Enna: Symphony No. 2 (CD review)

Also, Fairy Tales: Symphonic Pictures; Hans Christian Andersen Overture. Michael Hofstetter, NDR Radio Philharmonic, Hanover. CPO 777-035-2.

At one time Danish violinist, conductor, and composer August Enna ((1859-1939) was among the most-popular Nordic musicians in the world, but we don't hear much about him anymore. He came to prominence with his Wagnerian-inspired, fairy-tale operas, operettas, choral works, ballets, symphonies, concertos, songs, and orchestral music. Still, time and styles change, and today the world has largely forgotten the man. Fortunately, we get the occasional album such as this one devoted to some of his more-accessible creations.

The disc starts with Fairy Tales: Symphonic Pictures (1905), a four-movement suite of tone poems apparently inspired by the writings of fellow countryman Hans Christian Andersen. However, without much to suggest what stories go with what tunes, it's hard to tell exactly what the music represents. Because Enna divided the Fairy Tales into four sections, it makes the whole work seem something like a traditional symphony, starting with a slowly building Allegro, then a slightly foreboding Andante, followed by what is essentially a third-movement scherzo (Allegro vivace), and concluding with another highly dramatic Allegro. Maestro Michael Hofstetter and the NDR Radio Philharmonic perform it with a restrained gusto that seems appropriate to the mood.

Next in the program we find the Hans Christian Andersen Festival Overture (1905). Like the Fairy Tales, the Overture is mainly atmospheric, a tone piece meant to remind the listener of fairy tales in general rather than any particular ones.

The album ends with Enna's Symphony No. 2 in E major (1908). Truth be told, this doesn't sound a whole lot different to me than the Fairy Tales. It's colorful and brawny, to be sure, but it doesn't exhibit the wealth of melodies or the musical innovation that would have made it popular to our own day. Still, Hofstetter does what he can with it, and there are several delightful moments along the way reminding one at least in part of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel (written a decade earlier).

Although CPO released this disc in 2011, they recorded it in 2004-05. While the sound they obtained is a tad thin and sharp edged, it's fairly clean, clear, and dynamic, too, making it easy to distinguish much inner detailing. There's a pleasant depth to the orchestral stage and acceptable width, with a prominent but not-at-all forwardness to the upper bass/lower midrange. In short, the sonics are more transparent than those in most modern recordings, even though they are not really in the ultimate demonstration class.

JJP

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa