30 APRIL 2024


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.
Breve (11 short selections for string quartet by 11, 18-20th C. composers); Euclid Quartet [Afinat Records]
This album offers something a little different, namely some outstanding, short pieces for string quartet that are frequently performed as encores. More specifically, these selections played here by the Euclid Quartet (EQ) are each by a different 18-20th century composer.

It starts with Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's (1756-1791) Adagio and Fugue in C minor (K.546; 1788) [T-1, 7'10"]. This has an ominous "Adagio (Slow)" opening [00:00], but the subsequent "Fugue" [02:59] brings the piece to a more sanguine conclusion.

Next we get Mexican composer Javier Álvarez's (1956-2023) Metro Chabacano (1991) [T-2, 3'57"], which was inspired by an eponymous metro station located in Mexico City. It has a skittish opening [00:00], which persists throughout this busy piece.

After that, we're off to Italy and Giacomo Puccini's (1858-1924) Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) of 1890 [T-3, 6'18"]. This has outer sections [00:00, 03:50] featuring a lovely theme. These surround a songful segment [02:03-03:49] and end the piece much like it started.

Then it's back to Austria with a hint of Italy for Hugo Wolf's (1860-1903) Italian Serenade (1887) [T-4, 6'59"]. This has an opening, whimsical theme [00:00] that undergoes a delightful exploration, which brings the piece to a blithe conclusion.

Subsequently, we cross the Atlantic for the United States and William Bolcom's (b. 1938) Graceful Ghost Rag (1970) [T-5, 4'20"]. You'll find it's a real winner that may remind you of those Scott Joplin (1868-1917) wrote for the piano.

After that we get a real change of pace as the EQ serves up a Russian zakuska. It's Dimitri Shostakovich's (1906-1975) Polka (1931) [T-6, 2'45"], which is an arrangement of the one from the Music Hall scene in his ballet The Golden Age (Op. 22; 1930). This finds the composer at his most whimsical.

Next, it's back to America for George Gershwin's (1898-1937) Lullaby for String Quartet (1919) [T-7, 8'12"]. This was a student work, and the first of its two sections has a mellow opening [00:00] soon followed by a lovely, berceuse melody (LB) [00:19]. Then LB undergoes a gentle development [01:47], but after a brief pause, it's food for a more pronounced, "con fuoco (with fire)" marked segment [06:03]. However, this wanes thereby ending the piece tranquilly.

Then we visit Austria again for the next two selections, the initial one being Franz Schubert's (1797-1828) Quartettsatz (Quartet Movement) in C minor (D 703; 1820) [T-8, 8'54"]. Apparently, this began what would have been his 12th quartet had he finished it.

More specifically, it's marked "Allegro assai (Very fast)" and in sonata form. The exposition has a thematic nexus with twitchy [00:00] as well as tuneful [00:30] ideas. Then the foregoing is material for a captivating development [03:47] followed by a comely recapitulation [06:24] with a dashing coda [08:34] that brings things to an emphatic conclusion.

The other Austrian selection is Anton Webern's (1883-1945) Langsamer Satz (Slow Movement) of 1905 [T-9, 8'50"]. It's an early work that was seemingly inspired by his love for a woman he later married. And like the Schubert (see above), this was apparently the only part Anton completed of what was to be a full quartet.

It's marked "Langsam, mit bewegtem Ausdruck (Slow, with moving expression)", and takes the form of a heartfelt serenade based on an extended, amorous, opening thought [00:00]. After that there's a brief pause [04:43] followed by pensive passages [04:45] and another a short break [05:41]. Then we get yearning moments [05:42] that become quite dramatic [07:00] and wane into some [07:56], which end the work peacefully.

However, the pace quickens with Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla's (1921-1992) Four, for Tango (1988) [T-10, 4'51"]. Right from the start [00:00], this is a titillating, virtuosic number laced with a variety of special string effects. These include bowing, plucking as well as tapping ones, and there's never a dull moment!

Last but not least, the EQ gives us Spanish composer Joaquín Turina's (1882-1949) La Oración del Torero (The Toreador's Prayer). This is his Op. 34 of 1925 [T-11, 8'05"], and was apparently inspired when he watched a bullfight at Las Ventas in Madrid.

It has a lively preface [00:00] hinting at a proud melody (PM) that soon follows [00:18]. Then the latter is explored, and after a brief pause [02:37], becomes the material for a pious episode [02:38]. But PM returns [04:25], invoking more prayer-like passages [05:24], followed by a gorgeous PM-derived thought [06:19] that ends the work and CD devoutly.

Nine of these selections [T-1, 3-8, 10-11] feature all four of the EQ's regular members (first-violinist Jameson Cooper, second-violinist Aviva Hakanoglu, violist Luis Enrique Vargas and cellist Justin Goldsmith. However, Hakanagolu and Goldsmith are respectively replaced by violinist Brendan Shea and cellist Jacqueline Choi in the second [T-2] and ninth [T-9] ones. Be that as it may, they all deliver superb accounts of this music.

The recordings were made between February 2020 and April 2023 at Indiana University South Bend's Louise E. Addicott and Yatish J. Joshi Performance Hall. Despite the three-year timespan, they present uniformly, convincing sonic images of everything in a pleasant venue. The instruments are placed from left to right in order of increasing size, and the overall sound is acceptable. However, this release falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating, but gets a strong recommendation considering the delightful assortment of goodies present.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240430)

Afinat Records

The album cover may not always appear.
Leiviskä, H.: Orch Works V1 (Sinfonia brevis, Orchestral Suite No. 2, Symphony No. 2); Stasevska/LahtiSO [BIS]
Finnish composer Helvi Leiviskä (1902-1982) made her CLOFO debut just a couple of months ago (see 31 January 2024), and now she returns on this BIS hybrid, CD2/SACD(2/5.0) release, which is their first volume devoted to her orchestral music. She left about fifty works across several genres as well as some film scores, and here we get another three of her symphonic ones.

The opening Sinfonia brevis (Op. 11; 1962, rev. 1972) is in a single movement [T-1] and begins with an extended, triadic tinged, rising, tone-row-like theme [00:02]. This is food for a series of passacaglia reminiscent, fugally spiced treatments. The first six are searching [01:44], lyrical [03:35], perky [05:01], hymnlike [05:42], animated [06:51] and troubled [07:22]. Then there are pensive [08:16], combative [09:11] and nostalgic [09:26] ones, where the latter intensifies into highly dramatic passages 11:03] that end the work triumphantly.

Next, we get Helvi's Orchestral Suite No. 2 (Op. 11; 1937-38), which is drawn from some of her film music. More specifically, this was for the Nyrki Tapiovaara (1911-1940) directed movie Juha (1937) based on Finnish author Juhani Aho's (1861-1921) eponymous novel (1911). It involves a love triangle set in Karelia, and each of the work's four titled movements could be regarded as program-music-like snapshots of the film.

The first "Kevään tulo (The Coming of Spring)" [T-2] has a peaceful, pastoral beginning [00:02] followed by a lovely, lyrical episode [01:58]. Then the latter waxes and wanes into recollections of the opening moments [05:54] that end things tranquilly.

Subsequently, there's a "Humoreski (Humoresque)" [T-3] with robust sections [00:01, 02:24] on either side of a whimsical one [00:57-02:23]. However, the pace slows in the next "Kehtolaulu (Lullaby)" [T-4], which is a comely tidbit.

Then the suite closes with an "Epilogi (Epilogue)" [T-5] that gets off to an anxiety-ridden start [00:02]. This invokes a spirited section [01:43], which becomes increasingly agitated. But the foregoing ebbs into somewhat twitchy moments [05:37] that close the work uneventfully.

This talented lady left three numbered symphonies, the first of which we recently told you about (see 31 January 2024). Now here's her three-movement Symphony No. 2 (Op. 27; 1954), whose opening one [T-6] has an "Andantino quasi allegretto (Flowing and somewhat lively)" introduction [00:01] hinting at a marchlike idea (MI) soon to come.

After that, the music turns "Più animato e ritmico (More animated and rhythmical)" as the brass introduce MI [01:15]. This starts somewhat like Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Symphony No. 4 in F minor (Op. 36, TH 27; 1877-78), and undergoes three treatments. These are respectively smiling [02:13], oneiric [02:46] and lilting [03:53]. Then recollections of the opening measures [05:32] bring the movement full circle.

An "Allegro molto (Very fast)" middle one [T-7] begins nervously [00:01] with an insistent idea [00:06] that parents increasingly dramatic, dark passages having a transient lighter moment [02:59-03:33]. Then they're succeeded by a slower, melancholy episode [07:05], which gradually fades away, thereby bringing this movement to a deathly silence.

The "Andante cantabile (Flowing and songlike)" third [T-8] starts with a lovely melody (LM) for the flute [00:01] that undergoes an engaging exploration, which turns increasingly forceful. Then there's a pause and three lighter passages [04:03, 05:02, 08:04] that may remind you of MI as well as other past ideas.

These are followed by some LM-related, smorzando moments [10:01], which resemble the closing measures of the Sibelius (1865-1957) Symphony No. 6 in D minor (Op. 104; 1914-23). Be that as it may, they end the work as well as this release very quietly.

The performances are by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (LahtiSO), which is based in that city some 60 miles north-northeast of Helsinki, Finland. Under their current chief conductor, Dalia Stasevska (b. 1984), these superb musicians deliver what will probably be definitive accounts of all three selections for a long time to come.

All the recordings were made at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti. More specifically, the Sinfonia... [T-1] was done 2-5 January, the Symphony... [T-6, 7, 8] on 7 January, and the Orchestral Suite... [T-2, 3, 4, 5] took place 12-13 May of 2023. Despite the different occasions, all three present a consistently generous sonic image in superb surroundings that enrich this music.

The orchestral timbre is characterized by pleasant highs (particularly on the SACD tracks), a full midrange and clean bass. While the stereo tracks put the music in front of a listener, the multichannel one will give those having home theater systems a front-row, center seat. But no matter how you play it, this release easily earns an "Audiophile" stripe. Incidentally, the dynamic range is awesome, so those listening on headphones should be careful about their level settings.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, Y240429)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Prangcharoen: Sound, Echo, and Silence; Beyond Land and Ocean; Raging Fire: Scarano/TPO [Albany]
With this recent Albany Records release, Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen (b. 1973) makes his CLOFO debut. He was born in Uttaradit, some 300 miles north of Bangkok, and began his classical musical exploits in his late teens as a trumpeter at the Horwang School. Then in 1991 he attended Srinakharinwirot University, where he took piano as well as music theory courses.

This led to Narong becoming a piano instructor, and the year 1998 saw him study composition at Chulalongkorm University. Then in 2000 he moved to the U.S., where he got a Masters Degree in composition at Illinois State University, followed by a DMA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). After that he taught composition at UMKC and had a three-year composer residency with the Pacific Symphony, which is based in Orange County, California, some 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Prangcharoen then moved back to Thailand and is now Dean of the Music College at Mahidol University (MCMU) and Composer-in-Residence for our performing group here, the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra (TPO). In addition to that, he's currently one of Asia's leading classical music figures.

To date, he's composed works across most genres, but no complete listing of them was readily available as of this writing. The three here are orchestral ones scored for Western as well as Asian instruments, but no dates are given. Generally speaking, they're colorful, musical happenings.

Sound, Echo, and Silence [T-3] is a thirty-minute exploration of the relationship between the three items named in its title. Incidentally, Silence brings to mind American composer John Cage (1912-1992) and that bizarre piece of his called 4'33", which he concocted back in 1952.

Narong's work has a boisterous introduction [00:00] with a descending theme [00:09] that's food for a capricious exploration. This waxes and wanes into a reflective, somewhat spooky segment [07:21], which invokes a forceful one [16:50] that becomes increasingly animated.

Subsequently, there's an episode featuring what sounds like a pipa or ruan-like instrument [21:46-24:18]. Then the orchestra returns [24:19] with tuneful, folklike passages, which bring the work to a fetching, definitive conclusion.

Next there's Beyond Land and Ocean [T-1] that was apparently inspired by the composer's California experiences (see above). It begins with delicate sunrise-like passages for the strings [00:02], which are seemingly indicative of early morning over the waters along Orange County's Pacific coast. What's more, it has pianistic breezes [00:06] and avian calls [01:32].

Then the music builds as the sun rises and illuminates the surrounding landscape. We also hear a mellow motif (MM) [01:55], presumably representing the four bells in the companario at the Mission of San Juan Capistrano.

After that, there's a subdued, MM-seasoned episode [04:06], but things suddenly turn festive [09:30] with hints of Asian as well as Hispanic folk material. The foregoing is cause for vivacious passages [11:32], which become quite profound in a church-hymn-like episode [13:50]. This waxes and wanes into peaceful moments [16:14] reminiscent of past thoughts. These adjoin an MM-riddled invocation of a tremendous climax having frenetic, frenzied moments [21:09] that end the piece with a fortissimo chord [22:47].

The remaining, somewhat shorter work on this CD titled Raging Fire [T-2] was inspired by the relationship between mankind and that classical element. This begins with an inferno for full orchestra [00:00], which reflects the beneficial as well as dangerous aspects of fire.

Subsequently, the foregoing makes a troubled transition into a contemplative segment [05:13] that becomes increasingly distraught. Then sparks from the opening passages ignite a closing conflagration [10:55] that brings the work to a blazing conclusion.

As mentioned above, these performances are by the TPO. Under Chief Conductor, Italian-born Alfonso Scarano (b. 1962), its superb musicians deliver devoted accounts of their fellow countryman's music. One couldn't ask for more authentic readings of some scores that call for Asian as well as Western instruments.

The recordings were made during 2022 in Prince Mahidol Hall at MCMU (see above). They present consistently generous sonic images in a spacious venue with those many Asian instruments well captured. The orchestral timbre is characterized by somewhat bright highs, but pleasant mids and lows. Everything considered this release falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating, but those listeners liking music with an exotic touch are in for a real treat with this release.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240428)

Amazon Records International

The album cover may not always appear.
Sgambati: Piano Concerto in G minor, Sinfonia festiva (Ouverture de fête); Damerini/La Vecchia/OrSinfaR [Naxos]
Last year Naxos released a couple of orchestral works by Italian composer-pianist Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914; see 30 June 2023), who left a modest oeuvre. And now they give us two more.

The program opens with the world premiere recording of his Sinfonia festiva that's also titled Ouverture de fête (Festive Overture), Op. 36 [T-1], This was probably written between 1878 and 1879 for some special occasion, about which we have no further details.

It's in sonata form, and begins with a festive preface [00:01] hinting at an animated, angular theme (A1) that's soon heard in full [00:18]. This is followed by a lilting second idea [01:46] in addition to a playful third [03:07]. Then A1 initiates a captivating development [04:07] and thrilling recapitulation [06:35] with a rousing coda [08:20], which ends the piece exultantly.

The release concludes with Sgambati's Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 15 (1879-80). In its day, this work had a wide following that included Franz Liszt (1811-1886), with whom Giovanni had developed a close friendship. Franz even used it in some of his Weimar-based classes. More specifically, this is highly innovative piece, which places great demands on the soloist and shows the influence of that great Hungarian composer-pianist, namely his symphonic poems.

Having three movements, the "Moderato maestoso (Moderate and majestic)" marked first [T-2] has a lengthy orchestral introduction [00:00], after which the soloist finally makes a grand entrance [03:45]. Then there's a contemplative section [05:01] with a lovely theme for the piano [05:31].

The latter becomes increasingly animated and has a lively tune played by the soloist [07:47] that's cause for rhapsodic [08:20] and lullaby-like [09:09] passages. These are followed by a delightful episode highlighting the piano [10:24].

However, this wanes into an engaging one [16:12] with a colossal cadenza [17:32-21:15] that invokes the orchestra and memories of past ideas. Then the latter become increasingly agitated, thereby bringing the movement to a forceful conclusion.

Our soloist gets a brief respite with the succeeding "Andante sostenuto (Slow and sustained)" marked Romanza (Romance) [T-3]. This has a comely, laidback orchestral preface [00:00] soon followed by the piano playing languorous passages [00:35]. Then all engage in a captivating serenade [01:47], which waxes and wanes into a tranquil ending.

The closing "Allegretto animato (Fast and animated) " movement [T-4] is a sonata rondo form workout for the soloist. Its exposition begins with orotund orchestral passages [00:00] hinting at a proud ditty (PD) soon played by the piano [00:20]. PD is then picked up by the tutti [00:37] and undergoes a number of treatments. These range from giddy [01:26] to skittish [02:04], dancelike [02:33] and a Slavic-sounding one [03:08] that's cause for a development.

Then a forceful version of PD for the soloist begins a recapitulation [05:37], where the orchestra joins in [05:54] and there's a haughty treatment [06:40] with a cadenza tidbit [06:59-07:11]. After that, the composer serves up scurrying [07:12], commanding [08:16] as well as delicate [08:27] ones, where the latter has a longer cadenza [08:55-09:34]. Then a capricious last treatment [09:35] ends the work and disc in a state of virtuosic ecstasy.

Genoa-born, pianist-composer Massimiliano Damerini (1951-2023) delivers a knockout performance of his fellow countryman's concerto. He receives outstanding support from the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma (OrSinfaR) under its artistic and musical director Francesco La Vecchia (b. 1954). Maestro La Vecchia and the OrSinfaR also give a wonderful account of Sinfonia festiva.

These recordings were made 26-27 February 2012 [T-1] and 14-15 April 2013 [T-2, 3, 4] at the Auditorium Conciliazone located in Rome. They present comfortably sized sonic images of both selections in elegant surroundings having just the right amount of reverberation. The piano is centered, well captured and strikingly highlighted against the OrSinfaR.

As for the orchestral timbre, it's pleasant in both works. And incidentally, the concerto recording was taken from a live performance. However, good microphone placement, as well as skillful postproduction touch-ups and editing preclude any extraneous audience noise or applause. While this release falls a bit short of an "Audiophile" rating, it's a "must" for those liking grandiose, romantic piano concertos.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (, P240427)

Amazon Records International