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The Classical Explorer

July 2008 Archives

Symphonies from Sweden

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BIS 426

Lars-Erik Larsson
(1908-1986)

Symphony #1 in D Major, Op 2 (1927-8)
Symphony #2, Op 17 (1937)

Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Hans-Peter Frank
BIS CD-426 67:01

Probably best-known for his Pastoral Suite, Larsson wrote three symphonies which, not unexpectedly, owe some debt to Sibelius and Nielsen but are nonetheless individual, combining some austerity with great warmth. The standout for me is the andante of the second symphony which is reminiscent of its counterpart in the Nielsen third. The provincial Swedish orchestra performs admirably.

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

Norwegian Piano Miniatures

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Arena 7015

Agathe Backer Grøndahl
(1847-1907)

Complete Piano Music Vol. IV

Natalia Strelehenko, Piano
Arena AR07015

A concert artist, wife, mother, sufragette, and prolific composer, Grøndahl wrote over 190 songs, approximately 120 piano pieces, collections of Norwegian folksongs, some choral works, and some student orchestral works. Grieg was so impressed by her piano playing that he asked her to perform his piano concerto in concert. She was called "another Clara Schumann" … high praise!

This lovely and melodious piano music most reminds me of the Lyric Pieces of Grieg. It is easy to listen to and difficult to forget.

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

Chamber Music From An Opera Composer

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CPO 999721

Heinrich Marschner
(1795-1861)

Piano Trio #2 in G Minor, Op. 111 (1841)
Piano Trio #5 in D Minor, Op. 138 (1848)

Beethoven Trio Ravensburg
CPO 999721-2 70:51

Much better known as a composer of operas, Marschner also left considerable quantities of orchestral and chamber music among which are seven piano trios. The two under consideration are quite extended works which owe more than a little to better-known composers of the period, not least Mendelssohn.

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

Bohemian Symphonies

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CPO 777139

Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda
(1801-1866)

Symphony #5 in B minor, Op 106 (1840)
Symphony#7 in F Major (1843)
Overture #16

Das Neue Orchester/Christoph Spering
CPO 777139-2 68:29

The Bohemian Kalliwoda (aka Kalivoda) spent most of his career in Germany, especially at Donaueschingen. His music shows the influence of Beethoven, Weber and Mendelssohn. Das Neue Orchester is an historically-informed practice band which plays these works with great spirit, and makes much of the occasional unusual percussion writing. Such performances are not to all tastes, but I think Spering's musicians make the best case for unfamiliar music.

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

Sejong Plays Ewazen

|
Albany 577

Eric Ewazen
(b. 1954)

Concerto for Violin & Strings (2000) 1
Concerto for Oboe & Strings "Down a River of Time" (1999) 2
Sinfonia for Strings (2001)

1 Adele Anthony, violin
2 Linda Strommen, oboe
International Sejong Soloists/Hyo Kang
Albany TROY577 64:27

Listening to this as a blindfold test, you might consider Vaughan Williams or a less well-known English composer such as Howells or Rubbra, or occasionally John Adams, or even Thomas Newman. Ewazen was born in Cleveland and on the evidence of this CD, writes extremely approachable music with passages of great beauty, which is a good enough reason for checking this out.

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

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

The Leeds Concerto

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AS&V 905

Howard Blake
(b. 1938)

Violin Concerto, "The Leeds" (1992)
A Month in the Country-Suite for Strings (1986/1993)
Sinfonietta for Ten Brass Instruments (1981)

Christiane Edinger, violin
English Northern Philharmonia/Paul Daniel
Academy Sound & Vision CDDCA905 62:40

The violin concerto is an immediately likeable work with some exhilarating violin writing and orchestration. A Month in the Country uses material from a film score and there are echoes of Vaughan Williams in Tallis Fantasia mode and Britten's Frank Bridge Variations. The sinfonietta is edgier music, giving plenty of opportunity for the individual players.

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A Czech Anthology

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Supraphon 3944

Ilja Hurnik (b.1922)
Four Seasons-Chamber Suite (1952)
Ondráš-Ballet Music (1951)

Jan Kapr (1914-1988)
In the Soviet Country-Cantata (1950) 3

Julius Kalaš (1902-1967)
The Nightingale and the Rose (1956)

Viktor Kalabis (1923-2006)
Violin Concerto #1 (1958-59) 4

Jan Seidel (1908-1998)
Oboe Concerto #2 (1955) 5

Ivan Jirko (1926-1978)
Piano Concerto #3 (1958) 6

Petr Eben (1929-2007)
Piano Concerto (1961) 7

Pavel Bořkovec (1894-1972)
Symphony #2 (1955)

Václav Dobiáš (1909-1978)
Build Up Your Country to Reinforce the Peace-Cantata (1947) 2

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946) 1

1 Eric Schilling, narrator
2 Jan Soumar, baritone
4 Václav Snítil, violin
5 Josef Shejbal, oboe
6 Viktorie Švihlíková, piano
7 František Rauch, piano
2 Prague Philharmonic Choir
2 Kühn Children's Choir
3 Prague Radio Choir
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Karel Ančerl
Supraphon SU3944-2 4CDs 258:17

Volume 43 of the Karel Ančerl Gold Edition apparently collects a number of short works left over from the mainly single-CD releases which make up the rest of the series. Apart from the Britten, the remaining works are by composers of what was then Czechoslovakia, Ančerl having left his homeland for Canada in 1968, the year of the Soviet suppression of the Prague Spring. This set gives an interesting insight into the sort of music being written during the fifteen or so years after the war.

Most of the music is upbeat, some even jaunty. The two vocal works remind me of such pieces as Prokofiev's Summer Day, but the words are best avoided! Of the concertos, the standout for me is the Kalabis, but all are worth getting to know. Some of the recordings are in mono but the transfers have been very well done. The set is attractively priced. Recommended for those who like to explore the byways of the byways.

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Chamber Music from the Belle Époch

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Hyperion 67391

Reynaldo Hahn
(1874-1947)

Sonata in C Major for Violin & Piano (20:12)
Soliloque et Forlane for Viola & Piano (7:42)
Romance in A Major for Violin & Piano (4:27)
Piano Quartet #3 in G Major (21:57)
Si mes vers avaient des alles (1:53)
Nocturne in E Flat Major for Violin & Piano (5:30)

Stephen Coombs, piano
Ccharles Sewart, violin
Yuko Inoue, viola
Philip De Groote, cello
Hyperion CDA67391 62:01

Hahn was a composer, a conductor, a performer, and a respected music critic. He was most popular before World War I (the Belle Époch) but subsequently fell out of fashion. He was often classified as a mere "salon" composer – with much of his music considered lightweight because it is immediately appealing and accessible. Fortunately for us, his music has come back into favor among recording artists.

If this sonata were not as hauntingly melodious and touching, it would simply be a curiosity, a total musical anachronism. Hahn wrote this sonata in 1926, yet in a blindfold test, one might guess it was sibling to the first Fauré (1877) or Franck (1886) violin sonatas. But the Hahn Violin Sonata is one of those rare gems that can always appeal to the musician and the listener. The form is classical, and the last movement of the sonata reprises the beautiful first movement melody, making a satisfactory arch. The second movement moves lickety-split, amusing and witty – only lasting for slightly over three minutes. This movement is very much in the jolly spirit of the third movement of the Op. 13 violin sonata of Fauré.

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

Complete Piano Trios by Lalo

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MD&G 3030482

Édouard Lalo
(1823-1892)

Piano Trio #1 in C minor, Op. 7
Piano Trio #2 in B minor
Piano Trio #3 in A minor, Op. 26

Trio Parnassus
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG3030482-2 77:59

Lalo performed with a professional string quartet first as a violist, and then as a violinist, so it is no wonder that his chamber music compositions are totally idiomatic for strings. The first two trios were written in the early 1850's and the third was written in 1880. The clear influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn is heard in all three, but the third trio also has the very exciting cross-rhythms reminiscent of Lalo's more famous works for violin and cello. These are very fine performances by the Trio Parnassus (Chia Chou, piano; Wolf-Dieter Streicher, violin; Michael Gross, violoncello)!

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[ Sheet Music for Trio #2 is available at Edition Silvertrust
More sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - Musicnotes.com ]

The Kapp Family

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Chandos 10441

Artur Kapp
(1878-1952)
Don Carlos Overture (1899)

Eugen Kapp
(1908-1996)
Kalevipoeg Ballet Suite (1947)

Villem Kapp
(1913-1964)
Symphony #2 in C Minor (1955)

BBC Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Chandos CHAN10441 63:34

This Estonian family is made up of Artur, his son, Eugen and nephew, Villem. Much of Artur's training was in Russia, and he taught both the younger men. The overture sounds thematically rather like Schumann. Kalevipoeg has echoes of Sibelius and Nielsen, and parts of it even suggest an English influence. The symphony has clear Russian antecedents and a blindfold test would probably guess a Soviet composer. Järvi seems to do some of his best work when presenting the compositions of his countrymen, as we've seen with such CDs as his two Chandos albums of music by various Estonian composers, Tobias' Jonah's Mission and his Tubin cycle.

See also http://kappidemuuseum.suure-jaani.ee/ingl.html

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Hungarian String Quartets

|
Hungaroton 31687

Leó Weiner
(1885-1960)

String Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 4 (1906)
String Quartet in F Sharp Major Op.13 (1921)
String Quartet in G Major (Pastorale, Fantasy & Fugue) Op. 26 (1934)

Auer String Quartet
Hungaroton HCD31687 74:19

Weiner's Second String Quartet is not Hungarian in the sense of borrowed folk-tunes, although Weiner did develop an interest in the extensive folk-research of Bartók, Kodály, and Lajtha. Instead, Weiner makes excellent use of folk rhythms, harmonic modes and spirit. He also has a wonderful melodic gift, and a totally idiomatic string writing sense.

For a short time before World War I, Weiner was more popular than his contemporaries, but this popularity faded and now he is hardly known. This CD by the Auer Quartet (Gábor Sipos & Zsuzanna Berentés, violins; György Gulyás Nagy, viola; Ákos Takás, cello) and a few others that have recently appeared, should help bring his neglected music the attention and acclaim that it deserves.

I would heartily recommend listening to this entire recording as a preparation for fuller appreciation of the somewhat more daunting six String Quartet masterpieces of Bartók, because Weiner's quartets, especially the Second, speak the same language but with more familiar accents.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

Early Chamber Music

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Timpani 1077

Paul Le Flem
(1881-1984)

Quintet for Piano & Strings in C minor 36:40
Sonata for Violin & Piano (1905) 28:57

Louvigny String Quartet
Alain Jacquon, piano
Timpani 1C1077

Le Flem's quintet sounds like it is a close relative of Ravel's string quartet or Faure's first piano quartet both in tonality and in emotional evocations. This haunting chamber music deserves a wider audience. The playing by Jacquon and the Louvigny String Quartet (Philip Koch & Fabian Perdichizzi, violins; Ilan Schneider, viola; Aleksandr Kramouchin, cello) is excellent, and the entire CD is an impressionist treat.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus ]

Piano Music from the South of France

|
Apex 60625

Déodat de Séverac
(1872-1921)

Le chant de la terre (1899-1900)
En Languedoc (1903-04)
Les Naïdes et le faune indiscret (1908-19)
Baigneuses au soleil (1908)

Izumi Tateno, piano
Apex 60625-2 72:21

Apart from a period of musical training in Paris with Magnard and d'Indy, Séverac spent his life in the south of France which provided inspiration for his piano compositions. He counted Albéniz and Ravel among his friends, and their influence – and that of Debussy – is evident in these very attractive works.

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[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]
Trumpet