considerable amount of music in all genres, which pursuant to his cosmopolitan background, defies classification as belonging to any one nationality. Moreover, German, French and Irish influences commingle, giving it a character all its own. This recent Brilliant Classics, two-CD release has the bulk of his oeuvre for violin and piano, including all three sonatas. These are the only recordings of the selections in this album currently available on disc.
The program begins with the first sonata of 1881, dating from his Paris years. In three movements the initial moderato [D1, T-1] might best be described as a rhapsody based on an enchanting supple theme that's out of Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) and headed towards early Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
The ternary, A-B-A lento [D1, T-2] has imploring songlike outer sections with a hint of Fauré (1845-1924), surrounding a more dramatic episode [02:38-04:51] that recalls Franck (1822-1890). It' a restful respite before the final allegro [D1, T-3] where a charging Czech-like theme (CC) [00:01] and lyrical passive idea [01:12] alternate in developmental rondo fashion. The sonata ends excitedly with a sprinting reminder of CC.
Almost twenty years would go by before the appearance of his second sonata (1899). Again in three movements it's a much more progressive piece that won first prize in one of the most prestigious music contests of 1907.
The opening allegro [D2, T-1] starts hesitantly with a commanding semitone-prefaced motif (CS) [00:01]. A juvenescent free-spirited tune (JF) follows [01:29], and both ideas are subjected to a complex harmonically adventurous development. Then the movement ends in a dramatic recapitulation beginning with JF [05:29], and an insistent CS-based coda [07:10].
An ingenious combination scherzo and slow movement marked andantino [D2, T-2] follows. Here mischievous passages built on an antsy pleading theme (AP) [00:01] bracket a moment of introspection [02:21-03:59].
It sets the stage for a concluding allegro [D2, T-3], which starts with a catchy AP-related tune (AR) [00:01] that's explored. A sighing melody follows, and the two ideas are chromatically juggled in rondo fashion with sonata ending in a thrilling AR-related coda. There's a structural solidity and harmonic sophistication about this work right out of Brahms (1833-1897).
The year 1913 saw the completion of the third and last sonata. It's dedicated to the great Irish pianist, composer and conductor Hamilton Harty (1879-1941; see 20 June 2012), whose early musical endeavors Michele had championed.
The longest of the three, it's in four movements and the most advanced music here. The first, which is in modified sonata form, has the unusual marking Affettuosamente (Affectionately) [D2, T-4], and begins with an amorous chromatic theme (AC) [00:02]. It's succeeded by perky furtive (PF) [00:57] and rising propitious (RP) [01:32] ideas that are briefly explored, leading to a forceful restatement of PF [03:24].
This announces a pensive harmonically searching episode based on the foregoing material [04:21], which gives way to a recap of RP [04:29], PF [05:21] and AC [05:37]. All are then worked into a charming coda [06:22] that concludes the movement sublimely with allusion to AC [08:20].
The short allegretto [D2, T-5] is a pastoral waltz time scherzo with a couple of bubbling springs [01:10 and 03:05]. After that there's an andante [D2, T-6], which is a romantic outpouring featuring a heartfelt melody.
An attractive folklike subject (AF) that seems distantly related to AC and PF dominates the final sonata-rondo allegretto [D2, T-7]. It's introduced by the violin [00:03], and becomes the subject of a developmental conversation with the piano where there are hints of AC [01:20]. They become quite pronounced, and as the movement closes we get full-blown references to AC [03:50]. These build with fragments of AF into a thrilling coda that brings the sonata to an ecstatic ending.
During his forty-six years in Ireland Esposito wrote many incidental pieces of Hibernian persuasion showing he'd totally absorbed the folk music of the Emerald Isle. The six included in this album are his two Irish Rhapsodies and four short arrangements of indigenous folk ditties.
The original versions of the rhapsodies, which would later appear in orchestral form (not currently available on disc), are presented here. Each is a single movement theme and variations, in which the melodic lines are almost all for the violin, the piano being somewhat more predominant in the second.
The earlier of 1901 [D1, T-1] begins with a slow melancholy main subject (MM) [00:19]. The first of nine variations then follows [01:05] where MM is repeated in the dominant and expanded. After that we get a more lyrical version of MM [02:55] that abuts a despondent variant [05:17].
This suddenly shifts into a high-stepping fiddle tune [07:04] succeeded by a feline transformation with a meowing violin [08:10]. An antic variant [08:45] follows, then an amorous seventh [09:23], and heavenly eighth [11:15] with angels playing bagpipes.
The concluding ninth [12:58] is a catchy jig initiated by the piano. It's soon joined by a plucky violin, and piece ends in a blaze of virtuoso passages for both performers.
The second rhapsody dating from 1902 [D2-T-8] begins with commanding piano passages [00:01] succeeded by a searching violin solo hinting at the wistful main theme (WM) soon to come. The opening is then repeated [01:03] with a more elaborate line for the violin, which goes on to play WM [02:17]. A reprise of WM in the dominant [02:47] announces the first of five variations [03:19] that's a sinuously rhapsodic offering.
It's followed by an ominous transformation [04:06] with a forbidding piano part and demanding bravura violin embellishments. But darkness turns to light in the extended third, where radiant passages [05:07 and 06:21] alternate with supernal ones [05:42 and 07:01]. The latter are made all the more ethereal by the presence of those wispy, high harmonic violin notes produced by bowing behind the bridge.
Then things once again turn threatening in the highly agitated fourth variation [07:44], which makes virtuosic demands on both players. It ends in a pixilated violin cadenza [09:09] that's succeeded by the fifth and final variant [09:17]. This is an Irish reel, and Esposito must have been writing with shamrock green ink when he penned this infectious Gaelic cavort!
The remaining four selections filling out the album are settings of folk tunes made around 1903. From Five Irish Melodies we have "The Coulin" (No. 2) [D1, T-8], "Silent, O Moyle" (No. 3) [D1, T-5], and "When Through Life" (No. 5) [D1, T-6]. They're respectively amatory, mournful, and nostalgic in the sense of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (1878). Then from Two Irish Airs there's another reel entitled "The Silver Tip" (aka "The Silver Spear", No. 2) [D1, T-7], which isn't quite as crazed as the one in the second rhapsody (see above).
Romantic chamber music fans will be greatly indebted to violinist Carmelo Andriani and pianist Vincenzo Maltempo for their enthusiastic performances of this memorable rare repertoire. However, one does get the feeling these recordings were done on the fly as Carmelo's intonation is at times shaky, and the tuning pins on Vincenzo's Yamaha C5 Grand Piano could have used a little last-minute tweaking before a couple of selections.
Made at the Music Suite studio, Sammichele di Bari, Italy, the recordings project a confined soundstage with the instruments right next to each other in dry surroundings. They're generally well captured and balanced, but there is some upper shatter in louder passages.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, S150629)
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Fine, I.: Cpte Orch Wks (6; 1947-60); Rose/BosMOP O [BMOP/s (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
Boston-born Irving Fine's (1914-1962) unfortunate demise at forty-seven deprived the classical music world of an extremely promising talent. A superb teacher and administrator, he was also an accomplished pianist, conductor and composer, who owing to his early death completed only six orchestral works. Now for the first time we get all of them on one disc with this hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), disc from BMOP/sound in their acclaimed series devoted to twentieth century American composers (see 14 May 2014).
A student of Edward Burlingame Hill (1872-1960, see 30 March 2015) and Walter Piston (1894-1976) at Harvard, he'd go on to study with Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979, see 22 November 2010) in Paris. Then he'd return to Cambridge and teach at his alma mater (1939-50), where he'd become closely associated with Aaron Copland (1900-1990), Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) and Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971).
During this period he fell under the spell of the latter's neoclassicism, which is strongly reflected in Fine's earlier works. A case in point is Toccata Concertante of 1947 [T-1] that he says was meant to capture the "fanfare-like character" of festive 16-17th century orchestral toccatas. And he's done just that in this high-strung, rhythmically volatile piece.
This loosely structured sonata form piece opens with a scurrying phrase [00:02] succeeded by a muscular four-note riff (MF) [00:06]. A couple of catchy ideas follow, and all of the foregoing undergo an intricate development with contrapuntal spicing. This slows [09:27], building with hints of MF to an ominous climax followed by a dramatic pause. Then forceful reminders of MF [10:20] announce the thrilling closing measures.
The Notturno for Strings and Harp (1951) is of late romantic persuasion. In three short movements, the harp plays a decorative rather than concertante role. The initial lento [T-2] is an engaging chromatic reverie where a solo viola surfaces in the final moments to end the movement amorously.
Built around a mewing main theme for the violins [00:09], there's something catlike about the twitchy animato that's next [T-3]. It ends in a furtive, pizzicato-enhanced passage.
The concluding adagio [T-5] opens with sighing strings that give way to melodic arpeggios on the harp. These introduce a tender melody sung by the strings, which closes the work equivocally.
As far as Fine's orchestral works go Serious Song, A Lament for String Orchestra (1955) [T-6] is one of his best. Described by the composer as an aria, it falls into three respectively slow-fast-slow arches. The doleful overcast first has modal elements that make it all the more plaintive. At one point there's a glimmer of sunshine [01:59], but this soon fades, and the arch ends despairingly.
Wisps of hope introduce the second one [03:17], but turn increasingly anguished, concluding it in abject desperation. Then the final arch [06:57] offers a sense of resigned consolation only to leave the piece in limbo.
Now for a complete change of pace! The following selection originated as a fight song Fine wrote for Brandeis University (see the album notes), and later turned into a march. Dating from 1959-60 and named Blue Towers [T-6] after the school colors, it's an ostentatiously scored, spirited number with a memorable main theme perfectly suited to those Saturday afternoon college football games.
Having marched off the field in triumph, we get Diversions for Orchestra, which is a suite of four miniatures drawn from the composer's unpublished solo piano works (1942-59; not currently available on disc). Dedicated to his three young daughters, it brings to mind Debussy's Children's Corner (1906-08) and La Boîte à joujoux (The Toy Box, 1913; see the newsletter of 10 March 2011).
The initial "Little Toccata" [T-7] is an impish Munchkin frolic. Then we get the first of two selections originally from Fine's incidental music for a 1942 theatrical production of Alice in Wonderland based on Lewis Carroll's (1832-1898) 1865 novel (see 8 April 2013). Entitled "Flamingo Polka" [T-8] it's a merry cartoonish shimmy with overtones of Irving's good friend Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990).
Then after an interim "Koko's Lullaby" [T-9], which is an affectionate characterization of the Fine family poodle, the suite concludes with the other Alice... selection called "The Red Queen's Gavotte" [T-10]. This is an infectious dance with Gallic folk associations brining to mind Ravel's (1875-1937) neobaroque orchestral works. It ends this charming domestic divertissement in the land of make believe.
The disc concludes with Fine's masterpiece, the symphony of 1962. Brilliantly scored with many instrumental solos, it's a synthesis of neoclassical and serial elements that despite twelve-tone associations also appeals to the emotions.
In three movements the opening "Intrada" [T-11] begins in rustic fashion with syncopated, atonally flavored motifs. These are developed and augmented in listener friendly fashion, only to fade away. Then the woodwinds introduce a lyrical afterthought [04:14], concluding the movement with a sense of mystery.
The following "Capriccio" [T-12] is a driving scherzo-like digression set to Stravinskyesque rhythms. It becomes increasingly manic somewhat along the lines of Dukas' (1865-1935) Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897), and ends raucously.
A concluding "Ode" [T-13] combines the developmental aspects of the first movement with the kinetic energy of the second. It starts hesitantly, getting more and more agitated as it turns into a striking dodecaphonic-spiced orgy rhythmically reminiscent of Igor's Le sacre du printemps (The rite of Spring, 1911-3). Then the music becomes pensive [05:42], and the work closes with chilling percussion-laced outcries from the brass [06:50].
It's an impressive ending for this outstanding disc of discovery featuring one of America's most undersung, modern-day composers. Those wishing to learn more about him should see musicologist Phillip Ramey's (b. 1939) book Irving Fine: An American Composer in His Time (2005).
Once again the Boston Music Orchestra Project (BMOP) under their founding conductor Gil Rose gives superb performances of these rarely heard selections. His well-judged tempos, meticulous phrasing, and astute dynamics bring out all the detail in these immaculately structured, less-is-more scores. What's more the BMOP musicians deliver virtuoso accounts of the many highly demanding solos.
Made last year either at the Rogers Center for the Arts, North Andover, Massachusetts, or Jordan Hall, Boston, the recordings are excellent. The CD and SACD stereo tracks create well-proportioned sonic images in warm venues with the Rogers Center ones (Notturno... and Serious Song...) sounding somewhat closer in less reverberant surroundings The SACD multitrack projects a more open representation of everything, giving the listener a center seat several rows back from the orchestra.
The overall instrumental timbre is natural sounding with pleasing highs and a lifelike midrange. Fine's elegant scoring engenders a lean bass end that remains clean throughout. The many instrumental solos are well captured and highlighted in all three play modes with the string tone even more convincing on the SACD tracks. This release is another addition to BMOP/sound's growing catalog of demonstration quality discs (see 14 May 2014).
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y150628)
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Ibert: Le Chevalier errant (sym ste), Les Amours de Jupiter (cpte bal); Mercier/LorrNa O [Timpani]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
French composer Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) makes a long overdue first appearance in these pages with this music from two of his ballets. These are world premiere recordings.
The first is a half-hour symphonic suite he extracted from his forty-five-minute choreographic epic after Cervantes (1547-1616) entitled Le Chevalier errant (The Wandering Knight, 1935-6). The parent work is in four tableaux, each of which portrays an episodes in the life of Don Quixote (see 18 October 2006), and calls for substantially greater forces, namely two reciters, an ever present chorus without soloists, and an immense orchestra.
The suite is in four movements corresponding to each tableau, and the first "Les Moulins" ("The Windmills") [T-1] has a solemn beginning with a sonorous bass clarinet solo. Then the music becomes frenetic as the Don spots thirty or forty windmills he imagines are hulking giants with long arms (their sails) that he must do battle with and slay. But would-be glory turns to demeaning defeat when one of those "arms" knocks Quixote off his charging steed as the movement ends ignominiously.
Tragic passages with more bass clarinet immediately introduce the next tableau "Danse des galères" ("Dance of the Galley Salves") [T-2]. Triumphant brass soon announces the entrance of the Don, who sets the slaves free. They then engage in a wild ecstatic dance as they throw their former masters overboard in this thrilling number.
The following "L'Âge d'or" ("The Age of Gold") [T-3] begins with a lovely pastoral episode having an exotic eastern theme (EE) [00:33] recalling the slow movement of Ravel's (1875-1937) piano concerto (1929-31). Then after a brief pause we get a sweeping guitar-embellished Hispanic dance interlude with Flamenco overtones [05:48]. This dies away and the scene concludes mysteriously with reminders of EE [08:22].
A drumroll, chortling winds and boastful brass announce the closing tableau "Les Comédiens et Final" ("The Comedians and Finale") [T-4]. They introduce a jubilant dance that takes us to a village where an itinerant troop of actors is staging a play in which a giant is holding an innocent young girl captive. Some delusional music [03:01] underscores the Don's seeing all this, and believing it real, jumping on stage to free her.
But this time the fates are against him, and the giant strikes him dead in fff drum-thumping passages [04:57]! A brief episode of regret follows [05:39], blossoming into a rousing epilogue honoring this loveable lunatic. As far as euphoric finales go, they don't get any better than this!
The complete Les Amours de Jupiter (The Loves of Jupiter, 1945) is next. A majestic Olympian overture [T-5] opens this five-tableau work with a scenario based on the extramarital affairs of the God Jupiter (Zeus in Greek mythology) -- shades of Molière's (1622-1673) comedy Amphitryon (Amphitrion) of 1668 (see 30 March 2015).
The first tableau entitled "Enlèvement d'Europe" ("Abduction of Europa") begins with coy dances done by the beautiful Europa and her female attendants [T-6 and 8], which surround a sensual solo number for her [T-7]. But female charm turns to male aggression as virile outbursts from the trombone and tuba [T-9] announce the arrival of Jupiter. He's taken the form of a white bull, and proceeds to carry Europa off with something other than dancing in mind.
The following tableau, "Léda" ("Leda"), opens with a sprightly episode as Jupiter and his messenger Mercury come on stage [T-10]. Then brass, harp, winds and strings introduce the lovely Leda, who executes a graceful captivating saraband (GC) [T-11]. After a momentary pause, twitchy passages [T-12] announce Jupiter, who's now changed into a swan, and enters to a proud dignified march (PD) [00:09]. The scene ends as he's joined by Leda for a gorgeous GC-derived carnal pas de deux [T-13].
The third tableau concerns the alluring young virgin "Danaé" ("Danaë" or "Danae"), whose father had been told by an oracle that her future son would kill him. So to keep her childless, he keeps her locked up under guard, and the scene begins in a hectic dance for Danae with her jailers [T-14].
Then we get a closing variational sequence [T-15] having a sad anguished theme (SA) for winds, harp and strings [00:28], representing her dejected state. However, that ever clever Jupiter in a passage for sparkling, tuned percussion [01:58] becomes a golden rain, and via a radiant version of SA [02:21] streams into her room impregnating her.
The scene ends in joyful anticipation of their hero offspring Perseus. But that's a story for another day (see the highly entertaining 1981 film The Clash of the Titans)!
Widely accepted during ancient times, the concept of a catamite would seem in the context of the preceding tableaux to underlie the fourth. This is about the boy shepherd "Ganymède" ("Ganymede"), once described by Homer as the most beautiful of mortals.
It starts with a capricious tarantella for Mercury [T-16], who encounters the young man doing a bucolic, lilting dance (BL) [T-17]. All this brings Ganymede to Jupiter's attention, making the God desirous of having him on Olympus as his cupbearer and for other more intimate purposes.
Accordingly he changes into an eagle, swoops down to threatening piano arpeggios [T-18], and carries him away in a somewhat Ravelian, Hispanic-sounding passage [00:13]. The tableau ends with the two doing a salacious, jazzy 1930-40s dance hall number [T-19].
Having sowed his wild oats, the ballet closes with the penitent Jupiter rejoining his wife Juno on Olympus. This scene titled "Retour à Junon" ("Return to Juno") opens with suggestions of celestial breezes [T-20] as the devoted Goddess and her attendant Iris dutifully await the arrival of her husband.
A bouncy episode starts with the entry of the three fates (Moirai) holding out the thread of life [T-21]. Jupiter then appears to PD (see above) [00:58] followed by a reprise of the overture [T-22]. This brings the ballet full circle, concluding the work in the same grand manner it began.
As on their preceding release for Timpani (see 9 April 2014) the Lorraine National Orchestra (LNO) and their director Jacques Mercier continue to give us superb renditions of little known French repertoire. Brisk tempos coupled with crisp phrasing bring out all the cheeky irreverence of Ibert's music, and the LNO musicians prove themselves virtuosos in the many solo passages.
Done a year later by the identical production staff at the same location as before , the recordings project a vast deep soundstage in reverberant surroundings. But careful microphone placement and ideal level settings insure a well-focused overall sonic image, where each of the instrumental solos is perfectly highlighted.
The orchestral timbre is pleasing with shimmering highs, a musical midrange, and impressive bass. As before there are some low end thumps most likely engendered by Maestro Mercier's more active moments on what must have been a "timpanic' podium.
Lastly, some of the tracks begin with the remnants of their predecessors rather than getting off to a clean start. Also most of the information on the back of the album booklet and liner is in such small pale print as to be practically unreadable.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y150627)
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Jensen, A.: Hochzeitsmusik (orch Becker), Der Gang..., Die Erbin… (3 excs fm opera); Baleff/BB P [Genuin]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
With this new Genuin release we welcome German-born and trained Adolf Jensen (1837-1879) to these pages. An accomplished pianist, teacher, music director, and composer, during his brief forty-two year lifetime he left us mostly shorter, small-scale works. His earlier efforts show the influence of Robert Schumann (1810-1856), while the later are stylistically related to Liszt (1811-1886) and Wagner (1813-1883).The ones here are all world premiere recordings.
The first selection originated as a four-movement suite for piano four-hands (1873) titled Hochzeitsmusik (Wedding Music, 1873; currently unavailable on disc). It was written for a friend's marriage, and is presented on this disc in an orchestral arrangement done a couple of years later by compatriot composer Reinhold Becker (1842-1924).
Falling into the Wagnerian camp, the opening "Festzug" ("Procession") [T-1] is a celebratory march that smacks of more festive moments in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1862-7). The following "Brautgesang" ("Bride's Song") [T-2] is a dainty lyrical number, and "Reigen" ("Round Dance") [T-3] a charming folklike foxtrot where it's easy to imagine merry wedding guests whirling about.
The lovely concluding "Notturno" ("Nocturne") [T-4] is the work's high point, and starts with a gorgeous melody. It's the subject of a rhapsodic development, which ends the suite blissfully with the now happily married couple in each other's arms.
Adolf's only major, strictly symphonic work is Der Gang nach Emmaus (On the Road to Emmaus) of 1862 [T-5], which he described as a spiritual music setting for large orchestra inspired by some passages in the New Testament's Gospel According to St. Luke (Luke 24: 13-24). They tell about an encounter between Jesus and two of his followers as they make their way to Emmaus from Jerusalem shortly after his resurrection.
Modelled after Liszt, whom Jensen greatly admired, and dedicated to Berlioz (1803-1869), it's a brilliantly scored, highly dramatic tone poem that falls generally into four conjoined arches. The first gets off to an inspiring start with a moving worshipful motif (MW) [00:01] that's a cross between the opening of Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) Reformation (No. 5, 1832) and Schumann's Spring Symphony (No. 1, 1851).
Peripatetic pastoral passages follow, suggesting the two followers walking along a country road with Jesus, whom they don't recognize. As the story goes they tell him about their great sadness over the crucifixion, and amazement regarding Jesus' empty tomb.
A more vigorous section follows [06:59] with a lovely consoling theme [08:12]. This suggests his comforting them, saying they must believe the prophets who foretold of Jesus' rising from the dead.
An entrancing episode follows [12:19] inferring their arrival in Emmaus, and having dinner together. During this Jesus takes bread, blesses, breaks and gives it to them, whereupon they realize who he is.
The triumphal ending [15:17] would seem to represent his then vanishing from them, and eventual ascension into Heaven marked by the return of MW [18.44]. Hearing this sublime creation makes one wish Jensen had written more symphonic fare.
An even greater rarity is his one and only opera Die Erbin von Montfort (The Heiress of Montfort, 1858-65), which is the source of the last three selections on this release. An innocent, rustic love story set in mid-eighteenth century southern France, the libretto by the composer was apparently mundane and dramatically weak, consequently it was never staged in his lifetime.
But the music was outstanding, and after he died his daughter wrote a new libretto for it based on Carlo Gozzi's (1720-1806) play Turandot (1762). Then with the help of Austrian composer Wilhelm Kienzl (1857-1941) they reordered the musical numbers in her father's opera to best fit her text.
Unfortunately this jury-rigged effort suffered the same fate as its predecessor. However, the good news is it bequeathed us the original score, which would have otherwise been lost as all traces of the Die Erbin... have long since disappeared.
First we get the overture [T-6], which opens pensively. Then there's an attractive pastoral theme (AP) [00:20] that's elaborated, and followed by hints of what are presumably key motifs in the opera. Next harp and brass introduce a sanguine section [02:13] that bridges into a faster episode [05:22]. This has some fetching AP-related ideas, which undergo a series of perky developments. These lead to the return of AP in a more lyrical form [11:50], and a smiling coda that concludes the overture cheerfully.
Two excerpts from the second act are next, beginning with the prelude [T-7]. It's a lyrical offering that conjures up images of green valleys, chirping forest birds. There's even a closing growl on the bassoon suggesting a wayward bear.
The other one is an enchanting ballet suite that feels very French. It brings to mind those in the operas of Meyerbeer (1791-1864, see 26 June 2014) and Gounod (1818-1893), with a little Waldteufel (1837-1915) thrown in for good measure.
Sensitive performances by the Baden-Baden Philharmonic under their principle conductor Pavel Baleff make a strong case for these Jensen gems. Romantic orchestral music enthusiasts will definitely want to consider getting this disc.
Made in the Weinbrennersaal, Baden-Baden, Germany, the recordings project an immaculate soundstage in pristine neo-classical, ideally reverberant surroundings. The instrumental timbre is lifelike with acceptably bright highs, a musical midrange, and clean moderate lows.
Those having systems that go down to rock bottom may detect some barely audible bass thumps. These may well have been occasioned by Maestro Baleff's more active moments on another of those timpanic podiums.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P150626)
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