The Lost Generation: Apostel, Kauder, Busch. The Orchestra Now / Leon Botstein. © 2024 The Orchestra Now


Often Forgotten

GEOFF PEARCE listens to orchestral music by Kauder, Apostel and Busch

'There is so much beautiful music that is just waiting to be performed, recorded and listened to.'


I was looking forward to receiving this disc and have listened to it with enjoyment a number of times before sitting down to review it. The Orchestra Now (TŌN) is new to me - a graduate orchestra based at Bard College in New York State, USA with members from all around the world. It was founded in 2015 by Leon Botstein, the conductor on this recording.

The impressive and very enjoyable first work is the first of five symphonies by Moravian-born composer Hugo Kauder (1888-1972), in four movements. In spite of being composed in 1920-21 and performed in 1924, it had to wait until 2022 before being performed again. Dedicated to Alma Mahler, the second movement, in particular, shows the strong influence of her husband.

The first movement proceeds in an unhurried fashion. It is obviously influenced by the romantic composers Brahms and Mahler. One noticeable thing is that modulations, often to quite distant keys, are frequent, along with meter changes. The orchestration is colourful and sumptuous and there are many delightful solo passages, as well as some weighty moments for full orchestra too. The composer is economical with his material and the movement is under ten minutes in length.

Listen — Hugo Kauder: Bewegt (Symphony No 1)
(AV2684 track 1, 4:30-5:15) ℗ 2024 The Orchestra Now :

I love the rather quirky nature of the scherzo-like second movement, where one can immediately recall the rather sardonic wit of Gustav Mahler. The meter though is asymmetric, giving a kind of 'tipsy' effect. The trio is calmer and reflective as a contrast before the return to the opening character.

Listen — Hugo Kauder: Sehr mäßig bewegt (Symphony No 1)
(AV2684 track 2, 4:07-4:56) ℗ 2024 The Orchestra Now :

The third movement is beautiful, intense, slow and written in the very best of Romantic traditions. It is not all peace and tranquility though and there are moments which fill you with anticipation and will take your breath away.

Listen — Hugo Kauder: Sehr breit und betragen (Symphony No 1)
(AV2684 track 3, 4:34-5:22) ℗ 2024 The Orchestra Now :

The final movement is a passacaglia, influenced by Brahms' Fourth Symphony and also Anton Webern's Opus 1 Passacaglia. This is a great intricate movement to listen to and the form of the passacaglia is often diverted from. There is never a dull moment here, and it is definitely listenable to ... I've played it many times. I do hope that this symphony and many of Kauder's more than three-hundred other works get performed and recorded.

Listen — Hugo Kauder: Ruhig, streng gemessen (Symphony No 1)
(AV2684 track 4, 1:26-2:06) ℗ 2024 The Orchestra Now :

Hans Erich Apostel (1901-1972) wrote a sonatina for solo oboe (Op 39a) which I never quite came to grips with. He is also responsible for helping prepare Alban Berg's operas Wozzeck and Lulu for publication. He was a close follower of the second Viennese school but did not apply the twelve tone techniques quite as rigorously as did Schoenberg, Webern and, to a lesser extent, Berg.

The work presented here, Variations on a Theme by Hadyn, was composed in 1949. He uses the opening of the second movement of Haydn's Drumroll Symphony, Op 104, as the theme, and proceeds to write nine variations on it. The Drumroll is one of my favourite Haydn works and as the booklet points out, it could be called a jovial piece, if it was not for the fact that the movement is in F minor and also, somewhat unusually, uses an augmented second in the melody.

Apostel is very inventive in how he uses this melody, elements of the melodic structure and variations on the metric structure as well. Much of the time, the melody is almost absent, but the ghost of the quoted theme is always there. Apostel's output was not large, but I hope this work is performed more often as it is interesting and inventive, and his command of orchestration is very much to my taste.

Listen — Hans Erich Apostel: Var IV: Vivace (Variations on a Theme by Haydn)
(AV2684 track 9, 0:00-0:38) ℗ 2024 The Orchestra Now :

Adolf Busch (1891-1952) was well known as a violin soloist and also as a chamber music exponent, but he also wrote a significant amount of music over the course of his life. He composed these Variations on an Original Theme for piano four hands in 1944, by which time he was living in the USA. His musical style was strongly influenced by a friend in his youth: Max Reger. He wrote the work of a theme and six variations for his wife as a Christmas present, and it was much later orchestrated in the form presented here, by Peter Serkin, who was the composer's grandson and whom had often performed the four hands version with his father, Rudolf Serkin. This rather intimate piece takes approximately ten minutes to perform and is admirable for its rather conventional craftsmanship and warmth of feeling.

Listen — Adolf Busch: Variations on an Original Theme
(AV2684 track 15, 5:21-6:20) ℗ 2024 The Orchestra Now :

I often get sad and somewhat angry when I see how much music seems to fall between the cracks and is often forgotten forever, or is revived sporadically and often falls into neglect again, once the initial flurry of excitement is gone. There is so much beautiful music that is just waiting to be performed, recorded and listened to, and the works on this disc are good examples.

Copyright © 19 June 2024 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia



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