Endnotes, August 2022

Lemberg/Lwów in 1915, credit Wikipedia

Endnotes, August 2022

In this edition: orchestral music by Thomas de Hartmann, reviewed by Stuart Millson

The enterprising Nimbus Alliance label, which brings dedicated CD buyers out-of-the-ordinary repertoire, herewith presents the music of Thomas de Hartmann, played by the Lviv National Orchestra of Ukraine, under the baton of promising young conductor Tian Hui Ng. A Ukrainian-born Russian aristocrat, de Hartmann (1884-1956) attended St. Petersburg’s military academy, at which his musical talent was recognised. Under the tutelage of composer Anton Arensky, the young musician began to absorb the Russian romantic “imperial” genre of his native land – his first great success being a ballet, which attracted the interest and participation of Nijinsky, Fokine and Pavlova. Soon, de Hartmann became absorbed in a more cosmopolitan European culture and a collaborative friendship was struck with Kandinsky, but the Bolshevik Revolution forced the aspiring young composer to seek sanctuary in France.

The first work on the CD – the Piano Concerto – dates from 1939, the year in which de Hartmann’s adopted country stood on the precipice of war and invasion; and yet in much of the concerto, there is a sense of a peaceful, thoughtful private conversation between the soloist and orchestra – although a spiky, jazz-infused, Prokofiev-sounding spirit also manifests itself in the work. A striking, galvanising conclusion to the piece puts one in mind of the startling monoliths of brass which you might find in a Respighi tone-poem, or even in Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony – although there is no evidence to suggest that de Hartmann responded to either style.

What is certain, however, is the absolute mastery of the de Hartmann’s Piano Concerto by pianist Elan Sicroff – an artist who has dedicated much of his musical life to this avant-garde Russian neo-Romantic, after having been introduced to his works in the 1970s by the composer’s widow, Olga. Sicroff is the veritable custodian and curator of an entirely overlooked segment of Russian-Ukrainian music. Listeners will immediately respond to the light and shade of the pianist’s style; his academic grasp of detail, but also his willingness to let de Hartmann’s colour and invention take flight.

The CD also features the Scherzo-fantastique of 1929 (de Hartmann’s Op. 25) and the Symphonie-Poeme No. 3, Op. 85, which dates from the last years of the composer’s life, which, like his fellow countryman Rachmaninov, were spent in the United States. Both works have the colour of Stravinsky and all the big-boned characteristics of true Russian orchestral music – maybe with a hint of 20th-century ‘Technicolor’. Championed by the talented young conductor, Tian Hui Ng, whose credits include the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra and the New England Philharmonic Orchestra – plus Belgium’s Royal Opera of Wallonie, de Hartmann has been brought closer to the mainstream. We earnestly hope that this new CD will attract the attention of other conductors, soloists and concert promoters.

Stuart Millson is the Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review

CD details: Piano Concerto and orchestral works by de Hartmann. Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine conducted by Tian Hui Ng. Piano soloist: Elan Sicroff. Nimbus Alliance, catalogue number: NI 6429


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7 Responses to Endnotes, August 2022

  1. Sandra Cooke says:

    Nice to find some Online “corner” that values “Classical” Music, which is denounced as a white racism, and has to be revised (see “English National” Opera criteria, for instance) or removed (see the exposures by Frank Furedi, for instance), and when Chief Keef or Digga D are considered more important than Bach or Parry (see the online “Images” and Videos of Drill rappers, for instance). Mr Millson’s erudite and sensitive Endnotes are a particularly outstanding example of quality-music reviews.

    I see that Rishi Sunak if Prime Minister plans to win the “culture war” on our English and European cultural heritage, including Global Gordon’s “equality” legislation.

    We need an original, succinct article documenting the beginnings, development and the consequences of Wokism, and TQR would make a good place for it. Any takers?

    • Lisa J. Evans says:

      Is there any way to take down Sandra Cooke’s revolting bigotry? Sentiments like this have zero place anywhere, let alone a classical music blog.

      • Brian Rockford says:

        Bigotry is in the eye of the beholder.
        Refutation is better than repression, argument better than abuse.
        I find many Gangsta Rap and Drill videos “revolting” in their violent lyrics, misogyny and racist body-language, but I can only say so; I cannot “take them down”, despite their anti-social impacts.
        No-one who has done sufficient research can be unaware of assertions that European classical music is ipso facto “racist” (whatever that “means” or connotes); e.g. “By turning the concert hall into a museum of the Classical canon, the myth of the composer-genius keeps concert music dead, white and male…”- Evan Williams, online, a mild example, among many.
        It is not unreasonable, however, to hold that Beethoven is superior, yes superior, to (say) Schoolly D, nor is it a crime, as yet.
        Research has shown that classical music has positive effects on the brain, including the capacity for abstract thought. Afro dance music has more of an erotic impact (jazz = semen).
        Now for an article that will make would-be censors like Ms Evans really furious: Brenton Sanderson, “Triggered by Bach”, TOO, 1 July 2019, online.

        • David Ashton says:

          Synthesis of Negro music and, for example, European liturgical music is occasionally successful, but there are problems, and of course racial resentments are today introduced in supposed retaliation for previous racial exclusion; see e.g., Kim Harris, in “America: The Jesuit Review”, 17 June 2021, online.

          However, music criticism, and “black music”, are currently weaponised against our western heritage and our own people.

          “The Economist”, 19 November 2022, reported that at a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance in April, the bass sang an ode by a rapper [urging] intertwining of cultures in the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th.
          “Classical music is often thought to be intimidating. Performed by white men in white bow ties, the art form is perceived to emphasise snobbery, stuffiness and racial privilege…. To many in the classical-music world, increasing accessibility is a way of staving off irrelevance… Reginald Mobley , a black American tenor, says that his…his family thought of classical music as the music of cross-burners….
          “The clamour…to be more approachable and relevant risks drowning out the music itself. There is also now an added expectation that it will promote social justice…. Jennifer Johnston, an opera singer, spoke for many classical musicians when she lamented on Twitter the ‘permanent watering down of our industry so [that] the government say it’s not “elitist”.'”

  2. Stuart Millson says:

    I sense that so many of the liberal elite, who have – hitherto – enjoyed high-art, ‘elitist’ opera, Deutsche Grammophon CDs etc., have suddenly been struck by a terrible dilemma: they realize that their tastes now contradict their own ideology (or, at least, the fanatically overblown, super-liberal ideology to which they are now shackled).

    On BBC Radio 3 Record Review last Saturday, a former Director of the Proms was reviewing Vaughan Williams’s A London Symphony, conducted by the composer in a recording from 1946. After playing an excerpt from it, the reviewer said how much he would like to hear a new ‘London Symphony’, absorbing and suggesting the sounds of today’s “diverse” capital.

    Would people in the arts ever have thought of making such comments prior to this era of cultural intimidation and BLM mania? The inevitable conclusion is that the world of 1946 no longer has anything to do with ‘us’.

  3. Nicholas Dix says:

    From 1066 to around 1976 not 1946, I would suggest.
    It is hardly “racist” for example to object to the blatant exclusion of the census group “White British” from TV advertisements, or to the delighted claim that “Black” Music has “conquered” the cultural world.
    Musicologists can still discern and describe the ethnic differences past and present, including notation and instruments. We can see as well as hear the difference between a Boesendorfer or a Stradivarus and a didgeridoo or a tin-pan, so to speak.
    “The ‘happy ending’ of an empty existence, the boredom of which has brought in Negro dancing to perform the Funeral March for a great culture…. What if, one day, [under]class war and race war joined forces to finish off the white world?” – Oswald Spengler, 1933.

  4. Sandra Cooke says:

    Bigotry means an obstinate attachment to an opinion that refuses to tolerate others.
    Lisa J. Evans is therefore a bigot unlike her critics.
    Has she any replies to make?
    See Shantal Marshall, “What’s your favourite music?” JRP, October 1918, online.
    Also, Stephen K. Sanderson, “Race & Evolution” (Pittsburg 2022).
    Black people often make good gospel singers, even if swaying is an accompaniment, and there are several notable classical opera singers. This may well have a biological aspect in the vocal chords and spirometric function.

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