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The Classical Explorer

May 2008 Archives

A Light Touch

AS&V 965

Cécile Chaminade

Trio #1 in G minor, Op. 11 (1881)
Trio #2 in A minor, Op. 34 (1887)
Ritournelle (arr. Marcus)
Sérénade, Op. 29 (arr. Cottin/Marcus)
Pastorale Enfante, Op. 12 (arr. Marcus)
Serenade Espagñole (arr. Kreisler)

Tzigane Piano Trio
Academy Sound & Vision CDDCA965 57:28

Chaminade, as a young girl, was called "a little Mozart" by George Bizet. She was most known for her popular "salon and parlor" pieces which she performed and published. She wrote over 400 compositions, among them a ballet, an opera, songs, concerti, and chamber music, but she was forgotten in her own lifetime, and belittled by contemporary critics because she was a woman, and because she didn't take part in the French musical revolution of the times. A complete catalog of her works was not made until 1988! At last we can enjoy her charming music on CD and much of it is accessible to amateur music-makers.

This CD has a little sampling of her songs (Pastorale Enfantine) and piano pieces, both presented here in arrangements, but the chamber music is the real meat of the recording. Chaminade, in her trios, wrote deceptively simple melodies and close harmonies for the strings while her piano parts sparkle with light scale passages and arpeggios and overall rhythmic interest. The third movement of the first Piano Trio has captured me! I can listen to it over and over. It is reminiscent of the Arensky First Piano Trio, second movement, another ear-worm with amazing sense of movement in the piano part! Chaminade's overall compositional style also evokes another elegant and charming work: the first Piano Trio of Camille Saint-Saëns.

If you enjoy these works, you will no doubt enjoy the numerous recordings of Chaminade's piano works, and I can also highly recommend the Deutsche Grammophon release of Anne Sofie von Otter and Bengt Forsberg presenting Chaminade's songs, three pieces for violin and piano and three two-piano works (DGG 471331-2)

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Russian Symphony Tour via Ukraine

Marco Polo 8.223540

Boris Lyatoshynsky

Symphony #2, Op. 26
Symphony #3 in B Minor, Op. 50

Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra/Theodore Kuchar
Marco Polo 8.223540 76:40

Listening to these symphonies is almost a tour of the Russian symphony: there are Tchaikovsky, Glière, early Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Myaskovsky, Shostakovich and so on. The feeling is mostly optimism and triumph with little of the bleakness that pervades his last symphonies. The recording (Kiev, 1993) has that somewhat reverberant sound typical of many recordings from Russia, where the engineers may have learned their craft.

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Latvian Cello Concertos

cpo 777263

Carl Davidov

Cello Concerto #1 in B minor, Op. 5
Cello Concerto #2 in A minor, Op. 14
Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33

Wen-Sinn Yang, cello
Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Terje Mikkelsen
cpo 777263-2 65:23soloist

These two amiable concertos by the Latvian Davidov make a pleasant change from the usual cello concerto suspects and provide more evidence of interesting composers from the Baltic countries. The inclusion of the Tchaikovsky warhorse is not a disincentive as it's a well-played version, but the main interest is in the two concertos.

Read the Classical Net Review

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus ]

Right Through The Bone

RCA 15837

Julius Röntgen

Quintet for Piano & Strings Op. 100 (1927)
Trio for Clarinet, Viola & Piano (1921)
Sonata for Viola & Piano in C Minor (1924)
Sextet in G Major (1931)

ARC Ensemble
Artists of the Royal Conservatory (Canada)
RCA Red Seal 88697-15837-2 73:12

Ask a string player to free-associate on the word "octet" and you will hear "Mendelssohn". Ask a string player about the word "sextet" and you will most likely evoke the name "Brahms". Julius Röntgen's string sextet is a glorious addition to the repertoire. Although it was written in 1931, it is absolutely in the tradition and style of Brahms as are the other fine chamber works on this CD. They are all performed with excellence by the ARC ensemble, Artists of the Royal Conservatory. ARC is led by Simon Wynberg and is made up of faculty members of the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

The title "Right Through The Bone" was inspired by Edvard Grieg's remark about his good friend Julius Röntgen and his distant relative, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. Wilhelm Röntgen's x-rays only went up to the bone and stopped. But Julius Röntgen's music went right through the bone and directly to the heart!

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - - Donemus ]

An Epic English Symphony

Dutton 7161

Richard Arnell

Symphony #3, Op. 40
Overture "The New Age", Op. 2

Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates
Dutton Epoch CDLX7161 72:10

Arnell wrote his third symphony in America where he lived during World War II. It runs over an hour and is in six movements; the first and fifth each serve as a short prelude to the allegro movement that follows. Much of the second movement derives from a beautiful and very English hymn-like theme. Apart from a sense of unease in the andante, the mood of the symphony is otherwise essentially extrovert. There are traces of Walton, Alwyn, Rubbra, Arnold (at his most rambunctious), even Brian. The brass writing and the orchestration generally is especially impressive.

Read the full Classical Net Review

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]
Other Arnell of interest on Dutton Epoch:
CDLX7184: Piano Concerto and Symphony #2
CDLX7194: Symphonies 4 and 5
CDLX7195: Lord Byron: A Symphonic Portrait (with Dunhill: Symphony in A Minor)

Impromptu Inspirations

Regis 1224

Jan Václav Voríšek

Impromptus, Op. 7
Fantasie, Op. 12
Variations, Op. 19
Piano Sonata in B Flat minor

Radoslav Kvapil, piano
Regis RRC1224 71:56

Voríšek is credited with giving Schubert the idea for his famous impromptus: the two were good friends in Vienna. The impromptus, which take up about half the CD, are strongly reminiscent of Schubert and Beethoven. The Fantasie and the Variations are somewhat more Romantic, and the sonata, which lacks a slow movement, reminds me of the controlled energy of Beethoven's Piano Sonata #18.

Further listening:
Voríšek's best-known composition is his only symphony of which there are a number of recordings.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]
[ Also available from some sources as Unicorn-Kanchana DKP(CD)9145 of which the Regis CD is a reissue:
Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]
[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Rare Martinů Concertos

Hyperion 67672

Bohuslav Martinů

Concerto da Camera for Violin & Strings
Concerto for Violin, Piano & Orchestra
Czech Rhapsody

Bohuslav Matoušek, violin
Karel Košárek, piano
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Christopher Hogwood
Hyperion CDA67672 64:35

These works have enjoyed few recordings and it's good to have them on one CD. The little rhapsody runs about ten minutes, the concertos about 25 each, the violin and piano work being particularly attractive. This is the second of a series devoted to Martinů's works for violin and orchestra.

Read the full Classical Net Review

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

Shipboard Impressions

Timpani 1066

Jean Cras

Quintet for Piano and Strings (1922)
String Quartet (1909)

Alain Jacquon, piano
Quartet Louvigny
Timpani 1C1066 74:33

Jean Cras was an officer in the French Navy, and an extremely talented musical autodidact. He was tutored for a short but intensive period by Henri Duparc, and he spoke fluently the language of Debussy, Ravel, and the Impressionists.

Cras' Quintet for piano and strings was planned as a musical shipboard adventure. The four movements are marked "Clear and Joyful, Calm and Peaceful, Alert and Decisive, Passionate and Proud" and there are program notes to go along with them. As you listen, you can hear the influence of his native Brittany's sea shanties, the hints of the foreign ports of call, the exotic scales of Arabic and Asian music, and in the last movement – about three and a half minutes into the movement) – you can hear an imitation of a Chinese stringed instrument (erhu). All are woven seamlessly into the fabric of the music.

Ordinarily I don't like having "programs" imposed upon my listening, but there is enough good music here for you to write your own adventure. The constant motion is IN the music; the swells of sound could really be the sea!

There is another composition of Cras' that will thrill those who hunger for more ocean voyages: His Ship's Log (Journal de bard) can be found on Timpani 2C2037 in an excellent 2CD set of Cras' orchestral music. However I found that with just a piano and four strings Cras could provide me with the emotions and colors of my own cruise on a luxury liner.

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Early Copland Ballets

Argo 443203

Aaron Copland

Grohg 1
Prelude for Chamber Orchestra 2
Hear Ye! Hear Ye! 2

1 Cleveland Orchestra/Oliver Knussen
2 London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen
Argo 443203-2 68:27

Two half-hour ballets framing a somewhat eerie little prelude: the nicely sinister Grohg, and jazz-influenced Hear Ye! Hear Ye!. All of this music was written before Copland was 35, and is rarely heard.

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

Cimarosa Overtures, Volume 2

Naxos 8.570279

Domenico Cimarosa

La Circe
Alessandro nell'Indie
L'Italiana a Londra
L'Armida immaginaria
La donna sempre al suo peggior s'appiglia
Il fanatico per gli antichi Romani
Giannina e Baerardone

Toronto Chamber Orchestra/Kevin Mallon
Naxos 8.570279 67:27

A CD to be dipped into occasionally rather than played through at a sitting. Several are little three-movement sinfonias. These are charming works, all but guaranteed to give pleasure.

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

Piano Trios by Ries

cpo 777053

Ferdinand Ries

Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Op. 2
Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 143

Mendelssohn Trio Berlin
cpo 777053-2 54:53

As with much of Ries' music, the influence of Beethoven is strong and in these two trios Mendelssohn also hovers. Nothing unusual here – just enjoyable, well-crafted music.

[ Available on CD:
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Norwegian Symphonies

Simax 1062

Johan Halvorsen

Symphony #2
Symphony #3

Trondheim Symphony Orchestra/Ole Kristian Ruud
Simax PSC1062 62:15

Like many other Scandinavian composers, Halvorsen studied in Germany: his music reflects this, and inevitably, Edvard Grieg. These two rarely-encountered symphonies are well worth exploring.

[ Available on CD:
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Molique's Quartets, Volume 1

CPO 777149

Bernhard Molique

String Quartet #1, Op. 18 #1
String Quartet #2, Op. 18 #2

Mannheim String Quartet
cpo 777149-2 58:29

Molique was this German composer's preferred French version of his name. Ludwig van Beethoven looms large over these quartets published in 1834. The first, like Beethoven's, is in F Major, Op 18 #1 which is probably no coincidence. The second, in A minor, is somewhat darker and has some of the character of a Felix Mendelssohn quartet.

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