Reviews

GMCD 7394 – Volkmar Andreae – Piano & Violin Concertos – WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING

Fali Pavri (piano), Christian Altenburger (violin), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Marc Andreae (conductor)

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Musik & Theater – Dezember 2013

Vom Staub befreit
Lange lag sie in der Mottenkiste, die Musik des Dirigenten Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962). Jetzt legt der Enkel des Komponisten mit dem Konzertstück für Klavier und Orchester und mit dem Violinkonzert Schätze frei, die von der Spätromantik in die Moderne hinüberleiten und allein schon der meisterhaften Instrumentierung wegen Beachtung verdienen.
Walter Labhart

Music Web International – August 2013

To my knowledge this is the fourth disc on Guild to be devoted to the music of this somewhat forgotten figure of Swiss music. Volkmar Andreae, composer and conductor was during his lifetime probably better known as a conductor. He served in this capacity with the Zurich Tonhalle for forty years. Back in 2009 I reviewed a disc of his chamber music (GMCD7328) in which I had to comment that his was a new name to me.
The present new disc opens with two unpublished works beginning with an early teenage piece, the Piano Concerto. I failed to mention in the above description of Andreae the word ‘pianist’ as he premiered this concerto at the tender age of 19. This was a year before he had been soloist in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. Any young man who manages to write and play such a gushing and confident concerto deserves our unlimited respect and regard. No matter how you think of it this is a fine work and the second subject of the first movement is an absolutely ravishing melody that Brahms would have been proud to write. His presence overshadows the second movement. The music is almost derivative with its slow harmonic pace, enharmonic modulations and pedal points but its dreamy quality is quite captivating. Each movement grows easily into the next and the finale starts with lively dance-like melody which is arrested in its progress by a slower section. This is less memorable than in movement one but acts as a suitable foil to the slightly bombastic ending.
Soon after writing this Concerto Andreae tackled the genre again in a single movement Konzertstück. The booklet notes by Robert Matthew-Walker talk about the influences on this work and Franck is mentioned as is the Concert Fantasy of Tchaikovsky and even Max Reger. Indeed, by coincidence, I had been listening to some Reger before putting on this work by Andreae. My musician son thought that it was the same composer in its opening Lento section. For myself I heard Rachmaninov and, as enjoyable as this piece is, and as fulfilling in its melodic ideas, rich harmonies and fine orchestration I have to disagree with Matthew-Walker when he says that the piece has “an individual voice for its time and locale”. Yet it must be admitted that Andreae was only 21 and Rachmaninov had not yet quite written his 1st Concerto. At any rate it reaches in its closing Allegro a typically grand climax and one certainly feels a rounded sense of completion.
In the case of the two concertante works for violin and orchestra Andreae worked the other way around with the shorter, Rhapsody coming first. Written for the great Szigeti but taken up by others in various countries, it created a marvellous impression at the time with the composer often complimented by the great and the good. The slow and delicate opening is especially striking with much use of a gentle timpani roll. The loose form enables the composer to explore a wide variety of textures and memorable ideas and it’s difficult to know why the work has disappeared from concert or even radio repertoire in the last fifty or more years.
It comes as quite a surprise to encounter the grinding dissonances and dark loneliness of the opening of the first movement of the Violin Concerto of fifteen years later. A similar surprise hit me when I first heard the contrasted two string quartets on the chamber music disc mentioned above.
Intriguingly the concerto can be seen as a three movement work – and Guild have given it three tracks – or as five because the first movement moves from its serious opening to a dancing Allegro after a couple of minutes and then is succeeded by a brief fugue which links into a beautiful Adagio. This links again into a really happy Allegro molto to close the work. This defies any alarm bells you may have heard earlier. It’s a real journey, in fact. It is also suggested that it is a two-movement work with the fugue beginning the second part. There is much to admire in this piece with its contrasts of mood and speed. Even within the Allegro Vivace of movement one there are dreamy sections and the writing for violin – originally for Adolf Busch, is virtuoso and lyrical all in one.
The performances are wonderful and the recording immediate and clear as one has come to expect from this enterprising company. Marc Andreae is to be much thanked for the promotion of the music of his relation (the CD booklet does not say what this relationship actually is) . The soloists, although not household names, are ideal: lyrical and powerful when needed, showing a thorough understanding of the style and techniques required.
This disc would make be a good place to start an Andreae collection.
Gary Higginson

Crocks newsletter – 13 July 2013

Swiss-born Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962) is best remembered as a great conductor who was asked at one point (1911) to succeed Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) as head of the New York Philharmonic. However, he chose to remain in Switzerland where he presided over the Tonhalle Orchestra, Zurich, for over forty years (1906-49).
Also a composer of considerable merit, Volkmar studied at the Cologne Conservatory between 1897 and 1900, and Guild continues their invaluable revival of his music (see 13 July 2012) with this recent release featuring four concertante works. All are world premiere recordings of significant selections that have been gathering dust far too long.
The disc begins with two of his early unpublished works featuring the piano, the first being a concerto completed in 1898 while he was still a student. In three connected movements, the opening one is a fetching sonata form allegro [track-1], which was apparently revised as there are some 209 bars worth of orchestral parts that were cut from the final full score (see the informative album notes).
It starts in the grand romantic tradition with a brief rising motif (BR) for orchestra [00:04] and then piano [00:24], hinting at a subdued melancholy theme (SM) that soon follows [01:12]. Some flashy keyboard-decorated bridgework is next, and then the soloist plays a drop-dead gorgeous melody (DG) [02:49]. This is taken up by the tutti [03:17], and a soothing elaboration of DG ensues [03:44].
Then we get an engaging harmonically peripatetic development [04:38] involving BR, SM and DG, with DG initiating the closing recap [08:02]. It ends the movement with additional peaceful recollections of DG — Andreae knew when he had a good thing! — plus hints of BR and SM, which flatline into a sustained final chord.
This begins the adagio [track-2], which is a heartfelt subdued offering based on a winsome delicate idea [01:46]. The latter undergoes some dramatic transformations, and then returns [06:45] to conclude the movement in much the same mood as it began.
Its final chord has no sooner ended, and we get the first notes of the presto finale [track-3]. This starts with a tipsy introduction [00:00] and childlike sparkling tune (CS) [00:08] played by the orchestra with scalar piano runs. An exotic-sounding melody (ES) follows [01:14], making one wonder if Andreae had encountered the folk music of Eastern Europe during his stay in Germany.
ES and CS chase each other around in rondo fashion with colorful bravura piano decorations. Then we get another Andreae winning romantic idea (WR) [02:56], followed by some fireworks for soloist and tutti. These introduce a coda reprise [04:25] that recalls CS, ES and WR, bringing the concerto to a glorious conclusion.
The Concertstück in B minor for Piano and Orchestra (1900) [track-4] was completed just after Volkmar finished his studies in Cologne. In one extended movement, it’s a more compact, subtle piece than its predecessor with a timpani heartbeat opening somewhat reminiscent of that for the Brahms’ (1833-1897) first symphony (1855-76).
Strings and winds then appear in a relaxed introduction, after which the soloist enters with a sweeping flourish [02:13]. An introspective episode is next, and then the piano plays an infectious serpentine idea (IS) [04:26] that undergoes a romantic elaboration.
It’s followed by a transitional passage [05:32] and another Andreaen melodic gem (MG) [06:42] with a loving elaboration. Hints of IS then initiate a brief bravura development [09:18] dissecting the foregoing ideas. The return of IS on the piano heralds a recap [12:58] that ends the piece with a thrilling big tune restatement of MG [13:51] in grand romantic fashion. You’ll love it!
The disc concludes with a two published pieces featuring the violin, both of which are significantly more harmonically advanced. The first is Volkmar’s concerto of 1935 that inhabits the expressionist world of Franz Schreker (1878-1934), and is in three movements, the last two proceeding without a break.
It begins [track-5] in the depths of orchestral despair with the violin appearing [00:30] like some descending bird from above singing an increasingly agitated song. It’s picked up by the tutti, and the tempo accelerates with the soloist launching into a chirpy avian motif [02:37] accompanied by the orchestra.
This reaches a climax succeeded by a glistening passage for strings and oboe introducing a dark rhapsodic episode [03:50]. The violin then becomes more excited anticipating the frenetic virtuosic conclusion, which has a couple of heroic passages [06:55] worthy of Richard Strauss (1864-1949).
The second movement [track-6] is atypically a minischerzo where the violin and orchestra flit about one another with entomological fugal abandon. It’s followed immediately by the finale [track-7], which begins with low shimmering strings and a cadenza-like display from the soloist.
The tutti respond in a meditative manner, and a relaxed introspective passage follows suddenly to be overtaken by the orchestra and violin breaking into a couple of cheerful skittering ditties [04:41]. These are developed in rondo fashion ending the concerto with a big Mendelssohn (1809-1847) smile.
From fifteen years earlier we next get the Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra (1919-20) [track-8], which lies stylistically between the two concertos. An immaculately written piece with a folksy patina, there isn’t an idle moment!
The lovely extended opening theme (LE) [00:01] for soloist and tutti gives birth to a couple of attractive ideas. These are respectively whimsical [01:45] and amorous [02:54], the latter spiced with some eerie violin harmonics [03:21-03:32]. They make rondolike reappearances, and then the rhapsody ends in a flighty virtuosic coda with an emphatic final reminder of LE.
Indian pianist Fali Pavri and Austrian violinist Christian Altenburger share the honors here for their outstanding performances of these undiscovered works. Pavri’s virtuosity ranks with that of the great romantic pianists, but he uses it only in service to the music. The same can be said about Herr Altenburger, whose gorgeous violin tone also reflects the Stradivarius instrument he played for these recordings.
Both artists receive superb support from Volkmar’s grandson, conductor Marc Andreae, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Together they bring out all the structural and melodic detail of these sublime scores.
Made in the Lighthouse Concert Hall of the Poole Arts Center in Dorset, England, the recordings are good. They project a wide soundstage of considerable depth in a highly reverberant acoustic, which should appeal to those liking wetter sonics.
The piano sound is generally musical but a tad grainy in louder moments, and the violin is beautifully captured. Both soloists are well balanced against the orchestra, and the instrumental timbre is pleasing, although there is an occasional edge to massed violin passages.
In closing, perspicacious listeners will notice what sound like low level edit pops at the beginning of the violin concerto’s first and last movements [tracks-5, 7], as well as the rhapsody [track-8].
Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found

International Record Review – April 2013

Guild continues to put us in its debt through its exploration of the music of the Swiss composer Volkmar Andreae, who until recently was remembered only as a conductor (the first volume was reviewed in March 2012). Here we have what seems to be his complete works for a soloist and orchestra, spanning from his Student years to his ripe maturity: world premiere recordings all, illuminated by booklet notes from IRR’s own Robert Matthew-Walker.
As the work of a prodigiously talented 19-year-old, the three-movement Piano Concerto (1898) is a highly attractive if rather conventionally laid-out composition, the piano writing effective and idiomatic, the orchestration nothing if not efficient, the materials not especially memorable but undeniably pleasant. RM-W characterizes it as ‘Brahmsian’, and so it is, and Schumann is there also, especially in the finale; but a more immediate and palpable influence, especially in the first movement, is that of the Grieg Concerto. RM-W says ‘we are uncertain as to which version’ of this movement was actually played at the work’s first performance (in Cologne in 1898 – Andreae was the soloist), as the orchestral parts contain an additional 209 bars which are absent from the full score. Unfortunately, he neglects to tell us if those bars are being played on the present CD. (I think they must be, but there’s no explicit statement to that effect.)
At about half the length, the single-movement ‘Konzertstück’ from only two years later is a more impressive achievement. Darker-hued than the Concerto, it’s also cogent and dramatic. It throws Wagner and Strauss into Andreae’s mix of influences but is a much more focused, individual conception: a piece that deserves an occasional performance even today. In both these works the Mumbai-born Pali Pavri is an excellently agile and expressive soloist. Violinist Christian Altenburger, however, performs even more striking service in the two works for violin and orchestra, a medium which one feels Andreae enjoyed writing for and enjoyed setting challenges for the executant. Altenburger’s clear, pure tone is one of the major pleasures of this CD.
The ‘Rhapsodie’ of 1919-20 is a capricious, voluble, smiling piece which earned the admiration of (and subsequent performance by) Joseph Szigeti. In a Sense, it could almost be viewed as a study for the Violin Concerto, which Andreae composed 15 years later in 1935. This is a marvellous work – there is the same wonderful spontaneity in the solo writing as in the ‘Rhapsodie’ and the same general instrumental ebullience, which leaves a very positive impression. Overall it’s a lighter-hearted piece than its great near-contemporaries – the Berg, the Bartok, the Brian – but Andreae’s chosen tonality is F minor, and the opening, though mellifluous, is suavely sombre enough. The Concerto is nominally in three movements – the central one is a little, almost Busoni-esque, fugal serenade – but actually in four, as the ‘Adagio’ section that opens the third movement clearly functions as the slow movement (a very beautiful one, too, with its evocative touches of nocturnal organum). This is certainly a work that deserves to be taken into the repertoire.
As on Guild’s previous Andreae orchestral disc, the composer’s son Marc Andreae directs the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in performances that are thoroughly idiomatic and committed. The soloists, as I’ve pointed out, are excellent, as is the recorded Sound. Thoroughly recommended.
Calum MacDonald

Classical CD Choice – March 2013

Guild’s attention to the music of the Swiss composer and conductor Volkmar Andreae is most welcome; earlier issues of his chamber and orchestral music are complemented this new issue, recorded by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer’s grandson, Marc Andreae. The four works are all concertos or concertante compositions, and are given the best possible advocacy, though the violin concerto is comfortably the most distinguished and individual piece on the disc.

MusicWeb-International – February 2013

Conductors who composed or composers who conducted. The choice depends on the vagaries of history and taste. It is difficult to be both, as least when viewed from the benches of the music critic. CPO among others has carried the banner for more than a few conductor-composers, including Bruno Walter who wrote a stunning First Symphony in D, Otto Klemperer and Felix Weingartner. Guild entered the fray some years ago with a whole series of the compositions of Volkmar Andreae who for me will forever be locked into memories of the Turnabout, Candide and Vox LP labels. More recently we have seen his recordings of the Bruckner symphonies (Music & Arts) and of the Othmar Schoeck Violin Concerto (Jecklin). If that association remains true after hearing this disc it will be down to a failure in imagination.
These four works are conducted by the composer’s grandson and funded by the Andreae family with the blessed Czeslaw Marek Foundation. They are triumphantly vibrant examples of the late-romantic movement and here appear in their first-ever commercial recordings. The spirit of adventure is well and truly alive.
The three-movement Piano Concerto is a tempestuous Tchaikovskian foray with golden splendour flowing through its veins and arteries. This should not be missed by adherents of the Hyperion romantic piano concerto series, especially of the concerto niche also occupied by Bortkiewicz, Arensky and Scriabin. I hasten to emphasise that this work runs with the Tchaikovskian current rather than the Brahmsian one. After a dreamy middle movement the finale gallops along in optimistic vein but pulls itself together for a conventional buffeting storm with which to end. Those moody coal-black clouds gradually lighten for the Konzertstück and take us into a more Schumann-inflected style. The dying bars emphasise the irrepressibly reverberant acoustic of The Lighthouse.
Then comes the compact Violin Concerto which opens in slowly pulsating film noir gloom. The violin enters high and slender in a finery that blends Berg and Delius. The music develops temperaments that dance and sing. All in all this is a triumph of variegated yet predominantly lambent writing. The ‘sweet tooth’ finale is reminiscent of both Saint-Saens and Korngold. A Mephisto darkness builds towards the end but soon changes tack for a cheery final wave. Encircling shadows hang over the Rhapsodie but once the music finds its feet this proves to be another exuberant feel-good effort. Again the work is in the concentrated, tunefully catchy style established by Saint-Saens in his short violin pieces such as Havanaise and Caprice Andalou.
The agreeably detailed notes are by Robert Matthew-Walker and are no token contribution. The research shows and is put across with a light but not condescending hand.
Well worth the investment for those who are curious about Andreae the composer and for adherents of catchily romantic concertos.
Rob Barnett

NZZ – Züricher Kultur – 3. Januar 2013

Neujahrsstück der Zentralbibliothek Zürich – Konzerte von Volkmar Andreae
Dass der Schweizer Volkmar Andreae (1879–1962) nicht nur ein bedeutender Dirigent war (von 1906 bis 1949 war er Chef des Tonhalle-Orchesters Zürich), sondern auch ein bemerkenswerter Komponist, hat sich gezeigt, als man sein inzwischen vergessenes Œuvre wiederzuentdecken begann. Vor einem Jahr hat die Zentralbibliothek Zürich, welche Andreaes Nachlass aufbewahrt, einige seiner Orchesterwerke als Neujahrsstück auf einer CD veröffentlicht, heuer lässt sie als Gabe für das Jahr 2013 vier konzertante Werke folgen. Das Klavierkonzert in D von 1898, welches der Neunzehnjährige zusammen mit dem Gürzenich-Orchester Köln selber als Solist uraufgeführt hatte, ist eine erstaunlich konzise Talentprobe, die trotz Brahms-Anklängen eine auffallende Eigenständigkeit zeigt, wie auch das zwei Jahre später entstandene Konzertstück in b-Moll.
Aus späteren Jahren stammen die beiden Werke für Violine und Orchester. Die Rhapsodie op. 32 (1920) vermag einen mit ihrem Einfallsreichtum und ihrer klaren Disposition sofort zu fesseln. Bedeutsamer ist das attraktive Violinkonzert f-Moll op. 40 (1935), welches den tonalen Klangraum mit neu eroberter Freiheit ausschreitet, neue harmonische Farben entdeckt und auch der Linie der Solovioline einen eigenwilligen Ausdruck zwischen Ernst und Spiel gibt. Diese erstmals auf CD veröffentlichte Musik gehört ins Konzertrepertoire neben die Konzerte von Schoeck, Korngold oder sogar Alban Berg. Die durchwegs vortrefflichen Interpretationen sind von grosser Noblesse; Solisten sind der Pianist Fali Pavri und der Geiger Christian Altenburger, es spielt das Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra unter der Leitung von Marc Andreae, des Enkels des Komponisten. azn