31 JANUARY 2023


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.
Adès: Märchentänze, Hotel Suite from Powder Her Face, Lieux retrouvés, Dawn; Kuusisto/Nuñez/Collon/FinR SO [Ondine]
London-born Thomas Adès (b. 1971) began playing the piano as a youngster. He'd then attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1983-1988), and go on to further his musical education at King's College, Cambridge (1989-1992).

Adès has since pursued a highly successful career as a composer, pianist and conductor, who's produced a substantial body of works across all genres. Four of them in the orchestral category fill out this new Ondine release, these being world premiere recordings.

His four-movement Märchentänze (Fairy-tale Dance) for violin and orchestra (2021) is an arrangement of an earlier version with a piano accompaniment (2020). It draws on English folk music, and begins with a frivolous dance-like number [T-10]. Then there's a pensive, songful second [T-11] having a wistful clarinet [01:19] and some erratic pizzicato [02:48].

This is followed by "A Skylark for Jane" [T-12], which depicts a brief flight of that bird, and calls to mind moments in fellow countryman Ralph Vaughan Williams' (1872-1958) The Lark Ascending (1914-21). Then there's an antic fourth [T-13], which brings things to a spirited conclusion.

Back in 1995 Thomas penned a controversial opera called Powder Her Face (1995) with an underlying story based on the colorful life of Scottish heiress-socialite-aristocrat Margaret Campbell (1912-1993). He then wrote three orchestral suites drawn from its music, and the third one marked "Hotel" is featured here.

In five parts, the opening "Overture" [T-1] begins with raucous cries [00:01] followed by jazzy, schlageresque passages [00:08]. It has moments that may remind you of Kurt Weill's (1900-1950) music for The Threepenny Opera (1928), and ends with a shriek [02:48].

The subsequent "Scene with Song" [T-2] is a sinuous extension of what we just heard, and followed attacca by three closing sections. These take the form of a lugubrious "Wedding March" [T-3], bizarre "Waltz" [T-4] and capricious "Finale" [T-5], which closes the suite with wisps of past ideas.

As regards the next selection, Lieux retrouvés (Rediscovered Places), for what it's worth the album notes say the title "is deliberately Proustian." They go on to mention French author Marcel Proust (1871-1922) and his In Search of Lost Time novel's seventh volume, titled Time Regained.

Be that as it may, what we have here is a work for cello and orchestra (2016), which is an arrangement of an earlier version having a piano accompaniment (2009). This takes the form of a picturesque piece that's in four parts with the opening one titled "Les eauxs (The Waters)" [T-6].

It conjures images of a sparkling stream wandering through the countryside, and is followed by "La montagne (The Mountain)" [T-7]. This is a "Tempo di Promenade (Walking Speed)" marked scherzoesque number, where it's easy to imagine an adventurous mountaineer scaling a craggy peak.

Then there's a slow "Les champs (The Fields)" [T-8] that contemplates some ideal, bucolic setting. And finally we get "La ville -- cancan macabre (The Village -- Cancan Macabre)" [T-9], which would seem to be set in Paris as there are hints of the Galop infernal (can-can) from Jacques Offenbach's (1819-1880) Orphée aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld; 1858-74).

Filling out this release, there's Dawn (2020) [T-16], which is subtitled "Chacony for orchestra at any distance". By way of explanation, "Chacony" is an old English word for a "chaconne". What's more, the piece was premiered (August 2020) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, to keep people at a safe distance from one another, it was scored for a minimum number of musicians, and had an "online" audience.

But returning to what's here, this begins with a glowing motif (GM) [00:00-00:15] having a warm accompaniment. Then GM becomes increasingly radiant as dawn breaks and Sol finally peeks over the horizon.

These performances by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) under their current Chief Conductor, British-born-and-trained Nicholas Collon (b. 1983) are magnificent and bring out all the subtle colorations in these superbly scored works. That said, Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto gets a big hand for his superb playing in Märchentänze [T-10 thru 13]. And the same goes for Finnish cellist Tomas Nuñez in Lieux retrouvés [T-6 thru 9].

The recordings were made in October 2021 (Hotel.. & Lieux...) and April-May 2022 (Märchentänze & Dawn) in the Helsinki Music Center's Concert Hall. They present consistently generous, dynamically wide-ranging sonic images with both soloists centered, well captured and effectively highlighted. As for the orchestral timbre, it's characterized by titillating highs, a pleasant midrange and clean bass. While these recordings are good on headphones, this colorfully scored music is even better over a good home theater system.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y230131)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Burge, J.: Sinfonia Antiqua, Forgotten Dreams, One Sail, Upper Canada Fiddle Suite; Soloists/Mallon/ThirtStgsChO [Naxos]
With this recent Naxos release, Canadian composer John Birge (b. 1961) makes a welcome return to these pages (see 31 October 2015). The selections included here once again demonstrate his proclivity to write for the violin family of instruments. All four works were commissioned and premiered by our performing group, the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra (TSCO) based in Ottawa, Canada.

Things get off to a festive start with the composer's neo-Baroque, four-movement Sinfonia Antiqua (2001). This begins with a delightful French Overture {T-1] having a "Maestoso (Majestic)" preface [00:01], followed by "Allegro (Fast)" passages [01:22] that end things in spirited fashion.

Subsequently, there's a "Grazioso (Graceful)" Minuet [T-2] with a "L'istesso tempo (At the same speed)" Trio [02:45-04:34]. It's followed by an ardent, "Largo (Slow)" Aria [T-3], which is the work's most moving movement. But lest things turn into a romantic wallow, the piece ends with a jolly, "Poco allegro (Somewhat fast)" Gigue [T-4] that brings this infectious selection to a carefree conclusion.

The mood turns impressionistic in Forgotten Dreams (1995) [T-5], which is for solo flute and a strategically positioned string accompaniment (see the album booklet). It's a delicate, captivating work that may remind you of moments in Debussy's (1862-1918) Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), L. 86 (1894).

Then we get a tone-poem-like piece for cello and orchestra titled One Sail (1993) [T-6]. This was inspired by Canadian poet Margaret Avison's (1918-2007) three-line, haikuesque verse called Discovery on Reading a Poem, whose first words are "One sail" (see the album booklet).

Figuratively speaking the cello could be considered a sailboat on a course of discovery over unexplored string waters. Here peaceful passages are interspersed with vivacious ones having virtuosic moments for the soloist. However, the former prevail, thereby ending the work in the same mood it began.

The closing, three-movement Upper Canada Fiddle Suite (1996) is a delight and has an initial, "Moderately fast" Reel [T-7]. This is a beguiling number that opens with a fetching tune [00:00] that sashays about. It parents a lovely melody [01:40-02:36] and closes the movement uneventfully.

Then there's a "With simplicity" marked Waltz [T-8] having passages for a solo violin that's scordatura-tuned to sound like a country fiddle. This is a ternary, A-B-A-structured number with subdued "A"s [00:00 & 05:00], bracketing a nostalgic "B" [02:13-04:49]. But the pace then quickens as Burge serves up a closing, "Vigourously" marked Jig [T-9] that cavorts about. It brings this fetching piece and disc to a vivacious finish with four fortissimo chords for all [06:11].

These spirited performances by the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra (TSCO) under its music director Irish-Canadian conductor Kevin Mallon must have been a labor of love for him, considering he was also known as an "Irish fiddler" when he lived in Belfast. They're all the more outstanding for some superb playing by cellist Julian Armour [T-3], flautist Joanna G'froerer [T-5], cellist Rachel Mercer [T-6] and violinist Manuela Milani [T-8].

The recordings were made 14-16 September 2019 at St. Matthew's Anglican Church, Ottawa, and present a generously sized sonic image in a marvelous venue. Each of the soloists is centered, wonderfully captured and highlighted, while the TSCO's overall string tone is about as good as it gets on conventional discs.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y230130)


The album cover may not always appear.
Paladi: Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, Symphonic Suite "Das Zauberflötchen"; Triendl/Karmon/Tzigane/WPR [Capriccio]
Radu Paladi (1927-2013) was born in what was then Storojineț, Romania, and has since become Storozhyntes, Ukraine. He first studied at the Cernăuți (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine) Conservatory (1941-1943), and then in Bucharest, where he attended the National University of Music (1947-1956).

Subsequently, Radu would pursue a highly successful career in Romania as a composer, pianist and conductor. He'd leave a substantial body of works across all genres, the three here being drawn from his orchestral fare. They're the only readily available versions of them currently on disc, and like Paladi's Hungarian counterpart, Béla Bartók (1881-1945), Radu draws heavily on his native country's folk music.

The concert begins with the three-movement Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C major (1987-89). Its opening "Allegro con spirito (Fast with spirit)" marked Giocoso (Playtime) [T-1] is theme-and-variations-like, and opens with a frisky main subject (FM) for the soloist [00:02], who's soon joined by the orchestra [00:17].

FM is restated [00:36] and undergoes some treatments that range from mischievous [01:14] to scurrying [02:42] and dancelike [03:44]. Then FM returns [04:24], becomes increasingly excited, and there's a frenzied, FM-based, codatic postscript [05:19] that ends the movement pragmatically.

The next "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)" Lamento (Lamentation) [T-2] is the longest one here. It's very much as billed, and could be considered this work's emotional center of gravity. The sorrowful opening theme (SO) introduced by the oboe [00:00] may bring to mind Bach's (1685-1750) "Air on a G String" from his Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major (BWV 1068; 1729-31).

Then the piano makes a "semplice (simple)" entrance [01:08] picking up on the foregoing with a captivating, rhapsodic, recitative-like commentary. This is all the brighter for allusions to a Romanian colindă (Christmas carol) [02:32-03:04].

Subsequently, there's a pause and an SO-based, tutti outburst [03:54] that wanes into a contemplation of past ideas. It's followed by another break, after which the soloist returns with SO [06:36], and the orchestra forcefully joins in [07:34]. Then things slowly ebb away, thereby ending the movement tranquilly.

The closing, "Vivo (Lively)" Toccata [T-3] is a jubilant number, stylistically modelled after a folk dance from northern Romania known as Joc din Oas. It gets off to a sprightly start [00:00], and the music becomes increasingly frenetic, building to a virtuosic climax [05:45] with manic keyboard moments [06:01].

Turning to Paladi's later, three-movement Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor (2002), this piece seemingly reflects his admiration for fellow countryman, composer-violinist-conductor George Enescu (1881-1955; see Capriccio-C5346), whom he heard play during his student years. However, it was also motivated by those 9-11 attacks against the United States. Accordingly, the opening "Largo - Allegro - Largo (Slow - Fast - Slow)" [T-13] has sad sections for a tearful violin [00:01, 01:27 & 04:59] that alternate with distraught, predominantly orchestral ones [00:48 & 02:21].

The subsequent, keening "Andante (Slow)" [T-14] contemplates life's precariousness, and begins tranquilly [00:00]. It builds to a rousing climax [03:04] and gently fades away in passages, where the soloist plays [03:47] another colindă (see above), which the album notes refer to as For the Birth of our Lord...

Then a drum roll [07:10] makes an attacca transition into the concluding "Vivo (Lively)" [T-15]. This is a virtuosic tour de force for the soloist that's riddled with bits of Romanian folk tunes. It's a display of fiddle fireworks and has a quote from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (1718-1720) [02:35-02:53].

After that there's an antic segment [03:37-05:09] with more hints of Vivaldi [05:10-05:27]. Then the violin plays a folkish tune [05:28], which calls up manic passages [05:53] that end the piece with a thundering whack on the bass drum [06:27].

One of Radu's earlier works, his Symphonic Suite "Das Zauberflötchen (The Little Magic Flute)" of 1954, fills out this release. It began life as music for an animated cartoon, which he later arranged into the nine-movement piece heard here. This is based on a Romanian folk tale, where a shepherd boy dispels evil forces with an enchanted flute -- shades of Mozart's (1756-1791) opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) (K. 620; 1791).

While the underlying story is not provided, what we have here is a colorfully scored cinematic work. It opens with a charming, "Moderato (Moderate)" number [T-4] soon followed by "Vivace giocoso (Spirited and playful)" [T-5], "Rubato (Syncopated)" [T-6] and Molto vivace (Very vivacious)" ones [T-7].

After that, there's a lovely, songlike "Andantino (Ambulating)" selection [T-8], which starts off rather furtively. It turns increasingly animated [00:47], but suddenly stops, giving way to a somewhat wistful "Andante (Slow) tidbit [T-9]. This becomes quite dramatic and ends commandingly.

Then the pace quickens in the last three movements. More specifically, the initial one is a merry "Vivace (Vivacious)" number [T-10] having cuckoo calls [01:26-01:37]. It's succeeded by two, Romanian-flavored, Allegretto (Lively)" ones with more avian passages. While the first of these [T-11] is an antsy offering having folk overtones [00:49-01:32], the second [T-12] comes off as an infectious romp with animated flute passages. It brings the piece to a triumphant conclusion.

Both of our soloists hail from Germany and appeared in these pages only six months ago (see 31 May 2022). That said, pianist Oliver Triendl and violinist Nina Karmon deliver superb accounts of their respective works, making a strong case for this rare, Romanian fare. They receive outstanding support from the Württemberg Philharmonic Reutlingen (WPR) under conductor Eugene Tzigane (b. 1981), who goes on to give us a delightful reading of the Suite.

The recordings were made during 22-24 June (Piano Concerto & Suite) and 14-15 July (Violin Concerto) of 2021. Both took place at what's referred to as the Studio der WPR, presumably located in Reutlingen, Germany, some 20 miles south of Stuttgart.

They present a suitably sized, sonic image in pleasant surroundings with both soloists centered, adequately captured and highlighted against the orchestra. The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by somewhat steely highs, an acceptable midrange and clean bass. Taking all of the foregoing into account, what we have here falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating. However, with music this engaging, any sonic shortcomings will soon be forgotten.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P230129)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Sørensen, B.: L'Isola della Città, Second Symphony; Sarasate, Trio con Brio, DanNa SO [Dacapo]
Bent Sørensen (b. 1958) was born in Borup, Denmark, just 20 miles southwest of Copenhagen, where he'd study composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Young Bent would then further his musical education at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, some 90 air miles west-northwest of Copenhagen.

He's since become one of his country's most distinguished composers, and has to date written a significant body of works across all genres. Two in the orchestral category fill out this recent Dacapo release, these being world premiere recordings done by the Trio con Brio (TCB) and Danish National Symphony Orchestra (DNSO).

The program begins with his award-winning L'Isola della Città (The Island in the City) of 2014-15 scored for piano trio and orchestra. In that regard it would seem Beethoven's (1770-1827) Triple Concerto, which is his Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major (Op. 56; 1803), served as a prototype.

But returning to the work at hand, it was written when Bent was living in the center of Copenhagen. Moreover, he had an apartment with a balcony, from which he could see as well as hear all the street activity below. Consequently, that abode served as "The Island in the City", while what he observed from it inspired this work's five attacca-connected movements.

The first one [T-1] has passages that seemingly denote traffic with what sounds like a car horn. Then these wane, and the piano begins the second movement [T-2] with a subdued, four-voiced fugue, where Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 31 in A♭ major (Op. 110; 1821-22) lurks in the background.

This is an erratic, keening utterance that has closing sighs [09:57], which call up a shimmering intermezzo [T-3] followed by a twitchy, toccataesque number [T-4]. The latter's closing measures then peacefully bridge into a final "Lamentoso (Mournful)" one [T-5]. It has allusions to the first movement as well the "Andante... (Slow...)" in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major (Op. 58; 1805-06), and brings this piece to a tranquil conclusion.

Moving ahead a couple of years we get Sørensen's Second Symphony (2016-19). This was written in response to a joint commission from the DNSO (see above), Oslo Philharmonic and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

The first of its four movements [T-6] begins with an oneiric, scream-like idea [00:01] that becomes more lyrical [02:01] and calls up an agitated episode [05:00]. The latter then ends suddenly [07:27], and there's a brief pause followed by some bizarre afterthoughts [07:29]. These gradually fade away, thereby closing the movement uneventfully.

The next one [T-7] is a captivating, melodic outpouring where a solo violin surfaces from time to time. Then there's a percussion-laced, rhythmically agitated Scherzo with carnal connotations [T-8], which ends fitfully.

In regard to the final movement [T-9], apparently the composer's mother passed away while he was writing this work. Consequently, that's reflected here in what he calls "a song of farewell". This is grief-stricken music with despondent brass passages [00:12] and what would appear to be a tolling church bell [02:45]. It ends the symphony and disc with a final outcry [06:06] followed by a dying whimper [06:27].

The TCB (pianist Jens Elvekjæ, violinist Soo-jin Hong and cellist Soo-Kyung Hong) along with the DNSO under Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste (b. 1956) give us a technically accomplished, yet sensitive account of L'Isola della Città. Then Maestro Saraste and the DNSO deliver an intricately moving performance of the Second Symphony.

These recordings were a coproduction of Dacapo and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR). Both were done at the DR Koncerhuset's Concert Hall located in Copenhagen.

The Second Symphony was derived from live performances that took place 27-28 February 2020. However, skillful microphone placement along with what must have been careful touchup and editing have eliminated any extraneous audience noise, including applause. As for L'Isola della Città, it was made 23-25 August 2021 under studio conditions.

Despite the differing circumstances, both recordings project generous sonic images in an enriching venue. The TCB's instruments are well captured and balanced against the DNSO, while the overall orchestral timbre in both works is characterized by somewhat glassy highs, an acceptable midrange and lean, clean bass. That said, this release doesn't quite earn an "Audiophile" rating; however, with engaging music like this, any sonic shortcomings will soon be forgotten.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P230128)

Amazon Records International