Saturday, June 30, 2018

Spam Roundup June 2018

Even with spam filters, some comments manage to make it through the system. Some of it's so oddly written, that it's oddly amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

The poetic imagery of spam

I don't think the translation programs these spammers use do their prose justice. The following comments are so tantalizingly close to actually making sense. But I do want to know more about that orbiting corset, though. 

 - So you'll look for to suffer. It is hands-down to pioneer a military science which works for you. Whatever join programs and different belief provoking functions of your period or in the trade.

 - Your internet commerce terminated any reviews you can reason contact that corset in the orbit and they may turn penetrable to crime.

 - Be designer here's a few substances on the mar that has content to you. Studying aritcles so much as pome seeds may actually control and colour and opposite opinion provoking functions of your cardio.

"Lumbering along" -- be wary

The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along remains one of the leading posts for spam comments. Just a reminder -- the comments to follow were all written in reaction to a description of an early 1960s small friction toy from Japan.

 - Great post. I'm facing some of these issues as well.[I hear you, man.]

 - Thanks a lot bro you might be extremely support. I like this hack exactly something that works. [Bro - I have no idea what you're talking about (and I'm not sure you do, either.]

Taking off from this, let your ex-girlfriend know that you are still interested in her. [According to Facebook, my ex-girlfriend is on her third husband. Let's just keep the conversation focused on vintage toys if you please.]

The best advice this month:

 - If you own a farm animal, disobey the influence to go with. Be wary of any job discourse. To get down intelligently consolidating your debt cannot be reliable that you employ them in a gravid way.

Words to live by -- if you have farm animals and are looking for a job, anyway. More sage advice and strange imagery coming your way next month.

Friday, June 29, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 4

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 fourth and final week of #ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle

Robert Schumann - Sechs Fugen über den Namen: Bach, Op. 60

Schumann, along with Mendelssohn were champions of J.S. Bach's music. In 1845 Schumann emulated Bach by using the musical notes of his name (B-flat, A, C, B natural) as a fugal subject.

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) - Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H

Initially, Schumann didn't think much of Franz Liszt. Over time, that opinion changed, and they became friends. They both shared a love of Bach, and both wrote music based on his name. Liszt's Fantasy and Fugue was finished in 1855, ten years after Schumann's tribute.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - Prelude and Fugue in B-Flat Major on the name B.A.C.H. BWV 898

In the 19th Century, Bach's music inspired many composers. Several emulated Bach and wrote music based on his name. As it turns out, one of the works that inspired them -- the Prelude and Fugue BWV 898, may not have been written by Bach, but by one of his students.

Robert Schumann - Missa Sacra in C minor, Op. 147

Schumann studied the music of Giovanni Palestrina. As a conductor, he programmed Palestrina choral works regularly. His 1852 mass shows both the influence of Palestrina's Renaissance polyphony.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) - Missa Papae Marcelli

One of Palestrina's most famous work - and certainly one Schumann was familiar with -- was the Pope Marcellus Mass. The work was written in 1562. According to legend, Palestrina wrote the mass to demonstrate to the Council of Trent that counterpoint still had a place in the Counter-Reformation.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) - Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann in F-sharp minor, Op. 9

No look at Schumann's Circle would be complete without Brahms. Brahms became close friends with both Robert and Clara in 1853. Both supported the younger composer. In 1854 Schumann was institutionalized. Brahms' Variations, written the same year, was a fitting tribute. The theme was by Robert, the dedication was to Clara.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 093 - Power Hammer

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

093. Power Hammer

This toy proved very difficult to build. In the illustration, there's plenty of room between the top dowel and the one holding the cube in the cross-brace. In reality, there was no room at all, regardless of how far forward I tipped the 5-hole girders. 

You may also notice that the 3-hole girder is secured to the crank at one end, rather than the middle as depicted. There's a dowel that runs through the assembly that joins it to the base. The length of it blocked the opening I was supposed to use. To position the girder so it touched the axle,  I had to run the dowel through an end hole, rather than the middle one. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Heinrich Schütz: Symphoniae Sacrae I - Models of Clarity

Heinrich Schütz published three volumes of his Symphoniae Sacrae. Hans-Christoph Rademann and Carus continue their traversal of Schütz's catalog with Symphoniae Sacre I.

This 1629 collection of works reflects Schütz's time in Venice. While there, he studied with Giovanni Gabrielli and Claudio Monteverdi. The influences of both are apparent in these settings of the Songs of Songs.

The Latin texts come from the Psalms and the Song of Solomon. The rich imagery is ripe for word-painting, and Schütz doesn't miss an opportunity. Even without understanding the words, it's easy to get the emotional thrust of the text through the expressiveness of the music.

There's also a spaciousness in these settings, with counterpoint that's seems both dense and transparent. This collection has a variety of instrumental and vocal combinations. I hear Gabrieli in the instrumental passages and Monteverdi in the word-painting of the text.

The Dresdner Kammerchor maintains the same high quality of performance they've established over the course of this series. Hans-Christoph Rademann's direction makes these readings models of clarity.

Heinrich Schütz: Symphoniae Sacrae I
Complete Recordings, Vol. 14
Dorothee Mields; Isabel Jantschek; David Erler
Georg Poplutzl; Tobias Mäthger; Felix Schwandtke
Dresdner Kammerchor; Hans-Christoph Rademann, director
Carus 83.273 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Wenzel Heinrich Veit String Quartets, Vol. 2 - As Good as Vol. 1

When I reviewed Volume 1, I said I was very much looking forward to this release. I'm not disappointed. The Kertész String Quartet perform to the same high standard they established with the first volume.

On the whole, this period-instrument quartet has the same warm, rich sound I enjoyed before. This time, though, I detected a slight edge to the ensemble, especially when the violins were in the higher register. A difference in mastering, perhaps? It's not a major difference, just one I noticed.

As far as the music goes, if you liked Veit's first two quartets, you'll certainly enjoy his remaining two. The third quartet (1838) and fourth quartet (1840) follow the models of Beethoven and Spohr.

The fourth quartet is the most adventurous. There's more chromatic motion and the harmonies sound deliciously complex.

It's a shame Veit abandoned the genre in 1840. He lived for another 26 years. One can only imagine how much further his quartet writing would have developed had he continued composing in the genre.

At least we have these four quartets. Thanks, Toccata Classics!

Wenzel Heinrich Veit
Complete String Quartets, Vol. 2
Kertész Quartet
Toccata Classics TOCC 0409

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ullmann PIano Concerto - Music That Won't Be Silenced

Cappricio's first Viktor Ullman release featured two symphonies, with the Gürzenich-Orchester and James Conlon. This time the focus is on Ullman's piano music, ably played by Moritz Ernst.

Ullman himself was an outstanding pianist. His writing for the instrument is in many ways, his most personal form of expression.

Ullman's Piano Concerto, Op. 25 was completed in 1939. He had studied with both Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Zemlinsky. Some influences of both can be heard. Although the work is mostly tonal, there are plenty of mordant dissonances. While that may reflect Schoenberg, the rich orchestration reminds me of Zemlinksy.

The piano solo, though, is pure Ullman. The concerto is an exciting work, that takes some surprising -- though not disorienting -- twists and turns. Ernst plays energetically, with a hint of impertinence. 

The title of the 1929 Variations and Double Fugue on a Theme by Arnold Schoenberg says it all. Ullman does a credible job using a strict 12-tone technique. And yet there's a certain melodiousness to the work that makes it far more than an academic exercise.

Ullman was of Jewish descent. In 1942 he was interred at Theresienstadt. He continued to compose while interred. Ullman wrote, “In Theresienstadt, wherein daily life one has to overcome matter through form, where everything musical stands in direct contrast to the surroundings: here is a true school for masters."

His Piano Sonata No. 7 is indeed a masterwork. The piece has moments of humor, drama, and quiet contemplation. It was completed in August 1944 -- three months before his death at Auschwitz.

 This is music that deserves to be heard -- and heard by a wider audience. Not because of the composer's tragic life, but because of the quality of Ullman's writing and Ernst's performances.

 Viktor Ullman: Piano Concerto, Op. 25
Piano Sonata No. 7; Variations and Double Fugue on a Theme by Arnold Schoenberg
Moritz Ernst, piano
Dortmunder Philharmoniker; Gabriel Feltz, conductor
Capriccio C5294

Friday, June 22, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 3

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 third week of #ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle

Robert Schumann - Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 3

When he was 20 years old, Schumann saw Nicolo Paganini in concert. It inspired him to pursue a career in music. That same year he began piano lessons with Friedrich Wieck. The Etudes were published in 1832. A second work based on Paganini's music followed in 1833.

Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840) - Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor

Paganini wrote his fourth concerto for his 1829-30 tour of Germany, although it was officially premiered in Paris the following year. A twenty-year-old Robert Schumann saw Paganini in concert during that tour.

Robert Schumann - Papillons, Op. 2

Schuman's "Butterflies" is based on a masquerade in Jean Paul's novel, Die Flegeljahre. Schumann also conducted a masquerade in his 1831 essay on Chopin's own Op.2. He adopted three different personalities who engaged in a heated discussion of the work.

Frédéric Chopin ( Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for piano and orchestra, Op. 2

Chopin wrote this set of variations when he was 17. Schumann heard the work in 1831. His famous review of it in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung proclaimed "Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!" Clara Wieck, age 12, wrote "[Chopin's Op. 2] which I learned in eight days, is the hardest piece I have ever seen or played till now."

Heinrich Dorn (1804-1892) Das Mädchen an den Mond

Schumann studied counterpoint with Heinrich Dorn in 1834. Dorn was the conductor of the Leipzig Opera and a friend of Franz Liszt. He wrote numerous art songs, as well as ten operas. His opera "Die Nibelungen" premiered in 1853, decades before Wagner's version.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 092 - Trip Hammer

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

092. Trip Hammer

What you see below is only an approximation of the illustrated trip hammer. As with many of the more complex constructions, there aren't enough pieces.

Plus, the illustration wasn't all that clear -- certainly not enough for me to build this with any confidence.

Here's what I think was the intent. When the crank is turned, it rotates the 3-hole girder (1). The shaft attached to it would rotate in a circle, pulling the 5-hole girder up and down.

That girder is attached to a 3-hole girder (2). The motion causes the 3-hole girder to move out and down. This girder is attached to the box that represents the hammerhead.

The other 3-hole girder (3) pivots on the other girder (4), attached to the inside of the frame. Thus, the hammer extends out and down to the surface.

The critical part of the machine, (2) isn't shown. I'm not quite sure how that 3-hole girder attaches to the frame, the 5-hole girder, and the hammer.

In a way, it doesn't matter. This toy requires three 3-hole girders. Only two come with the set. Plus, the dowel and collar construction is too flimsy to actually turn anything.

Since this was a non-working model, I just fudged the connections to the 5-hole girder at (2). So below is about as close as I could get with the material at hand.

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.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 091 - Wind Mill

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

091. Wind Mill

It took me a while to figure out exactly how this toy went together. Everything's kind of blurry in the illustration (especially around the crank assembly). 

The tower holding the windmill has to be open on the side, rather than the back. If the back was open, you couldn't secure the axle through two holes. 

Once I realized that the illustration was showing that open side, building the windmill was pretty easy. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fine performances of Quantz Concertos for Recorder

Johann Joachim Quantz is rightly considered the father of the flute. He was one of the first virtuosi of the transverse flute. He was also one of the foremost flute makers of his day.

Quantz's writings are still used as standard references for Baroque flute technique and ornamentation. And he wrote almost 600 works, most featuring the transverse flute or the recorder.

This recording features two concertos and two trio sonatas. Stefano Baliano is the recorder soloist. He plays with a warm, mellow tone that remains consistent, even in the upper registers. Like Quantz, he's the master of his instrument. Bagliano's technique has a fluidity that makes even the most difficult passage sound elegantly simple.

Bagliano's the founder of the Collegium Pro Musica. The deep relationship between soloist and ensemble make these performances pleasing to listen to.

I especially enjoyed the Concerto in G minor (QV6:8a) and the Trio Sonata in C (QV2:Anh.3). These feature both recorder and transverse flute as soloists. The rich, darker tone of Lorenzo Cavasanti's transverse flute blends well with Bagliano's recorder. It's a smooth, yet complex blend of sound that I liked very much.

A superb addition to the Collegium Pro Musica's growing catalog of fine early music performances.

Johann Joachim Quantz: Concertos & Sonatas with Recorder
Concerto in F for recorder and strings, QV5:130; Concerto in G minor for recorder, flute, and strings, QV6:8a; Trio Sonata in C for recorder, flute, and b.c., QV2:Anh.3; Trio Sonata in G minor for recorder, violin, and b.c., QV2:20
Stefano Bagliano, recorder
Collegium Pro Musica
Brilliant Classics 95386

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tender Trap 10 - The Black Scorpion

What is the Tender Trap? It's what happens when someone places the tender of a toy or model locomotive backward because it "looks right that way." Usually, to do so, they have to ignore the connectors that are specifically designed to work only when the tender's facing the right way. 

So to insist on placing the tender backward, ignorance isn't enough -- you have to deliberately ignore the evidence in front of you.

One doesn't expect a lot from a 1950s monster movie. But The Black Scorpion did something that I believe is unique among B-movies. It fell into the Tender Trap.

The 1957 movie was a joint American-Mexican production, and clearly with an eye always to the bottom line. The trailer can't quite disguise all the shortcuts. Even in this two-minute promo, there's a lot of stock footage (even more in the film). While the stop-motion is well done, it's sometimes undercut.

Did you notice the train wreck? Here it is in detail:

The special effects department used a Lionel train set. That wasn't uncommon at the time. But they didn't have the budget (apparently) to repaint it!

And... the tender's backward. In order to connect the tender, the special effects crew had to wire the tender's knuckle coupler to the locomotive frame, and wire the tender's coupling bar to the passenger car's knuckle coupler. Wouldn't it have been easier to just turn the darned thing around -- especially if time was money?

Just asking.

Friday, June 08, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 1

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 first week of #ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Ten Impromptus on a Theme by Clara Wieck, Op. 5

Robert Schumann was studying piano with Friedrich Wieck. Schumann became enchanted with his daughter, Clara. Young Clara was an extremely talented pianist and composer. Schumann wrote these ten impromptus based on one of her themes. Clara was thirteen when Schumann presented his finished work to her. They were married eight years later.

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896) - Romance Varié for piano, Op. 3

Wieck was a prodigious musical prodigy, both at the keyboard and with the pen. Most of her works were written while she was young. The Romance Varié, for example, was composed when she was 12 or 13. Robert Schumann made one of the themes the basis for his 10 Impromptus, Op. 5.

Robert Schumann - Toccata in C major, Op. 7

Schumann dedicated this work to his close friend Ludwig Schunke. Schunke was Schumann's next-door neighbor and at one point dissuaded Schumann from suicide. Schunke was a pianist/composer with great promise. He died at age 23.

Ludwig Schumke (1810-1834) - Grand Sonate in G minor, Op. 3

Schumke was a piano virtuoso and composer, whose career was cut short by tuberculosis. He performed with Lizst and Chopin. He was a close friend of Robert Schumann. He co-founded Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. Schumke dedicated his grande sonata to his friend.

Robert Schumann - Symphonic Studies, Op. 13

Schuman wrote this set of etudes in 1834. It features a theme by amateur musician Baron von Fricken, and eleven variations. The twelve etude was based on "Proud England, rejoice!" from a Heinrich Marschner opera. It was dedicated to Schumann's friend, William Sterndale Bennett.

William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875) The Naiads ~ Concert Overture Op. 15

Bennett was a close personal friend of Schumann. When Schumann dedicated his Symphonic Studies to Bennett, Bennett returned the favor. His Fantasie Op. 16 was dedicated to Schumann. I couldn't find an example of that work, but Bennett's "The Naiads" was composed the same year, 1836.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 090 Hoisting Machine

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

090. Hoisting Machine

This was a fairly easy build -even if it was impossible. I've run across this problem before. The instruction sheet illustrator didn't always keep track of the set components. 

The kit only comes with two three-hole beams. The picture calls for three. Some of the other toys in the series use one of the flat boxes for the crank handle. That's exactly what I did here. 

The illustration also doesn't show any pulley detail. So I just built it the way I thought it should go. 

And, as you probably noticed, the length of dowels depicted fall between the two lengths actually available.  Since a long dowel is holding the winch's tower in place, I couldn't push the cross-brace dowel any further into the crank housing.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Samuel Scheidt Concertos - Survivors of the Thirty Years' War

This release features sacred concertos by Samuel Scheidt and some of his contemporaries. The Thirty Years' War disrupted the court of Halle, where Scheidt enjoyed a court position. Forced to freelance, Scheidt wrote and published almost non-stop. It did little to improve his financial position. But virtually all of his music survived to the present in his published editions.

Scheidt was a student of Jan P. Sweelinck and a colleague of Michael Praetorius. Scheidt adopted Martin Luther's musical tenets. Although his contrapuntal passages are imaginative, they remain models of clarity.

The same is true of his concertos. The vocal passages are expressive without being overly florid. The I Sonatori Ensemble has but five performers. Their sound gives these works an intimacy that I think resembles the original performances. After all, in a time of war, famine, and plague, large orchestras are difficult to put together.

Some of Scheidt's contemporaries are also included in this release, such as Melchior Franck, Andre Hammerschmidt, and Bartolomeo de Selma Y Salaverde. They all shared Luther's conviction that music was a gift from God, and could provide solace in times of trouble.

And that makes this collection of music born of the Thirty Years' War something special. There is a soothing and uplifting quality to these works. Something that Knut Schoch conveys in his delivery, and the I Sonatori in their playing.

Samuel Scheidt: Sacred Concertos
Music by Samuel Scheidt, Bartolomeo de Selma Y Salaverde, Andreas Hammershmidt, Melchior Franck, Johann Erasmus Kindermann, and Thomas Selle
Knut Schoch, tenor
I Sonatori
Christophorus CHR 77411

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Anton Eberl Emerges from the Shadow of Mozart

Pianist/composer Anton Eberl was a contemporary of Beethoven and a student of Mozart. Some of Eberl's works were misattributed to Mozart, and that's not surprising.

 As this new release shows, Eberl's style is quite similar to Mozart's. But not quite identical (a lot of the misattribution was done by unscrupulous publishers).

The two sonatas for piano four-hands, published in 1797, are full of light-hearted Mozartian motifs. But Eberl's treatment of them leans more towards the bravura.

By contrast, the 1804 Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra seems a little tame. It's not that Eberl wasn't inventive. He plays with the audience's expectations of form. The second movement is a lively march (instead of a slow andante). The Andante is sandwiched into the final movement.

The solo parts are both challenging and well-constructed musically. It's just that Beethoven's third piano concerto premiered the year before. And compared to that work, Eberl's Mozartian elegance can sound a little old-fashioned. Not to audiences of the day, though. It was one of Eberl's most popular works, and he played it as often as possible while touring.

Pianists Paulo Giacometti and Riko Fukuda perform these works admirably. They have the lightness needed to play Eberl at his most delicate and the power to bring home the big climaxes.

Both play fortepianos of the period, and the sound is exceptional. In most recordings, the action seems exceptionally noisy, interfering with the music. In this case, the actions were virtually silent. Well done!

If your tastes for Classical Era music leans more towards Mozart than Beethoven, give these Eberl works a listen. You'll find much to like.

Anton Eberl
Concerto for Two Pianos & Orchestra Op. 45
Sonatas for Piano Four Hands, Op. 7
Paolo Giacometti, Riko Fukuda, piano
Kölner Akademie; Michael Alexander Willens, conductor CPO 777 733-2

Friday, June 01, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SovietaDay Week 5

For May 2018, some of us contributing to #ClassicsaDay decided to mark May Day. Reason enough to post works by Soviet composers. I decided to go a little farther with my #SovietaDay posts and concentrate on Soviet prize winners.

Here are the posts I shared for week 5. 

Jovdat Hajiyev (1917-2002): For Peace, symphonic poem

Hajiyev was a student of Shostakovich and has the distinction of being the first Azerbaijani to write a symphony. Primarily known for his large orchestral works, his symphonic poem "For Peace" garnered his second Stalin Prize in 1952.

Dmitri Kabalevsky (1900-1987): Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 48

Kabalevsky wrote three concertos dedicated to Soviet Youth. This concerto was the first of that series. It was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1949.

Gavriil Nikolayevich Popov (1904-1972): Symphony No. 2, Op. 39 "Motherland"

In 1936 Popov's First Symphony was banned before it could be performed. Popov wrote his second symphony to embody "the people’s soul" and to get back into the good graces of the authorities. It succeeded on both counts. It won the Stalin Prize in 1946.

Nikolai Myaskovsky (1880-1950) - String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, Op. 86

Myaskovsky was one of the composers who was called out by the 1947 Zhdanov Decree for writing anti-Soviet formalist music. He refused to be a part of the proceedings, or issue any statement of repentance. Mysaskovsky died of cancer in 1950. He was rehabilitated posthumously. His final string quartet and symphony were awarded Stalin Prizes in 1951.