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Toch: Piano Concerto, Etc / Botstein, Crow, Hamburg So


Release Date: 11/26/2002 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80609   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernst Toch
Performer:  Todd Crow
Conductor:  Leon Botstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


This splendid disc fills a conspicuous gap in an important but relatively neglected area of 20th century music history. The story of Ernst Toch's progression from his position as one of the major musical figures in Weimar Germany to his death in comparative obscurity in Los Angeles in 1964, yet another victim of Nazi racial hatred, has long been known. Less known, however, is what all the fuss was about in the first place, a problem that can only be solved by listening to the music that he composed in the 1920s and '30s, and in particular the First Piano Concerto. Composed in 1926 and enthusiastically premiered by Hermann Scherchen and Walter Gieseking (and just as enthusiastically dropped from the
Read more pianist's repertoire in support of Nazi cultural policies in the 1930s), the piece established Toch's reputation as a leader among the inter-war-period avant-garde.

Of course, as Tovey once pointed out, the only reason to raise the issue of a work's having been "interesting for the time in which it was written" is usually to skirt the question of why it is not otherwise interesting to us now. Toch's concerto certainly remains interesting now, and to modern ears offers nothing more stylistically challenging than, say, Bartók's First Piano Concerto, Prokofiev's Second, or Weimar-period Hindemith. Suffice it to say that this music is fully worthy of these comparisons. Brilliant, coruscating, virtuosic, rhythmically vital, and thematically memorable, it deserves to be a repertory piece, and it receives an excellent performance from pianist Todd Crow and conductor Leon Botstein, who's always in his element championing unjustly neglected 20th century music.

Pinocchio: A Merry Overture lives up to its title, and here the idiom comes across as more conservative, ingratiating even, but no less alive and high-spirited. Peter Pan is another story altogether. This three-movement "fairy tale for orchestra" inhabits a quasi-atonal idiom in which simple thematic ideas exist in very harmonically advanced surroundings, while the gossamer orchestration keeps the whole thing magically afloat. It's a piece that rewards repeated listening and never ceases to titillate the ear. The comparatively (almost) famous Big Ben variations reveal a brilliant compositional mind working at full tilt. Another piece that ought to be played regularly in concert, it's easy to follow, fantastically orchestrated, and a delight from beginning to end. It's also every bit as well performed as the Piano Concerto and the other two orchestral works.

There's a lot of Toch still awaiting discovery, though happily labels such as CPO have been dedicating serious resources to his orchestral and chamber music. First Edition also has a Toch CD reissue in the works from Louisville, but nothing available at present has stronger claims on your attention than this New World CD because no other release covers such a wide range of material, or goes so far toward justifying the composer's early reputation and the high regard in which he was held. Pick any two or three minutes of the Piano Concerto and you will probably agree that his acclaim was well earned.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 38 by Ernst Toch
Performer:  Todd Crow (Piano)
Conductor:  Leon Botstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/2002 
Venue:  Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, Germany 
Length: 29 Minutes 16 Secs. 
2.
Peter Pan, Op. 76 "Fairy Tale" by Ernst Toch
Conductor:  Leon Botstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USA 
Date of Recording: 01/2002 
Venue:  Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, Germany 
Length: 13 Minutes 30 Secs. 
3.
Pinocchio "Merry Overture" by Ernst Toch
Conductor:  Leon Botstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; USA 
Date of Recording: 01/2002 
Venue:  Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 33 Secs. 
4.
Big Ben Variations, Op. 62 by Ernst Toch
Conductor:  Leon Botstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; USA 
Date of Recording: 01/2002 
Venue:  Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, Germany 
Length: 16 Minutes 16 Secs. 

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