CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 NOVEMBER 2018
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.
Bazzini: Stg Qts 1 & 3; Bazzini Qt [Tactus]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
With this recent release from the Tactus Label (named after the Latin word for measure), Italian violinist-composer and teacher Antonio Bazzini (1818-1897) makes his first CLOFO appearance. Born some sixty miles east of Milan in Brescia, he was a bambino prodigioso, who started playing the fiddle at age eight.
Antonio ended his concert career in 1864 and returned to his hometown, where he devoted himself to composition as well as academic pursuits. In that regard, he became a professor at the Milan Conservatory in 1873, and eventually assumed its directorship (1882). A highly respected teacher, he could count Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), Marco Enrico Bossi and (1863-1925; see 30 June 2018) and Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945; see 15 November 2013) among his students.
Bazzini would leave a significant oeuvre. However, unlike his Italian colleagues, who were busy turning out operas, his creative efforts would subsume a large number of orchestral as well as chamber works. Those in the latter category include six numbered string quartets, the first and third of which fill out this CD.
Both are in four movements, and the String Quartet No. 1 of 1864 opens with a modified, sonata form one [T-1], having an "Adagio" ("Slow"), hushed preface [00:01]. This hints at a captivating, main theme (CM), which follows [01:43] and introduces the "Allegro risoluto" ("Fast and tenacious") remainder of the movement.
CM is a binary idea with a catchy rhythmic first part [01:43] and related, lyrical second [01:53]. It's repeated [02:23] and succeeded by an episodic development that's sequentially playful [03:24], anxious [04:22], reassured [06:51] and questioning [07:21]. Then CM triggers a recapitulation of sorts [07:54] that makes a dramatic transition into a nostalgic, CM-based coda [10:34], which ends the movement tranquilly.
Next, a gorgeous ternary "Andante sostenuto" ("Slow and sustained") [T-2] that's somewhat operatic. It has a CM-reminiscent, dreamy introduction [00:00], out of which a comely cantilena-like melody (CC) materializes [00:54] and is explored [02:33]. Then the music bridges [beginning at 04:24] into a saddened variant of CC [05:53]. But the latter gradually brightens, ending the movement in the same spirit it began.
Bazzini's must have had his old friend Felix Mendelssohn in mind when he wrote the "Scherzo" [T-3], which is marked "Allegro Vivo" ("Fast and lively"). Moreover, its pixilated outer sections [00:00 & 04:10] smack of A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture (1826). They surround a fetching, folksy dance ditty (FD) [01:39-04:06], and the closing one, which has a passing reminder of FD [05:02-05:43], brings the movement full circle.
The delightful "Finale" marked "Allegro deciso" ("Fast with determination") [T-4] is in loosey-goosey sonata form. It opens with a CM-tinged angular number (CA) [00:00] reminiscent of Antonio's other Berlin buddy, Robert Schumann, namely the last movement of his Third String Quartet (Op 41, No. 3; 1842).
CA is succeeded by a related, perky afterthought [00:43] and introduces a development [01:30], containing a brief fugue [02:24-03:12]. The latter engenders some imitative passages, which initiate a condensed reminder of the opening measures [4:40]. Then a CA-based coda [06:02] ends the work resolutely.
The String Quartet No. 3 (c. 1879) opens with a theme and variations having a sonata form superstructure. It has a wistful, "Molto sostenuto" ("Very sustained") [T-5], recitative-like, introductory statement [00:01], where we get an engaging, gladsome motif (EG) [00:34]. EG is the stem cell subject, from which the remaining, "Allegro Vivo" ("Fast and lively") portion of the movement grows [beginning at 02:12].
This part opens with nine developmental variations, the first five of which are carefree [02:12] agitated [03:36], anxious [03:55], introspective [04:58] and songful [05:25]. After that, we get flighty [05:45], troubled [06:14], dancelike [07:05] and weeping [08:16] ones, succeeded by an EG-triggered, recap coda. The latter begins excitedly [09:07], turns briefly sanguine [09:37] and then sorrowful [09:51], concluding the movement darkly.
A charming minuet [T-6] that's in keeping with its "allegro giusto" ("lively and precise") marking, follows. It brings to mind similarly disposed movements in the quartets of Haydn (1732-1809) and Mozart (1756-1791).
The subsequent "Andante quasi allegretto" ("Flowing and somewhat joyful") [T-7] is another theme and variations, but this time it opens with a main subject that’s a graceful, courtly dance tune [00:01]. This is followed by fourteen variants, the first two being respectively nonchalant [00:30] and rather Gallic sounding with French hurdy-gurdy overtones [00:53]. Maybe the latter reflects Bazzini's years in Paris.
After that, there are complacent [01:21], ornamented [01:44], serenade-like [02:09], undulating [02:35] and whimsical [03:07] variations. But then the mood becomes more somber as we get lachrymose [03:29], keening [04:40] and grief-stricken [05:09] ones. They're succeeded by fugato-agitato [05:53], flighty [06:15] and pleading [06:34] treatments, followed by a final, nostalgic, epilogue-like transformation [07:26], which closes the movement optimistically.
A scherzoesque "Finale" marked "Allegro deciso" ("Fast with determination") [T-8] brings the work to a virtuosic conclusion. This movement leaves the starting-gate with some neighing riffs [00:01] and a jolly, cantering theme (JC) [00:05] that's the lifeblood of its infectious, outer sections. They bracket an inner episode, which is a contemplative reworking of JC [03:49-05:22], and end the piece with a big 🙂. Incidentally, try playing this Quartet with the last two movements reversed. You may find it even more rewarding!
Up until now, these Quartets were only available in a ten-disc set, which included twenty-three others by five more Italian composers. However, with this single CD release you can selectively test the Bazzini waters!
The performances by the Quartetto Bazzini (QB) are as good, if not even better than those in the above mentioned album. On that note, one of the QB’s priorities since its founding in 2010 has been introducing modern day audiences to their namesake’s unjustly forgotten Quartets. An all Italian group, these musicians deliver enthusiastic, yet sensitive readings of these scores. They'll leave you anxiously awaiting their renditions of the remaining four, which will hopefully soon be forthcoming.
The recordings were made two years ago at a studio in Cremona, Italy, some thirty miles south of Bazzini's hometown. They present a generous sonic image in warm surroundings, where there's no feeling of confinement sometimes associated with studios. The string tone is convincing with pleasant highs, a musical midrange and clean bass with no hint of overhang in low cello notes.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y181130)
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Braga Santos (Santos): Pno Conc, Sym Ov 1, Sym Ov 2 "Lisboa", Viver… Prel, 4 Minis; Filipec/Cassuto/RLiver PO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
It's been a couple of years since we've had a chance to laud music by one of our favorite Portuguese composers, Joly Braga Santos (sometimes listed as just Santos, 1924-1988; see 30 July 2016). But never fear, Naxos is here!
And on this recent release of theirs, Joly's compatriot, conductor-composer Álvaro Cassuto (b. 1938; see 13 January 2014) introduces us to another eight of his orchestral goodies. More specifically, there are a couple of stand-alone overtures, an opera prelude, four symphonic miniatures and a piano concerto, all of which are world premiere recordings.
These selections, which date from between 1946 and 1973, represent a good cross-section of his stylistic development (see Cassuto's informative album notes). They're accordingly programmed in chronological order, and the concert begins with the earlier two of his three Symphonic Overtures, the third of 1954 having appeared in these pages a few years ago (see 8 February 2012).
The First [T-1], written in 1946 at age twenty-one, is his initial orchestral effort and in sonata form. The opening statement begins with a slow introduction, where the flute plays a modal, folkish first subject (MF) [00:04] underlined by sustained notes for the English horn. Then the orchestra launches into two, related countersubjects, which are respectively agitated (MA) [00:57] and expansive (ME) [01:33].
These ideas undergo a dramatic development, where the music conjures up images of a train ride [02:31] and wanes into an MF-initiated recapitulation [04:18]. Here MA soon surfaces [05:13], and then ME [06:58], after which pounding timpani [07:02] trigger a brisk coda that ends the work decisively.
The Second Overture [T-2] came a year later (1947) and is structurally identical to the First. However, at almost twice the length and subtitled "Lisboa" ("Lisbon"), there would seem to be some underlying program. While none is provided, it's easy to imagine the music depicting a day in Portugal's thriving capital.
A sleepy introduction features a modal, radiant tune for the horn (MR) [00:00], possibly limning the sun rising over that great city. Then the orchestra gives us related, busy (MB) [02:47] and purposeful (MP) [03:59] countersubjects, ostensibly indicative of Lisbon coming to life.
An industrious development of the previous themes that begins with MP [05:44] seemingly characterizes the town folk going about their daily tasks. This gives way to an MR-announced recapitulation [07:38], having reminders of MB [08:31] and MP [09:48]. Then an excited, MB-MR-MP-based coda [11:00] may well portend many wonderful days to come in that great metropolis.
Next, the Prelude to an opera titled Viver ou Morrer (To live or Die) [T-3], which the composer wrote in 1952 for what was then National Portuguese Radio. This is a moving lament that sets the mood for the opening scene, where two women wander around a deserted battlefield, searching for their husbands among the fallen.
It has a grim, timpani-tam-tam reinforced preface [00:00], followed by a sorrowful, sighing theme (SS) [00:33] that becomes increasingly distraught. SS gives way to sobbing thoughts [02:51], which build and turn into what seems like an SS-related theme of hope (SH) [03:48]. But SH is clouded with a tam-tam-underlined hint [04:22-04:29] of that old harbinger of doom, the Dies Irae, and becomes the basis for a despairing, developmental episode [04:57].
This has a grief-stricken, cathartic segment [beginning at 05:48], succeeded by SH-tinged, sanguine, harp-embellished passages [07:38]. These blossom into a gorgeous, exultant section [09:05], which waxes and wanes. Then a harp-decorated coda of hope [12:19] with a consoling solo violin, ends the Prelude, ostensibly promising better days ahead.
In 1955-6, Braga Santos wrote four independent miniatures, or vignettes as Maestro Cassuto calls them, based on Portuguese folk songs. They're scored for a small orchestra, and when played sequentially, constitute a delightful symphonic suite.
The first "Pastoral" [T-4] is a graceful, dancelike piece in the Lydian mode. This is followed by a reserved, contemplative "Romance" [T-5], and keening "Serenade" [T-6] with some arresting, tam-tam and harp-glissando moments [01:28, 02:40 & 02:49]. Then a captivating, ternary "Intermezzo" [T-7], having blissful outer sections wrapped around an infectious folk ditty [01:01-01:15], bring this surrogate suite to an affable conclusion.
Last, but not least, the disc closes with the composer's only Piano Concerto of 1973, which is a much more progressive, stylistically advanced work than any of the preceding ones. Cassuto tells us it's from "Joly's second musical phase" that he says began with his Three Symphonic Sketches (1962; see 8 February 2012).
Like the concertos of Chopin (1810-1849) and Liszt (1811-1886), this was meant as a vehicle for virtuoso pianists. It calls for massive forces, which include a large percussion section, and in that regard, brings to mind Bartok's (1881-1945) Concerto for 2 Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra of 1940.
In three movements, the initial "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") [T-8] gets off to an explosive start with frantic, percussion-laced keyboard passages [00:00]. These give way to an austere, declarative idea (AD) for the orchestra [00:27], which triggers a querulous, exploratory exchange for soloist and tutti [beginning at 00:44]. This bridges into three Bartokian episodes [01:56, 02:35 & 03:10] and a contemplative afterthought [04:00]. Here increasingly agitated piano passages trigger an excited coda for all [05:12] that ends the movement triumphantly.
The numinous "Largo" ("Slow") [T-9, 00:01] has a disembodied opening [00:01] with a ghostly, tone-row-like, subject (GT), which begins in the high winds [00:17] and is fleshed out by the piano [00:33]. GT engenders a hesitant, haunting exploration [01:11] that fades into the mists with a final hint of it from the horn [05:14], bringing the movement full circle.
A closing, rondoesque "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-10] is the work's highpoint. It gets off to an unusual start with timpani strokes and the string players slapping the bodies of their instruments [00:00]. Subsequently the vibraphone, brass and piano join in, hinting at a jaunty, flippant ditty (JF) soon introduced by the soloist [00:28] and seconded by the orchestra [00:34]. JF then appears in several different guises, ranging from anxious [00:52] to expansive [01:06], jittery [01:16], sweeping [01:30], cheeky [01:44] and complacent [02:08].
After that, the piano reminds us of JF [02:48], which is cause for an undulating development [03:08] with tam-tam groundswells. This suddenly quits, and the soloist invokes a dramatic outburst [04:07], followed by an anticipatory pause. Then there's a JF-related, manic coda [04:20] with pounding drums and crashing tam-tam strokes that ends the Concerto on a resplendent, forte, D major chord.
Award-winning Croatian pianist Goran Filipec gives a stunning account of it, and in the process, proves himself one of today's most promising artists. He receives outstanding support from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Braga Santos' champion, Maestro Álvaro Cassuto (see 13 January 2014), who also makes a strong case for the earlier works.
Done a little over a year ago at The Friary in Liverpool, England, the recordings project a wide, comfortably recessed sonic image in reverberant surroundings. The piano seems somewhat spread across the soundstage, but is otherwise convincingly captured with a percussive bite well suited to Joly's quirky Concerto.
As for the orchestral timbre, it's characterized by flinty highs, a pleasant midrange and transient bass. However, those with sound systems that go down to rock-bottom will notice low thumps, arising from Maestro Cassuto's more active moments on a timpanic podium.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P181129)
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Bricht: Orch Wks V1 (Sym in A, Sym Ste, Verwehte Blätter); Constantine/FortWay P [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Walter Bricht (1904-1970) was born in Vienna, and his father was a noted music critic of Slovakian origin. The boy’s mother was a famous lieder singer and pianist, who became his first teacher. Walter then went on to study at the Vienna Conservatory where he was famed, Austrian composer Franz Schmidt's (1874-1939; see 30 September 2016) favorite pupil.
After graduating in 1928, Walter began a highly successful career as a pianist, composer, conductor and teacher. However, being of Jewish ancestry, his days in Europe were numbered with the rise of the Nazis and their anti-Semitic policies. Moreover, as his compatriots Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Ernst Toch (1887-1964; see 14 May 2014), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957; see 31 March 2011) and Eric Zeisl (1905-1959, see 15 November 2013) had or would soon do, he fled to the United States in 1938.
America become his second home -- he was granted US citizenship in 1944 -- where he'd again established himself as a distinguished concert pianist and highly respected teacher. In regard to the latter, his academic posts would include positions at Mason College, Charleston, West Virginia (1939-44), the Mannes School of Music, New York City (1944-63), and Indiana University, Bloomington (1963-70).
However, he'd write only a handful of works on this side of the Atlantic, and the three orchestral selections presented here all date from his years in Austria, namely the early 1930s. These are the only recordings of them, or for that matter any of his music, readily available on disc as of this writing.
The program begins with Symphonic Suite in A minor for Large Orchestra of 1931. This is in three movements, the first [T-1] being an orchestration of the one which opens his "Large" Piano Sonata (No. 3, Op.10, 1927). It starts "Unruhig bewegt" ("Restlessly") [T-1] with bustling flutes [00:01] and a somber, nervous theme (SN) for the strings [00:03] that's explored.
This leads to a pause and brass pronouncement [01:44], where the music turns "Schankend" ("Swaying") as the horns introduce a casual, undulating idea (CU) [02:16]. Then SN returns [02:42] and initiates a pensive development with reminders of CU [beginning at 04:03]. These engender a dynamic coda [04:35], which closes the movement definitively.
Next, there’s a change of pace as we get a ternary "Sehr langsam und ausdrucksvoll" ("Very slow and expressive") [T-2] that opens with a queasy, mystic theme (QM) [00:01]. It waxes and wanes into a sobbing episode [02:21], which bridges into QM-tinged passages [03:42] that end the movement uneventfully.
Then a final "Rasch" ("Fast") [T-3] starts with a restless, bustling idea (RB), followed by a related lyrical thought (RL) [00:27]. Both bring to mind Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) more pixilated moments and become the subjects of a martial development [01:17] with fugal spicing. A subsequent RL-initiated recap [02:07] brings the Suite to a curt conclusion.
The next selection titled Verwehte Blätter (Scattered Leaves) is a 1932 orchestrated version of an eponymous set of eight small pieces for solo piano written back in 1926-7. Averaging only about a minute and a half each, these impressionistic tidbits conjure up a variety of images. The first three marked "Fliessend" ("Flowing") [T-4], "Langsam und zart" ("Slow and gentle") [T-5] and "Sturmisch bewegt" ("Blustery") [T-6] seemingly limn a gentle stream, peaceful countryside and gathering storm clouds.
A subsequent "Rasch und leicht" ("Fast and light") [T-7], "Sehr langsam" ("Very slow") [T-8] and another "Fliessend" ("Flowing") [T-9] might well represent early morning birds and a peaceful lakeside with wavelets lapping against the shore. Then the works ends "Langsam, ausdrucksvol" ("Slow, expressive") [T-10] and "Rasch" ("Fast") [T-11], bringing to mind a rolling valley between soaring mountains.
Bricht's only symphony was completed in 1934 and first played the following year by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (VSO) to great acclaim. Consequently, there were offers from the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras for follow-on performances. But to no avail, as the composer's Jewish heritage became known about this time, which resulted in their retraction.
The work ranks right up there with his teacher, Franz Schmidt's four symphonies (1896-1933; see 15 January 2010), and a synopsis of it, possibly by the composer himself, was published in a local magazine just after the VSO premiere (see the informative album notes). This noted the Symphony's romantic characteristics, and described the first of its four movements as in strict sonata form.
Marked "Mässig bewegt" ("Moderately") [T-12], it begins with soft wind oscillations [00:00] followed by a majestic, rising motif in the strings (MR) [00:01]. MR is repeated [00:28] and after a dramatic pause, we get a related, sinuous theme (MS) [01:15]. Subsequently, the two ideas become the subjects of an extended development [00:51], where they're the basis for several episodes of different temperament. These range from searching [01:01] and contemplative [01:53] to aggressive [02:28], anxious [03:03], troubled [03:42] and grieving [04:52].
The latter bridges into the triumphant return of MS [06:32] with heroic, brass reminders of MR along the way [07:37 & 08:35]. Then the music fades and saunters into an MS-MR-related coda [08:59] that builds excitedly and closes the movement with a decisive ff chord.
The succeeding "Langsam" ("Slow") [T-13] opens with a plaintive, floating theme introduced by the oboe [00:01], which is elaborated with imitative moments. The music waxes into a couple of powerful climaxes, only to peacefully subside and close this section with a sustained, questioning note from the flute.
Next, a short "Intermezzo scherzando: Nichts zu rasch" ("Scherzoesque intermezzo: Not too fast") [T-14], which is a light diversion that takes its cue from the scherzos in Bruckner's (1826-1896) Symphonies (1863-96). It commences with scurrying strings [00:01] and an MR-derived flighty number (MF) introduced by the winds [00:08]. MF recurs in different orchestral guises, one quite martial sounding [02:06-02:46], and ends the movement uneventfully.
The finale marked "Ziemlisch langsam - Bewget" ("Rather slow - Moving") [T-15] has a lugubrious introduction that opens with an MR-reminiscent, despairing theme (MD) [00:00]. There are a couple of drum-reinforced eruptions [00:27 & 00:45], after which the music wanes into an elated, hope-filled thematic nexus (EH) announced by the brass and winds [01:35].
Subsequently, EH and MD undergoes a masterfully crafted development [02:47] that brings to mind Richard Strauss' (1864-1949) later tone poems (1888-1915). Here the two ideas confront one another with MD having the final say. It then evokes a calamitous coda [09:35] that concludes the Symphony tragically.
The Fort Wayne Philharmonic (FWP) under their music director, British conductor Andrew Costantine, give splendid, definitive accounts of these wonderful, Austrian rarities. While the first two selections are delightful, lighter fare, the Symphony is a major discovery and significant addition to the body of big-boned, late-romantic, orchestral works. Hopefully Maestro Constantine and the FWP will delve further into Herr Bricht's musical legacy.
These recordings were done live last March at Purdue University's Rhinehart Music Center Auditorium, Fort Wayne, Indiana. However, you'd never know it as skillful postproduction touch-ups and/or editing have eliminated any extraneous audience noise or applause.
They present a lean, withdrawn sonic image in an exacting venue. Moreover, the orchestral timbre is characterized by bright highs, a thin midrange and booming bass, which may explain why this disc is cut at an unusually low level. Accordingly, the sound is not demonstration quality. However, this exceptional music well makes up for any audio deficiencies.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P181128)
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Lachner, Franz: Sym 3, Festouvertüre; Schmalfuss/Everg SO [CPO]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Franz Lachner (1803-1890), not to be confused with his younger brothers Ignaz (1807-1895) and Vincenz (1811-1893), was born some 50 miles north-northwest of Munich in Rain, Germany. He came from a musical family, in which both parents were accomplished organists, and initially attended school near his hometown. However, shortly after his father's death in 1820, Franz moved to Munich, where he made a modest living as a substitute musician playing violin, cello, double bass, horn and organ. He'd also study music theory and organ.
Then three years later (1823), he took up residence in Vienna, where he became the organist at a local Lutheran church. He'd also continue his musical education and soon become part of that great city's artistic scene. Lachner could count Beethoven (1770-1827) along with Schubert (1797-1828) among his acquaintances, and would begin composing as well as conducting for a living.
But his job situation turned increasingly uncertain in the late 1820s, and the year 1834 found him moving back to Germany for more reliable employment. Accordingly, he'd take up positions in Mannheim and then Munich (1836), where he soon established himself as an outstanding conductor.
Franz would go on to pursue a highly successful career there for the remainder of his life, and leave a substantial body of works across all genres. They include eight symphonies, the third of which is featured here along with one of his shorter orchestral pieces. These are both world premiere recordings and the only versions currently available on disc.
The four-movement Symphony No. 3 of 1834 begins with a sonata form "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-1], whose opening statement (O1) has two thematic groups. They're built around a twitchy, hopping motif (TH) [00:00] and subsequent, TH-related, flowing melody (TF) [01:11].
O1 is then repeated [03:04], giving way to a TF-initiated, skillful development [06:08] with some sighing sequences [06:57, 07:22 & 08:08]. These make a somber transition into the return of TH [08:31], which announces the recapitulation. This has a nostalgic version of TF [09:59] that along with a little help from same conjures up a TH-TF fueled, manic coda [12:35], which ends the movement exuberantly.
Next, an "Allegro assai" ("Very fast") scherzo [T-2] with bustling, outer sections [00:00 & 08:31]. These are clever, sibling fugues, which chase their own tail. They surround a charming, related, waltzlike trio [05:46-08:29] and end the movement with pompous, trumpet-call-reinforced pronouncements [11:20].
The mood of the foregoing is tempered by a subsequent "Andante con moto quasi Allegretto" ("Slow but bordering on Fast") [T-3]. It opens with a subdued, timpani riff (ST) [00:00] portending the rhythm of a succeeding, folkish, songlike theme (FS) [00:03]. FS is filled out and the foregoing repeated [01:19], after which the music turns heroic [01:47]. It then bridges into a pastoral, contrapuntally spiced episode [02:40] that becomes commanding [03:29].
This transitions via a passing, victorious segment [04:31-05:04] into the return of ST [06:04] and FS [06:07], which launch a rondo-like recap. Here they take on several different guises, ranging from contrapuntally-laced [06:47] to heroic [07:19], rustic [08:01], dancelike [08:54], pastoral [09:59] and nostalgic [10:40]. Then a confident one [11:32] brings this section to a definitive conclusion.
The "Finale. Allegro" ("Finale. Fast") [T-4] starts with a brief timpani tattoo [00:00] and is structurally similar to the first movement. Moreover, its opening statement (O4) again contains two thematic groups. The first is built around a TH-related, dashing idea (TD) [00:02], while the second involves a TF-reminiscent, sinuous one (TS) [00:58].
Then O4 returns [02:20], and is followed by a TS-initiated, dramatic development [04:37] with some colorful, pizzicato-spiced passages [05:04 & 05:11]. This makes an exciting transition into the return of TD [06:19], triggering the recapitulation.
Here we get a playful version of TF [07:12], which turns grandiloquent (TG) [beginning at 07:48], somewhat recalling that cantering theme in the final movement of Schubert's (1797-1828) Great Symphony (No. 9, D944). TG then wanes [beginning at 08:19], only to wax increasingly triumphant [beginning at 08:40] and give way to a TS-tinged, wild coda [09:39] that ends the Symphony exultantly.
Back in 1854, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916) married Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria (1837-1898), which seemingly inspired Lachner to write a Festouvertüre (Festival Overture, 1854), honoring the occasion. This ended with a tune for what was then the Bavarian Royal Anthem, which oddly enough is the same as the one accompanying Britain’s "God Save the King/Queen".
Then some subsequent festivity, presumably also involving Franz Joseph, apparently prompted the composer to come up with a second version of the work. Here he replaced the closing melody with the one for what was then the Austrian Emperor's Anthem (AEA). This will sound very familiar as it’s since become the tune for the German National Anthem, "Deutschland über Alles" (see 31 March 2017), which is the main theme in the second movement of Franz Joseph Haydn's (1732-1809) Emperor String Quartet (Op. 76, No. 3; c. 1799).
The later Festouvertüre fills out this release [T-5], and is in three sections, the first being a slow introduction. It starts with gentle string phrases [00:00] and rousing brass calls hinting at a warm, tender melody (WT), which soon follows [00:58].
WT is expanded and succeeded by a second section, which is a triumphant march [02:52]. Its opening contains a festive, regal tune (FR) [03:08], and is followed by a comely trio episode based on lyricized bits of FR [04:59]. Then there’s a resplendent, big-tune return of FR [06:56] that just quits!
After a dramatic pause, we get the final section, which begins with hushed strings playing AEA [07:37]. This is soon picked up by the full orchestra [10:08], and there’s a glorious paean with effulgent brass fanfares and rolling timpani [beginning at 11:45]. It concludes the overture and this magnificent CD in a blaze of glory.
Located in Taipei, on the island of Taiwan (formerly known as Formosa), the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra under their current music director and chief conductor German-born Gernot Schmalfuss give rousing accounts of these selections. They make a strong case for some undeservedly forgotten, superbly crafted symphonic works that you’ll be delighted to discover.
Made two years ago at the Keelung Cultural Center's Theater in Taipei, the recordings project a wide, distant sonic image in a bright, marginally reverberant venue. The orchestral timbre is characterized by brittle highs and a lean midrange. As for the bass, which is minimal due to Lachner's conservative scoring, it's clean and transient. While this disc is not in the demonstration class, the music will soon make you forget these sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P181127)
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Lindberg, M.: Vn Conc 2, Tempus fugit; Zimmermann/Lintu/Fin RSO [Ondine (Hybrid)]
AUDIOPHILE (1 SACD)
Concertos for solo instruments were a dime a dozen back in Baroque times -- Antoni Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote around 350 of them -- but today's composers are turning them out at a considerably reduced rate. As of this writing, Finland's Magnus Lindberg (b. 1958) has produced seven.
Besides his highly acclaimed one for clarinet (2002), there are two each for piano (1991-4 & 2011-12), cello (1999 & 2013), and violin (2006 & 2015). The second in the latter category is included on this new Ondine hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0) release, along with one of Magnus' most recent symphonic creations. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The composer tells us the almost twenty, fifteen and ten-year intervals between those for the same solo instrument were "healthy" gaps. They allowed him "thinking time" as he calls it, to come up with substantially different works, which is certainly true of the two for violin.
The earlier of these (see 21 October 2013) was commissioned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's (1756-1791) birth and is a reserved offering scored for a classically sized orchestra. On the other hand, the one here is a much more expressive and demanding, late-romantic work that calls for large forces.
Like his other concertos, it's in three connected movements, and the first [T-6] begins with the violin playing a twitchy, ascending riff (TA) [00:01]. This is picked up by the orchestra [00:09] and expanded into a related, undulating subject (TU). Then soloist and tutti weave a brilliantly scored, dramatic, developmental tapestry, where TU undergoes three TA-prefaced treatments. These are respectively discursive [01:15], whimsical [03:22] and blithe [04:21], with the last inspiring a TU-related romantic melody (TR) for the violin [08:20].
TR becomes the subject of an affecting bridge with a concluding brass span [08:55] that initiates the next movement [T-7, 00:00]. This is a moving exploration of TR with fiddle fireworks, which becomes a romantic outpouring [beginning at 03:47] that waxes and wanes into an extended, no-holds-barred cadenza [06:32-08:39]. The latter is followed by a nostalgic return of TR for all [08:41], which melts into a brief pause. Then the soloist and orchestra's lead violinist engage in some scurrying passagework [10:09].
They're soon joined by the orchestra for the opening of the final movement [T-8, 00:00]. This is a busy, TA-TR-riddled moto-perpetuo (perpetuum mobile), where everyone dashes about. But after a crashing tam-tam stroke [04:21] and pounding drums [04:40], all seemingly fall exhausted. Then the Concerto ends with a reminder of TR on the violin [04:46] underlined by a dark tutti chord.
Back in the 1980s, when scoring his orchestral works Lindberg applied his knowledge of computers and programming to optimize complex chord progressions (see the album notes). This gave the music greater continuity, whereby consonant and dissonant elements flowed more smoothly into one another.
Apparently, he followed the same procedure when composing the other piece included here. Titled Tempus fugit (Time flies, 2015-7), the composer tells us it was written with British artist Francis Bacon's (1909-1992) portraits in mind, which are still recognizable as faces despite all those hideous, distorting features. Be that as it may, generally speaking, the work is a set of five adjoining tone pictures of differing mood.
The first one [T-1] opens with a couple of percussively-accented, sustained notes [00:01 & 00:06] that fall away into a rising string glissando [00:25] and subsequent, anxious passages [00:43]. These give birth to a related sinuous motif (AS) [01:21], which is worked into a stirring episode.
Then the music abates, and a second picture [T-2] starts with hints of AS [00:00]. This is impressionistic and recalls Ravel's (1875-1937) Daphnis and Chloe (1909-12). The music comes to a curious conclusion [07:12], featuring a clarinet quartet, and may bring Gershwin's (1898-1937) Rhapsody in Blue (1924; see 31 March 2011) to mind.
It’s immediately followed by the third [T-3], which opens with AS-related, ominous passages [00:00], engendering an exploratory segment [00:55]. This waxes and wanes with some embellishments from the piano [01:54], which then makes a concerto-like appearance [03:38]. It triggers a colorful, percussively-spiked bridge [04:11] into an AS-permeated, harp-and-piano-ornamented episode [06:24] that ends with some reflective solo winds [beginning at 08:54].
They call up the fourth painting [T-4], which gets off to a hushed, dreamy start [00:01]. Then the music turns angelic with celesta-sequined touches [01:10], only to become threatening [beginning at 02:10] and momentarily combative [02:57]. However, soothing strings [03:08] usher in a piano-ornamented hopeful episode [03:37]. This becomes increasingly radiant, but ebbs [04:33] into another couple of aggressive segments [04:48 & 05:23].
The last of these fades into the fifth and final picture [T-5] that starts with flighty, woodwind dominated, chamber-music-like passages [00:00]. These are gradually picked up by the rest of the orchestra and blossom into an AS-related, triumphant episode [03:07].
This subsides only to become an overpowering peroration [05:46], which Lindberg compares to the "Great Gate of Kiev" ending of Mussorgsky's (1839-1881) Pictures at an Exhibition (1874; orchestrated by Ravel in 1922). Then the music ebbs away, and as those old 1930-40s newsreels used to say, "Time Marches On!"
The Concerto is dedicated to our soloist, German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann, who delivers a thrilling, technically accomplished yet sensitive performance of it. He receives magnificent support from the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) under their chief conductor and fellow countryman Hannu Lintu.
The FRSO goes on to give a superb account of Tempus fugit. Moreover, Maestro Lintu's attention to rhythmic detail, phrasing and dynamics, brings to life music that in lesser hands could come off sounding somewhat amorphous.
These recordings were made last year at the Helsinki Music Center. The CD and SACD stereo tracks present well-proportioned sonic images in splendid surroundings with the soloist placed just left of center. The multitrack one surrounds the listener, putting them in a center, orchestra seat several rows back from the FRSO.
Herr Zimmermann's violin is well captured and balanced against the tutti, while the overall instrumental timbre is lifelike. It's characterized by sparkling highs and a robust midrange, which are a tad more natural sounding in the SACD modes.
As for the bass, it goes down to rock bottom on all three tracks, and is for the most part clean. There is a bit of hangover at couple of percussively earthshaking spots, but everything considered, this release earns an audiophile rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y181126)
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