Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Martinu Early Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 Provides Context

The major work of this release is "Vanishing Night." Martinu revised it with the help of his teacher Josef Suk. The music is a compendium of Martinu's early impressionist style.

Originally, it was thought that only a portion of "Vanishing Midnight" survived. Recently orchestral parts for the missing movements were rediscovered. For the first time, the work can be heard in its entirety. It's well worth hearing.

This three-movement composition shows a composer in transition. It doesn't quite have the Czech character that Martinu's mature works would exhibit. And it doesn't quite have the syncopations, either. But it's very close.

"Ballade after Böcklin’s picture: Villa by the Sea" is the only surviving movement from a 1915 set of symphonic dances. The music is as impressionistic and indefinite as the image itself. Böcklin created five different versions of "Villa by the Sea," each one slightly different.

Martinu's score is also somewhat ambivalent. Shifting key centers, shimmering harmonies, and irregular melodies remind me of Debussy's soft-focus impressionism. And yet there's something about this work that hints at the symphonist Martinu would become.

"Dream of the Past," written five years later, presages more strongly Martinu's mature style. It's a somewhat somber work, with a heavy dose of chromaticism.

Conductor Ian Hobson and the Sinfonia Varsvia turn in some fine performances. These may not be the best works by Martinu, but this recording makes that case that they deserve more than just an occasional listen.

Bohuslav Martinu: Early Orchestral Works, Volume 3
Sinfonia Varsivia; Ian Hobson, conductor
Toccata Classics

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Musici Excel with Sammartini Concerti

This release is the first complete recording of Giuseppe Sammartini's Op. 2 Concertos. These concerti had disappointing sales when first published. But by the late 1740s, the collection was selling quite well --especially in England.

Sammartini's concertos artfully balance between extremes. They have robust polyphonic sections, yet remain transparent. They can be played by amateurs, yet there is plenty of substance for professionals to dig into. They're intellectual in construction, yet they're full of emotion.

The venerable authentic performance ensemble I Musici neatly capture the essence of these works. Their performances are both measured and exciting. The energy of this ensemble gives the allegro movements a snap.

In the early days of Dynamic, I wasn't a big fan of the label. The recordings always seemed to sound a little murky. Not so with this release. The recording quality is quite good, letting me hear some of the finer details of the ensemble's playing. I have no reservations recommending this release.

Giuseppe Sammartini
6 Concertos in 7 Parts, Op. 2
I Musici
Dynamic CDS 7777

Friday, June 15, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 2

Robert Schumann was born on June 8, 1810. Some of us contributing to the #ClassicsaDay feed decided to celebrate that birthday.


For the month of June, we encouraged folks to post works by Schumann and his circle. Schumann worked with several major composers of the day. He also reviewed up-and-coming composers in his magazine.

Here are my selections for the second week of #ClassicsaDay

Robert Schumann - Piano Concerto in F major, mvt. III

Schumann saw pianist/composer Ignaz Moscheles in concert. It inspired him to go into music as a career. Moscheles wrote eight piano concertos, Schumann struggled to produce one. The concerto in F major was the second of three abandoned attempts. He worked on it from 1829-31.




Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) - Piano Concerto No. 3 in G minor, Op. 58

Moscheles was a highly successful piano virtuoso and composer. Schumann was inspired to take up music after seeing him in concert. Moscheles also conducted concerto performances with Clara Schumann as soloist.




Robert Schumann - Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 11

Schumann wrote his first piano sonata in 1835, the year he met Felix Mendelssohn. The Mendelssohns -- Felix and Fanny -- became close friends with the Schumanns -- Robert and Clara.




Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) - Scherzo a capriccio WoO 3

Mendelssohn and Schumann met in 1835, the year this work was written. They were close friends. In 1839 he received the recently rediscovered score of Schubert's 8th Symphony from Schumann. Mendelssohn premiered it in March of that year.




Norbert Burgmüller (1810-1836) - Symphony No. 2. Op.11

Robert Schumann was an ardent supporter of Burgmüller. The young composer had completed but a few works when he died at age 26. They included a piano concerto and two symphonies. The second symphony was left unfinished. Schumann completed the second and third movements based on Burgmüller's sketches. There wasn't enough of the final movement for Schumann to build on, so the symphony remains unfinished. Schumann premiered it in 1837.