FARKAS: Orchestral Music, Volume II. Music for Strings
PANUFNIK: Violin Concerto. Cello Concerto. POiano Concerto.
MOERAN: Cello Concerto. Serenae in G (original version). Lonely Waters.
Hungarian composer Ferenc Farkas (1905-2000) was highly respected during his long life, as a composer and educator. He wrote extensively for wind instruments, five operas, choral music, concertos for various instruments, and many symphonic works. This delightful disk on Toccata Classics offers three cycles of Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century and various other chamber works mostly scored for two violins plus a trumpet concerto, scored for a small ensemble.This music is charming indeed, reminiscent of Respighi's set of Ancient Airs and Dances (Farkas studied with Respighi). These performances are wonderful in every way, and the Franz Liszt Orchestra could not be bettered. Excellent sound as well—a superb CD featuring a number of world premiere recordings.
Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991), a major figure on the musical scene, not only as one of Poland's leading composers, but as a conductor. He re-established the Warsaw Philharmonic, and after becoming a British citizen in 1954, he was chief conductor of the City of Birmingham Orchestra. Panufnik composed profusely, his works including nine symphonies, vocal, choral and chamber music. This CPO disk (the eighth in their releases devoted to the composer) gives us the opportunity to hear three of his many concertos. The three-movement Piano Concerto had its premiere in 1983. The work was intended as a virtuoso display piece, which it certainly is. Jazz elements about, and this concerto should be played often. The Violin Concerto dates from 1971, written for Yehudi Menuhin who gave the premiere with the composer on the podium, and they later recorded it for EMI. (Almost a decade ago, this site mentioned a recording by Dmitry Sitkovetsky (REVIEW). The Cello Concerto, written in 1991, was one of Penufnik's final works; he had said the cello was his favorite instrument, and his concerto explores the instrument's manifold sonorities. The concerto was premiered in 1992 with Mstislav Rostropovich and the London Symphony directed by Hugh Wolff; they also made a recording. All of these concertos are challenging, but rewarding, for the listener, and we can be sure these performances do justice to the scores. Stereo sound is exemplary. An important issue!
Compared with the high emotions of Panufnik Cello Concerto, the concerto for the instrument written in 1945 by Ernest John Moeran is a meandering, if pleasant, bit of fluff. Moeran wrote it for his wife in 1945 and it is easy to understand why major cellists haven't championed it. We also have the original version of Serenade in G. Two minor works complete the disk, the 1931 Lonely Waters, an 8-minute pastoral scene that includes in its final minute a lovely song sung here by soprano Rebekab Coffey, and the even shorter (5:01) Whythorne's Shadow. The Ulster Orchestra has made numerous fine recordings over the years for Chandos; on this new disk, recorded in February 2012, their string sound is rather thin detracting considerably from the music's appeal.
R.E.B. (October 2014)