Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beecham conducts Sibelius Symphonies No. 2 and No. 4

I'm pleased to be able to offer these two performances of Sibelius by Beecham. They are available on CD, the Second Symphony in the BBC series of historical broadcast performances, the Fourth on Naxos, but with copyright restrictions preventing its release in the U.S. The coupling here is not to my knowledge among the compilations available commercially.

The Second Symphony recording is a live performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra from October 10, 1951. It has the usual coughs and throat clearings one would expect at an event during a British autumn, but they are not really distracting or very prominent. The sonic quality of the original recording has some problems, distortion in loud passages and the usual, run of the mill difficulties from live performance in the golden past. Given the excitement of the reading, they are a minor matter, hardly noticed through engagement with the music. This is even better than Sir Thomas' studio recordings, in themselves quite wonderful. Beecham's approach to Sibelius is more sinewy, more classical, less lushly romantic than that (usually) of conductors like Ormandy or Barbirolli. I like both kinds of Sibelius, and from any point of view, Beecham is a masterful conductor of this composer.

The Fourth Symphony was an early recording done for the Sibelius Society after it became clear that the successor to Robert Kajanus at the helm of the Helsinki Philharmonic, Georg Schnéevoigt, had very different ideas of the Symphony than those of its composer. Be that as it may, this recording by Beecham was for long considered the point of reference for recorded performances of the work, a position that not everyone feels it has definitively yielded.
If Sibelius, in his irritable last years, said unkind things about Beecham's performance, in favor of that of the twice Nazified Herbert von Karajan, he was nonetheless enthusiastic about it at the time it was made. Much like Sir Thomas, Professor Sibelius could be a prickly character; and as his performance suggestions for various works did not at all remain consistent over time, while simple matters like metronome markings were not always published at places in the score where he later expressed indignation that they were not followed, one can be forgiven for finding several different solutions to the same problem equally satisfying in general musical terms.

The slight "thumps" in the last measures of the 4th symphony were apparently on the source 78s. I have more than one copy of the LP my recording was made from, and they were on all of them.

Link to all FLAC and MP3 files

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dohnanyi: Quartet in D op.15 & Piano Quintet in Eflat Op 26 No. 2

I'm pleased to be able to offer these two gorgeous, lush, yet chromatically piquant chamber works by Ernst von Dohnanyi. That they were even in their time backward rather than forward looking subtracts nothing from their innate musical value, which is considerable. Dohnanyi is pretty firmly ranked among composers of lesser importance, but his music is a treasure trove of melodic invention and craftsmanship of the highest order. If it is inspired by nineteenth century norms, it nonetheless takes them into the new century with full awareness, and the judicious, conservative utilization, of more advanced harmonic language. If his early class-mate, Bela Bartok, evolved into one of the century's most important musical creators, writing the most significant string quartets since, probably, Beethoven; still, Dohnanyi deserves a place at the table of music worth hearing. The quartet presented here lacks the emotional profundity of any of Bartok's in the same form; but it is tuneful, beautifully crafted, and invincibly lovely.

The Curtis Quartet is one group among Westminster Record's panoply of dependable musicians. Less well known than some of its contemporaries, it recorded numerous deeply satisfying performances for Westminster, the Franck Piano Quintet with the same Vladimir Sokoloff who plays in the Dohnanyi Quintet here being notable among them.

The folders posted contain both works. Tracks 1-4 being the quartet, 5-7 the Quintet. All the appropriate information is on the back CD insert.

Flac files
MP3 files
Folder with all files

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Casadesus Mozart Munch and Barbirolli

The recording presented here is from a record of two wonderful Mozart recordings by the incomparable Robert Casadesus. I'm posting only the Barbirolli recording, because the performance with Munch has tracking problems at the beginning of the first movement on my copy. Fortunately, however, the very useful blog Quartiers des Archives by Benoit has the missing half of this record. If you follow the link you will be able to download his posting of the Munch recording from an earlier LP release than this one.

I am nonetheless very pleased to be able to offer the Barbirolli and Casadesus recording of the 27th Concerto, K.595, from a period of Barbirolli's career that is unjustly maligned. I think you will find him a very sympathetic accompanist to the Mozartian magic of Robert Casadesus; his individual solutions here and there to certain problems of phrasing are idiomatic and charming. Anyone familiar with the great recordings of his later years will realize that he did not suddenly become a great conductor out of an artistic nadir to which some critics still consign his early career. If he grew as a musician -- and he did -- all the better. But to dismiss his New York Philharmonic period just because NY critics of the time were in a pout that he was not Toscanini, is to miss some very satisfying performances. An early recording he did of the Sibelius Second Symphony (which I unfortunately do not own) demonstrates eloquently what would later be proved beyond any doubt: he had a real genius for the great Finnish composer. He began as an accomplished musician and became a great one. One cannot really blame him for one of the many periods where the NY. Philharmonic goes to pieces, though it rises quite nicely to the occasion on this recording.
( A performance of the Sibelius 2nd symphony with the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1964, in need of some re-equalization, can be found here:

Link to FLAC and MP3

Friday, January 22, 2010

Szigeti and Schnabel: Beethoven at the Frick Museum

I've scoured the internet looking for a cd of these performances, and I cannot find one. There are mp3 downloads, but I cannot find a CD. So I'm going to post the FLAC versions of the restorations I did from LP.

These performances have long been points of reference for me and many others, among Szigeti's own recordings, and for the works in general. The co-operation between the artists is more sympathetic and satisfying, I find, than in the earlier complete set Szigeti did with Arrau in 1944. The recorded sound is not as good, though it suffers only from fairly unobjectionable distortion here and there, but the performances are at the very top in the pantheon of Beethoven chamber music recordings. For my money, the slow movement of the Op. 96 is peerless.

Link to FLAC and MP3 files
(sorry, no cd inserts with this one)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Noel Mewton-Wood

I was going to post some 10" LPs of Mewton-Wood but discovered that Buster at Big 10-Inch Record has all of them already posted. Nonetheless, I thought I would at least put a link to his page to increase the chances that people will find the recordings of this extraordinarily gifted pianist. Here is the link:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Albert Spalding Ernst von Dohnanyi play Brahms Sonata in G

This Remington LP, made late in the career of Albert Spalding, presents to us a still technically secure artist with deep insight into the piece in question. Both players engage completely with the score and command our attention -- and our assent -- by their passionate, if nonetheless oddly aristocratic reading of this beloved sonata.

The thrift store record used for the renovation was embarrassingly beat up, especially the first movement, but the options available in DartPro 24 allowed it to be cleaned up impressively. There are moments of slight residual noise, usually barely discernible, that I left in order to retain the full sonic impact of the information in the grooves. And this particular Don Gabor production delivered plenty of raw information for a quite usable renovation. There are undoubtedly better LP sources for a restoration than what I had, but I haven't been able to find one posted online. Pearl made a CD of the recording, but I have not heard it, so cannot comment on their restoration. For my purposes, and I imagine for those of many others, the present offering will do just fine.

The record contains Hungarian Dances 8, 9, and 17 as filler with Anthony Looiker at piano.

Link to FLAC and MP3 files of entire LP

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Paul Sacher: Haydn Symphonies 53 and 67

An indefatigable champion of the music of his time, Paul Sacher was a brilliant conductor whose recorded performances of the classical and early romantic repertory are especially gratifying, notable, as they are, for their clarity of line. These two symphonies of Haydn, given satisfyingly full blooded readings, nonetheless delight us with a textural transparency that nicely opens up the linear movement of the pieces. Hans Rosbaud had a similar talent, evident even in the sonically dullest of recordings, and both artists evinced vigilant intellectual rigor, although Sacher's was, perhaps, less austere.

The list of twentieth century music for which we have to thank commissions by Sacher is more than impressive. I partial list of the over 80 works is given in the obituary written in The Independent at the time of his death in 1999. It includes both Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste of Bartok, as well as his Divertimento for String Orchestra. So we owe Maestro Sacher a lot, at least a respectful listening. I think the respect will rapidly turn to enthusiasm.

Link to FLAC and MP3 files

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Honegger: Concertino for Piano and Orchestra

I'm posting this little gem, a Masterworks 10" LP ML 2156, in large part for the Honegger with Reiner and (as a friend of mine says) the "highly flammable" Oscar Levant. It is a charming piece and certainly not over-recorded. This reading, combining Reiner's consistent discipline and Levant's fiery passion, should be available.

But --oh! -- the guilty pleasure of Ormandy conducting Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faun, topping it off with The Sorcerer's Apprentice of Dukas. Whether Ormandy and the Philadelphia's Debussy is "authentic" (a value of questionable musical import) is of no interest to me: It is gorgeous, tastefully and musically presented, and a pleasure one should feel free to indulge without guilt, like Beecham's late orchestration of Messiah (which is, in truth, very Handelian in spirit).

Link to all files

Schneider Quartet Haydn Op. 17

Here is another post in the ongoing project to get as many of the Schneider Quartet recordings of Haydn online. Here is the first record of Op. 17, No. 1 in E Major and No. 4 in C minor. The other four quartets will go up over the next week or two, hopefully. My LP copies, bought used over the years, are not always in as good shape as I remember them being, but the renovated files nonetheless sound good to me, even if working from a pristine set of LPs would be a dream come true. I hope, as these posts are discovered, that others enjoy the performances as much as I do. Starting with this post, MP3s will be at a resolution of 254 kbps instead of 320. Posting MP3s larger than the lossless flac files made no sense to me.

All files, flac, mp3, and cover art, are in the folder linked below:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Erno Balogh Plays Liszt

This performance of the Italy portion of the Années de Pélerinage of Liszt is by Erno Balogh, a student of Bartok and Kodaly who preceded the former to the U.S. and helped arrange his first visit here in 1927. All that is available on CD, as far as I can tell, are his performances as an accompanist -- for Lotte Lehman, Fritz Kreisler, and, perhaps, Grace Moore.

He made a number of records for Lyrichord, but a search of their present catalog turns up nothing. I felt strongly that the recording was worth renovating from a challengingly used and abused thrift store bargain bin LP, both for Balogh’s link to Bartok and for the performance itself, which is beautifully articulated.

There was apparently some difficulty with some of these files on MediaFire, so I have reposted them in zipped folders labeled "REDO". The original folder are also there temporarily, as they seemed to work for some.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gertler and Farnadi Play Bartok Sonatas 1 and 2

These recordings of the Bartok sonatas by André Gertler and Edith Farnadi have long been among my favorites. Both musicians had full European careers and tended to be under-rated here in the States. Gertler, however, was one of the finest fiddlers of his generation, graced with an intensely focused intonation and indulging few histrionics, and Farnadi is a pianist to contend with. If, at the end of the day, Szigeti’s idiosyncratic fingering and bow technique are often more convincing to me, I am not immune to the charms of Gertler’s more straight-forward artistry. And in soft, quiet passages with significant bow movement, where Szigeti could sound scratchy as early as the nineteen forties, Gertler maintains a steady bow and an impressive clarity of tone as evidenced in the recordings presented here. I cannot recommend too highly this long unavailable recording of these two incredibly beautiful sonatas of Bartok.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tibor Kozma plays Bartok

This is a lovely record from Bartok Records, their #918, though I don't believe it is any longer available on their site. Recorded in very natural sounding monaural, this very well used record really came to life after running a decrackle filter. I did a further dehiss, and a high pass with a cutoff of 80hz to get rid of some rumble without compromising the fullness of the bass. To my ears it sounds pretty good.

Tibor Kozma was a beloved conducting instructor at the University of Indiana at Bloomington, , for many years after conducting and coaching at the Metropolitan Opera, where he made a number of recordings. He did at least one other project for Bartok Records, as pianist on a record of folk songs arrranged by Bartok and Kodaly -- Bartok Records #904. Wikipedia has an informative, basic article on him. He does a quite creditable job here, even if he does lose himself briefly in the final measures of the Folk Dances. Those are ubiquitously available, though, (by Foldes, Schiff, and Sandor, to name only three in my personal collection) while recordings of the Bagatelles and Christmas Carols, where he acquits himself nicely, are harder to come by.

The Bagatelles are a revelation, presenting Bartok's early harmonic thinking in charming, short piano pieces that serve as a primer to elements that will remain in the master's musical vocabulary throughout some of his greatest masterpieces. To hear them presented here with such disarming simplicity is to remember once again the deep roots in Balkan folk music of Bartokian modernism.

Link to all files

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Schneider Quartet Haydn: Op. 42, Op. 77, Op. 103

Here's another in the ongoing project to post as many of these Schneider Quartet/Haydn recordings as I can. I have these particular quartets in the boxed version that includes two LPs. They all fit on one CD, though, thus I've included a portion of the box cover as a front CD insert as well as the record jacket fronts for both LPs in the linked folder.
The Op. 42 has always been a personal favorite of mine, and in this as well as the other works on this set, the Schneider group, led by a leader famous for his deeply felt readings, strikes just the right balance between emotional depth and formal elegance, in technically accomplished performances. Those who emphasize the formal aspect of Haydn's work (impressive though it be) at the expense of the humor, pathos, the melancholy or genial reflection, the unbridled joy, just do not do justice to this supremely and completely human composer, whose great genius was to retain at all times an emotional center while still expressing the range of human feeling.

Friday, January 1, 2010

MP3 files being added to all posts

Today I began converting the renovations posted so far to 320kbps MP3 files for the convenience of those who do not want to deal with the added programs needed to work with FLAC files or the .rar archives in which I post those. I have posted the mp3 files in the ubiquitous .zip archive which just about anyone should be able to unpack. Still, I do recommend trying the FLAC files. The 320kbps mp3 files are NOT really lossless, despite how they are advertised. They are merely less lossy, probably good enough in most instances, but why not make sure you are getting it all? Especially as the music becomes more complex, I simply don't trust the MP3 files to deliver the "felt" as opposed to the obviously "heard" components of the audio file.

Be that as it may -- and perhaps it is all audio superstition on my part, though I don't think so -- I have begun the addition of MP3 versions with the Dave Van Ronk record. If you are waiting on MP3 files for one of the other posted records, keep checking back, as I will be posting them over the next several days. Future posts will include them as a matter of course.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! The Schneider Quartet recording of the Haydn String Quartets, made for the Haydn Society, will be the major project for the beginning of 2010, although there will be other things going up as well. Stay tuned.