Friday, April 28, 2017

Klenau, von Paul. (1883-1946) String Quartets No. 1,2 & 3.

From my collection.
Bought in 2011.
First listen: 4-2-2011.
Second listen: 28-4-2017.
Label: Dacapo.
Recording dates: February-March 2008.
Recording venue: Mariendalskirken, Frederiksberg, Danmark.
Recording engineer: Preben Iwan.
Running time: 70:11.
Classical relevance to me: Essential.
Reference performance.
State of the Art recording.
Top recommendation for the first SQ.

Works performed:
SQ No. 1 in E minor. 1911.
SQ No. 2, 1942.
SQ No. 3. 1943.

Works performed by:
Sjælland String Quartet.

The first SQ is a work that is almost out of this world. A deeply emotional work, but without the dynamic passion, but rather of a ethereal nature. This is an extremely well composed SQ, just listen to the second movement, Adagio, (mit tiefer ruhiger Empfindung). It is quite hard to write such an empfindlichkeit into the music, but Kenau succeeded in that, almost 10 minutes long. Everyone of those four movements are gems of the purest nature, all of them have an inevitable shine and intrinsic harmony that captures your imagination in a jiffy. One of the best SQ I have heard from that time. It is clearly rooted in the Classical Romantic tradition. And thus it's hard to come down in reality again! I only wished he wrote more of them in that tradition.
SQ 2 & 3 are twelve tone works, which is quite a different way of composing music.  Mind you it's Klenau's own distinctive technique, which he developed at the beginning of the 1930's. There is of course a technical story behind it, but it is not my place to elucidate on this, others might do better.
And although I admire the technical construction of the music, as music as such it holds no interest to me. I rather hear it as from afar, no emotional bonding, neither connection through reason. I simply acknowledge it but do not really register. There are some moments of great beauty as in the second movement of No. 2, but as quickly it dissolves. Several of those episodes in both works, but it's when the unsettling dissonances appear that I get upset.
It is perfectly performed and recorded, and very much recommended for the first Quartet. The other two are to remote for me to have an opinion about that cuts any wood.

Busch, William. (1901-1945) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
Label: Lyrita.
Warning: CD-R copy.
First listen: 10-3-2010.
Second listen: 27-3-2014.
Third listen: 28-4-2017.
All technical info is absent, either in booklet or on the CD.
Production date 2007.
Running time: 51:51.
Classical relevance to me: Essential.


Cello Concerto. (1940-41)
Piano Concerto. (1937-8)


Raphael Wallfisch, Cello.
Piers Lane, Piano.
Royal PO, Vernon Handley.

It was some four years ago, that I bought a bunch of Lyrita cd's, out of the blue. I saw some interesting names and dates, and since the price was low, I decided to take the plunge with some unknowns on the list. William Busch was one of them. A name I never saw or heard before, and thus the adventure began with him. It was the first from the pile I bought that I played. My first impression of his music is that it is honed and disciplined, but never is there a hint in intellectual contrivance. They called him a distinctive and minor composer in the 1980 edition of Grove. To describe his music I would say that it is extremely economical almost to the point of starkness. But his music is distinctly English, with this typical Pastoral blending over the music. There are of course some continental influences, him being from German heritage, but predominantly English, since he was born there. And imbedded in all this is his great friend and teacher Alan Bush, (not related) that gave him at least part of this continental influences.  There is no waste of notes with William, every note counts, and cannot be taken out without leaving a substantial hole in the music. Melodies in abundance, lyricism as long as the music stretches, flamboyant,, this all giving the background for his music. There is much dialogue between soloist and orchestra in both concertos, which gives much pleasure listening at. Maybe not great music, but well worth to have and to hear. Just think Finzi, some Bax, and the spikiness of say Arthur Benjamin, another composer that has been neglected. 

It is well performed. The recording is top notch.

Brian, Havergal. (1876-1972) Orchestral works. Symphony No. 11&15.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
Label: Naxos.
First listen: 26-6-2010.
Second listen: 29-3-2014.
Third listen: 28-4-2017.
Label: Naxos. Previously released on Marco Polo.
Recording dates: 1993 & 1997
Recording venue: National Concert Hall, Dublin.
Recording engineers: Chris Craker, and Dave Harries.
Running time: 77:10.
Classical relevance to me: Well worth having.


Concert Overture: "For Valour" (1902-06)
Comedy Overture: "Doctor Merryheart. (1911-12)
Symphony No. 11. (1954)
Symphony No. 15. (1960)


RTE National SO, Tony Rowe and Adrian Leaper.

Brian is never an easy ride and certainly not in the case of the boisterous "For Valour" which reminded me of Edward Elgar's "In the South" and that was before I read the booklet, so it was pretty obvious. In essence I find it to be a good piece, but a bit to restless for its own good. It's dynamics are outrageous especially in the closing measures.
The Comedy overture is relatively an easy piece. It's is well scored, and gives quite a bright picture of Doctor Merryheart. I liked this work a lot.
Symphony No. 11 is work in which Brian shows yet again how well he orchestrates, and although I like what I hear it does not really leave an indelible impression. I find the moments were he incorporates a rest from all the turmoil the best phases in this composition.
No 15 in one movement begins quite boisterous like the Concert overture, and it seems that he will continue in the same technical stance which he took in No, 11, and he does. There are not many places where spirituality has a role, but orchestral brilliance is a permanent resident. And for me that's the essence of what I hear.
The recording is quite good, with huge dynamics well processed, and a reasonably good sound stage. As to the performance I cannot be definitive really, for I have little comparison. But it's accomplished and disciplined. 

Gram, Peder. (1881-1956) Orchestral Works, Vol II.

From my collection.
Bought in 2011.
First listen: 5-2-2011.
Second listen: 28-4-2017.
Label: Dacapo.
Recording dates: 2007.
Recording venue: Musikhuset, Sønderborg, Danmark.
Recording engineer: Claus Byrith.
Running time: 64:58.
Classical relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:

Avalon, opus 16. (1917) for Soprano and Orchestra.
Symphony No. 2, opus 25. (1925)
Symphony No. 3 in E minor, opus 35. (1954)

Performed by:

Andrea Pellegrini, Soprano.
Danish PO, Matthias Aeschbacher.

Although Peder Gram was in his time a huge influence in the Danish musical scene as a composer and active participant in musical affairs, he is now forgotten in both capacities, As many I might add. Time is never fair, even to the greatest of talents, and what was once huge, is now dust, as in life, so in music. Peder Gram is a very interesting composer, which you will notice quite clearly in his second Symphony for small orchestra. The work as a whole is an all embracing and warm work, but within the structure there is a fully functioning micro cosmos that harbours in itself a lot of melody lines, functioning harmonically in the total structure of the work. There are so many things going on at the same time, with so many intricate details, that before you know it, you missed the passage altogether. And even though the notes are all very clearly in front of you, and even though it sounds simple, it nevertheless will let you sink away into forgetfulness if you do not pay close attention on what is going on. Gram needs careful listening. And what a fine filigree mastery comes from his hands, one micro cosmos after another, as a juggler that keeps many balls in the air, without apparent effort. He is a melodious composer, but one that does it different from all the others. His style is late romantic, with some modernity in it, be it marginally. I consider both works as essential to have, and thereby understanding his place in the heritage from Danish music much better. . This orchestra and conductor, brings out the very nature of the music in a clear vision.

As a side note I must mention, that I did not care much for the opus 16, with a soprano who made me shudder. And the third movement in the second Symphony gives us again 2;34 of unnecessary vocal contributions. My personal opinion of course. I simply think that the soprano is not adding anything, rather spoiling the composition. Thank God its short.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Concerti curiosi.

From my collection
Bought in February 2017.
First listen: 9-2-2017.
Second listen: 27-4-2017.
Label: Signum.
Recording dates: August 2010.
Recording venue: St. Andrew's Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire,England.
Recording engineer: Adrian Hunter,
Running time: 62:23.
Classical relevance: Will worth acquiring.

Composers and works on this CD:

Pietro Domenico Paradies.(1707-1791) Concerto for harpsichord organ & strings.
Anton Reichenauer. (1694-1730) Concerto à 5 for Oboe.
Johan Daniel Berlin. (1714-1787) Sinfonia à 5 for Cornet.
Johann Christoph Pepusch. (1667-1752) Concerto for Four violins.
Johann Wilhelm Hertel. (1727-1789) Concerto No. 3 for Trumpet.
William Croft. ( 1678-1727) Sonata for four violins and BC.
Pietro Baldassari. (c.1683-after 1768) Sonata for Cornett and strings.

Performed by:
Charivari Agréable, Kah-Ming Ng. (authentic period instruments)

A first encounter with this well praised ensemble. They seem to be very famous including their conductor. Despite this I never heard of them or their leader in crime. This disc attracted me because of some unknown composers and works I never heard before. Well to be honest I never heard any of the works. So a novice to the compositions I was surprised by some fine music, not the best that was on offer at the time, but nevertheless worthwhile to record. Pepusch striked me as one of the better composers in the line up. His concerto for four violins is well written and of immediate interest. Berlin's concerto for Cornett was nice, but this instrument was rather loudly recorded, as was the trumpet in the concerto by Hertel. There is  some uneven trumpet playing in the first movement . It's a natural trumpet and they are hard to play anytime. The engineer clearly made a judgement error in placing the soloists to much forward. They tend to dominate the concertos. Baldassari's concerto is better balanced, but pleasant is different. I loved Croft his sonata, it has its quality and is well played.
As to the level of this ensemble I think it's adequate, but their quality as praised in the booklet is overdone, as least in the context of this CD. The acoustic did not help, being rather hard on the ears, and the recording balance was neither ideal. So a mixed blessing really. 

Schmidt, Franz. (1874-1939) The String Quartets. Top recommendation.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 18-5-2010.
Second listen: 27-4-2017.
Label: Nimbus.
Recording dates: April 1995.
Recording venue: Concert Hall of the Nimbus Foundation, England.
Recording engineers: Technicians of Nimbus.
Running time: 77:53.
Classical relevance: Essential.
Reference performance.
Top recommendation.

Works performed: 
SQ in A major. (1925)
SQ in G major. (1929)

Works performed by:
Franz Schubert Quartet, Wien.

These quartets belong to the top in their genre. Not well known but masterworks nevertheless. Taught no less by Bruckner, this composer lived through the decadence of his time. Johannes Brahms received the musical outpourings of Schmidt's academic years, with approval. And he even received tuition from a forgotten master Robert Fuchs, who disliked the modern music even more as himself. Schmidt is one of the forgotten composers, and I mean totally forgotten. He did not follow the twelve tone serial technique, but looked instead for new ways in tonality, for which I praise him. He has a close tie with tradition, technically and harmonically, and as such he was a guardian of the legacy of Bruckner and Brahms. In many ways you could compare him with Max Reger. To conclude his music is firmly couched in the Classical Romantic tradition of the nineteenth century, and he almost never strayed from that point of view. And out of this he wrote two of the best SQ I ever heard. A master in kontrapunkt, he knitted together the most wonderful strings of notes one can imagine. Take the second movement of the A major, with the wonderful pizzicatos that generate a rhythmic drive out of this world, in which a gorgeous melody develops.  Powerful, yet gentle, poetic, yet lucidly realistic, this work does not stand in the shadow of any other composer, and should be part of the SQ literature with high praise.
The Molto tranquillo of the G major with a fine underlining yearning cello, gives you a very eerie feeling, so picturesque of the time in which it was written. Followed by a melancholy Adagio, that travels through the innermost of your emotions. Carefully modulated, this ensemble brings a harmony that captures the very spirit and spirituality of this movement. Think of the paintings of Klimt, the age also of Sigmund Freud, and you get quite a good picture. A time of radical change, in which Schmidt was a steady representative of a musical heritage betrayed by many. He was so not avant garde as many of the composers around him. Instead he is a very individual composer, who actually succeeded in creating a new tonality, and these SQ are a perfect example of that. Out of one tradition, totally different and alternative angles can arise, or so you will, interpretations from the same roots. He is an intellectual, and certainly philosophical in his approach, for me that is a fact, for his music arises out of an acute awareness of his time and what was happening around him, culturally, musically, and politically. He paints a picture of his time in all three respects. The performance I rate as reference, the music gets a top recommendation, and the recording matches the music. The very awareness of the music from this time is certainly brought into your home by this ensemble.

New acquisitions....

Klenau, von Paul. (1883-1946) String Quartets No. 1,2 & 3.

From my collection. Bought in 2011. First listen: 4-2-2011. Second listen: 28-4-2017. Label: Dacapo. Recording dates: February-March 20...