SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
ERNST TOCH: Symphony for Piano and Orchestra Op. 61; Quintet for Piano and Strings Op. 64 – Diane Andersen, piano/ Staatskapelle Halle/ Hans Rotman/ Daniel Quartet – Talent
Published on November 13, 2007
Toch was born in Vienna in a home where music had no place. He lived and taught in Mannheim until 1929 and emigrated to California in 1936. One of his students in the U.S. was Andre Previn; he lived until 1964. Toch was prominent in the modern music movement, with Hindemith and others, but he didn’t follow the dictates of the Schoenberg School of serialism until his last string quartet. His music is not strongly tonal, but characterized by strong formal logic and structure.
His piano music often shows great virtuosity and this is heard in his Symphony for Piano of 1926. Its first movement uses two fairly melodic and happy-sounding themes, and it shows his occasional use of both humor and irony. The second movement main theme sound almost like a Tarentella. The fourth, last and longest movement is subtitled Cyclus Variabilis. Its unusual structure is a type of rondo, with a series of eight long, different and thematically-unconnected parts.
The Piano Quintet is also an unusual work in that Toch wrote later that he never should have written it – “I do not think that the sound combination of piano and strings is right and at the advantage of both instrument groups.” Well. The work lacks some of the expected Toch touches of humor and irony, but is an interesting work that should be part of chamber music programs. The four movements have the most generally-communicative titles I have ever seen on a work of music: The Lyrical Part, The Whimsical Part, The Contemplative Part, The Dramatic Part. Much of it contrasts simple melodies against dissonant tri-tone chords. Toch’s chromatic polyphony is in full bloom. The hi-res surround sonics are excellent and pianist Andersen is outstanding.
– John Sunier