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Bernhard Sekles: Chamber Music

Sekles / Soroka / Silver,N. / Silver,P.
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 147   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Bernhard Sekles
Performer:  Phillip SilverSolomia SorokaNoreen Silver
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SEKLES Cello Sonata. Chaconne, Op. 38. Capriccio for Piano Trio. Violin Sonata Solomia Soroka (vn, va); Noreen Silver (vc); Philip Silver (pn) TOCCATA 0147 (67:55)

Bernhard Sekles (1872-1934) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher who lived in the Frankfurt area. In 1896 he became a professor at that city’s Hoch Conservatory. In 1928, four years before there was such a Read more class anywhere else, he began to teach jazz there. He became the Conservatory’s director in 1923. His composition students included Paul Hindemith, Theodor Adorno, and Max Rudolf. Although frequently advised to leave Germany, Sekles did not, because of illness. He never sought treatment and died not long after becoming one of the first German Jewish professors to lose his position when Hitler came to power. Eminent conductors, such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Erich Kleiber, Willem Mengelberg, Leopold Stokowski, and Bruno Walter, championed his compositions while they were active, but the next generation of conductors has not played many of Sekles’s works. Originally from Ukraine, Violinist Solomia Soroka currently teaches in Indiana. Noreen Silver is from Scotland, but teaches at the University of Maine as does her American husband, pianist Philip Silver. He has shown a particular interest in the music that was forbidden during the Third Reich because Hitler considered it “degenerate.” Of course that includes Sekles’s compositions. The Silvers are also members of the Jerusalem-based Van Leer Trio.

Sekles’s Chaconne features many short variations on an eight-measure march. Some are percussive, others are more lyrical. Most feature the viola, and Soroka plays a wonderful deep-toned Gagliano. Other variations show off Philip Silver’s piano playing. All of them are engaging and propulsive. The Cello Sonata, played by Noreen and Philip Silver, begins with a somber, dramatic passage. Written in 1919, it may be one of the last representations of true 19th-century Romanticism. Its second movement, marked trozig or defiant, may embody the cries of the common people of a defeated nation trying not to be forgotten. The Intermezzo, starts off with brilliantly played fireworks from the pianist. Sekles finishes his sonata with a theme and variations, a form that he always uses well. It’s a catchy tune, but it’s not as well known as the melody that ends the next selection. The first movement of the Capriccio in Four Movements for Piano Trio starts off with a downward melody that suggests controlled pathos. The lively “Scherzino” gallops along at a wild pace that makes you wonder where Sekles is leading you. The piece calms down at the third movement, however, and the finale offers some genuine fun, a delightful set of variations on Yankee Doodle . It shows what a great composer can do with the simplest of tunes and, by itself, it would make a fine encore. The Violin Sonata has the opus number of 44, so it was probably written late in Sekles’s career. Insistent violin figures draw you into the dance-like beginning of this piece, which leads into a charming Andantino . The third movement flies by on the most transparent of wings and the work ends with a subtle but majestic Allegro . Soroka is a wonderful technician, but I think that some of the top notes she plays here without vibrato could sound more refined. That is, however, a minor complaint when the disc is considered as a whole. Zuk Records also has excellent renditions of the cello sonata, the capriccio, and the violin sonata by violinist Marat Dickermann and cellist László Fenyö with pianists Julia Okruashvili and Monica Gutman. Personally, I prefer the ambiance and sound quality of the Toccata recording, although both discs contain worthwhile performances.

FANFARE: Maria Nockin
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Works on This Recording

Chaconne on an Eight-Bar March Theme, Op. 38 by Bernhard Sekles
Performer:  Phillip Silver (Piano), Solomia Soroka (Viola)
Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 28 by Bernhard Sekles
Performer:  Phillip Silver (Piano), Noreen Silver (Cello), Solomia Soroka (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Capriccio by Bernhard Sekles
Performer:  Phillip Silver (Piano), Noreen Silver (Cello), Solomia Soroka (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932 
Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 44 by Bernhard Sekles
Performer:  Solomia Soroka (Violin), Phillip Silver (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1933 

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