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The Classical Explorer

January 2009 Archives

Born in Scotland

Hyperion CDA67387

Eugen d'Albert

Esther Overture, Op. 8 (1888)

Frederic Lamond

Symphony in A Major, Op. 3 (1893)
From the Scottish Highlands – Overture, Op. 4
Sword Dance

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Hyperion CDA67387 59:51

The connection here is that both composers were born in Glasgow and both were influenced by Brahms. D'Albert, who was German, is known for his opera Tiefland and a couple of piano concertos; Lamond is hardly known at all. Good, solid nineteenth-century music and well-played by the BBC Scottish Symphony, which is used to learning forgotten scores.

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[ Sheet music by d'Albert: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Contemporary of Mozart

Chandos CHAN9275

Franz Krommer

Symphony #2, Op. 40 (1803)
Symphony #4, Op. 102 (undated)

London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
Chandos CHAN9275 57:38

This is one of Chandos' excellent Contemporaries of Mozart series, although the music sounds more like Haydn. Krommer, a Czech who worked in various European countries, seems to have been a very cheerful soul and these two symphonies abound with stylish playing and good humor. Quite a lot of Krommer has been recorded, including some delightful wind pieces and concertos for clarinet for oboe.

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

The Pre-eminent Pupil of Beethoven

Signum SIGX78-00

Carl Czerny

Concerto in C Major for Piano 4-Hands, Op. 153
Symphony #2 in D Major, Op. 781

Liu Xiao Ming, Horst Göbel, piano
Frankfurt am Oder State Orchestra/Nikos Athinäos
Signum SIGX78-00 72:27

The prolific Viennese composer Czerny is best known for his studies, as generations of piano students will attest, but he wrote a great deal of music in different forms including the unusual concerto on this CD, and six symphonies.

The main influences on this music are Beethoven and Schubert with the occasional nod towards Weber. The music is tuneful, readily enjoyable and represents yet another pleasant musical byway. The German label should not be confused with the UK Signum label. Athinäos and his orchestra also recorded the first and fifth symphonies which share another Signum CD.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic
  Reissued on Christophorus Entrée CHE0140: Amazon - UK - Germany - France ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Romantic String Octets

Chandos CHAN8790

Joachim Raff

Octet for Strings in C Major Op. 176 (1872)

Felix Mendelssohn

Octet for Strings in E Flat Major Op. 20 (1825)

Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Chamber Ensemble
Chandos CHAN8790 55:26

Raff was neglected for much of the twentieth century, but in the last few years there has been a rediscovery of his many works. The Raff Octet was obviously influenced greatly by the Mendelssohn Octet, so it is a very natural pairing of works on this disc. Raff employs fine melodies and exciting inner part writing – extensions of Mendelssohn's chamber music style, especially Raff's use of the light rapid musical filigree that Mendelssohn employs in the scherzo of his Octet. The second movement of the Raff is a good example of the combination of the rapid skittering paired with a fluid melody line that arrives and departs. Julian Haylock, in the liner notes, calls Raff's third movement "a 'Song Without Words' in all but name".

Both works are beautifully written and beautifully performed. A must-see website for those interested in learning more about Raff:

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

[ Sheet music for the Mendelssohn Octet: Sheet Music
  Sheet music for parts for the Raff Octet can be found here at Edition Silvertrust. ]

Better Known As A Writer

Marco Polo 8.223674

Harold Truscott

Suite in G Major (1966)
Elegy for String Orchestra (1944)
Symphony in E Major (1949-50)

National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Gary Brain
Marco Polo 8.223674 60:49

Sufficiently obscure not to warrant an entry in Grove, the English composer Truscott spent much of his life as a teacher, had a very wide musical knowledge including of composers not well known even today, and wrote a number of books on music. This CD contains most of the orchestral music he left us.

His style is difficult to compare to anyone else's: you might, for example, hear the odd similarity to Hindemith or Brian, and then the music sounds briefly French. It is variously outgoing, introspective, joyous and a number of others: the brass writing is particularly effective. The superb Elegy has much in common with the Barber Adagio and is equally moving.

The Irish orchestra has recorded quite a lot of obscure music for Marco Polo and are in fine form here. Those who venture into musical byways might recognise Gary Brain as the man behind several CDs of music by Czeslaw Marek.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Piano Trios From Belgium

Fuga Libera FUG518

Joseph Jongen

Piano Trio, Op. 10 (1896-97)
Aquarelles for Violin & Piano, Op. 59 (1918)
Two Pieces for Piano Trio, Op. 95 (1931)

Ensemble Joseph Jongen
Fuga Libera FUG518 61:24

Jongen's quartets featured in an earlier Explorer article. The works on this CD will appeal to anyone who enjoys Debussy, Ravel and Fauré in particular. The Op. 10 trio has had other recordings but Op. 95 is less well-known: the first piece especially has some limpid piano writing that makes it a real winner. The pianist, Diane Andersen, will be a familiar name to seasoned collectors.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Quartets on Maori Folk Songs

Naxos 8.570491

Alfred Hill

String Quartet #1 in B Flat Major "Maori"
String Quartet #2 in G minor "A Maori Legend in Four Scenes"
String Quartet #3 in A minor "The Carnival"

Dominion Quartet
Naxos 8.570491 65:41

In spite of the little note on the back of the disc jewel box, I do not immediately think of either Tchaikovsky or Dvořák when I listen to these charming quartets. I'm put more in the mood of Grieg's Lyric Pieces for piano (but not his string quartet!) or the Americans, Chadwick and Foote. I admit that I don't know enough about Maori folk music to identify themes or characteristics, but I do know that these quartets are lovely and memorable and belong to the tradition of German Romantic compositions.

Of particular note is the very quiet and sweet second movement from the Second String Quartet, "The Dream". It has an otherworldly quality of great beauty and delicacy.

Although Hill was an Australian who also lived in New Zealand for some years, his early musical training was in Leipzig and his violin and viola performance was with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Hill was a most prolific composer. He is said to have composed over 2000 works, among them, seventeen string quartets. The performers in the Dominion Quartet, a fine group of excellent musicians dedicated to performing the music of New Zealand composers, are Yury Gezentsvay, and David Pucher, violins; Donald Maurice, viola; and David Chikering, cello.

Another volume of Alfred Hill string quartets performed by the Dominion Quartet (#4, 6, and 8) is available on Naxos 8.572097.

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

Symphonies from an Italian-American Composer

Naxos 8.559034

Paul Creston

Symphony #1, Op. 20 (1940)
Symphony #2, Op. 35 (1944)
Symphony #3 "Three Mysteries", Op. 48 (1950)

National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar
Naxos 8.559034 72:39

Creston's first three symphonies are characterised by brilliant orchestration, appealing melody and vigorous dance rhythms. They have something of the same mood as some of Peter Mennin's work and I was reminded on more than one occasion of Bernard Herrmann, especially in an eerie two-note phrase in the third symphony which depicts the life of Christ.

Kuchar and his Ukrainian orchestra are in good form here. Naxos has re-released a Seattle version of the fifth symphony from its Delos original, and the fourth is available on Albany.

Read the Classical Net Review.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Portuguese Symphonist

Marco Polo 8.225233

Joly Braga Santos

Symphonic Variations, Op. 18 (1951)
Symphony #4, Op. 16 (1950)

National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Álvaro Cassuto
Marco Polo 8.225233 67:53

The Portuguese composer Braga Santos is one of many whose style changed considerably in mid-career. The first four of his six symphonies are characterised by long-line melodies and frequent dramatic brass writing with a generally upbeat atmosphere. This applies even more so to the variations.

The fourth is the longest symphony; the fifth and sixth are somewhat darker in tone with much greater use of dissonance. Marco Polo has recorded all six, together with some concertos and string music.

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

Salon Pieces from Curaçao

Fineline FL72408

Joseph Sickman Corsen

11 Waltzes
2 Polkas
La Mariposa
2nd Mazurka Nocturne
La Elegante
Amicitia Serenade

Randal Corsen, piano
Fineline FL72408

These charming Salon Pieces are played with loving attention to detail by the composer's grandson, Randal Corsen, who is a jazz pianist from Curaçao.

J.S. Corsen was remembered in the Netherlands Antilles primarily as a poet, but Randal Corsen discovered many of his grandfather's traditional Caribbean dances for piano – some had been published, and some in manuscript needed reconstructing. This album is full of short, pleasant waltzes, mazurkas, and even a polka. Special note should be taken of "Meditacion" and "Reverie," which are closer to Romantic art music in style.

For more information about Joseph Sickman Corsen, see

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

Brilliant Italian Orchestrator

Hyperion CDA67084

Ildebrando Pizzetti

Rondo Veneziano (1929) 23:32
Preludio a un altro giorno (1952) 11:34
La Pisanella (1917) 22:40
Tre Preludii Sinfonici per L'Edipo Re (1903) 17:40

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
Hyperion CDA67084 (CDH55329) 76:03

In Italy, Pizzetti was known much more for his operas, vocal works and theater pieces than for his symphonic and chamber music. He was a conservative composer, although he was one of the founders of the journal "Dissonanza" in 1914. Pizzetti was not only a composer but a writer and music critic.

Pizzetti's strong lifelong interest in the theater carries over to these instrumental pieces. If you are pleased by orchestral Debussy, Respighi, and tone poems of Richard Strauss, you will enjoy these works. The first piece, Rondo Veneziano, makes use of Italian folk-like material. La Pisanella is set in Venetian-controlled Cyprus, and the modality is characteristic of that location. These works are exciting and they are all brilliantly orchestrated.

Marco Polo issued two volumes of Pizzetti's chamber music that unfortunately have been discontinued. They are worth looking for.

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   Reissued as Hyperion Helios CDH55329: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

Beyond the Famous Violin Concerto

CPO 999451

Max Bruch

String Octet, Op. posth. (1920)
Quintet for Piano & String Quartet, Op. posth. (1918)
String Quintet in A minor (1918)

Ensemble Ulf Hoelscher
CPO 999451-2 78:54

Two of these stunning works were written at the end of Bruch's long and productive musical life. If you already know and love the First Violin Concerto, Bruch's most popular work, you will certainly enjoy all of these exceptionally lovely pieces.

The Octet, with it's depth of emotion, and its rich scoring (virtuosic first violin part and use of bass viol to replace the more customary cello) creates a mood that is poignant and unforgettable.

The Viola Quintet is a delightful work and it contains an ear-worm Scherzo. I played the Scherzo over and over and wound up singing, whistling, tapping my foot and finally was compelled to purchase the parts.

Mention must be made of Ulf Hoelscher and his ensemble. It is an especially fine-sounding group, and he is a strong and sensitive violinist. This disc is a must-have for chamber music lovers. Thanks again to CPO for being a champion of lesser-known works.

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

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music ]

British Symphonic Collection 15

Classico CLASSCD684

Frederic Cowen

Symphony #6 "The Idyllic" in E Major (1897)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Symphony in A minor, Op. 8 (1896)

Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
Classico CLASSCD684 71:50

Cowen's studies took him to Leipzig where he was taught by, among others, Reinecke, who also taught Stanford, who taught Coleridge-Taylor. Thus it's not surprising that these two symphonies have strong elements of the German Romantic tradition with Brahms never far away.

Although Coleridge-Taylor enjoyed popularity and his Hiawatha's Wedding Feast was still performed long after his death, neither composer now has any more than a tenuous foothold on posterity. If the music of this period appeals, you will find much to enjoy here.

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

[ Sheet music by this Cowen: Sheet Music
  Sheet music by this Coleridge-Taylor: Sheet Music ]