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Rediscoveries, overdue

The latest round of rediscoveries hits Lincoln Center next week: the Beethoven Project Trio will present the New York premieres of one rediscovered and two little-known Beethoven trios on May 18th at Alice Tully Hall. A new recording of the rediscovery, a piano trio in E-flat Major, will come out from Naxos Edited to add: Cedille Records the following week.

I have two questions relating to this event.

1. Can anyone name a recent rediscovery or reconstruction of a work by a major (dead) composer that is particularly notable, or made a strong impression, either in performance or on record?

2. There exists a huge repertoire of pieces that aren’t “undiscovered,” yet are seldom played. What neglected piece would you like to hear on a concert program in the next season or two that you feel is unfairly underrepresented?

Have at it.

By Anne Midgette  |  May 13, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  music history , national , random musings  
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1. I was particularly impressed with Luciano Berio's orchestration of the first clarinet sonata of Brahms. From what I recall, he made no changes whatsoever in the clarinet part, and added only a six- or seven-bar tutti part at the beginning of the piece and at the beginning of the third movement. I believe there have been at least three recordings of the piece since the orchestration about 20 years ago.

Another work I have not heard but which I look forward to hearing is the recasting of the violin concerto of Brahms for piano and orchestra. The arrangement is by Croatian pianist/composer Dejan Lazic, who gave the world premiere in Atlanta last autumn. My understanding is that a recording is either available or soon will be; I heard a one-minute snippet of the work on-line and it is remarkably idiomatic.

2. I have always been fond of the Rustic Wedding Symphony of Brahms's contemporary Karl Goldmark. Sir Thomas Beecham made a wonderful recording of this (albeit with slight cuts in the first movement) and, in the stereo era, Leonard Bernstein set the standard. There have been at least a half-dozen recordings of the work over the years, but my only memory of a live performance was, oddly, given by Rostropovich in Washington. It was a wonderful concert; the work should be heard more than once in a generation.

Posted by: 74umgrad1 | May 13, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

"Recent" is sufficiently fuzzy to let me nominate Andrew Porter's uncovering sections of the score of Verdi's "Don Carlos" that were chopped from the first performances because of length. Their restoration has only improved what was always one of the greatest of Verdi's operas.

Posted by: wsheppard | May 13, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

There are so many wonderful works which are rarely encountered in the concert hall but are easily available on CD.
This is the centennial of the death of the little-known but important Russian composer Mily Balakirev(1837-1910), whose best-known work is probably the very difficult piano piece Islamey,based on the folk music of the Caucasus,which has also been orchestrated.
His colorful and amply melodious symphony no 1 in C would make a welcome change from the same old Tchaikovsky symphonies,which have been played to death over the years,wonderful as they are.
Anton Bruckner unfortunately died before finishing the finale of his 9th symphony, which has long been played only in torso form with the first three movements.
But rumors that the sketches for the finale were too sparse to construct a performable version of the finale were untrue, and the American musicologist William Caragan prepared a performing version in the 80s,and two Italian musicologists prepared their won version slightly later.
There have been several recordings of these by such conductors as Yoav Talmi,Daniel Harding,Kurt Eichhorn,Eliahu Inbal and others, and having heard the Inbal and Tami versions, I'm convinced that there is no longer any reason to perform or record the Bruckner 9th incomplete. The music is truly extraordinary,and brings the symphony to a thrilling conclusion.
But most conductors continue to stick to the familiar torso,which is unfortunate.

Posted by: Thehorn2 | May 13, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Reconstruction: not all that recent now, but Anthony Payne's Elgar Symphony No. 3.
Unjustly neglected: Prokofiev Symphony No. 7; Virgil Thomson Symphony on a Hymn Tune.

Posted by: hstover | May 13, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm always surprised the two Ravel operas are discussed more than they're performed, but I suppose they're a bit ghastly to put on, with big orchestras, and, in L'enfant, big casts and particular scenic requirements. I also love Nielsen's 'Maskarade', which is hardly ever staged.

Also, totally off-topic, but UK artist Grayson Perry has written a really interesting opinion piece which explains my feelings about alt-classical (which are known to you) better than I ever could:

"Classical music has gone through a similar sort of transition. It's let its accent slip, it's put on a bit of lipstick, dabbed on some hair gel. But a word of advice, classical musicians: avoid the c-word. Cool is a word that often crops up when it comes to talking about art, and it's always bugged me. Being creative is all about being unselfconscious; being prepared to make a bit of a fool of myself. In my experience, embarrassment is not fatal."

Posted by: ianw2 | May 13, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

If I just have to pick one, I pick Rimsky-Korsakov's second symphony, "Antar." It's 75 percent as good as "Scheherazade"! I desperately year to hear it live.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | May 13, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"yearn," sorry

Posted by: Lindemann777 | May 13, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Right now I would advocate for Tveitt's "Hundred Hardanger Tunes," which remind me of "Pictures from an Exhibition" in terms of their tunefulness, national flair, and quirkiness while having the sensibilities of a modern composer.

In fact, Tveitt could use some help in getting his works reconstructed and rediscovered, since many of his scores were destroyed when a fire destroyed his home. I think his Piano Concerto No. 4 "Aurora Borealis" was reconstructed from a sound recording.

Posted by: robertcostic | May 13, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Ever since the start of this blog I have advocated the music of George Enescu, so, other than his opera Oedipe, I will propose one of his most complex yet most accessible pieces: his Third Orchestral Suite. I would also love to hear his symphonies live, especially his third and his first (the second is more problematic but not without rewards, a gorgeous slow movement among others.)

I agree the suggestion of Goldmark's Rustic Wedding Symphony (and while we're at it, I would be curious if anyone heard anything by the composer's nephew, Rubin, whose works were once widely played.) I am aware that David Zinman conducted it in New York, so I wouldn't be surprised if he did it in Baltimore as well - and btw, it's well past time that Zinman returns to conduct in Baltimore.

One discovery of the Slatkin years was the music of Gabriel Pierne. So, after The Children's Crusade, which Slatkin conducted, I would love to hear Cydalise et le Chevre-pied, which would be enjoyed by anyone who loves Daphnis et Chloe. And I wouldn't mind an encore performance of The Children's Crusade.

I would also look into the symphonies of George Rochberg.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | May 13, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

My choice would be "Malven", Richard Strauss last song, composed in 1949 barely a year before his death and dedicated to Maria Jeritza.
I only know of one recording (maybe there are others) with Eva Marton conducted by Andrew Davis from 1985.
Perhaps one of the fine Strauss sopranos of today will include it in their repertory sometime.

Posted by: Zurga | May 13, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln" by Franz Schmidt. Having just been blown away by "Lulu", I'm up for more music from 1937. ; ))

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | May 16, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

A comment to JerryFloyd et al.

I have expressed recently, here, my concern about Maestro Christoph Eschenbach choosing to pair this coming late September’s NSO performance of Beethoven’s Symphony #9 with Matthias Pintscher’s 25 minute-long Hérodiade – Fragments – for soprano (Marisol Montalvo) and large orchestra. It is not that I don’t strongly look forward to hearing the Pintscher piece and Ms. Montalvo (and, sadly, witnessing a little “shock and awe” of the new for many of the NSO audience members, now under the pervasive musical tutelage of Classical WETA-FM and the WP), but I think that I would have preferred the Matthias Pintscher to be paired with a Mahler Symphony, as Maestro Eschenbach chose to do in Philadelphia six years ago (the long #5, rather than perhaps the more obvious, shorter #4).

Michael Tilson Thomas recently has often paired Beethoven’s #9 with Giacinto Scelsi’s Konx-Om-Pax (1986), but I think that – responding to Jerry’s request for a piece from ca. 1937 – that Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Symphony #2 (one movement) or Symphony #8 (sadly his last, in two movements) would be the better match to the great Beethoven work. (Another choice would be Hartmann’s Symphony #1, which sets very poignant lines from Walt Whitman for orchestra and contralto voice.)

As many reading here probably know, the dating of Hartmann’s symphonic works is a little problematic in that he withdrew from Nazi German musical life (in Munich and Germany/Austria) after 1933 (his wife was Jewish and he started incorporating Jewish musical themes into his work starting in 1933-35, including making brazen musical references to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich), but he continued to compose symphonic movements in the thirties which were later assembled and recomposed into fuller symphonies.

Both the Hartmann Symphonies #2 and 8 were composed after Hartmann studied with Anton Webern in 1941- 42, who reinforced his harmonic and orchestral perfectionism, while not diverting him from his – in my opinion -- fairly-well achieved goal of extending the Austro-Germanic symphonic musical stream of Bruckner and Mahler. (Valentin Silvestrov is also working to continue this musical stream today, and the NSO will feature the first of, I imagine, several Silvestrov works starting next January.)

I think that it is sad that the National Symphony has not fully explored the work of Karl Amadeus Hartmann over the past generation. He is a missing link to the present-day – as is Henze and Birtwistle.

Posted by: snaketime1 | May 17, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

So many possibilities! Here are three that come immediately to mind:

1) Let's add Borodin's First Symphony to the roll of neglected Russian works above. I quite prefer it to the Second (as did Liszt), and have no idea why the latter is the one that always gets performed.

2) Bruch's Double Concerto (clarinet or violin + viola) is a simply gorgeous piece I had never heard of prior to attending a student recital performance a few months ago. It doesn't sound one bit like its composition date of 1911, but that's no excuse for its obscurity a century later.

3) Despite what you'd think from rave reviews in the British press, Robert Simpson actually wrote some superb music, and I'm disappointed his well-received Hyperion cycle hasn't generated more performances on this side of the pond.

Posted by: e_stassen | May 18, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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