Friday, July 28, 2023

#ClassicsaDay #NorthAmClassics Week 4

Both countries in North America celebrate their independence in July. For Canada, it's July 1, 1867. And for the United States, it's July 4, 1776. To mark this event, the Classics a Day team challenge is to post video performances of music by both Canadian and American composers.

Finding examples by American composers was easy. But finding performances by Canadian composers proved a little more difficult. And that's a shame. Because the music I found was terrific.

Here are my posts for the fourth and final week of #NorthAmClassics.

07/24/23 Edgar Stillman Kelley: Aladdin

Kelly was an important composer at the turn of the 20th Century. He headed the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and was interested in blending non-Western and American elements into classical forms.

07/25/23 Colin McPhee: Tabuh-Tauhan, Toccata for Orchestra and Two Pianos

Canadian composer McPhee was also an ethnomusicologist. He introduced Balanese music to Benjamin Britten. This 1936 work was based on his studies of Balinese music.

07/26/23 George Elbridge Whiting: Prelude in A minor

Whiting was an important composer and organist in 19th Century America. He eventually became head of the organ department at the New England Conservatory of Music.

07/27/23 Linda Bouchard: Second Survival

Canadian composer and conductor Bouchard studied at the Manhattan School of Music. Bouchard is interested in the spatial relationships between sound sources and how they interact.

07/28/23 Arthur Batelle Whiting: Bagatelles for the Piano II: Humoreske

American composer Whiting studied with Rheinberger in Munich. He returned to America in 1885 and lectured at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia. He was also one of the first advocates for early music and authentic performance practices.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Heinrich August Marschner: Ripe for Reevaluation

Heinrich Marschner at one time was the most important opera composer in Germany. But thanks to the trash compacter of history, he's been reduced to a historical footnote. That footnote being the leading German opera composer between Weber and Wagner.

Marschner's music isn't delivering any Great Cosmic Truths like Wagner's attempts to do. But it was never meant to. Marschner created music that entertained. More importantly, he created music of substance that entertained. 

He had a natural gift for melody and for drama. These overtures pull you along and gear you up for the beginning of Act One. 

Dario Salvi seems to be building a career reexamining theater music dismissed by music history. And his instincts have served him (and audiences) well. He leads the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice in some spirited performances. 

I found this collection to be both entertaining and enlightening. Entertaining, because if you love Offenbach, you'll find a lot to like here. And enlightening, because I found there was much more to this composer than the term "transitional" suggests.

Heinrich August Marschner: Overtures and Stage Music, Vol. 1
Ali Baba; Schön Ella; Der Kyffhäuser Berg; Der Holzdieb; Die Wiener in Berlin
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Dario Salvi, conductor
Naxos 8.574449

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Arnold Cooke String Quartets Show Influences

This release presents three of the five string quartets written by Arnold Cooke.

Cooke was a British composer of some renown. He played the piano and the cello and began composing around the age of seven. At Cambridge, he played cello in a string quartet. His talent merited additional study under Paul Hindemith in Berlin. 

Hindemith, a violist, was also a string quartet player. With a strong quartet background in both teacher and pupil, it's surprising  Cooke didn't compose more of them. His first quartet wasn't written until after Cooke returned to Britain in 1933. 

The work shows the influence of Hindemith. It's contrapuntal and complex. It isn't atonal, but the harmonies are quite dissonant and the music is heavily chromatic. To my ears, it borders on the academic. And yet there's a hint of lyricism there that kept my interest. 

Cooke's third quartet was finished in 1967. Cooke continued to explore the principles laid down by Hindemith. But he took them in a different direction. This quartet still has plenty of dissonant harmonies and complex counterpoint. But there seems to be a stronger organization underlying it all. The dissonances constantly point toward resolution. And that gives the work a sense of forward motion. 

The 1978 String Quartet No. 5 is a finely crafted miniature. It's cast in a single movement. And every note performs double- and sometimes triple-duty. The dissonances are less intense, and convey an even stronger sense of direction. 

The Bridge Quartet turns in some fine readings of these pieces. Motifs are often handed from one instrument to another, and the hand-off has to be precise. The quartet's interpretations help guide the listener through the music. There's never any doubt about what the ear should focus on. 

These are interesting quartets, and I'm glad I heard them. With the first and the fifth quartets, we hear the start and finish of Cooke's journey. I'd like to hear the second and fourth quartets to understand how they relate to the others. 

 Arnold Cooke: Complete String Quartets, Volume One.
String Quartets Nos. 1, 3, and 5
The Bridge Quartet
Toccata Classics TOCC 0696

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

A Left Coast - British Columbia Composers Showcased

I don't understand the absence of Canadian classical music in this country. Canada has a wealth of talented composers (both living and dead). Their music compares favorably to that written in the U.S. 

And yet recordings -- never mind performances -- of Canadian classical music are hard to find.

This release is accurately titled "A Left Coast." It refers to British Columbia which, like California, borders on the Pacific Ocean. Tyler Duncan and Erika Switzer present a strong program of art songs. And not just songs by Canadian composers, but Canadian composers in British Columbia. 

Many have some association with the University of British Columbia.  But this music is far from academic. Most impressive to me was the sheer variety of styles presented. 

Imam Habbib's selections draw on the tradition of German lied. The late Jocelyn Morlock's "Involuntary Love Songs" are beautifully crafted modal tunes. Yet they have just a hint of darkness. "Snowflakes" by Melissa Hui blends Debussy Impressionism and First Nations musical traditions.

Some of the composers used Canadian poets in their texts. Jean Coulthard set the poetry of fellow UBC colleague Louis MacKay. Her music has a decidedly contemporary -- but tonal -- sound. Leslie Yueda used poems by Lorna Crozier. "Plato's Angel" is aggressively chromatic and is sometimes atonal.

Tyler Duncan sings two works he commissioned. "Something Like That" by Stephen Chatman sounds like art song meets musical theater -- to the benefit of both genres. Jeffery Ryan's "Everything Already Lost" was co-commissioned by Duncan and Switzer. It's a strangely evocative and haunting work.

Duncan and Switzer are strongly invested in this music. And that comes through in their performances. Just about every track made me want to further explore the composer I was listening to. And there's a lot to explore. Although it might not be readily available. 

Highly recommended to anyone who appreciates Lieder or just darned good music.

 A Left Coast
Tyler Duncan, baritone; Erika Switzer, piano
Music by Iman Habibi, Jean Coulthard, Jocelyn Morlock, Stephen Chatman, Leslie Uyeda, and Jeffrey Ryan
Bridge Records

Friday, July 21, 2023

#ClassicsaDay #NorthAmClassics Week 3

Both countries in North America celebrate their independence in July. For Canada, it's July 1, 1867. And for the United States, it's July 4, 1776. To mark this event, the Classics a Day team challenge is to post video performances of music by both Canadian and American composers.

Finding examples by American composers was easy. But finding performances by Canadian composers proved a little more difficult. And that's a shame. Because the music I found was terrific.

Here are my posts for the third week of #NorthAmClassics.

07/17/23 W. O. Forsyth: Confession, op. 45, No. 2

Wesley Octavius Forsyth studied at the Leipzig Conservatory before returning to his native Toronto. Forsyth had a successful career teaching and writing about music. Most of his mature works are piano miniatures.

07/18/23 Edward MacDowell: Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 23

Although MacDowell wrote extensively for solo piano, he only composed two piano concertos. The second premiered in 1890.

07/19/23 Robert Nathaniel Dett: Magnolia Suite

Dett has been claimed by two countries. He was born in Canada. His family moved to the U.S. when he was 12. He was the first black composer to join ASCAP in the 1920s He's best remembered for his choral compositions, especially his oratorio "The Ordering of Moses."

07/20/23 Horatio Parker: Suite for Piano Trio, Op. 35

In the early 1900s, Parker was considered one of the best composers in America. That view was held both in the States and abroad. Parker had a premier at the Three Choirs Festival. He won the 1911 Met Opera competition for one opera, and a Los Angeles $10,000 prize in 1916 for his second.

07/21/23 Ernest MacMillan: Two Sketches on French Canadian Airs

For his service to music in Canada, MacMillan was knighted in 1935 by George V. He remains the only Canadian to receive this honor.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Lowell Leibermann Violin Concerto a Modern Masterwork

This release features four violin and orchestra works by American composer Lowell Lieberman. Aiman Mussakhajayeva is the violin soloist in this recording. She wrote, "I believe these works are some of the major pieces in the violin repertoire and will be widely performed."

I have to agree. Liebermann has carved out his own style that uses tonality as a framework. But how those chords relate to each other, and the directions they go in is anything but traditional. Liebermann creates works that can be easily followed on first hearing, yet are totally original. 

The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra premiered in 2001 and delivers on all levels. The solo part provides plenty of material for the violinist to create their own vision. And the music itself is well-constructed, delivering a pleasing aesthetic experience. 

Mussakhajayeva is a talented violinist, and she's committed to this music. The middle movement was intensely expressive (and impressive).

Also included are the Chamber Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 for violin and string orchestra. The first was composed in 1989, the second in 2006. Both were revised in 2022, and those are the versions heard in this recording. 

Aiman Mussakhajayeva performs with the Kazakh State Symphony Orchestra, directed by Tigran Shiganyan. Mussakhajayeva is the Artistic Director of the orchestra. This was a home-grown project, but one of the highest quality. 

The orchestra plays with energy and accuracy. Liebermann also performs, playing piano in the first Chamber Concerto. The photos in the booklet show the true friendship between Liebermann and Mussakhajayeva. The music they create together simply confirms it. 


Lowell Liebermann: Violin Concerto, Op. 74
Chamber Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Aiman Mussakhajayeva, violin
Kazakh State Symphony Orchestra
Blue Griffen

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Mexican Harp - Janet Paulus Showcases New Masterworks

I'm always interested in recordings of Mexican and Canadian classical music. In my opinion, too few American music lovers are aware of the incredible music composed just outside our borders. And for some reason, finding recordings of said music in this country is also something of a rarity. 

Janet Paulus is the principal harpist for Mexico City's Minería Symphony Orchestra. Over the years she's developed strong working relationships with several Mexican composers. And has a deep knowledge of their music. 

The works on this release are all contemporary. Each of the three composers has their own style. And each has created music of real beauty and interest. 

Eduardo Angulo is the eldest of the three composers. After studying at the Royal Conservatoire in the Hague, he returned to Mexico. His 1982 Concerto for Harp and Strings, Op. 15 pairs big, lush themes with modernist pared-down harmonies. The middle movement is especially gorgeous.

Arturo Rodríguez enjoys an international career as a composer, conductor, and pianist. He also writes film music and knows how to convey emotion in an accessible style. His works are the most beautiful on the release.

None of the composers here have an overtly "Mexican" sound. Jorge Torres Sáenz studied at the Paris Conservatoire of Music. He has a strong interest in non-Western music. How to describe his music? It's cosmopolitan and sounds like serial composition -- tonal serial composition. 

Paulus is performing music she knows well by composers she knows well. This is an outstanding album for several reasons. The quality of Paulus' playing is incredible. The quality and variety of these compositions are amazing. They show just how varied and important Mexico's classical music is to the world. 

The Mexican Harp Volume One: Concertos and Solos
Janet Paulus, harp
Works by Eduardo Angulo, Jorge Torres Sáenz, and Arturo Rodríguez
Solistas de Minería; Carlos Miguel Prieto, conductor
Toccata Classics

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Delos Shows Ellen Taaffe Zwilich At Her Best

It is extremely unlikely I'll hear any of these works in concert. After all, a recent study of 100 top orchestras revealed an ugly truth. Music by women -- either living or dead -- only accounted for five percent of their concert programming. Fortunately, we have recordings. 

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is an important American composer. She was the first female composer to win a Pulitzer. But her real distinction lies in the quality of her body of her work. This release presents four works that show just how talented Zwilich is. And also what a slight that her music isn't programmed regularly. 

Zuill Bailey perfoms her Cello Concerto, written in 2020. Bailey premiered the work and knows what he's about. The concerto is a wonderfully expressive, modern piece. It has jazz-like passages, as well as melodies that the cello seems to sing. Bailey is on top of his game here, delivering an energetic performance. 

Another standout on this release is the "Peanuts Gallery." It's a piano concerto inspired by Charles Schutz's comic strip. And Zwilich shows Vince Grimaldi doesn't have a lock on the material. The work portrays the main characters, each with their own movement:  Schroeder, Linus, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Marci). 

This is a work of rare good humor, with sly quotes and light-hearted orchestrations. I have a programming suggestion for orchestras.  Give Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" a rest and present "Peanuts Gallery" instead. It's equally accessible, and perhaps even a little more relatable. 

The Santa Rosa Symphony is directed by Francesco Lecce-Chong. This is their first commercial recording, and their playing is first-rate. I might not get to hear Zwilich in concert. But thanks to Delos, I have some of her finest works to enjoy again and again.   

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Cello Concerto and Other Works
Zuill Bailey, cello
Santa Rosa Symphony; Francesco Lecce-Chong
Delos DE 3596

Friday, July 14, 2023

#ClassicsaDay #NorthAmClassics Week 2

Both countries in North America celebrate their independence in July. For Canada, it's July 1, 1867. And for the United States, it's July 4, 1776. To mark this event, the Classics a Day team challenge is to post video performances of music by both Canadian and American composers.

Finding examples by American composers was easy. But finding performances by Canadian composers proved a little more difficult. And that's a shame. Because the music I found was terrific.

Here are my posts for the second week of #NorthAmClassics.

07/10/23 John Knowles Paine: The Tempest

This American composer was the eldest of the "Boston Six," a group of composers active in the late 1800s. The Six were trying to establish an American style of composing, albeit one based on European models.

07/11/23 Clarence Lucas: Macbeth Overture, Op. 39

Canadian composer Lucas was born at the Six Nations Reserve, Ontario. He was best known as a conductor and also worked for Chappel Publishing. This overture dates from 1900.

07/12/23 George Chadwick: Sinfonietta

Chadwick was part of the "Boston Six," an influential group of late 19th-Century American composers. He studied in Leipzig with Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn. His own works reflect some of those Germanic influences.

07/13/23 Guillaume Couture: Jean le Précurseur

Canadian composer Couture was known primarily as a choral conductor and voice instructor. His oratorio "Jean le Précurseur" was started in 1907 and took two years to compose.

07/14/23 Arthur Foote: Francesca da Rimini, Op. 24

Foote received the first master's degree in music conferred by any American university (in this case, Harvard). Foote wrote most of his orchestral music early in his career before turning almost exclusively to chamber music.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

New Release Features Richard Stöhr Firsts

Richard Stöhr was an important and influential musical figure in 1920s Vienna. He was first a student then a professor at the Conservatoire of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. It's estimated that during this period his works were performed over 100 times each year.

Stöhr was friends and colleagues with Gustav Mahler, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Felix Weingartner, and Bruno Walter (among others). But it didn't last. When the Nazis took over Austria, Stöhr lost his post, and his music was banned. 

He was able to escape with his family to America in 1938. But the damage was done.  Stöhr never enjoyed the same level of professional esteem and audience popularity again. 

As early as 1905 Stöhr admitted he was not a modern composer. Throughout his career, his music remained tonal. Stohr was content building on the precepts of Mahler, Zemlinsky, and Schmidt.

Volume Two of Toccata Classics' series presents two firsts by Stöhr. It includes the first of his Orchestral Suites and the first of his seven symphonies. Both date from around 1909. 

Both are beautifully crafted compositions. Stöhr was quite comfortable with classical forms, both past and present. The lively fugue in the first suite is but one example.

His Symphony No. 1 in C major is big, but not too big. The themes are broad and expansive. Stöhr was an effective orchestrator. His use of brass is particularly effective. But Stöhr's scope wasn't as wide as Mahler's. This is a symphony that has something important to say, even if it doesn't contemplate the meaning of life.

The Sinfonia Varsovia is in top form here. Under Ian Hobson's direction, they've captured the Viennese character of Stöhr's music. 

Stöhr may not have been a modern composer, but he was true to himself. These are works of great originality that can still speak to audiences today. At least, they spoke to me.   

Richard Stöhr: Orchestral Music, Volume Two
Suite No. 1 in C major for string orchestra, Op. 8
Symphony No. 1 in A minor, Op. 18
Sinfonia Varsovia; Ian Hobson, conductor
Toccata Classics TOCC 0472

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Claudio Santoro Symphonies Break with Symphonic Form

Claudio Santoro was a major figure in Brazilian music. He was a concert violinist, a conductor, and a composer. Throughout his career, he taught at many prestigious universities throughout Europe (and Brazil). Santoro composed mainly instrumental music. 

His catalog includes seven string quartets, three piano concertos, and fourteen symphonies. Naxos is recording a cycle of those symphonies with the support of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,   

Volume One included Symphonies 5 and 7. This release features Symphonies 11 and 12. Both receive their world recording premieres. Also included are two shorter works.

Symphony No. 11, written in 1984, is a remarkable work. Usually, the strings carry the symphony, with the other instruments in supporting roles. Santoro reveres those roles here. It's the winds and brass that are the stars, with strings providing continuity between sections.

The highly chromatic first movement and rhythmic second clash together in the finale. Sections reminded me of Shostakovich, at least in theme treatment. It's a short symphony, but an exciting one. 

Symphony No. 12 also doesn't fit the standard symphonic form. The work began as a series of fantasias for various solo instruments. Santoro added orchestral accompaniment to these fantasias and then stitched them together. The "Sinfonia Concertante" was never performed. 

Santoro revised the work in 1988, creating a new three-movement symphony. Nine solo instruments are featured: violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, horn, and trombone. No one instrument is the star. Rather each provides a different take on the thematic material for a brief time. 

It's an unusual way to organize a symphony. But it succeeds on every level. The Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Neil Thomson deliver some invested performances. I suspect many of these musicians played under Santoro in other orchestras.  

Volume three promises Symphony No. 8 plus Santoro's only cello concerto. Can't wait. 

Claudio Santoro: Symphonies Nos. 11 and 12
Concerto Grosso; Three Fragments on BACH
Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra; Neil Thomson, conductor

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Talivaldis Kenins Symphonic Cycle Finishes Strong

This release concludes Ondine's traversal of Talivaldi Kenins symphonies. It features his second, third, and seventh symphonies.

Latvian organist and composer Kenins studied with Oliver Messiaen in the 1940s. When the Soviets overran Latvia, Kenins knew he couldn't return. He emigrated to Canada, where he remained the rest of his life. 

Toronto has a vibrant Latvian community, and soon Kenins felt at home. The community gave him the cultural base he needed for inspiration. 

And the wider cultural landscape soon bore the imprint of this talent. Kenins is credited with introducing many European concepts to Canadian composers. In the process it steered them away from British styles.

Kenin's own style was influenced by his time with Messiaen, as well as the heritage of Latvian music. But he also drew from Canadian sources. His Symphony No. 2 "Sinfonia concertante" has a neo-classical form. And it uses a lullaby of the Mi'kmaq First Nations people. It's an interesting blend that works surprisingly well.

The Symphony No. 7 also has neo-classical leanings. Kenins wrote the work in the form of a passacaglia. In essence, a passacaglia is a set of continual variations over a repeating bassline. Kenin obscures that bassline, but its outline is often hinted at throughout the work.     

Kenins wrote his third symphony in 1970. It was a commission from the Canadian Latvian Song Festival. The Festival is one of the events that reinforces Latvian cultural identity. Kenins delivers a masterwork of counterpoint and polyphony. And he does so with an underpinning of Latvian musical culture. There's not another work like it. 

Andris Poga and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra understand Kenin's music.  -- both what it is and the culture it springs from. This has been an exceptional cycle of recordings. If you're familiar with the previous volumes, then I don't need to say anymore. If Kenins is unknown to you, give this release a listen. There are revelations to be found.  

Tālivaldis Ķeniņš: Symphonies Nos. 2, 3, & 7
Latvian National Symphony Orchestra; Andris Poga, conductor


Friday, July 07, 2023

#ClassicsaDay #NorthAmClassics Week 1

 Both countries in North America celebrate their independence in July. For Canada, it's July 1, 1867. And for the United States, it's July 4, 1776. To mark this event, the Classics a Day team challenge is to post video performances of music by both Canadian and American composers.

Finding examples by American composers was easy. But finding performances by Canadian composers proved a little more difficult. And that's a shame. Because the music I found was terrific.

Here are my posts for the first week of #NorthAmClassics.

Jocelyn Morlock: Golden

Canadian composer Jocelyn Morlock died in March of this year at age 53. She left behind an impressive catalog of compositions. "Golden" was written in 2001 for soprano and baroque strings.

Carl Ruggles: Portals for String Orchestra

American composer Carl Ruggles' biggest hit was "Suntreader." "Portals" was written the year before in 1925, and shoes the direction Ruggles was moving towards.

Murray Adaskin: String Quintet with Double Bass

The bulk of Adaskin's music was written after his retirement. This Canadian composer was head of the University of Saskatchewan's Music Department until 1966. He wrote this work in 1995

Amy Beach: Piano Quintet, Op. 67

Beach wrote this work in 1907. When this American composer and pianist married in 1885, her husband forced her to give up concertizing, which gave her more time to write.

Ernest Gagnon: Le carnaval de Québec

Canadian composer and organist Ernest Gagnon is best remembered for his ethnomusicology. His "Chansons populaires du Canada" was published in 1865, and preserved many Canadian folk songs.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Edward German's Music Merrie as Ever

This release is another reissue of Marco Polo's "British Light Music" series. Edward German was one of the earlier British light classical composers. 

Arthur Sullivan considered Edward German his musical heir. And Edward Elgar admired his music. Those two statements should give you a fair idea of German's style. 

With one exception, the works on this release predate the First World War. And that's significant. There was a huge cultural shift after the war, and the Merrie Old England of German's music was swept away. 

And merrie it is. German's style embraces the folk traditions of England. The shapes of the melodies  sound distinctively English -- even when not quoting folk songs. Like Gilbert and Sullivan, it's upbeat and good-natured. This is music for entertainment, and of exceptional quality. 

German is an effective orchestrator. His shifting and rearranging of instrumental combinations keep the listener actively engaged. Even as his melodies charm and beguile.

The sun may have set on the British Empire, but it's spirited joie de vivre lives on in German's music.

Edward German: Merrie England Suite
British Light Music, Vol. 10
Nell Gwyn; Gipsy Suite; Romeo and Juliet
Slovak Radio Symphony orchestra; Adrian Leaper, conductor
Naxos 8.555171

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Georg Goltermann's Music Receive Sympathetic Performances

If you're a cellist, you're probably familiar with Georg Goltermann -- at least to some extent. Goltermann was a virtuoso cellist and composer active in the mid-1800s. 

His fourth cello concerto has a relatively easy solo part. For that reason, it's known as the "student's concerto." And it's often performed in student recitals. Some of his shorter works for cello and piano are also used as teaching pieces for the instrument.

According to Wikipedia, Goltermann's concertos aren't performed by professional orchestras.  The entry states the "lack the musicality of true concertos." and even the "student concerto" "is not considered inspired." Ouch.

Fortunately, I auditioned this recording before reading that entry. I found Goltermann's Cello Concerto No. 1 to be a heartfelt and engaging work. The melodies are well-crafted, and the composition shows real talent. 

Goltermann uses the cello effectively. No matter how technically difficult the music is, it all seems to lay well on the instrument. 

And Goltermann knew how to use the cello to best advantage. I think there's plenty of musicality in this concerto. Especially as  Jamal Aliyev  played it. This is real heart-on-your-sleeve Romanticism and Allyev doesn't hold back. His performances kept me genuinely interested in what was going to happen next.

Goltermann's 1802 Symphony in A minor reminded me of Weber with a hint of Beethoven. Goltermann was also a professional conductor. I believe this experience informed his creation of the symphony. 

It's definitely of the Romantic Era. The symphony has plenty of extreme dynamics and exciting climaxes. But to me it also sounds like a carefully-constructed work. Goltermann lays out his themes and develops them in a controlled, logical fashion.

I don't think Howard Griffiths read the Wikipedia entry, either. He and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra seem invested in these works. Griffiths brings out the orchestra's skill, making this music comes alive. 

There are some moments of real beauty in these works. And you don't have to search very hard to find them.

Georg Goltermann: Cello Concerto No. 1; Symphony in A minor
Romance in A
Jamal Aliyev, cello
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra; Howard Griffiths, conductor
Capriccio C5469

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Derek B. Scott: Orchestral Music Volume Two Entertains

This is the second volume of Derek B. Scott's music from Toccata Classics. Volume one provided a good introduction to Scott with a collection of short works. Volume two presents some of his extended compositions. And, I think, it's a stronger release.

Scott is an established authority on British music hall, operetta, and musical theater. As a composer, he uses that knowledge to create appealing, well-crafted compositions. 

His first symphony begins with a user-friendly theme that borrows early Brit-pop modality. But there's nothing trite about it. Scott explores his ideas in interesting and deceptively complex ways. 

Symphony No. 2 was composed in 1997, two years after the first. This work shows Scott's development as a symphonist. The themes are still clearly defined and easy to follow. But the overall composition seems to owe less to popular music forms. 

To be clear, neither symphony goes for Mahler's All-Encompassing Pronouncements on Life's Meaning. But they weren't meant to. Like Scott's genre of study, his music is designed to entertain. But also to enlighten. 

Accessibility doesn't have to mean hackwork. Scott has carefully constructed these pieces and shown great imagination in doing so. They're accessible, yet lead the listener in unexpected directions. 

I thoroughly enjoyed them, and found they rewarded repeated listening. 

The Liepāja Symphony Orchestra direct by Paul Mann deliver some fine performances. This music isn't deathly serious. Mann and the orchestra get it, and their interpretation help us get it, too.  

Derek B. Scott: Orchestral Music, Volume Two
Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 23; Symphony No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26
The Silver Sword: Tone Poem, Op. 39
Liepāja Symphony Orchestra; Paul Mann, conductor
Toccata Classics TOCC 0646