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Messages - Alan Howe

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Composers and Music / Re: Vladimir Sokalsky
« on: Yesterday at 23:43 »
Great minds...

...but lagging, like the CD release.

Composers and Music / Vladimir Sokalsky
« on: Yesterday at 21:50 »
Has anyone come across this composer?
His rather lovely Symphony in G minor of 1894 can be heard here (in a 1955 recording with the State Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Natan Rakhlin):

Can anyone therefore record BBC Radio 3's Afternoon Concert next Monday (26th), starting at 2pm? Thanks!!!

Composers and Music / Re: Ups and downs in the repertoire
« on: Monday 19 February 2018, 22:33 »
Stravinsky certainly hasn't disappeared from concerts over here in the UK. Nor should he - he was a great composer.

Recordings & Broadcasts / Re: Gernsheim cello and piano concertos
« on: Saturday 17 February 2018, 08:33 »
That's a truly heroic spot, Eric! Thank you!

Recordings & Broadcasts / Re: Nowowiejski Orchestral works
« on: Friday 16 February 2018, 13:23 »
I've done the same...

Composers and Music / Re: Franz Xaver Gebel
« on: Thursday 15 February 2018, 21:19 »
As I have said, though, the two Profil CDs feature nasty HIP renderings. Not good.

Composers and Music / Re: Franz Xaver Gebel
« on: Thursday 15 February 2018, 19:31 »
Finally got round to buying (second-hand) the MDG CD of String Quintets. Here's an interesting review at Amazon:

• These resemble Beethoven's middle quartets in style and expressive language, and to some extent the string quintets of George Onslow. Borodin himself cherished and performed Gebel's quintets, playing second cello; that should be enough to pique one's interest.
• Themes are first-rate and part-writing is impressive. Instead of a second cello, Gebel incorporates a double bass for richer tone color.
• String Quintet in E flat major op. 25 (ca. 1830s) is a serious work. Highlights include the passionate and noble first movement, a menacing "Scherzo" with a beautiful cantabile trio, and an "Adagio" of dark melancholy and lyricism.
• String Quintet in E minor op. 20 is even better, containing an inspired "Allegro" of striving intensity and original ideas, a nervous Beethovenian scherzo with unison pizzicati effects, a serene "Adagio" fit for Beethoven, and an exhilarating finale.
• Ensemble Concertant Frankfurt breathes life into this music, presenting concentrated readings, and observes the exposition repeats.
• Recorded sound is distinguished with well-caught details and immersive natural ambience; a superb achievement by MDG.

In the lush mosaic of Russian 19th-century music life, Franz Xaver Gebel (1787-1843) was a fascinating, if marginal tile. Born in Germany, Gebel emigrated to Moscow in the 1820s and there taught a generation of students, including Nicolai Rubinstein, while composing on the side. His chief role in Moscow was organizing chamber music concerts with the intention of elevating music taste in Russia. He impressed some pretty big names in the process, such as Borodin and Glinka. Gebel wrote eight quintets and the two selected for this recording are the best examples of his art currently on disc; if you're curious about him, this is the quintessential gateway. (Profil has followed up with recordings of some string quartets and the string quintet op. 27, of which the latter is the better choice.)

Both of these string quintets date from the 1830s and the influence of Beethoven shows in their style, motivic craftsmanship, and expressive depth. Like Onslow, Gebel substitutes a double bass for second cello, generating a richer color and bottom-heavy weight to the ensemble. Gebel's themes are absolutely first-class: imposing, attractive, melodic, and replete with vivid dynamic contrasts. What strikes me about his quintets is how different—even idiosyncratic—his textures and part-writing sound compared to folks like Ries, Spohr, Cherubini, and Kuhlau, and other mid-tier composers dabbling in the genre. Apart from a grounding in Haydn and similarities with Beethoven, his quintets are quirky. He varies his textures in arresting ways, giving each instrument significant material within their own recitatives and solos. His themes are studded with harmonic interest, unusual starts and stops, and fresh rhythms. Although a proponent of Viennese classicism, Gebel isn't demure or conservative: there's unbridled emotion, flirtations with Romanticism, and dramatic bite aplenty in these works.

I read a review of this disc on Fanfare by Martin Anderson, who was so enthusiastic he compared Gebel to Bruckner: "... the real surprise here is how much he foreshadows the style of mature Bruckner: a similar sense of scale, those lolloping basses (underlined here by the double bass), the pregnant pauses between phrases, his tendency to state the melodic material and stand back as if it required digestion. The Bruckner preechoes are especially striking in Gebel's pounding scherzos." This is all manifested in the powerful String Quintet in E-flat major op. 25. An elegant "Allegro con brio" exhibits Gebel's talent, blending gentility, passion, and tension in a magnificent tapestry. Beethoven is the obvious model for the "Scherzo" with its agitated rhythmic profile and jagged dynamic contrasts. Gebel's scherzo theme is quite menacing and colored by tritones, while the trio is a lovely cello cantilena of real worth. Next is a pathos-laden "Adagio" in C minor with a stark semitone motif evincing grief. Long sustains and lyrical phrases are answered and echoed by each instrument in a refined manner. The "Finale" is in some variant of sonata form and comes alive during its dramatic development, abuzz with repeated notes and violin patter.

The String Quintet in E minor op. 20 is so good, it demands an encore. The "Allegro" has a noble and striving exposition, buffeted by rhythmic snap and flourishes from the first violin. Yet again Gebel favors recitatives for each instrument and displays imaginative part-writing. His content is seldom prosaic or lifeless. The "Allegro molto" is a Beethoven scherzo of nervous tension and powerful unison pizzicati; a very striking effect. Gebel's ingenuity with texture is well-advertised in his "Adagio ma non troppo," essentially ten minutes of soothing tranquility punctuated by barbs of suspense. Gebel weaves an intricate lyrical fabric that gives the cello prominence, while facilitating duets, solos, intense tremolos for the bass, and other gradations of interplay between the strings. The grit and minor-key virility of the opening movement is rekindled in the "Finale," a sonata-form essay of dramatic momentum. Its first theme is spurred on by galloping rhythms and ostinatos, while the second is a dizzying rush of triplets and 16ths, culminating in an exciting development.

Ensemble Concertant Frankfurt is always excellent. Their recordings of string quintets by Onslow are treasures and you couldn't ask for a better group to showcase Gebel's magisterial op. 20/25. They breathe life into this music and give concentrated readings, while gratefully observing the exposition repeats. Recorded sound is superb and the natural hall ambience on headphones is immersive.

This is some of the most impressive chamber music by an unsung composer that I have ever come across. I am absolutely astonished at its quality - and its originality. Surely this is great music...

Composers and Music / Re: Violin Concerto Wishlist!
« on: Thursday 15 February 2018, 16:48 »
I'd say the Draeseke VC is a must-record...

Composers and Music / Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« on: Thursday 15 February 2018, 16:45 »
The Grimm Symphony was published by Konsid Musikverlag in a new edition back in 2007, so I imagine they'd be the ones to contact about sets of parts: verlag@konsid-musik-de

Recordings & Broadcasts / Re: Mlynarski Symphony in F 'Polonia'
« on: Thursday 15 February 2018, 13:01 »
We certainly need the Stojowski Symphony, but we already have recordings of both Mlynarski VCs (Hyperion) and Paderewski's 'Polonia' Symphony (Hyperion again).

The recording of Mlynarski's Symphony under Kord was a commercial release - on Polskie Nagrania:

Recordings & Broadcasts / Mlynarski Symphony in F 'Polonia'
« on: Wednesday 14 February 2018, 23:05 »
...forthcoming from Warner, coupled with pieces by Weinberg and Penderecki:

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