BACH-STOKOWSKI: Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565. Arioso (Largo
from Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in F minor, BWV 1056. Sleepers
Awake! BWV 645. Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639. Adagio from
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564. Mein Jesu (from Schemell's Musical
Song Book). A Mighty Fortress. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (from Cantata
No. 147). Prelude No. 24 from The Well-Tempered Clavier. Siciliano from
Violin and Clavier Sonata No. 4, BWV 1017. Fugue in C minor from The
Well-Tempered Clavier. PALESTRINA: Adoramus te (Motet for Four
Voices). BYRD: Pavane and Gigue. CLARKE:
Minuet from Quintet in E, Op. 13 No. 5 MATTHESON: Air from Harpsichord
Suite No. 5 in C minor. HAYDN: Andante cantabile from Quintet in F, Op.
3 No. 5.
MARX: Eine Frühlingsmusik. Idylle. Fest im Herbst.
MARX: Orchestral Songs and Choral Works
ELGAR: Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61
MATHIEU: Piano Concerto No. 4 in E Minor. Scènes
de Ballet. Four Songs
for Choir and Orchestra.
Following the success of the first disk of Stokowski transcriptions (REVIEW), Naxos has issued Volume II, and again the focus is on music of Bach beginning with his most famous transcription: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. There are 10 other works of Bach. According to Daniel's Stokowski—A Counterpoint of View, the Maestro recorded all of these, some more than once, with the exception of the Largo from the Harpsichord Concerto in F minor. All of his Philadelphia Orchestra Bach recordings are available in superb Mark Obert-Thorn transfers on Pearl (CDS 9098), here we have equally fine performances conducted by Serebrier who worked closely with Stokowski for many years. The other works are equally welcome. Edward Johnson, the dean of Stokowski information, wrote the informative CD notes. Daniel's book lists more than four pages of Stokowski transcriptions—obviously Serebrier has a lot of work to do! A wonderful CD!
The two CDs devoted to music of Joseph Marx (1882-1964) are important—first-class performances and interpretations of compositions by the musician called by Furtwängler "the leading force of Austrian music." In addition to composing profusely, Marx also was recognized as an major teacher of his time, holding positions as professor in several Vienna schools. His music was promoted by major conductors of the time including Clemens Krauss, Arthur Nikisch, Fritz Reiner and Karl Böhm, although apparently he made some dubious decisions about his association with the Third Reich to avoid prosecution. Three of Marx's major orchestral works are featured on one disk: The "Spring" symphony from 1925, and "Autumn" symphony from four years earlier. Each is about 24 minutes in length, scored for very large orchestra. There is much to admire in these orchestral works. The music is beautiful indeed, sumptuously orchestrated, almost like Korngold on steroids. However it is too much of a good thing filled with masses of climactic sound. Comprehensive program notes describe Idylle as the German equivalent of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Overall, it is more effective if only because it is less turbulent.
The Chandos disk devoted to vocal music of Joseph Marx is a beauty. We have 12 songs for soprano and orchestra with Christine Brewer's silvery voice shining through Marx's rich scoring. These songs are reminiscent of those by Strauss. The first time I heard music of Marx was the Ljuba Welitsch 1950 recording of Hat dich die Liebe berührt and Valse de Chopin (included in the important Sony Masterworks Heritage set that, unfortunately, is no longer available (REVIEW). Hat dich die Liebe berührt is included on the new recording, and it is a wonderful experience to hear it with rich orchestral accompaniment. The four choral works, all receiving their premiere recordings, are magnificent in every way, major additions to the choral repertory, particularly the joyous Herbstchor an Pan, scored for mix chorus, boys' chorus, large orchestra and organ. Two of these choral songs (Berghymme and Ein Heujahshymnus) were orchestrated by the Esser-Haydin team). Jiri Belohlávek leads the massive forces in committed performances, and the Chandos audio could not be bettered. Complete tests are provided. An outstanding disk!Extraordinary violinist Gil Shaham already has recorded about twenty violin concertos in a wide range of repertory, some of them twice, but never had the opportunity to record one of his favorites, Elgar's Concerto in B minor. His primary label was DGG, and apparently they weren't interested in making a recording of it, so Shaham decided to do it himself on his enterprising new label, Canary Classics. I suspect Shaham underwrote some of the considerable expenses: the Chicago Symphony surely doesn't come cheap. But the result is surely one of the finest recordings made of this work, and recorded sound is of equal quality. I'm surprised Shaham didn't also include on this disk some of Elgar's music for violin and piano with his sister, Orli—playing time of this CD is only 48:28.
Canadian composer André Mathieu (1929-1969) was a sensation in his day, called by some "the Quebec Mozart," and supposedly Rachmaninoff said of him "he is a genius, more so than I am." It would be hard to live up to those statements, and Mathieu doesn't—but there still is much of interest. Pianist Alain Lefèvre specializes in Mathieu's music and has already recorded some of it (which I have not heard); now his fourth disk features the Piano Concerto No. 4, which has a fascinating history. After a concert in 2005 in Quebec, Lefèvre was approached by a woman who said when she had a relationship with Mathieu many years earlier the composer gave her a set of transcriptions. The mystery woman then disappeared. The ten record sides included the composer's Piano Concerto No. 4, which probably was composed about 1946 when Mathieu studied in Paris with Honegger. Two of the movements were played by the composer on a Radio-Canada program and he played the concerto frequently until 1955, but the score seems to have been lost. Lefèvre asked composer-conductor Gilles Bellemare to prepare a complete score from what was heard on the disks, and Bellemare did so with great success—heard on this CD, as performed in May 2008 by Lefèvre with the Tucson Symphony directed by George Hanson. The concerto is long (41 minutes) with three movements, the second of which was also used in the composer's Romantic Rhapsody. There are many traces of Rachmaninoff, lush climaxes, and considerable pianistic display, but the form is episodic, rather like a series of pleasant interludes. The performance could not be bettered and does what can be done for this intriguing curiosity of the piano repertory. The disk is filled out Scènes de Ballet, a four-movement work originally written for piano but orchestrated in 1945/46. Also we have Four Songs for Choir and Orchestra, love songs two with texts by the composer, the other by French poet Paul Verlaine. Gilles Bellemare also transcribed, harmonized and orchestrated these works. The music is surely pleasant, and the performances are excellent. All performances on this CD were recorded live, evidenced by the enthusiastic applause. Audio quality is excellent—an interesting release!
R.E.B. (February 2009)