Friday, May 31, 2019

Spam Roundup, May 2019

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

Amazingly amazing

 - I amazed with the research you made to make this actual post amazing. [I'm amazed by the amazing amazedness of your amazing comment.]

 - You should proceed your writing. [I have your permission, then?]

 - Greate post. [Not-so-great spelling.]

 - Highly energetic blog. I enjoyed that a lot. [Which - the blog post, or the energy?]

  - This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant! [Gee.... thanks (I think)]

 -  Hi there to all, how is the whole thing. [The whole thing is fine, you all.]

"Lumbering along" keeps bringing them in.

My short post about a vintage Japanese friction toy keeps getting engagement (from non-humans). Someday I may figure out what makes The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along so appealing to algorithms. 

 - You're so awesome! So wonderful to find somebody with some unique thoughts on this topic.

 - I looked on the net for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website. [If by "go along with" you mean "totally indifferent to," then you're right.]

 - Your style is unique in comparison to other people I've read stuff from. [Yours, however, not so much.]

 - There are so convenient and generally develops their self-confidence. [?!]


And finally, a post that quickly took a very dark turn.

 - Do I want to find a girlfriend that I can settle down with, and fall in love. Any form of assault is about power, hate, anger, violence.

That's all for this month. And remember, you too can develop self-confidence through convenience.

#ClassicsaDay #SovietaDay Week 5

For the third year running, the Classics a Day team chose to honor May Day. For the month of May, Soviet musicians are the theme. Last year I posted music by Soviet prize-winners

This time, I'm simply walking my way through the alphabet (Latin, not Cyrillic). The music I discovered proved anything but ordinary. Here are my posts for the ffifth and final week of #SovietaDay.

5/27/19 Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) - Piano Concerto

Despite support from her teacher, Shostakovich, her modernist music was seldom performed during the Soviet Era.

5/28/19 Sergei Vasilenko (1872-1956) - In Spring Suite for flute and small orchestra

Vasilenko was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for his services to music, both as a composer and teacher.

5/29/30 Yuri Yukechev (1947 - ) - Two pieces for viola d'amore

Yukechev survived the Soviet Era and writes in an expansive, experimental fashion that would never have been allowed in the USSR.

5/30/19 Valery Zhelobinsky (1913-1946) - Three Pieces for Piano, Op. 27, No. 2 Song

The short-lived pianist and composer left an impressive body of work, including four operas, three piano concerts, and six symphonies. The bulk of his music is for solo piano.

5/31/19 Iosif Andriasov (1933-200) - String Quartet Op. 1

This 1954 student work was dedicated to Andriasov's sister and remains one of his most popular composition.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Tasmin Little Plays a Favorite

In a Violin Channel interview, Tasmin Little named Brahms as her favorite composer. I think that affection is evident in this release. There's an easy familiarity in these performances I find quite appealing.

The Violin Sonata No. 1 was developed from two earlier songs by Brahms. The lyrical nature of the material is at the forefront of Little's performance. She lovingly draws out the melodic lines with warm, singing tones.

That singing quality is used to even greater effect in the Violin Sonata No. 2. Little plays with a delicate sweetness that charms the ear. Which is not to say these are superficial, pretty performances.

Quite the contrary. Tasmine Litte gets below the surface of these works. Her phrasing illuminates the fundamental structure of each movement, sometimes making connections between them.

The third sonata is the most technically challenging, but Tasmin Little (and Piers Lane) take it all in stride. There's a cohesive vision informing the performances that keep the focus on the music, not the fireworks.

Tasmin Little and Piers Lane have worked together for years. Both are in complete agreement with their playing, making these truly pleasurable performances to listen to.

There are hundreds of Brahms violin sonata recordings. What makes this one stand out? Tasmin Little is performing the music of an old friend with an old friend. It's a subtle difference that's hard to describe -- but easy to hear.

Johannes Brahms: The Three Violin Sonatas
Tasmin Little, violin; Piers Lane, piano
Chandos CHAN 10977

Alexander Moyzes Symphonies 9 & 10 - Powerful performances

This is the penultimate installment of Naxos' Moyzes Symphony Series. Slovak composer Alexander Moyzes completed 12 symphonies. Symphonies 9 and 10 dates from the 1970s.

Symphony No. 9 was premiered in 1971 and is the work of a mature composer. Moyzes wrote in a neo-romantic style. This symphony blends in some extreme dissonance, creating a work that seemed somewhat on edge. The three movements each neatly break down into three sections. But there's nothing formalistic about this work.

Critics have compared Moyzes' Ninth Symphony to contemporary works of Shostakovich. It's a good analogy. Both composers were trying to express emotional outrage that tonality could barely contain. In Moyzes' case, it was the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia by the USSR.

It's a powerful work, and the performance of the Slovák and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra ensure the emotions hit home.

Moyzes completed his tenth symphony at the end of the decade. Premiered in 1979, Symphony No. 10 seems to have no political subtext. It's just about the music. And what music! Moyzes' harmonies push the boundaries of tonality in imaginative and appealing ways. The slow movements are exceptionally beautiful, with alluring melodies that hint of exoticism.

Moyzes, like Dvorak, wrote music that can be successfully performed by any orchestra in the world. And yet, when their music is performed by Czech ensembles an additional dimension seems to open up.

That's the case with both these symphonies. Ladislav Slovák and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra don't just know all the notes. They know what Moyzes meant by those notes -- and that informs their performances.

These recordings were first released on Marco Polo. I'm glad they're coming out again on Naxos. These works deserve a wider audience.

Alexander Moyzes: Symphonies Nos. 9 and 10
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Ladislav Slovák, conductor
Naxos 8.573654

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Charles Villiers Stanford 1919 "Via Victix" still relevant

This is a world premiere recording -- of a work that was completed in 1919. And, I think, it's a work that deserves reevaluation. Charles Villiers Stanford composed his Mass "Via Victrix 1914-1918" to mark the end of the Great War (now called World War I).

The conflict had begun with stirring appeals to patriotism and glory -- with music to match. It ended with nations stunned by the massive casualties and apparent futility of the struggle. Audiences were in no mood for big, celebratory works like Haydn's "Lord Nelson's Mass."

And Stanford understood that. His goal was to write a work that would both mark the return to peace, and mourn the fallen. The Via Victrix is a masterwork of choral writing, and -- I think -- one that strikes the proper balance between a sense of victory and an appreciation of its high cost.

But the world had changed in other ways. By 1919 the Late Romantic style of Stanford, Elgar, and others reminded audiences too much of the prewar era. An era they now repudiated. Stanford's music was labeled old-fashioned.

The work was performed once (with organ rather than an orchestra) and shelved. And that's a shame because Stanford succeeded in his goals. The work is full of lush harmonies and grand gestures. Yet it also has quiet, introspective sections of great pathos and beauty.

Modern audiences don't have negative associations with the music of the 1910s. So this mass can be judged on its own substantial merits. And I think it fits very well with our own mixed emotions about the cessation of conflicts. Yes, we won -- but at what cost?

Also included is "At the Abby Gate." Its a setting of a poem by Charles John Darling written for the dedication of Britains Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Again, Stanford's music hits just the right tone -- introspective and somber without being lugubrious and plodding.

Adrian Partington directs the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales with an instinctual understanding of this music. Stanford was steeped in the British choral tradition, and Partington makes that connection plain. He successfully brings out the conflicted emotions underlying these works. Emotions that very much speak to us today.

Charles Villiers Stanford
Mass "Via Victrix 1914-1918" Op. 173
At the Abby Gate. Op. 177
Kiandra Howarth, soprano; Jess Dangy, contralto; Ruairi Bowen tenor; Gareth Brynmor John, bass
BBC National Orchestra of Wales; BBC National Chorus of Wales
Adrian Partington, director
Lyrita SRCD 382

Monday, May 27, 2019

Violinist Bojan Cicic delivers on virtuoso Giovanni Giornovich concertos

Giovanni Giornovich, AKA Giovanni Mane Giornovichi, started life as Ivan Mane Jarnovic. This Croatian violin virtuoso made his debut in Paris (1773), and landed in England after the French Revolution.

He was a friend of Haydn, and his music was almost as popular among London audiences of the 1790s. The three concertos in this release were all premiered during Giornovich's stay in London. And all receive their world recording premiere.

The works stylistically fall somewhere between Haydn and Mozart. So it's a mystery to me why they're not better known. These are well-crafted concertos with memorable and tuneful melodies.

Violinist Bojan Cicic and the Illyria Consort give credible performances. Giornovich wrote these concertos to show off his own talent. Bojan Cicic rises to the challenge. He has a firm command of the extreme upper register and is able to toss off double stops easily.

My one complaint is the sound of the solo violin. The way it was recorded might be the problem. I found the tone to be leaning too much into the treble, giving the violin a slightly pinched sound.

Still, I'm glad these works were recorded. I'm glad I heard them. And I hope Cicic will record more of Giornovich's seventeen surviving concertos. 

Giovanni Giornovich: ‘London’ Concertos
Bojan Cicic, violin
The Illyria Consort
Delphian Records DCD34219

Friday, May 24, 2019

#ClassicsaDay #SovietaDay Week 4

For the third year running, the Classics a Day team chose to honor May Day. For the month of May, Soviet musicians are the theme. Last year I posted music by Soviet prize-winners

This time, I'm simply walking my way through the alphabet (Latin, not Cyrillic). The music I discovered proved anything but ordinary. Here are my posts for the fourth week of #SovietaDay.

5/20/19 German Okunev (1931-1973) - Ballet "The Overcoat"

Okunev was working on The Overcoat when he died from injuries after an auto accident. V. Sapozhnikov completed and orchestrated the score from his sketches.

5/21/19 Aleksandra Pakhmutova (1929-) - Trumpet Concerto Dokshizer

Pakhmutova began as a classical composer but soon transitioned into popular music. She's one of Russia's best-known songwriters and named a Hero of Socialist Labour.

5/22/19 Nikolai Rakov (1908-1990) - Symphony No. 3 for String Orchestra "Little Symphony"

This 1962 work is one of four symphonies Rakov completed. While his music seems in line with Soviet doctrine, there's always an element of irony just below the surface.

5/23/19 Vadim Salmanov (1912-1978) - String Quartet No. 1

Salmanov held several music-related political positions. His catalog includes six string quartets, four symphonies, and two violin concertos.

5/24/19 Semyon Tchernetsky (1881-1950) - The Red Army's Entry to Budapest

Major General Tchernetsky may well be the Soviet Sousa. He founded the modern Russian military bands and most of his compositions are, of course, marches.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Zelenka: Missa Omnium Sanctorum - a true Baroque masterwork

In an ideal world, the works of Jan Dismas Zelenka would be as familiar as those of Johann Sebastian Bach, or Georg Philipp Telemann. Both were friends and colleagues of Zelenka, and both admired his work.

The 1741 Missa Omnium Sanctorum is one such work. It's a major work (over 50 minutes long), and an important one. Zelenka was not only the court composer in Dresden but the official church composer as well.

Zelenka, like Bach, uses the text to guide the direction of the melodies. And Zelenka is a master of counterpoint. I place his fugal choruses somewhere between Bach's and Handel's. They have the complexity of the former and the tunefulness of the latter.

In fact, tunefulness could describe this entire work. Zelena's arias are quite appealing, seemingly simple in structure. The soloists are equally appealing.

Tenor Cyrila Auvity sings with a rich, creamy tone. The voice of countertenor Filippo Mineccia, featured in the "Misere," has a bell-like purity that's quite beautiful.

Ruben Jais delivers an interpretation that I'd call joyous. From the bouncy dance-like "Gloria" through to the exuberant "Agnus Dei," this mass was just plain fun.

The ensemble and chorus are close-miked, with minimal decay. That's a good thing. It keeps the dense contrapuntal passages sounding clear, and lends an air of lightness to the music.

A wonderful performance of a Baroque masterwork.

Jan Dismas Zelenka: Missa Omnium Sanctorum, ZWV 21
Carlotta Colombo, soprano; Filippo Mineccia, alto; Cyril Auvity, tenor; Lukas Zeman, bass
laBarocca; Ruben Jais, director
Glossa Music GCD 924103

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Arnold Rosner Orchestral Music, Vol. 3 - More, please

Toccata Classics continues their exploration of Arnold Rosner's orchestral music. Volume Three presents three world premiere recordings. Each one a masterwork, and each (in my opinion) deserving more performances.

Rosner was fascinated with Medieval and Renaissance music and often used pre-Baroque voice-leading and modal harmonies in his work.

The 1978 Nocture is one such example. Inspired by the cosmos, Rosner creates a dark, unsettling soundscape. Big, expansive chords punctuate the work, suggesting the vastness space.

Tempus Perfectum refers to the work's 9/8 meter. In the Middle Ages, three was the perfect number (representing the Trinity). So having three beats per measure, each subdivided into thirds was the perfect tempo.

Rosner's Tempus Perfectum uses that meter as the basis for a Neo-Renaissance canzona. It does Resphigi's "Ancient Aires" one better, as Rosner's material is completely original and conceived for the instruments that play it.

In the liner notes, Walter Simmons writes that the 1976 Symphony No. 6 contains "the most ferocious and explosive music Rosner ever composed." I agree.

This turbulent three-movement work is generated from a small set of motifs. Rosner continually revisits and transforms them throughout the work with increasing urgency. They give the entire 38-minute symphony a tight-knit cohesion that works -- and works well.

Rosner's Sixth Symphony has a terrifying strength to it. But it's one that's greatly dependent on the performance. This performance is first-rate. And I was completely engaged from start to finish. Nick Palmer and the London Philharmonic Orchestra has the power -- and the musicianship -- to deliver the drama and majesty of this work.

Will there be a volume four? I hope so.

Arnold Rosner: Orchestral Music, Volume Three 
Nocturne, Op. 68; Tempus Perfectum: A Concert Overture, Op. 109; Symphony No. 6, Op. 64 
London Philharmonic Orchestra; Nick Palmer, conductor 
Toccata Classics TOCC 0469

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mieczyslaw Weinberg Symphony No. 13 - honest intensity

Weinberg's 13th Symphony isn't a pleasant work to listen to. But then, it's not meant to be. Weinberg dedicated this 1979 work to the memory of his mother. She, along with Weinberg's father and sister, perished in a Polish transit camp during WWII. Weinberg effectively translates his still-raw emotions into music.

The symphony is harsh and unrelenting, pulling fragmented blocks of melody together as it gathers momentum. Not pleasant, but certainly powerful.

Weinberg uses his orchestral resources effectively, using the full ensemble sparingly. The end result (to my ears), is a collection of small chamber ensembles that swirl about each other, constantly coming together and pulling apart.

Coupled with this masterwork is the Serenade No. 4 -- which is quite pleasant to listen to. In 1952 the Zhdanov Doctrine was in effect. Soviet music must serve the people (as opposed to "art for art's sake"). The 1952 Serenade is bright, cheery, and full of hummable melodies. In many ways, it reminds me of Dag Wiren's Serenade. The tunes are catchy, set over simple harmonies. It's a perfect emotional balance to the 13th Symphony.

Vladimir Lande and the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra perform admirably. The orchestra delivers the emotional power of the 13th Symphony. And they play the Serenade in a light-hearted manner. Every installment in their traversal of Weinberg's symphonies has been immensely satisfying. As is this release.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Symphony No. 13
Siberian State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande, conductor
Naxos 8.573879

Friday, May 17, 2019

#ClassicsaDay #SovietaDay Week 3

For the third year running, the Classics a Day team chose to honor May Day. For the month of May, Soviet musicians are the theme. Last year I posted music by Soviet prize-winners

This time, I'm simply walking my way through the alphabet (Latin, not Cyrillic). The music I discovered proved anything but ordinary. Here are my posts for the third week of #SovietaDay.

5/13/19 Janis Ivanovs (1906-1983) - Symphony No. 4 "Atlantida"

Latvian composer Ivanovs was working on his 21st symphony at the time of his death. His fourth symphony, "Atlantis," was premiered in 1943.

5/14/19 Imants Kalninš (1941-) - Symphony No. 5

Classically trained Kalninš led a rock band in the 1960s and wrote Russia's first rock opera. He returned to classical music in the 1970s and continues to write in classical and popular genres.

5/15/19 Anatoly Lepin (1907-1984) - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, No. 3, Op. 67

Lepin wrote -- among many other works - the State Anthem of the Latvian SSR. It was replaced when Latvia became independent in 1990.

5/16/19 Ester Mägi (1922 -) - Fantaisie bucolique

Mägi is often inspired by the folk music of her native Estonia. The Fantasie bucolique was completed in 1983 when her country was still part of the USSR.

5/17/19 Niyazi (1912-1984) - Rast, symphonic mugam

Niyazi based his work "Rast" on a traditional musical form of his native Azerbaijan. It remains his most popular work.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Ensemble Il Demetrio deliver thoughtful performances of Tartini

The liner notes lay out the problems with these Giuseppe Tartini works. In the late 1760s, the term a Quattro (in 4 parts) was somewhat vague.

Did Tartini intend his Sonate a Quattro to be played with only four string instruments, as a proto-string quartet? And what about the role of the harpsichord, tacitly a part of any instrument composition?

What did Tartini mean by Sinfonie a Quattro? Should there be more than one instrument per part, making it a true orchestral work? Violinist Maurizio Schiavo and Ensemble Il Demetrio thoughtfully considered these questions. This release presents their answers.

We might not have definitive answers as to what Tartini meant. But this release gives us some convincing performances. And ultimately, what matters is the music. The Sonata in C major is played as a string quartet - two violins, viola, and cello. As such, it's an appealing work. The absence of the harpsichord gives the work transparency that lets every line breathe.

The other four works include harpsichord filling out harmonies. It's not a detriment. Rather, the harpsichord makes Tartini's music sound more Baroque than Pre-Classical. The Sonata in G major and Sonata in A major are marked Sinfonias.

The ensemble plays these pieces with a fuller, heavier sound. Their interpretation makes these Sinfonias sound weightier than the Sonatas a Quattro on the album.

Musicology may have informed the Ensemble Il Demetrio's interpretations, but these are not dry academic exercises. Maurizio Schiavo and the ensemble play these works with warmth and vitality. As I said -- ultimately, it's about the music.

Giuseppe Tartini: 4-parts Sonatas and Sinfonias
Ensemble Il Demetrio; Maurizio Schiavo, violin
Brilliant Classics 95398

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Linos Ensemble gives winning performance of Krug Prize Sextet

What becomes of a one-hit wonder when their hit drops off the charts? Oblivion. That's sort of what happened to Arnold Krug.

A contemporary of Brahms, Krug won the Stelzner Competition for chamber music in 1896.  Instrument builder Alfred Stelzner had created two new stringed instruments, a violetta (midway between a viola and cello), and cellone (between a cello and double bass). Stelzner hoped to generate music for these instruments through his composition contest.

Krug won for his violin, viola, violetta, cello, cellone, and double bass sextet. Fortunately, it was published with more conventional instrumentation: two violins, two violas, cello, and double bass. Stelzner's instruments never caught on.

The "Prize Sextet" did, though. It was Krug's most-performed work. Melodies are lyrical and memorable. Krug skillfully manipulates and develops his themes, creating movements that logically unfold from start to finish.

The entire work has a thematic cohesiveness that's quite appealing. And so it was, up until the 1930s, when the Prize Sextet faded from the repertoire.

The Linos Ensemble makes a strong case for its reinstatement. Their sympathetic reading brings out the inherent beauty of the work. Krug was no Brahms, but in this sextet, he comes pretty close.

Also included is the Op. 16 Piano Quintet. Krug completed the work when he was just 29. It's full of youthful energy. And while the music isn't as memorable as that of the Prize Sextet, it's still thoroughly enjoyable.

In the hands of the Linos Ensemble, Arnold Krug's Prize Sextet comes up a winner.

Arnold Krug: String Sextet, Op. 68; Piano Quartet, Op. 16
Linos Ensemble
CPO 555 030-2

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Shelest and Järvi make the most of Rubinstein concertos

In the 19th Century Russia, one composer towered over the rest. It wasn't Tchaikovsky, any member of the Might Five. It was Anton Rubinstein. Rubinstein was prolific, and one of the first to assimilate Western musical tradition into Russian composition.

Rubinstein was a piano virtuoso (among other talents), and his five piano concertos were the bar that other Russian concertos were measured against. This recording presents two of them, the third and fifth concertos.

This is the second of a three-part series of Rubinstein Concertos. Anna Shelest and Neeme Järvi recorded Piano Concerto No. 4 in 2017. The final volume with Concerto No. 2 is slated to appear next year.

This release features the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ENSO), along with Shelest and Järvi. These are big, brawny concertos, and that's just the interpretation they get. Shelest sweeps up and down the keyboard with aplomb. Järvi and the ENSO paint the accompaniment in broad strokes.

These are powerful performances. I think they show the appeal of Rubinstein -- highly dramatic and highly appealing. But these concertos don't quite have the staying power of, say, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

In the liner notes, Elena Sorokinam characterizes the works as "a kind of modeling of one whole out of fragments, often resembling a change of pictures to a theatrical effect." It's an accurate description, showing both the strengths and weaknesses of Rubinstein's music.

Nevertheless, Shelest and Järvi make the most of the material. The material may be a little weak, but the performances are first-rate.

Anton Rubinstein: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 5
Anna Shelest, piano
Estonian National Symphony Orchestra; Neeme Järvi, conductor
Sorel SC CD 014

Friday, May 10, 2019

#ClassicsaDay #SovietaDay Week 2

For the third year running, the Classics a Day team chose to honor May Day. For the month of May, Soviet musicians are the theme. Last year I posted music by Soviet prize-winners

This time, I'm simply walking my way through the alphabet (Latin, not Cyrillic). The music I discovered proved anything but ordinary. Here are my posts for the first week of #SovietaDay.

5/6/19 Issay Dobrowen - Piano sonata No. 2 Op. 10

Dobrowen studied with Taneyev in Moscow and worked with Nikolai Medtner. He left the USSR in 1922 and emigrated to Norway.

5/7/19 Heino Eller (1887-1970) - Symphony No 1 In modo mixolydio

Estonian composer Eller founded the Tartu Schoool of Composition. Its students include Edward Tubin and Arvo Part.

5/8/19 Samuil Feinberg (1890-1962) - Piano Sonata No. 8

Feinberg was a pianist. Most of his compositions were for the instrument, including 12 sonatas and 3 concertos.

5/9/19 German Galynin (1922-1966)- Piano Concerto No. 1

Galynin studied with Shostakovich. It may be why Galynin's piano concerto was cited for formalism by Khrennikov in 1948.

5/10/19 Soltan Hajibeyov (1919-1974)- Symphony No. 2

Hajibeyov is regarded as one of the founders of the classical music tradition in Azerbaijan. In addition to 2 symphonies, he's noted for his theater works.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Stefano Molardi branches out with Bach Family Organ Works

Consider this release a companion volume to Stefano Molardi's previous Bach recording. That 2-disc set featured the complete works of Johann Michael Bach and Johann Christoph Bach (Johann Sebastian's first cousin, once removed).

There was enough material by J.M. Bach and J.C. Bach to fill two CDs. Not so in the case of the family members featured here. While just as prolific as their more famous relation, only a fraction of their output has survived.

The quality of writing is consistent throughout the family. The generation before Johann Sebastian (JS) write in a simpler, cleaner style. Those of Johann Sebastian's generation share his interest in complex counterpoint and more advanced harmonies.

The few organ works by Heinrich Bach (JS's great-uncle) are fantasias based on hymn tunes. It's easy to hear the musical foundation on which JS would build.

Johann Lorenz studied with JS, and it shows. His sole surviving work, the Prelude and Fugue in D major is a masterwork, rivaling similar works by JS.

Johann Bernhard Bach I (1676-1691) was JS's second cousin. He worked with Telemann. His organ work has Telemann's directness to them -- although several were misattributed to JS.

His son, Johann Ernst II studied with JS (second cousin, once removed) at Leipzig. To my ears, his music anticipates the leaner pre-Classical style Johann Sebastian's own sons would adopt.

The works by Johann Friedrich I resemble those of his first cousin once removed. They're not as complex, but still quite tuneful and appealing. (If you're keeping score, JFI was the son of Johann Christoph Bach, featured in Molardi's previous release).

Stefano Molardi delivers insightful and well-informed performances. Even without referring to the liner notes, I could hear the minor differences in styles between the Bachs. And most especially between the generations.

This release shows that a good portion of Johann Sebastian Bach's talent was indeed in the blood.

Bach Family Organ Works
Stefano Molardi, organ
Brilliant Classics

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Moyzes Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 - Emotional Masterpieces

This volume of Naxos' Moyzes symphonic cycle includes two of his most emotional works. Moyzes was famous as a Slovak nationalist composer, blending folk music traditions seamlessly with classical forms.

His Symphony No. 7 is no exception. This substantial work was dedicated to the memory of his young daughter. It's as full of sorrow and pathos as the title might suggest. But it also ends in joy and hope.

Folk elements are more obvious in this work than in other Moyzes symphonies. The opening flute melody evokes the sound of a shepherd's pipe. The scherzo has traditional folk dance rhythms, as does the finale.

In 1968 Moyzes completed his eighth symphony, titled "21.08.1968." The title refers to the date Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Soviet Union. If folk elements were near the surface in Symphony No. 7, here they're buried deep. Moyzes musical language is harsh, dissonant, and angry. Like Shostakovich, he channels that anger with discipline. This three-movement work is a well-organized symphony, with themes and motives that build one upon the other.

Even without the political context, Symphony No. 8 works. Moyzes effectively communicates his emotions. And they're ones we can relate to in any era.

Naxos originally released these recordings in 2000 on the Marco Polo label. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra directed by Ladislav Slovák doesn't sound dated at all. These aren't audiophile recordings. But they are clear, and I could still hear plenty of detail in every track.

Alexander Moyzes: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; Ladislav Slovák, conductor
Naxos 8.57653

Friday, May 03, 2019

#ClassicsaDay #SovietaDay Week 1

For the third year running, the Classics a Day team chose to honor May Day. For the month of May, Soviet musicians are the theme. Last year I posted music by Soviet prize-winners

This time, I'm simply walking my way through the alphabet (Latin, not Cyrillic). The music I discovered proved anything but ordinary. Here are my posts for the first week of #SovietaDay.

5/1/19 Vasif Adigozalov (1935-2006) - Piano Concerto No. 4

Azerbaijan composer Adigozalov often incorporated folk music into his compositions. He wrote in many genres, including film, operetta, and popular songs.

5/2/19 Arno Babajanian (1921-1983)- Elegie in Memory of Khachaturian

Armenian composer Babajanian owes his start to Khachaturian. Kachaturian recommended the 5-year-old begin training, and 2 years later he began his musical studies.

5/3/19 Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944)- To Thee I sing, Op. 27 No. 2

Chesnokov was a choir director and wrote over 500 choral works. Most of them were sacred, which prevented them from being performed during the Soviet Era.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Delightful Lonati Sinfonias performed by Ensemble Gardino di Delizie

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati was considered one of the greatest violinists of the late 1600s. Little of his music survives, including just 10 sinfonias. These works provide some insight into the level of Lonati's skill, both as a composer and a performer.

Lonati's sinfonias a 3 require considerable skill to perform. The music often demands double stops, scordatura, and other advanced techniques. The members of the Ensemble Giardino di Delizie (EGD) perform with instruments of the period.

A Baroque violin requires a slightly different skill set than a modern instrument. Taking on some of the most difficult music of the period is no mean feat. But the EGD does so fearlessly -- and successfully.

There's a fluidity in the ensemble's playing that makes Lonati's music sparkle. Lonati often places the two violins on equal footing, requiring exceptional playing from both. Violinists Ewa Anna Augustynowicz and Katarzyna Solecka play with equal skill, letting the listener enjoy the exchange between them.

"Giardino di Delizie" translates as the Garden of Delights. That's certainly the case with this release. A delightful listening experience from beginning to end.

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati: Complete Sinfonias
Ensemble Giardino di Delizie
Brilliant Classics
2 CD Set

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Dussek Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 7 balances the simple and complex

Volume Seven of Brilliant Classics' on-going series has a nice balance. Jan Ladislav Dussek's massive sonata "Retour à Paris" is offset by the featherweight the Op. 47 "Sonata facile."

Sonata faciles were just that -- easy sonatas. Designed for the amateur, these works were simple in structure, and simple to perform.

Mozart and Beethoven both wrote sonata facile. And like Dussek, they imbued their works with more than superficial prettiness.

Dussek's Op. 47 sonatas have appealing melodies and stripped-down harmonies. But they also have solid structures.

Within the confines of the genre,
Dussek creates two sonatas that make the most of their motifs. Themes develop in interesting ways, and there's a sense of purpose with both these works (beyond selling sheet music to amateurs).

The Sonata in A flat major, "Retour à Paris" clocks in at 35 minutes. Dussek's musical language seems quite close to Schubert in this work. This 1807 work reflects Dussek's emotions of returning to a post-Revolution Paris.

The first two movements have a nostalgic air about them, mourning the Paris he left before the Revolution. The stormy scherzo leads to an upbeat rondo that suggests reconciliation with the Paris of Napoleon.
It's about as far removed from the sonata facile as one can get. This is a work for the professional pianist -- and one of Dussek's considerable ability.

Zvi Meniker possesses such an ability. His performance of the Op. 64 sonata was a joy to experience. Runs are clean and precise and climaxes satisfyingly dramatic. Meniker shapes the melodies carefully, calling attention to the structure of the work and keeping the listener oriented as it progresses.

Meniker performs at a 1797 Clementi fortepiano restored by Chris Maene. It sounds great (not something I'm likely to say). The action is quiet and responsive. The tone is very close to that of a modern piano. It serves Meniker's performances well, as Meniker serves Dussek's sonatas well.

Jan Ladislav Dussek: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 7
Sonata in D Op.47 Nos.1 & 2; Sonata in A flat Op.64 ‘Retour à Paris’
Zvi Meniker, fortepiano
Brilliant Classics 95606