CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
31 MARCH 2022
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.
Arnold, Malcolm: Grand Concerto Gastronomique..., Symphony No. 9 in D major; Gibbons/Liep SO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
English composer Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) left a large body of works across all genres. But probably most CLOFO readers remember him for his off-the-wall A Grand Grand Overture (Op. 57; 1956) that was commissioned for the initial Hoffnung Music Festival (HMF).
Now those adventurous Toccata folks dish up the first commercial recording of Malcolm's epicurean, pasquinade written for the third HMF. It's his Grand Concerto Gastronomique for Eater, Waiter, Food and Large Orchestra (Op.76; 1961). This is coupled with the last of the composer's nine symphonies, which is of austere demeanor.
There's a detailed musical analysis of both works in the album notes by Arnold-authority, English composer-musicologist Timothy Bowers (b. 1954), so we'll just hit their high points. Incidentally, he also includes an amusing account of what took place on stage when the earlier one was premiered not long after it was written.
The Grand Concerto... is in six movements -- or "courses" if you will -- and begins with a "Prologue" [T-1]. Here pompous fanfares (PF) [00:01] and a haughty march (HM) [00:41] bridge into a flowing, pentatonic segment [01:54]. Then there's a twitchy, Spanish-flavored dance episode [03:41], which ends things festively.
With the next "Soup (Brown Windsor)" [T-2], Sir Malcolm serves up a musical "course" inspired by a concoction Queen Victoria (1819-1901) apparently loved. Be that as it may, after some subdued hints of PF [00:00], there's a weighty waltz [00:28] that ends this movement suddenly.
The following one titled "Roast Beef" [T-3] is a straightforward march in the tradition of those stately English ones like Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) once wrote (1901-1930). Then there's a "Cheese" course [T-4] lasting only half a minute. Here grandiose fanfares [00:00] suddenly end with a drumroll [00:22] and percussive blast. Maybe this was a fulminate of cheddar!
After that, dessert time features a "Peach Melba" [T-5]. This dish was created for famous Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931), around 1892-93 at the Savoy Hotel in London by legendary French chef, Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935).
Arnold's music is a colorfully scored reworking of French composer Charles Gounod's (1818-1893) Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de J.S. Bach (Meditation on the First Prelude for Piano by J.S. Bach; 1853). The melody for this culinary delight takes the form of a vocalise sung by a soprano [00:20].
Then there's a last "course" titled "Coffee, Brandy. Epilogue" [T-6]. It begins with an Eastern-sounding number [00:00] -- must be Turkish coffee -- and adjoins wisps of PF [01:16]. These turn into a tipsy tune [01:32], which suggests a snifter of that liqueur. Subsequently, HM returns [02:07] and wanes into clamorous passages [02:45], bringing this musical feast to an exhilarating conclusion.
Twenty-five years later Sir Malcolm penned his Symphony No. 9 in D major (Op. 128; 1986), which was written not long after a period when the composer had in his own words, "been through hell". At almost three-quarters of an hour, it's a penetrating piece compared to the one above.
In four movements, the initial Vivace (Spirited) [T-7] begins with a flighty theme (F1) [00:01], which is bandied about, giving way to a more lyricized version of itself (FL) [05:11]. Then FL is explored and invokes a fortissimo restatement of F1 [06:38], which ends the movement defiantly.
The following Allegretto (Lively) [T-8] takes the form of a passacaglia, whose opening ostinato is the eerie main subject (EM) [00:01] for a series of variational treatments (see the album notes for minutiae). Initially, EM is repeated four times with different scoring [00:01, 00:17, 00:42 & 01:14], and then there are several variational treatments. These range from merry [01:46] to longing [02:17], martial [03:43], valiant [05:06], mischievous [06:21], and resigned [07:53], thereby bringing this movement to a tranquil conclusion.
A "scherzoesque", Giubiloso (Jubilant) creation is next [T-9]. It begins with a merry tune (MT) [00:00] reminiscent of the final one in Arnold's English Dances, Set 2 (Op. 33; 1951). Then MT-powered segments are interspersed with trio-like tidbits [02:44-03:55 & 6:29-06:45) based on an MT-related melody, and end things unpretentiously.
Almost twice as long as any of the preceding movements, the closing Lento (Slow) [T-10] is the work's emotional core. It opens with an anguished theme (AT) [00:00], which will recur throughout, giving rise to despondent episodes. But for now, it's followed by a rather buoyant idea (BI) [04:15] that parents more hopeful passages.
However, AT reappears [08:34 & 09:44] succeeded by BI [10:29], which bridges back into AT [16:03]. Then a pianissimo, celestial chord [17:39] ends the symphony with suggestions of some remote paradise. Incidentally, many may find all this reminiscent of hallowed moments in Anton Bruckner's (1824-1896) Symphonies Nos. 7, 8 and 9.
These performances feature the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra and acclaimed British conductor John Gibbons, who are no strangers to these pages (see 31 July 2021). That said, Russian-born, English-trained soprano Anna Gorbachyova-Ogilvie is the "Peach Melba" [T-5] soloist. They give superb accounts of both works, which show entirely different aspects of the composer's creative personality.
Made last June at the Great Amber Concert Hall in Liepāja, Latvia, these recordings project a generous sonic image in agreeably reverberant surroundings. Incidentally, Anna's vocalise was recorded a month later at St. Mary's Church in London's Perivale area.
This release delivers good sound characterized by pleasant highs, acceptable mids and clean, low bass. It will particularly appeal to listeners liking wetter sonics, while those prefering a drier, more focused presentation should consider using headphones.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P220331)
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Gerber, S.R.: Sinfta No. 1, Stg Sinfa No. 1, Two Lyric..., Stg Sinfa No. 2, Sinfta No. 2; Davis/Woods/EngSO/EngStgO [Nimbus]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
These five selections by American composer Steven R. Gerber (1948-2015) are world premiere recordings. While the middle one appears in its original form, the other four are orchestral versions of chamber works.
The program begins with Sinfonietta No. 1, which is an arrangement of his Quintet for Piano and Strings (1991; not currently available on disc) by Steven's fellow countryman, Daron Hagen (b. 1961). In four movements, the initial Poco allegro (Somewhat fast) [T-1] is a contentious cavort with Stravinskyesque neoclassical hiccups.
It's followed by a Moderato (Moderate) [T-2], which is of similar temperament to the foregoing, and opens with a quirky bassoon tune [00:00]. But the strings soon introduce lyrical hymnlike passages [00:37] where a solo cello launches into a demanding, virtuosic cadenza [01:17-01:57]. However, that bassoon returns [03:24] ending things full circle.
The Presto (Fast) marked third movement [T-3] is a terse, scampering perpetuum mobile. This is a brief respite before the final Mesto - Coda (Sorrowful - Tail) [T-4], which is the work's emotional bedrock. As the album notes suggest, there's something reminiscent of the last movement from Hungarian composer Béla Bartók's (1881-1945) Sixth String Quartet (1939). Moreover, it's a worried contemplation [00:00] followed by a pinch of the preceding Presto [06:06], and concludes this piece definitively.
The subsequent selection, as well as last two are again arrangements of chamber works, but by British composer Adrian Williams (b. 1956). More specifically, the next String Sinfonia No. 1 is a reworking of Steven's four-movement String Quartet No. 4 (1995).
Its delightful, opening Moderato (Moderate) [T-5] is based on an initial pentatonic-flavored idea (IP) [00:00] with shimmering moments. Then a mysterious Lento (Slow) [T-6] features a haunting theme [00:00] that's alternately laidback and nervous.
All this sets the stage for the succeeding Maestoso, Con Moto (Majestic, With Movement) [T-7], which seems of Slavic temperament. Consequently, it may call to mind moments in Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich's (1906-1975) String Quartet No. 8 (Op. 110; 1960). But then a peaceful Postlude [T-8] with final memories of IP [02:15] ends the work tranquilly.
Next up, Two Lyric Pieces for Violin and Strings (2005), which appears in its original form. The initial Introduction and Berceuse [T-9] opens with a sweeping theme (ST) [00:00] that smacks of more mellow moments in Aaron Copland's (1900-1990) Appalachian Spring (1944).
After a brief pause, we get a charming lullaby [01:39], which ends with gentle wisps of ST [06:05]. Then there's a Passacaglia [T-10] having an ST-derived, opening ostinato (SO) introduced by the violin [00:00]. Subsequently, SO is repeated with ever increasing intensity, thereby concluding the work dramatically.
The program continues with one titled String Sinfonia No. 2, which is Adrian's reworking of Steven's three-movement String Quartet No. 6 (2011). This was Gruber's last effort in that genre, and it's dedicated to the memory of his long-time companion, following her death in 2010.
Consequently, the first Allegro maestoso (Fast and majestic) [T-11] is an anguished outcry based on a melancholy melody [00:00]. As the album notes point out, the closing bars 04:41] may bring to mind the "Muß es sein?" ("Must it be?") motif in the last movement of Beethoven's (1770-1827) String Quartet No. 16 (Op.135; 1826).
After that, a fidgety Intermezzo [T-12] is a curt change of pace before the closing, Lento (Slow) marked "Theme and variations" [T-13]. The latter opens with a morose main subject [00:00] that's followed by several short variants. These range from spiky [00:41] to lyrical [01:15], brooding [01:53], gruff [02:28] and celestial [03:02]. Then one titled "Requiescat in Pace" ("Rest in Peace") [03:42] ends the work with dolcissimo ("very sweet") passages reflecting the composer's remembrances of his lost love.
This release concludes with Sinfonietta No. 2, which is William's arrangement of Gerber's two-movement String Quartet No. 5 (2000). According to the composer the opening Fantasy [T-14] uses material from his Spirituals for String Orchestra (2000), and in that regard it starts with what sounds like one (S1) [00:00]. He also says there's a reference to "Go Down, Moses" [02:15-04:07] (see the Price review below), and "can be thought of as a sort of quodlibet".
Subsequently, we get a colorfully scored Theme and Variations [T-15], starting with a Moderato flourish [00:00], which is succeeded by a Piu mosso (More lively), vertiginous main subject (VM) [00:07]. This smacks of that old harbinger of doom, the Dies Irae, and fathers six colorfully scored variants.
These are respectively airy [01:04], determined [01:57], whimsical [02:30], songlike [03:02], flighty [04:41] and martial [05:56]. Then VM makes a forceful reappearance [07:02], triggering a coda with underlying snatches of S1 [07:11, 07:21, 07:32 & 08:23]. The latter brings this work and disc to a dramatic conclusion.
American-born, UK-resident Kenneth Woods, who's the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra (ECO) as well as its string subdivision, elicits outstanding accounts of all five selections from his talented musicians. Incidentally, he's no stranger to these pages (see the newsletters of 30 September 2020 and 28 February 2021). What's more, ECO guest leader, internationally acclaimed, British violinist Emily Davis gets a big hand for her superb playing in the Two Lyric Pieces... [T-9 & 10].
The recordings were made 7-8 October 2020 at the Wyastone Concert Hall in Monmouth, Wales, which is west-northwest of London. They present a generous sonic image in an affable venue with enriching reverberation. The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange and clean bass, while the many instrumental solos are faithfully captured. Everything considered, this release earns an "Audiophile" rating.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220330)
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Price, F.: Symphony No. 3 in C minor, The Mississippi River, Ethiopia's Shadow in America; Jeter/Vien RSO [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
American composer Florence Beatrice Price (née Smith, 1887-1953) has been a CLOFO favorite for some time, and just last year we told you about one of "Bea's" chamber works (see 31 August 2021). Now this recent Naxos release gives us another of her four symphonies (see 31 May 2019). And what's more, it's filled out with two additional orchestral selections, the second of which is a world premiere recording (WPR).
This superb CD gets off to a great start with her Symphony No. 3 in C minor (1838-40). To quote the composer, "It is intended to be Negroid in character and expression, but no attempt has been made to project Negro music solely in the purely traditional manner." Consequently, the piece has folk-inspired thematic ideas of her own making.
In four movements, the outer ones are both sonata-form creations, and the first [T-1] has a spirited, andante (slow) introduction [00:01] followed by an allegro (fast), animated thought (A1) [01:12]. This bridges into a flowing second (F2) [03:01], which has intimations of that beloved spiritual "Deep River".
Subsequently, A1 activates a vivacious development [05:18], and F2 invokes a dramatic recapitulation [07:04], where there's a perky reminder of A1 [07:51]. All this is succeeded by some nostalgic afterthoughts of the foregoing and an A1-based coda [08:51] with a last hint of F2 [09:11]. Then a final fortissimo chord for all [09:20] ends the movement forcefully.
The composer's description of the next Andante ma non troppo (Lively, but not too fast) [T-2] includes the word "spiritualistic". Accordingly, it has a gentle introduction [00:00] followed by a hymnlike tune (HT) [01:40] that's the subject of some captivating treatments with martial [02:37], heroic [03:16 & 04:19] as well as heartfelt [05:27] moments. The latter bring things to a devout conclusion.
Her third movement titled "Juba" [T-3] is named for a dance brought by slaves from what was once the Kingdom of Kongo to plantations in South Carolina. Consequently, it's an engaging caper with strongly syncopated rhythms and falls into three sections. The outer ones featuring a totally infectious number [00:00 & 04:14] lie on either side of a tango-like episode [01:59-04:13], and end this movement full circle.
The scherzo-marked, sonata-form "Finale" [T-4] has a dashing main idea (DM) with a catchy first part [00:00] and complementary second [00:20]. DM is repeated [00:42] and followed by a deft, brilliantly scored, extended development [01:17]. This bridges into a DM-hued, recapitulative code [04:39] that brings the work to a rousing finish.
Back in 1926 American composer Ferde Grofé (1892-1972) wrote his Mississippi Suite honoring that great waterway. Then some eight years later Florence would do the same with our next selection, which is her musical portrait titled The Mississippi River (1934).
A symphonic travelogue in four adjoining arches, the andante (flowing) first [T-5] takes us to the river's source in Minnesota. Here there are woodwind, avian calls and chorale-like passages as this great stream begins gently flowing south.
But the music becomes andante con moto (flowing with movement) [T-6] as we get intimations of the spiritual "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" [00:14]. Then it turns allegretto (lively) [02:24], limning the rapids along the Missouri-Illinois border.
Rushing waters then give way to some revelry in the subsequent allegro (fast) [T-7], which starts with a high-stepping, dance band number [00:06]. However, this soon transitions into an andante - adagio (flowing - slow), devout episode quoting three spirituals, namely "Stand Still Jordan" [01:04], "Deep River" [03:23] and "Go Down, Moses" [04:00]. But suddenly the mood again turns festive with an allegretto (lively) segment [05:32] where there are references to the 1910 vaudeville song "Steamboat Bill".
This is succeeded by an abrupt pause and the andante (flowing) outset of the concluding arch [T-8], which recalls "Deep River" [00:00 & 02:25], "Go Down, Moses" [00:26] and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" [03:47]. The latter triggers adjoining allegretto (lively) [04:44] and allegro (fast) [05:34] marked episodes with hints of other spirituals. Then a "Deep River" afterthought [06:53] suggests "The Mighty Mississippi" peacefully flowing through New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico.
Price's Ethiopia's Shadow in America (1932, WPR) completes this captivating CD. A programmatic work, it portrays the experiences of enslaved Africans. What's more, the composer has written brief, descriptive headings for each of its three sections.
Things get underway with "The Arrival of the Negro in America when first brought here as a slave" [T-9]. This has a weighty, imposingly scored, adagio (slow) "Introduction" [00:00] with a compelling, profound theme (CP) [00:43]. Then wood-block-knocks and flighty strings invoke bustling, brilliantly orchestrated allegretto (lively) [04:46] passages with a couple of syncopated ideas [04:50 & 05:23]. These bustle about and proceed attacca into the middle section, titled "His Resignation and Faith" [T-10], which is a reverent utterance based on a devout melody [00:00].
Subsequently, there's a concluding Allegro (Fast), bearing the inscription "His Adaptation, A Fusion of his native and acquired impulses" [T-11]. This is a delightfully scored number that begins as a jolly dancelike piece with an engaging tune [00:00] that's jostled about. Then after a dramatic pause there's a forceful recollection of CP [02:26] that brings this work and disc to a powerful conclusion.
That previous Naxos release of two Price symphonies (see 31 May 2019) featured the Arkansas-based, Fort Smith Symphony under their music director, American conductor John Jeter. Maestro Jeter journeyed to Austria for this one, where he led the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in these invaluable, additional examples of her work. While there are other performances of the first two selections out there, the ones here rank with the best and are particularly desirable at Naxos prices!
The recordings were made in March 2020 and April 2021 at the ORF Funkhaus Vienna's Studio 6. They present an appropriately sized sonic image in a warm venue. More specifically, the orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange and clean bass. Everything considered, these engaging selections are well worth investigating, and audiophiles won't be disappointed.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y220329)
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