Friday, November 22, 2019

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalEleven Week 3

Numbers have meaning. But meaning can depend on context. The Classics a Day team made "eleven" the theme for November, the eleventh month. The challenge is to post performances of classical music that involve the number.

I chose a mix. Some pieces involve eleven players. Some are the eleventh type of piece by a composer. Some are the eleventh published work. Some had the number eleven assigned to them in some way by a cataloger.

There are many ways to arrive at #ClassicalEleven - here are my choices for the third week.

11/18/19 Henry Cowell - Symphony No. 11 "Seven Rituals of Music"

According to Cowell, there are seven rituals of music in one's life: birth, work, play, dance, love, war, and death. This 1954 work depicts all of them.

11/19/19 Muzio Clementi - Toccata in B-flat, Op. 11

Clementi's 1784 sonata was first published by John Kerpden of London. Clementi was based in the city, involved with both performing and piano manufacturing.

11/20/19 Franz Schubert - "Der Spiegelritter" D.11

"The Mirror Knight" was an unfinished singspiel Schubert worked on in 1811. Only the overture and five musical numbers were completed.

11/21/19 George Fridrich Handel - "Amadigi di Gaula" HWV 11

This was the fifth Italian opera Handel wrote for English audiences. The 1714 opera was successful, with runs in London and Hamburg (1717-1720).

11/22/19 Dominico Scarlatti - Keyboard Sonata in C minor, K. 11

This sonata was first published in "Essercizi per Gravicembalo." The 1738 collection included 30 keyboard exercises written by Scarlatti.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Auber Overtures -- great music, disappointing sound

This release is the first volume of a Daniel-François-Esprit Auber recording series. When finished, it will include all of Auber's overtures. And that includes 31 opéras-comiques, seven opéras, three drames lyriques and seven other stage works.

Auber is mostly known for Fra Diavolo. The comic opera was an international hit when it premiered and is still performed today.

But with over 40 dramatic musical works in Auber's catalog, there's obviously a lot more to explore. Of the eight works featured in this release, seven are world premiere recordings.

Auber was one of the most popular opera composers in France. He had a natural gift for melody and a strong sense of theatrical story-telling. Both those skills are apparent in this music.

Although billed as a collection of overtures, quite a few entre'act preludes are included. It makes for a fine collection of music, similar in effect to say, an instrumental collection of Rossini or Offenbach.

I'm excited about the concept of this new Auber series, but not so much about its execution. I found the actual recording a little disappointing. I've heard recordings of the Cezch Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice before, and I've generally liked them.

Here, though, the ensemble texture sounded a little thin for the material. And the recording seemed a little dull, and lacking in fine detail. These issues maybe just in the recording process.

Naxos previously started an Auber overture series with Wolfgang Dorner and the Orchestre de Cannes. I believe it only lasted one volume. I hope this new series succeeds -- but something has to be done about that sound.

Daniel-François-Esprit Auber: Overtures
Le Maçon, Le Timide, Leicester, Le Séjour militaire, Emma, a Neige, Le Testament et les Billets doux, Le Bergère châtelaine
Czech chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Dario Salvi, conductor
Naxos 8.574005

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Leopold Kozeluch - Symphonies Vol. 3 continues apace

Bohemian composer Leopold Kozeluch wrote about thirty symphonies. Even though this is volume three, there's still quite a ways to go.

The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice continue their traversal with Mark Stilec, the conductor. The ensemble performs with lightness and energy, enhancing the classic elegance of Kozeluch's music.

In general, I'd characterize these works as comparable to mid-career Mozart. They're all relatively modest in scope. And yet their musical themes are all logically developed and reach satisfying conclusions.

The most interesting of the four works is the Sinfonia in B-flat major, "L'Irrésolu." (The Undecided). This symphony features bold, dramatic contrasts in dynamics and mood -- almost as if the composer couldn't decide on a direction for the piece to take.

Overall a fine addition to this series. Kozeluch may not have been Mozart's equal, but he was certainly close in talent and imagination.

Leopold Kozeluch: Symphonies, Vol. 3
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Filip Dvorak, harpsichord; Marek Stilec, conductor
Naxos 8.574047

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Mieczyslaw Weinberg Works for Violin & Piano works for me

Ewelina Nowicka is a composer as well as a violinist. I think it's that additional talent that makes this recording special. Nowicka and pianist Milena Antoniewicz perform three early postwar works by Mieczyslaw Weinberg.

Weinberg was one of the composers endangered by the Zhdanov Doctrine (along with his good friend Dmitri Shostakovich). He managed to reign in his style to create consonant works that would meet with Party approval.

The three works in this program all certainly do that. But there's an element of subversiveness to them as well. And buried even deeper is a hint of Weinberg's Jewish heritage.

Nowicka's performances go beyond the notes to bring out those underlying elements. I believe it was in part because she, as a composer, connected with Weinberg on a deeper level.

There's a hint of jazz in concertino. The sonatina has sections where Nowicka bends the notes, reminiscent of Hebrew folk music.

Even the Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes isn't just a pretty setting of pleasing folk tunes. Rather, there's a slight restlessness to the music that keeps it moving forward.

This is a recording of exceptional performances. But it's not an exceptional recording. I don't like the sound of the piano. I think the mics were placed a little too far back, and it has a hollow, overly-resonant sound. It's not enough to ruin the listening experience, but it slightly tip the balance of the two instruments.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Works for Violin and Piano
Concertino for Violin and Piano, Op. 42; Sonatina for Violin and Piano in D major, Op. 46; Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, Op. 47, No. 7
Ewelina Nowicka, violin; Milena Antoniewicz, piano

Monday, November 18, 2019

Anne-Marie McDermott launches Mozart series

Anne-Marie McDermott's new Mozart series starts off with two showcase concertos.

The Piano Concerto in C major, K. 415 was one of three Mozart wrote in 1783 to spotlight his talent as a composer and performer. The Piano Concerto in B-flat major, K. 238 was featured in Mozart's 1777 European tour with his sister Nannerl.

While both works were written to dazzle and impress audiences, they're also music of substance. McDermott understands that and her interpretations balance virtuosity with taste.

She plays with a light, deft touch. Her performances provide plenty of expression, just with no wasted motion. To me, her elegant delivery is perfect for Mozart's music.

The Odense Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Scott Yoo,  has a fine recorded sound. They were the ensemble for a previous Mozart concerto series from Bridge. As always, their ensemble sound is clean and transparent -- ideally suited for Mozart.

Ms. McDermott is going to be quite a busy recording artist. She already has a Haydn piano series underway, and now she's adding a Mozart piano concerto series. Both composers wrote a lot of piano music, so each of these series will span several volumes.

That's fine with me. I've enjoyed every release so far-- including this one.

Mozart: Piano Concertos, Vol. 1
Piano Concertos K. 415, K. 238
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
Odense Symphony Orchestra; Scott Yoo, conductor
Bridge Records 9518