Monday, February 20, 2017

Blumenfeld, Felix. (1863-1931) Catoire, Georgy. (1861-1926) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2014.
First listen: 24-3-2014.
Second listen: 20-2-2017.
Label: Dutton.
Recording dates: August 2012.
Recording venue: Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
Recording engineer: Dexter Newman.
Running time: 74:16.
Classical relevance to me: Interesting.

Works.

Felix Blumenfeld.
Symphony in C minor, opus 39. (ca.1905-06)

Georgy Catoire.

Symphony in C minor, opus 7. (ca.1895-98) (World premiere recording)

Performers.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Martin Yates.

Blumenfeld was a great unknown to me, I never heard of him before, not even a mention somewhere from one of his fellow composers to whom he must have been known. He was born in the Southern Ukraine on the 19 April 1863, and studied with Rimski Korsakov, also close friends with Anton Rubinstein. He worked as a conductor, and taught Piano as a appointed professor.  Quite renown as a concert pianist and pedagogue, and was and many besides him, an admirer of Wagner, but that was not much appreciated by the majority of his colleagues. Blumenfeld wrote primarily piano music, solo or in combinations. This Symphony in C minor is his most ambitious work, and by what I have heard, also a work of great quality. Blumenfeld carries the heritage of Russian nationalism into this Symphony, and as a first Tchaikovsky comes to mind, but also Borodin and some Glinka too. He keeps his own voice, and this medium large scale work has many surprising melodies, and tonal shifts. There is also some pointed refinement in his orchestral writing, in the secondary melodies, which are very much supportive in the leitmotiv. Though barely audible, they nevertheless give a strong supporting role to the work as a whole. Listen carefully and you might find the tinkling of a harp, or some high pitched calls from the high woodwinds. Beautifully done. An outstanding work, worth your attention.

Georgy Catoire is by Chamber music aficionados, known through his excellent chamber music. I have a CPO recording that gave me much pleasure, so seeing this Dutton recording prompted me to order this previous unpublished and unrecorded Symphony in C minor. You will meet the same rigorous attention to detail as in his chamber music. Every note is carefully considered, so you can also say that this only Symphony by Catoire is like Blumenfeld's C minor Symphony, his most ambitious work.  Its larger in its conception, and the scale is grander and more cosmopolitan as Blumenfeld's. I do not find as many direct comparisons towards his music, albeit he is Russian like Blumenfeld, it seems that Catoire more or less escapes this Russian influence. But to name some influences I would say that Glazunov comes first and foremost, and maybe some Borodin, but it is all mixed in such a decisive way, that leaves little room for more than a mention.  It has a Russian atmosphere over it yes, but not overwhelmingly as the booklet states. Traces of Wagner are certainly there in the more expansive orchestral evocations. Not something I really appreciate, but well integrated into the total fabric of the work. The overall orchestration is lush and powerful, and has great expressive power. Its a great work, and deserves to be better known. The performances are superb, as is the recording. It must be noted however that in the first three movements of the Blumenfeld Symphony, the brass is a tad to prominent, instead being in the depth of the orchestra. Is corrected in the last movement. Catoire's work sounds top notch from beginning to end. Recommended. 





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