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The Classical Explorer

June 2009 Archives

Tangos, Waltzes & Polkas

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Naxos 8.557687

Ernesto Nazareth
(1863-1934)

Espalhafatoso, Brejeiro, Confidências, Escovado, Nenê, Ameno Resedá, Turbilhão De Beijos, Gaúcho, Plangente, Topázio Líquido, Ouro Sobre Azul, Sarambeque, Epônina, Escorregando, Tenebroso, Odeon & Apanhei-Te Cavaquinho

Iara Behs, piano
Naxos 8.557687 63:24

The Brazilian Nazareth was originally influenced by Chopin, wrote in the styles of the dances of his era, and in turn influenced a later generation of composers. The seventeen tracks have a variety of moods and more than once you'll find yourself half-expecting a tune you think you know but it turns out you don't. Those who respond to the music of Gottschalk will find much to enjoy.

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

Hungarian Journeys

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Hungaroton HCD32585

Sándor Balassa
(b. 1935)

Journeys in Bihar County, Op. 93 (2005)
Civis Town of Debrecen, Op. 91 (2005)
Praise of Knightly Virtues, Op. 100 (2007)

MR Symphony Orchestra/Ádám Medveczky
Hungaroton HCD32585 74:14

Much of Balassa's orchestral output relates to districts or towns in Hungary, as in the first two items, or to Hungarian history, as in the last. The music has similarities to Kodály and Respighi. Those who might be worried by the late dates of composition will find nothing troublesome.

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Early Piano Quartets

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Naxos 8.570998

Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770-1827)

Piano Quartet in C Major, WoO 36 #3
Piano Quartet in E Flat Major, WoO 36 #1
Piano Quartet in D Major, WoO 36 #2

New Zealand Piano Quartet
Naxos 8.570998 64:13

These three early works from 1785, written when Beethoven was only fourteen, are infrequently recorded. While the influences of Haydn and Mozart are apparent, there are plenty of indications of his later style. They are immediately enjoyable and deserve investigation.

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Estonian Symphonist

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BIS CD-304

Eduard Tubin
(1905-1982)

Symphony #2 "The Legendary" (1937)
Symphony #6 (1954)

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
BIS CD-304 63:21

The Estonian composer Tubin wrote ten symphonies and the torso of an eleventh. The completed symphonies have all been recorded for BIS by the Estonian conductor, Neeme Järvi, using a number of orchestras, together with two violin concertos, a double bass concerto, a balalaika concerto, a piano concertino, and several short orchestral works, including a suite from the ballet Kratt.

Arvo Volmer has also recorded the symphonies for Alba. The 2nd and 6th symphonies are representative of Tubin's orchestral style. The music is by turns dramatic and introspective, with something of the sense of menace found in, for example, Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. It also makes use of the piano.

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

Dvořák's Star Pupil

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Decca 466443

Josef Suk
(1874-1935)

A Summer Tale, Op. 29 (1907-09)
Fantastic Scherzo, Op. 25 (1903)

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
Decca 466443-2 65:35

Suk was deeply affected by the deaths of his teacher, Dvořák, and of his wife, Otilie, Dvorák's daughter, in successive years, resulting firstly in his Asrael Symphony, a much darker work than he had written previously.

A Summer Tale, in five movements, is part drama, part serenity, and is especially notable for the lightly-scored third movement which features two cors anglais to excellent effect. The Fantastic Scherzo features a main theme that will stay with you.

Read the full Classical Net Review.

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

An Australian In England

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Lyrita SRCD.314

Arthur Benjamin
(1893-1960)

Overture to an Italian Comedy (1936) 1
Cotillon, Suite of English Dance Tunes (1938) 2
North American Square Dance Suite (1951) 3
Symphony (1945) 3

1 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Myer Fredman
2 London Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
3 London Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
Lyrita SRCD.314 76:50

Benjamin was an Australian composer who spent most of his life working in Britain, and knew well such composers as Bliss and Howells. He is best known for Jamaican Rumba, and although much of his work was light-hearted as in the first three items on this CD, the more serious side of his nature appears in his only symphony, which runs about 45 minutes. It was clearly influenced by World War II and is an essentially tragic work with some of the feeling of Bax and Walton.

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

Danish Symphonies

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CPO 777229-2

Rudolph Simonsen
(1889-1947)

Overture in G Minor (1910)
Symphony #1 "Zion" (1920)
Symphony #2 "Hellas" (1921)

South Jutland Symphony Orchestra/Israel Yinon
CPO 777229-2 70:52

The Danish composer Simonsen wrote four symphonies, the other two celebrating Rome and Denmark. The two on this CD are powerful works with frequently exciting orchestration and passages of high drama. Both symphonies' slow movements have something of the atmosphere of the slow movement of Nielsen's 3rd. The overture is one of several Simonsen wrote, and could easily be regarded as a symphonic poem.

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Beyond Schéhérazade

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Naxos 8.553789

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakoff
(1844-1908)

Christmas Eve: Overture & Suite (1894-5)
Night on Mount Triglav (1899-1901)
The Tsar's Bride: Overture & Intermezzo (1898)
On the Tomb, Op. 61 (1904)
Greeting (1907)

Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Igor Golovschin
Naxos 8.553789 75:19

The first three items, which comprise most of this CD, are from Rimsky-Korsakov's operas. Night on Mount Triglav is an arrangement of Act III of Mlada. On the Tomb and Greeting are short occasional pieces. Everything shows his wonderful orchestration and talent for creating atmosphere. Mount Triglav is not quite as sinister a place as Mussorgsky's Bald Mountain, but has its moments.

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

Piano Works from a Virtuoso

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VMS 623

Wilhelm Kempff
(1895-1991)

Rhapsodic Prelude, Op. 44 (1941)
Italian Suite, Op. 68 (1950)
Lyric Suite in E Major, Op. 17 #1 (early 1920s)
Six Little Piano Pieces (1933-1958)
Fantasia on the Opera "The Gozzi Family" (1932)

Rüdiger Steinfatt, piano
VMS 623 66:37

The great German pianist wrote a potentially interesting set of music including four operas and two symphonies. As Kempff is known mostly for his records of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and Brahms, you might expect some elements of those composers in his own music. In a blindfold test, you might guess that the composer was French or Italian. The music offers charm, elegance and restrained drama, and is immediately accessible.

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