31 OCTOBER 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.

The album cover may not always appear.
Hartmann, T. de: Orch Wks (Concerto…, Scherzo-fantastiqe, Sym-Poème No 3); Sicroff/Ng/LvivNPOUkr [Nimbus All]
Last month we told you about four orchestral works by Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann (1884-1956) on a Toccata release (see 30 September 2022). Now here are three more from the Nimbus Alliance label, and as of this writing, they're the only readily available versions currently on disc. Since the album notes have a wealth of information regarding their nascency, we'll just make some general observations about them.

The opening Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (Op. 61, 1939) is very dramatic music that might well have accompanied some Hollywood epic. In four, loosely connected movements, the first [T-1] opens with a martial fanfare [00:01] and theme [00:18], which may remind you of the "Imperial March" from Star Wars (1977) by American composer John Williams (b. 1932).

Be that as it may, the foregoing gives rise to a rousing repartee between soloist and orchestra with markings such as pesante (weighty) and martellato (strongly accented). This is food for the next three movements, which are respectively amorous [T-2], virtuosic [T-3] and showy [T-4]. They bring to mind Sergei Rachmaninoff's (1873-1943) piano concertos (1891-1941).

Next, there's Hartmann's Symphonie-Poème No 3 (Op. 85, 1953), which is sometimes catalogued as his Symphony No. 3, Op. 85 (1853). Each of its three movements is a tone poem inspired by "impressions" the composer got from Russian writer Pavel Ivanovich Melnikov's (aka Andrey Pechersky, 1818-1883) 1874 novel Vlesach (In the Forests).

The first [T-5] has a wistful "Intrada (Introduction)" [00:01] that sets the scene for "Bolotnitsa (The Swamp Girl)" [02:15]. The latter depicts a beautiful maiden sitting on an immense water lily, and she lures passing men to a fateful end. Accordingly, it also has a wisp of the melody for that old harbinger of doom, the Dies Irae [06:07], which Rachmaninoff (see above) so frequently quoted.

Then we get "Stroka (The Wicked Fly)" [T-6], which is a jittery, scherzoesque piece of work. This depicts a troublesome insect who "bugs" animals such as horses, cattle or deer until they collapse with fatigue.

Subsequently, the mood turns blithesome with "Radoniza (The Feast of Spring)" [T-7]. It has cheerful songs as well as beguiling dances meant to represent those associated with Slavic Paganism. There are also frenetic moments like those in Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913). However, the work then ends with subdued, hymn-like passages [09:58]. These have a hint of church bells [12:23] and fade into nothingness.

Hartmann wrote many film scores and the final selection on this release, his Scherzo-fantastique (Op. 25, 1929) [T-8], may well have been associated with one of them. Be that as it may, this is a colorfully scored piece spiced with chromatic as well as whole-tone scales. It comes off just as billed and may remind you of French composer Paul Dukas's (1865-1935) The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897).

The work here is based on a mischievous opening theme (MO) [00:01] that recurs in several guises. They range from playful [00:41] to swaggering [05:43], after which the piece ends with a brief pianissimo remembrance of MO [07:07] and fortissimo "So there!" cadence [07:13].

Regarding these performances, the soloist in the Concerto... is American pianist Elan Sicroff (b. 1950), who's specialized in Hartmann's music ever since the 1970s. What's more, sometime during 2006 he became Artistic Director as well as pianist for the Thomas de Hartmann Project, which is dedicated to bringing this undeservedly forgotten composer's works back to concert halls and recordings.

He's given outstanding support by the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine (LNPOU), which was also featured on that Toccata release mentioned above (see 30 September 2022). However, this time around, Singapore conductor Tian Hui Ng (b. 1979) is on the podium. Then Maestro Ng and the LNPOU go on to deliver superb accounts of the other two works.

These recordings were done 18-19 September 2021 at the National Philharmonic Hall located in Lviv, Ukraine, some 300 miles west of Kyiv (aka Kiev). They present a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings with Mr. Sicroff placed center stage and well balanced against the LNPOU.

His piano is beautifully captured in the Concerto... [T-1 thru 4] as are all the other instrumental soloists and groups called for by Thomas's colorful scoring. The overall orchestral timbre in all three pieces is characterized by pleasant highs, a rich midrange and lean, clean bass. Conventional CDs don't get any better sounding than this.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y221031)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Koechlin, C.: The Seven Stars' Symphony, Vers la voûte étoilée; Matiakh/SinforBasel [Capriccio]
French composer-teacher-musicologist Charles Koechlin (1867-1950) makes a belated debut in these pages with this new Capriccio CD. He studied at the Paris conservatory (Conservatoire de Paris), where his teachers included Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) as well as Jules Massenet (1842-1912), and one of his fellow students was Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). Then after graduation, Charles became a freelance composer and teacher, who'd leave a large oeuvre.

His The Seven Stars' Symphony (Op. 132; 1933) has seven movements, each of which was inspired by a film Star who was popular around the time this was written. The first "Douglas Fairbanks" [T-1] honors Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (1883-1939). It has the additional marking "en souvenir du voleur de Bagad (a souvenir from thief of Bagdad)", and is accordingly a genial, exotic remembrance of that eponymous film released in 1924.

Lilian Harvey (1906-1968) is next [T-2]. The composer apparently never saw her on the screen, but only in photographs. Be that as it may, the music here is a "menuet fugue (fugal minuet)" with a gentle opening subject succeeded by a delicate main body. They're meant to characterize her delicate features, and sweet disposition of the people she played.

Then there's Greta Garbo (1905-1990) [T-3]. Koechlin referred to this music as a hymn, giving it the strange marking "choral païen (pagan choir)", and remarked that it was meant to celebrate the pure lines of her face. He does so with this rather mysterious sounding piece whose scoring features an Ondes Martenot.

Subsequently, the mood brightens with Clara Bow (1905-1965) [T-4], where the composer adds "et la joyeuse Califonie (and the happy Califonia)" to the title. It's scherzoesque and portrays her as a youthful personification of the Roaring Twenties in Hollywood.

She's followed by another renowned actress, Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) [T-5]. This movement is marked "variations sur le thème fourmi par les lettres de son nom (variations on a theme formed by the letters of her name). The aforementioned "name-theme" is intoned right at the outset [00:01-00:28], and undergoes some treatments that bring to mind her seductive manner in such films as the The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel) of 1930.

That movie's co-star, Emil Jannings (1884-1950), is honored in the next movement [T-6], which is marked "en souvenir de l'Ange Bleu (a souvenir of the Blue Angel)". This is structured somewhat like Dietrich's and starts tragically with her "name-theme". However, Emil's underlies it as the music builds to a harrowing climax, but then wanes into subdued, nostalgic, closing passages.

Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) stars in the last movement [T-7], which is based on his "name-theme" and marked the same as Dietrich's (see above). This has a soporific introduction [00:01] followed by a number of treatments inspired by moments in his films. They range from frenetic [00:54] to antic [01:27], subdued [02:38], lullaby-like [04:24], hopeful [05:49], combative [07:01], oneiric [08:20], tango-tinged [09:43], resigned [10:48] and fleeting [12:35]. Then an exultant one [13:48] ends this work with four fortissimo chords [14:41].

The following impressionistic Vers la voûte étoilée (Towards the Starry Vault)" (Op. 129; 1923-33, rev. 1939) is a "Nocturne pour orchestre (Nocturne for Orchestra)" [T-8]. It brings to mind works by Koechlin's fellow countrymen Debussy (1862-1918), Ravel (1875-1937) and even Roussel (1869-1937) during his earlier years.

Here the opening measures suggest cool evening breezes and include a lovely theme [05:17-05:52]. Then the music becomes increasingly ardent, presumably reflecting the beauty of a starry night sky, only to fall back, thereby ending this piece and disc uneventfully.

The Sinfonieorchester Basel, which is based some 250 miles east-southeast of Paris, delivers magnificent accounts of these works under French conductor Ariane Matiakh (b. 1980). She brings out all the intricacies of her fellow countryman's picturesque pieces.

These recordings were made during January 2021 in the Stadtcasino Basel, which is this orchestra's home concert hall. They present an appropriately sized sonic image in surroundings that enrich the sound of these colorful works.

The orchestral timbre is characterized by highs as well as mids that are typical of conventional discs. That said, the lows are very clean, go down to rockbottom, and will challenge any speaker system.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P221030)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Still, W.G.: Summerland, Violin Suite, Pastorela, American Suite (with 5 other works); Schiff/Eisenberg/RScotNa O [Naxos]
After a long absence from these pages, American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) makes a welcome return with this recent Naxos release. Incidentally, it's somewhat of a family production as violinist Zina Schiff is conductor Avlana Eisenberg's mother.

But returning to Still, who's been called the "Dean of Afro-American Composers", he along with Florence Price (1887-1953; see 31 March 2022) was an important part of that African-American cultural movement known as the "Harlem Renaissance". William was a highly prolific composer and left some 200 works in all genres, many of which are said to be lost.

This CD's nine selections -- all world premiere recordings -- represent a cross-section of his orchestral fare written between 1918 and 1965. You'll find them captivating works structured along classical music lines, but spiked with jazz, blues and spirituals.

The opening Can't You Line 'Em (1940) [T-1] was commissioned by CBS Radio for one of their network programs. It's a jaunty piece based on an American folk ballad about railroad workers laying track, and gets this disc off to a rolling start.

After that, Schiff (see above) is featured in Summerland (1936) [T-2], which is Still's orchestral arrangement of the middle movement from his Three Visions Suite for piano. A subdued, soulful offering, it's apparently meant to reflect Heaven.

Then we return to earth with a playful Quit Dat Fool'nish (1935) [T-3], this being a version for violin (Schiff) and orchestra of another, eponymous piano piece. According to the album booklet, it's "a jazzy romp with Still's mischievous dog, Shep."

Schiff is also featured in the following selection, which is titled Pastorela (1946) [T-4]. The composer describes this as a tone picture of the California landscape that's peaceful as well as exciting.

Subsequently, there's a three-part American Suite, which is seemingly a musical tribute to the American Indian. It opens with an "Indian Love Song" [T-5], where a comely introduction is followed by a lovely swaying melody. Then there's a vivacious "Danse" [T-6] and plaintive, closing "Lament" [T-7].

The succeeding Fanfare for the 99th Fighter Squadron (1945) [T-8] is a martial offering. This honors a World War II (1939-1945) flying unit known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who were primarily African Americans.

It's followed by a Serenade (1957) [T-9]. This is based on three attractive melodies [00:00, 00:58 & 02:48], the first of which brings the piece to an affectionate conclusion.

After that, Schiff returns for Still's Violin Suite (1943), where the three movements are musical impressions of creations by different, African-American artists. Moreover, the first "African Dancer" [T-10] is a capricious caper honoring Richard Barthé's (1901-1989) eponymous bronze bust (1933). That's succeeded by a lullaby-like "Mother and Child" [T-11] in memory of Sargent Johnson's (1888-1967) lithograph of that name (1932). Then a saucy "Gamin" [T-12] takes its cue from Augusta Savage's (1892-1962) homonymous bronze bust (1929) and ends this work with a pert plunk.

The final Threnody: In Memory of Jean Sibelius (1943) [T-13] was commissioned for a concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of that great Finnish composer's birth (1865-1957). It begins with a celebratory flourish [00:00], which calls up a reverent, hymnlike idea [00:10] that recurs in several different guises. These range from melancholy [00:44] to anguished [01:30], nonchalant [02:34], marchlike [03:09] and nostalgic [03:39 & 04:26]. Then a devout one [05:01] brings the work and this CD to a memorable conclusion.

These performances by the Glasgow-based Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) under American conductor Avlana Eisenberg make a strong case for some pieces that in lesser hands could come off as more ordinary fare. What's more, four of the selections [T-2, 3, 4, 10-12] are all the more engaging for violinist Zina Schiff's technically accomplished, enthusiastic playing.

The recordings were made 16-17 August 2018 at the RSNO Centre's Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, and present a comfortably sized sonic image in warm surroundings. Zina is positioned center stage and her violin is ideally captured as well as balanced against the orchestra. That said, the overall instrumental timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a rich midrange and clean bass. Consequently, this release ranks with the best sounding conventional CDs. Audiophiles will not be disappointed!

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y221029)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Stöhr: Concert im alten Stil (stgs, pno & perc), Suite No. 2 in A minor (stg orch); Kopacka/Hobson/SinfaVars [Toccata]
Over the past few years Austrian-born and trained Richard Stöhr's (1874-1967) chamber music has been well represented on Toccata (see 30 June 2020). Now they serve up their first volume of his orchestral fare with world premiere recordings of two delightful works.

The composer was an outstanding teacher whose students and associates included many of the big names in the world of classical music (see the album booklet). He also left a large body of works across all genres, which over the past few years have been getting increased attention on disc.

This CD begins with his four-movement Concert im Alten Stil (Concerto in the Old Style). At almost 50 minutes, it's a monster, atavistic concerto grosso, harkening back to Baroque times. Here the concertino could be considered as consisting of piano, timpani, side drum, cymbals and glockenspiel, while the ripieno is a string orchestra.

The opening "Intrata (Introduction): Allegro giusto (Lively and Precise)" [T-1] is of sonata-form persuasion, and begins with the strings playing a dotted, angular idea (DA) [00:02] that the piano picks up in fortissimo ben marcato (very loud and well accented) fashion [00:27]. Then DA is examined [01:26] and the pianist plays a related, singing thought (DS) [01:59], which is explored [02:23].

After that, DA initiates a dexterous development [03:38] and antsy restatement [08:15]. The latter has a Poco animato (Somewhat animated) coda [09:27] that ends things with a flourish of three, fortissimo strength, staccato (detached) chords [09:49].

Then we get a "Quasi Sarabande und Scherzo (Like a Sarabande and Scherzo): Andante religioso (Slow and religious)" [T-2]. It starts with what the composer described as "my sweet minuet" [00:03], which is based on a songful, weeping idea (SW) heard at the outset [00:12].

SW is explored and makes a fervent bridge [beginning at 04:17] into a Più mosso scherzando (Little more lively and playful) scherzo episode [06:26] based on a flighty version of SW [06:33]. Then SW returns [08:00] and undergoes a reverent, developmental contemplation. This has some morendo (dying) afterthoughts [11:55], which end the movement with a fermata-marked, pianissimo chord.

Next there's a "Burleske und Aria (Burlesque and Aria)" [T-3]. This is best described as an extended scherzo, where its Allegretto scherzando (Lively and playful), outer sections (OS) [00:00 & 08:22] are each based on an alla turca-spiced tune heard at the outset.

They surround an Andantino amabile (Leisurely and pleasant), romantic, trio-like one [04:09-08:21], which features a gorgeous idea that could well be the melody for some romantic aria. Then the concluding OS has a staccato-accented coda [11:03] that ends things with a fortissimo flourish [11:37].

The closing rondo-like "Introduction und Finale (Introduction and Finale)" [T-4] begins with a Grave (Serious) preface for all [00:00], which has a DA-related, Più allegro (More lively) idea (DM) soon played by the piano [01:38]. DM will take on several guises throughout this movement, the first three being respectively flighty [02:33], romantic [03:12] and valiant [05:16].

Then after an anticipatory pause, there are sequentially martial [06:56], scurrying [08:07] and declaratory [08:31] ones. These are followed by a Tempo des ersten Satzes (Tempo of the first movement) restatement of DA [10:35]. This brings the work full circle and ends it with a tutti sforzando (played forcefully by all) flourish [11:08].

Filling out this disc, there's the composer's Suite No. 2 in A minor for String Orchestra (Op. 120; 1947). Written during his happier years (see the album booklet), this five-movement work is a significant contribution to the genre.

The first Andante maestoso (Slow and majestic) one [T-5] is a gentle, pastoral offering. It starts with a brief, pizzicato bass line for the lower strings [00:00], soon followed by a gently, flowing melody intoned by the violins (GF) [00:09]. After that there's a tutti forte (more forceful) restatement of GF [01:23], succeeded by a piano dolce (softly sweet) interlude [02:15]. The latter bridges into a reappearance of GF [03:27], which is worked into some piano (soft) closing moments [04:35].

The pace quickens with a subsequent Molto vivace (Very vivacious) [T-6], which is as advertised. It features a cocky, galloping theme [00:02] followed by one somewhat reminiscent of the tune for that children's song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" [00:52].

Subsequently there's an Adagio con espressione (Slow with expression) [T-7]. Here a winsome thematic nexus (WN) [00:00] is the subject of a tender serenade, which comes to a tranquil, pianissimo conclusion.

The next Allegro leggiero e scherzando (Fast, light and playful) [T-8] is of whimsical disposition. However, there are some poco tranquillo dolce (a little more tranquil and sweet) moments, one of which [02:14] ends this penultimate movement somewhat tentatively.

Then there's an "Introduction (Fuge) und Finale (Introduction (Fugue) and Finale)" [T-9]. It's a fugal concoction whose Andante (Slow), mezzo piano (moderately soft) opening moments present the main subject (MS) [00:01} that calls to mind WN [T-7, 00:00].

These bridge into a thrilling Allegro con spirito (Fast and spirited) finale [01:31] having a couple of brief excursions to minor keys [03:23 & 04:04]. Then a perky, l'istesso tempo (at the same speed) marked coda [04:42], brings this selection and disc to a fortissimo conclusion.

Award winning, Polish pianist Agnieszka Kopacka delivers a superb rendition of the first selection, and receives outstanding support from the Warsaw-based Sinfonia Varsova (SV) under English conductor Ian Hobson (b. 1952). Then Maestro Hobson and his musicians give us a charming account of the other work, thereby making a strong case for these rarities.

The recordings were made 14-16 June 2021 at the Polish Radio's Witold Lutoslawski Concert Studio located in Warsaw. They present a generous sonic image in an appealing venue that enriches the overall sound. Ms. Kopacka's piano is placed centerstage, ideally captured and well balanced against the SV.

What's more, the instrumental timbre in both works is characterized by pleasant highs, a splendid midrange and clean bass. Consequently, this CD is about as good as conventional discs get, thereby earning it an "Audiophile" rating.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y221028)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Winterberg: Sinfonia drammatica, Piano Concerto No. 1, Rhythmophonie; Powell/Kalitzke/RSOBerlin [Capriccio]
Born to a Jewish family in Prague, the capital of what was once known as Bohemia and since become the Czech Republic, Hans Winterberg (Hanuš in Czech; 1901-1991) began music lessons in his hometown at age nine. He then went on to study at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts as well as the Prague Conservatory.

At first young Hanuš had a very successful musical career in his native country. But with the rise of Nazi Germany and its anti-Semitic policies, he was interned in the Theresienstadt Ghetto during January 1945. This would last until May of that year, when he was freed by the Allies and returned to Prague.

However, 1947 saw Winterberg immigrate to Germany, where he spent the rest of his life. Hans had a very successful career there, which included writing and teaching in addition to composing. And as regards the latter, he left a significant body of works across most genres. The three here fall into the orchestral category, these being the only readily available versions of the last two currently on disc.

Despite all those years in Germany, this composer's music is stylistically very Czech. More specifically, it follows in the footsteps of Janáček (1854-1928) as well as Martinů (1890-1959), particularly the initial selection.

This is his one-movement Symphony No. 1 "Sinfonia drammatica" of 1936 [T-1], which was the composer's first of two efforts in the genre. It's a ternary, A-B-A structured piece having martial "A"s on either side [00:01 & 10:20] of a keening "B" [06:18-10:19], where the final "A" closes the work despairingly.

Subsequently, we get his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 (1948), which was the first of four that he'd eventually write. The one here has three movements and opens with a Vorspiel (Prelude) [T-2]. This begins with a cascade of notes for the soloist [00:01], who's soon joined by the orchestra [00:10]. Together they deliver a folksy melodic nexus [00:47] that's food for a couple of captivating treatments. The last of these is somewhat wistful [02:36] and ends the movement tranquilly.

Next there's a "langsam, trauermarschig (slow, mournful)" marked Zwischenspeil (Intermezzo) [T-3], which is theme-and-variations-like. It begins with the piano playing a sad main subject (SM) [00:00], which it repeats [00:40]. Then the orchestra joins in and they intone sequentially consoling [01:28], vivacious [02:08], lyrical [03:08 & 03:45] as well as nostalgic [04:38] variants of SM. These are followed by a resigned one [05:03], which closes the movement quiescently.

It's succeeded by a bellicose Nachspiel (Epilogue) [T-4] where the soloist and orchestra engage in a twelve-tone-tinged discourse. Here martial passages [00:00 & 04:21] bracket an extended, virtuosic cadenza for the piano [02:02-04:20] and close this piece with an emphatic, fortissimo "So there!" cadence [05:05].

After that, there's a three-movement work called Rhythmophonie (1966-1967), which is the longest, most progressive selection here. The opening Äußerst lebhaft (Extremely lively) [T-5] is very much as billed. Moreover, it's a frenetic, polyrhythmic, wind-percussion-seasoned creation [00:00] based on a tone-row idea (TR) [00:03-00:09] and comes to an abrupt ending.

Then the composer serves up a Sehr ruhig (Very peaceful) second [T-6]. This is impressionistic and imbued with a seven-note motif [00:25-00:31] that recurs like clockwork. Considering what Winterberg wrote on the manuscript (see the album booklet), this music seemingly reflects a state of mindfulness.

Be that as it may, the third Mit leichtem Schwung, nicht schleppend (With an agile sweep, not sluggish) [T-7] has a barely audible preface with a rolling drum and tick-tock woodblock, which soon builds into a brass-and-percussion-laced, martial episode [00:24]. This has a subdued, middle section [05:36-10:19] and ends the work as well as this disc with the sound of a tam-tam [12:55] that just withers away..

The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) under German conductor Johannes Kalitzke delivers well-defined, enthusiastic accounts of the Symphony... and Rhythmophonie. Then they're joined by British pianist Jonathan Powell (b. 1969) for a sparkling performance of the Concerto...

These recordings were made between 28 June and 1 July, 2021 in Haus des Rundfunks, Berlin, and present a generous sonic image in pleasant surroundings. Mr. Powell's piano is centered, well captured and perfectly balanced against the RSB.

The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by pleasant highs, a lifelike midrange and clean bass that goes down to rockbottom. There are percussive outbursts in the last movement of Rhythmophonie [T-7], which will challenge even the best speaker systems. Consequently, this release gets an "AUDIOPHILE" stripe.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y221027)

Amazon Records International