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Critic's Notebook: Reviving forgotten composers on CD

September 4, 2010 |  6:04 am
Records When it comes to the arts, summer in the city is a time for timidity, especially when we venture out of doors. Classical music audiences are expected to go to places like the Hollywood Bowl to hear what we already know, always the same composers and their most familiar pieces. If picnickers on the grounds are not necessarily unadventurous in trying a new dish or wine, might not we be served a sampling of new music as well?

My remedy this time of year is to surf my stereo. The record business, despite sensationalized reports, is not dead, not the classical record business anyway. I have, piled in front of me, stacks of CDs — actual physical CDs, some lavishly packaged, some in glorious Super Audio CD sound (SACD is not dead either). On these discs are symphonies and string quartets and arias and piano sonatas from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries by composers I've read about only in music history texts and by composers I never knew existed. Have you ever heard of Asger Hamerik, Robert de Roos or Günter Raphael?

Hats off to anyone who knows the name Marcel Tyberg. The score to his Third Symphony, written just before the composer's death in Auschwitz, was lying in a basement in Buffalo, N.Y., until conductor JoAnn Falletta was persuaded to perform it with the Buffalo Philharmonic; Naxos released their recording Tuesday. A special prize to anyone who has worked through George Onslow's 70 string quartets and quintets. The three quartets played by Quatuor Diotima and on a Naïve recording are but a start for a composer once considered the French Beethoven.

For a Sunday CD survey, I plow through these recent releases.

-- Mark Swed

Photo: Recent releases of music by forgotten composers. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.