31 MARCH 2021


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

The album cover may not always appear.
Lazzari, S.: Pno Trio (with Jeral & Kienzl); T.Christian En [CPO]
At one time or another, each of the composers represented here was associated with Vienna. And to use a culinary analogy, these chamber music selections by them have the appeal of that city's renowned tortes. They're the only readily available recordings currently on commercial disc.

Of Austrian-Italian heritage, Sylvio Lazzari (Josef Fortunat Silvester Lazzari, 1857-1944) was born in Bolzano, Italy, some 260 miles west-southwest of Vienna. As a youngster he was captivated by music and took violin lessons. But later at his parents' urging, he'd study law in Austria as well as Germany.

The year 1882 saw him get a Doctorate of Jurisprudence, after which he traveled to Paris, where music once again became an overriding interest. Consequently, Sylvio met Charles Gounod (1818-1893) as well as Ernest Chausson (1855-1899), both of whom recommended that he take courses at the Conservatoire de Paris (Paris Conservatory).

He did so in 1883-84, and one of his teachers was César Franck (1822-1890), whose influence is very apparent in the opening selection, Lazzari's four-movement Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 13. Probably written in 1886, stylistically speaking, it also owes a debt to Robert Schumann (1810-1856).

The introductory, sonata-form movement [T-1] begins with a yearning, "Adagio misterioso" ("Slow and mysterious") theme (YM) [00:01]. YM is followed by the cello singing a related, "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire"), cavatina-like idea (YC) [02:40], which is cause for a rhapsodic exploration of the latter [03:23]. Then YM calls up an extensive, consummate development [04:34], and initiates a recap [11:09] with a YM-YC-based coda [13:36] that ends the movement perfunctorily.

A romantic, ternary, A-B-A-structured "Andante" ("Slow") follows [T-2]. Here after an anticipatory, piano preface [00:00], the cello intones a lovely, amorous thought (LA) [00:07], which is the subject of a dialogue with the violin [01:14] and dominates both "A"s. These embrace an LA-reminiscent, exploratory "B" [02:21], and the impassioned last "A" [05:45] ends the movement full circle with a touch of nostalgia.

Next, Sylvio serves up a charming, scherzoesque,"Allegretto grazioso" ("Lively, but graceful") [T-3]. It would seem this music was inspired by Johannes Brahms' (1833-1897) Waltzes for Piano, Op. 39 (1865).

Then there's a closing "Allegro appassionato ("Fast and spirited") [T-4], which is another sonata-form movement that's a sibling of the first. Moreover, it gets off to an impassioned start with a frenetic variant of YC (YF) [00:00], which bridges into a YM (see above) related, lyrical tune (YL) [01:18].

Subsequently, both ideas undergo a captivating development [02:13] having an electric, YF-based fugato [04:31]. It's followed by a YL-triggered recap [06:40] with a big-tune reminder of YM [07:35]. The latter is fuel for a cocky coda [08:52] that ends the work emphatically.

Moving right along, we get another four-movement "Op. 13 Piano Trio", but this time in E minor, by Lazzari's contemporary, Austrian-born and trained Wilhelm Kienzl (1857-1941). A student work, it dates from 1880 and is a more melodically flowing, conventionally structured piece that brings fellow countryman Franz Schubert's (1797-1828) chamber music for piano and strings (1812-28) to mind.

This commences with a sonata form "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-5], whose opening statement presents two comely tunes, which are respectively yearning (CY) [00:00] and songful (CS) [00:53]. They're explored [01:51], and the foregoing is repeated [03:01], calling up a consummate, two-part development [06:01 & 07:56].

Then the return of CY [08:35] begins a recapitulation, having romantic remembrances of CS [09:18], and a frenetic, CY-initiated, wild coda [09:45]. The latter ends with dying wisps of CY [10:18] that close the movement in subdued fashion.

The next one [T-6] is an invigorating, "Allegro molto" ("Very fast") marked "Scherzo" with outer sections sporting a CS-parented, perky ditty (CP) [00:00]. These hug trio passages based on a CY-reminiscent, fluid melody (CF) [01:27-03:25], which anticipates the subsequent, contemplative "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-7]. Moreover, this features a CF-tinged, hymnlike thought (CH) [00:00] that's the work's melodic highpoint! Arguably, it's regrettable the composer didn't develop CH more extensively.

In any case, Kienzl's Piano Trio comes to a compelling, sonata-rondoesque, "Allegro vivace" ("Fast and spirited") conclusion [T-8]. Here the opening statement (OS) has a playful, buoyant first theme (PB) [00:00] and related, sweeping second (PS) [00:34], which periodically recurs. Then OS is repeated [01:30], and the piano introduces a coy version of PS (PC) [03:13].

PC is cause for a romantic, developmental serenade [04:07] that wanes into a brief pause, followed by the return of PS [05:23] and PB [06:41]. The latter becomes exuberant [06:57], thereby powering a fervent coda [07:42], which ends the piece joyfully.

The disc is filled out with a delicious encore by Czech-born Wilhelm Jeral (1861-1935), who was the Vienna Philharmonic's principal cellist back in the early 1900s. More specifically, it's a piano trio arrangement of his charming Sérénade Viennoise (Viennese Serenade; pub. 1922), which he dedicated to the great violinist-composer Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962; see 28 February 2012). Apparently, Fritz did the version heard here, and it's a tasty, sachertorte, waltz tidbit that brings this CD to a sentimental conclusion.

These performances are by musicians drawn from the shapeshifting Thomas Christian Ensemble (TCE), which specializes in bringing seldom played chamber music to public attention (see 30 April 2016 and 30 November 2020). The three artists represented here are TCE's founder, violinist Thomas Christian, cellist Atilla Pasztor and pianist Evgeny Sinaiski. They deliver totally committed, enthusiastic performances of the rarities on this treasurable release.

CPO coproduced these recordings with Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) during October 2012 at BR's Studio 2 in Munich, German, some 200 miles west of Vienna. The sonic image is in pleasant surroundings, but somewhat recessed.

Moreover, the piano is centered with the strings just left (violin) and right (cello) of it. They're well balanced against one another with the piano faithfully captured. On the other hand, there are occasional steely upper violin passages. However, the cello sound is very convincing with no hint of boominess in its lower registers. Taking everything into consideration, the recordings fall a bit short of demonstration quality, but with music this appealing, pointy-eared listener's will soon forget any sonic shortcomings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P210331)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Rott: Orch Wks V2 (Sym 1, Sym for Stgs, Sym Mvmt); Ward/GürOCol [Capriccio]
On the heels of their first volume devoted to Hans Rott's (1858-1884) orchestral music (see 31 December 2020), Capriccio now gives us a second. It has three more symphonic works by an Austrian composer, who led an ill-fated life and died at twenty-five in a Viennese insane asylum.

This time around we get the world premiere recording of his Sinfoniesatz E-dur (Symphonic Movement in E major; 1878). It's coupled with the most recent versions on disc of Hans' Symphonie Nr. 1 E-dur (Symphony No. 1 in E major; 1878-80) and his Symphonie für Streichorchester As-dur (Symphony for String Orchestra in A♭ major; 1874-75). Moreover, most Rott enthusiasts familiar with earlier performances of the two symphonies will find a perspicuity in these renditions that makes them all the more desirable.

Han's superb, four-movement, Symphony No. 1 in E major of 1878-80 augurs his colleague and friend Gustav Mahler's (1860-1911) earlier efforts in the genre (1887-1901). That said, the opening sonata-form "Alla breve" ("Concisely") [T-1] has two ideas that show Wagner's (1813-1883) influence. Respectively heroic (WH) [00:01] and lieder-like (WL) [02:26], WH invokes a masterful, contrapuntally-spiced, development [03:42]. This makes a dramatic bridge into a WH-initiated recap [07:14] with an organ-enhanced, WH-big-tune coda [07:40] that ends the movement triumphantly.

The next "Sehr langsam" ("Measured") [T-2] is a romantic, "Adagioesque" offering. This begins with an acquiescent chord [00:01] and reverent, brief pause after which, Rott serves up a lovely WH-WL-reminiscent melody (HL) [00:11]. HL evokes a captivating exploration with a couple of dramatic, forte moments [beginning at 04:17 and 06:13]. The last of these ebbs into an HL-derived chorale [07:08], which closes this music devoutly.

Then there's a "Frisch und lebhaft' ("Brisk and lively") Scherzo [T-3] with animated, outer sections (AO) [00:01 & 06:03] of folk-dance persuasion that Mahler (1860-1911) may have had in mind when he wrote his initial symphony's (1888/1896) second movement. They bracket a related, contemplative trio section [03:02-06:01], and the last becomes fugue-ridden [09:21], giving birth to an exultant coda [12:32] that ends this section jubilantly.

The foregoing sets the stage for the final "Sehr langsam -- Belebt" ("Very slow -- Animated") [T-4], where each of the work's main ideas are the subject matter for a series of variations. Moreover, it begins [00:00] hesitantly hinting at WH, which is followed by a piquant variant of same (WP) [02:04]. Then WP is explored and repeated [03:32], giving way to a WL-like songful number [04:34]. This waxes and wanes with other bits of past themes into nostalgic memories of WP [06:58].

These invoke march-like passages [08:06], which turn triumphant [09:05]. They have some contrapuntal spicing [beginning at 10:07], and conjure up a WH-big-tune chorale [11:00]. Then after a brief pause, there's an enormous, WH-based, fugue [12:15]. This turns bombastic [15:38], only to suddenly wane [16:31], bridging with repeated hints of WP into memories of past ideas. These build into a glorious coda [18:18], which fades away with devout remnants of WH [20:56], thereby ending the work full circle.

Next up, all that's come down to us of Rott's early Symphony for String Orchestra in A♭ major, which he wrote around age sixteen (1874-75). It would appear the three movements included here are the first of what was to be a typical, four-movement, classical symphony the composer never completed. Be that as it may, they call to mind Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) Octet (1825), as well as the Dvořák (1841-1904) and Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) string serenades (1875 & 1880), to say nothing of those by CLOFO regular, Robert Fuchs (1847-1927; see 18 April 2011 and 25 April 2012).

The initial, sonata-form, "Allegro con fuoco" ("Fast with fire") [T-5] has an opening statement that starts with a merry ditty (M1) [00:01]. M1 is repeated [00:33] and briefly explored [00:49], giving way to a folk-song-like tune (F2) [01:03]. Then both ideas are jostled about [01:12], thereby calling up an M1-begun, lively development [02:11]. Subsequently, M1 triggers a recap [03:37] which ends the movement with a hint of F2 [04:15] and final splash of itself.

After that there's a melancholy "Grave e largo" ("Serious and slow") [T-6], featuring an M1-derived sorrowful theme (MS) [00:01] reminiscent of sadder moments in Schubert's (1797-1828) string quartets (1810-1828). MS parents a contemplative serenade, having a chordal sequence the composer apparently borrowed from the Paris version of Wagner's (1813-1883) Tannhäuser (1861; see the album booklet). And lastly, there's a delightful, scampering "Scherzo" [T-7] with a playful trio [02:10-03:21], which makes one all the sadder Rott never got around to finishing this piece.

Moving right along to the closing Symphonic Movement in E major (1878) [T-8], after just a few minutes, you'll think the opening work has started all over again! And that wouldn't be wrong as this piece is the initial version of its first movement. Consequently, the average listener will find the two sound much alike, while pointy-eared ones may detect some scoring refinements in the finished product.

As on Capriccio's first volume devoted to Rott's symphonic works, the ones here are also performed by the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, Germany. These superb musicians, again lead by English conductor Christopher Ward, make a strong case for some little-known music by a promising composer, who not only died much too young, but under very tragic circumstances (see above).

Made over a three-day period towards the end of January 2020 at Studio Stolberger Straße, Cologne, these recordings project a generous, recessed sonic image in an affable venue. The orchestral timbre is characterized by generally pleasant highs. However, there are some steely sounding, upper string passages. As for the midrange and lows, they're a bit congested, and in that regard, you may find the album sounds better on headphones.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P210330)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Rubinstein, A.: Stg Qts, Op. 47 Nos. 1 & 3; Reinhold Qt [CPO]
Like his better-known countryman Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894; see 10 June and 6 October 2014) was one of Russia's greatest pianists. But unlike Sergei, Anton was a workaholic (see the informative album notes), who left an enormous body of works across all genres. Moreover, the larger ones include thirteen operas (one subsequently lost), six symphonies and five piano concertos.

However, there are also numerous chamber pieces, ten of which are string quartets. Chronologically speaking, the two here are the fourth and sixth, these being the odd-numbered ones of three comprising his Op. 47, which were probably written in late 1855. They're the only recordings of them currently available on disc.

Both four-movement works, the concert begins with the String Quartet in E minor, Op. 47, No. 1. It has an opening sonata-form, "Moderato con moto" ("Moderate with movement") [T-1] that starts with a catchy, triplet-spiced moto (CT) [00:03], which will pervade this quartet, and infect the other one here as well.

CT is subsequently examined [00:40] and followed by a related, songlike idea (CS) [01:19] that bridges into a CT-initiated, dramatic development [02:41]. Then CS returns, conjuring up a recapitulation [04:17], where CT soon appears [05:06] in addition to romantic, CT-spiced memories of CS [06:05]. These give way to a CT-based coda, which begins excitedly [07:33], but wanes, ending the movement with a subdued "So there!" cadence [08:31].

Next, a whimsical "Allegro non troppo" ("Lively, but not too quickly") [T-2] marked scherzo, whose outer sections feature a scampering ditty [00:00] with a tuneful afterthought [00:54]. These surround a giddy trio [01:45-02:49] based on an upside-down version of CT, and end things full circle.

Caprice turns to contemplation in the "Andante con moto" ("Slow with movement") [T-3]. Somewhat along the lines of a theme and variations, it opens with a CS-reminiscent, amatory, main subject (CA) introduced by the viola [00:01].

CA is followed by three variants, the first of which is somewhat operatic [01:59] with a coloratura cadenza sung by the violin [04:17-04:43]. Then there's a searching, delightfully pizzicato-accented one [04:44]. And lastly, we get a sighing treatment [05:20] that turns sad [05:59], bringing the movement to an resigned conclusion.

The final "Allegro assai" ("Very fast'') [T-4] is a sonata-rondo based on a binary thought (BT), which smacks of CT (see above). Moreover, BT has a hopping first part (BH) [00:00] adjoining a chorale-like second (BC) [00:29], and is repeated [00:41], thereby initiating a happy development [01:21].

Subsequently, BH returns [02:58 & 03:13] conjuring up a recapitulation with a delicate, romantic version of BC [03:25]. Then the latter makes an agitated transition back into BH [04:10] that becomes the subject of a fidgety fugato [04:29] with descanting references to BC [beginning at 05:02]. Subsequently, bits of BC [05:25] invoke BH [06:01], which powers a thrilling coda [07:20]. This closes the work with another of those "So there!" cadences (see above), but this time it's a jubilant one [07:34].

Generally speaking, the String Quartet in D minor, Op. 47, No. 3 is a more sophisticated effort from the structural as well as harmonic standpoints. Here our old friend CT (see above) comes into play again! Moreover, it underlies a pining, "Adagio Molto" ("Very slow") introductory thought (CP) [T-5; 00:00] that begins the work's initial, sonata-form movement.

CP is followed by an "Allegro" ("Fast") opening statement (OS) having two, CP-related themes, which are respectively jaunty (CJ) [01:04] and folksong-like (CF) [01:47]. Then CF is cause for a rhapsodic exploration [02:19], which gives way to an OS-introduced, consummate development [03:39] of the foregoing thematic material.

It concludes with the reappearance of CJ [06:56], thereby beginning a recapitulation. This comes to a sudden pause, succeeded by OS [07:45], and then an agitated, OS-based coda [08:03] ends the movement definitively.

A "Moderato con molto" ("Moderate with movement") [T-6] scherzo is next, where it seems Rubinstein takes his inspiration from Felix Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) more puckish moments in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42). Here catchy, skittish passages alternate with ones based on a lovely, flowing melody [00:34 & 01:35]. Then a reflective, "Adagio molto" ("Very slow") movement [T-7], features a contemplative thought [00:01] of CP persuasion that's sung and embellished by each of the instruments.

But rumination turns to raillery in the final, "Moderato" ("Moderate") sonata-rondo [T-8], where there's a lightness of touch reminiscent of more playful moments in Beethoven's Choral Symphony (No. 9,
Op. 125; 1822-24). It opens with a happy, chugging tune (HC) [00:00], followed by a related, aria-like, countersubject (HA) [01:03] that will be the main recurring idea.

HA is then repeated [02:00], and HC returns [02:38] initiating an extended development [03:21]. This has an interim reminder of HA [04:40] and closing, twitchy versions of same [06:40]. These call up an HC-triggered recapitulation [07:15], where the original HA [07:30] wanes into nostalgic remembrances of itself [08:05]. However, the latter become increasingly agitated, thereby evoking a jubilant HA [09:44], which smacks of the "Ode to Joy" in the above-mentioned Beethoven. Then there's an HC-HA-based coda [10:12] with a concluding, big-tune reminder of HA [10:22] that ends the Quartet exultantly.

Our performing group here is the Reinhold Quartett (RQ) that was founded in 1996 by musicians of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Made up of violinists Dietrich Reinhold and Tobias Haupt, along with violist Norbert Tunze plus cellist Dorothée Erbiner, they give fine accounts of both works, making a strong case for two Russian rarities that in lesser hands might come off as more ordinary fare. That said, hopefully the RQ will investigate more of Anton's quartets in the not too distant future.

The recordings were made over a four day period during late April and early May of last year at the Bethanian Church (Bethanienkirche), Leipzig, Germany, some 900 miles southwest of the composer's old stomping grounds in St. Petersburg, Russia. They present a generous sonic image in an ideally reverberant venue, for which the music is all the richer. Centered from left to right in order of increasing size, the instruments are well balanced against one another.

The string tone is characterized by highs with occasional wiry spots in the violins' upper registers. However, the midrange and bass are good with no hangover in the cello's lower notes. Everything considered, this release will have great appeal for romantic chamber music lovers, and should be pleasing to the ear of any audiophiles among them.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y210329)

Amazon Records International