Pt. 3 of 3, Sept. 2003

Continuing the concerto idea, here are some other unusual ones..

Concertos for Harp and Orchestra = GLIERE: Harp Concerto; JONGEN: Harp Concerto Op. 129; MORENO-BUENDIA: Suite Concertante for Harp and Orchestra - Gretchen Van Hoesen, harp/New Symphony Orchestra/Rossen Milanov - Boston Records BR1049CD:

Van Hoesen is the first harpist of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Milanov is the assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. The “New Symphony” is in Sofia, Bulgaria, where this recording was made. Gliere’s familiar concerto is practically the Tchaikovsky First Concerto of harp concertos. The lovely work draws on Russian folk music and has a somewhat modern veneer, having a compositional date of 1938. Jongen’s work has classic form and is very French, as befits a concerto for this very French instrument. The Spanish composer’s Suite Concertante has five movements and was written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Emperor Charles I. Each movement relates to medieval matters such as legends, troubadours, heralds, etc. This trio of works provides a welcome and enjoyable change from the many piano and violin concertos, and Van Hoesen commands a sure technique. It’s satisfying to hear the concert harp as a self-sufficient solo instrument instead of just arpeggiating here and there in the orchestra. Purchase here

Double Concertos for Violin and Clarinet = WM. WALLACE: Concerto for Clarinet, Violin and Orchestra; JAMES NIBLOCK: Concerto for Violin and Clarinet with Orchestra; DINOS CONSTANTINIDES: Concerto of Psalms - Walter Verdehr, violin/Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr, clarinet; Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic/Kirk Trevor (except Slovak Radio Orch./Jiri Tomasek in Constantinides) - Crystal Records CD945:

Yet another unusual take on the idea of the concerto, and in this case all are premiere recordings of works composed especially for the two solo performers and just part of over 160 works composed for them. Not only that, but all three are absolutely lovely tonal works that bear repeated listening and familiarity. It strikes one as strange that there aren’t more works for this combination in either the orchestral or chamber music realms. Their timbres and pitch ranges go together so well - the violin in top positions in the orchestra’s string section and the clarinet in a similar role in the woodwind section. It's not a bit oddball, as is the piano/pipe organ duo reviewed here this month. Purchase here

- John Sunier

A battle of the tone poems via our next two CDs...

ERNEST FANELLI: Symphonic Pictures: The Romance of the Mummy; BOURGAULT-DUCOUDRAY: Cambodian Rhapsody - Slovak Radio Symphony orchestra/Adriano - Marco Polo 8.225234:

The Marco Polo label certainly lives up to its name and intent with this release. Paris-based Fanelli was writing in the early 1880s major super exotic tone poems such as this one which sound like impressionistic orchestral scores of past 1900. Music iconoclast George Antheil described Fanelli as “one of the greatest inventors and musical iconoclasts of our time.” Orientalism was a big thing in the arts in the late 19th century and Theophile Gautier’s novel The Romance of the Mummy fired up Fanelli to create this amazing 50-minute-length widescreen soundtrack - before there were soundtracks. Swiss conductor Adriano specializes in film music, so this project is right up his aisle. Fanelli eschews the usual Romantic period descriptive cliches, instead expressing himself principally through tone color and colorful instrumentation. You might hear shades of Debussy, Respighi and even Stravinsky. Listen to the names of some of the six movements of this tableau: Festival at the Pharaoh’s Palace, Grotesque Dance of the Egyptian Buffoons, Triumphant Songs and Orgy. (Of course, gotta have your orgy with this sort of orientalism.) The accompanying example of orientalism dates from the same time and orchestrates actual Cambodian melodies. Both works are great fun and good listening, plus very well-recorded. Marco Polo hasbrought us another discovery. Purchase here

ZDENEK FIBICH: Toman & the Woodsprite; Othello; Impressions from the Countryside (Suite for Orchestra) - Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra/Douglas Bostock -Classico 255 (Distr. By Albany):

Danish label Classico can’t be expected to know there are Carlsbads in both California and New Mexico; perhaps it would have been propitious to include in this symphony’s name the suffix “of the Czech Republic.” These are world premiere recordings of the second and third works. Fibich has been overshadowed by his countrymen of the 19th century, Dvorak and Smetana. He had a large output which was influenced not only by his fellow composers but also Wagner and Schumann. His symphonic poem on Shakespeare’s character has Wagnerian-type themes for Othello, Desdemona and Iago. Fibich’s only orchestral suite has five movements with titles such as Peasant Dance and Fireside Talk and its musical materials are simple and straightforward as these titles would indicate. Purchase here

- John Sunier

CHOPIN: The Complete Mazurkas - Andrew Rangell, piano - Dorian DOR 93258 (2 CDs):

Several other composers have also penned mazurkas, that miniature dance form of piano music indigenious to Polish culture. But when one speaks of piano pieces in this style, only one composer comes instantly to mind, and that is Chopin. This collection presents all 58 of them, usually four or five at a time grouped in the different opus numbers ranging from Op. 6 to 68. Chopin’s many different expressions and moods found in them is akin to the variety expressed in Scarlatti’s many harpsichord sonatas. Rangell has previously recorded the Goldberg Variations, the Bach Partitas, and five Beethoven late sonatas for Dorian. He recently recovered from a hand injury which prevented his performing for some time. Dorian’s sonics are up to their usual crystalline quality in this sumptuous set.
Purchase here

- John Sunier

We'll close with a quartet of difficult-to-pigeonhole world music CDs...

Yo-Yo Ma, cello - Obrigado Brazil (with guests) - Sony Classical SK 89935:
Pan-Pipes and Organ - Concert of works of the Renaissance and Baroque - PRAETORIUS, VECCHI, FACOLI, ANTICO, PASQUINI, GERVAISE, FRESCOBALDI, STORACE, CACCINI, LOEILLET & others - Phillipe Emmanuel Haas, pan pipes/Silvano Rodi, organ - Gallo CD-1064 (Distr. by Albany):
Sangam = MICHAEL NYMAN Meets Indian Masters U. SHRINIVAS, RAJAN & SAJAN MISRA - Warner Classics 0927 49551-2:
Petar Ralchev, accordion - Bulgaria Gega GD282 (Distr. by Albany):

The new BBC Music Magazine has an article on how we shouldn’t be using the term "world music" but just referring to the particular ethnic culture we‘re talking about or playing the music of. But what do you do in such crossover cases as some of the above? Cellist Ma is known for ranging far afield from strict classical halls in a discovery effort that makes exciting and interesting music foremost, never mind if it fails to fit into the classical mold. In this delightful collection of 16 short tracks he is joined by such guests are the Assad brothers, Paquito D’Rivera, Egberto Gismonti and other Brazilian musicians. Some of the choices are Brazilian pop songs, some jazz standards, and some melodies by Brazil's Villa-Lobos. Ma’s cello blends beautifully with his Brazilian friends, and if you’re not already convinced that Brazil is home to the most beautiful and interesting musical culture in the world, you may be after a couple spins of this CD. Purchase here

Pan-pipes and pipe organ seem to be a heavenly combination, and this is not the first such recording of the duo - Georghe Zamfir did several. The CD was made during a live concert in the basilica of a castle near Sion, Switzerland and rather than the usual ethnic music or easy-listening music the program consisted of pieces from the classical French and Italian schools of the 15th thru 18th centuries. So it may not be exactly world music, but the pan-pipes are surely an ethnic sort of instrument. Transcriptions are usually made from originals for recorder, voice or violin. There are also some works for the unusual organ alone, whose small size is a better partner to the pan-pipes than a giant cathedral pipe organ. It is referred to as a “swallow’s nest organ” because it looks exactly like that, suspended up on the wall of the basilica with only a few pipes and the small console just below in the “nest” with the pan-pipes player. Purchase here

Sangam is a Hindi word meaning ‘a coming together’ and it marks a musical odyssey by British composer Michael Nyman in which he met with, talked to and played with a variety of Indian classical musicians. The idea was to express a meeting point the classical Indian tradition and Western experimental classical music. Nyman’s own 16-membeer band is joined by mandolinist Shrinivas, tabla player Sahai and four vocalists who Nyman feels are among the world’s greatest and should be re-named “The Indian Soul Brothers.” The disc is devoted to two works: the first a three- movement suite Three Ways of Describing Rain, and the second Compiling the Colours. The drone-like design of much of Nyman’s music does sound a bit like the drone in Indian music, and the men’s voices over it bend the slowly-drawn-out notes much as a sitar player does his strings. The mandolin piece sounds more like Chinese music than Indian music or British minimalism. I found that those sections with the tabla rhythms seemed less draggy than those without. An interesting experiment worth hearing nevertheless. Purchase here

Accordionist Petar Ralchev must be heard to be believed. His virtuosity and melodious improvising skills are breathtaking. He is a unique performer creating a fresh new contemporary folk tradition of Bulgarian and Serbian music in much the same way Piazzolla revolutionized his country’s tango form. The variety of timbres, rhythms and dizzying passage work is truly amazing in all dozen tracks. He is accompanied on various tracks by guitar, tambura, percussion and keyboard player. Eight of the piecs are originals by Ralchev. The recording quality is first rate. This is a whole new world of accordion playing, crossing over several different traditions but based in music of the Balkans. Purchase here

- John Sunier

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