CPO diaries

Started by Brian, March 06, 2024, 01:07:52 PM

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Mirror Image

I'm still hoping that CPO gets around to recording the Malipiero symphonies because they're in desperate need of a modern update. The Naxos recordings (originally issued on Marco Polo) are 'okay', but more passion could be had in these works.
"You cannot set art off in a corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance." ― Charles Ives

kyjo

Quote from: Mirror Image on June 10, 2024, 04:45:16 PMI'm still hoping that CPO gets around to recording the Malipiero symphonies because they're in desperate need of a modern update. The Naxos recordings (originally issued on Marco Polo) are 'okay', but more passion could be had in these works.

I fully agree, John. CPO has recorded his piano concerti, plus symphonies by his countrymen Alfano, Casella, and Sgambati, so anything's possible...
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

kyjo

Quote from: Brian on June 01, 2024, 12:20:23 PM

Upthread, I enjoyed Robert Kahn's clarinet trio. Here the focus is two cello sonatas and three collected miniatures, all of then written from about 1902-1912 in a very, very Brahms-inspired mood. The booklet recounts how Kahn spent his youth trying to add himself to the Brahms circle - slowly befriending all the composer's friends until they finally introduced him, then being adopted by Brahms in a father/mentor type relationship.

The Brahms influence is best felt in Kahn's fondness for some of the same chords and harmonic progressions, and particularly his adaptation of the great Brahms habit of closely alternating major and minor keys to create emotional complexity. The thing that's not so complex is Kahn's melodic material: the first movement of No. 1 and the finale of No. 2, especially, are rather simplistic short motifs that are repeated just too many times. But the music is unfailingly attractive if you can handle that repetition, and Kahn only drifts from his idol's musical language once, in the last minute or so of No. 2, when the cello briefly wanders through some more modern harmonic territory.

All in all, it's a very pleasant album but non-essential unless you are a hardcore Brahmsian - in which case it probably is essential. For me, I'm happy to use this as background music for reading a book on a weekend morning, or keeping cozy in winter weather. Thedeen and Triendl are such accomplished musicians that their playing adds to the interest.

Agreed, Brian. As I've said before, I generally don't mind when the music of a certain composer resembles that of another more famous composer, and I do think too many lesser-known composers are unfairly accused of being "derivative". That said, Kahn is a composer who, for all his fine craftsmanship, just sounds too much like a less inspired Brahms most of the time for me to fully enjoy his music. Considering he lived all the way until 1951, one would think he would have eventually become more open to other stylistic influences over the course of his career, but it appears that he didn't...
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Mirror Image

Quote from: kyjo on June 10, 2024, 08:14:10 PMI fully agree, John. CPO has recorded his piano concerti, plus symphonies by his countrymen Alfano, Casella, and Sgambati, so anything's possible...

Yeah, I've got the PC set and it's fantastic. Fingers crossed something happens with the symphonies.
"You cannot set art off in a corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance." ― Charles Ives

kyjo

No one asked for it ( ;) ) but here's some of my most cherished CPO releases over the years. It goes without saying that I'm immensely grateful to CPO (amongst other labels) for bringing so much wonderful relatively unknown repertoire to light, and usually in very good performances and sound. I tried to narrow it down as much as possible, but it was quite difficult. They're generally in no particular order, though of course the Atterberg symphony cycle has to come first! Sorry about the varying image sizes:

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Mirror Image

#65
Since we're sharing favorite CPO recordings, I might as well play, too. ;)

In no particular order:











"You cannot set art off in a corner and hope for it to have vitality, reality, and substance." ― Charles Ives

Clemens non Papa

A few favs:

SWR Köln/M.Jurowski's Prokofiev ballets

Cesar Franck's string quartet & piano quintet by the Danel Quartet

The complete Brahms Lieder by Banse/Vermillion/Schmidt/Deutsch

Max Reger - Complete works for violin & piano, complete cello sonatas by Wallin et al

Que

Quote from: Clemens non Papa on June 15, 2024, 09:16:22 AMA few favs:

SWR Köln/M.Jurowski's Prokofiev ballets

Cesar Franck's string quartet & piano quintet by the Danel Quartet

The complete Brahms Lieder by Banse/Vermillion/Schmidt/Deutsch

Max Reger - Complete works for violin & piano, complete cello sonatas by Wallin et al

Welcome to the forum!

Brian



Heinrich Kaminski was a between-wars German composer who was blacklisted by the Nazis for his political beliefs and then again because they found him (truthfully or not) to be one-quarter Jewish. Qobuz didn't upload the booklet of this release, so I don't know the story behind why Kaminski wrote an epic 53-minute piece of symphonic proportion for string orchestra and simply called it Work for String Orchestra.

The first movement starts with a slow introduction that blends into the main allegro by degrees, with frequent tempo changes. It's an interesting movement; I find Kaminski's musical language hard to describe, though. Fundamentally tonal, but not "romantic" in its emotional resonance - maybe like a Germanic, un-folksy Pavel Haas or Bartok. Except that, of course, if you take folk color away from those composers, you're left with very little. I don't quite know a good comparison point.

The slow movement is a long, somewhat spooky nocturne with high violin writing. It doesn't rise to a Mahlerian level of color, let alone Hollywoody scene depictions. But it is a Mood. The scherzo's B material is also a Mood, especially its spooky reprisal near the end of the movement. The finale begins with a vigorous, lengthy fugato, before taking a break for calmer, slower material around 5-9' that slowly breaks down into seemingly unrelated, non-thematic notes, like the music is disintegrating. But the fugato returns, and the music rather surprisingly switches to major key in the last 60 seconds - and then eases down to a calm, quiet ending.

This is a very curious work. It's not exactly "attractive" - there aren't any big tunes or scenes or anything like that. It's not exactly "unattractive" - it's not full of angst or even modernity. It's not epic in emotional content, just in length. Even more so than when I started listening, I wonder very much why it exists, what artistic impulse led Kaminski to make such a major statement in such terms.

Playing and recorded sound are great. I think I'll listen again. This music is mysterious in a very intriguing way. Not sure if it is something you "unlock," or just accept on its unique terms.



I love how much rare Turkish music is on CPO. This monster violin concerto is 44 minutes long, including an epic 26-minute first movement that really starts with a bang: pounding drums and gongs, sinister angry trombones and tuba. The violin enters after two minutes with the stakes already clear: this will be endurance warfare, soloist against orchestra. After all the tumult and drama, the violin ends this epic movement with a long solo cadenza - and then, without pause, plays the lead-in to the slow movement! There's another long solo cadenza in the finale.

The piece overall actually has something in common with the Kaminski: despite its length, it doesn't have a lot of super-memorable Big Moments (just the beginning and ending) or even a romantic Big Theme. Instead, it's more like the through-composed soundtrack to a wild dream sequence. Consequently, I think I'd have a hard time seeing it live, but thoroughly enjoyed listening to it while preparing lunch. At its best, it has lots of color and a violin part so taxing you have to be in awe of the soloist.

It must be an absolutely exhausting piece to play. This recording is a live one-night concert performance, which you can mostly tell from the acoustic. Cihat Askin's violin sounds smaller than usual for concerto recordings, both because it is recorded accurately to the live concert environment, and because (I assume) Askin has to conserve strength to get through the whole piece without arm muscles failing.



Herzogenberg was an admirer of Brahms and kind of the epitome of a mid-to-late German romantic reclamation project. (There are at least 14 CPO albums of his music.) I have a physical copy of his CPO double album of chamber music, which is chock full of good music, craftsmanship, and tunes. The orchestral music is new to me, though. The Violin Concerto may not be the best place to start - it's an unpublished work - but Ulf Wallin is an A-lister by CPO standards, and the music is genial A-major sunniness. Contrasting with Akses' modernism, Herzogenberg creates a "hangout concerto," where the violin and orchestra are buddies who relax together, trade tunes, and enjoy each other's company. There is certainly more emotional expression in the minor-key slow movement,

It's hard to think of many great "hangout concertos." (Does Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto count? Maybe the Saint-Saens Egyptian Concerto? Maaaybe?) As a structure, it's not a formula for lasting memorability. But this one is certainly pleasant enough.

The discmate is a monster-sized 48-minute symphonic poem suite called Odysseus. Depicting, yes, the Odyssey. Heck yeah! Now this I can dig into with enthusiasm. I expect Cyclops and Scylla and sirens and lotus-eating and... (looks at track list)

I. Die Irrfahrten (The Wanderings)
II. Penelope
III. Die Gärten der Circe (Circe's Garden)
IV. Das Gastmahl der Freier (The Banquet of the Suitors)

Oh OK. I'd better calm down.  :laugh:

The Wanderings is a 19-minute opener that starts with a slow, moody depiction of turbulent sea waves. At this point, though, I already have to confess that this suite is no Lemminkainen Legends. I didn't take another note until the pleasant woodwind chirping in Circe's Garden. The first two movements were mostly preoccupied with generic minor-key romantic moodiness. Circe's Garden at least has some sunbeams and birds, even though Circe is no heroine. The finale mirrors the finale of Scheherazade, with a glittering fast section followed by the dramatic return of the opening material when Odysseus comes back and finds out what his family has been up to. This is definitely the most straightforwardly colorful, programmatic, episodic movement of the four - and definitely the most fun, too. I was a little surprised by the cheerfulness of the last couple minutes; maybe Odysseus is celebrating his vengeance? Anyway, this is the movement to keep, for sure. But the whole suite left me wondering what would have happened if Berlioz had done an Odysseus symphony - and how much more modern that would have sounded.



Symphony No. 1 is in C minor and moves from a long, slow, glumly "tragic" introduction to a heroic questing finale full of trombones, but this is no repeat of Brahms 1. The music is shaggier, more lyrical, and honestly more likable. (I'm not a Brahms 1 guy.) What it lacks is really memorable tunes or moments, the kind of thing that, if you listed a bunch of obscure symphonies to me and got to "Herzogenberg's First," I could say, "Oh, yeah, that's the symphony where X happens!" I suppose X = the harmonic adventures of the trio sections in the scherzo, which really wander all over the place. The finale is funny because the Brahmsian origins are painfully obvious, but the movement is less than half the length of the Brahms 1's. It's like getting a little appetizer sample tray. This is probably what @Spotted Horses's Brahms comparison notes were about.

Symphony No. 2 is in B flat, shorter, even more laid-back, and totally unpretentious. It actually has more in common with someone like Svendsen or Gade. (There's a major first-movement motif that shares a rhythm with the first-movement motif from Dvorak 4.) The slow movement is more like an intermezzo or interlude than a fully developed idea, and isn't especially lyrical. The scherzo's trio is "where something happens": the trumpet declaims a melody that is based on an octave interval. It's quite odd and a little bit bluesy. The finale is expectedly jolly.

This is probably the only recording these works will ever get, so it's nice that the NDR players put in a good effort and Frank Beermann manifestly cares about getting the music right.