Saturday, August 1, 2015

Poulenc: Double Concerto (Whittemore & Lowe)

I'm having ISP problems right now, and having to type this on the fly using my church's wi-fi (a friend did the actual uploading of the files), so I don't have time to say anything more about this set than that it appears to be the first recording of this delightful work:

Poulenc: Concerto in D minor for two pianos and orchestra
Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, duo-pianists
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded December 15, 1947
Link (FLAC files, 52.52 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 39.45 MB)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mendelssohn: Quartet No. 1 (Budapest Quartet)

I've lately managed to acquire a few sets by the Budapest String Quartet in their glory days - when the group still boated one Hungarian in their lineup (István Ipolyi, viola) but was otherwise transitioning to the all-Russian ensemble that defined them for later generations. These recordings date from 1933-35, and in most cases my copies are really nice ones on Victor "scroll" labels as depicted above. One of the rarest is of this Mendelssohn quartet, which seems to have lasted only a couple of years in the Victor catalogue:

Mendelssohn: Quartet No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 12
The Budapest String Quartet (Roisman-Schneider-Ipolyi-Schneider)
Recorded April 29, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-307, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 69.62 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 42.83 MB)

This is the quartet that has the famous "Canzonetta" - which was often recorded as a separate piece in those days, but this appears to be the only recording of the complete quartet made during the 78 era.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hans Kindler

Slava Rostropovich, for all his achievements, was far from being the first cellist to make for himself a successful conducting career. He wasn't even the first cellist to become the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. That honor goes to the orchestra's founder, the Rotterdam-born Hans Kindler (1892-1949). Kindler's recording career began in 1916 with Victor, as a cellist, on their lower-priced Blue Label series (five of these sides can be heard at the Library of Congress' National Jukebox). In 1919 he was promoted to Red Seals. Then, nine years after founding the National Symphony Orchestra in 1931, he came back to Victor as a conductor, with some 64 issued sides to his credit made between 1940 and 1945. The most interesting of these were on single records, including American works by Chadwick, William Schuman and Mary Howe. I'm sorry to say I don't have any of those, but here are three singles I do have, the first two listed being from the reclaimed record pile:

Corelli-Arbós: Suite for Strings
Recorded November 8, 1940
Victor 11-8111, one 78-rpm record

Liszt-Kindler: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6
Recorded January 17, 1945
Victor 11-9154, one 78-rpm record

Mussorgsky-Kindler: Boris Godunov - "Love Music" (Act III)
Recorded April 2, 1942
Shostakovich: The Age of Gold - Polka
Recorded January 29, 1941
Victor 11-8239, one 78-rpm record

All by the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.)
Hans Kindler, conductor
Link (FLAC files, 53.80 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 38.14 MB)

A number of Kindler's National Symphony recordings received a new lease on life in the 1950s, on the RCA Camden reissue label, including the Liszt record above. The pseudonym used was the "Globe Symphony Orchestra."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Honegger Conducts his "Symphonie Liturgique"

Last year, I was able to offer, in time for Bastille Day, the first recording of a symphony by Honegger, the Second, in a riveting performance by Charles Munch. I'm afraid I'm a little late for Bastille Day this year, but here's the other Honegger symphony to be recorded on 78s, his very powerful and equally war-weary Third, called "Liturgique" on account of the titles of its three movements, each named after a part of the Requiem Mass. These titles are actually announced on this recording conducted by the composer, who, presumably, is the announcer as well:

Honegger: Symphony No. 3 ("Liturgique")
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arthur Honegger
Recorded c. 1947
French Decca A-15004 through A-15007, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 78.55 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 51.95 MB)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Early Music Revival in America

Early music - particularly music of the Baroque - has become such a part of out musical fabric in recent years that it's hard to recall a time, less than a century ago, that there had to be special advocacy for it. One of the most prominent of its advocates in the USA was the Dutch-born Ben Stad (1885-1946), who, with other members of his family, founded the Philadelphia-based American Society of the Ancient Instruments in 1929. The group consisted of Stad, playing viola d'amore; his wife, Flora, at the harpsichord; their son, Maurice, playing bass viol; Flora's brother, Josef Smit, playing viola da gamba, and a family friend, Jo Brodo, playing "quinton" (what we would now call pardessus de viole). The ensemble was modelled after the famous Société des Instruments Ancienes in France, founded in 1901 by the Casadesus family. The French ensemble made a fair number of recordings - most of them devoted to pastiche pieces written by Henri or Marius Casadesus and attributed to older composers. On the other hand, the Stad ensemble, although they surely had some of these Casadesus pastiches in their repertoire, recorded mostly genuine works:

Music of Early Composers (Set I)
1. Byrd: Pavane (The Earle of Salisbury) and Galliard
2. Purcell: Chacony in G minor, Z. 730
3. Stad [arr.]: "Suite d'Aires [sic] de la Vieille France"
4. Alessandro Marcello: Concerto in D minor - Adagio
5. Benedetto Marcello: Sonata in G minor, Op. 1, No. 4
6. Sacchini: Chimène - Allegro spiritoso
7. Mouret [attrib.]: Divertissement - Passepied
The American Society of the Ancient Instruments
Recorded c. Sept. 1933 - May 1934
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-215, two 12" and two 10" 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 86.93 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 58.54 MB)

I've included with this download an article about the American Society of the Ancient Instruments, from the 1988 Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America.

I've had occasion to talk about another American early-music pioneer, harpsichordist Lewis Richards, at this post, and now, thanks to Nick at Grumpy's Classics Cave, I have another of his three Brunswick releases.  Richards was a member of the Casadesus Société before the First World War, and he is known to have acquired music from the Casadesus family, including one or both of the following, probably spurious, pieces:

Ayrton [attrib.]: The Brook
Rameau [attrib.]: Rondeau
Lewis Richards, harpsichord
Recorded April 8 and 16, 1926
Brunswick 3205, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 14.81 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 8.72 MB)

Thanks again to Nick not only for providing me with the record, but also for helping with discographic details.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Sanromá, Fiedler)

Cover design by Peter Arno (?)
For the Fourth of July holiday weekend, I offer that most quintessentially American concert work in its first recording with pretensions to completeness - and a smashing performance, at that. Jesús Maria Sanromá's way with this music is so full of panache and improvisational flair that it is almost like hearing it for the first time, and most subsequent recordings seem to me staid by comparison. Sanromá was the official pianist of the Boston Pops at the time that organization's first recordings were made, and, in fact, this version of the Rhapsody comes from the Pops' very first day of sessions:

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Jesús Maria Sanromá, piano, with the
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded July 1, 1935
Gershwin: Strike Up the Band
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded July 3, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-358, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 52.44 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 33.70 MB)

As I said, this is the first recording of the Rhapsody with pretensions to completeness, with only two minor cuts made. The piece had, of course, been recorded many times before, in a dizzying array of arrangements (including Larry Adler on the harmonica, Jesse Crawford on the Wurlitzer organ, and the Eight Piano Ensemble, whose version can be heard at the CHARM website), but all of these, including Gershwin's own recording with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, abridged the piece to fit onto two sides.

Ken Halperin's blog shows an alternate cover design for this set, which he believes might be by Steinweiss. My copy of the set has the one pictured above, but lacking its front cover, as the previous owner wished to keep it for framing! Fortunately, the back cover is identical, except for having the spine binding on the right instead of the left. This was Victor's practice during the early 1940s with its pictorial album covers.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mogens Wöldike - Two Brandenburg Concertos

Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg
As the 200th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach approached in the year 1950, several record companies worldwide engaged in a flurry of activity making new recordings of his works, including several versions of the six Brandenburg Concertos.  Columbia had a version with Fritz Reiner conducting an ad hoc ensemble of New York players, and Decca had the newly-signed Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under its founder, Karl Münchinger.  HMV countered with piecemeal issues of the six concertos with Mogens Wöldike leading two different Danish ensembles (Nos. 3 and 6 being done by an ensemble of soloists), recorded over a span of one-and-a-half years.  Nos. 4 and 6 of this set can be heard at the CHARM website; to complement these, I present Wöldike's readings of Nos. 3 and 5:

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048
Chamber Ensemble of the Chapel Palace, Copenhagen,
conducted by Mogens Wöldike
Recorded December 1, 1949
Bach: Partita No. 1 in B-Flat, BWV 825 - Sarabande
Liselotte Selbiger, harpsichord
Recorded February 3, 1950
HMV C 3947 and C 3948, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 40.01 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.03 MB)

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050
Herman D. Koppel, harpsichord; Leo Hansen, violin; Poul Birkelund, flute;
Danish State Broadcasting Chamber Orchestra
conducted by Mogens Wöldike
Recorded May 31, 1950
HMV DB 20118 through DB 20120, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 60.63 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.54 MB)

Herman D. Koppel, the harpsichordist in No. 5, can be heard in an utterly different triple concerto here - as pianist in Niels Viggo Bentzon's Chamber Concerto recorded the following year.

For those interested, here are the particulars of the order of recording for Wöldike's set of Brandenburgs, culled from Michael Gray's listings, WERM, and Frank Andrews' HMV "C" Series Discography:

No. 4 - mats. 2CS2718-22: Nov 29 '49 & Mar 1 '50* (DB 20109-11 & C 4073-5)
No. 3 - mats. 2CS2723-25: Dec 1 '49 (DB 5291-2 & C 3947-8)
No. 6 - mats. 2CS2813-17: May 27 '50 (DB 20121-3 & C 4164-6)
No. 5 - mats. 2CS2819-24: May 31 '50 (DB 20118-20)
No. 2 - mats. 2CS2908-11: Dec 20 '50 (DB 20107-8 & C 7848-9)
No. 1 - mats. 2CS2952-56: Mar 10 & 11 '51 (DB 20140-2)

*Most, if not all, issued takes of No. 4 are surely from the later date, on the evidence of the high take numbers (4's and 6's).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Berg: Lyric Suite (Galimir Quartet)

Alban Berg
Of the three composers of the Second Viennese School, Alban Berg has always been my favorite, because the expressive and emotional power of his music shines through the often harsh sounds of his chosen idiom (i.e., music not based in traditional tonality) more strongly for me than it does with the works of Schoenberg or Webern, geniuses though those two undoubtedly were. Berg was, essentially, a Romantic composer, and his best interpreters, which included Felix Galimir (1910-1999), have understood this. Galimir and his three sisters founded a string quartet while they were students at the Vienna Conservatory, which learned Berg's then-newest work, the Lyric Suite, being coached by Berg himself in its performance. (The full story can be read here.) At about the time of Berg's death, in 1935, the group recorded it - the first recording of any of his works:

Berg: Lyric Suite, for string quartet
Galimir String Quartet of Vienna
Recorded c. 1935
Brunswick-Polydor set BP-2, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 79.54 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 49.87 MB)

My source is a superb set of pressings on the short-lived Brunswick-Polydor label, the successor to Brunswick's gold-label classical series that also featured mainly Polydor material. Introduced in 1937, the entire series, such as it was, seems to have been retired when CBS purchased the American Record Corporation in 1939.  I have been able to trace information about only eight album sets in the series, as follows:

BP-1 Stravinsky: Violin Concerto (Dushkin; Lamoureux/Stravinsky)
BP-2 Berg: Lyric Suite (Galimir Qt.)
BP-3 Roussel: Symphony No. 3 (Lamoureux Orch./Wolff)
BP-4 Beethoven: "Hammerklavier" Sonata (Kempff)
BP-5 Verdi: Quartet in E minor (Prisca Qt.)
BP-6 Bach: English Suite No. 3 (Alexander Borovsky, piano)
BP-7 Beethoven: Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (Prisca Qt.)
BP-8 Heinrich Schlusnus Lieder Album (Graener, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss)

The first four sets were 12-inch sets, and the other four were 10-inch.  All except BP-6 and BP-8 had "slide automatic" couplings available as well, an "A" appearing after the album number to indicate this.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 (Rodzinski)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
For four years, Artur Rodzinski was the music director of the New York Philharmonic (1943-47), but his recording career with that august organization occupied only two of them - eighteen sessions from December, 1944, to October, 1946. The first of these produced recordings of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" Symphony and of Gershwin's "An American in Paris" that were quickly released. The second session, four weeks later, produced this Brahms symphony which, for reasons unknown, had to wait over a year and a half for its issue:

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Artur Rodzinski
Recorded January 8, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MM-621, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 108.62 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 72.20 MB)

This was only the second recording of a Brahms symphony made by the Philharmonic; it was preceded by Barbirolli's 1940 version of the Second. (A complete cycle did follow in the early 1950s, conducted by Bruno Walter.)