LAJTHA: Suite for Orchestra, Op. 19. Symphony No. 1, Op. 24. In
D'INDY: Symphony No. 2 in B flat, Op. 57. Souvenirs, Op. 72. Istar,
Op. 53. Prelude to Fervaal.
TCHAIKOVSKY: ViolinConcerto in D, Op. 35. SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto
in D minor, Op. 47
TIAN: Concerto for Orchestra. ESCAICH: Psalmos, Sinfonia concertante
for Orchestra. CURRIER: FLEX.
László Lajtha (1892 - 1963) was almost completely overshadowed b y his fellow Hungarian composers, Kodály, Bartók, and Dohnányi. Some of his music was issued on the Marco Polo label. Recordings were made in 1996 by the fine Pécs Symphony Orchestra directed by Nicholás Pasquet, and now Naxos is reissuing them. This CD offers a delightful foour-movement suite that includes a Burlesque Match and a Can-Can, a solemn 20-minute tragic In Memoriam, and his Symphony No. 1. None of this challenges great works by other Hungarian composers, but we are fortunate to ha we the opportunity to experience it.
Vincent D'Indy (1851-1931) is unjustly neglected in the concert hall. The competition from better-known French composers including Fauré, Debussy and Ravel, was keen. Yet D'Indy left a small but commendable catalog of works and many of these have been recorded, particularly the Chandos series with the Iceland Symphony directed by Rumon Gamba (see reviews). Now we have this important Naxos release with the splendid Royal Scottish National Orchestra directed by Jean-Luc Tingaud. It contains a generous (80:03) selection of works headed by the Symphony No. 2, long a favorite of Pierre Monteux. We also have the other works listed and of particular interest is the unique Istar. This has a fascinating scenario. Based in an epic Assyrian poem, it tells of Izaubar in which the Goddess in order to free her lover must remove an article of clothing each time she passes through the Seven Doors of the Underworld. This is a set of variations in reverse, the most fully scored at the beginning, orchestration becoming lighter in each following variation until at eh conclusion the goddess is naked. If you are not familiar with D'Indy's Symphony on a French Mountain Air for piano and orchestra, check it out, a charming, virtuoso work available on many recordings the finest of which are those by Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer, Louis Lortie, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Thank you Naxos for this splendid issue.
Lisa Batashvili often has been praised on this site, and now we have her stunning performances of two staples of the repertory, the violin concertos of Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. Her technical perfection and glorious tone are always apparent, and she is given sterling support from the fine orchestra and conductor Daniel Barenboim CD notes point out that Sibelius originally wanted his concerto to be premiered in Berlin, but instead it took place in Helsinki. However, the revised version of the concerto actually was premiered in Berlin (with Richard Strauss on the podium). This is Batashvili second recording of the Siubelius; the first was made in Finland about a decade ago with Sakari Oramno conducting. The new Sibelius was recorded in Berlin's Funkhaus Nalepastrase this past July, the Tchaikovsky in the same venue a month earlier. Audio is excellent and perfectly balanced.
The Cincinnati Symphony has issued on their own label a twin-disk set they call Concertos for Orchestra in live performances conducted by the orchestra's Music Director Louis Langrée. All three works were commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony as part of their dedication to new music. All performances were recorded live in Cincinnati's Music Hall; the world premieres of the works by Tian and Escaich were recorded May 2016. Currier's FLEX had its premiere in November 2015.
Zhou Tian's Concerto for Orchestra had four movements: Glow, Indigo, Seeker's Scherzo, and Intermezzo-Allegro. Theirry Escaich's Psalmus (sinfonia concertante for orchestra) has five movements: Introduction, Vivacissimo, Andante un poco rubato, Allegro giocoso, and a final Allegro. Sebastian Currier's FLEX consists of six sections: In the Spotlight, Fifteen Versions of the Same Phrase, Micro-Variations; Echoes, Canon and a Minuet, Alone and Together, and Group Dynamics. All three works were commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony as part of their dedication to new music. All performances were recorded live in Cincinnati's Music Hall; the world premieres of the works by Tian and Escaich were recorded May 2016. Currier's FLEX had its premiere in November 2015. All this doubtless was important on Cincinnati's musical scene, but the commissioned scores, while achieving their purpose of displaying orchestral virtuosity, this music, while pleasant indeed, seems more academic than inspired. I would be surprised if any of them achieve lasting fame. Decide for yourself. Excellent audio quality.
R.E.B. (December 2016)