Saturday, April 29, 2017

Schumann, Georg. (1866-1952) Chamber Music. Piano Quartet & Cello Sonata.

From my collection.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 15-12-2016.
Second listen: 7-2-2017.
Third listen: 29-4-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: October 2013 & April 2014.
Recording venue: BR Studio München, Germany.
Recording engineer: Ulrike Schwarz.
Running time: 71:49.
Classical relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed: 
Piano Quartet, opus 29 in F minor.
Sonata for Cello & Piano, opus 19 in E minor.

Works performed by:
Münchner Klaviertrio.

A composer who stands with both feet in Johannes Brahms tradition. He inserted some modernity into his compositions, but basically you hear Brahms extended. I see that as a compliment, for if you can equal Brahms you are good, and Schumann certainly is. I tasted his chamber music before by another CPO recording so I knew what I bought. And it only strengthened my opinion of him. He inserts more passion, dares to step further out of line, and gets some wonderful harmonies as a result. The romantic impact of his writing is having a major influence in the music. Just sample the second movement of the opus 29, and you will know why. But also the second movement of opus 19 will do. I personally have a penchant towards this work with its fine sonorities. I like listen to his music, it is as if Brahms lived much longer, but that is not to say that Schumann copies, far from it. He simply belongs to a long line of composers that kept to the old ways, shunning new fangled modernity.
The recording is good, and the performance is superb. Well worth listening.

Weingartner, Felix. (1863-1942) String Quartets. Volume III.

From my collection.
Bought in February 2014.
Label: CPO.
First listen: 24-2-2014.
Second listen: 29-4-2017.
Recording dates: October 2008.
Recording venue: Kirche Marthalen, Germany.
Recording engineer: Not named.
Running time: 58:02.
Classical relevance to me: Essential.


String Quartet No. 2, opus 26 in F minor.
String Quartet No. 4 opus 62, in D major.


Sarastro Quartett.
Ralph Orendain and Roman Conrad, Violins.
Hanna Werner Helfenstein, Viola.
Stefan Bracher, Cello.

Felix Weingartner is a late romantic composer,  firmly rooted in the Classical Romantic tradition. It has some modernisms but never in an extreme way. Logically structured, and extremely clear and lucid in their projection of musical content. All his works are on a academic and intellectual level, and rich in expression. His music is very concentrated in content and demands rigorous attention to the score. Rhythmically it needs a precise approach and a good quartet balance, for Weingartner always writes in such a way that if played by a less experienced ensemble his SQ will sound like utter chaos.  I have been an admirer of his music, since I collected his wonderful Symphonies, they made quite an impression on me, and still do. So naturally from there I went to the SQ, which give me the same satisfaction as the orchestral works, being thoroughly romantic in nature. He is not adding new enhancements to the genre, but his tonality has certainly new elements, and those are the cherries on the cake. The imprint of the music is melancholy, bitter at times, but ultimately beautiful composed pieces with deep messages of spirituality and emotional growth.. And I wonder, why these SQ are not repertoire pieces. True enough, Weingartner was not a man who was liked much, and reading about his life, that's quite understandable, but it should not distract from the music, which is unmistakable excellent.  The performances are reference, and the recordings are very good too. 

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. 

Schumann, Georg. (1866-1952) Chamber Music. Piano Quartet & Cello Sonata.

From my collection. Bought in November 2016. First listen: 15-12-2016. Second listen: 7-2-2017. Third listen: 29-4-2017. Label: CPO. R...