Ignaz BRÜLL (1846-1907)
Overture: Macbeth [8:21]
Violin Concerto in A minor op. 41 [31:01]
Salomon JADASSOHN (1831-1902)
Serenade for Flute and Strings op. 80 [27:21]
Ilya Hoffman (violin); Rebecca Hall (flute)
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra/Michael Laus
rec. 2011, Robert Sammut Hall, Malta.
CAMEO CLASSICS CC9048CD [66:49]
Ignaz BRŰLL (1846-1907)
Symphony in E minor op.31 (1880) [31:03]
Serenade No.1 in F major op.29 (1877) [35:16]
Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra/Marius Stravinsky
rec. Minsk, Belarus, July 2007
CAMEO CLASSICS CC9027CD [67:06]
Ignaz BRÜLL (1846-1907)
Serenade No.2 in E [18:39]
Salomon JADASSOHN (1831-1902)
Serenade No.1 in Four Canons [23:57];
Serenade No.2 in D [24:58]
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra/Marius Stravinsky
rec. 23-24 December 2010, Robert Sammut Hall, Malta.
CAMEO CLASSICS CC9031CD [68:23]
Ignaz BRÜLL (1846-1907)
Romantic Piano Music
Janet Olney (piano)
rec. 2 October 2007, Regis Recital Room
Full track-list at end of review
CAMEO CLASSICS CC9045CD [49:07]
Ignaz Brüll wrote well over one hundred piano works, many orchestral and chamber pieces as well as numerous operas. Sadly, nearly all of these have been ignored by the music establishment for over a hundred years. The public have been denied access to Brüll’s qualities as a composer; qualities so evident to his friend Johannes Brahms. Even his close friendship with Brahms could not save him from the anti-Semitism fuelled by Wagner and Liszt during the 19th century. Hitler idolised Wagner, and he ordered that music scores of Jewish composers be found and burned. Fortunately for us, many of them were well hidden.
Salomon Jadassohn worked under the shadow of Carl Reinecke at the Leipzig Conservatory. A combination of this and his Jewishness ensured lack of significant performances despite a reputation as a teacher which attracted the likes of Busoni and Grieg.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Cameo Classics for at least giving us the chance to listen to some of the music of these two composers in order for us to make our own judgements. Lovers of Brahms, Mendelssohn and German romantic music in general will find Brüll especially and Jadassohn up to a point to be attractive additions to their musical diet. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to these four discs. The label should be congratulated for their sustained efforts on behalf of neglected composers and orchestras who otherwise wouldn’t be heard on commercial recordings. The Cameo catalogue, now distributed and marketed by Nimbus, offers some hidden gems to those listeners who have an inquisitive nature.
The Macbeth overture owes its general style to Mendelssohn with the occasional burst of Les Preludes thrown in for good measure. The opening rising theme is virtually identical to Over the Hills and Far Away by Delius. It’s a thoroughly professional piece of work and gets a decent outing here once the orchestra settles down from a somewhat untidy start, especially from the strings. There is also an unfortunate edit at around the one minute mark but the general recording quality is pleasantly reverberant with good detail. The orchestra is obviously a small group but the acoustic adds some bloom and body to what otherwise would have been a thin string sound. It is claimed that Brahms envied Brüll’s abundance of melodic ideas. The Violin Concerto is certainly full of melody and expertly scored but to be honest it doesn’t reach anywhere near the heights of the Brahms concerto. It is, however, a very good work and sits comfortably with other concertos ranked outside the greats of the violin repertoire:Brahms, Beethoven and Mendelssohn,for example. The first movement is well structured and rather impressive but the following Molto moderato quasi andante is a thing of real beauty and steals the show. The finale takes us closer to the world of Dvořák ith hints of Saint-Saëns along the way and that’s really where the problem lies. This is good music that is well worth hearing but Brüll doesn’t have a unique voice. There are no obvious fingerprints that stamp him as a special composer. Ilya Hoffman makes a good case for the concerto but there are some patches of less than perfect intonation and a few scrappy moments from the orchestra. I won’t hold my breath for a major orchestra and stellar soloist to record this concerto. What we have here is a most worthy effort.
The Serenade for Flute and Strings Op. 80 was written to supplement the repertoire of the New York Philharmonic Club and it’s a real find. The music is clearly influenced by Mendelssohn but its potential lack of originality isn’t the be all and end all. Original doesn’t always equate to good. Indeed, the Serenade is a lovely work and flautist Rebecca Hall is an excellent soloist. The Notturno is the most memorable movement and this is followed by a dashing but rather repetitive Tarantella. Some of the orchestral playing is often rushed and lacking in poise - the soloist deserves better support here. Compared to the sweet sounding Violin Concerto the recording tends to become rather harsh in the high string passages. This is an interesting disc with the Violin Concerto being the star attraction.
Brüll’s symphony is something of a discovery. Brahms 3 and 4 are two of my favourite symphonies and, in spirit, the Brüll sits comfortably with both of them. The booklet note acknowledges the shadow of Brahms hanging over the symphony but then claims that the composer’s own individual voice is in no way obscured. I have to disagree. I don’t hear an individual voice. What I do hear is a Brahmsian symphony that can be enjoyed on its own terms and what’s wrong with that? The orchestration is expert and has a mellow Brahmsian feel with lovely inner parts on the strings and subtle use of the wind soloists. The whole symphony has that poignant sense of yearning so familiar in Brahms. There are also hints of Bruckner at the very opening of the first movement and the Scherzo is a throwback to Beethoven’s Pastoral; Rob Barnett felt the same in his review of the disc. The finale opens with a solemn, moving introduction that leads into a dynamic, thrilling allegro theme on the strings. The composer keeps up the tension right to the end of the movement and the work comes to a dramatic E minor close. The symphony receives a fine performance. The orchestra plays with total commitment and plenty of fire.
The Serenade No. 1 doesn’t reach anywhere near the heights of the Symphony but it is attractive and well written. I probably won’t return to it very often but the Symphony is another matter. It’s a fabulous work and I’m delighted to have made its acquaintance. The recording is very easy on the ear. The string section is especially well captured. This is well worth tracking down especially for the Symphony.
Conductor Marius Stravinsky follows his version of the Brüll Serenade No.1 with the Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra with this recording of the Serenade No.2 from Malta. The delightfully flowing first movement is more akin to Dvořák than Brahms. This is followed by a somewhat banal March of little consequence and a bright and breezy Allegro moderato. Stravinsky gets some good attentive playing from the Maltese orchestra, sounding in far better shape than they did in their companion CD (CC9048CD) under Michael Laus.
We then get to hear two serenades by Jadassohn. This composer certainly had a gift for writing catchy melodies and that’s no mean skill. His music flows along and one tune is followed quickly by the next with little or no apparent effort. His Serenade No.1 in Four Canons has a somewhat academic title but this shouldn’t be off-putting to the listener. This is light music, pure and simple. Its sole purpose is to charm the ear and that’s exactly what it does. Serenade No. 2 in D is another kettle of fish. Built on a grander scale, the opening ceremonial flourish gives way to a splendid Nocturne. The Menuetto offers yet another sideways glance towards Mendelssohn. The Maltese orchestra is in generally good form in their realisation of the Jadassohn serenades but the string section is on the small side and doesn’t quite have the depth and fullness of tone required to bring the music fully to life. The sound quality shares the same reverberant, detailed characteristics given to the Violin Concerto and Macbeth.
Here, Brüll enters the sort of territory dominated by Schumann with his Album for the Young and Scenes from Childhood - short piano miniatures that are fairly easy to play and equally easy to listen to. I’m not suggesting that the Brüll piano pieces are in any way in the Schumann class in terms of being melodically memorable but they are worth hearing all the same. The majority of the pieces are two to three minutes in length and none of them outstays its welcome. The opening theme of the Op. 45 Theme and Variations is reminiscent of the Mozart A major sonata but that’s where the similarity ends. Mozart is in a very different league. Breton Melody and Ballad are hewn from the same melody used in the variations so in essence Op.45 is really a three movement work running for around 13 minutes. I found it to be the most satisfying piece on the CD. The rest of the pieces offer some good contrasts: a rocking Berceuse, lively Spanish Dance, the Schumannesque March and a jovial In the Mill are especially good. Janet Olney performs the programme most expertly. The piano isn’t a very glamorous sounding instrument and the recording is close and lacking something in depth and dynamic range … or is this limited dynamic range a symptom of the playing? I would have welcomed some information in the booklet notes about the instrument and the pianist. This is a good addition to the catalogue without being in any way a “must hear” recording. For Brüll fans it will, however, be indispensable.
Another review of CC9031CD Serenades ...
Gareth Vaughan's programme note to this recording refers to the "serenade" of the nineteenth century as "the light music of the time". To me, this sells these pieces short. Despite being immediately accessible, they're constructed with a rigour equal to that of most major symphonic works.
I'd known Ignaz Brüll primarily by his Second Piano Concerto, a melodic and colourful score, with a Brahmsian scope, tonal weight, and structural duscipline - I still have the first LP release as Genesis GS 1016. The E major Serenade, however, draws its models from the previous generation of German Romantics: from Weber, in the opening horn phrases; from Mendelssohn, in the dancing second theme and the tongue-in-cheek march; from Schubert's Rosamunde in the finale. It's altogether charming.
On the other hand, I didn't know Salomon Jadassohn at all until now. Vaughan's note cites rising anti-Semitism in Europe as a cause of his obscurity as well as "the pre-eminence of his contemporary, Carl Reinecke". The latter point may be true, though it would be ironic, since Reinecke himself languished in the archives until the Romantic revival on LP, circa 1970.
A "canon" is a piece of imitative writing - the kernel of a fugue. The title of Op. 42 might thus suggest an arid, academic score, which could not be further from the truth: it's simply delightful. Indeed, you may well not notice the canons unless you're listening for them, so neatly does Jadassohn weave them into the musical fabric. The minor-key introduction to the first of the five short movements adopts a severe, Brahmsian contour, but thereafter the music relaxes into the sunny, singing major, and wears its counterpoint lightly. In the Finale, the dotted rhythms being passed among the various parts, provide a sense of festive propulsion.
The D major Serenade, while laid out in just three movements, is a work of almost symphonic scope. The first movement seems to be a standard sonata-form movement, until it unexpectedly moves into a de facto slow movement. The central movement is a typical one-in-a-bar scherzo, with a contrasting Trio in duple time. The finale's proclamatory theme is set against a lighter-textured, Schumannesque second theme, making for nice contrasts of energy and mood.
Marius Stravinsky proves a sympathetic interpreter. The D major's more ambitious writing gives the Malta Philharmonic violins a few bad moments in the outer movements, with dry tone and uncertain tuning. Otherwise, the strings have a pleasing, soft-edged warmth; the woodwinds are perky and polished. There's a passing sour moment or two from the brass in the Finale of the Serenade in 4 Canons, and co-ordination is a bit loose throughout; but the sonorities, and the musical intent, are always clear.
The resonant recorded ambience is pleasing, only turning boomy when the basses are busy or the timpani are active. The booklet offers no dates of composition; I've supplied dates of publication for the Jadassohn scores from the Petrucci website.
This release is apparently part of an extensive series of "world premiere recordings of neglected works" on Cameo Classics, including symphonic, chamber, and piano music of these and other composers. If the other entries in it are of this quality, they will be well worth investigating.
Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.
Support us financially by purchasing these through MusicWeb for £12 (Vols 2,3 & 5)/£10 (Vol. 1) postage paid world-wide. Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 5
Theme and Variations [6.51]
Breton Melody [2.29]
Spanish Dance [1.47]
Slumber Song [1.41]
In the Forest [1.46]
In the Mill [3.12]
I am unsure if you are the correct person to contact about this but there is an inaccuracy in the above review which I feel should be corrected. The review refers to "anti-Semitism fuelled by Wagner and Liszt" but I would like to point out that Liszt was not anti-semetic and did not agree with his son-in-laws views. There are numerous instances of Liszt helping out Jewish musicians during his life and, seeing as there is quite enough bad feeling against Liszt anyway, I think it is unfair to further add to the criticisms of him.
(CD reviewer for the Liszt Society)