'Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra do offer vivid accounts that are inspired, insightful, and invigorating and that succeed in capturing the music's strengths. The brass are potent, the strings sumptuous, the winds rich in tone, and the perspective quite realistic. All are a credit to Hyperion's now-legendary engineering … this is an important release and one that makes opening your wallet worthwhile' (Fanfare, USA)
'A thoroughly likeable issue, well worth exploring' (Gramophone)
'The world of classical music should be welcoming to these freshly liberated works long condemned to dusty shelves and unmerited oblivion. Well done to Hyperion and all concerned in the project' (www.musicweb.uk.net)
'Glasgow gave Europe two of its leading musical talents of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Thanks to yet another adventurous project from Hyperion, their legacy is guaranteed' (The Scotsman)
Allegro moderato [8'35]
Allegro vivace, quasi presto [7'35]
Andante moderato [7'41]
Allegro con spirito [7'15]
Extract: Sword Dance [6'14]
Hyperion’s Record of the Month for March takes us to Scotland in pursuit of two Scottish-born piano virtuosi whose compositions have languished beneath the highland mists for too long. Born prematurely as a result of a steamboat collision on the Clyde, Frederic Lamond lived a short walk from Eugen d’Albert in Glasgow. The two became Liszt pupils and their musical abilities were admired by Richard Strauss, Hans von Bülow and Johannes Brahms.
Lamond’s Symphony in A major, his only symphony, was begun in 1885 – the composer was just twenty-one – and published in 1893. In four movements, a sense of generous assurance flows through this work which sits comfortably between Beethoven, looking backward, and Mahler in the future. Perhaps one should think of Brahms, yet Lamond adds a refreshing breath of Scottish air into an otherwise-Germanic climate.
The Overture from the Scottish Highlands tells the story of one Quentin Durward, a stalwart of Louis XI’s Scottish bodyguard. His Burgundian adventures betray a sense of homesickness; Scottish themes and droned bass lines prevail. Sword Dance, taken from Lamond’s opera A life in the Scottish Highlands, presents a scene of bucolic exuberance, fancy footwork and Scotch-snap rhythms combining in a work of irresistible panache.
The disc opens with Eugen d’Albert’s Overture to Esther. The Biblical Esther had little time for honour, or even religion come to that, and d’Albert’s overture similarly throw caution to the wind, before eventually she, and he, are won back to the arms of King Ahasuerus.
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My father, Archibald Lamond, was a humble weaver in what was then the village of Cambuslang, near Glasgow. He never had a teacher, but by poring over some old Church music which by accident had come his way, he soon found out the difference in notation between the treble and bass clefs. In the ’fifties of the last century, there was no organ in the Parish Church in Cambuslang. My father got hold of a clarinet; set to work, and in a comparatively short time, mastered its mechanism.
Thus Frederic Archibald Lamond opens his Memoirs: and by such determination on the part of individuals in the face of circumstance have people like Lamond and Eugen d’Albert risen to fame. Comparative fame. Lamond is remembered by the cognoscenti as a pianist who was renowned for his Beethoven playing, or as a pupil of Liszt’s with interesting memories. But who remembers him as a composer? A like fate befell his contemporary d’Albert, also a virtuoso pianist, also a pupil of Liszt’s and born in Glasgow of a Scottish mother and French father, though Hyperion (with Piers Lane) have rescued his piano concertos and piano music (Hyperionand ).
D’Albert was born on 10 April 1864 on Sauchiehall Street, in the heart of Glasgow, and so has priority by birth, for Lamond arrived on 28 January 1868 at Lynedoch Place, a short walk to the west. Lamond’s older brother, Archie, died of tuberculosis in his seventeenth year. Their mother died after giving birth prematurely – brought on by an injury in a steamboat collision on the Clyde when Frederic was eight. Their father held the fort with his older surviving children, David and Barbara, until his own death in 1891. It was not easy. There had been no financial gain from founding an orchestra and a choir, self-taught, as Lamond’s father had done, and he thereby lost the initiative in the weaving trade. He was reduced to becoming a clerk in a cotton mill and the Lamonds learned to live in dire poverty.
From this environment came the young man who, in 1885 and aged only twenty-one, was to be one of an audience of three for a first run-through by the Meiningen orchestra, under Hans von Bülow, of the third and fourth movements of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony. The other two persons permitted to attend were the Landgraf of Hesse and Richard Strauss. Strauss and Lamond were often together thereafter.
As for young d’Albert, in the 1880s he lodged with Hans Richter’s family in Vienna and performed both of the Brahms piano concertos with Brahms himself conducting. Little wonder, then, that the genial figure of Brahms has cast an inspiring shadow over the music of these two men. They met first in St Petersburg, and Lamond held d’Albert’s playing and compositions in the highest esteem.
It would be easy to leave it at that: two minor acolytes, worthy but unmemorable. But it will not do. The music on this premiere recording may derive many of its good qualities from the example of Brahms – and what better example? – but there is technical skill a-plenty, and strength, character and beauty, and these things are not lightly won. Nor was musical understanding to be acquired only in Germany. The name Lamond was a famous one in Scottish music, for the Lamonds were luters and harpers, and the beautiful fifteenth-century Lamond harp, now in the National Museum of Scotland, is named after them. Music was in the blood. As for d’Albert, his father was a dancing master and composer ‘of no mean merit’, according to Lamond.
The d’Albert family soon moved from Glasgow to Newcastle and young Eugen then went on to London. But his tuition at the precursor of the Royal College of Music was not a source of satisfaction. His piano teacher, Pauer, gave his own son, Max, all the best openings; and his composition teacher, Sir Arthur Sullivan, was liable to appear hung-over. Only Prout stood up for d’Albert. But when d’Albert visited Liszt in Weimar and Liszt remarked that he played ‘remarkably well for a composer’, d’Albert asked whether he might not become a pianist. ‘Certainly’, came the reply; ‘I never heard a better’. Brahms particularly admired his playing.
These encouragements were to determine the first half of d’Albert’s life, which was primarily that of a concert pianist, though in 1907 he succeeded Joachim as director of the Musik Hochschule in Berlin – a position of considerable responsibility and status. But composition gradually took over, the medium of opera being perhaps congenial to a man who had six marriages, all apparently of the stormy variety. His second wife married four times; his third was dismissed when after thirteen years she was careless enough to produce a child; and his fourth was described by a previous husband as a beautiful landscape with an impossible climate.
D’Albert’s reputation in Britain suffered from a published letter in which he gave vent to his feelings about his education in London, along with pro-German and anti-British sentiments. How he would have dealt with the rise of Nazism is a nice question. He died in Riga in 1932. Lamond’s own opposition to the Nazis forced him to leave Germany in 1940.
D’Albert’s Overture to ‘Esther’, Opus 8 is one of a small group of orchestral works, including a symphony Opus 4 and two piano concertos (Opus 2 and Opus 12). By Lamond’s standards this is a considerable output, but d’Albert composed twenty operas besides (some of which were highly successful), two string quartets, and several piano works, not to mention a number of transcriptions, including a demanding version of the great early Bach organ Prelude and Fugue in D major.
The Overture was intended for Grillparzer’s fragmentary poetic drama of the same name, published in 1861. Esther is one of those books in the Bible in which religion has no place, and honour but a trifling one. It commences with the putting aside of Queen Vashti for disobedience – a course which might well have had appeal to d’Albert – and with the successful petitioning by Esther, the new Queen, for the right of her own Jewish people to avenge a plot against them. The background, then, is of the charm and discretion of Esther in the context of courtly magnificence, intrigue and violence.
The Overture opens with a striking declamatory statement in A major, but is countered by a gentle woodwind passage. On the repeat of this process, a solo horn announces an appealing contrasting subject in C major. The pace quickens to a climax, and a calmer section follows, eventually ushering in a new theme, making its elegant curtseys on the woodwind in the dominant key, in which the oboe also announces a rustic variant of the second subject.
D’Albert, however, is skilful in his use of the shifting perspectives offered by frequent modulation and by a recapitulation which substantially reverses the order of the material; and in the end Esther’s charms yield to (or win, depending upon your perspective) the magnificent condescension of her husband King Ahasuerus.
Frederic Lamond made little attempt to promote himself as a composer, and he only refers to his own compositions in a passing comment in his Memoirs. But the works on this disc reveal a talent which deserved better treatment from its possessor. In addition to the Symphony, the Overture and the opera from which the Sword Dance is taken, there are the eight Clavierstücke Opus 1 published in two volumes in Leipzig – beautiful fluid sophisticated music, without a hint of the showmanship that he could readily have employed. The D major Cello Sonata and the B minor Piano Trio Opus 2 exhibit the same skill and refinement. The Sonata was first performed by Lamond and Piatti in St James’s Hall, London, in 1889 and the Rose Quartett gave the Trio in the Bösendorfer Saal in Vienna on 25 November 1890. But that seems to be the sum total of his output, for Lamond devoted himself with the deepest artistic humility to the realization of the works of others.
Perhaps his sense of just how privileged he was was fostered by the family’s initial poverty and by the fact that his brother and sisters moved with him to Germany in order to support his studies, the elder sister doing so from her earnings from running a boarding-house. His brother David became a music teacher in Glasgow in later years and promoted Frederic’s first solo recitals in their home city.
Ever-generous in his acknowledgment of the skills of his fellow-pianists, Lamond sought the best from, but not for, himself. His performances of late Beethoven, particularly the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata Op 106, were legendary; but he was also one of the first to introduce Brahms to those parts of Austria and Germany which were still in the Wagner camp. Lamond took no sides in the shameful behaviour of those composers’ fans, and records Wagner sitting beside the piano where Brahms had just finished playing his Handel Variations, and saying to Brahms ‘I would never have thought it possible to compose such variations after Beethoven’.
It was in such circles that Lamond constantly moved, and his own great contribution was acknowledged by his appointment to a professorship in the Hague Conservatory in 1917. He gave master classes in Sondershausen, where his compatriot, Alexander Mackenzie, had studied some fifty years before, and in the 1920s he regularly toured the Unites States. The University of Glasgow awarded him an LL.D in 1937, which no doubt made up for the hostility of the London press who resented his artistic preference for Germany. In 1904 he had married Irene Triesch, a leading German actress who maintained that she owed everything to Lamond’s advice, claiming that he could have been a fine actor himself. In contrast to d’Albert’s relationships, theirs was a life-long and profound mutual love. When he died in Bridge of Allan on 21 February 1948 she wrote:
I lived in ‘his world’ for 46 years – a blessing for which I thank Heaven. I remember our unison in music. As the companion of such a man, who was an artist to the very depths of his soul, I learned to honour Beethoven’s magnificent music … ‘Continuing to learn’ was Frederic Lamond’s principle. With what patience did he work at the handicraft of his art! Work began for him in the morning, and at night work still lived in the quivering of his hands when he slept. ‘If I work continuously, my conscience is clear.’
Lamond’s Symphony in A major, Opus 3 is his first and only symphony, probably commenced around 1885 when he was seventeen years old and still awaiting that recognition as a pianist which would soon lead him away from composition. It went through at least two revisions before its publication in Frankfurt in 1893. It was performed at the famous Court Theatre at Meiningen where Lamond was greeted by the orchestra with a Tusch, or flourish, of trumpets and drums. Manns conducted it in Glasgow on 23 December 1889 and again at the Crystal Palace, London in 1890. There are four movements.
From the very start of the opening Allegro moderato there is a sense of generous assurance, yet nothing here is overstated. The warm cello and clarinet melody rises from the major third and, passing up through the strings to a fortissimo, asserts an inherent strength with a rugged exchange of 6/8 for 3/4. It is followed immediately by the second subject, in a lilting waltz tempo that eventually leads to a beautiful yielding codetta to the exposition. The development is brief, the second subject dancing lightly amongst the more dramatic gestures derived from the first subject. The recapitulation is regular, and the coda, which briefly threatens to be portentous, is no such thing, and ends unassumingly.
The Allegro vivace, quasi presto follows on entirely naturally. It is a scherzo, bursting with energy and fun, looking back to Beethoven and, in the odd moment, forward to Mahler. Woven into its brilliant contrasts of texture is a gentle slightly modal theme over a drone bass, like a tiny breath of Scottish air in the otherwise Germanic climate of the movement. The trio section, Molto moderato e quieto, has a ländler-like lilt, though others have heard Scotland in its rural charm. The scherzo returns, modified, but as bucolic as before and, in homage to Beethoven’s own ploys, ends teasingly with a brief recollection of the trio section.
A glorious melody opens the Andante moderato, but there is also a very real unease in this movement, with heavy-paced tuttis in slow march tempo and sections of dark thoughtfulness. Relief is brought with the return of the opening theme, beautifully embellished by flowing quavers; but they are insufficient wholly to dispel the agitation, and though the coda eventually subsides gently, it does so over a bass line which retains much of the darkness of the earlier slow march. The concluding ‘amen’ cadence, so simply stated, sounds here with a true sense of gratitude for deliverance from some trouble only partly disguised.
The sure hand of Brahms guides the start of the Allegro con spirito in both rhythm and texture, but Lamond is so at home in this idiom, and his material is so lovely in itself – notably the second subject – that it should earn nothing but a welcome for the pleasure with which it walks in familiar fields.
Lamond’s Ouvertüre Aus Dem Schottischen Hochlande, Opus 4 was originally titled ‘Quentin Durward: Charakterbild in Form einer Ouvertüre’. In Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Quentin Durward, the hero of the title is a young Scot who becomes a member of the French King Louis XI’s Scottish bodyguards. The loyalty and courage of his conduct eventually lead to his winning the hand of a Burgundian heiress, despite the enmity between King Louis and the Burgundians. It is a story of love, intrigue, bravery and chivalry which might well have served as a model for Dumas; and Lamond’s music might have served that author equally well, were it not so clearly imprinted with the character of Scotland. On his first meeting with Brahms, Lamond found himself explaining the etymological significance of the Gaelic name Aran – a mountainous island in the Clyde estuary. Clearly the landscape of his homeland was often in his mind. Lamond never lost his Glasgow accent.
The fresh lyricism of the opening theme, largely pentatonic and set against a drone bass, is the most obvious evidence of its Scottishness, and it is this theme from which nearly all the subsequent material is derived. Not even a change of key from F to A major, and time signature from 6/8 to 2/4, can disguise the close relationship between it and the second subject.
But the warmth of this lyricism is soon interrupted by an element of adventurous mischief which in turn seems to generate more serious consequences. A climax drawn from the opening theme subsides into doubts, ending with a solo for bass clarinet which leads to the recapitulation. As the piece nears its end, the heraldic versions of the main theme become more prominent and, despite a brief reminder of mischief, build powerfully on a grinding ostinato to the final climax. Just as one thinks that all is going to end in splendour, the woodwind reclaim the beautiful flowing lyricism of the main Scottish theme, as Lamond returns in spirit to the rivers and glens of Scotland whence the subject of his portrait came.
The Sword Dance from Lamond’s opera Eine Liebe im Schottischen Hochlande is a reel – a dance form attested in Scotland as early as 1525, of which the sword dance is probably the oldest example. Lamond has produced a little classic of the genre. Here are the drone fifths, the proud, assertive melody and the rich scoring proper to a show-piece dance. But it also allows for those delicate touches that remind one that fancy footwork is required of the dancers who dance in stocking or bare feet over crossed razor-sharp swords.
The dance is led off by Lamond’s father’s instrument, the clarinet, and followed by the oboe, which Frederic himself played to a high standard. The bucolic atmosphere is helped along by horn calls, all over a sustained pedal A – the drone note of the Highland bagpipes. A brief section in D minor soon reverts to the major with trumpets and trombones on a tune characterized by its use of the Scotch-snap rhythm, at which point the Scottish flag is unfolded and the clans gather, as Lamond’s note in the score informs us. The pace gathers towards a final presto and prestissimo full of triumphant flourishes which, in the opera, are accompanied by the chorus – in this concert form the work is equally irresistible.
John Purser © 2004
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