Friday, October 20, 2017

Jørgen Jersild: Trois Pièces en Concert

Jørgen Jersild
More obscure Danish repertoire this time around, and, after you have heard this, perhaps you will agree with me that its obscurity is quite undeserved! Copenhagen-born Jørgen Jersild (1913-2004) was not even a name to me before I acquired this pair of records. The little bit of information about him I have been able to pull from online (primarily the Wikipedia article) reveals that he was a respected educator in Denmark, and that his music betrays a great deal of French influence (perhaps unsurprising, given that he studied with Albert Roussel). Certainly the French inspiration is very strong, even to the very title, in this masterly, virtuosic piano suite of 1945:

Jørgen Jersild: Trois Pièces en Concert
Folmer Jensen, piano
Recorded March 28, 1950
HMV Z 350 and Z 351, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 37.36 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 24.21 MB)

The "three pieces" are all derived from French dance forms (Tambourin, Romanesque, Farandole), and therefore resembles, externally, a Baroque keyboard suite - although only the Tambourin is commonly associated with the Baroque period. Most impressive is the middle movement, "avec dix Doubles" (with ten variations), on a Renaissance dance pattern related to the Galliard.

This is a rare solo recording by Folmer Jensen (1902-1966), whose forte appears to have been accompanying; tenor Aksel Schiøtz and clarinetist Louis Cahuzac are among the artists who secured his services for that purpose in the recording studios.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 (Beecham)

Early in 1949, to honor the upcoming 70th birthday of Sir Thomas Beecham, RCA Victor put on the American market some half-dozen albums of the conductor's latest HMV recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, all sporting the above generic cover created for the occasion. This was the largest of these sets:

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29 ("Polish")
Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded April, 1947
RCA Victor set DM-1279, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 113.12 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 73.55 MB)

Of the six Tchaikovsky symphonies, the Third seems to me the most ideal vehicle for Sir Thomas' talents. This is particularly true of the three middle movements, and how fortunate are we that these are played without cuts! The outer movements do have a few judicious cuts, but to be fair, I've never heard a 78-rpm version of this work that didn't have them. The pioneering version by Albert Coates, of 1932, hacked each of the middle movements down to one side, and Hans Kindler's of 1940 and Gregor Fitelberg's of 1946 each have cuts in the outer movements, the latter hacking the Finale to one side.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nielsen by E. T.

No, this post has nothing to do with extra-terrestrials! Several weeks ago, I had two different conductors with the same initials featured in one composer at this post. Just so, now I present two different conductors with the initials "E.T." performing Nielsen - more fruits of my recent splurgings on Danish 78s. The details:

Nielsen: En Sagadrøm (A Saga Dream), Op. 39
Copenhagen Royal Opera Orchestra conducted by Egisto Tango
Recorded February 27, 1942
HMV DB 5263, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 22.27 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 14.67 MB)

Nielsen: Little Suite for Strings, Op. 1
Danish State Broadcasting Orchestra conducted by Erik Tuxen
Recorded April 7, 1948
Columbia DDX 17 and 18, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 38.74 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 23.71 MB)

The Sagadrøm record is a real gem, and as for the Little Suite, has there ever been an Opus 1 as accomplished, and as fully characteristic of its composer?

I didn't mean to be gone quite so long, but on top of computer problems, which I'm still working on, I've had to deal with Hurricane Irma, which we in Atlanta didn't get the full brunt of, as Florida did, but we got quite enough - sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, sometimes gusting to 60, and over 3 inches of rain in a single day. The past weekend saw me frantically elevating hundreds of records from the floor of my basement, in anticipation of water from the storm coming in, which, thankfully, didn't happen, but it's always better to be safe than sorry!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Holmboe: Quartet No. 1 (Erling Bloch Quartet)

Vagn Holmboe
Twice in the past I have presented works by the most celebrated Danish composer since Nielsen, Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996): the Serenata, Opus 18 and the Notturno for Wind Quintet, Opus 19 - together constituting two-thirds of the total works of Holmboe recorded on 78-rpm discs. Here now is the third and last of these pioneering recordings:

Holmboe: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 46 (1949)
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Friisholm-Kassow-Christiansen)
Recorded April 9, 1951
HMV DB 20137 through DB 21039, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 58.74 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 38.75 MB)

This fine three-movement quartet, the first of a remarkable series of twenty, was dedicated to, and premièred by, the Erling Bloch Quartet. Holmboe had, in fact, written no less than ten string quartets (not all of them actually completed) before the one he allowed to go out into the world as his First; at the time of its composition, he had already written six of his thirteen symphonies, and all but two of his series of thirteen chamber concertos. The first three of the numbered quartets were written in rapid succession, assigned consecutive opus numbers and recorded within five years - the Second by the Musica Vitalis Quartet for Decca, and the Third by the Koppel Quartet (the dedicatees), also for Decca. The latter was reissued on CD as part of the "Decca Sound - Mono Years" box set issued a couple of years ago.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Goldmark: Rustic Wedding Symphony (Howard Barlow)

Karl Goldmark
Shortly after I started this blog, seven years ago, I posted this recording of Howard Barlow conducting Gordon Jacob's orchestration of Vaughan Williams' "English Folk Song Suite". In the comments section of that post, there was a request for Barlow's recording of Karl Goldmark's delightful "Rustic Wedding" Symphony, which I did not possess at the time. Well, now I do, and here it is:

Goldmark: Rustic Wedding Symphony, Op. 26
Howard Barlow conducting the Columbia Broadcasting Symphony
Recorded June 19, 1939
Columbia Masterworks set MM-385, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 92.83 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 69.18 MB)

This was only the second recording of the work - the first had been made 10 years earlier, by the Vienna Philharmonic under Robert Heger, issued in the USA by Victor but deleted shortly after this fine account by Barlow appeared.

The request for this recording was from Fred, of the excellent blog "Random Classics" which, unfortunately, he felt obliged to suspend four years ago. Fred, wherever you are, I hope you are able to enjoy this recording, seven years late...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bach: Harpsichord Concerto No. 7 (Anna Linde)

Anna Linde
Last year, I presented on this blog what I believed to be the first electrical recording of a Bach concerto, a triple clavier concerto played by three French pianists. Now I present the first complete recording of a Bach clavier concerto played on the harpsichord - I say "complete" because Alice Ehlers had recorded two movements of the BWV 1056 concerto for Homokord in 1926, a recording which achieved nothing like the currency that this one did:

Bach: Harpsichord Concerto No. 7 in G Minor, BWV 1058
Anna Linde, harpsichord, with string orchestra
Recorded October 8, 1928
English Parlophone E 10879 and E 10880, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 40.39 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 22.71 MB)

According to Christian Zwerg's Parlophon discography, the orchestra is that of the Berlin State Opera, and the conductor was Frieder Weissmann, Parlophon's house conductor. And the irony is that, although Weissmann's name is not on the labels, we know far more about his career than we do about the harpsichordist's, for Anna Linde is a figure shrouded in mystery. Here is what we have been able to find out about her (and I am indebted to Nick Morgan and his great sleuthing powers for this information):

She was born Johanna Anna Pincus in Bromberg, Germany (now Bydgoszcz, Poland), in 1880. During the 1910s she studied with Wanda Landowska at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and sometime after this adopted "Anna Linde" as her professional name. In the late 1920s she recorded a handful of sides for Parlophon, among them several with Paul Grümmer playing the viola da gamba (these can be heard at the CHARM website, as can two of her solo sides). Being Jewish, when the Nazis came to power, she was forced to flee Germany, and she went first to Italy, where she made several recordings for the anthology "Musiche Antiche Italiane" (producers of this first recording of Monteverdi's "Orfeo"). After Italy became unsafe for Jews, she emigrated to the USA, took citizenship and appears to have settled in Denver, Colorado, dying there in 1968.

The picture above is the only one I have been able to find of her, and appears to derive from Parlophon publicity material; my apologies for its awful quality but it was little better in my source, which was a reproduction in Frank Andrews and Michael Smith's discography of English Parlophone's 12-inch "E" series, published by the City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bloch: Violin Sonata No. 1 (Josef Gingold, Beryl Rubinstein)

Ernest Bloch, early 1920s
Ernest Bloch wrote two violin sonatas in the 1920s, when he was serving as the first director of the Cleveland Institute of Music, and these have not lacked for performances and recordings from some fairly prominent artists, among them Heifetz, Isaac Stern and Louis Kaufman. The first recording ever made of either of them was for an independent New York label, Gamut, by the husband-and-wife team of Harold and Marion Kahn Berkley, in 1937. This is so rare that I have never encountered it. A year later, Victor recorded the same sonata, and it presumably received somewhat wider distribution, though it is scarcely less common:

Bloch: Violin Sonata No. 1 (1920)
Josef Gingold, violin; Beryl Rubinstein, piano
Recorded c. January 1938
Victor Musical Masterpiece set AM-498, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 69.03 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 49.67 MB)

This recording affords us a rare opportunity to hear Josef Gingold (1909-1995) as a soloist; he was much more active as a chamber and orchestral musician, being in Toscanini's NBC Orchestra and in the Primrose Quartet. Beryl Rubinstein (1898-1952), on the Cleveland Institute's faculty while Bloch was there (and subsequently its director), was one of the dedicatees of Bloch's Second Violin Sonata, along with violinist André Ribaupierre; together they premièred the work in 1925. Curiously enough, another Rubinstein, Artur. participated in the première of the First Sonata, with violinist Paul Kochanski.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mozart Serenades by E. F.

Two albums containing Mozart serenades this week, the common denominator to both being that a conductor with the initials "E. F." leads a (presumably) hand-picked ensemble. Here are the details:

Mozart: "Salzburg Serenades"
(Concertante and Rondo from Serenade No. 9 in D, K. 320;
Serenata Notturna in D, K. 239)
Edvard Fendler conducting the Vox Chamber Orchestra
Recorded c. 1945-46
Vox Album 161, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 63.91 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 41.28 MB)

Mozart: Serenade No. 10 in B-Flat, K. 361, for thirteen wind instruments
Edwin Fischer conducting his Chamber Orchestra
Recorded September 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-743, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 68.76 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.88 MB)

Leipzig-born Fendler (1902-1987), who would appear to have left Germany with the rise of Nazism, ended up with conducting jobs in places as diverse as the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mobile (Alabama) and Beaumont (Texas). He had made recordings in France before the war - among them, another version of this same Serenata Notturna. The "Vox Chamber Orchestra" was, I suspect, an ad hoc body of New York players.

Edwin Fischer (1886-1960) was, of course, much better known as a pianist, but was a fine conductor as well, and he often combined the two roles, most notably with Bach. This recording, made in Berlin, manages to get Mozart's great Gran Partita onto three discs by omitting two movements and excising one of two trios of a minuet, and by scrupulously avoiding repeats. What remains, however, is very well played and conducted indeed.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

More from Morton

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
For easy summer listening, this week I present two more albums of Morton Gould's popular song arrangements, made for Columbia after he had been promoted to green-label Masterworks status:

String Time
1. Body and Soul (Johnny Green)
2. Laura (David Raskin)
3. Holiday for Strings (David Rose)
4. Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington)
5. Solitude (Duke Ellington)
6. Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen)
7. The Surrey With the Fringe On Top (Richard Rodgers)
8. Stormy Weather (Harold Arlen)
Morton Gould and His Orchestra
Recorded July 11 and 15, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set M-663, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 63.38 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.86 MB)

Music at Midnight
1. Caravan (Duke Ellington)
2. Moonglow (Will Hudson)
3. Song of the Bayou (Rube Bloom)
4. Deserted Ballroom (Morton Gould)
5. Mood Indigo (Duke Ellington)
6. Serenade in the Night (Cesare Andrea Bixio)
7. Deep Purple (Peter de Rose)
8. Swamp Fire (Harold Mooney)
Morton Gould and His Orchestra
Recorded November 14, 15 and 22, 1950
Columbia Masterworks set MM-992, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 70.52 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 46.93 MB)

It will be seen that each collection contains two Duke Ellington tunes, and that "Music at Midnight" also has one of Gould's own compositions, originally a piano piece that he had recorded a decade earlier. To the expected string orchestra of "String Time" Gould's orchestrations add a harp and celesta, and, in the case of "The Surrey With the Fringe On Top" - played entirely pizzicato - also such appurtenances as sleigh bells, wood block, whip and even a banjo. "Music at Midnight" has the distinction of being Columbia's last Masterworks 78-rpm set to be released on a regular schedule concurrent with LP releases, in April, 1951. With the May releases 78s were dropped, although five set numbers (993 to 997) had been assigned, and after that, only selected Masterworks releases appeared as 78s, usually semi-classical in nature.

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss