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The Classical Explorer

December 2008 Archives

More Than Hungarian Folk Songs

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Chandos CHAN9811

Zoltan Kodály
(1882-1967)

Theatre Overture (1927)
Concerto for Orchestra (1939-40)
Dances of Marosszék (1923-7)
Symphony in C Major (1961)

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Yan Pascal Tortelier
Chandos CHAN9811 71:18

The Dances of Marosszék are fairly well-known but the remainder of the works on this disc are heard much less often. Other than the dances, the music does not draw on Kodály's folk song collecting, but there are indications within the music that he was a Hungarian composer. The overture and the Concerto are each in one movement running about 15 minutes. Although not completed until towards the end of his long life, the symphony had its gestation in the 1930s and to a large extent is a product of that era.

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

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

Smiling Through The Tears

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Naxos 8.570540

Alexander Zemlinsky
(1871-1942)

Three Pieces for Cello & Piano (1891)
Sonata in A minor for Cello & Piano (1894)
Trio in D minor for Clarinet, Cello & Piano (1896)

Othmar Mueller, cello
Ernst Ottensamer, clarinet
Christopher Hinterhuber, piano
Naxos 8.570540 64:21

This fine CD was purchased primarily for the beautiful Clarinet Trio, but the cello and piano works are a fantastic discovery. They fill a long-held desire of this listener for more Brahmsian cello music. They contain melodies and rhythms and the same emotional smiling-through-tears found in Brahms. Both of the Zemlinsky cello works had been presumed lost or destroyed, and were found only recently.

The clarinet trio owes its existence even more directly to Brahms, whose own Clarinet Trio predates this one by several years. Brahms recommended the Zemlinsky Trio to the publisher, Simrock. The works on this CD are performed with great sensitivity and superb musicianship.

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

[ Sheet music and sound samples for the Trio can be found at Edition Silvertrust
  Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

Indulging Cyclical Impulses

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Cyprès CYP3601

Adolphe Biarent
(1871-1916)

Trenmor - Symphonic Poem (1905)
Symphony in D Minor (1908)
Two Sonnets for Cello & Orchestra (1909-13) 1

1 Luc Dewez, cello
Liège Philharmonic Orchestra/Pierre Bartholomée
Cyprès CYP3601 58:53

The Belgian composer Biarent is much less well-known than Franck or even Lekeu, probably because none of his works had been published at the time of his death. The music presented here shows the influence of Franck and d'Indy, with occasional nods towards Liszt, Wagner and Dukas, and, in the case of the sonnets, the Dvořák concerto.

Trenmor has something of the atmosphere of Franck's The Accursed Huntsman with scope for interestingly agitated passages, while the symphony, the only one Biarent wrote, runs about half an hour and is highly regarded within Belgium. We hear all too little of this country's music and this CD suggests there may be others awaiting discovery.

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

Music by the Director of the Sistine Choir

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Bongiovanni GB5651-2

Lorenzo Perosi
(1872-1956)

Suite #5 "Tortona" (c.1908)
Suite #7 "Torino" (undated)

Orchestra Sinfonica 'Nuova Cameristica di Milano'/Arturo Sacchetti
Bongiovanni GB5651-2 68:50

Perosi was better known as a composer of religious music and was once extremely popular. A crisis of faith caused ongoing mental problems and he was in and out of institutions for some time.

Among his orchestral compositions were ten suites representing Italian cities, #5 in homage to his home city. The music is melodious and immediately appealing. The orchestration shows traces of Brahms but the casual listener might guess that it was by Dvořák or someone like Suk or Fibich: Perosi was known to borrow ideas extensively from other composers. Not great music, but certainly well worth getting to know.

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

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

Spanish Classics

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Naxos 8.570713

Tomás Bretón
(1850-1923)

Four Spanish Pieces (1911) 18:44
Piano Trio in E Major (1887) 34:42

Lom Piano Trio
Naxos 8.570713

Tomás Bretón was known in his day primarily as an operatic and zarzuela composer. The works under review, however, are wonderful examples of his chamber music writing. Naxos is bringing this music back from years of unjust neglect, as part of their Spanish Classics series, a collection well worth exploring. The first two movements and the finale of Bretón's delightful piano trio are good examples of Late Romantic European chamber music. The third movement, dance-like and less formal, definitely speaks with a musical Spanish accent.

The Lom Piano Trio (Joan Orpella, violin; José Mor, cello; and Daniel Ligorio, piano) play this music with verve and spirit. Especially exciting are the Four Spanish Pieces. The third piece, Bolero, has a melody with the charm of a Fritz Kreisler composition.

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

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

British Symphonic Collection 14

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Classico CLASSCD634

Cipriani Potter
(1792-1871)

Symphony #7 in F Major (1826) 34:02

William Sterndale Bennett
(1816-1875)

Symphony in G minor Op. 43 (1867) 27:07

Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
Classico CLASSCD634

Teacher and illustrious student, Potter and Bennett were accomplished pianists, performers and composers.

Potter's F Major Symphony has the charm of early Schubert symphonies, although it is thought that Schubert was unknown in the UK at the time of its composition. It has also been compared to the first two Beethoven symphonies.

Bennett's symphony in G Minor is very Mendelssohnian in character and orchestration. This symphony was the first British symphony to find a regular place in the repertoire. If you find William Sterndale Bennett to your taste, you can easily find other works of his recorded on Marco Polo (several volumes of piano music and one volume of chamber music) and Lyrita (piano concerti) – all recommended.

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

[ Sheet music by Potter: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com
  Sheet music by Potter: Sheet Music PlusMusicnotes.com ]

Belgian Chamber Music

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MDG6441266-2

Guillaume (Jean Joseph Nicholas) Lekeu
(1870-1894)

Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello & Piano (1894)
Molto Adagio for String Quartet (1887)
String Quartet (1887)

Jan Michiels, piano
Spiegel String Quartet
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6441266-2 72:09

Guillaume Lekeu a Belgian composer who lived for a very short time, studied with César Franck and Vincent d'Indy. His credo, "Je me tue à mettre dans ma musique toute mon âme" (I put my whole heart and soul in my music) is apparent in his chamber music.

This recording opens with a fiery, impassioned violin explosion, but after about thirty seconds settles in to a Fauré-like piano quartet filled with lovely melodies and great part writing. This piano quartet was left unfinished, but completed by d'Indy. The completion is not on this disc.

Lekeu's single movement Adagio and his String Quartet, however, show very strong influence and understanding of Late Beethoven, not just in the part writing, but in the mature mood, the depth of feeling, and the richness of the counterpoint. Special mention should be made of the fifth movement, Poco Allegro e molto scherzoso (track 8). It is a folk-like theme, and twists and turns in delightful sophisticated changes of mode and mood.

The Spiegel Quartet members performing on this fine-sounding disc are Elisa Kawaguti, Stefan Willems, violins; Leo De Neve, viola; Jan Sciffer, cello. The pianist is Jan Michiels.

Read the Classical Net Review

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

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

The Russians, Brahms and Reger Were His Ideals

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CPO 999639

Kurt Atterberg
(1887-1974)

Symphony #1 in B minor, Op. 3 (1909-11)
Symphony #4 "Sinfonia Piccola" in G minor, Op. 14 (1918)

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ari Rasilainen
CPO 999639-2 61:55

Atterberg's ten symphonies, including one for strings which is unnumbered, have been recorded for CPO as have several of his concertos and short orchestral works.

The two on this CD have something of the atmosphere of the countries of northern Europe we've learned from Grieg and Sibelius without sounding a great deal like either, and listening to more of Atterberg's music gradually reveals a recognisable style. Of particular interest is the sad and beautiful slow movement of the fourth symphony. A composer well worth exploring.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe
Also available in a boxed set of the symphonies Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

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

Influenced by Hungarian Folk Music

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Hyperion CDA66786

Ernö Dohnányi
(1877-1960)

Piano Quintet #1 in C minor, Op. 1 (1895)
Piano Quintet #2 in E Flat minor, Op. 26 (1914)
Serenade in C Major for String Trio, Op. 10 (1902)

William Howard, piano
The Schubert Ensemble of London
Hyperion CDA66786 75:51

It's only in fairly recent years that we've been able to explore Dohnányi's output much beyond his Variations on a Nursery Song; there are treasures to be found, the piano quintets among them. The first shows the influence of Brahms and Dvořák while the second, coming nearly twenty years later, is a denser work. The Serenade is quite well-known, with a slow movement of great beauty.

As the more enterprising record companies delve deeper into the nineteenth century, we find more piano quintets to set beside those that are more familiar. These two belong in the best company.

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

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

A Musical Chameleon

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Naxos 8.570435

Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling
(1904-1985)

Symphony in C (1963)
Sinfonia Diatonica (1957)
Introduction & Fugue for Strings (1948)

Staatskapelle Weimar/José Serebrier
Naxos 8.570435 65:40

On the evidence of this CD, the German composer Schwarz-Schilling is something of a musical chameleon. The music sounds variously like Reger, Copland and possibly Walton, with traces of other composers along the way. It's always interesting to find a new composer and if this appeals, there are several other CDs of his music available.

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

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

Russian Piano Discovery

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Hyperion CDA67090

Georgy Catoire
(1861-1926)

Caprice, Op. 3
Intermezzo, Op. 6, #5
Trois morceaux, Op. 2
Prélude, Op. 6, #2
Scherzo, Op. 6, #3
Vision (Étude), Op. 8
Cinq morceaux, Op. 10
Quatre morceaux, Op. 12
Quatre préludes, Op. 17
Chants du crépuscule, Op. 24
Poème, Op. 34, #2
Prélude, Op. 34, #3
Valse, Op. 36

Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Hyperion CDA67090 77:59

Of French extraction, Catoire was born in Russia and spent much of his life living there, eventually becoming professor of composition at Moscow Conservatory. His long neglect is probably due to the music not fulfilling the purposes required by the Soviet system. The obvious comparisons are with Liszt and Scriabin and many of the pieces presented here sound very difficult to play but not to listen to. Such music is meat and drink to Marc-André Hamelin who, as usual, tackles fiendishness with ease.

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

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

20th-Century Swedish Symphonies

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CPO 999677-2

Dag Wirén
(1905-1986)

Symphony #2, Op. 14 (1939)
Symphony #3, Op. 20 (1943-4)
Concert Overture #1, Op. 2 (1931)
Concert Overture #2, Op. 16 (1940)

Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
CPO 999677-2 65:38

The Swedish composer Wirén is one of those known mainly for one work, in his case the march from his Serenade for Strings. The two symphonies, the second a rather genial and breezy work, the third more serious, have slight connections with Nielsen and with the music Wirén would have heard during his time in Paris in the 1920s. The overtures make attractive fillers. The fourth and fifth symphonies and a ballet are available on another CPO CD. The first, an experimental work, was withdrawn.

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

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

Piano Sonatas from Beethoven's Rival

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Naxos 8.570796

Ferdinand Ries
(1784-1838)

Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 11 #2
Piano Sonata in E Flat Major, Op. 11, #1
Sonatina in A minor, Op. 45

Susan Kagan, piano
Naxos 8.570796 50:02

As a close associate of Beethoven, it's no surprise that Ries' music was strongly influenced by the older composer, not that that's a criticism. For a long time, a solitary piano concerto was about the extent of recordings of his music but in recent years, mainly due to CPO, much more has become available.

Susan Kagan, a name Fanfare readers will recognise, has started a series of his piano music for Naxos. The music is immediately attractive and adds to our knowledge of a most interesting composer. The playing time is hardly generous, but at Naxos price, can be forgiven.

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

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

Hungarian Piano Quintets

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CPO 777277

Karl Goldmark
(1830-1915)

Piano Quintet in B Flat Major, Op. 30 (1879)
Piano Quintet in C Sharp minor, Op. 54 (published 1916)

Oliver Triendl, piano
Quatuor Sine Nomine
CPO 777277-2 74:51

Goldmark is best known for his Rustic Wedding Symphony and his violin concerto, but neither attracts much recording attention, especially in recent years. These two quintets are much in the tradition of the great piano quintets by Schumann, Brahms and Dvořák, with a little Mendelssohnian playfulness. The piano writing is quite muscular without being overpowering, and there are some harmonies that remind us that Goldmark was a Hungarian composer.

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

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

British Piano Concerto & Symphony

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Naxos 8.570406

John Gardner
(b. 1917)

Overture: Midsummer Ale, Op. 73 (1965)
Piano Concerto #1 in B Flat, Op. 34 (1956-7) 1
Symphony #1 in D Minor, Op. 2 (1946-7)

1 Peter Donohoe, piano
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
Naxos 8.570406 71:54

Gardner is yet another composer to have emerged from relative obscurity in recent years and this CD was a 90th birthday tribute in 2007. The compositions presented here, which work quite well as a concert, are in different styles. The breezy overture is succeeded by the piano concerto which has stylistic affinity with Britten's concerto. Although the CD is titled as one of Naxos' British Piano Concerto series, the main work is the symphony which runs about 41 minutes. Conceived during World War II, it is a dark work in the manner of Bax as in, for example, the slow movement of the first symphony or November Woods. There is much further information at the composer's website.

Read the Classical Net Review

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

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