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The Classical Explorer

February 2009 Archives

Master of Orchestral Texture

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Timpani 1C1125

Vincent d'Indy
(1851-1931)

Symphony #1 "Italian" in A Major (1870-72)
Concerto in E Flat Major for Piano, Flute, Cello & Strings, Op. 89 (1926)

Brigitte Engerer, piano
Magali Mosnier, flute
Marc Coppey, cello
Orchestre de Bretagne/Lionel Bringuier
Timpani 1C1125 63:44

These works, the first and last orchestral works d'Indy wrote, are in different ways, hommages. Although his main musical sympathies lay elsewhere, a sojourn in Italy inspired the young composer to write a Symphonie italienne using Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples as the basis for the four movements in which the influence and model of Mendelssohn's Italian symphony are inescapable. At one point, I'm reminded incongruously of Randall Thompson's third symphony!

The concerto at first evokes J.S. Bach and eventually becomes a sort of neo-classical concerto grosso. This rarely-recorded music helps to round out our knowledge of the composer who to many would perhaps be known only by his Symphony on a French Mountain Air (Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français).

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

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

British Clarinet Quintets

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Hyperion Helios CDH55110

Arthur Somervell
(1863-1937)

Clarinet Quintet in G Major (1913)

Gordon Jacob
(1895-1984)

Clarinet Quintet in G Minor (1942)

Thea King, clarinet
The Aeolian Quartet
Hyperion Helios CDH55110 57:44

Somervell is remembered most for his choral works and song cycles but there are recordings of some other works, including a violin concerto. His Clarinet Quintet is a fairly genial work which shows most the influence of Brahms.

Jacob's quintet is in much the same realm as Vaughan Williams' more ethereal works such as the oboe concerto, although with some touches of gruff humor. The clarinet quintet is hardly a prolific species and these two examples are welcome additions.

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

Little-Known Prokofieff

|
Naxos 8.553624

Serge Prokofieff
(1891-1953)

Symphony-Concerto in E minor for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 125 (1950-51)
Concertino in G minor for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 132 (1952)
Two Pushkin Waltzes, Op. 120 (1949)

Alexander Rudin, cello
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar
Naxos 8.553624 67:23

Although Prokofieff's concertos for violin and for piano are staples of the repertoire, his works for cello and orchestra are less well-known and infrequently recorded. The Symphony-Concerto is a reworking of his Cello Concerto, and requires considerable virtuosity of the soloist over its nearly 40-minute duration.

The Concertino is Prokofieff in more whimsical mood, reminiscent of Cinderella. Rudin acquits himself well as does the orchestra, although the timpanist is a tad too enthusiastic occasionally. The waltzes are charming makeweights.

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

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

French Piano Trios

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Hyperion SACDA67114

Gabriel Fauré
(1845-1924)

Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 120 (1923)

Claude Debussy
(1862-1918)

Piano Trio in G Major (1879)

Maurice Ravel
(1875-1937)

Piano Trio in A minor (1914)

The Florestan Trio
Hyperion SACDA67114 Multichannel Hybrid SACD

The Fauré piano trio was written when the composer was 77, and it was his penultimate composition. The Debussy trio was written when the composer was still a teenager, and the Ravel trio was written in middle-age. As I listen to these works, however, I feel that their common musical language transcends time and space. The music is sweet, immediately accessible, and memorable. The three works also share a wistful mood in each of their slower movements.

The Debussy trio, rarely heard, is a special treat, and it was this piece that prompted the purchase of this disc. Although I have other performances of the Ravel and Fauré trios, I am very happy to have this disc, too, because the Florestan Trio (Anthony Marwood, violin; Richard Lester, cello; Susan Tomes, piano) perform all of these works with great intensity, verve, and delicacy.

[ Available on Multichannel Hybrid SACD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe
  Or on CD CDA67114: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

The Composer Who Completed Turandot

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CPO 777080-2

Franco Alfano
(1875-1954)

Symphony #1 "Classica" (1908-10, rev 1953)
Symphony #2 (1931-2)

Brandenburg State Orchestra, Frankfurt/Israel Yinon
CPO 777080-2 73:30

Alfano is best known as the man who completed Puccini's Turandot. He spent some years working outside of Italy before returning to hold a number of posts for the rest of his life.

The first symphony originally had four movements but Alfano decided to cut the scherzo. To some tastes, it might sound somewhat overegged or even, as Grove puts it, long-winded. The second, though longer than the first, is more neo-classical with lighter textures. In general, the music shows some similarities to such composers as Respighi and Pizzetti.

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

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

Musical Talent Cut Short

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Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG3350817-2

Norbert Burgmüller
(1810-1836)

Overture, Op. 5 (c. 1830)
Symphony #2 in D Major, Op. 11 (c. 1836)
Piano Concerto in F Sharp minor, Op. 1 (1829)

Leonard Hokanson, piano
Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra/Gernot Schmalfuss
Dabringhaus und Grimm MDG3350817-2 77:42

Burgmüller was the most talented of his family: his father and elder brother Friedrich were also composers. He suffered from an apparent lack of ambition and indifferent health, and is thought to have died of an epileptic seizure. His music was highly thought of by Mendelssohn and Schumann: these composers are evident influences, as is Schubert. The overture, which is fairly long for the period, was for an incomplete opera, and is quite dramatic. The piano concerto was in part a vehicle for establishing his reputation as a pianist and is reminiscent of Chopin and Hummel. The symphony has only three movements and was the composer's last work. Note that the label is known is some countries as either MD&G or Dabringhaus und Grimm.

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

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

Bruckner's Champion

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NCA SACD 60150-215

Johann Ritter von Herbeck
(1831-1877)

Symphony #4 in D minor
   "Orgelsymphonie" (1877)
Symphonic Variations in F Major (1875)

Irénée Peyrot, organ
Hamburg Symphony Orchestra/Martin Haselböck
NCA 60150-215

Herbeck was an Austrian conductor and mostly self-taught composer. As a conductor in Vienna he was an influential promoter of new or little-performed works. One claim to fame is that upon being shown the manuscript of Franz Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony he immediately realized its worth and arranged for the first performance in 1865. Herbeck admired Richard Wagner and conducted both Rienzi and Die Meistersinger. He also recognized Anton Bruckner's potential and helped him secure a position at the Vienna Conservatory.

His music is very much in the Romantic vein, reminiscent of Robert Schumann. Best known for his sacred choral works, especially "Pueri, concinite", this is the first recording of his orchestral music on CD. Both are mature works. The concise fourth symphony (25 min) is somewhat reminiscent of Camille Saint-Saëns' third symphony (written nine years later) but in a decidedly Viennese style. The organ is more prominent: for instance the fourth movement begins with a 45-second solo organ fanfare. The Symphonic Variations is a set of 12 variations on an original theme.

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

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

Mahler's Protégé

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CPO 777163-2

Bruno Walter
(1876-1962)

Symphony #1 in D Minor (1906)

NDR Symphony Orchestra/Leon Botstein
CPO 777163-2 59:30

The record companies have given us symphonies by such conductors as Felix Weingartner, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Otto Klemperer, and now CPO has provided the first of Bruno Walter's two symphonies. Walter had aspired to be the same sort of conductor-composer as Gustav Mahler whose work, as you might expect, was a strong influence on his composition style on the evidence we have here: there are also more than a few traces of such composers as Richard Strauss and Anton Bruckner. While Walter is not as great a composer as his models, he more than holds his own against the work of his fellow conductors.

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

Monumental Symphony for Troubled Times

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Naïve V4974

Sergei Liapunov
(1859-1924)

Symphony #2 in B Flat Minor, Op. 66 (1917)

Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra/Yevgeny Svetlanov
Naïve V4974 61:54

Lyapunov's two most important influences were Serge Taneyev and Mili Balakirev, and while there are passages which remind the listener of both composers, this symphony is somewhat more ambitious than comparable works by either, and to some extent reflects the turbulent period during which it was composed. Svetlanov was a champion of his country's music and gives an exciting account of this work, recorded in concert with little evidence of an audience's presence until the end.

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

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

An Australian Connection

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Chandos CHAN9757

Edgar Bainton
(1880-1956)

Symphony #2 (1939-40)

John Gough
(1903-1951)

Serenade for Small Orchestra (1931)

Hubert Clifford
(1904-1959)

Symphony 1940 (1938-40)

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Chandos CHAN9757 72:30

Bainton moved to Australia to take up a conservatorium position and remained there for the rest of his life. Clifford and Gough each left Australia to study in England and remained there. The Bainton symphony sounds much like Arnold Bax while Clifford's symphony has much in common with Walton's 1st and is about the same length. Gough's tiny serenade evokes Frederick Delius. A further CD of orchestral music by Clifford and Bainton is on Chandos CHAN10019, as well as a new release dedicated to Bainton on Chandos CHAN10460.

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

Dvořák in Prague - A Celebration

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Sony Classical SK46687

Antonín Dvořák
(1841-1904)

Carnival Overture, Op. 92
Humoresques, Op. 101 #1 & 7
Piano Trio "Dumka", Op. 90: Allegro
Slavonic Dances, Op. 72 #2 & 7
Romance in F Minor
   for Violin & Orchestra, Op. 11
Gypsy Melodies
   for Voice and Piano, Op. 55 #4 & 5
From the Bohemian Forest "Klid" (Silent
   Woods) for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 68 #5
Rusalka: "Mesicku na nebi hlubokem"
   (O Moon High up in the Deep Sky)
Psalm 149 "Sing unto the Lord a New Song"
   for Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 79

Rudolf Firkušný, piano
Yo Yo Ma, cello
Itzhak Perlman, violin
Frederica von Stade, soprano
Prague Philharmonic Chorus/Pavel Kühn
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa
Sony Classical SK46687 64:50

This compact disc is a companion to the television special broadcast from Prague (available on DVD) from December 1993. The performances are simply wonderful, but special mention should be made of Perlman's outstanding performance of the Romance in F minor for violin and orchestra, and Yo Yo Ma's moving rendition of Klid (Silent Woods) for cello and orchestra. Frederica von Stade's "O Moon High Up in the Deep Sky" aria from Rusalka and "Songs My Mother Taught Me" are glorious. This is a very fine collection of works, and will tempt the listener to find even more of Dvořák's beautiful music.

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

[ Also available on DVD Kultur Video 4211 (96 minutes): Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

Salieri's Successor

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CPO 777104-2

Joseph Leopold Eybler
(1765-1846)

Symphony #1 in C Major
Symphony #2 in D Minor
Overture

L'Orchestre de Chambre de Genève/Michael Hofstetter
CPO 777104-2 57:49

The Viennese composer Eybler's two symphonies are thought to date from the late 1780s. They sound very much like Haydn: the first is in festive mode as in the Maria Theresa symphony while the second is a darker work. The orchestra uses authentic instruments which works to the music's benefit. There is nothing especially original here – just well-made, well-played, and enjoyable late Classical era music.

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

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