Overture to Esther, Op.8
Symphony in A, Op.3
Ouvertüre Aus Dem Schottischen Hochlande, Op.4
Eine Liebe im Schottischen Hochlande Sword Dance
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Recorded September 2003 in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: April 2004
CD No: HYPERION CDA67387
Both these composers were born in Glasgow and share more or less contemporary dates. Both were concert pianists. Both studied with Liszt. Eugen d’Albert (1864-1932), of Anglo-French parents, adopted Germany as his country, and Frederic Lamond (1868-1948) was resident in Berlin between 1904 until the start of the Second War (he was anti-Nazi). d’Albert died in Riga, while Lamond returned to his homeland; he died in Stirling. They knew each other, and enjoyed an amiable friendship it seems. In supplementing their concert-pianist careers, both men were steady composers; Lamond wrote a symphony, the one on this CD, and chamber music, while d’Albert notched up no less than 20 operas.
Stylistically, on the evidence of the pieces recorded here, both men were composers after their time; it’s a case of sticking very closely to (German) tradition. Think Brahms! Indeed, d’Albert played both of Brahms’s concertos with Brahms conducting.
The expansive overture to Esther (not one of d’Albert’s operas, but a concert work) takes a couple of listens to get under its skin; it would be easy to dismiss it. Yet, it has a theatrical charge and a character that one warms to, with some pleasing, and passing, attractiveness and deft touches.
Lamond’s compact 4-movement symphony seems to date from around 1885 and, after revision, was published in 1893. One could think it a little earnest, but the delightful second subject of the first movement, with a suggestion of fairgrounds, introduces an unexpected lilt. In a nutshell, if you respond to the music of Berwald and Bruch (I do), then you’ll be positive about Lamond’s unpretentious work that scampers by in the scherzo and warmly modulates in the slow movement. The finale, like so many last movements, struggles to match what has gone before.
Lamond’s overture adds in a bit of local colour – it’s based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Quentin Durward” – and is somewhat sectional (and also a bit over-scored in the percussion department), while the Sword Dance is from Lamond’s (only?) opera. It also boasts too much percussion, but it has indigenous ’snap’ and a lively countenance.
So, no masterpieces, nothing even that’s ’great’ – but it’s all quite likeable stuff. The d’Albert seems to grow with each playing, and the symphony certainly has its charms. These very well prepared, sympathetic performances are excellently recorded (albeit a little edgy in the loudest passages), and all seem to be premiere recordings. These really are the only versions you’ll ever need; if the package appeals, go for it!