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The Classical Explorer

April 2009 Archives

French Concertante Viola

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Centaur CRC2788

Joseph Jongen
(1873-1953)

Suite for Orchestra & Solo Viola, Op.48 (1915)

Jean Françaix
(1912-1997)

Rhapsodie for Viola & Small Orchestra (1946)

Tibor Serly
(1901-1978)

Concerto for Viola & Orchestra (1929)

Marcus Thompson, viola
Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Paul Freeman
Centaur CRC2788 57:25

Jongen's Suite in two movements is a very appealing work which displays a range of emotions. Françaix's short Rhapsodie contrasts the seriousness of Ravel with the lightheartedness of Poulenc. Serly, best known for his completion of Bartók's Viola Concerto, shows a more traditional approach. All three works add new interest to the repertoire for the viola.

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

Moving Beyond His Master's Style

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CPO 999836-2

Ferdinand Ries
(1784-1838)

Symphony #4 in F Major, Op. 110 (1818)
Symphony #6 in D Major, Op. 146 (1822)

Z├╝rich Chamber Orchestra/Howard Griffiths
CPO 999836-2 64:34

Ries was born in Bonn and studied with Beethoven in Vienna, so it's not surprising that his teacher's influence is apparent in much of Ries' orchestration. These two symphonies are very easygoing pieces and are all but guaranteed to give pleasure. The other six symphonies have been recorded by the same forces, and the four CDs are also available as a boxed set (CPO 777216).

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

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

Sparking Scherzo

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Naxos 8.570256

Alexander Glazunov
(1865-1936)

Five Novelettes, Op. 15 (1886)
String Quintet in A Major, Op. 39 (1891-2)

Nathaniel Rosen, cello
Fine Arts Quartet
Naxos 8.570256 63:28

Glazunov has been quite well served on CD with his Violin Concerto and his symphonies being frequently recorded. He also wrote a lot of chamber music, of which the two examples on this disc are relatively rare. The novelette as a musical form was invented by Schumann and it seems the word can mean whatever you want it to mean. In Glazunov's case, the novelette is a miniature with considerable charm and without pretensions to be deep and meaningful. The quintet, his only work in this form, is a more serious affair including one of his trademark sparkling scherzos.

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

[ Sheet music for the Quintet: Edition Silvertrust ]

A Musician of Varied Talents

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Toccata Classics TOCC0068

Donald Francis Tovey
(1875-1949)

Piano Trio in B minor, Op. 1
Piano Trio "Style Tragique" in C minor, Op. 8

London Piano Trio
Toccata Classics TOCC0068 65:06

These gorgeous Romantic piano trios are strongly influenced by Tovey's great love and deep understanding of the music of Johannes Brahms. They were both written in 1895, and the second trio, Op. 8 was originally for piano, clarinet and horn. This version for violin, cello and piano was published 1912.

Toccata Classics have produced two other recordings of the music of Tovey, and I look forward to more. The London Piano Trio (Robert Atchison, violin; Bzidar Vukotic, cello; Olga Dudnik, piano) play with warmth, energy and a rich, perfectly balanced sound.

Also available:
  Symphony in D Major, Op. 32, etc. (Toccata Classics TOCC0033)
  Cello Concerto, Op. 40, etc. (Toccata Classics TOCC0038)

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

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

Master of Fluent Technique

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Supraphon SU3487-2

Zdeněk Fibich
(1850-1900)

Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello & Piano in E minor, Op. 11 (1874)
Quintet for Piano, Clarinet, Horn, Violin & Cello in D Major, Op. 42 (1894)

Marián Lapšanský, piano
Ludmila Peterková, clarinet
Vladimira Klánská, horn
Jirí Panocha, violin
Jaroslav Kulhan, cello
Supraphon SU3487-2 63:31

Fibich is generally regarded as the greatest of the Czech composers of the nineteenth century after Smetana and Dvořák, and although he wrote in a number of genres, he's best remembered for his orchestral, piano and operatic music. The opening of the piano quartet makes it clear that you are listening to the work of a Czech, but Fibich was no imitator. Both these works are immediately attractive, not least because of the unusual combination of instruments in the quintet, in which Fibich uses especially the horn to good effect.

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

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

Dean of American Church Music

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Cedille CDR90000039

Leo Sowerby
(1895-1968)

Concert Overture, H251 (1941)
Passacaglia, Interlude & Fugue, H207 (1931/2)
All on a Summer's Day, H325 (1954)
Symphony #2 in B minor, H188 (1927/8) *

Czech National Symphony Orchestra/Paul Freeman
* Chicago Sinfonietta/Paul Freeman
Cedille CDR90000039 60:51

Better known as a composer of church and organ music, Sowerby left quite a lot of orchestral music, including five symphonies. His music is identified by the work list compiled by Huntington. The music presented here has some affinity with that of other American composers of the same era such as Howard Hanson, although with a slightly harder edge, so you will hear the odd phrase which will remind you of Hindemith and, at one point, Mahler's 5th. The slow movement of the symphony would have made an excellent complement to one of John Ford's movies set in Monument Valley, and I mean that as a compliment. Cedille has recorded another CD of Sowerby's orchestral music, including The Prairie.

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

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

Composer As Interpreter

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Lyrita SRCD.227

William Alwyn
(1905-1985)

Symphony #1 (1949)
Symphony #4 (1959)

London Philharmonic Orchestra/William Alwyn
Lyrita SRCD.227 76:33

Alwyn had a very successful career as a composer for films which tended to overshadow his more serious work. He composed in a number of genres and has gradually been more thoroughly represented in recordings. There are several versions of his five symphonies, including the composer's own for Lyrita, a label with a high reputation for superb engineering. A listener new to Alwyn will hear an ability to write noble themes in the form of Elgar, some spiky rhythms like Walton's, and touches of Hindemith and Sibelius, but the more you listen to his music, the more you discern his individuality. There is a lot of other recorded Alwyn to explore-I particularly recommend his beautiful harp concerto, Lyra Angelica.

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

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

First Thoughts

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Chandos CHAN9902

Ralph Vaughan Williams
(1872-1958)

Symphony #2 "A London Symphony"
(Original 1913 version)

George Butterworth
(1885-1916)

Idyll "The Banks of Green Willow" (1913)

London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox
Chandos CHAN9902 67:39

As well as being a close friend, it was at Butterworth's suggestion that Vaughan Williams expand a symphonic poem into a symphony. Butterworth was one of the British composers who died in World War I and although he left only a small number of works, his influence was substantial.

Vaughan Williams revised this symphony considerably and those familiar with the final version will find that there are about twenty minutes of additional music in the original, although the first movement is all but unchanged. The overall effect is to make the symphony darker and edgier. Although some may prefer his final thoughts, it's very instructive to be able to hear the original. Hickox's cycle of the symphonies also includes the otherwise unrecorded Norfolk Rhapsody #2 (Chandos CHAN10001).

Read the full Classical Net review

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]
[ Also released on Hybrid Multichannel SACD CHSA5012: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]
Trumpet