Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mona and Rica Bard jumpstart Bruch double piano concerto

This release features two live recordings from a Max Bruch Jubilee Concert. The recorded sound and the performances are first-rate. The Staatskapelle Halle directed by Ariane Matiakh has a warm sound that's still richly detailed. The audience is so well-behaved that this could pass for a studio recording. 

For many, Buch is a one-hit-wonder. His first violin concerto has overshadowed the rest of his catalog. The Jubilee Concert seems to have addressed that. 

The Suite on Russian Themes shows Bruch as a master orchestrator. He doesn't do much more than present the folk songs as-is. Interest is maintained through his inventive use of tonal color that varies greatly throughout the work.

Bruch's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra was commissioned by sister pianists to play together in concert. Here, sisters Mona and Rica Bard are the soloists.

The story of the concerto is far too complex to relate here. Suffice it to say that the Bards perform the original four-movement version. Their playing is wonderfully expressive, and at times they perform as one. 

Parts of the work reminded me of Brahms and other parts of Mendelssohn. And while this won't replace Bruch's violin concerto as his greatest composition, it's still an enjoyable piece. There are plenty of well-crafted melodies. And the overall structure of this four-movement work plays against audience expectations time and again.

An excellent recording of some exciting live performances. Recommended.

Max Bruch: Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, Op. 88a
Suite on Russian Themes, Op. 79b
Mona and Rica Bard, pianos
Staatskapelle Halle; Ariane Matiakh, conductor

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Florent Schmitt release balances the familiar with the unknown

This release mixes Florent Schmitt's most recorded work --La Tragédie de Salomé -- with some receiving their world recording premieres. But it's all Schmitt, so it's all good.

Maestro JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra do well with late Romantic/early Post Romantic repertoire. Their previous Schmidtt recording of Antoine et Cleopatre was outstanding. As is this.

Falletta draws out the essence of Schmidtt's "Salomé" score. She goes beneath the superficial orientalisms to bring out the overripe decadence of Herod's court. This performance would be ideal accompaniment the 1923 Nazimova silent film, "Salomé." 

Of equal interest are the other works on this release. The ballet suite from "Oriane et le Prince d'Amour" is a wonderful example of French Impressionism. The music seems to ebb and flow, telling its story through a soft-focus lens.

Schmitt's "Légende" was originally composed for saxophone. But it works quite well as a showpiece for violin, especially as presented here. Nikke Chooi's performance is expressive without being sentimental, forceful without being harsh.

If you're not that familiar with Schmitt, this release is a great place to start.  

Florent Schmitt: La Tragédie de Salomé
Musique sur l'eau; Oriane et le Prince d'Amour; Légende
Susan Platts, mezzo-soprano; Nikki Chooi, violin
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta, conductor 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Carl Reinecke: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 show influences

Carl Reinecke studied with Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt. And those influences can be heard in various works. For his piano concertos, it's Liszt. For his symphonies, it's more Mendelssohn/Schumann.

At least, that's what I heard in this first installment of Reinecke's orchestral works from CPO. It includes two of Reinecke's symphonies, plus music from his opera   König Manfred

The 1858 Symphony No. 1 in A major shows the strongest Mendelssohn influence, particularly in the middle movements. The scherzo especially has some of Mendelssohn's playfulness to it. The outer movements, though, reminded me more of Schumann in motivic development. 

Reinecke's third and final symphony, written in 1894 is a different matter. The material is more substantial, and the methodical working-out of motifs. The organization may be inspired by Brahms, but Reinecke has plenty to say on his own. 

König Manfred (1867) may have been Reinecke's most successful opera, but it's virtually unperformed today. The various segments presented here (Overture, Romanze, and Act V Prelude) are all fine works. They're stirring and dramatic. I can't speak for the whole opera, but these orchestral excerpts are both tuneful and entertaining. 

Henry Raudales and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester deliver some good performances. The orchestra has a mellow warmth to it that seems to suit Reinecke's music. I look forward to future installments.

Carl Reinecke: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
Münchner Rundfunkorchester; Henry Raudales, conductor
CPO 555 114

Monday, December 28, 2020

New England Trios make a solid program

Joel Pitchon, Marie-Volcuy Pelletier, and Y-Mei Wei had a very specific program in mind for this recording. In the liner notes, they state that they wanted piano trios that that "spoke with an American, and even more narrowly, a New England voice." In the end their focus waw even tighter.

The four piano trios on this release are all indeed from New England. In fact, they're all tied to Harvard University. Walter Piston was on the Harvard faculty when Lenard Bernstein studied with him. Ronald Perara also attended Harvard, studied with Leon Kirchner. 

Three of the four works presented receive their world premiere recordings. 

These trios are all finely crafted, but it's the craft of the musicians that animate them. Pitchon, Pelletier, and Wei perform organically, playing as with one accord. This was the music they sought out to record, and they own it.

Walter Piston's first trio was composed in 1935; his second in 1966. The two works frame the program, providing a certain amount of context. 

Bernstein's piano trio is a student work, written just a few years after his teacher's. There's a distinctive difference, though. Knowing what Bernstein would late compose, one can hear traces of popular music embedded in the trio.

Ronald Perara's 2002 trio is the most recent on the release. And yet it has strong connections with the others. Perara's work is, like Piston's trios, an exercise in pure music. And tonally based music at that.

I think the musicians succeeded in their goal. These are works of great artistry and individuality. While there is a commonality to them, the voices of each composer take each trio in slightly different directions. 

Harvard's music composition program could use this release as a recruiting tool.

New England Trios
Music by Walter Piston, Leonard Bernstein, Ronald Perara
Joel Pitchon, violin, Marie-Volcuy Pelletier, cello; Yu-Mei Wei, piano

Bridge Records 9530

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christian Friedrich Ruppe cantatas have broad appeal

Handel wrote "Messiah" to benefit the London Foundlings Hospital and it's now a holiday standard. Christian Friedrich Ruppe wrote his cantatas to benefit an orphan's home in Leiden. After their initial performances, they remained unheard for 250 years.

Ruppe wrote the Christmas and Easter cantatas on this release for the Holy Spirit of Poor Orphans and Children's Home. 

The works were not only to be performed to raise funds for the home but were sung by the orphanage choir founded by Ruppe. After the concerts, the music was stored away, only to be rediscovered in 1987.

These cantatas have a directness and simplicity I found charming. The limits of the orphanage's choir may have constrained Ruppe technically, but not melodically. Each chorus is just one beautifully turned phrase after another. 

The solo voices also have somewhat simple music. Simple, and attractive. I'm reminded of Haydn's choral writing (for his operas, that is). 

Jed Wentz leads his assembled forces in elegantly balanced performances. The Musica ad Rhenum, performing with historically accurate instruments, create a full, warm sound in line with the character of Ruppe's music. 

The Ensemble Bouzignac has more than enough talent to handle Ruppe's choruses. And they use that to make them beautifully mellifluous. 

OK, it isn't "Messiah," or even "The Seasons." But these cantatas are straight-forward and direct in their appeal. And I think that's quite appealing. 

Christian Friedrich Ruppe
Christmas Cantata; Easter Cantata
Francine van der Heyden, soprano; Karin van der Poel, mezzo-soprano; Otto Bouwknegt, tenor; Mitchel Sandler, bass
Ensemble Bouzignac; Musica ad Rhenum; Jed Wentz, conductor
Brilliant Classics, 96108


#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Week 4

For the past four years, the #ClassicsaDay team has adopted  Classical Christmas as its theme for December. And why not? We have a rich body of music related to the season dating back to the Middle Ages. A good deal of it is religious, but not all -- many works are simply inspired by the time of year. 

As always, I tried to select music that I hadn't shared before while avoiding the obvious (like Vivaldi's "Winter"). Here are my posts for the fourth week of #ClassicalChristmas

12/21/20 Alessandro Scarlatti - Christmas Cantata

Scarlatti is credited with developing this form. Unlike most music performed in the church, the Christmas Cantata was sung in the vernacular, rather than Latin.

12/22/20 Rimsky-Korsakov - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was a four-act opera Rimsky-Korsakov finished in 1895. In 1904 he created an orchestral suite from the opera's music.

12/23/20 Adolphus Hailstork - Christmas Everywhere

"Everywhere, Everywhere Christmas Tonight!" was written by Rev. Phillps Brooks in the 1880s. Hailstork set the poem in 1993.

12/24/20 John Knowles Paine - Christmas Gift, Op. 7

Paine composed this piano work in 1862. It's one of his earliest published works, written when he was 23.

12/25/20 Margaret Bonds - Ballad of the Brown King

Langston Hughes wrote the libretto for this 1954 cantata. It uses Balthazar to "reinforce the image of African participation in the Nativity story."

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Auber Overtures 3 -- keeps gets better

Maestro Dario Salvi leads a different ensemble for this installment of Auber opera overtures. The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra has a full, yet light sound that sometimes seems to sparkle. 

And that's a sound well-suited to Auber's music. And especially these overtures. Auber set the standard for French opera. His music is elegant, refined, and dazzling. 

As with the other volumes, this release features some interesting programming. The disc starts with the Grand Overture for the Inauguration of the Londres Exposition of 1862. It has all the gravitas such an occasional work requires. 

Also included is music from Les Chaperons Blancs, one of Auber's least successful operas. Perhaps the entire opera doesn't work, but the overture and entr'acte music certainly do (which can be a real advantage to collections like these).

Rêve d'amour was Auber's final opera. It's run was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War. The score shows Auber still able to delight and engage audiences at 88. It's especially interesting to listen to this music  

It's preceded on the album with the overture to La Muette de Portici -- music that was written four decades before Rêve d'amour. Moving from one to the other Auber's growth as a composer is readily apparent.  

A strong addition to this series.

Daniel-François-Esprit Auber: Overtures 3
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Dario Salvi, conductor
Naxos 8.574007


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Robert Furstenthal Chamber Music Volume 3 maintains quality

This latest installment of Furstenthal's music features four instrumental sonatas and a string quartet. Like the preceding volumes, the music here is of very fine quality, and timeless.

Furstenthal's promising musical career was derailed when Austria was invaded in 1838. The young composer fled to the United States -- and never wrote another note. 

Not until 1973, that is, when Furstenthal reconnected with his first love. Thanks to her encouragement, he began writing again and continued composing for the rest of his life (Furstenthal died in 2016, aged 96.) 

Furstenthal said that "when I compose, I am back in Vienna." That sense of nostalgia is strong in many of his works. Furstenthal's style is that of the late-Romantic. Some of these sonatas reminded me of Robert Fuch's music.

Furstenthal's instrumental sonatas have a deceptively simple charm about them. The technical challenges for the instrumentalists seem modest. But the works demand a high degree of musicianship to fully realize their expressiveness.

The members of the Rossetti Ensemble deliver, as they have on the previous volumes. The performances sound both sympathetic and invested. 

Furstenthal was a composer with something to say. Though it was long delayed, I'm glad Toccata Classics gave him the opportunity to be heard. 

Robert Furstenthal: Chamber Music, Volume Three
Rossetti Ensemble
Toccata Classics, TOCC 0577

Monday, December 21, 2020

Seasonal Serenity from Brian Galante and Stephen Paulus

This release features two world premiere recordings: Brian Galante's "So Hallow'd the Time,"  and Stephen Paulus' "Christmas Dances." They couldn't be in better hands. 

Robert Taylor's ensemble, the Taylor Festival Choir sings with a clean, translucent sound that resonates with the deep spirituality of these works. 

"So Hallow'd the Time" is a quiet contemplation on the time leading up to Christmas, moving from darkness to light. 

Galante lightly orchestrates his work with harp, flute, and violin. These instruments add a crystalline iciness to the score that's quite effective. 

Paulus composed his "Christmas Dances" in 2008. Its use of flute and harp with the choir reminds me a little of Britten's "Ceremony of Carols." But I like this better.

As with the Galante work, "Christmas Dances" evokes a sense of spirituality and serenity. Paulus conveys a sense of joyous wonder, though in a subtle fashion. 

If the holiday season is an especially trying time for you, give this release a listen. Choral music focused on the spiritual center of the season, sung with beauty and sensitivity, instilling a sense of tranquility. I love it.  

So Hallow'd the Time
Christmas Music by Brian Galante and Stephen Paulus
Taylor Festival Choir; Robert Taylor, conductor
Delos DE3580

Friday, December 18, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Week 3

For the past four years, the #ClassicsaDay team has adopted  Classical Christmas as its theme for December. And why not? We have a rich body of music related to the season dating back to the Middle Ages. A good deal of it is religious, but not all -- many works are simply inspired by the time of year. 

As always, I tried to select music that I hadn't shared before while avoiding the obvious (like Vivaldi's "Winter"). Here are my posts for the third week of #ClassicalChristmas

12/14/20 Giovanni Gabrieli - O Magnum Mysterium

Gabrieli used the space at St. Mark's like an instrument. His compositions for multiple choirs took into account the echos and delays of the sound, and how it could enhance the music. This work features two choirs of unequal size, adding dynamics to the mix.

12/15/20 Max Reger - Weihnachten

Reger originally wrote his Sieben Stücke for organ in 1915-16. Each song used Lutheran hymn tunes, including the third one, Wiehnachten (Christmas Day).

12/16/20 Giovanni Sammartini - Christmas Concerto

The Concerto Grosso in G minor Op. 5, No. 6 was originally composed for performance during Christmas Eve services. As is common for this sub-genre, it's quieter and more contemplative than a secular concerto grosso.

12/17/20 Vivaldi - Christmas Concerto "Il riposo-per il Santissimo Natale"

Corelli established the sub-genre of Christmas concertos with a multi-movement work. Vivaldi's concerto follows the contemplative nature of the form, but only has three movements.

12/18/20 Pietro Locatelli - Christmas Concerto

Locatelli followed Corelli's model for Christmas Eve instrumental music. His concerto grosso has several movements, most calming and contemplative.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Mirabile Mysterium spans centuries of choral Christmas music

I love Christmas music. But I don't love hearing the same old tunes trotted out year after year. We have over two millennia of sacred music written for this season, variety shouldn't be difficult. 

That's what I like about Mirabile Mysterium. Matthias Jung conducts the Sächsisches Vocalensemble in a wide-ranging program of seasonal sacred music. The album features works from the Renaissance through today. 

The choral has a wonderfully smooth vocal blend, which makes homophonic passages sound rich and full. And contrapuntal passages are cleanly articulated with a warmth I found quite attractive.

Although the works span around 500 years, there's a remarkable consistency to the ensemble's performances. Jung seems to emphasize what all these pieces have in common -- heartfelt religious contemplation and wonder. 

And because of those connections, hearing Eric Whitacre's "Lux aurumque" and Claudio Monteverdi's "Ave maris stella" in the same program just seems logical. Ditto Heinrich Schutz and Herbert Howells; Heinrich Isaac and John Rutter. 

If you're looking for choral artistry -- or if you just want to hear something fresh and beautiful -- consider "Mirabile Mysterium." I'm glad I did.

Mirabile Mysterium: Choral Music for Christmas
Sächsisches Vocalensemble; Matthias Jung, director
CPO 555 318-2

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Ensemble Almara with the best of Carmina Predulcia

There are collectors for everything -- even information. Take Hartmann Schedel (1449-1514) for example. 

He amassed a collection of over 600 volumes comprising all the knowledge of his day. He compiled the Schedel Song Book not so much out of a love for music, but just to collect and record the information. 

The Schedel Song Book is a treasure trove. In it are some of the most popular tunes of the day, known all across Europe. 

And there are many selections that only survive through this one collection. All were meant to immediately appeal to the ear -- and they do.

The Ensemble Almara specializes in secular music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. That makes them perfectly suited to bring this music to life. 

The five performers use a variety of instruments to vary the sound from track to track. The command of their respective instruments is impressive. Ensemble Almara plays with precision and elan.

Elisabeth Pawelke sings with a clean, pure tone. It's poised between the refinement of a professional musician (which she is) and a talented amateur (which is who most likely performed these works in taverns and homes). It's a sound I found quite appealing and authentic.

This release has a fairly short playing time -- about 36 minutes. But if you're more concerned about quality than quantity (as I am), that's not an issue.

Carmina Predulcia - Ensemble Almara
Music from the Schedel Songbook
Naxos 8.551440

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Stanford String Quintets -- Well Worth the Wait

This is a release I've been waiting for. The Dante Quartet's traversal of Stanford's string quartets was first-rate. I expected their recording of his quintets to be on the same level. 

It is. 

For the string quintets, members of the Dante and Endellion Quartets joined forces. Both of these UK-based ensembles thoroughly understand Stanford's music. And I could hear the results.

Stanford wrote the quintets for violinist Joseph Joachim, who also had a close relationship with Brahms. I've often characterized Stanford as Brahms with an Irish lilt, and that holds true here.

The overall structure of the quintets follows Brahms' model. These are large, carefully constructed works, with motifs clearly delineated and expertly developed. 

The album also includes Stanford's Three Intermiezzi from 1880. Originally written for clarinet and piano, the cello and piano version recorded here works quite well. Cellist Richard Jenkinson makes the most of Stanford's emotive melodies without lapsing into sentimentality. 

Another fine release. No how about Stanford's piano quartets?\

Charles Villiers Stanford: String Quintets and Intermezzi
Members of the Dante and Endellion Quartets; Benjamin Frith, piano
Somm Recordings

Monday, December 14, 2020

Per la Notte di Natale - superb Baroque Christmas concertos

Arcangelo Corelli's Christmas Concerto (Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8) often turns up on classical Christmas music albums. And I admit I never quite understood why. To my ears, there wasn't anything especially Christmassy about it. 

That's what makes this release so welcome. The liner notes explain the aesthetic behind these Italian Baroque Christmas concertos. And the album presents four examples that demonstrate that aesthetic. 

In the early 1700s, Italian Christmas Eve services focused on the pastoral elements of the Nativity; the shepherds in the fields, the quiet of the evening, and the animals in the manger.

Music composed for that service evoked that pastoral mood with quiet music and folk-like melodies. Simplicity was also important, even for solo parts.

Lars Ulrik Mortensen specializes in Baroque repertoire. Under his direction, the Concerto Copenhagen revealed new insights into Corelli's "Christmas" concerto.

Corelli's work provided the template for other Italian composers to follow, and Mortensen underlines those connections. 

Locatelli most closely emulated Corelli. His Concerto Grosso in F minor, Op. 1, No. 8 has eight movements, the last being a pastorale. 

Vivaldi and Manfredini's Christmas concertos are simpler -- both have only three movements. But the pastoral sound is still there. 

These are excellent performances. So even if you're not especially interested in Christmas music, you can enjoy these Baroque concertos any time of year. 

Per la Notte di Natale: Italian Christmas Concertos
Arcangelo Corelli; Giuseppe Torelli; Antonio Vivaldi; Francesco Manfredini; Pietro Locatelli
Concerto Copenhagen; Lars Ulrick Mortensen

Friday, December 11, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Week 2

For the past four years, the #ClassicsaDay team has adopted  Classical Christmas as its theme for December. And why not? We have a rich body of music related to the season dating back to the Middle Ages. A good deal of it is religious, but not all -- many works are simply inspired by the time of year. 

As always, I tried to select music that I hadn't shared before while avoiding the obvious (like Vivaldi's "Winter"). Here are my posts for the second week of #ClassicalChristmas

12/07/20 Johann Schelle "Machet di Tore weit" (Make the gates wide)

This Advent motet was set by Schelle, who was cantor at Thomaskirche, Leipzig from 1677-1701 (a position later held by J.S. Bach).

12/08/20 Daniel Pinkham Christmas Cantata

Organist and composer Daniel Pinkham studied with the best: Walter Piston, Aaron Copland, E. Power Brigs, Samuel Barber, Arthur Honegger, and (of course) Nadia Boulanger.

12/09/20 Libby Larsen - A Simple Gloria

Larson comp[osed this work for the 30th anniversary of the University of St. Thomas Liturgical Choir, St. Paul. It was premiered at their Christmas concert that year.

12/10/20 Antonio Caldara - Christmas Cantata

Caldara kicked around Europe. He worked in Venice, Mantua, Barcelona, Rome, and Salzburg before eventually settling in Vienna.

12/11/20 Josef Rheinberger - The Star of Bethlehem

This Lichtenstein composer is best remembered for his challenging organ works. This cantata is based on a libretto by his wife and was premiered in 1890.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Christmas Music at Thomaskirche a fine tradition

Machet die Tore weilt, Weihnachtmusik an der Thomaskirche (Christmas Music at Thomaskirche) is the second such collection of music I've reviewed this year. That is, seasonal sacred music by the composers who preceded Johann Sebastian Bach at Thomaskirche, Leipzig. 

I'm not sure if this is some kind of trend, but I'd be happy if it was. Yes, Bach was a genius, but he didn't come out of nowhere. The music he wrote built on and expanded upon that of the previous generations. 

Leipzig was in the habit of employing top-notch musicians, and this release demonstrates how deeply ingrained that habit was.

This release features composers who form an unbroken chain from Johann Schein to Bach. Tobias Michael was a student of Schien and succeed him in 1631. At his death, Sebastian Knüpfer was brought in in 1677. He in turn was replaced by Johanne Schelle a student of Schutz. Upon his death, Johann Kuhnau assumed the role, and upon his death in 1722, Bach was hired. 

Although the works span almost a century, there's a remarkable consistency throughout. These are Advent and Christmas cantatas and generally follow the same form. That is, big choruses to begin and end, with arias in the middle. 

There's also a consistency of quality. All these composers knew how to write for choirs, and all had a gift for melody. 

The ensemble and chorus have a full, rich sound in this recording, enhanced by the warm acoustics of the Erlöserkirche Bad Hamburg. 

The soloists also deliver first-rate performances. I especially enjoyed Simone Schwark's singing. Her voice had a clear, delicate sound, I thought.

If you have Bach's Christmas cantatas, add this release to your collection. It will add perspective to those masterworks, and provide many hours of enjoyable listening. 

Machet die Tore weilt
Weihnachtmusik an der Thomaskirche
Michael, Knüpfer, Schelle, Horn, Kuhnau Antonia Bourvé,
Simone Schwark, soprano; Kohanna Krell, alto; Florian Cramer, Hansjörg Mammel, tenor; Markus Flaig, bass
Kamemrchor der Erlöserkirche Bad Hamburg; Susanne Rohn, director
Christophorus CHR 77449

Friday, December 04, 2020

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Week 1

For the past four years, the #ClassicsaDay team has adopted  Classical Christmas as its theme for December. And why not? We have a rich body of music related to the season dating back to the Middle Ages. A good deal of it is religious, but not all -- many works are simply inspired by the time of year. 

As always, I tried to select music that I hadn't shared before while avoiding the obvious (like Vivaldi's "Winter"). Here are my posts for the first week of #ClassicalChristmas 

12/1/20 Johann Kuhnau - Magnificat in C major 

Kuhnau was Bach's predecessor at Leipzig, holding the post for 21 years. This Magnificat would have been performed during Advent.

12/2/20 Felix Mendelssohn - Weihnachten

"Weihnachten" (Christmas) is part of Six Motets written in 1843. The text is by Martin Luther.

12/03/20 Williams Billings - Shiloh

Billings is considered the first American choral composer, beginning his career around 1770. "Shiloh" is one of several Christmas carols he composed.

12/04/20 Moravian Christmas music

Missionaries of the Moravian Church arrived in American in 1735 and established two enclaves in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Music is a strong tradition in the church, as are trombone choirs.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Aaron Tindall soars with Yellowbird

For his sophomore release, tuba virtuoso Aaron Tindall presents music that blends classical and jazz. And it works really, really well. 

Tindall's masterful technique makes the tuba a truly lyrical instrument. His playing has exceptional clarity throughout the registers -- no mean feat. 

And his musical phrasing is spot on. Many times classical artists who attempt jazz end up sounding stiff. They don't quite grasp the subtle swing that's at the core of the genre. 

Aaron Tindall does. And that makes this disc of interest to both classical and jazz lovers. 

Jimmy Roles tune, "The Peacocks," the opening track, sets the stage. It's a short selection that quickly establishes Tindall's jazz chops.

The heart of the album is Claude Bolling's "Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano Trio." The composition was a breakout recording for Yo-Yo Ma, and Tindall's version is just as good. 

Tindall has an easy give-and-take with his backing musicians. That free-flowing collaboration is essential for jazz, and it's another reason this album succeeds. 

And the last piece, "The Yellow Bird" expands Tinsdale's explorations even further. Fred Tackett of Little Feat wrote it for Tinsdale's tuba instructor and it moves through classical, jazz, rock, and even funk. 

Shelly Berg, piano, Chuck Bergeron, bass, and Svet Stoyanov, drums, are all masterful musicians. There is some tasty playing going on here. Easily recommended for anyone who enjoys a little genre-mixing now and then. 

Aaron Tindall, tuba; Shelly Berg, piano; Chuck Bergeron, bass; Svet Stoyanov, drums
Bridge Records 9536

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Hans Rott Symphony get fresh interpretation

Capriccio continues their series of Hans Rott recordings with his masterwork -- Symphony No. 1. This massive work, running about 54 minutes, is this young genius at his best. 

Rott was just 22 when he completed his first symphony -- and had just two years to live. The work shows the influence of his organ instructor, Anton Bruckner. Parts of it reminded me strongly of Bruckner's 4th Symphony.

But there's more to it than imitation. Rott's fellow student Gustav Mahler wrote, "he is so related to my very self that he and I are like two fruits from the same tree." 

And that's the resemblance I hear in this music. In some ways, Rott's symphony anticipates Mahler's first symphony -- that wouldn't be started until three years after Rott's death.

This isn't the first time Rott's symphony has been recorded -- but it's one of the best. The Gürzenich Orchester Köln has a full, robust sound that heightens the impact of Rott's music. 

Also included is the Symphony for String Orchestra in A-flat major. This is a student work, and it seems to lean towards Haydn and Mozart. Here Christopher Ward and the Gürzenich Orchester Köln perform with a lighter touch, which gives the symphony a buoyancy that's quite entertaining. 

If you're not familiar with Hans Rott -- or why Bruckner and Mahler thought so highly of him, start here. The symphony sums it all up. 

Hans Rott: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2
Gürzenich Orchester Köln; Christopher Ward, conductor 
Capriccio C5414

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Mariani Klavierquartett excels with Emilie Mayer works

The Mariani Klavierquartett has only been around since 2009, but they've already accumulated an impressive body of work. This is their fifth release, and it's a winner all the way around. 

Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) was a well-respected composer in her lifetime. Her music was frequently performed, and she was the Associate Director of the Opera Academy in Berlin. 

Mysteriously, her music lapsed into obscurity after her death. I say mysteriously because it had nothing to do with the quality of her work. 

Her piano quartets are but two such examples. Both were composed around 1860. These chamber works show some inspiration from Schumann. Mayer's melodies, however, seem more fully-formed. And, as befitting a member of the Opera Academy, they're quite lyrical. 

Mayer also works with her material in interesting ways. These are developed with imagination, sometimes with surprising harmonies. 

The Mariani Piano Quartet plays with enthusiasm and fire. When the music calls for it, the quartet can play with delicacy and beauty. But there's still energy to these performances that give the music its lift.  

If you enjoy the chamber music of Brahms and Schumann, get this release. Mayer brings something fresh and new to the table. Something that's been missing for about 150 years.

 Emilie Mayer: Piano Quartets
Mariani Klavierquartett