Monday, November 15, 2010
More germane to the blog is the hell I experienced installing a new, 24 bit sound-card. Though my "new" M-audio 2496 is is not state-of-the-art, it is a significant improvement over the old Soundblaster I was using. Unfortunately, uninstalling my Creative hardware drivers also removed the multimedia audio controller from the computer. It took a couple of days (remember I'm not at my brightest!) to figure out that I could download new ones from Dell. Then it was another week before all the functions on the new card worked. I still don't know how I got the mixer finally to regulate recording volume, but I'll take that gift and be grateful for it.
The first order of business was to re-record and renovate the Op. 59 No. 2 of the Budapest set of Beethoven's middle quartets. That's done and posted and can be downloaded anew at the link on the original post. While only the last movement had a skip, patching in a movement recorded on a different card seems chancy, so I reupped the entire quartet, flac and mp3.
Future posts will be recorded in 24bit 96khz and sampled down to CD quality specs before posting. If anyone wants a 24 bit flac, please ask, as I will not be putting them up as a matter of course. Debate rages about whether or not 24bit masters make any difference. I think they do, although the benefit is not necessarily apparent -- more felt than heard I guess. I wanted to try it, anyway. I'd love to hear any feedback on the issue or on subsequent posts with the new card.
And, though Dylan Thomas had death, not winter in mind, "Rage against the dying of the light.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Thanks for your understanding.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Recorded in Vienna in 1964, in stereo, this is one of the best in Scherchen's many notable Bach recordings. The recorded sound is better, Scherchen's approach to the music had developed a bit, but had not lost its sincerity ("Sincere" is the characterization of David Federman for the performances), the orchestra is secure and its playing stylish, without "authentic" affectations, and the performance was blessed with the best set of solists Scherchen was able to pull together for this project.
No. 35, "Geist und Seele wird verwirret", is a contralto cantata sung by the incomparable Maureen Forrester, the sensuous beauty of whose voice adds immeasurably to the spiritual import of the music, as odd as that may seem to certain manichean sensibilities. (I confess that the poems of St. John of the Cross, The Song of Songs, Bernini's Saint Sebastian speak more to me of the possibility of God than all the dry, questionable assertions of theologians and others who speak of what cannot be spoken through history. The creator of this universe, if there be one, is nothing if not transcendentally voluptuous.)
Number 42, "Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats", for the first Sunday after Easter, or Quasimodigenti, is an exquisite cantata, exquisitely sung here by the fine vocal quartet mentioned above -- Teresa Stich-Randall, Maureen Forrester, Alexander Young, and John Boyden. Listen in particular to the "Despair not" duet for Soprano and Tenor and try to imagine it sung more perfectly.
I believe that this record is the last of Scherchen's Bach Cantata recordings, the others having come much earlier. I have not seen a citation, nor to I own, any cantata recordings later than this. If it was, indeed, the last of the series, it was a stunning and fitting end to an important recording project. Scherchen died in 1966, mourned by many ever since.
Link to all files
Friday, October 22, 2010
This record was very kindly provided to me by a visitor to the blog, Ray Pratt. He mailed me the LP, even sending a second, clearer copy when he found one.
The performance is what finally made sense of this sonata for me. The difficulty I had "getting it", even through performances by brilliant pianists, including my beloved Rudolph Serkin, undoubtedly speaks to a lack in my musical insights and abilities, but I am grateful to finally be enlightened. Petri recorded the work earlier, and that recording was issued on a Columbia Special Products LP which I have long owned. While it went some way in lifting the veil of my incomprehension, I had to wait for this Westminster recording to finally find my way fully into the work.
My difficulty with the Hammerklavier has been embarrassing, a little bit like one's initial struggling to understand the subjunctive voice -- elusive and not really felt in one's bones. To finally hear the piece as a whole is deeply gratifying.
I replaced the original cover art photo included with this post with a much improved version that a friend of the blog, Jan Henrik Amberg, very kindly sent to me. Many thanks. The visitors here are so often so helpful; my occasional misanthropy is humbled
Links to all files
Friday, September 3, 2010
Here is the next post in the series of Bach cantatas led by Hermann Scherchen. Unlike previous posts it was taken, not from the original early fifties release, but from a later reissue. Fortunately, though, it was a mono issue, not the subsequent phony stereo release in a Westminster multiple LP set.
Link to all files
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Sorry for the inconvenience this may cause anyone wishing to download a better version.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Two more great Bach cantatas in superlative performances. The Cantata No. 76 was recorded from an original pressing issued in 1953; the Gottes Zeit from a later pressing, but thankfully not one of the fake stereo ones. I have doctored the cover art to include both works on the original LP front from No. 76. The soloists on the 106, though, are Alfred Poell and Hilde Rössel-Madjan.
Bear in mind that the records used for most of this series are almost 60 years old (like me). I have filtered them lightly in DartPro 24, though, not really concerned about removing every barely audible surface flaw on them. Though they are significantly cleaned up, there is the occasional slight click that might remain; I manually remove those I feel are bothersome but do not chase down every last one of them.
More significantly, the original records delivered a muddy choral sound, where the inner voices often disappeared into a sonic grumble. That did bother me, especially in this music, so I have done some re-equalizing. I am always loathe to do so; one man's "opening up the top" is another's "treble screech", but the ability to hear the counterpoint suffered from the sonic fog of the originals. To fix it I gave the midtones a boost and did a very slight gain on the low bass, and high treble, which seemed cut off, even though I use a cartridge/stylus combination with an extended treble response. It did open up the choral opaqueness a bit and allow more separation of vocal lines, and I believe the overall balance remains reasonably good. I would be happy to hear what you think, though, as I am anything but a professional sound engineer, and the impression the files make on fresh ears would be valuable to know. I am aware from having printed custom photographs professionally for many years, that our senses, too tensely concentrated, can play tricks on us.
Once again the text and translation can be found at the website of Emmanuel Church in Boston, where the great Craig Smith led the music program for many years. John Harbison stepped up to the plate when Smith passed away. http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/nt_notes_transl_cantatas.htm#pab1_7
Link to all files
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
This post is for my friend, colleague, trumpet player, and fellow Bostonian, Fred, at Random Classics. I say "fellow Bostonian even if I have not lived there for over 18 years, because I retain a certain home town feeling for the BSO, especially in its Koussevitzsky and Munch days, and am thus thrilled to present this record of Roger Voisin, 1st trumpet in the orchestra until Leinsdorf demoted him in a fit of Teutonic pique.
This is trumpet music and trumpet playing at its most wonderfully assertive, demanding assent and getting it -- music with tremendous positive energy that I find gets the juices going even on days when I'm not exactly rearing to go or in any mood to say "yes" to much of anything.
In short, a delight.
Link to all files
This is the second post in an ongoing project to put up Scherchen's Bach Cantata recordings. My feelings about these performances was expressed in the first post, and there is abundant information about these works available from sources more knowledgeable than I. I will only add the perhaps uninteresting note that the Wachet Auf included on this record is my favorite recorded performance. There are many, many others I like, and with soprano soloists a whole lot more appealing to me than Magda Laszlo, but this remains to my mind the most deeply felt, even if not the most beautifully sung performance of this work on record. One sometimes loses the sense of the sacred cantatas as church music, especially if, like me, you do not speak German. But the musical expression here is profoundly liturgical, and though I do not share Bach's religious beliefs, the profound truth of those beliefs to him is evident through this performance, and is deeply moving.
Link to all files
Sunday, August 8, 2010
With this post I begin a project to make available as many of the Bach cantatas lead by Hermann Scherchen as I have that are not otherwise available. Although the solo singers in some of the recordings to follow are not particularly to my taste, these three cantatas for solo contralto feature the wonderful Hilde Roessel-Magdan.
Scherchen’s Bach has always been controversial, even in its day, and it has become increasingly so to those raised on original instrument performances of the composer. I will say no more than that I find it musically convincing most of the time. Its old fashioned musical values transcend transient, contemporary notions of authenticity as a musical value in itself. Moreover, we would be foolish to think that current performance technique is the final word in the evolution of instrumental and vocal practice. As one of the first conductors to record a large series of the most famous cantatas, Scherchen captured a new and appreciative audience for these glorious works and helped open the way for recordings of the complete set. They should be known for their historical importance, if for no other reason (though, as I said, I believe there are many other solid reasons to listen to them).
The three contralto cantatas in question (Nos. 53, 54, and 170) are some of the most sublime music the master wrote. They are (or were) also available in a glorious recording by Maureen Forrester with Antonio Janigro conducting the Solisti de Zagreb, which I will post if I find it is not available. Those wishing a more modern vocal technique and a more stylish accompaniment might want to acquire it.
I am posting what I can of Scherchen’s recordings of these works for those who enjoy this older, and individual (it is Scherchen, after all) way of performing Bach. I will not defend my taste, nor Scherchen’s musicianship. Those who share my enjoyment of these records and this conductor will likely be happy to see them digitized and made available; those who do not like them should be warned that no comments denigrating them will convince me. I know the arguments against them and am aware of the various shortcomings attributed to them, and I am convinced that their strengths far outweigh them, where they even exist. But feel free to comment as you wish within the bounds of courteous discourse.
Texts and translations of 54 and 170 can be found here: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/nt_notes_transl_cantatas.htm
The translation and text of No. 53 can be found here: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV53-Eng3.htm
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Here is one for my friend, Buster, whose blog I checked before posting it. (To make sure he had not) It's "A Collection of Tangos: Inspired by the Technicolor Motion Picture Valentino - The Loves and Times of Rudolph Valentino." The movie stars Anthony Dexter and Eleanor Parker. More about it can be discovered here: http://www.gildasattic.com/valentino1951.html The performances here are by The Castilians under Victor Young. I believe they played many, if not all of the same pieces in the movie.
My love affair with tangos probably began as a kid watching Warner Brothers' cartoons in the 50s, but it took off watching Jack Lemmon (Daphne) and Joe E. Brown (Osgood Fielding III) dancing to La Cumparsita in Some Like It Hot, surely a contender for the funniest movie ever made. It has left me with the unfortunate and inappropriate urge to giggle when I hear a tango, especially that one, but it has not compromised my unfettered enjoyment of these wonderful dance tunes.
Here's a single white carnation to clench in your teeth (like Daphne!) while you dance.
Link to All Files
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Here at last is the Cherubini Requiem in C minor that I mentioned quite some time ago I would be posting. This one is for my old friend, Jerry Parker, a Cherubini expert who provided the LP for me.
The work was written after the restoration of the French monarchy to commemorate the execution by guillotine of King Louis XVI. In listening to the ferocity of some of the music, one is not surprised to learn that Cherubini was forced to play in bands that accompanied many beheadings. The gongs in both the Marche funebre and Dies Irae suggest the terrifying blade at least as forcefully as the slashing blade strokes of the guillotine in Dialogs of the Carmelites, and point to the abject terror inspired by final judgement in many guises.
I hope you enjoy this great and too often neglected masterpiece.
Link to all files
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Cesare Siepi: February 10, 1923 - July 5, 2010
The record was oddly recorded; you can hear the mike being adjusted near the beginning of one or two songs, and the sound is slightly muddy. I decided against re-equalizing, fearing it would cause more problems than it would solve; if I discover otherwise later, I'll re-up the post.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
This recording with the composer at piano, from 1946, may suffer noticeable sonic deficits from the recording technology of the era, and, undoubtedly, from my attempts to digitize an LP of it with lots of wear and scratches. One would be hard pressed to challenge its musical authority, though, given the players involved.
In contrast to the somber and sardonic musings of Shostakovich, the Prokofiev quartet is notably uncomplicated. It is played here convincingly by the sometimes underrated Fine Arts Quartet. It has been suggested to me that its early association with a broadcast company (ABC) may account for the Fine Arts being rated less highly than it merits. With the virtually beatified Toscanini leading the NBC Orchestra, though, it seems unlikely that a broadcast association would cause significant difficulty to a reputation. In any event, they were never anything less than first rate.
Link to all files
Friday, June 25, 2010
For me, this is THE recording of the Ravel trio. It is played with a refinement and palette of tonal color that one rarely encounters in any music, and is a pure pleasure to hear. The instrumentalist's understanding of each other results in a performance that is profoundly controlled, in spite of an overarching sense of improvisational abandon, and beautifully phrased throughout. It is an effort between musical peers with deep sympathy for each other, for the score, and for the arts of instrumental color. After all these years, nothing has replaced it in my affections.
Link to all files
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Richard Wilbur, translation
Jorge Luis Borges: Ewigkeit
One thing does not exist: Oblivion.
God saves the metal and he saves the dross.
And his prophetic memory guards from loss
The moons to come, and those of evenings gone.
Everything is: the shadows in the glass
Which, in between the day’s two twilights, you
Have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
Henceforward in the mirrors that you pass.
And everything is part of that diverse
Crystalline memory, the universe;
Whoever through its endless mazes wanders
Hears door on door click shut behind his stride,
And only from the sunset’s farther side
Shall view at last the Archetypes and the Splendors.
This is the record that introduced me to the great Canadian contralto, Maureen Forrester, who died yesterday at the age of 79 from complications of Alzheimer's disease, from which she had suffered for a number of years. She was a humane, funny, down-to-earth person, and over the top hilarious as the witch in Hansel and Gretel in a television version of that opera. And she possessed a voice of enviable focus and beauty, surely one of the very greatest contraltos of the twentieth century. She it was who once stated that contraltos were consigned to play "witches and bitches" in the operatic repertory.
Her death, more than most, saddens me. Through the years the sheer, velvety beauty of her voice had the capacity to console me in hard times and to help me rejoice in good ones. Her recordings of Bach cantatas, especially, are hard to beat. As I said, this record introduced me to this great singer. I do not know if it is available on CD; I'm posting it today as a heart-felt, musical tribute to an artist of deep musical integrity and a woman of vast good humor and expansive humanity, whose loss I feel personally.
One does not hear Bach sung like this these days. More's the pity.
ADDENDUM: The Amadeus label apparently made this record available on CD, though the prices it is selling for on Amazon indicate it must be out of print.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
This record has been reissued in its entirety by Naxos, for MP3 download only, and even that is not available to anyone connecting to the site from the U.S. So, although there is one nasty skip toward the end of Cakewalk, I thought I would post it anyway, as it is not a record I have seen a lot. I even pulled out the DJ scratch arm that came with the turntable and a heavy tracking stylus/cartridge combination thinking it might track with that. No luck.
I am offering it anyway because I suspect it might be rather hard to find and the music and performances are well worth the effort of digitizing. Gottschalk’s music, as arranged for orchestra by Hershey Kay, is unadulterated fun. There’s no other way to put it. When I play the piece it is hard not to get up and dance about, admittedly looking a bit foolish, but with a kind of “who cares” “devil may care” delight.
Mitropoulos and Ormandy conduct their respective works admirably, with special kudos going to Mitropoulos. Kudos to all involved, even Columbia's engineers, who gave Mitropoulos a technically decent recording this time round.
Monday, June 14, 2010
This is a very nice recording, despite the drubbing Biggs took from the Gramophone reviewer of the time, who apparently had a horror of interestingly registered color and anything that, as he writes, might "ipater (sic) les bourgeois." I assume he means "épater" (amaze or impress) , but he in any event ends up revealing a good deal about his own shabby snobbery.
I guess I am one of that horrid bourgeois (without, however, enjoying the pedestrian, creature comforts that implies), because Biggs has always been my favorite organist. I do not find most organ playing very interesting; Biggs makes it very interesting, undoubtedly by appealing to my philistine musical sensibilities. So be it. I will add to my musical boorishness by recommending highly this wonderful piece by Poulenc, and the glorious recording of it made by Biggs and Burgin on the Aeolian Skinner organ in Boston's Symphony Hall.
The Franck recordings presented here are among the most satisfying performances I have heard of the works, and the sound is very good for the era, which was capable of producing quite wonderful recordings.
The Poulenc was recorded in 1948 and issued on a Columbia 78 set; Biggs and Burgin performed the symphony at that time in Symphony Hall, Boston, which makes me suspect that the Columbia Symphony, in this instance, is in fact the BSO, which was under contract with RCA. The Franck was first issued in 1950 on this LP, Columbia ML 4329
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
In all my years of scouring thrift stores, I do not recall ever having seen this record until yesterday afternoon in a local Goodwill store. However I do recall having dismissed Escales as a piece of Gallic fluff of no particular interest to me. In my desuetude, however -- which I like to think of as my maturity -- I find I quite like the piece. I'm posting it here both because it is not a work often performed now and for the inherent interest of hearing the composer conduct his own work. It is a charming, beautifully constructed score, well worth listening to in its own right, despite my supercilious, youthful dismissal of it.
I had never heard Les Amours de Jupiter, and while in general I am neither a balletomane nor a frequent listener of ballet music, the piece is lovely and rewards sympathetic listening.
Ibert conducts the Orchestra of the Paris Opera (Orchestre de l'Opéra national de Paris), the oldest of French orchestras, founded in 1669, which plays these scores with idiomatic flair, and the recording is a great sounding monaural effort by Capitol Records that gives the lie to the notion that beautifully recorded sound only became available with the advent of stereo.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I have done.
Link to all files
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Today I am putting up the first two quartets of Op. 50, No. 1 in B flat and No. 2 in C. The other four will follow shortly, so check back to this posting to which I will simply add the others over the next several days.
June 6, 2010
The 3rd and 4th quartets in the group are now available in the same folder, linked below.
The 5th and 6th quartets of op 50 have now been posted.
Friday, April 30, 2010
PETE SEEGER, vocal/banjo; LEE HAYS, vocal; MILLARD LAMPELL, vocal; JOSH WHITE, guitar/vocal; SAM GARY, CAROL WHITE, BESS LOMAX HAWES, vocal
My father was a union man, and -- boy! --did he ever talk union at the dinner table! In my childhood home, I swear the order of allegiance was FDR first, then God, then the Pope. Everything else followed logically from that. So I have a natural and abiding affection for -- and commitment to -- the political content of these songs.
That aside, though, they are a delightful bit of American labor history, as well as an early manifestation of what would be the folk revival of the mid twentieth century. Shortly after these recordings were made, Woodie Guthrie joined the group, which eventually became The Weavers. The invincible Pete Seeger is still with us, and still agitating for his beliefs through song.
There is a surfeit of material on May Day in all its many guises, so I will simply leave this small, musical offering of one of them. And, of course, I wish you a Happy May Day -- whether of May baskets (which I delivered to my friends as a small child), of Marian devotions, or, as here, in honor of the laboring, anonymous masses who have given so much, often for so little.
Link to all files
The music files are directly from the 78s, with no filters run. There's more noise, but more presence, too, and somehow a sense of "being there." Or maybe I imagine it.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The current absence began with my car unexpectedly giving up the ghost, requiring the purchase of a new automobile. I assume I'm not alone in feeling like I've just jumped off a cliff when I buy a new car -- on time, bien sûr!; I'm very American that way. I've also increased my work hours, a good thing, given my automotive needs, and I'm experiencing unusually debilitating Spring allergies that leave me with almost no energy for personal projects after work. Also, my elderly mother was hospitalized recently, as a result, it turns out, of a misprescribed medication. But it caused some anxious days.
In terms of things musical: The new car has a very nice sound system for its class, with satellite radio. I'm listening to a lot of blues and jazz while driving. And I have a stack of LPs I want to get to work on.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge the brilliant musical career of Arthur Winograd, who passed away last Thursday, April 22, at the age of 90. Tonight I plan to listen to the first Julliard recording of some of the Bartok quartets, in which Winograd was cellist, as a kind of "in memoriam" to this fine musician.
My next post will contain music.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Alfred Gallodoro, when he was playing with the NBC orchestra or in other classical venues, and "Al" when he was playing jazz, including alto sax for Paul Whitman, was a clarinetist of considerable refinement and tonal beauty. I am posting this record (an LP issue of a 78 set recorded in 1947/48) despite its sad condition, because the performance it contains is notably lovely, and for the historical importance of its players.
The inner grooves of the first side of the LP, comprising the last minutes of the beautiful and delicate second movement, look like they were played by a roofing nail, and my heart sank when I saw this damage to an LP in otherwise well used but OK condition. A conical stylus, tracking at a higher weight, though still by no means heavy (2.5gm) picked up less distortion than the fine line or elliptical stylus, so that is was I recorded it with. The last minute and a half of the second movement is the worst of it, but with some careful treatment of that section I was able to minimize the obvious effect of the abuse. There is some distortion, but it does not jump out and overwhelm the music, as it did on the first play I made of this disc.
The performance is well worth putting up with this small area of ameliorated sonic imperfection, though I urge anyone who might have a better copy of this recording to post it, or send me a sound file from it to post --with due acknowledgement, of course.
Oh! And the record is red vinyl. I can't help it; as many as I have seen, that still tickles me -- not red exactly, but pink.
Link to all files
Saturday, April 10, 2010
These two recordings, to the best of my knowledge, are not currently available on CD. The Reiner Masterworks Heritage CD containing this recording is listed on Amazon for absurdly high prices, indicating it is not longer in the catalog. It is a brilliant remastering and I would strongly recommend getting the CD if you can find it at a reasonable price. Though I own it, I have used my well used, thrift store LP for the renovation, in line with my stated intent not to post other's digital work. It cleaned up rather well.
The Mitropoulos recording of the Fifth Symphony, with the "Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York", was the first performance of the first Shostakovich piece I ever heard, when I checked the record out of the Thayer Public Library in Braintree, Massachusetts as a sophomore or junior in high school. (Many thanks to that library for its small but sterling collection of classical records which introduced me also to the Oistrakh/Mitropoulos recording of the Violin Concerto of the same composer and so many other great recordings.) After all these years, it is still my favorite performance on record, despite the less than brilliant sonic properties of the Columbia LP, which I have tried to improve as much as I felt was prudent.
Unfortunately, Mitropoulos, one of the very greatest musicians of the last century, more often than not suffered from poor or, at best, mediocre recording. The recording of the 6th symphony with Reiner predates by several years that of the 5th by Mitropoulos, and was issued originally on 78s; it is nonetheless superior sonically.
Both of these records contain performances of reference of the works in question, and it has been a pleasure and privilege to restore them for this post.
Link to all files
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Here is the recording of Ormandy conducting work of the second Vienna School that I promised would be the follow-up to the tribute on the 25th anniversary of his death. The two Webern works on this record were discovered only in the 1960s and received their first performances by Ormandy and his orchestra. Rather than unnecessarily re-write a lot of text, I have photographed the back of the album, which has the pertinent information. I would only add that the Sommerwind is more Post-romantic than what we normally expect from Webern and the the 3 pieces are performed with a delicacy that does justice to a composer whose music is more apt to be thought of in terms of harmonic violence rather than the astonishing refinement of its polyphony.
The Lulu Suite presented here sounds to me less repulsed by Lulu's amorality than saddened by the destruction of her humanity. A kind of Lulu as tragic heroine, if you like. And if you don't --well -- I won't insist on it!The Schoenberg Theme and Variations, first conceived as a piece for band, gives us a triumphantly tonal work late in Schoenberg's career. Whatever dodecophonic ideologues may have said during the musical culture wars of the middle and late twentieth century, the head honcho of the whole movement stated unequivocally that there was still plenty of good music to be written in C major. Though without Schoenberg's authority, I would still add that there is undoubtedly still plenty of good music to be written using serial techniques and charts of tone rows.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
March 12, 2010 was the 25th anniversary of the death of Eugene Ormandy. It was also the 94th birthday of my beloved mother, still active and alert in a suburb of Boston, so I may be forgiven for forgetting Dr. Ormandy until now.
Still, having just remembered the missed milestone -- we measure such things in chunks of 10 and 25 years, it seems -- I did not want to let further time pass without some words about a musician much maligned, whose recordings are nonetheless, everywhere, because they sold so well, on CD no less than on records, and who was really a very fine musician, despite the familiarity that bred so much contempt for him.
There is no lack of authority upon whom to base a sour view of the great Philadelphian: Stravinsky and Klemperer both ranked him first among second rate conductors, but both, too, were infamously uncharitable toward other musicians; Stravinsky also dismissed Koussevitzsky, Ansermet, and Furtwangler, while Klemperer bad-mouthed Istvan Kertesz and Josef Krips, among others.
I am certainly not going to argue with other people's taste; there are musical people who do not like Ormandy for reasons that have nothing to do with popular, elite pressure or the opinions of others in any way. His method of attack could seem weak to those who naturally admired Toscanini. Since I never took to Toscanini's ways, finding him often musically brutal, whatever his technical prowess may have been, that was never an issue with me. Still, Ormandy's less taut approach to music making at times, and his sometimes seemingly casual phrasing, can disturb many. I was among them once, but my opinions of the conductor have changed to allow that he did estimable work in more than the composers I will mention next, for whom I believe he had a special affinity.
If I still enjoy and want to hear tighter, tauter, more sinewy renditions of Sibelius, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and Shostakovitch, I nonetheless find Ormandy's way with these composers unsurpassed. If his work in the 1st Vienna School has been cause for some of the least kind remarks about him, he still did a very great recording of the Schubert 4th and 6th symphonies that ranks with the very best performances on record -- that of Beecham, a true hero of mine, among them. And his recording of the Second Vienna School, the musical offering that will posted subsequent to this tribute, demonstrates both that he was a musician of secure technical means, and that twelve tone music can be breathtakingly beautiful. That he maintained the Philadelphia Orchestra in peak form for almost 50 years cannot be attributed to the never ending legacy of Stokowski. As his work in Minnesota demonstrates, Ormandy held his own credentials as an orchestra builder; that he chose to keep the "Philadelphia Sound" created by his predecessor largely intact, is no shame to him, despite Ricardo Muti's sneering comments about it. It was a sound well worth preserving. Would that Seijii Ozawa had been as careful with the French heritage of the BSO.
He approached modern and new music fearlessly, in a spirit of service and collegiality, and probably did more for contemporary composers than any other leader of a major American orchestra in his time. Think of musicians associated with him, for many of whom he did first performances and/or first recordings: Persichetti, Lutoslawski, William Schumann, Shostakovitch, Samuel Barber, Roger Sessions, Rachmaninoff, Walter Piston, Prokofiev, Ned Rorem. And the list goes on. Concerto recordings he made with Serkin, Szigeti, and a host of others remain in the catalog not just for the soloists, but for the impeccably musical accompaniment Ormandy gave them. His recording of Three Places in New England is gorgeous, and I recommend without hesitation any of his Ives performances.
Ormandy did not have Toscanini's oversized ego, Reiner's ruthless and even cruel podium manner, the beautiful weight of Klemperer's phrasing late in his career, the sexy buoyancy and rythmic verve of Leonard Bernstein. It is significant, though, that Ormandy anecdotes do not abound; his records sold for their musical virtues not the cult status of the conductor. In fact he is sometimes faulted for not imprinting his personality on the music, for not asserting an Ormandy style. It's an absurd criticism. Ormandy never meant to express HIS personality through the score. He meant, to the best of his ability, to elicit the musical intent of the composer, or, failing that, to produce a compelling and musically intelligent rendering of the score. More often than not, he succeeded.
These are gorgeous pieces of music, and the performances, by a trio of players, each individually accomplished, who played and recorded a good deal together, are eloquent demonstration to the musicians' talents in chamber music. The record is a very beat up thrift store find, which I think you will find cleaned up very nicely in DartPro 24 (No, I don't own stock in the company; I just like the software and think it should be known as an alternative to some of the big brand name programs). Some barely perceptible noise here and there was still left after the filters run on the entire file, and they could have been addressed individually. They are so slight I did not think it was worth the effort, so left them. Those raised and addicted to DDD recordings are hereby forewarned. I have, however, posted the unprocessed wav files, resampled down to 44.1khz and encoded in lossless FLAC, for anyone who wants to take a crack a them.
I do not know Jean Pougnet other than by his work with the musicians presented here, but he was a highly respected British (yes British!) musician whose late career was marked by tragedy. Anthony Pini we have met previously on this blog, playing the cello part of the Brahms clarinet trio with Louis Kentner and Reginald Kell. He made a famous and still quite worthy recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto with Van Beinum, whose work I like a lot, and who will inevitably make an appearance on Vinyl Fatigue. Frederick Riddle made a terrific recording of Harold in Italy with Hermann Sherchen. If that record lacks an overall French sensibility, that is probably Scherchen's doing. I'm very fond of it, regardless, and Riddle is beyond reproach.
Link to all files
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Included in this post is most of the music from two LPs Trampler made for RCA Red Seal. I had assumed they would be available on CD and was surprised to discover they are not. Of the two LPs only the 5'43" Stravinksy Elégie on the Solo Viola disc would not fit on an 80 minute CD, so I have saved it for a subsequent post.
There are two sonatas for Viola and Piano of Hindemith (RCA Red Seal LSC-3012) that Trampler recorded with Ronald Turini, an artist with whom I am otherwise unfamiliar. The F major sonata (dated 1922, though written during the war) Op. 11, No. 4 is a delightful, chromatic, post-romantic composition, expansive in its expression, even if not unduly emotional. The Sonata 1939 is more firmly planted in the new century and shares the emotional austerity of so much art in the years between the world wars and subsequently. It is, nonetheless, despite its lack of key signature and free chromaticism, a work that does not wander too far from suggestions of a tonal center, however changeable.
The Hindemith Solo viola Sonata Op 25, No. 1 and the two Reger Suites for solo viola all seem to bow deeply before the solo violin partitas and sonatas and the solo cello suites of J.S. Bach. The Reger compositions are virtually an homage to Bach's suites, which will surprise no one familiar with the later composer's Bach Variations for piano (played stunningly in an easy to get recording by Rudolph Serkin). The Hindemith sonata is, perhaps, not so obviously indebted to Bach, but it is hard to imagine this music without the model of the earlier master. Indeed, the sense of musical continuity one experiences listening to this record is profoundly satisfying.
(A brief, personal aside: My inability to concentrate and to think coherently recently, due to fatigue induced by Spring allergies, has kept me from posting this for several days. So, for the moment, while I do hope I have not embarrassed myself too much by making stupid mistakes, I want to get Trampler's performances of these works up. I think they are superb. )
The text file included in the files linked below included the track listing and other pertinent information. Downloading it is recommended.
4/10 @ 3:57 Mountain Time : Back CD insert posted
Link to all files
Monday, March 29, 2010
These performances by Joseph Szigeti, made in 1952 and 1959, were drawn from 3 different LPs. I owe the Bartok and Ives Sonatas to a Japanese pressing of a Philips disc - 13PC-95. The Cowell Sonata came from a Columbia Special Products LP in the Modern American Music Series. The work was dedicated to Szigeti, who worked closely with the composer during its composition, and who made this, its first recording, in 1952. The Webern 4 Pieces come from a Mercury LP MG50442.
Henry Cowell 1st Sonata for Violin and Piano with Carlo Bussotti, piano
Bela Bartok 2nd Sonata for Violin and Piano with Roy Bogas, piano
Charles Ives 4th Sonata for Violin and Piano with Roy Bogas
Anton Webern Four Pieces Op. 7 with Roy Bogas
By 1959 Szigeti was showing serious signs of technical decline owing to the progression of debilitating bone disease and arthritis. Nonetheless, there is a musical personality of strong convictions and a spirit of dedication to the works at hand that shines through these performances, making them indispensable to the Szigeti aficionado and a decided benefit to anyone with ears to hear music making that goes beyond ailing arms and fingers. The Bartok and Ives are works Szigeti recorded in his prime, being the first to record the Ives, and I highly recommend those performances; but these late efforts are justified by the musical intelligence of Szigeti's restless imagination, while the short Webern pieces, of unparallelled abstract beauty, are played with an intellectual and emotional commitment that belies the notion that the school of musical thought from which they arose is deservedly dead. In Szigeti's capable, though by now arthritic hands, this music gains the living breath it deserves.
The recording information is contained in a separate text file, available with the other linked content.
Link to all files
Saturday, March 27, 2010
This 1950 recording of the Wesendonck Leider by Eileen Farrell is available on Testament, coupled with scenes from Act three of Siegfried with the Rochester Philharmonic led by Erich Leinsdorf. The original incarnation of it, posted here, includes Stowkowski and "His" ubiquitous "Orchestra" in the Tannhauser Overture and Venusburg Music, played as one continuous track.
Farrell's Wesendonck songs are among the finest I have heard, right up there with Christa Ludwig and Marilyn Horne, to name two other artists I love to hear in this piece. Stokowski accompanies beautifully, sympathetically, without distracting musical showmanship, and Farrell's incomparably beautiful voice and musical intelligence are allowed to shine.
The orchestral side enjoys less transparent sound. Trying to compensate for it, I was not entirely successful, I feel, so I am posting a file that has been decrackled and dehissed but not re-equalized. I feel that letting the record speak for itself is best in these situations.
Link to all files
Monday, March 22, 2010
I am quite far behind in doing CD covers and inserts, so this and the previous post do not have them. If and when I catch up, I'll add them to the post, but it seemed more important not to wait and to get the music up. The tracks, as I created them are as follows:
1-4 Sonata in F minor Op 120. No. 1
5-7 Sonata in E flat Op. 120 No. 2
Link to all files
Saturday, March 20, 2010
I admit that until yesterday afternoon, when I happened upon the 78s at a local thrift store, I did not know this 1941 recording -- of the Brahms Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114 -- existed. If I ever knew I had forgotten, which seems unlikely, given that this is one of my favorite pieces of chamber music, played by some of my very favorite musicians. It is available on CD from the Testament label, but I thought I would try my hand at it from my newly acquired 78rpm discs.
There is no lingering self-pity or cloying sentimentality in this reading, which has something of the stiff upper lip about it. It startled me at first but quickly seemed entirely appropriate to the autumnal character of the score. The days do dwindle down to a precious few; love is sometimes unrequited; but that is, after all, the scheme of things, which goes beyond our personal remorse. A hint of regret is appropriate, maybe some sadness, but the world and life go on and one has to go with it.
The playing, needless to say, is lovely, sweet and nostalgic, and never gloomy. The players here are at the top of their form and the top of their class. The piano part, however, sounded like it was recorded with a microphone under the instrument; it was occasionally muddy, even opaque, but does not seriously distract from the performance in the renovated file. Until re-equalized, the bass of Kentner's lovely pianism was lost in a blurry bass grumble; notes literally disappeared into that sonic fog. About 25 seconds into the first movement the notes played by Kentner's left hand were nothing but a bass blur and could not be distinctly heard. That, at least, has been remedied, even if not to perfection. Perhaps the Testament CD has dealt with it better than I have been able to do -- I have not heard it and cannot say -- but overall the renovated file is quite acceptable even if still a bit bass heavy. I re-equalized as far as I thought was wise; further amelioration seemed to me to make matters worse and adjusting the bass on the player gave better results.
All that having been said, I still recommend this recording highly. The most offending of the sonic deficiencies have been corrected, and I believe the sound file now sounds rather good. Any comments or suggestions on the audio matters would be appreciated. As I said this is music I love by performers I love, so I would like to do the best possible renovation of the file.
I have extracted the zipped files before posting, as a safeguard against the frequent corrupt files showing up on Mediafire. There may still be problems associated with upload or download drops, though, so please let me know.
Link to Clarinet Trio
Friday, March 19, 2010
These are the first 78 singles I have posted, but I was so delighted with these two jazz finds from this afternoon that I could not resist. They have probably been released innumerable times on CD, but I am posting the raw, unprocessed recordings here, just as they transferred from my turntable to my computer hard drive in .wav format. I so delighted in listening to the sound of the needle tracking, its whooshing through the grooves, and the immediacy of the music, that I had to share the experience with my new friends on this blog. The beginning of the Brunswick sides are a little dull, especially China Boy, but the tracks brighten up quickly.
The personnel is listed on the pictures, above; clicking them to enlarge them to full size should make the lists pretty readable. But to name just a few in the Red Nichols group: Charlie and Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Glen Miller. Now that's a group to jam and reckon with! Here is what's included in the link:
China Boy: Red Nichols and His Five Pennies (1930)
Peg O'My Heart: Red Nichols and His Five Pennies (1930)
Scarecrow: Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (1941)
Time on My Hands: Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
Link to all files
This is one gorgeous, glorious performance of Bartok's Contrasts. Like so much of his music, this piece works quite as well performed in a hard edged, no nonsense modernist manner or, like here, with the deep lyricism inherent in the tunes underscored and built upon. My favorite recording of the quartets, the 2nd Juilliard from, I believe 1963, emphasizes the intellectual, modernist Bartok, but I would not for the world be without the Vegh Quartet recordings, which are decidedly more lyrical. However he is performed, Bartoks music has always seemed to me to be filled with incredible melodic invention, the dissonance, even in the very concentrated 3rd and 4th quartets, being the consequence of boundless polyphonic ingenuity. Anyway, that's how I hear Bartok.
The Milhaud is a divertimento of sorts, and a thoroughly delightful one. He is a composer much more closely identified with compositions for wind instruments than Bartok, who wrote only this one work for a solo wind instrument. The "night music" movement in his 1st Piano Concerto, though, has some very fine and beautiful writing for winds.
I like Reginald Kell a lot. His tone is incredibly beautiful -- silk and satin -- his phrasing is impeccable, and he possesses a musical suavity that is never ostentatious but always in the service of the music. If you hadn't guessed, I adore this musician. He is joined on this recording by excellent partners Melvin Ritter, violin and Joel Rosen, piano, less famous but nonetheless estimable musicians who play admirably here.
This recording is available as part of a boxed CD set of Kells' American Decca recordings.
Link to all files
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I was looking for something to put on a CD with my last post, the Salzedo transcription of Children's Corner Suite, so I decided to give this 78 set a try. Despite the fact that Reiner later re-recorded with Chicago many works he had committed to disc with Pittsburgh, I've always found the recordings he made with the earlier orchestra deeply satisfying. The Pittsburgh ensemble may not reach the virtuosic heights that Chicago did, but they play with great precision and flair, and have nothing to apologize for. The tyrannical Reiner saw to that.
I feared that I had made the sound file too bright, but the CD I made from it sounded good on my main system. As always, especially with well-played 78s, I have chosen to leave in noise where I felt that removing it would be deleterious to the sonic integrity of the music.
The front and back CD inserts were made for a CD that includes the Children's Corner Suite and are included in that post.
Link to all files (corrected)
Carlos Salzedo was one of the very greatest harpists of the first half of the twentieth century. He composed, transcribed as here, had works written for him and his trio ( the Trio de Lutèce, with the same personel except for Paul Kéfer on cello), and performed around the world, with a career centered in France and the U.S., where he met his wife. He created a method for playing the harp and created the Maine Harp Colony, which trained harpists into the new millennium.
The transcription posted here fits Debussy's piano score well and is idiomatic to the instruments involved. A bit of imagination is required in listening to the post, as the delicacy of the scoring is at times not well adapted to the 78rpm disc and its inevitable surface noise. This was a well played set of records, too, so the renovation was something of a challenge. I filtered conservatively to remove excessive and intrusive noise and re-equalized the file, which was a little dull. The sound is still, nonetheless, quite dry, but I found that adding reverberation did not help, and in fact made things worse in this instance.
I will be posting a Debussy Iberia with Reiner and Pittsburgh at the same time as this. The two make a decent pairing for CD. My back CD insert assumes one CD will be made of the two post, numbering this set tracks 1-6, and the Reiner Iberia 7-10.
Link to all files
Sunday, March 14, 2010
As I mentioned when I began the blog, it would be "mostly classical", but with other things that caught my fancy along the way. This is a nice little record, a rarity for me, since I had never seen it before, and very pleasurable to listen to. Though I studied early Celtic literature many, many years ago, have read Arthurian Romances and the Mabinogion, I know nothing about the music of Wales.
Osian Ellis, of course, is no stranger to followers of classical music. He was harpist for the LSO for many years and made a fine recording of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro with the Melos ensemble of which he was a member. He had a long, fruitful association with Benjamin Britten, performing and recording with Peter Pears, and was firmly established in the London musical establishment.
But this is the first time I have heard him sing!
Link to all files
The cover art, above, was modified in Photoshop to include the Brahms concerto, performed by Szigeti in 1928 with Hamilton Harty and the Hallé Orchestra. The original 10" record is a performance from 1952 of the Schubert Sonata No. 5 (Duo), Op. 162 for Violin and Piano with Szigeti and Dame Myra Hess, with whom his musical association began as a young man. Both these performances have been issued on CD, though not by the original companies, the Schubert on Music and Arts, the Brahms on the Symposium label, coupled with his recording of the Bloch concerto made with Charles Munch.
Szigeti's playing is, as always, imaginative and colorful, indeed revelatory. He and Dame Myra are very much on the same page in this performance, which is sweet without being cloying, and which certainly does not lack power. The performance of the Brahms concerto with Hamilton Harty shows the violinist at his technical peak and has been considered his best studio recording of the work by many. For me the 1945 recording with Ormandy may have a slight, personal edge, and the very late recording with Menges, although Szigeti is there in full technical decline, still has some appeal for me for its musical insights, even though the technical accomplishment of them is by now seriously compromised by arthritis and bone disease, which had started to afflict the artist many years before.
Enjoy these fine performances by this great violinist. Violin playing has changed, and although there are many fine fiddlers today, with, probably, technical advantages on the greats of the past, they just don't make them like this any more. Thanks be to sound recordings!
Link to all files
The files are labeled track 1-4 for the Schubert, 5-7 for the Brahms, for the single CD I made of them. They can easily be renamed for different burning choices.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Library of Congress information indicates this set was published in 1939?. Thats "1939?". There is another Handel Organ concerto available on CD by the same players, priced obscenely on Amazon, leading me to believe that it is out of print. This Concerto, No. 10, Op. 7, No. 4 is pure delight. Fieldler's Sinfonietta, composed largely of BSO members of the time, as the Pops would be latter , was a pioneering chamber group that did several world premiers of works written for it, and performed Baroque and Classical pieces with an ensemble smaller than was customary for the time. The playing is tight and stylish, and E. Power Biggs, as always, plays with verve and excitement. He is my favorite organist -- and pedal harpsichordist too! -- so I am delighted to have found this 78 set recently in a local thrift store.
The recording was unusually bright. Usually with 78s I'm fighting booming bass and trying to give the highs a chance to breath; this time I had to restrain the highs, and I hope I got the equalization right. Any comments on it would be appreciated. I'm not opposed to revisiting the final files.
Fiedler was a fine musician, though later on better known for performing dreary arrangements of pop tunes that were better in their original incarnations. Still his "serious" work demonstrates a skilled conductor at work, and he did estimable recordings of many light classics. I hope soon to post enough of them to fill a CD along with this post, which, at fourteen minutes, is not a CD candidate on its own.
Link to all files
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Bartok Records recordings of Bartok's music were often made by musicians with some personal association with the composer. There importance to performance history is inestimable. If by now some of them seem far from conclusive readings, they are normally reasonably well recorded, well pressed for their time, and well, if not always definitively performed. This is a very nice recording led by Tibor Serly, who has the distinction of having been chosen to complete the orchestration of the last measures of Bartok's 3rd Piano Concerto and to decipher the cryptic shorthand in which the composer left his viola concerto, commissioned by William Primrose, to produce a performing edition. A composer of some talent himself, Serly fills the record with his own affecting arrangement for strings of Gesualdo's madrigal Dulcissima Mia Vita, and a string arrangement of Domenico Scarlatti's Cat's Fugue by A.W. Kramer. Baroque purists will have fits, but the Gesualdo, in particular, is delicious.
I had uploaded the renovated files, but Buster at Big 10-Inch Record brought my attention to the fact that this LP is still available from Bartok Records, linked below.
Link to buy LP from Bartok Records
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
There are some for whom listening to these two pieces is a guilty pleasure. Sure that their credentials as musical sophisticates are being compromised, they duck furtively into their bedroom, slip a CD into a Walkman with earphones, and luxuriate in the sheer unfettered fun of forbidden pleasure.
OK, I'm just having some fun myself, perhaps because I've been listening to these pieces with so much uncomplicated enjoyment. And because I really have nothing to say about them except that they are wonderful music, easily enjoyed. The orchestra gets to show off, and the Philadelphia is a nice orchestra to hear swagger.
So sit back, crank up the speakers, take off the damned headphones, surround yourself with good tunes and skillfully crafted music, and enjoy!
Link to all files
Monday, March 8, 2010
Another great Haydn Society project from the 1950s, this one from 1951, formed around "authentique performance" notions of its time. The music-making itself, however, was informed more by musical than by questionable historical ideas, unlike so much contemporary output, and the performances are quite lovely. Ralph Kirkpatrick plays "a John Challis reproduction of the small late 18th century piano, which gives us an authentic idea lof how this music must have sounded in the composer's time." The string section is comprised of 4 first violins, 3 second violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, and on bass.
I confess that, authentic or not, the piano here, though nicely played, makes me long for a modern instrument, and later developments in the early music trend, which eventually became a cult, leave me cold. With the exception of Makerras and some few others, contemporary "authentic" performance makes me glad the modern concert grand was developed, that string players replaced gut strings with steel ones, and that women took over treble lines from creepy counter-tenors.
In this record, though, the period piano notwithstanding, the music making is of a very high caliber. It should stand as a rebuke to those who seem to think that playing the notes in reasonable facsimiles of instruments of the time is enough.
Link to all files