Saturday, October 31, 2020

Spam Roundup October, 2020

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.

I'm sorry, what?

 - Nice on both you and your somebody has a intimately-outlined pouring body part. [My body parts don't pour, though they are poor.]

 - Businesses are always take to ask during the discourse and the info and processes participating.

 - Forbid the near ability to see the results of your cheeks. regain the gross iciness. [I hate that feeling of gross iciness.] 

 -  If not, you should ever familiarize yourself with your whispered earned medium of exchange to expend national leader wealth. [My whispered earned medium of exchange is certainly nothing to shout about.]

Lumbering Along still pulls in the bots

My modest post about a cheap Japanese toy remains popular. The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along is in no way related to the comments it generates.

 - Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you really understand what you're speaking about! 

 - I get pleasure from, result in I discovered just what I was taking a look for. [Glad I could pleasure you.]

 - This piece of writing is actually nice and I have learned lot of things from it. [You sound surprised.] 

 - Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam feedback? [You mean like this?]

Then there's this

 - Get a decrease on machine protection reward by fosterage your nipper,

Words fail me. More next month!

Friday, October 30, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalTimeMachine Week 4

For the month of October, the Classics a Day team turned nostalgic. Classical musicians have been making recordings since the 1890s. So we all have over 130 years of documented performance practices. And we can judge first-hand the artistry of legendary performers. 

The challenge is to post classical recordings made before 1949 (pre-LP era). Here are my posts for the fourth and final week of the #ClassicsaDay theme #ClassicalTimeMachine.

10/26/20 Britten Mazurka Elegiaca (1944)

Britten wrote this two-piano piece in memory of Igance Paderewski in 1941. Clifford Curzon invited Britten recorded the work with him for Decca in 1944.

10/27/20 Scriabin Sonata No. 4 (1939)

Russian pianist and composer Samuil Feinberg was considered Scriabin's musical heir. He was one of the first to perform all of Scriabin's sonatas. He recorded this sonata for Melodiya right before the war.

Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 (1934)

Violinist Bronislaw Huberman recorded this work with Issay Dobroven and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He provided his own cadenzas and decidedly unhistoric interpretations.

10/29/20 Grieg Wedding Day at Troldhaugen (1906)

Edvard Grieg made several piano rolls of his piano music for the Welte-Mignon player pianos. Their sophisticated system recorded differences in pedaling and phrasing.

10/30/20 Schubert Death and the Maiden (1928)

The Gewandhaus Quartet is comprised of members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. It was founded in 1808, the earliest professional string quartet.

Monday, October 26, 2020

"Buried Alive" unearths Roaring 20s classics

This release presents three works from the late 1920s. It was a time of reinvention. The First World War swept away the conventions of the Edwardian Age. 

Composers (and other artists) developed new forms of expression, that incorporated various elements of prewar aesthetics. Arthur Honegger, Othmar Schoeck, and Dmitri Mtropoulous were among them -- each choosing to take a slightly different way forward.

Honneger's "Rugby, (Mouvement symphonique) is the most familiar of the three works (being part of a trilogy that includes "Pacific 321." The music, though not specifically programmatic, effectively depicts the conflict of sport. Motifs move back and forth, clashing with increasing energy until one remains to finish the piece in triumph.

Dmitri Mitropoulos is best remembered as a conductor, but he also composed early in his career. His Concerto Grosso isn't a neo-classical work. Mitropoulos was an admirer of Arnold Schoenberg. The Concerto Grosso is a study in atonality and expressionism, framed in Baroque forms, such as the French overture, and treatments, such as fugues and canons. 

The eponymous composition, "Buried Alive" is the longest piece in the program. Othmar Schoeck greatly admired Hugo Wolf, and the bulk of his catalog is lieder. "Lebendig begraben" (Buried Alive), is a mature work, with Schoeck pushing against convention with exotic harmonies and obscured key centers. 

The song cycle for baritone and orchestra sets a series of poems by Swiss poet Gottfried Keller. The poet is literally buried alive. The poems are contemplations of his situation and events from his life, which ebbs away at the conclusion of the poem. 

Baritone Michael Nagy delivers what seems like a stream of consciousness monologue. Schoeck knew how to write for the voice -- and Nagy knows how to bring Schoeck's music to life. "Buried Alive' isn't operatic in gestures, but it is in emotional content. 

Leon Botstein conducts the Orchestra Now in some fine performances. "Rugby" has the necessary energy, and the Concerto Grosso the required precision. But it's "Buried Alive" where the superb musicianship of the conductor and orchestra come together (along with the soloist). Schoeck's score provides context for the voice. And it also wraps around the voice in a way that continually evokes claustrophobia.

Highly recommended.

Buried Alive
Honegger, Schoek, Mitropoulos
Michael Nagy, baritone
The Orchestra Now; Leon Botstein, conductor
Bridge Records 9540

Friday, October 23, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalTimeMachine Week 3

For the month of October, the Classics a Day team turned nostalgic. Classical musicians have been making recordings since the 1890s. So we all have over 130 years of documented performance practices. And we can judge first-hand the artistry of legendary performers. 

The challenge is to post classical recordings made before 1949 (pre-LP era). Here are my posts for the third week of the #ClassicsaDay theme #ClassicalTimeMachine.

10/19/20 Richard Strauss - Also Sprach Zarathustra (1944)

Strauss recorded this and other works with the Vienna Philharmonic as part of his eightieth birthday

10/20/20 Elgar - Cello Concerto (1920)

Edward Elgar finished this work in 1919. He recorded it a year later, chopping it down from 29 minutes to 15. Elgar conducted a reduced orcehstra for the acoustic recording, with Beatrice Harrison soloist.

10/21/20 Mahler Second Symphony (1934)

This is a transcribed recording of a concert bpradcast in 1934. Arnold Schoenberg, Mahler's friend and early champion of his music, conducts the Cadillac Symphony.

10/22/20 Elgar - Cello Concerto (1920)

Elgar finished this in 1919. He recorded it a year later, chopping it down from 29 minutes to 15. Elgar conducted a reduced orchestra for the acoustic recording, with Beatrice Harrison.

10/23/20 Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue (1924)

George Gershwin premiered the work with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra Feb. 12, 1924, and they recorded it four months later. The score was reduced by 1/3 to fit unto the 12-inch discs.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Sarah Connolly shines in Arthur Bliss cantatas

This outstanding release presents three relatively late works by Arthur Bliss. At the time, they were considered a little old-fashioned. Heard now, though, I think they show the originality of Bliss' vision -- and his skill at orchestral writing. 

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly shines in "The Enchantress" and "Mary of Magdala." Her voice can sound warm, with rich honeyed tones. Or it can have a steely edge to it, projecting a menacing strength. 

That wide range of technique is put to the test with "The Enchantress." Bliss wrote the work for Kathleen Ferrier, "in admiration of her singing." It played to all of Ferrier's vocal and dramatic strengths. And from the sound of this performance, Connolly's as well. 

"Mary of Magdala" is also dramatic, but of a more subtle nature. Mary Magdalene is grieving at Jesus' open tomb when the gardener talks to her. As she converses with him, she slowly realizes that it's actually Jesus, and her grief turns to overwhelming joy. 

Connolly presents the initial emotions of Mary with restraint (compared with those in "The Enchantress"). And while that loosens as the work progresses, Connolly remains focused. She presents Mary's joy as spiritual rather than visceral.

Also included is Bliss' commission for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, "Meditations on a Theme by John Blow." The theme was a setting of Psalm 23. Each meditation uses a different passage, making this work a study in contrasts. 

Andrew Davis leads the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in some fine performances. This is an SACD release. If you choose to purchase a digital version, opt for the highest resolution you can. The fine details of Sarah Connolly's singing --especially in "The Enchantress" should not be missed. 

Arthur Bliss: Mary of Magdala
The Enchantress; Meditations on a Theme by John Blow
Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano; James Platt, bass
BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Andrew Davis, conductor
Chandos CHSA 5242

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Joan Manén - a composer worth knowing

At one time, Joan Manén was as famous as his contemporary (and fellow Catalan) Pablo Casals. Manén rose to fame as a violin virtuoso and composer. During his career, he rubbed shoulders and performed with Antonin Dvorak, Max Bruch, and Richard Strauss.

By the late 1930s, Manén's attraction as a performer was in decline. Although he had composed throughout his career, he turned now exclusively to composition. The works in this release are from that time.

The 1940 Violin Concerto No. 3 is subtitled "Ibérico." it's not as overtly Spanish as a Rodrigo works. Rather, the concerto seems to take inspiration from the fire and passion of Iberian music.

Spanish violinist Ana Maria Valderrama is incredible. She seems to "get" Manén's subtext, drawing out his long, lyrical melodies. And she is more than a match for Manén's technical challenges. Manén wrote the violin part based on his own abilities. They were -- and Valderrama's are -- formidable.

Symphony No. 2 "Ibérica" comes much later. In 1953 Manén was 70 years old, and still composing music on his own terms. The work is a sprawling post-Romantic edifice. The Spanish elements are more prominent in this work, but ethnicity isn't really the point.

Manén lays out his material and takes the listener on a journey through his sonic construction. It's quite a trip.

Darrel Ang conducts different orchestras for each of these works. His conducting provides consistency of interpretation, making this release a cohesive whole.

I was not at all familiar with Joan Manén before. I definitely want to hear more.

Joan Manén
Violin Concerto No. 3 "Ibérico" (sin tono) Op. A-37
Symphony No. 2 "Ibérica"Op. A-47
Ana Maria Valderrama, violin
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra; National Orchestra of Catalonia; Darrell Ang, conductor
Naxos 8.574274-75   2 CD Set

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Cantica Symphonia masterfully perform Josquin Desprez

This is the fourth volume of music by Josquin Desprez that Cantica Symphonia has released on Glossa. 

Giuseppe Maletto and the ensemble released two volumes of Josquin's motets, plus one of chansons. Their next release was a collection of Marian motets (compositions in praise of the Virgin Mary) by various Renaissance composers. 

 This recording seems the next logical step -- a collection of Marian motets by Josquin Desprez. It's actually a little broader than that. The program also includes instrumental songs and a Stabat Mater (also about the Virgin Mary). 

The Cantica Symphonia knows Josquin well, and their performances show it. Their vocal blend is almost seamless. There's enough separation to hear how each line fits together, created harmonies solely through interaction. 

These were motets written to inspire contemplation, and they do. Maletto's direction shapes the music in subtle ways. The ensemble performs calmly, invoking a feeling of serenity. Closer listening reveals subtle phrasing that gives these performances their expressive power. 

This is a wonderful collection of Josquin's music. He was considered the greatest composer of his age. As this release shows. even within this tightly focused grouping, Josquin's imagination was limitless. 

Josquin Desprez: Stabat Mater 
Marian motets and instrumental songs 
Cantica Symphonia; Giuseppe Maletto 
Glossa GCD P31909

Monday, October 19, 2020

Aquarelles -- fine music-making with old friends

This is what chamber music should be about -- a conversation among old friends. Bonita Boyd, Steven Doane, and Barry Snyder are all long-time current or former faculty of the Eastman School of Music. 

The individual performances are top-flight, as one might expect of such musicians. But they're also fully integrated. All three performers are in sync, sharing the same musical vision for each work. 

And those works make an interesting program. Three are relatively modern; the trios by Martinu, Gaubert, and Damase. Then there's the Trio for Piano, Flute, and Cello, Op. 63 by Carl Maria von Weber.

This 1819 work is quite delightful, full of rich harmonies and highly-charged climaxes, and dramatic contrasts. Coming after the three relatively austere 20th Century trios, this music sounds refreshing. 

Virgil Thompson called Martinu's Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano H.300 "the work of a fine jeweler." It's easy to hear why. Martinu's themes are precisely balanced and expertly developed. The harmonies counter melodies, and accompanying figures are all interrelated, resulting in a work that's both simple and complex.

Phillipe Gaubert was a founder of the French Flute School. His trio was originally written for a standard piano trio. But he allowed the substitution of the flute fo the violin, and that's the version most commonly played today. Although all three parts are substantial, it's flutist Bonite Boyd that shines in this performance.

The trio of Jean-Michel Damase reinterprets the Baroque style. Damase's neo-classical work retains much of the form of the older style while infusing it with decidedly modern harmonies and melodic contours. 

Each work is worthy of attention. But what makes this album desirable are the performances of these three friends.

Bohuslav Martinu, Philippe Gaubert, Jean-Michel Damase, Carl Maria von Weber
Bonita Boyd, flute; Steven Doane, cello; Barry Snyder, piano
Bridge Records 9539

Friday, October 16, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalTimeMachine Week 2

For the month of October, the Classics a Day team turned nostalgic. Classical musicians have been making recordings since the 1890s. So we all have over 130 years of documented performance practices. And we can judge first-hand the artistry of legendary performers. 

The challenge is to post classical recordings made before 1949 (pre-LP era). Here are my posts for the second week of the #ClassicsaDay theme #ClassicalTimeMachine.

10/12/20 Bruckner - Symphony No. 8 (1944)

This performance by Herbert von Karajan and the Orchester der Berliner Staatsoper was partially recorded in stereo. It was one of thousands of master recordings to disappear into Russia after the war. Many (including this one) were only returned to Germany in the 1980s.

10/13/20 Elgar Salut d'amour (1927)

Isolde Menges was a student of Sauret and Auer, and one of the most important violinists of the early 20th Century. She was the first artist to make a complete recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in 1923.

10/14/20 Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 1 (1934)

Artur Schnabel recorded all of Beethoven's 32 sonatas plus additional piano works for HMV. They were originally only available by subscription, in a set of 102 78 RPM discs.

10/15/20 Ravel Jeux d'eau (1920)

Russian-born pianist Benno Miselwitsch began his recording career with 78 RPM shellac discs and ended with stereo LPs. Ampico (American Piano Company) recruited many top artists to record piano rolls.

10/16/20 Chopin - Valse Brilliante Op. 34, No. 1 (1922)

Ignacy Jan Paderewski made both acoustic and piano roll recordings. Aeolian Duo-Art piano roll recordings captured far more detail than any other company's.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Raphael Wallfisch shows affinity for Weinberg Cello Concerto

At first blush, it may seem like a recording of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's music doesn't belong in the Cello Concertos by Exiled Jewish Composers series. After all, wasn't Weinberg a Soviet composer?

He was, but he very much belongs in this series. Weinberg was born in Warsaw. His family moved to Russia, and after the Revolution, it was impossible for him to return. He was effectively an exile within the Soviet Union. 

And his religion and personality made him somewhat of a political exile, too. Weinberg seemed to alternate between winning Stalin prizes and threatened with arrest.

The works in this release show a slightly different side of Weinberg. His style is often compared to that of his close friend Dimitri Shostakovich. These works, though, have a strong Jewish musical element in them. And that sound is purely Weinberg. 

This release features three works. The Cello Concertino Op.43bis served as the basis for the much larger Cello Concerto Op. 43 (both performed here). Also included is the  Fantasia, Op. 52. 

The Concerto is double the length of the Concertino -- but it's just padding. The Concertino is a modest, tightly-focused work. Weinberg's music features Jewish melodic elements prominently, IN 1948 such overtly religious overtones were dangerous, and the work remained shelved and unheard for decades. 

In expanding the work, Weinberg softened the Jewish elements. But Wallfisch's playing shows they're still there. He bends the tones in the style of a Jewish cantor, making plain the work's foundation. 

The Fantasia also uses Jewish melodic patterns, but this time set against harmonies that are both more complex and less tonal than his 1943 concerto. 

As always, Wallfisch's sympathetic performances provide insight into the scores. In this case, his decision to highlight the Jewish elements in the music provides added insight into the complex personality of Mieczyslaw Weinberg.  

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Cello Concerto Op. 43
Fantasy, op. 42; Concertino op. 43bis
Cello Concertos by Exiled Jewish Composers
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra; Lukasz Borowicz, conductor

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Alexander Kastalsky Requiem a major -- and important -- release

To me, this is the epitome of a major release. It's a world premiere recording of a major work with an assemblage of all-stars. Alexander Kastalsky's Commemoration for Fallen Brothers honors the casualties of the First World Way with a universal message.

Kastalsky began work on this massive work in 1914 and completed it in 1917 when Russia withdrew from the war. Only part of the requiem was performed during Kastalsky's lifetime. The new Soviet state suppressed all forms of religious expression -- including requiems. 

The world premiere of the complete work occurred a century later, during the Centennial of the First World War. Kastalsky's work is both ambitious and massive -- and it works on every level. 

He wrote that the music depicts a memorial ceremony with representatives from Russia and her allies -- France, Britain, and Serbia. Kataslky used liturgical music and the native language of each country to depict the representatives approaching the memorial to lay their wreaths. 

Kastalsky was a student of Tchaikovsky. His orchestrations are rich and evocative. The harmonies underscore the power of the words and sustain the reverent mood throughout the 64-minute work.

And what a collection of artists! The assembled choir includes the Clarion Choir, which specializes in Slavonic repertoire, and the Saint Tikhon Choir, the choir of American's oldest Orthodox Christian monastery. There's also the Cathedral Choral Society of the Washington National Cathedral; and the Kansas City Chorale, which won Grammys for their recordings of Grechinov's Passion Week and Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil. 

The Orchestra of St. Lukes' is directed by Leonard Slatkin. And this live recording in the National Cathedral was produced by Blanton Alspaugh, winner of multiple Grammys for choral and orchestral recordings.

The singing is simply flawless. And there's a luminous quality to the blended voices that reinforces the spirituality of the music. The sound of the voices and instruments filling the vaulted space of the cathedral is incredibly beautiful. And the performances deliver time and again. Each country's religious expression sounds true and authentic, each conveying deep emotion. 

This is indeed the epitome of a major release. 

 Alexander Kastalsky: Requiem for Fallen Brothers
Anna Dennis, soprano; Joseph Beutel, bass-baritone
Cathedral Choral Society; the Clarion Choir; the Saint Tikhon Choir; Kansas City Chorale
Orchestra of St. Luke's; Leonard Slatkin, conductor

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Francesco Mancini Recorder Sonatas engage the ear

Francesco Mancini's collection of XII Solos for a Violin or Flute were first published in London around 1724. They proved so popular that the music went through at least three editions.

As the title suggests, Mancini's music was composed for either violin or flute. "Flute" was a somewhat generic term, and could apply to either a wooden transverse flute or a recorder. The latter is what Daniele Salvatore plays in this collection. 

He actually uses a variety of instruments; two different alto recorders, a voice flute, a soprano recorder, and a one-keyed flute. The subtle differences in timbre between these instruments also change the character of the music. 

The result is an engaging program of well-crafted sonatas that show Mancini's talent and inventiveness. 

Also included are two toccatas for cembalo. These provide further variety to the program and additional interest. Mancini was skilled at counterpoint as these works demonstrate. 

Salvatore has carefully researched this music, and that knowledge informs his performances. These sonatas sound fresh and spontaneous, with Salvatore expertly shaping the phrases to best effect.

A welcome addition to anyone's collection of Italian Baroque music (and if you don't have one, start here).  

Francesco Mancini: XII Solos for a Violin or Flute
Daniele Salvatore, recorders
Armonia delle Sfere
2 CD Set

Monday, October 12, 2020

American Gifts presents new music for marimba duos

Full disclosure: I majored in keyboard percussion as an undergrad, specializing in marimba. So of COURSE I was looking forward to auditioning this release. 

And it didn't disappoint. Jack Van Geem and Nancy Zeitsman are superb players. I was also impressed by the recorded sound. 

The marimba has warm, resonant tones in its lower register and clear notes with sharp decay in the upper. Recording the instrument to balance the various timbres takes a little extra effort -- which was taken here. 

I was also impressed with the selection of music. Three of the selections were arranged from solo piano pieces. More than just transcription is involved -- especially if you're moving from one keyboard (the piano) to two (dual marimbas). 

The arrangements were quite skillful, and seemed to lay well on the instruments. And I appreciated the choices. In my opinion, Irving Fine and Roger Sessions are a little undervalued in the field of American music. 

Hearing Fine's Music for Piano and Session's Piano Sonata No. 1 was somewhat refreshing. 

Joseph Brachett's "Simple Gifts" is a piano piece based on the well-known tune. He deconstructs the hymn, shifting harmonic centers between phrases and reducing the melody to its basic components. 

If, like me, you're tired of this over-used tune, give "Simple Gifts" a listen. It's refreshing.

Michael Tilson Thomas' Island Music was composed for marimbas and percussion -- and specifically for Van Geem and Zeitsman. Thomas does evoke island culture without resorting to musical cliches (no Baja Marimba Band here).

Thomas dedicated the work to Lou Harrison, and there are some stylistic similarities. Thoams keeps his harmonies simple and his rhythms complex. And I enjoyed it. 

American Gifts for Marimba Duo
Jack Van Geem and Nancy Zeitsman
Bridge Records 9534  

Friday, October 09, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalTimeMachine Week 1

For the month of October, the Classics a Day team turned nostalgic. Classical musicians have been making recordings since the 1890s. So we all have over 130 years of documented performance practices. And we can judge first-hand the artistry of legendary performers. 

The challenge is to post classical recordings made before 1949 (pre-LP era). Here are my posts for the first ten days of the #ClassicsaDay theme #ClassicalTimeMachine.

10/01/20 Claude Debussy: Claire de Lune (rec. 1913)

This is one of 14 pieces Debussy recorded on a Welte-Mgnon reproducing piano. The machine encoded pedaling, dynamics and phrasing for piano roll reproduction.


10/02/20 Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 (rec. 1924)

In January, 1924 Sergei Rachmaninoff recorded his concerto with Leopold Stokowski. Because of recording limitations, a reduced orchestra was used, with bass sax replacing contrabasses, and contra-basson replacing timpani.


10/05/20 Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 5 (1944)

This recording was made in 1944 Berlin while the city was being bombed around the clock. Walter Gieseking is the soloist, and the Grosses Berliner Rundfunkorchester is conducted by Arthur Rother. At about 2:30 and 5:40 the sound of antiaircraft guns can be heard in the background.


10/06/20 Joseph Suk - String Quartet Op. 11 (1928)

The Bohemian String Quartet (previously the Czech String Quartet) was founded in 1891. These 78 rpms preserve the late-Romantic style of string playing that composers like Suk and Dvorak had in mind when they composed for quartets.


10/07/20 Mozart "Der Holle Rache" from the Magic Flute (1937-38)

Sir Thomas Beecham recorded the complete music to the Magic Flute with Berlin Philharmonic. The set consisted of 19 78-rpm discs. Erna Berger was the Queen of the Night, with Helge Roswaenge, Tiana Lemnitz, Gerhard Hursh, and Irma Beilka rounding out the cast.


10/08/20 Massenet: Meditation from Thais (1910)

Fritz Kreilser recorded several sides for Victor in 1910. These were acoustic recordings, with Kreisler standing very close to a large horn that funneled the sound down to the cutter that inscribed it on the platter.


10/09/20 Mozart: Marriage of Figaro Overture (1913)

Arthur Nikisch was the first conductor to record a complete symphony. This overture was recorded in 1913 fro HMV with a stripped down London Symphony Orchestra.


Thursday, October 08, 2020

Hans Gal remembers Vienna in his recorder music

Although "Remembering Vienna" may seem like part of the current Hans Gal recording boom, that's not quite the case. Recorder player Sabrina Fey and pianist Bernard Parz were friends at university. 

But her specialty was early music, and his Viennese repertoire. It seemed they would never be able to perform together -- until they discovered these works by Hans Gal.

And it's a perfect union. Gal wrote a few works for the recorder, but they're all well-crafted and tuneful. Well-worth the time and effort of a talented recorder player.

And Gal, who fled Austria in 1938, continued to compose in a post-Romantic Viennese style for the rest of his life. Ideal for a pianist specializing in that style.

The result is a collection of attractive and appealing works. They're modest in scope, but Frey and Parz deliver heartfelt performances. And I think some of the delights of finally being able to perform together comes through in their duets.

The album also includes Gal's Op. 110 set for solo recorder, and his Three Small Pieces for Piano, op. 64. So we get to hear these talented performers individually as well as collectively. 

If you're a Hans Gal completist, then of course you should add this release to your library. But if you just enjoy beautiful chamber music, then you also should give "Remembering Vienna" a listen.  

Hans Gal: Remembering Vienna
First Complete Recordings for Flauto and Piano
Sabrina Frey, flauto; Bernard Parz, piano

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Johann Brandl Symphony anticipates Beethoven

This release features two works by Johann Evangelist Brandl, a younger contemporary of Mozart. Their lives were hardly parallel, but both had to deal with the business of music -- like finding employment. 

Brandl composed his Symphonie Concertante for just that purpose. He used the work as an audition piece for prospective employers (members of the nobility). The Concertante worked, and Brandl landed a post at the Karlsruher Court as first violinist. 

The piece is in the early Classical style, light and tuneful. It also features prominent solo roles for the violin and cello. 

David and Alexandro Castro-Balbi respectively perform those parts. The pair are well-matched, turning their solo and duet passages into a conversation. 

Also included is Brandl's Symphony in D major, written in 1792. The work is actually quite advanced. To me, it anticipates Beethoven, whose first symphony would appear eight years later.

The themes are big, the climaxes are thrown into sharp relief. And the harmonies sound more like Beethoven than Mozart to me. 

Kevin Griffiths leads the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz. The recorded sound has a little bit of a soft-focus for my taste. But the performances are quite good. This is the second Brandl recording by these musicians. I trust there will be more.

Johann Evangelist Brandl
Symphonie Concertante, Op. 20; Symphony in D
Nanthild, das Mädchen von Valbella, Op 50 Overture
David Castro-Balbi, violin; Alexandre Castro-Balbi, cello
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz; Kevin Griffiths, conductor



Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Julius Rontgen Piano Concertos - originality in traditional forms

In the Netherlands, Julius Röntgen is a cultural hero. But for the rest of the world, not so much. If you're not familiar with Röntgen, this release is a good starting point. 

Röntgen was a piano virtuoso, whose playing at age 14 impressed Franz Liszt. Röntgen was friends with Brahms. Although he lived until 1932, Röntgen's musical language retained some of Brahms' aesthetic. 

That aesthetic is strong in Röntgen's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor from 1887. Stylistically, it sounded to me as somewhere between Grieg and Tchaikovsky. The piano soloist jumps in right at the beginning and keeps the music churning with big, sweeping gestures and complex fingerwork. 

The 6th and 7th Piano Concertos, written in 1929, have a different character. These concertos are both solidly tonal. And yet the harmonies seem simpler, and chord motion a little more angular. 

The 6th Concerto in E minor is somewhat introspective and somber. The 7th Concerto isn't. Röntgen delivers a new-Baroque/folk-inspired confection that's pure entertainment.    

Pianist Oliver Triend plays with enthusiasm. Röntgen loved to perform, and Triendl conveys that feeling effectively. Plus he has the chops to handle all of Röntgen's technical challenges.

Röntgen wrote in a style that used the language of the late-Romantic without being hampered by it. Original music cast in familiar forms.

Julius Röntgen: Piano Concertos 3, 6, and 7
Oliver Triendl, piano
Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra; Hermann Baumer, conductor


Monday, October 05, 2020

Cavatina Duo refreshes the repertoire

It's a real challenge to take something very familiar and make it sound new. And not just novelty new, but new that retains the substance of the original. I think the Cavatina Duo successfully met that challenge, not once but twice with this new recording. 

They present an arrangement of Marin Marais' "Follies d'Espagne." The tune was a common theme for variations in the Baroque. Marais' set is perhaps one of the best.

Moving the melody from the viola da gamba to the flute does more than significantly brighten it. To me, it threw Marais' intricate reworkings of the theme into sharp clarity. 

Plus, Denis Azabagic's guitar accompaniment brought out the Spanish origins of the tune. Something I was intellectually aware of but hadn't really heard in most recordings.

Georg Philipp Telemann's Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute is a staple of the repertoire. And while every flutist seems intent on recording them, I personally never found them that interesting -- as a whole. 

The duo commissioned Alan Thomas to create a guitar part for the Fantasias, and the difference is revelatory. The accompaniment sounds stylistically correct, so it supports rather than detracts from the flute part. 

But it does more. Harmonies are fleshed out. Countermelodies are introduced. And all of it serves to bring out details in Telemann's original music. Details that were implied by the single line instrument, but not realized. 

This was one version I enjoyed from start to finish. 

And of course, part of that enjoyment was listening to the performances. Euginia Moliner plays with a full, round tone that adds to the beauty of the music. And Azabagic's playing is as impeccable as always.

If you're familiar with these works, then you should definitely check out Cavatina Duo's take on them. And if you're not, well, go ahead and get this release and you might not have to bother with others.  

Folias and Fantasias
Cavatina Duo plays Marais and Telemann
Bridge Records 9541

Friday, October 02, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalBubble Week 5

This month's Classics a Day theme follows a trend. In May 2020 we were sheltering in place. The theme was #ClassicalDistancing -- music for unusual solo instruments best played at home. In June, social bubbles were allowed, and so the theme #ClassicalBubble called for duos. Again, for unusual instruments best played at home.

This month we ease the restrictions even further with a theme of trios. Trios for unusual instruments etc., etc. Here are my selections for the final week of the expanded #ClassicalBubble.

09/28/20 Mary Ellen Childs - Click

The composer calls Click "a fast-paced gamelike work for three stick-wielding performers." And how.

09/29/20 Franz Joseph Haydn - London Trio No. 1 for Three Flutes

Usually flute trios of this period would include flute, piano, and cello. This lineup is very unusual.

09/30/20 Nebojsa Zivkovic - Trio per Uno, Op. 27

This three-movement work places three percussionists around a shared bass drum with an assortment of other instruments.

Next Month:

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Rezniceck String Quartets late-Viennese Gems

The title of this release is officially "Five String Quartets." But it actually has six, as the fourth quartet is essentially a reworking of the second. 

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek's quartets have a complex history. It may hinder musicologists' work with Reznick's catalog. But it needn't detract from enjoying these works.

Reznicek continued to write in a form of the late Viennese Romantic tradition throughout his career. Though the quartets in this release span a half-century, their style remain remarkably consistent. 

Reznicek's first quartet was a student work, completed in 1881. It's an uncomplicated quartet. Each movement is direct and to the point.

His second quartet was revised and expanded, becoming the String Quartet No. 4. The revision is quite close to the original. Reznicek changed the key from C sharp minor to d minor and added a fourth movement. Although published in 1921, it retains some of the simplicity of the 1881 original.

The third quartet, also from 1921 sounds like a more mature work. It and the two other quartets show Reznicek in top form. The themes have substantial depth and are more fully developed. 

Reznicek's harmonies, though tonal, seem to stretch out more. In the process, they partially obscure the key centers, albeit temporarily. 

They may have sounded a little old-fashioned in the late 1930s. But taken on their own merits, I think all five of these quartets show considerable skill and reward careful listening. 

The Minguet Quartett delivers sympathetic performances. The ensemble has a warmth to it that suites Reznicek's style quite well. Plus they individually and collectively play with beautiful expression. And that, I think, is at the heart of Reznicek's late-Viennese style. 

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek: Five String Quartets
Minguet Quartett
CPO 555-002-2