June 7, 2014
FACET (DELOS) 8101
Bronislaw Kaper (1902-1983) like many of the golden age composers emigrated from Europe and found their way to Hollywood to compose for the major studios. In this case the talented Polish pianist was signed to an MGM contract by Louis B. Mayer who was vacationing in Europe in the summer of 1935 as a songwriter. While Kaper is well known to the soundtrack enthusiast he is virtually unknown to the general public yet his Green Dolphin Street was played by all of the jazz groups of the fifties such as Bill Evans and Miles Davis. Lili, his Oscar winning score, has been performed by most pop orchestras and singers. In the small soundtrack community much thanks should be given to Film Score Monthly for releasing several of his soundtracks. His first hit upon arriving to America was San Francisco, a recognizable melody that most people could hum but would have no clue who wrote it or even the name of the song.
First released as an LP by Delos in 1975 and twelve years later as a CD this release has remained unnoticed for twenty five years and it was only by accident that I happened upon it along with other surprises down the road for my readers. The thirty eight minute CD features twelve of his compositions on piano all performed by the composer. His playing is in a word superb. It rivals the quality of a concert pianist. Artur Rubinstein, the concert pianist, once said of his friend is “The difference between the way you play the piano and the way others play it is you make it sound the way you want it to sound and others sound the way the piano wants it.”
The twelve melodies encompass light, classical, jazz, and a bit off the standard path. My favorite on this recording is the Green Dolphin Street that offers a nice minor key. The recording is a good one that has good treble and bass as well as a well recorded sound of the piano. You can hear the resonance and tone quality from the recording. In fact it is just as Rubinstein said you get the true feeling of the music from the composer himself. The recording is available from the distributor Naxos as a CD or download at $9.99 http://www.classicsonline.com/catalogue/product.aspx?pid=627290
This is a rare opportunity to own a recording of the composer performing his own material.
Total Duration: 00:37:12
June 25, 2013
After fifty years of listening to music I thought that I had heard it all until I listened to Boiling Point (2002), a new release of music from Kenji Bunch. This is the first compilation of his material. Imagine sitting in a symphony hall and before they start playing someone brings out a teakettle and begins to heat the water. The chamber ensemble begins to play, translating the sounds of the teakettle into musical sounds. The work in part is based on graphic novel material as well as experimental music from Victor Feldman. The unusual composition is without any melody but depends on the percussion and cells of sound that conjure up all kinds of thoughts. You’ll hear the teakettle sounds at the end as it rises to a boil followed by the whistling effect. You can also hear the rumbling of the water as it escalates to a boil. The work ends when the water boil which is roughly six minutes and the pot is removed from the heat. If you’re interested in experimental type music this is going to be right up your alley. Repeated listens will lead to further understanding of the material.
String Circle (2005) was part of a Delos 40 year celebration of their releases and this one got my attention completely. It is music that is country, fiddling, and classical in nature. While I couldn’t classify it as strong in the melody area there are cells of melody and rhythm. “Ballad” is a quiet tune based on the folk song “Wayfaring Stranger.” Quite elegiac it has a feel of a slow movement one might hear from Charles Ives. “Porch Picking” is unique in that it is played entirely pizzicato with the strings imitating the sound of both the banjo and the ukulele. The final movement is “Overdrive” a fast dance that moves from country to a more modern sound. This approach is not new as the 20th Century composer Bela Bartok did the very same thing with his work. “Drift” begins as if it is a duo for clarinet with piano providing the harmony of simple repetitive chords. The viola makes its entrance two minutes or so into the work making it a trio. The melodic line shifts between the three instruments making it a satisfying listening experience. “26.2” tells the story of running the New York marathon. It begins very quietly offers a brief but noticeable country reference but the outstanding French Horn playing of Leslie Norton quickly takes over and offers a majestic melody suggesting patriotism. From there the style switches to various sounds including a couple of Herrmann horn notes, an Irish melody from the French horn, and ends on an upbeat note with a restating of the melody. “Luminaria” is a duo for harp and violin which depicts a flickering Mexican votive candle displaying its unusual light.
This CD offers many styles of music thus it should have a wide appeal to classical, folk, and experimental listeners. It is a compilation of Bunch material written between 2001 and 2012 and repeated listens have revealed the fact that he is high on the list of 21st century composers. Definitely one to be explored and comes with my recommendation.
String Circle (Tracks 1-5)
1… Lowdown (4:29)
2… Shuffle Step (3:11)
3… Ballad (7:34)
4… Porch Picking (3:36)
5… Overdrive (3:36)
6… Drift (10:28)
7… 26.2 (11:41)
8… Luminaria (8:17)
9… Boiling Point (6:36)
Total Time is 59:29
As part of their 40th year anniversary Delos Music is offering a 3 CD set of 40 tracks for $16.99 with an additional thirteen encore selections available as a separate digital download through their website www.delosmusic.com for $11.99 in July 2013.
Beginning in 1973 with an LP recording of the Scarlatti Sonatas performed by brilliant Harpsichordist Malcolm Hamilton who Sir John Barbirolli was quoted as saying that “Malcolm is doubtless Bach’s twenty first child” is still available as a 2 for 1 on Delos CD 1001 but not included in the celebration release.
The program on the release is as varied as the Delos catalog has been over the last 40 years with a specific program or theme for each of the three CD’s. Number one concentrates on orchestral material, number two are great soloists performing arias, and the final CD is made up of soloists. From the VRR recordings of the recording engineer John Eargle to the fine recordings of James DePriest it is all included in this nearly four hour compilation of material which leaves no stone unturned. I hope you’ll enjoy this release as much as I do. It might just encourage you to explore the world of Delos.
1… Shostakovich: Festive Overture, Op. 96 (5:59)
2… Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95
3… Shostakovich: Ballet Suite No. 1 (1:32)
4… Khachaturian: Spartacus (8:46)
5… Korngold: The Sea Hawk (7:59)
6… Hanson: Fantasy-Variations on a Theme of Youth (11:42)
7… Copland: Lincoln Portrait (14:26)
8… Hovhaness: Prayer of St. Gregory (4:47)
9… Hovhaness: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (13:48)
1… Cilea: Adriana Acerbua (4:07)
2… LeonCavallo: Pagliacci (5:38)
3… Verdi: ll Trovatore (5:41)
4… Verdi: ll Trovatore (7:50)
5… Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (7:56)
6… Villa-Lobos: Forest of the Amazon (3:38)
7… Handel: Rinaldo (4:01)
8… Arensky: Raffaello (10:43)
9… Pakhmutova: Tenderness (2:54)
10. Copland: Pastorale (2:27)
11. Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress (2:40)
12. Abel: The Dream Gallery (11:39)
13. Feel the Spirit (2:37)
14. Going to Chicago Blues (Rushing and Basie) (4:51)
1… Prokofiev: March in B-flat major (2:10)
2… Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite (1:01)
3… Back Violin Sonata 3 (2:32)
4… Mozart: Clarinet Concerto (7:56)
5… Griffes: Roman Sketches (3:41)
6… Miao Mountain Morning (3:53)
7… Albeniz: Iberia (4:50)
8… Ravel:Rapsodie espagnole (6:00)
9… Debussy: Sonata for Flute (4:33)
10… Durufle: Requiem (3:27)
11… Rachmaninoff: Vespers (3:47)
12… Rachmaninoff: Vocalise (3:47)
13… Bunch: String Circle (4:26)
14… Kodaly: Sonata for Cello (10:37)
15… Shostakovich: Concerto for Violin (4:50)
16… Piazzolla: Oblivion (3:51)
17… El Diablo Suelto: Fernandez (4:16)
November 19, 2012
Continuing their series of releasing Russian Disc material Delos offers a third offering of Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894), his Dramatic Symphony written in the summer of 1874 and first performed in Europe and Russia in 1875. Maturity was on the side of Rubenstein as he undertook this 65 minute project. Primarily known as virtuoso pianist, his other side wrote several symphonies, piano concertos, and operas. Unlike his contemporary Glinka, Anton never integrated any of the Russian folk material into his works but chose instead to take the approach of Schumann and Mendelssohn, the Germanic sound. As a result he never achieved popularity as a symphonist. I can remember my first encounter with his Ocean symphony on the defunct Vox/Turnabout label and feeling disappointed because I didn’t hear those wonderful Russian folk melodies which attracted me to the Russian sound I’ve grown to love and appreciate in my fifty plus years as a classical listener. Moussorgsky described the work not as the Ocean symphony but a “puddle” and while I wouldn’t be that derogatory I would say I’ve had to listen to it many times before I got the feeling of the work and began to understand what he was attempting to accomplish. Such is also the case with his 4th Symphony. It is not one that you’ll not instantly warm up to but repeated listens will reveal the depth of what it has to offer.
The ominous chords of the cello and double with a violin melody in counterpoint certainly live up to the name dramatic and set the mood for much of the work in D minor. In between the dramatic chords which are now featured on the violin there is some lovely material from the brass. The second movement a Scherzo offers excellent interplay between the wind instruments and the slightly romantic violins. I very much enjoy the staccato rhythm of this movement. There is an all too brief fiddling solo from the violin that reminds me of more modern material. The adagio in F major is a yearning theme which makes you think of a quiet romantic setting near a favorite lake with a picnic basket. The final movement, which has been highly criticized, returns to the ominous chords and a return to the principle theme. Trombones and piccolos introduce the return to the main theme.
This is the second recording that I have of the “Dramatic” Symphony the other being a Naxos (8.555979) with the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Stankovsky. I find the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia to be a little more at home with the work and give a slightly better performance although either recording is acceptable. There is a shrill at the beginning of the first movement but this is heard on both recordings and must be the way it was written. The recordings are both digital and exhibit the noiseless characteristics. They seem to be properly miked. I would urge the listener to give this repeated listens. It is only then that you’ll come to realize the full meaning of the work.
1…. Lento-Allegro moderato (22:12)
3…. Adagio (1 5:13)
4….Largo-Allegro con fuoco
Total Time is 65:24
Igor Golovchin conducts the State Symphony of Russia Delos #DRD2012
Available as a digital download from http://www.classicsonline.com/UserLogIn/SignUp.aspx
July 22, 2012
Dmitry Kabalevsky (1904-1987), a household musical name in Russia but outside his country he pretty much identified with The Comedians (1940) a suite he created based on a children’s play he wrote music for. Within the suite is a Gavotte (no. 1), included as an audio clip Kabalevsky – 12 – comedians gavotte that has become something of a standard for pops orchestras along the same lines as the Sabre Dance of Khachaturian, from his Gayane ballet. Outside of this particular work he has never achieved the popularity of Prokofiev or Shostakovich also contemporary 20th century Russian composers. Hopefully this new CD offering from Delos in their continuing project of reissues from the defunct Russian Disc label will introduce you to an extremely accessible composer.
Kabalevsky was one of the founding members of the Union of Soviet Members and was considered an ideal example of what a communist party composer should be. While Shostakovich wasn’t afraid to experiment and we certainly are aware of what he accomplished it led to serious consequences and very nearly his life at one point. Dmitry played it pretty much along party lines filling his music with Russian folk tunes and emphasizing melodic lines and orchestrations like Tchaikovsky and he received nothing but praise from the party.
Kabalevsky was born to a mathematician an interest he had as well as poetry and painting. Once he began the study of the piano and joined the Moscow Conservatory against his mathematical father’s desires his fate was sealed by one of his professors Myaskovsky another somewhat known composer and he became a professor in 1932. His body of work includes many areas of music which include choral, silent film, music for children, symphonies, concertos, chamber, and programmatic material like you’ll hear on this CD.
“Overture Pathetique,” Op. 64 (1960) begins with an upbeat melody filled with enthusiasm and hope from the woodwinds which is the basis for the entire work. There is no complicated harmony only each orchestral section offering this tune which is brought to a rousing conclusion.
“The Spring,” Op. 65 (1960) begins as one might think the very light and spritely flute which introduces the theme. Oboe and woodwinds are allowed to further develop the theme with strings providing the counterpoint. The bassoon is an important part of this equation as it offers its unique sound and flavor to the short tone poem.
“Overture to the Opera Colas Breugon,” Op. 24 (1938) begins upbeat with a vivacious fun melody that is offered from the entire orchestra with emphasis placed on the brass. It will instantly put you in good spirits and offers a snappy bright conclusion.
“The Comedians,” Op. 26 (1940) opens with a short prologue that will remind you of Shostakovich with the opening fanfare of brass slightly askew which leads into his well known gavotte, a melody that you’ll remember instantly. The remaining tracks include a Prokofiev style march, a somber funeral procession, valse, another gavotte, scherzo, and an epilogue which restates the prologue. The fifteen or so minutes will pass quickly as each movement is a separate and unique miniature. The work is definitely a fun listen.
The opening selection “Romeo and Juliet,” Op. 56 subtitled musical drawings after Shakespeare is the longest at 40 minutes and is a mixture of somber melodramatic material as well as fun and gaiety. The tone poem offers a fine example of the tonal colors and orchestration that Dmitry is capable of. While one can hear the Tchaikovsky it still has its own unique flavor. Again each section is a separate miniature that is capable of standing alone.
As an avid classical listener I found this material to be bright and extremely accessible. The Byelorrussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra perform like it was quite familiar with the material. Anatoly Lapunov seems to have chosen a comfortable pace that I found quite acceptable. The recording is clear and crisp with good separation and tonal range. I’m enjoying the reissue project from Delos and look forward to more in the future.
Delos DRD 2017
Anatoly Lapunov conducts Byelorussian Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra
Romeo and Juliet, Op. 56
1… Introduction (Enmity and Love) 4:40
2… Morning in Verona (2:01)
3… Preparation for the Ball (1:35)
4… Procession of the Guests (3:46)
5… Merry Dance (1:33)
6… Lyric Dance (5:45)
7… In Friar Laurence’s Cell (5:16)
8… Scene in the Square (3:23)
9… Romeo and Juliet (3:35)
10. Finale (Death and Reconciliation) (9:30)
The Comedians Op. 26
11. Prologue (0:59)
12. Gavotte (1:30)
13. March (1:15)
14. Valse (1:24)
15. Pantomime (2:15)
16. Intermezzo (0:49)
17. Lyric Scene (1:29)
18. Gavotte (2:13)
19. Scherzo (1:49)
20. Epilogue (2:08)
21. Overture Pathetique, Op. 64 (4:44)
22. Spring, Op. 65 (6:26)
23. Overture to the Opera Colas Breugnon (5:13)
Total Time is 73:47
June 14, 2012
“The title To The Fore comes from Grainger’s colorful ‘Blue-Eyed English’ directions which replace their Italian counterparts in his scores,” writes Dana Perna of the International Percy Grainger Society. His directions such as louden lots, lingeringly, slow down lots, as well as dished up, blend band, and tone wrought certainly gets your attention. He would also on occasion make grand entrances by leaping over his piano when he came on stage. Through his concerts he financed a Grainger house in Melbourne where he offered some of his very personal items, a topic not appropriate for this review.
As a reviewer I’m forever searching for new sounds and Delos has been most gracious to open up their catalog allowing me to explore new material. As I investigate new areas of music I can pass this on to you perhaps opening new doors for you also. Percy Grainger, composer, pianist, folk song collector, and musical inventor certainly qualifies. Born in Australia Percy found his way to America in the early part of the 20th Century; toured as a pianist, taught at New York University and Chicago Musical College, participated in the war effort (pictured on CD booklet with one his favorite instruments a soprano saxophone), invented electronic composition machines in order to produce “free music” characterized by small intervals, “gliding tones” and irregular rhythms. He was one of the first to make use of tuned percussion. He arranged hundreds of folk songs and made use of the masters Faure, Grieg, Bach, and others in his arrangements. Quite a talent!
Country Gardens, his most popular piece is offered as a Grainger arrangement and arranged by Sousa for his marching band. The creative talent of Percy is never more evident than his style filled with whimsical reeds, soulful sax, and harmonious brass which can also be dissonant. The Sousa arrangement is a straight marching band rendition that is pleasant but not creative at all. “The Gum-Suckers March” (colonials sucked the eucalyptus leaves). Not the typical march you’re use to listening to Percy incorporates a busy brass section along with piano in this rather catchy melody. Percy was always looking for unusual combinations and found use for a heckelphone and piano strings struck with a percussion mallet as well as low brass for this clever arrangement of “Children’s March: Over the hills and far away.” “March” and O Mensch, Bewein’ Dein’ Sunde Gross,” compositions of Bach are given the Percy band treatment. It is fun to hear a fugue performed by wind band. “Ye Banks and Braes o’Bonnie Doon” is a Scottish melody and there will be a tear in your eye is you’re from that part of the world. A wonderful euphonium is to be found in a Faure tune “Tuscan Serenade.” “Chorale No. 2” melody comes from the Franck Symphony in D minor and is a fascinating way to hear this music especially if you enjoy the symphony version.
The CD is nicely performed by the Michigan State University Symphonic Band conducted by Keith Brion, who was also involved as a curator and a one person crusade to get some of Grainger’s material published. If you’re looking for something new to explore this recording will fit the bill and also introduce you to Grainger.
1… Molly on the Shore (4:03)
2… Country Gardens (2:14)
3… The Immovable Do (3:46)
4… Colonial Song (5:24)
5… “The Gum-Suckers” March (3:46)
6… Tuscan Serenade (3:23)
7… Chorale No. 2 (13:56)
8… March (1:38)
9… O Mensch, Bewein’ Dein’ Sunde Gross (4:13)
10. Country Gardens arr. Sousa (2:16)
11. Ye Banks and Braes o’Bonnie Doon (3:00)
12. Children’s March: “Over the hills and far away” (7:13)
Total Time is 56:44
When one thinks of Rubinstein the first thing that comes to this reviewer’s mind is the world famous concert pianist Arturo who gave us 100’s of hours of listening pleasure. Did you know that there was another Rubinstein who was compared with Franz Liszt? Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) was the composer of 120 works including six symphonies, five piano concertos, ten operas, and numerous chamber, tone poems, and solo piano works. Although he was Russian born his sound could never be confused for anything done by the ‘Mighty Five’ and perhaps as a result he suffered a fate of obscurity. Yet Tchaikovsky was his student and he started the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. If you were to make the comment that Anton was a student of Felix Mendelssohn few would argue with you. In fact he was belittled by his contemporaries in Russia as fluff, no substance, and the list could go on. Cui wrote of him as “merely a Russian who composes his music allied rather to that of Germany.” Lizst described Rubinstein “as a fountain of bad music.” Music critic Gerald Abraham referred to him as “a highly competent imitation of Mendelssohn or Schumann.
His second symphony which is called ‘Ocean’ was written in 1851 and what you’ll hear on this Delos recording is the first original version. As time passed Anton came up with additional ideas and the work has been revised and re-revised. There is a Naxos recording 8.555392 which was the final revision of 1880 and includes seven movements (nicknamed the seven seas). For your information there was another revision with six movements that to the best of my knowledge is not available to listen to. Listed below is a chart which shows the difference between the Naxos and the Delos recordings.
Naxos Track Listing
1… Moderato assai (#1 on Delos)
2… Lento assai (new)
3… Andante (new)
4… Allegro (#3 on Delos)
5… Andante (#2 on Delos)
6… Scherzo (new)
7… Andante (#4 on Delos)
The first movement sets the mood as the sea is depicted with its power, calm, and beauty. It begins with tremolo from the strings as the flutes offer a theme which sets the mood for this major passage. The entire orchestra comes to a rousing crescendo with majestic fanfare from the horns. A second romantic melody is offered by the strings with harmony from the rest of the string section and while this is an upbeat section of the movement one can hear the impending conflict brewing in the background depicting the turbulence of the sea. The adagio second movement offers a yearning melody with excellent counterpoint from the orchestra. The tempo is quite slow but one can feel that it deliberately moves ever forward. The third movement, an allegro, is quite proud and majestic with horns complementing the string work. It begins with the strings offering a very Germanic melody. This is a happy time for the sea. Tchaikovsky quotes “… reproduces the rough gaiety and the dances of sailors in a very elastic way.” The fourth movement is another adagio and gives one last storm before a rousing conclusion. Again the sound is very Germanic. If you accept this work for what it is then you’ll have another ocean/water concept in your collection, a well subject that many of the great composers have written about.
Feramors (1862), written ten years after the ‘Ocean’ symphony, is an opera that first premiered in 1863 and is based on a story of Lalla a princess who is engaged to marry a king but falls in love with the minstrel Feramors who is the king in disguise. What is offered on this CD is the ballet music from the three act opera.
“Dance of the Bayaderes” begins the suite with a nice melody filled with gaiety, well developed as the composer returns to the melody for the entire dance. “Dance of the Kashmiri Brides” offers a hint of the orient but somewhat subtle in nature if your familiar with the mystic sound of Rimsky-Korsakov and others. Two minutes into the movement the style changes and you hear a more traditional waltz. “Dance of the Bayaderes II is one that begins with a sense of urgency evolving into something quite lively and frantic. “Wedding Procession,” the final selection is a march filled with splendor and grandeur offering a happy ending.
The digital recording is a nice clean transfer with nice balance between the treble, bass, and individual clarity of the solo instruments when called for. The liner notes are excellent except for one minor point. His third symphony hasn’t been lost and is available from Naxos. If you accept Rubinstein as a Russian who wrote Germanic style material this CD will give you the opportunity to listen to some interesting melodic material from a composer that many of you are not familiar with. Recommended!
Symphony No.2 in C Major ‘Ocean’, Op.42 (original version, 1851)
1… Allegro maestoso (15:56)
2… Adagio non tanto (10:51)
3… Allegro (6:10)
4… Adagio Allegro con fuoco (14:37)
Ballet Music from Feramors, Opera in 3 Acts (1862)
5… Dance of the Bayaderes I (5:02)
6… Dance of the Kashmiri Brides (5:03)
7… Dance of the Bayaderes II (4:33)
8… Wedding Procession (3:52)
Total Playing Time is 66:11
DELOS DRD 2010