Monday, March 29, 2010

Szigeti: 20th Century Masterpieces

Szigeti and his teacher, Hubay

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.

Included are:
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

Eileen Farrell, Stokowski, Wagner Wesendonck Leider and Tannhäuser Excerpts

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

Reginald Kell, Horszowski - Brahms Clarinet Sonatas Op. 120

My intention was to add these files to the last post of Kell's 1940 recording of the Brahms Clarinet Trio with Kentner and Pini. However I decided such a course would make it harder to find in web searches, so I'm doing an additional post. This post and the last one, though, combine to make a very nice and reasonably full CD. I got the RAW files for these on the European Archive and did a renovation, as they were fairly noisey. The first Sonata, in particular, had an inordinate amount of hiss, and both Sonatas were fairly dull as I downloaded them. A number of light filters and a substantial re-equalization later, they sounded pretty good. So here they are, performed by artists of deep musical integrity with total technical mastery of their instruments.

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

Reginald Kell, Louis Kentner, Anthony Pini play Brahms Trio

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

Red Nichols and Benny Goodman singles

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

Reginald Kell plays Bartok Contrasts and Milhaud Suite

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

Debussy Iberia / Reiner, The Pittsburgh Symphony

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)

Debussy Children's Corner Suite/ Barrère, Salzedo, Britt

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

Osian Ellis plays Welsh Folk Music

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

Szigeti, Myra Hess, Hamilton Harty, Schubert and Brahms

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

Fielder Sinfonietta and E. Power Biggs play Handel

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

Tibor Serly conducts Bartok Divertimento

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

Enesco Rhapsodies with Ormandy and Hans Kindler

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

A Thank You to All My New Visitors

Recently, thanks in large part to a link from Busters Big 10-Inch Record, Vinyl Fatigue has gone from a sleepy, musical backwater on the web to a blog with a lot of activity. I want to thank all those who have visited and/or left comments. I have tried to respond to new commentary -- I had turned on comment moderation as a dependable means of being able to keep track of what was happening in the comments area -- and will continue to try to do so. If for some reason, though, your comment was not acknowledged, please accept my apologies. Several comments have been coming in at once, a new experience that delights me, but which may have resulted in oversights while responding. Next up is a transfer of an old 78 rpm set of the two Roumanian Rhapsodies by Enesco, the first performed by Ormandy and the Philadelphia, the second with Hans Kindler and the National Orchestra he founded. Then another recording of the Bartok Divertimento, this time on Bartok Records with Tibor Serly at the helm, a record with some delightful Gesualdo and Scarlatti arrangements, pointing to their "modern" harmonies, as filler. There is a complete Romeo and Juliet of Berlioz, led by Dmitri Mitropouos, in the offing, as well as a Haydn Symphony no. 94 (Surprise) with Koussevitsky and the BSO. And my new cartridge is just about broken in enough to start the Haydn Op. 50 in my ongoing Schneider Quartet/Haydn Society project. So stay tuned, and thank you so much for your support and encouragement.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mozart Concerti with A. Schneider and R. Kirkpatrick

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

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ormandy, Minneapolis Symphony, Schumann Symphony No. 4

First, let me say that I think this is a brilliantly successful performance. I love Schumann's symphonies, but since I find most essays of them unsuccessful, I bought this 78rpm set recently more from curiosity than a real expectation of being swept off my feet. I was though. This is a very fine performance, from 1934 -- nicely nuanced and spritely, though in no way lacking necessary heft. Although overall Ormandy has a lighter touch in this work than do Dohnanyi, Paray, or Bernstein (NY) -- who lead other performances that I think succeed nicely in Schumann's symphonies -- I rank this performance among the finest I have heard.

It is always curious to hear Ormandy conduct orchestras other than the Philadelphia Orchestra. The sound here with the Minneapolis is leaner than his later orchestra and probably a better fit for the Schumann, although the maestro was quite capable of making the Philadelphians leaner and meaner when he wanted, their famed sound being much more versatile than the legendary "gorgeous strings" appellation suggests. Still, it would be nice to be able to compare this with a later performance of Ormany, which I cannot seem to find. The Sawallisch recording with Philadelphia seems less than compelling to me.

To fill out a CD the first and wonderful (mono) recording of the Schumann First Symphony by Munch and the Boston Symphony is a very nice fit. That performance is available here at Buster's Big 10-Inch Record. Since that is how I made my own CD, putting the first symphony first, the tracks contained in the links below are numbered 05 through 08.

Link to all files