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The Classical Explorer

April 2008 Archives

English Music from Lyrita

|
Lyrita 269

Granville Bantock
(1868-1946)
Overture to a Greek Tragedy 1

Joseph Holbrooke
(1878-1958)
The Birds of Rhiannon 2

Cyril Rootham
(1875-1938)
Symphony #1 2

1 Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
2 London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Lyrita SRCD269 62:30

A concert comprising Bantock's moody overture, Holbrooke's fairly gentle tone poem, and Rootham's engaging symphony. There are echoes of such composers as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax, a touch of Edward Elgar, even Ernst Moeran. The heart of the half-hour symphony is its beautiful slow movement with similarities to Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony and occasionally William Walton's 1st.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Foote Chamber Music, Volume 2

|
Naxos 8.559014

Arthur Foote
(1853-1937)

Piano Quartet in C Major, Op. 23
Nocturne and Scherzo for Flute & String Quartet
String Quartet #1 in G minor, Op. 4

James Barbagallo, piano
Jeani Muhonen Foster, flute
Da Vinci Quartet
Naxos 8.559014 71:05

Foote, American born and American trained, still was firmly rooted in the European Romantic period. His cheerful and rich melodies pour out in this chamber music.

His most famous and understandably most popular work in its day is the haunting Nocturne and Scherzo for Flute and String Quartet. Foote's biographer, Nicolas E. Tawa, (Arthur Foote: A Musician in the Frame of Time and Place) quoted in the liner notes, said this piece "makes a statement that is benevolent and compassionate, rather than passionate". This is an excellent observation and also holds true especially for the second movement of the gorgeous Piano Quartet.

Foote follows in the tradition of Mendelssohn and Schumann in his chamber music writing, (although in the Piano Quartet there are moments that are also reminiscent of Dvořák's American Quartet). There is a modal theme in the last movement, described as a hymn-tune, used as contrast with the march-like first theme.

The String Quartet No. 1 is pure pleasure!

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet Music for the music on this disc: Silvertrust Edition
  and other Sheet Music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Better Known as a Conductor

|
Siegmund von Hausegger

Siegmund von Hausegger
(1872-1948)

Natursymphonie

WDR Rundfunkchor Köln
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Ari Rasilainen
CPO 777237-2 56:37

Scored for a very large orchestra including organ, and a choir, this is an immediately attractive work. There are reminders of Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Franz Schmidt. The choir appears only in the last movement. Rasilainen has made something of a name for himself in less familiar music such as the symphonies of Kurt Atterberg and Sinding, and is the man for showing this late Romantic work at its best.

[ Available on Multichannel Hybrid SACD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Polish 19th-Century Symphonic Works

|
Accord 11369

Karol Kurpinski (1785-1857): Two Huts
Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski (1807-67): Monbar
Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-72): The Fairy Tale
Zygmunt Noskowski (1844-1909): The Steppes
Wladyslaw Zelenski (1837-1921): In the Tatra Mountains

Sinfonia Varsovia/Grzegorz Nowak
Accord 011369-2 66:31

This is an enjoyable collection of orchestral music by mostly little-known 19th-century Polish composers. The standout is the Noskowski, a 20-minute symphonic poem with memorable themes and sweeping momentum. The mystery is the inclusion in the Zelenski of a theme familiar from Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto, which was written 25 years later.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]

Concerti from Verona

|
Teldec Das Alte Werk 22166

Evaristo Felice Dall'Abaco
(1675-1742)

Concerti a Quattro da Chiesa, Op. 2 #1, 4, 5 & 7
Concerti a Più Instrumenti, Op. 5 #3, 5 & 6
Concerti a Più Instrumenti, Op. 6 #5 & 11

Concerto Köln
Teldec Das Alte Werk 3984-22166-2 78:15

The Veronese composer Dall'Abaco worked in Italy, Bavaria and France, all of whose music influenced his compositions. A wide variety of moods and dance forms is on display on this CD from the ever-reliable Concerto Köln. Lovers of Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann or Jean-Philippe Rameau will find much to enjoy.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

Little-Known Sibelius

|
BIS 815

Jean Sibelius
(1865-1957)

The Wood Nymph, Op. 15 - Ballade
A Lonely Ski-Trail (1925)
Swanwhite, Op. 54
The Wood Nymph, Op. 15 - Melodrama

Timo Keinonen, cello
Lasse Pöysti, narrator
Sakari Tepponen, violin
Pauli Pietiläinen, organ
Harri Karri, piano
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
BIS BIS-CD815 62:08

The Wood Nymph is early Sibelius but is a powerful orchestral work that had to wait until this 1996 CD for its first recording. Swanwhite is a delicate suite of incidental music with most movements lasting little more than a minute. If you dislike music with narration, the other two pieces are minor short works and it's these that include the narrator.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]
Atma 22362

François-Clément Théodore Dubois
(1837-1924)

Trio for Piano & Strings #1 in C minor
Trio for Piano & Strings #2 in E Major
Promenade sentimentale
Canon
Cantilène

Trio Hochelaga
Atma Classique ACD2-2362

The elegance of Camille Saint-Saëns and the expansive and immediately accessible emotional content of Gabriel Fauré are heard throughout this recent CD (2005). Slow movements are full of polite, almost restrained passion, and faster movements are usually very light and bubbly, reminding me of similar movements in Maurice Ravel's chamber music.

It is ironic that Dubois fell out of favor when he refused to join the impressionist "revolution"; after being influential and popular both as composer and teacher, he spent his last twenty years of life in obscurity. He is known now mostly for his "Seven Last Words of Christ" although he was a prolific composer. Also highly recommended is the companion CD: Works for Piano and Strings Vol. II (Atma Classique ACD2-2385) to be discussed in the future.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Buy the sheet music: Edition Silvertrust ]

Joubert's First Symphony

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Lyrita 322

John Joubert
(b. 1927)

Symphony #1, Op. 20 (1956)

London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Lyrita SRCD322 31:17

South African-born Joubert has spent most of his life in England and the traces of Edward Elgar, William Walton, even Malcolm Arnold, in his music are apparent. Vernon Handley, who has done so much for English music, conducts this for all it's worth. The very short playing time is more than compensated by a reduced price.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Symphonies from an Irish Composer

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Marco Polo 8.223766

John Kinsella
(b. 1932)

Symphony #3 "Joie de Vivre"
Symphony #4 "The Four Provinces"

National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Proinnsias Ó Duinn
Marco Polo 8.223766 77:12

This is one of the most interesting CDs of the Irish composers series on Marco Polo. The music is frequently exciting with more than a little menace such as in Peter Mennin's "Moby Dick" and Fifth Symphony. Those who are wary of dissonance need not be worried about this music: it's a pity more of Kinsella's symphonies are not available.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]

Medtner's Fairy Tales

|
Hyperion 67491/2

Nikolai Medtner
(1880-1951)

Skazki Op. 8
Skazki Op. 9
Skazki Op. 14
Skazki Op. 20
Skazki Op. 26
Skazka Op. 31 #3
Skazki Op. 34
Skazki Op. 35
Skazki Op. 42
Skazki Op. 48
Skazki Op. 51
Romantic Sketches for the Young Op. 54
Skazka (1915)

Hamish Milne, piano
Hyperion CDA67491/2 156:59

The rough translation of "skazka" as "tale" is not really adequate for these varied pieces that are somewhat akin to Fibich's moods and reminiscences. The music sounds variously like Sergei Rachmaninoff, Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky and occasionally Francis Poulenc. These CDs are unusually well-filled and Milne's playing is a delight.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Buy the sheet music: Sheet Music Plus ]

The First Finnish Symphony

|
Ondine 1019

Ernst Mielck
(1877-1899)

Symphony in F Minor, Op. 4
Concert Piece for Violin & Orchestra, Op. 8

John Storgårds, violin
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
Ondine ODE1019-2 55:49

Mielck's symphony is generally credited with being the first by a Finnish composer, beating Jean Sibelius by a year or two. It's well worth exploring and adds yet another to the list of short-lived composers with thoughts of what else he might have achieved. The Concert Piece is pleasant without being distinctive, but it's the symphony that's the main interest.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Porter Symphonies #1 & 2

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Albany 574

Quincy Porter
(1897-1966)

Symphony #1
Poem and Dance
Symphony #2

Sinfonia Varsovia/Ian Hobson
Albany TROY574 60:23

The nearest similarity I can suggest for this music is Walter Piston, with a little William Schuman. The symphonies were written thirty years apart but have a unifying "feel". The Poem and Dance serves as a good contrast. The Polish orchestra sounds more than comfortable with this unfamiliar music.

Read the full Classical Net Review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus ]

Bohemian Concertos for Piano

|
Supraphon 3819

Václav Jan Tomášek
(1774-1850)

Piano Concerto #1 in C Major, Op. 18
Piano Concerto #2 in E Flat Major, Op. 20

Jan Simon, piano
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Válek
Supraphon SU3819-2 53:19

These two sunny concertos (1803/5) show the influences of Wolfgang Mozart in festive mood, as in the piano concerto K503, Ludwig van Beethoven and even Carl Maria von Weber, but there are some delightful touches characteristic of none of them. If this appeals, there are other works of this composer to explore, not least his delightful Eclogues for piano.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]
Trumpet