CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 NOVEMBER 2020
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.
Carrillo, Julián: Sym 2, A Isabel…, Marcha Nupcial 2, Excs fm Opera Matilde ó México…; Zapata/SanLuisPot C&O [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Four years ago we introduced you to some superb orchestral works by Mexican composer Julián Carrillo (1875-1965; see 30 September 2016) that included the first of his three symphonies. Now Toccata gives us the second, accompanied by two occasional pieces plus some excerpts from one of his operas. These are the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
All this music is of tonal, late-romantic temperament, and our concert begins with the Symphony No. 2 (C major, Op. 7; 1905, revised 1957). A beautifully structured work, it reflects Julián's German training during the early 1900s.
The first of its four movements is in sonata-form [T-1] and has a couple of related, Mexican-folk-tinged ideas. More specifically, these are an "Adagio" ("Slow"), yearning [00:00] thought (SY) followed by an "Allegro" ("Fast"), jubilant one (FJ) [03:09]. They're the subjects of a captivating, extended development [04:50] and thrilling recapitulation [11:26] with a valiant coda [14:38] that ends the movement triumphantly.
Then there's a "Poco lento" ("Somewhat slow") one [T-2], which is a pastoral serenade with lovely themes, which call to mind the composer's French contemporaries Erik Satie (1866-1925) and Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Its ending is particularly noteworthy for mystic, closing passages [11:27] having polytonal as well as pentatonic spicing.
An "Allegro" ("Fast') marked "Scherzo" is next [T-3]. This has whimsical outer passages that surround a brass-reinforced trio [03:09-05:03], which brings to mind moments in Wagner's (1813-1833) Der flieghende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman; 1841-52).
The Symphony closes with another sonata-form movement [T-4]. It has a hesitant preface [00:00], succeeded by a compelling "Lento" ("Slow") theme [00:21] that smacks of Robert Schumann's (1810-1856) more lyrical moments. Then there's an "Allegro appassionato" ("Fast and spirited") thought [01:10], and both undergo a dramatic development [02:08].
The latter has mischievous passages [04:56], which give way to a commanding recapitulation [05:11]. This turns euphoric with big tune remembrances of SY [06:19] and FJ [07:04] that end the work in a blaze of glory.
Next, a spirited A Isabel: Schottisch (1890) [T-5], which is a schottische dance, penned by Julián at the tender age of fifteen. Dedicated to an Isabel Chávez, who was probably one of his sweethearts, it's in the best tradition of late 19th century salon music.
Turning to more substantial fare, we get four excerpts from Carrillo's opera Matilde ó México en 1810 (Matilde or Mexico in 1810). This was written during 1909 and 1910 in response to a commission received under curious circumstances. They're covered in the album notes, along with plot details, so we'll limit commentary to some general observations about how the music sounds.
First up, the "Overture" [T-6], which has an ominous opening. It's followed by two nationalistic, hymn-like numbers [00:43 & 02:24], and then gentle, amorous passages end things tranquilly.
Subsequently, there are two "Intermezzos" that respectively introduce and come during Act III. The first [T-7] is a keening contemplation, reflecting the carnage brought about by warring factions (see notes). On the other hand, the second [T-8] is an uplifting episode related to Matilde and full of the patriotic fervor that pervades this opera. The latter is reinforced with allusions to the tune for the French National Anthem known as "La Marseillaise" [01:10], which was a song of revolution in the opera's timeframe.
This music proceeds attacca into a moving "Coro de los insurrectos" ("Chorus of the Insurgents") [T-9] that has a brief baritone solo for their chief. Together they laud their emancipation from three hundred years of Spanish rule, under which Mexicans were enslaved, and the country's resources plundered (see album booklet for Spanish and English texts).
Then the CD closes festively with a Marcha Nupcial (Wedding March; 1910) [T-10]. It's the second of two Carrillo wrote, and a worthy addition to such greats as Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) ever popular one in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42).
The San Luis Potosí Symphony Orchestra (SLPSO) is featured here along with their associated chorus and baritone Luis Guillermo Hernández Ávila, all of whom are conducted by the SLPSO's founding, artistic director José Miramontes Zapata. They deliver committed, enthusiastic performances of this music despite some queasy intonational moments in brass passages, and Seńor Ávila's brief aria.
These recordings were made during 2010 (Matilde...) and 2015 at the Teatro de la Paz (Theater of Peace) in San Luis Potosí, some 200 miles north-northwest of Mexico City. They present consistently wide, but distant sonic images in reverberant surroundings. The overall sound is characterized by bright highs, a pleasant midrange and lean bass.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P201130)
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Kaufmann, W.: Septet (pno & stgs), Stg Qts 7 & 11, Sonatina 12 (arr cl & pno), Vn Son 2; Soloists/ARC En [Chandos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Born in what's now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, some 80 miles west of Prague, Walter Kaufmann's (1907-1984) music education began at home. He then went on to study at Berlin University of the Arts, and could count famed, Austrian composer Franz Schreker (1878-1934; see 23 February 2015) among his teachers.
Walter led a very interesting, itinerant, productive life (see the informative album notes). Moreover, he lived in Germany, India, England as well as Canada, and would spend his last years in the United States. Consequently, Kaufmann left a large oeuvre characterized by an eclectic style. It includes many chamber works, five of which, written during his years in Mumbai, India (1934-46), receive their premiere recordings on this recent, enterprising Chandos release.
Our program starts with the String Quartet No. 11 (c. 1939), whose four movements sound very Indian. The first [T-1] begins with a gloomy, "Lento" ("Slow") idea [00:03] soon followed by a skittering "Allegro ma non troppo" ("Lively but not too fast") number (SA) [02:01]. Then SA makes a "Poco meno" ("A little less lively") transition [04:22] into an "Accelerando" reminiscence of itself [05:03]. This turns "Grave" ("Serious") [05:20], thereby bringing the movement to a solemn conclusion.
Next, an "Un poco grave" ("Somewhat serious") one [T-2] based on a persistent, yearning theme heard at the outset. It undergoes a pensive exploration that ends with a glimmer of hope, and then there's a scherzoesque offering [T-3]. Here anxious, "Allegro molto" ("Very fast"), outer sections bracket a bagpipe-like, "Meno" ("Less lively") trio, setting the stage for the rondo-like, closing movement [T-4].
This starts "Allegro barbarico" ("Fast and barbaric"), and has a ditty [00:59] the composer wrote, that became the signature tune for All India Radio (AIR). This skittish music briefly slows in a couple of "Meno" ("Less lively") passages, after which that AIR number returns, ending things full circle.
Kaufmann's three-movement Violin Sonata No. 2 (circa 1946) follows. The first [T-5] is an A-B-A-B-structured cavort with pensive "A"s and capricious "B"s. Then the second movement [T-6] takes the form of a meditation, while the third [T-7] is a rondo based on a recurring catchy dance.
The subsequent String Quartet No. 7 (circa 1939) has five movements, the first being a "sonata-formish" offering [T-8] with a flighty, initial idea (FF) and related, pleading countermelody. FF ends things like they started, after which there's a songlike second [T-9]. It's succeeded by a klezmer-like scherzo [T-10] that seemingly reflects the composer's Jewish heritage.
Then another of those bagpipe-like melodies (see above) initiates a whimsical fourth movement [T-11]. It's followed by a restive fifth [T-12], where an antic tune launches several variations of varying temperament that end the Quartet perfunctorily.
The concert continues with the three movement, Sonatina No. 12. Originally for violin and piano (circa 1946), the version here is for clarinet, and has a sorrowful, opening movement [T-13] with a weeping theme played by that instrument. Then there's a flirtatious "Intermezzo" [T-14] and somber "Finale" [T-15] that brings the work to a tranquil conclusion.
Filling out this superb CD, there's the composer's Septet [T-16] scored for three violins, viola, two cellos and piano (circa 1946). This is a fifteen-minute theme-and-variations based on an AIR-like (see above), whimsical subject [00:00] that parents fifteen variants.
The first ten range from marshal [02:20] to meditative [02:33], cantering [03:13], mysterious [03:57], fleeting [04:11], furtive [04:49], folk-songish [05:05], sighing [05:53], hymnlike [06:11] and keening [06:52]. Then a klezmer-tinged [08:47] one gives way to stately [09:51], chorale-like [10:31] as well as declaratory [11:43] ones, after which a retiring fifteenth [12:33] ends the Septet quietly.
The core performing group here consist of six musicians (violinists Erika Raum & Marie Bérard, violist Steven Dann, cellist Thomas Wiebe, clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeńas & pianist Kevin Ahfat), who collectively call themselves the ARC Ensemble. Incidentally, "ARC" is an acronym for those artists associated with The Royal Conservatory of Music based in Toronto, Canada.
They're joined by special guests, violinist Jamie Kruspe and cellist Kimberly Jeong, for the Septet [T-16], and together these talented youngsters give splendid accounts of all five selections. They make a strong case for some music whose rediscovery is long overdue.
The recordings were made over a three-day period last January in Koerner Hall at the Conservatory and present an ideally sized sonic image in a superb venue that enriches the sound. The Quartets and Septet have the strings comfortably positioned from left to right in order of increasing size. The piano is centered in the latter and for the Sonata and Sonatina, where the violin and clarinet are just left of it. All of the instruments are well balanced against one another.
The string tone is as good as it gets on conventional disc, and the piano, beautifully captured with just the right amount of percussive punch. Everything considered, this release earns another "Audiophile" stripe for Chandos.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y201129)
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Vladigerov, P.: Cpte Pno Concs (5), Five Silhouettes (solo pno); Soloists/A.Vladigerov/Bulg NaRSO [Capriccio]
SUGGESTED (3 CDs)
Vladigerov, P.: Orch Wks (Syms 1 & 2, Conc Ov "Earth", Heroic Ov, Autumn Elegy); A.Vladigerov/Bulg NaRSO [Capriccio]
SUGGESTED (2 CDs)
Recently we told you about some Bulgarian orchestral music by Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978; see 30 April 2020). Now Capriccio serves up more of his symphonic fare on the two albums pictured above. These are remastered versions of original Balkanton recordings made somewhere in Sofia between 1964 and 1978.
The album to the left contains three CDs [DL-1, 2 & 3] devoted to Pancho's five piano concertos, all of which are in three movements, as well as his Five Silhouettes for that instrument. Except for the third concerto, they're the only readily available versions of these selections now on disc.
Proceeding chronologically, Concerto No. 1 (A minor, Op. 6; 1918) [DL-1; T-1, 2 & 3] is a romantic outpouring with virtuosic passages for the soloist that bring to mind works by Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and Medtner (1880-1951). Highlights include some captivating references to Bulgarian folk melodies in the last two movements.
An extremely successful work, the above was followed some twelve years later by Concerto No. 2 (C minor, Op. 22; 1930) [DL-2; T-1, 2 & 3]. This is an even more skillfully crafted work with piano fireworks and some memorable melodies. That said, the middle movement features gorgeous, lyrical outer sections on either side of a catchy fandango-like episode. And the third has a frenetic fugue evoking impressive passages that bring the piece to a big-tune, Rachmaninovian conclusion.
The Concerto No. 3 (B♭ minor, Op. 31; 1937) [DL-1; T-4, 5 & 6], which is the shortest of his five, has turned out to be the most popular. That lyricism and those folk elements so predominant in the first two are again present, but there's a feistiness recalling later works in this genre by Prokofiev (1891-1953) and Shostakovich (1906-1975). Incidentally, the middle "Andante" is a gorgeous rhapsody featuring solo cello passages.
Twelve years would intervene before Pancho wrote Concerto No. 4 (G major, Op. 48; 1953) [DL-2; T-4, 5 & 6]. This came after the establishment of a Soviet-backed, Communist regime in Bulgaria, and consequently, the composer had to abide by bureaucrat Andrei Zhdanov's (1896-1948) "anti-formalism" doctrine (1946-48).
Accordingly, the work is brimming with what Vladigerov described as "Bulgarian national color". Moreover, that country's folk melodies and associated rhythms are rife in this demanding, virtuosic showpiece, which may remind you of Aram Khachaturian's (1903-1978) sole venture in this genre (1936).
A decade later the composer penned Concerto No. 5 (D major, Op. 58; 1963) [DL-3, T-1, 2 & 3] that's in essence an amalgam of its predecessors. Captivating thematic material and catchy tempos prevail along with pervasive, bravura piano passages. The central "Andante sostenuto" ("Slow and sustained") is a passionate, throwback to Rachmaninov's No. 4 (1926-41), while the last "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") is a joyous, folkdance-like escapade that brings the work to a zealous, keyboard-fireworks-laced conclusion.
Filling out this disc and album, there's a set of Five Silhouettes for Piano (Op. 66; 1974) [DL-3] penned towards the end of the composer's highly productive life. The "Introduction" [T-4] presents a winsome delicate idea, followed by four related miniatures. The first two are a nostalgic "Reminiscence" [T-5] and rustic "Dance" [T-6]. Then a songlike one called "Poetry" [T-7] is succeeded by "Cheerful Dance" [T-8], which ends the work sportively.
The album to the right has two CDs [DR-1 & 2] devoted to both of Vladigerov's numbered symphonies. Each four-movement works, they're accompanied by a couple of his overtures and an occasional orchestral piece. As done here, these are the only readily available versions of them now on disc.
Dedicated to Pancho's colleague and friend, Austrian composer Joseph Marx (1882-1964; see 31 July and 30 September 2019), the Symphony No. 1 (D minor, Op. 33; 1939) [DR-1] gets off to an "Allegro" ("Fast") start with a sonata-form movement [T-1] based on a couple of engaging, Bulgarian folk melodies. There's a martial, nationalistic air about it, but the mood turns contemplative in the subsequent, lyrical "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-2].
Then a vivacious, "Vivace" ("Spirited") scherzo [T-3] is followed by a "Molto pesante e tenuto" ("Very animated and sustained"), sonata-form finale [T-4]. This starts ominously, but becomes exultant, ending the Symphony with a triumphant coda [10:10] based on the work's opening theme.
This disc concludes with the Concert Overture "Earth" (Op. 27; 1933) [T-5], which is a nationalistic representation of the Bulgarian landscape and culture. Accordingly, it's a tone-poem-like creation that's based on three, folk-related ideas that are respectively solemn [00:03], busy [04:22] and songlike [06:50]. These are developed and recapped, thereby bringing the work to a glorious conclusion.
The other CD [DR-2] begins with Vladigerov's Heroic Overture (Op. 45; 1949) [T-1], which has all sorts of political connotations (see the informative album notes). Suffice it to say it's a paean to the times, and features a theme [03:10] recalling the melody for the Israeli National Anthem, known as Hatikva (The Hope). This is not that surprising, considering the composer's mother was of Jewish heritage.
Then we get an orchestral version of Autumn Elegy [T-2], which is the middle one of his Three Piano Pieces (Op. 15; 1922). It's a ternary, A-B-A, bucolic gem with delicate, pastoral "A"s on either side of an ardent, songlike "B".
And last, but not least, there's Pancho's Symphony No. 2 for String Orchestra subtitled "May" (B♭ major, Op. 44; 1939). The moniker apparently refers to an annual celebration held in the composer's time, honoring what's become known as "Youth Day". Accordingly, the lyrical, sonata-form first movement [T-3] has playful moments reminiscent of Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) String Symphonies (1821-23).
Subsequently, there's a yearning "Adagio molto" ("Very slow") [T-4] and idyllic "Tempo di Valse" ("Waltz speed") [T-5] that stylistically harkens back to the composer's years in Berlin (1912-32). They're succeeded by a closing, Bulgarian-folk-colored "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") [T-6] with memories of past themes. This vivacious music brings the Symphony and album to a youthful, enthusiastic conclusion.
All of the above orchestral works receive totally committed, definitive performances from the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra (BNRSO) conducted by the composer's son, Alexander Vladigerov (1933-1993). Daddy is the soloist for Concerto No. 5, while the other keyboard selections feature compatriot pianists Teodor Moussev (No. 1), Krassimir Gatev (Nos. 2 & Five Silhouettes...) and Ivan Drenikov (Nos. 3 & 4), all of whom give compelling accounts of their respective works.
These recordings deliver generally acceptable sound, but the Concerto No. 5 is a monaural one, and there's some low-level hum underlying Autumn Elegy. That said, they present generous sonic images in pleasant, warm surroundings. The pianists are well captured throughout, and adequately balanced against the BNRSO. As for the orchestral timbre, it's characterized by tolerable highs, a rich midrange and clean bass.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, S201128, S201127)
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Weigl, K.I.: Stg Qts 7 & 8; T.Christian En [CPO]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
A CLOFO regular, Austrian-born-and-trained, Karl Weigl (1881-1949; see 30 November 2015, 31 May 2019, 31 August 2019 and 31 March 2020), makes another welcome appearance in these pages, this time courtesy of CPO. They give us his two, last String Quartets, these being the only readily available versions of them on disc.
By way of reminder, 1938 saw the Nazi Anschluss of Austria, which forced the composer to flee his native country. He then took up permanent residence in the US that same year, and became a citizen in 1943. That said, the works on this CD are each in four movements and date from his American years.
The Quartet No. 7 (1942) is of romantic, lyrical temperament and opens with an "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-1]. It begins with the first violin playing a comely, searching melody (CS) [00:00] set to a dulcet accompaniment. Subsequently, CS becomes the subject of a developmental discourse for all four instruments [04:45], which ends the movement tranquilly.
Then Weigl serves up a scherzoesque one [T-2], having folk-dance-like, "Allegro molto" ("Very fast"), outer sections [00:00 & 05:04] that bring to mind a rustic celebration in some Austrian village. They surround nocturnal-sounding passages [02:43-05:03], where it would seem those peasant revelers are sound asleep, recovering from a surfeit of wine and beer.
The heartfelt "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-3] smacks of intimate moments in the music of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), with whom Karl had worked between 1904 and 1906. It's an A-B-A-structured rumination with "A"s [00:00 & 06:29] based on a heartfelt, peripatetic theme [00:22]. They surround an anxious "B" [03:44-06:28], and end the movement in much the same spirit it began.
Melancholy turns to merriment in the final "Allegro" ("Fast") sonata-rondo [T-4] that starts with a flighty, capricious number (FC) [00:00], followed by a related, more lyrical thought [00:50]. The latter bears a resemblance to the main theme in Bedřich Smetana's (1824-1884) Vltava (The Moldau), which is the second of his six symphonic poems known collectively as Má vlast (My Country, 1874). Then the two ideas are bandied about, giving rise to an FC-based, frenetic coda [04:53] that ends the Quartet excitedly.
Written just a few months before his demise, the Eighth of 1949 was his last work, and a bird of a different feather! Moreover, there's a foreboding, pervasive angst present that presumably reflects the composer's declining health.
The initial "Allegro non troppo, ma con brio" ("Lively and not too fast, but with spirit") [T-5] begins with a troubled thematic nexus [00:01]. This undergoes several, distressed treatments, the last of which brings the movement to a stringent conclusion.
Dark, Mahleresque clouds hover over the next "Andante" ("Flowing") [T-6]! It's a searching treatise that ends despondently, only to be followed by a quirky, "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") scherzo [T-7] with bizarre pizzicato spicing.
Then the fourth movement [T-8] gets off to a perturbed "Adagio" ("Slow") start [00:00]. However, the music becomes highly agitated in "Allegro" ("Fast") passages [01:43] that bring the Quartet and this disc to a harrowing conclusion.
These performances are by musicians drawn from the Thomas Christian Ensemble. All four (first violinist Thomas Christian, second violinist Raimund Lissy, violist Robert Bauerstatter & cellist Bernhard Naoki Hedenborg) hail from Austria and are each virtuosos in their own right. Together they give technically accomplished, yet sensitive accounts of both works.
A coproduction with Südwestrundfunk (SWR), the recordings were made during December 2017 at SWR's Hans Rosbaud Studio in Baden-Baden, Germany, some 100 miles south of Frankfurt. They project a generous sonic image in a suitably reverberant, enriching venue. The instruments are positioned from left to right in order of increasing size, and well captured as well as balanced against one another.
The string tone is characterized by bright, pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange and clean bass with no hangover in the cello's lower registers. Romantic chamber music enthusiasts won't want to be without this fine release, and audiophiles will approve.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y201126)
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