Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spam Roundup March, 2021

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.

Mixed reviews

Spambots react to my posts in different ways. 

- This is really fascinating. You are an overly skilled blogger.[Overly skilled? I like that!]

- What I do not understand is actually how you are now really much more well-favored than you might be right now. [Oh, please. Stop.]

- I truly love your blog. Pleasant colors and theme. [*sigh*]

"Lumbering along" still rakes in the comments

Spambots seem to love this post, though I'm not sure why. The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along is just about a cheap little Japanese toy. Really. 

- I am sure this paragraph has touched all the internet people, it's really really nice article. [I really, really, believe you.]

- I will be dealing with many of these issues as well. [If you have issues with vintage toys, then you really have issues.]

 - I definitely get annoyed whilst other people consider worries that they plainly don't recognize about. [Chill, dude. Not everyone's into old toys.]

 - This kind of clever work and exposure! [Yes, isn't it?]

In conclusion

 - I would respect him additional if he would just fess up. [Yeah, the nerve of that guy! Um, who are you talking about?]

Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others. 

Words to live by! That's it for this month. And remember -- if you want respect, just fess up.

Friday, March 26, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth Week 4

The #ClassicsaDay team often uses Women's History Month as their theme for March. And for good reason. Classical audiences might be aware that there are contemporary female composers. But perhaps not so aware (with the exception of Hildegard von Bingen), of how many women composed music throughout the centuries.

For March 2021, I decided to cycle through the eras. Each week features a woman from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern eras, plus one from either the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. And this is just a sampling. Here are my picks for the fourth week of #ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth.

03/22/21 Leonora Duarte (1610–1678) Sinfonia No. 2

The seven sinfonias of Duarte are the earliest known works for viola by a female composer. During her lifetime she was well-respected as a composer and musician.

03/23/21 Sophia Giustina Corri Dussek (1775 – ca. 1831) - Harp Sonata in C minor, Op. 2 No. 3

Sophia was married to famed composer and pianist Jan Ladislav Dussek. She was a harpist, and her Opus 2 sonatas for the instrument were best sellers in 1790s London and Paris, going through at least three editions.

03/24/21 Adrienne Albert (1941 -) Cuban Stories for Flute, Bass Clarinet, Viola and Piano

Albert began her career as a mezzo-soprano, working with Stravinsky and Bernstein. She transitioned to conducting in the 1980s, then full-time composing in the 1990s

03/25/21 Hedwige Chrétien (1859-1944)- 6 petits préludes récréatifs

This French composer wrote over 150 works. Though many were for piano, Chrétien's catalog includes chamber pieces, orchestral works, and two operas.

03/26/21 Larysa Kuzmenko (1956 - ) Behold the Night, for Choir and orchestra

This Canadian composer has garnered an impressive array of awards and commissions during her career. This work was premiered in 2011.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Christoph Graupner Easter Cantatas intimate and effective

Christoph Graupner wrote over 1,400 sacred cantatas. So there's a lot to choose from -- even for an album of just Easter cantatas. Christian Bonath has done a superb job programming a set of Holy Week cantatas that span decades of Graupner's output. And each one receives a recording world premiere.

Just to run down the sequence:

Maundy Thursday - "Die Frucht des Gerechten" (1733)

Good Friday - "Eröffnet euch ihr Augenquellen" (1727)

First day of Easter - "Der Sig ist da" (1743

Second day of Easter - "Ihr werdet traurig sein" (1719)

Graupner was the Hofkapellmeister of Hesse-Darmstadt from 1711 until his retirement in 1754. These cantatas were composed for the same chapel employing (in essence) the same group of musicians. As expected, Graupner's style remains remarkably consistent throughout this set of cantatas. 

Graupner, like his friend and colleague J.S. Bach, paid close attention to the text he was setting. The key, the voice, the shape of the phrase, and the instruments accompanying are all used to give meaning and context to the text. 

Christian Bonath directs his musicians in nuanced, sensitive performances, showing us Graupner's genius. The Capella Vocalis Boy's Choir has a luminous ensemble sound. The Pulchra Musica Baroque Orchestra provides just the right amount of instrumental support; present, but never overpowering.

Sebastian Hubner, Johannes Hill, and Jan Nerlitschka are all exceptional soloists, and they're well-recorded. This is sacred music designed for the chapel, not the concert hall. The performances are intimate and finely-crafted. 

In his lifetime, Graupner was as famous as Telemann, Bach, and Handel. Recordings like this help restore that reputation.


Christoph Graupner: Easter Cantatas
Sebastian Hubner, tenor; Johannes Hill, bass; Jan Nerlitschka, alto
Capella Vocalis Boy's Choir
Pulchra Musica Baroque Orchestra; Christian Bonath, conductor
World Premiere Recordings
Capriccio C5411

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Paul Wranitzky Orchestral Works worth a listen

Sure -- Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven were the major figures in 1800s Vienna. But they were the only ones. Vienna was the center of the musical world, and talent came from all over. Like Paul Wranitzky from Moravia. 

He and his brother Anton found fame and fortune in Vienna. In the 1790s he contacted both royal theater orchestras. He was a preferred conductor of both Beethoven and Haydn. And he was a pretty good composer, too. 

This release is the first volume of Wranitzky's orchestral music. There will probably be many more. Wranitzky wrote over fifty symphonies plus a goodly number of concertos and overtures. A contemporary critic wrote that Wranitzky's music was popular "because of his natural melodies and brilliant style... His works held up very well in comparison with those of Haydn."

The works on this release support that assessment. It includes his "Coronation" symphony, written for the ascension of Franz II in 1792. It's big, it's grand -- and it's pretty darned tuneful. It does indeed compare favorably to Haydn's symphonies of the same year.

His Symphony in B-flat major, Op. 33, No. 1 was written in 1798. It exhibits depth and complexity on par with Haydn's "London" symphonies. It's a more serious work than the "Coronation" symphony and rewards careful listening. 

Also included are two of Wranitzky's opera overtures. Here he seems more inspired by Mozart than Haydn.

The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice conducted by Marek Stilec deliver some fine performances. Wranitzky's music has an air of elegance and refinement. The orchestra honors that. Their readings have a light, transparent quality to them that still can elicit excitement when needs be. 

All of these works receive their world recording premiere with this release. Definitely looking forward to more undiscovered gems with volume 2. 

Paul Wranitzky: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Marek Stilec, conductor
Naxos 8.574227


Monday, March 22, 2021

New release celebrates individual voice of Elisabetta Brusa

This installment in Naxos' series features two works by Elisabetta Brusa: her second symphony, and "Simply Largo." These are the same performers that recorded her first symphony in Volume Three, and the quality remains high. 

The Ulster Orchestra has a full yet open ensemble sound. The soloists (if not great) are very good, and Daniele Rustioni has clear ideas about where the music should take us.

Brusa's style has been characterized as Neo-Tonal, but I'd consider that an approximation. Her harmonies don't sound all that traditional. Perhaps it's that Brusa doesn't go out of her way to obliterate any sense of tonality. 

The Second Symphony follows a traditional four-movement form. Brusa's style keeps those traditional forms far in the background -- but not so far that they don't provide structure to the music. 

Kudos to the Ulster Orchestra's brass section. As Brusa notes in the booklet, she deliberately wrote their music in the highest register. The physical strain (even with professional players) to hit and maintain those notes give the symphony an edgy tension that's quite effective. 

"Simply Largo" is a totally different type of work. Here, Brusa creates what she calls a "song without words." The melody determines the form of the work. And it just flows. It's a beautiful work, and one that deserves to be heard more often, I think.

Both works receive their world recording premieres with this release. Now that they're available, I'd like to see them show up on classical radio playlists and perhaps even concert programs. 

Elisabetta Brusa: Orchestral Works Vol. 4
Symphony No. 2; Simply Largo
Ulster Orchestra; Daniele Rustioni, conductor
Naxos 8.574263

Friday, March 19, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth Week 3

The #ClassicsaDay team often uses Women's History Month as their theme for March. And for good reason. Classical audiences might be aware that there are contemporary female composers. But perhaps not so aware (with the exception of Hildegard von Bingen), of how many women composed music throughout the centuries.

For March 2021, I decided to cycle through the eras. Each week features a woman from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern eras, plus one from either the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. And this is just a sampling. Here are my picks for the third week of #ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth.

03/15/21 Francesca Caccini (1587–1640?) - Ballo

This music is from " La liberazione di Ruggiero," the oldest surviving opera by a woman composer. Caccini's comic opera was first performed in 1625.

03/16/21 Beatirz de Dia (fl.c.1175-c.1212) - Ab joy et ab joven m'apais

The Comtessa de Dia was a trobairitz. These female troubadours wrote poetry and music for the Occitan courts. Beatriz was one of the more famous, though only five of her compositions survive.

03/17/21 Alice Mary Smith (1839-1884) - Te Deum Laudamus in A

Smith was an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music. She wrote symphonies, chamber works, and extensively for choral groups.

Marguerite Balutet (1853-1928) - Prelude and Bouree

Balutet was a pianist who established an important piano academy in the 1890s. It was one of the first to have a rigorous curriculum in all aspects of music and a juried exam for certification.

03/19/21 Helen Grime (1981 - ) Percussion Concerto

Scottish composer Grime wrote her concerto in 2019. The solo percussionist plays a battery of 13 instruments, ranging from marimba to brake drums.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Hymns of Kassiani - history's first woman composer

Pop quiz: who's the earliest female composer you can think of? Chances are, it's Hildegarde von Bingen. Also, her star has risen from obscurity, she's not the earliest, or perhaps, the most important. That honor belongs to Kassiani, or Kassia (c.810-c.865).

Kassia's career had some significant differences with Hildegard von Bingen, who was born two centuries later. Von Bingen's music and poetry were mostly unknown until her rediscovery in modern times. Kassia's hymns became part of the Greek Orthodox liturgy during her lifetime. And remain so today. 

Kassia composed about fifty hymns. Her most popular hymn retains her attribution. Many others that are still widely used have been misattributed or simply credited to anonymous sources. 

The Cappella Romana hopes to restore Kassia's reputation -- and her music -- by recording all of her music. And by providing scholarly documentation to accompany it. 

This first volume features ten of Kassia's hymns, including her "hit," Lord, the woman of many sins (sung during Holy Week). Also included are works for Christmas and Lent, expressing a variety of emotions. 

Also included is a 32-page booklet with a detailed history of Kassia, a facsimile of a medieval manuscript, and, of course, both the original Greek text with English translations.

The Cappella Romana are specialists in Byzantine chant, and this album is a stunner. The release is an SACD hybrid multichannel recording. If possible, opt for the physical disc rather than the digital download for this one. 

The release has both 2-channel and 5.0 surround formats, with 192k/24bit resolution. Hearing this recording in surround made me feel like I was standing in the Hagia Sofia when these hymns were new.

I am so looking forward to the next installment.

Kassia: Hymns of Kassiani
Cappella Romana; Alexander Lingas, director
Cappella Records CR422

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Pancho Vladigerov String Concertos true masterworks

Capriccio continues their reissue of Pancho Vladigerov recordings with his collected string concertos. Though these recordings were originally done in the 1970s, they all sound quite good in this release. The sound, though a little soft, still has plenty of detail. And that's especially important for this volume. 

Pancho Vladigerov defined Bulgarian classical music. His blend of national folk elements with classical form was seamless. In his violin compositions, Vladigerov let more of Bulgarian folk tradition slip through. And the results are (I think) electrifying. 

The two violin concertos are true masterworks. The first concerto, from 1920, is barely contained emotion. The solo violin weeps, cajoles, teases, and generally delivers an outpouring of feeling that seems to define the soul of the country. 

The second concert, completed in 1968 is more austere but no less emotive. Here Vladigerov's orchestrations provide a more sophisticated setting for the soloist, but the emotional content is as unfettered as it was in the first concerto. 

Also included is the Bulgarian Rhapsody for violin and orchestra, "Vardar." Culturally, it's considered the equivalent of Chopin's Polonaise in A. "Vardar" serves the same role in defining the musical identity of a nation.

These recordings were all done by Bulgarian ensembles, with Bulgarian soloists. They were conducted either by the composer or his son. These are indeed definitive performances. Everyone involved gets the cultural subtext of Vladigerov's music and it informs their playing. 

Another not-to-be-missed installment in this important series. 

Pancho Vladigerov: String Concertos
Georgi Badev, Dina Schniedermann, Emil Krmilarov, violin; Ventseslav Mikolov, cello
Bulgarian Chamber Orchestra; Pancho Vladigerov, conductor
Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Vladigerov, conductor
Capriccio C8084
2 CD Set

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Eleanor Alberga - Wild Blue Yonder is exceptional

This Navonna release is the follow-up to Alberga's String Quartet album. And it solidifies her reputation in the realm of chamber music. The four compositions in the program span about twenty-two years, and an equally wide range of subjects. 

The disc opens and closes with works for violin and piano. The performers are Eleanor Alberga, piano, and her husband Thomas Bowes, violin. The chemistry between the two adds depth to their performances. 

"No-Man's Land Lullaby" (1997) references World War I. As the title suggests, this is a disquieting lullaby. The harmonies waver with interment tonality, and the melody is a subtly distortion of Brahms' tune. Effective and evocative.

The second piece for violin and piano "Wild Blue Yonder" was written two years later. Alberga's voice seems stronger, developing the rhythmic elements that are a major part of her style. 

The other two works are for string quartet plus one. For "Succubus Moon" (2007), that's the oboe. For "Shining Gate of Morpheus" (2012), it's a horn. 

Succubi are a seductive nocturnal manifestation of evil. Alberga's melodies for the oboe have a seductiveness to them. "Shining Gate of Morpheus" is, by contrast, a more calming work. Instead of agitation, we get pleasant bustling. Morpheus is the god of sleep. It seems like he's inviting the listener to rest a spell and have a pleasant dream.  

This is a good companion release to Alberga's string quartet album. Now what I'd really like to hear is some of her large-scale works.

Eleanor Alberga: Wild Blue Yonder
Thomas Bowes, violin; Richard Watkins, horn; Nicholas Daniel, oboe; Eleanor Alberga, piano
Ensemble Arcadiana
Navonna NV6346

Monday, March 15, 2021

John Abraham Fisher Symphonies have plenty of hooks

John Abraham Fisher was all the rage in 18th Century London. He was a violin virtuoso with a streak of showmanship. By his thirties had a share in the Covent Garden Theatre, a hit oratorio making the rounds, and concertized frequently to great admiration (among the public, if not the critics). 

His six symphonies were published in 1772, and represent an interesting amalgam. To my ears, they had the English sound of William Boyce blended with the Mannheim School techniques of Johann Stamitz. But it's a blend that works quite effectively. 

Fisher uses the Mannheim Rocket, building to big crescendos by piling on instruments. His melodies have clean, clear phrasing that lends itself to motivic development. Where he differs from Stamitz and company is in form and orchestration. 

The six symphonies in this set all have a three-movement form, essentially fast-slow-fast. This varies from the Mannheim innovation of the four-movement symphony. Fisher's orchestration is also more conservative. He supplements the strings with bassoons, oboes, and horns -- no clarinets (another Mannheim innovation). 

The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice is directed by Michael Halász. The performances are crisp and energetic. I found this an enjoyable listen, and an instructive one. Music is often a continuum rather than a set of distinct stages. Fisher's symphonies come after Style Galante and just before the Classical Era of Mozart and Haydn.

They might be transitional, but these symphonies have their own internal logic. Audiences of the day enjoyed Fisher's symphonies. And I did, too.

John Abraham Fisher: Symphonies Nos. 1-6
Petra Ždárská, harpsichord
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Michael Halász, conductor

Friday, March 12, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth Week 2

The #ClassicsaDay team often uses Women's History Month as their theme for March. And for good reason. Classical audiences might be aware that there are contemporary female composers. But perhaps not so aware (with the exception of Hildegard von Bingen), of how many women composed music throughout the centuries.

For March 2021, I decided to cycle through the eras. Each week features a woman from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern eras, plus one from either the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. And this is just a sampling. Here are my picks for the second week of #ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth.

03/08/21 Vittoria Aleotti (c.1575–after 1620) - Te amo mia vita

Aleotti showed great talent as a child, mastering the harpsichord, organ, and voice. At 14 she joined the San Vito, a convent famous for its music. All of her music was written for use within the convent.

03/09/21 Josepha Barbara von Auernhammer (1758-1820) - 6 Variations sur un theme Hongrois

Auernhammer played duets with Mozart and edited some of his sonatas. She was one of the first pianists to play Beethoven's 1st Piano concerto. Her own works are primarily for piano.

03/10/21 Clémence de Grandval (1828–1907) - Deux Pièces pour clarinette et piano

French composer de Grandval was perhaps more prominent than even her contemporaries realized. Because of her social position, she published over 60 works under a variety of pseudonyms.

03/11/21 Marie Hester Park (1760-1813) - Piano soanta in E flat major, op. 4, No. 2

Park was a British pianist and teacher. She corresponded with Haydn and even traded compositions with him. Her career spanned the transition from harpsichord to fortepiano. Park's Op. 4 sonatas were published in 1790.

03/12/21 Dora Pejačević (1885-1923): Erinnerung (Memories), Opus 24

Pejačević wrote over 100 works and defined Croatian classical music. Her symphony was the first (and perhaps the greatest) from her country in the 20th Century.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Karl Goldmark Symphonic Poems 2 hit the mark


When I reviewed volume one of this series, I said I was looking forward to the next release. Well, here it is and I'm not disappointed. Karl Goldmark was the master of the short symphonic poem. And though the works in this release may not be his most famous, they're of near-equal quality. 

The Bamberger Symphoniker directed by Fabrice Bollon seems to be in top form here. The expansive sections have a rich, full sound. And they can also play with a restrained delicacy. This is especially effective in "Im Frühling." The transparency of the sound reminded me of early Mendelssohn. 

Also included in this album is one of Goldmark's last orchestral works, "Aus Jugendtagen" (From the Days of Youth). This 1909 composition is an unabashedly nostalgic trip down memory lane. Goldmark deftly recalls music of a simpler time. 

Each of the works has a different character, which gives the program a welcome variety. I recommend this volume to anyone who loves orchestral music. And definitely pick up volume one (if you haven't already). 

Karl Goldmark: Symphonic Poems, Volume 2
Im Frühling; Zrinyi; In Italien; Aus Jugendtagen; Wintermärchen
Bamberger Symphoniker; Fabrice Bollon, conductor
CPO 555 251-2

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Nightingale Quartet starts Vagn Holmboe series

Danish composer Vagn Holmboe completed 20 string quartets, each a deeply personal statement. I applaud the Nightingale String Quartet for undertaking a traversal of these works.

Holmboe was a 20th Century composer, but he didn't necessarily follow its trends. Holmboe wrote in a mostly neo-classical style. In his mature period (which he began writing quartets), Holmboe used a technique of Jean Sibelius. 

He would present motifs and thematic fragments that would, over the course of the movement (or work), grow and transform, providing an organic foundation for the music. 

String Quartet No. 1, Op. 46 was published in 1949 -- but it wasn't Holmboe's first. He had written ten quartets before this one. The Op. 46 quartet marked a turning point in his style. The first violin opens the quartet, laying out all the material that will be used throughout the 27-minute work. 

The String Quartet No. 3, Op. 48 came just 15 months after the first. It also uses the same development technique. To my ears, the development of themes seemed more fully integrated into the music. The opening ideas are spread among the ensemble rather than formally presented by one instrument. The result is (to me), a conversation that gradually takes form as it progresses.

The third quartet on this release is No. 15, Op. 135 from 1979. Here the thematic material is even more tightly focussed. It's a two-note idea that opens the first movement. And that figure also generated his 14th and 16th string quartets. 

The Nightingale Quartet is off to a great start. They just finished their survey of Rued Langgard string quartets. Holmboe (stylistically) is the next logical step. I'm glad they took it.

Holmboe String Quartets Volume 1
Nightingale String Quartet
Dacapo 8.22

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Leo Weiner Divertimentos more than diverting

Hungarian composer and teacher Leo Weiner was a contemporary of Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly. Like his colleagues, he used elements of Hungarian folk music in his work. Where he differed was in his style. Weiner's music is more conservative, and solidly in the Post-Romantic tradition.

This volume includes an assortment of orchestral works by Weiner. The "Pastroal, phantaisie et fugue" is the most substantial piece on the album. Weiner composed it before he started exploring folk music. 

It has an Impressionistic quality to it. Weiner's use of modes keeps the work's tonal center from being too strongly defined, giving the work a somewhat dreamy quality -- even in the fugue.

In the Divertimento No. 1 "After Old Hungarian Dances," Weiner uses folk music, but on his terms -- sort of like Brahms. The melodies are Hungarian, but the harmonies are Weiner's own. It's a winning combination. 

Zoltan Kodaly wrote that Weiner "belongs in the family of classics such as Mendelssohn and Saint-Saens, but with some definite Hungarian flavors." I can hear it.

The Budapest Orchestra MAV directed by Valeria Csanyi turn in some solid performances. They know what their countryman was all about. The Hungarian elements are there. But Kodaly suggests, Csanyi lets them flavor the performances rather than take them over. 

Leo Weiner: Complete Works for Orchestra 3
Divertimentos Nos. 1 and 2; Romance; Pastorale; Fantasy and Fugue; Hungarian Nursery Rhymes and Folk Songs
Ditta Rohmann, cello; Melinda Felletar, harp; Budapest Symphony Orchestra MAV; Valeria Csanyi

Monday, March 08, 2021

Mexican Baroque masterworks by Juan De Lienas

The Newberry Consort has assembled an impressive body of recordings over the years. But this one is a real standout. 

The consort explores the repertoire of the Mexican Baroque. Specifically, music from a 16th Century manuscript collection housed in a Mexico City convent. 

The primary composer is Juan De Lienas, who's something of a cipher. All that is know about him is his music, which survived in two collections, and comments written about him in the margins of said manuscripts! 

De Lienas wrote in a blended late Renaissance/early Baroque style. Most of the works are contrapuntal, spinning out long, interweaving melodic lines a la Palestrina. His harmonies, though, are derived from the major/minor system of the Baroque, rather than the modal harmonies of the Renaissance. 

The works collected were all for use within the convent, so there are no male voices. This gives the music an untethered buoyancy I found quite appealing. 

The Newberry Consort's performances are first-rate. The vocal blend has an ethereal quality to it, enhanced by just the right amount of ambient reverb. This is music of uncommon beauty. 

Juan de Lienas: Vespers Music from the Conveto de la Encarnacion, Mexico City 
The Newberry Consort; Ellen Hargis, director 
Navona NV6333

Friday, March 05, 2021

#ClassicsaDay Womens History Month 2021 Week 1

The #ClassicsaDay team often uses Women's History Month as their theme for March. And for good reason. Classical audiences might be aware that there are contemporary female composers. But perhaps not so aware (with the exception of Hildegard von Bingen), of how many women composed music throughout the centuries.

For March 2021, I decided to cycle through the eras. Each week features a woman from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern eras, plus one from either the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. And this is just a sampling. Here are my picks for the first week of #ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth. 

03/01/21 Kassia (c. 805-c.865) - Pelagia

Kassia was a Byzantine abbess. Her sacred music and poetry are among the earliest still extant. This one of her 50 surviving hymns.

03/02/21 Anna Amalia, Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1739-1807) - Overture to Erwin und Elmire

Anna Amalia studied with Johann Kirnberger, himself a student of J.S. Bach. This overture is from her 1776 opera with a text by Goethe.

03/03/21 Jeanne Danglas ( d.1915) - Minuet

"Jeanne Danglas" was a pseudonym of Rosalie Crabos. Virtually nothing is known of Crabos, save that she published over 80 works of light classical music in the early 1900s.

03/04/21 Laura Constance Netzel (1839–1927)- Piano Concerto in E minor, Op. 84

Netzel was born in Finland, though raised in Sweden from infancy. In addition to being a composer, pianist, and conductor, she also championed social justice. Netzel supported the causes of poor women, children, and workers.

03/05/21 Elisabetta Brusa (1954 - )- Dittico Notturno for guitar, Op. 3

Brusa studied with Peter Maxwell Davies and served on the faculty of the G. Verdi Music Conservatory in Milan. Her Dittico Notturno is one of her earliest mature works, written in 1982.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Neumeyer Consort entertains with Boismortier

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier was sometimes called the French Telemann -- and with good reason. Like his namesake, Boismortier had a facility for composition, producing a seemingly unending stream of music with ease. 

And like Telemann, it wasn't just hackwork. Boismortier knew what the public wanted -- and wrote accordingly. But he did so without sacrificing quality. This release demonstrates that with music from his Op. 34 and Op. 37 collections. Published in the 1730s, these chamber pieces have the tuneful appeal of the Style Galante.

The Neumeyer Consort, directed by Felix Koch presents an attractive program. The Op. 34 quartets were written for a solo instrument with supporting basso continuo. As was the practice of the day, said instrument could be either a violin, transverse flute, or oboe.

The Consort uses varies the lead instrument for the quartets, making for a more interesting program. They do the same with the Op. 37 trios. 

These are fine performances. Boismortier knew how to write a melody, and the consort seems to relish every one of them. Their playing has the refined elegance Parisien audiences of the day would have expected. But they also emphasize the dynamics, expressively shaping the music to engage the ear.

They certainly engaged mine. Boismortier's music has an immediate appeal, and the Neumeyer Consort celebrate that with this release. 

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier: Trios, Quartets, and Concerto
Opp. 34 & 37
Neumeyer Consort

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Pancho Vladigerov Orchestral Works Bulgarian Masterpieces

It's hard to describe the role Pancho Vladigerov plays in Bulgarian classical music. Like Antonin Dvorak, Vladigerov took the music of his native land and brought it into the realm of classical music. 

Vladigerov's works tend to superficially follow standard classical forms, but the cadences, rhythms, and harmonies are all formed from Bulgarian folk elements. 

Vladigerov is quite simply the father of Bulgarian classical music. His music was well-known throughout Europe before World War II -- admired by both Richard Strauss and Dmitri Shostakovich. 

It's since lapsed into obscurity, which makes Capriccio's new reissues so exciting. In the early 1970s the composer, and his son Alexander Vladigerov, undertook a massive recording project to preserve his music. 

This release is discs 4 and 5 of what will eventually be an 18-CD reissue of those important recordings. 

This set features Vladigerov's Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 from 1939 and 1949 respectively. This is the composer at his finest (outside of his piano concertos, IMHO). The first symphony is an exceptionally beautiful work, with full-bodied ensemble passages of heroic proportions. 

Also included are three of his smaller orchestral works, showing Vladigerov's facility with miniatures. 

The Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra is playing the music of their country's greatest composer -- music they know intimately. They're led by the composer's son, an accomplished conductor who also knows Vladigerov's music intimately. 

The sound quality is on par with 1970s recordings. The details are a little fuzzy, and there's an overall softness to the sound. 

But these performances are definitive. It's clear these musicians are playing with energy, commitment, and even national pride. 

This release -- and this series -- is not to be missed.   

Pancho Vladigerov: Orchestral Works, 1
Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Vladigerov, conductor
Capriccio C8050
2 CD Set

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

William Tisdale Music for Virginal unusual fare

There are plenty of Renaissance keyboard recordings floating around. So what makes this release special. Three things: the music, the performer, and the instrument.

The music is mostly from Tisdales Virginal Book, supplemented with selections from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Very little is known about William Tisdale, save that he was a composer and keyboardist active around 1600. 

The Tisdale Virginal Book is a collection thought to be written by Tisdale. It includes 21 pieces by William Byrd, John Dowland, Thomas Morley, and other English composers.

First, the music. The Tisdale Virginal Book and the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book were the few places Tisdale's music was preserved. Tisdale wrote in a richly complex harmonic language that sets his music apart. To hear most of Tisdale's works gathered together show the consistent quality of his style. 

Second, the performer. Charles Metz is a masterful musician. He's one of the leading early music keyboardists in the country, and that skill is readily apparent. His playing is both clear and focused. Some virginal music cans descend into a flurry of notes. Not so with Metz. No matter how busy the music became, Metz always managed to keep the melodic lines well delineated. 

Third, the instrument. Metz performs on a Francesco Poggi virginal built around 1590. The instrument is completely restored and tuned to A=406 Hz, much lower than our modern A=440. Plus, Metz opted for meantone tuning, instead of modern equal temperament. What does that mean? 

The sound is much closer to what Tisdale was used to. The notes have a richness to them, thanks to the lower-pitched instrument. Plus, the harmonies -- and keys -- have slightly different characters to them in meantone tuning. That additional brightness (and sometimes dissonance) was a part of the Renaissance composer's palette -- and one that's lost in modern tuning systems. 

Unusual repertoire played by a talented artist on an instrument the music was intended for. Those are the three things that made this release a standout for me. 

William Tisdale: Music for Virginal
Charles Metz, virginal
Navona Records 


Monday, March 01, 2021

Christopher Gunning Concertos deliver

This is the second Christopher Gunning release from Signum Classics. And like the first, it's a collection of beautifully-crafted music with first-rate performances. Gunning composes of both film and the concert hall. The skills needed for the former benefit his work in the latter.

Gunning's Violin Concerto was inspired by a hiking trip in Wales. He paints a vivid picture of the experience. In the first movement, the violin flits about thither and yon over the orchestra's rich harmonies. 

It sounded to me like a distant cousin of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Lark Ascending." But there's more to this work than that. In the other movements, the violin seems to take a different role, conveying the emotions Gunning experienced during the hike.

Violinist Harriet Mackenzie plays with sensitivity and expressiveness. This concerto is more about musicality than technical show. Mackenzie's performance does just that.

The Cello Concerto is a more somber and introspective work. One that's ideally suited to the instrument. Richard Harwood plumbs the dark emotions of this work. His playing sometimes takes on a plaintive quality that tugs at the listener's heart.

The composer leads the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in these performances. It seemed as if Gunning was talking directly to me through the soloists and the ensemble. And I liked what he was saying.

Christopher Gunning Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto
Harriet Mackenzie, violin; Richard Harwood, cello
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Christopher Gunning, conductor
Signum Classics SIGCD621