MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E Flat "Symphony of a Thousand."
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 20 iin D minor, K. 466. BEETHOVEN:
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. 73 "Emperor."
ZYMAN: Piano Concerto. ROLÓN: El Festin de los Enanos (Feast of the Dwarf). Piano Concerto, Op. 42.
PUTS: If I Were a Swan. To Touch the Sky. Symphony No. 4 "From
Mission San Juan."
Leopold Stokowski had a unique association with Gustav Mahler's mighty Symphony No. 8. He attended the premiere in Munich September 12, 1910, which was conducted by the composer. Two years later, in his earliest years with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Stokowski gave the American premiere March 2, 1916 in the Academy of Music leading a total of 958 musicians, after which there were nine highly acclaimed performances in New York's "Old Met." Stokowski conducted the American premiere of Das lied von der Erde in December the same year. The soloists were Dutch contralto Tilly Koenen (1873-19410), who had sung in the Munich premiere of Symphony No. 8, and Johannes Sembach (1881-1944), a leading heldentenor at the turn of the century. It seems surprising that the only other Mahler symphony Stokowski conducted was the Resurrection. Stokowski shared conducting responsibilities with the New York Philharmonic with Dimitri Mitropoulos up until 1950; his final concerts were the Mahler Eighth April 6, 7 and 9, 1950. Preparation of the performances was intense; Stokowski worked continuously with all of the soloists, choruses and the orchestra, and the result was a resounding success. Deryk Cooke said it was one of the greatest realizations he had ever heard of a Mahler symphony. I imagine most of today's listeners, like myself, would prefer the final pages of the second movement to be played slower. There is no question that glorious passage for two sopranos just before the choral ending is sung better here than in any other performance I know, as sopranos Frances Yeend and Uta Graf connect seamlessly, a magic Mahler moment. . Quite remarkable indeed! The sound is reasonably well balanced mono with limited dynamic range. This performance, of the April 9 broadcast has been issued before and is available on Music & Arts (1130) and as a part of the big New York Philharmonic Mahler set—check out the late R.D.'s insightful comments on this important issue (REVIEW).
Roumanian-born pianist Clara Haskil (1895-1960) was known for her interpretation of works of Mozart The refined and respected pianist recorded many works of the composer with multiple versions of many of the concertos, particularly No. 20 K. 460. This is available in both commercial and live recordings with conductors including Igor Markevitch, Bernhard Paumgartner, Ferenc Fricsay, by Charles Munch and Paul Hindemith. Now we have another live performance, this from a Lucerne concert Sept. 8, 1959 with Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra. French pianist Robert Casadesus (1899-1972) was another major figure of his era, known particularly for his association with Ravel and his recording of that composer's complete piano music. In 1955, Casadesus made a Columbia recording with Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic.In 1959 Casadesus recorded Beethoven's concertos 1 and 4 with Eduard van Beinum and the Concertgebous (REVIEW), and there were plans for him to record the other three stopped by the conductor's death a month later. The pianist did record Concerto No. 5 with the Dutch orchestra in 1961 with Hans Rosbaud on the podium. A number of live recordings have been issued over the years, most of which are no longer available: From 1965, there is a live performance from Köln withChristoph von Dohnányi onducting. From the '50s we have a performance with Guido Cantelli and the NBC Symphony, from 1955, and from 1956 there is a RAI performance conducted by Fernandoi Previtali. , and from 1967 we have this music from Bavarian Radio forces directed by Josef Keilberth. Now we have this live performance recorded at the Lucerne Festival Sept. 1, 1957. It begins rather cautiously, but soon we are in full swing. So we have another fine Emperor, and an exquisite Mozart No. 20, thanks to the Swiss engineers, in transfers that sound very realistic.
Tyxart, a new German label. has a CD of "Mexican Piano Concertos," but it does not present the country's current musical scene; all of this music was written well over a half-century ago. It features two works by José Rolón (1876-1945), a major figure on Mexico's music scene for many decades. He studied in Paris and often conducted the local orchestra (which he founded) in music of French composers including Milhaud and Varèse The 8-minute Festival de los Enanos, premiered in 1927, shows the French influence and incorporates several lively Mexican folk tunes. The three-movement piano concerto dates from 1936. The first movement offers vivid rhythmic contrasts between piano and orchestra, the second is a lovely (but rather lively) Andante.. All stops are out in the energetic third movement, Allegro. However, there is little here that is memorable. Rolón's music has yet to gain public favor; ArkivMusic lists only 2 disks of his music. Samuel Zyman (b. 1956) has received more attention. This site recently mentioned a recording of his piano work Variations on an Original Theme (REVIEW).His piano concerto is generally agitated, with relentless interplay between orchestra and piano in the first movement. The second is a restless short adagio, the first half of which is orchestral, while the final movement is a blast of restless energy. Pianist Claudia Corona seems to have dedicated her career to exploring new repertory, and she has revised orchestration of the Rolón piano concerto. She plays these very challenging works brilliantly, and the Nuremberg Symphony is equally fine under dynamic young German conductor Gregory Bühl, now at the beginning of what doubtless will be a remarkable career. He handles all of the intricate rhythms of this music with ease. Audio is excellent stereo. It does seem rather odd that a disk of Mexican music would be released in a German label with only the soloist a native of that country. This is an intriguing release well worth investigating.
American composer Kevin Puts (b. 1972 in St. Louis) unquestionably is a major figure on today's musical scene. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, he was commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival to write a cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma, premiered. by the famous cellist. Puts has won a number of prizes including the Pulitzer in 2012 for his Music for Silent Night. He has written four symphonies, three of which have a descriptive title:: Island of Innocence, Vespers and From Mission San Juan, the title of Symphony No. 4 presented on this fine new disk. This symphony was commissioned by Howard Hansen (not related to the composer we all know) who hoped for a musical representation of the Mission San Juan which plays a major role in Indian life in the era. The opening movement suggests the acoustic of the mission, with various chants and echoing effects. The second movement includes authentic Mutsun Indian songs, and hymns of the friars dominate the next movement, overcome by Indian tunes. The final movement is a a scene of reconciliation, often suggestive of Mahler. To me, this music has very much of an "American" sound, except for the obvious Indian interludes. The CD opens with first recordings of two song cycles for chorus with texts by women American composers: If I Were a Swan by Fleda Brown, and To Touch the Sky, texts by 9 women, including early music (Hildegard of Bingen, Sappho) and more contemporary writers (Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Bronte). These are exquisite choral settings, and the performances, by the choral group Conspirare and their conductor Craig Hella Johnson, could not be bettered. The composer's association with the Peabody Institute (for some years he has been teaching composition at the venerable institution) perhaps explain involvement of the excellent Baltimore Symphony and their conductor Marin Alsop, who led the premiere of Put's Symphony No. 4 at the Cabrillo Festival in 2007. Audio throughout is state-of-the art. Complete texts are provided. An outstanding issue!
R.E.B. (September 2013)