Saturday, February 11, 2017

Reger: Serenade for Orchestra (Jochum)

Max Reger, 1906
I have had occasion to comment on the Reger Problem elsewhere (Irving Kolodin famously said that Reger's name sounds the same backwards and forwards, and his music often shows the same trait!). Today I present one of the few works of his which I can really enjoy, possibly because it is the first one I ever became familiar with, long ago, through this very recording, before I knew Reger was supposed to be "difficult":

Reger: Serenade for Orchestra in G Major, Op. 95
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam conducted by Eugen Jochum
Recorded June 21 and 22, 1943
Capitol-Telefunken set KEM-8026, five 45-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 106.56 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 66.85 MB)

...but I'm also willing to consider the possibility that I enjoy it because it's a fine piece. Composed in 1905-06, this Serenade is symphonic in scope, its two large sonata-form movements flanking a wispy scherzo and a slow movement of almost Elgarian eloquence. Part of the piece's appeal is that it inhabits a unique sound world, for Reger or anyone else. It is scored for a moderate-sized orchestra, with harp and timpani but no trumpets or trombones, the string section being divided into two separate choirs, one with mutes and the other without. Eugen Jochum (1902-1987) seems to have made a specialty of it, for a recording he made two weeks after the Telefunken one, with the Berlin Philharmonic, surfaced on a Urania LP in the 1950s.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Danish Music for Winds

Jørgen Bentzon
Perhaps it was inevitable after the success of Carl Nielsen's great Wind Quintet of 1922, but Danish composers since then seem to have excelled at enriching the repertory of chamber music for woodwinds. I have already offered two examples of this at this post; now I offer two more:

Jørgen Bentzon: Racconto No. 3, Op. 31 (1937)
Waldemar Wolsing, oboe
P. Allin Erichsen, clarinet
Kjell Roikjer, bassoon
Recorded September 30, 1943
HMV DB 5285, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 24.42 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 14.09 MB)

Vagn Holmboe: Notturno, Op. 19, for wind quintet (1940)
Wind Quintet of 1932
Recorded October 17, 1947
HMV DA 5258 and DA 5259, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 34.08 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 20.84 MB)

These appear to be the first recordings of any work by either composer. Of Holmboe, I have spoken at the post referenced above; this delightful four-movement Notturno has remained one of his most popular works. The fame of Jørgen Bentzon (1897-1951) has been eclipsed by that of his younger cousin, Niels Viggo Bentzon. Jørgen, whose 120th birthday incidentally is approaching (Valentine's Day), was a student of Nielsen, whose influence on his work is strong. The piece recorded here is one of a series of six one-movement works he called Racconti (tales), each scored for a different chamber ensemble.

It should be noted that the members of the trio in the Bentzon work are also members of the "Wind Quintet of 1932" - whose flutist was Johan Bentzon, another cousin.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Boris Godunov - Symphonic Synthesis (Stokowski, 1941)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
This is something that I should really have saved for Stokowski's birthday in April, but I simply couldn't resist posting it on this eve of Inauguration Day. A posting containing Stokowski's theatrical "symphonic synthesis" of the best-known, and greatest, musical work about a political figure (and not only that, but a political figure whose legitimacy to rule was widely questioned), seemed only too apropos. And this is the closest you will find me coming to making political commentary on this blog, for, as Charles Schulz said, when asked why he wouldn't make his "Peanuts" comic strip a vehicle for politics, "why would I want to offend fifty percent of my readers right off the bat?" With that in mind, I hope you will enjoy the music:

Mussorgsky-Stokowski: Boris Godunov - A Symphonic Synthesis
The All-American Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Recorded July 4-5, 1941
Columbia Masterworks set MM-516, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 59.42 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 41.38 MB)

Speaking of Columbia, I have recently completed compiling a numerical listing of their records in American Columbia's celebrity "-M" suffixed series (1925-1954), which I am making available as a PDF file here:

Link (448.08 KB)

Also, I am making available a copy of the Music Lovers' Guide from March, 1934. This magazine, edited by Axel B. Johnson, is the successor publication to the Phonograph Monthly Review, and eventually morphed into the American Music Lover and then the American Record Guide, which still flourishes. Until that happy day when a complete run of the Music Lovers' Guide is available online, this single copy will give you an idea of what the magazine was like:

Link (28.16 MB)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nielsen: Aladdin Suite (Felumb)

This week I present what appears to be the first recording of an orchestral work of Carl Nielsen to occupy more than one record (perhaps, even, more than one side) - five movements from his 1919 incidental music to Adam Oehlenschläger's "dramatic fairy tale" Aladdin. It isn't a work of blazing importance in his oeuvre, perhaps, but it is a lot of fun, and has all the quirkiness I find to be characteristic of Nielsen's music. Outstanding is the section entitled "Torvet i Ispahan" (The Market Place at Ispahan), in which four different sections of the orchestra play simultaneously at different speeds! It's conducted here by Svend Christian Felumb (1898-1872) who, one week before this recording was made, played oboe and English horn on the seminal recording of Nielsen's Wind Quintet.

Nielsen: Suite from the Incidental Music for "Aladdin" (Op. 34)
Tivoli Concert Orchestra conducted by Svend Christian Felumb
Recorded January 31, 1936
Nielsen: Maskarade - Prelude to Act II
Royal Danish Opera Orchestra conducted by Johan Hye-Knudsen
Recorded c. February 1936
HMV X 4676, Z 231 and Z 232, one 10-inch and two 12-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 55.76 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 34.72 MB)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Finn Viderø at the Compenius Organ

The 1610 Compenius Organ, Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark
(as pictured in the booklet for the Gramophone Shop Celebrities Album)
Happy New Year! Here, without further ado, is the companion album for the Finn Viderø set I posted a few weeks ago, made by HMV for the Gramophone Shop in New York, a selection of 16th and 17th century music played on the oldest organ in Denmark, built by Esaias Compenius in 1610:

Compenius Organ Album:
Samuel Scheidt: Magnificat secundi toni
Girolamo Frescobaldi: Canzone dopo l'Epistola
Heinrich Scheidemann: Praeambulum in Dorian Mode
Antonio Cabezón: Diferencias sobre "El Canto del Caballero"
Antonio Cabezón: Tiento del cuatro tono
Jean Titelouze: Magnificat quinti toni
Melchior Schildt: Praeambulum
Orlando Gibbons: Fantasia
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: O lux beata trinitas - 2 variations
Jakob Praetorius: Praeambulum
Michael Praetorius: Alvus tumescit virginis
Finn Viderø at the Compenius organ in Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark
Recorded c. 1949
Gramophone Shop Celebrities Album 8, six 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 146.36 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 92.45 MB)

There were nine of these special albums produced by the Gramophone Shop, which, for some reason, began their numbering at Album 2 and went up through Album 10.  Here is a list of these:

GSC-2: Purcell: Eight Suites for Harpsichord (Sylvia Marlowe)
GSC-3: Treasures from the Repertory of Maggie Teyte
GSC-4: Songs of Gluck, Wagner and Franz (Lorri Lail, soprano)
GSC-5: Baroque Cantatas of 17th Century North Germany (Mogens Wöldike directing)
GSC-6: Seventeenth Century Organ Music (Finn Viderø)
GSC-7: Italian Songs of the Renaissance and Baroque (Gabriella Gatti)
GSC-8: Compenius Organ Album (Finn Viderø)
GSC-9: Choral Music of the Renaissance (Wöldike & Danish State Madrigal Choir)
GSC-10: Alto Cantatas of Schütz nnd Buxtehude (Lorri Lail, Finn Viderø)

All of these were recorded and manufactured by HMV except the Purcell Suites, which were American-made and pressed in vinylite. No indication is given as to who produced them, though my guess would be American Decca, given that Sylvia Marlowe would later record extensively for that label.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Schubert: Quartet in E-Flat (Musical Art Quartet)

Some years ago, I uploaded two of the Musical Art Quartet's major recordings for Columbia, made during 1927 and 1928, noting there were three in total. Well, here's the third and last, one of the group's two contributions to the Schubert Centennial celebrations in 1928:

Schubert: Quartet No. 10 in E-Flat Major, D. 87 (Op. 125, No. 1)
Recorded March 28, 1928
Schubert (arr. Conrad Held): Hark, Hark, the Lark (D. 889)
Recorded April 11, 1928
The Musical Art Quartet (Jacobsen, Bernard, Kaufman, Roemaet-Rosanoff)
English Columbia 9473 through 9475, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 60.18 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 35.75 MB)

This set was actually issued in Britain one month before it was issued in the USA, its country of origin. In the USA, it was the last of the Schubert Centennial sets to be issued -- as Masterworks Set No. 96, in December, 1928, coming after Set No. 97, the Octet, which had been issued the previous month. It was viewed as a holdover by the Phonograph Monthly Review, whose editor called the piece "an interesting little work, but hardly as significant as some of the other Schubert recordings."

Sascha Jacobsen (1895-1972), the leader of the Musical Art Quartet, had been an exclusive Columbia artist for nine years (since 1918) when he founded the ensemble. His last recordings for the company as a soloist were made the day after the Quartet's filler side for this set, though the Quartet would continue to record short pieces for Columbia until 1930.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seventeenth Century Organ Music (Finn Viderø)

Finn Viderø
One of the most renowned record shops in America in the second quarter of the twentieth century was New York's Gramophone Shop, on East 48th Street. Begun in the spring of 1928 by William H. Tyler and Joseph Brodan, the store did a thriving business in imported recordings and eventually took to releasing esoteric fare under its own imprint, although in most cases the actual records were recorded and pressed by HMV. (Latter-day collectors have additional reason to bless the existence of the Gramophone Shop - the three editions of the Encyclopedia of Recorded Music which it sponsored, from 1936, 1942, and 1948, which remain standard reference works.) Among its albums under the heading of "Gramophone Shop Celebrities" is this marvelous collection by the Danish organist Finn Viderø:

Seventeenth Century Organ Music:
Buxtehude: Toccata in F Major, BuxWV 156
Froberger: 2 Ricercare - In the Phrygian Mode; in F-Sharp Minor
Louis Marchand: Dialogue in C Major
Franz Tunder: Prelude in G Minor
Matthias Weckmann: Toccata in E Minor
Pachelbel: Fantasia in G Minor; Ricercare in C Minor
Buxtehude: Prelude and Fugue in D Minor, BuxWV 140
Buxtehude: Canzonetta in E Minor, BuxWV 169
Finn Viderø at the organ of Jaegersborg Church, Denmark
Recorded c. 1948 by HMV
Gramophone Shop Celebrities Album No. 6, six 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 130.42 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 84.19 MB)

Of the Gramophone Shop's two co-founders, Mr. Tyler, who had since at least 1925 been the manager of the record department at the New York Band Instrument Company (as we find out in the June, 1925, issue of "The Talking Machine World"), has a connection with my native city, Atlanta, as well. For, by the time these "Gramophone Shop Celebrities" sets were being made in the late 40s, Mr. Tyler had left New York to found his own shop down here, at 845 Peachtree Street, known as Tyler's Gramophone Shop. My old mentor Bill Brooks spoke of working for this shop (and indeed, the 1947 Atlanta City Directory lists him as a salesman there) - which would explain the large number of imported records that Mr. Brooks possessed, for Mr. Tyler worked as an importer here as he had in New York. His store didn't last long, unfortunately. It's listed in only two editions of the city directories, 1947 and 1948-49. Some twenty years ago I acquired a few 78s from a lady who had been one of his customers (this lady's name, alas, I cannot remember, but she attended the church I was playing for at the time). She remembered Tyler's Gramophone Shop as "a wonderful place," and that "it closed down after Mr. Tyler committed suicide." The original Gramophone Shop in New York closed its doors for good early in 1954.

I do not know whether I will post again before Christmas, so everyone accept my best wishes for a happy holiday season!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stravinsky from Concert Hall

A few months ago, Nick Morgan tipped me off not only to the existence of this LP, but to its availability on ebay at a quite reasonable price. (Thanks, Nick!) In December, 1954, when the record was released, it must have seemed the height of chutzpah for a relatively small record label like Concert Hall, with a little-known orchestra and conductor, to challenge major labels like RCA Victor and Mercury, who had the only available recordings of Stravinsky's Danses Concertantes and Dumbarton Oaks, respectively, conducted by Stravinsky himself! And quite creditably, too. For good measure, Concert Hall threw in their recordings, from 78s originally sold by subscription, of the Gordon String Quartet in Stravinsky's complete works for string quartet - which, I have to admit, was the main reason I was interested in this LP:

Stravinsky: Danses Concertantes and Dumbarton Oaks Concerto
Rochester Chamber Orchestra conducted by Robert Hull
Recorded c. 1954
Stravinsky: Three Pieces for String Quartet and Concertino
The Gordon String Quartet (Gordon-Rossi-Dawson-Magg)
Recorded c. 1947
Concert Hall CHS-1229, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 116.63 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 81.29 MB)

I can find out very little online about the conductor, Robert Hull, and the sleeve-note for the record unobligingly offers no information either, focusing its attention on the orchestra (and advertising its previous releases). It appears that Hull was active also at Cornell University during this period, then went to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1957 to conduct the symphony orchestra there. In the 70s his name turns up as conductor of the Arizona Symphony on several LPs of contemporary music made by very small specialist labels such as Klavier and Laurel.  Jacques Gordon, the leader of the quartet that bears his name, had, sadly, been dead for six years at the time this LP reissued his Stravinsky recordings.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The First Electrical Recording of a Bach Concerto?

As I mentioned several weeks ago, I have lately discovered the online treasure-trove of the Phonograph Monthly Review magazine (1926-1932). I have been methodically plodding through this, issue by issue, and am about halfway through the run. One of its features was R. D. Darrell's monthly "Recorded Symphony Programs" - an overview of recorded orchestral works one might likely encounter in concert, with the aim of allowing the reader to recreate such a concert at home by means of records. The issue for April, 1928, gives an overview of orchestral recordings of Bach, and notes that Harriet Cohen's acoustical recording of the D minor concerto (BWV 1052) is the only "Bach piano concerto" yet recorded. Moreover, all the other Bach concertos (for violin) listed were acoustical recordings. In the very next issue, in the very same feature, mention is made of this French HMV recording of a concerto for three pianos, as having just been released:

Bach: Concerto in C Major, BWV 1064, for three claviers and strings
Hélène Pignari, Lydia Schavelson, Lucette Descaves, pianos
Orchestra conducted by Gustave Bret
Recorded November 2, 1927
HMV D 2080 and D 2081, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 45.47 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 26.67 MB)

My copy, however, is from an English issue of five years later. Of the three pianists involved, I can only find out information online about Lucette Descaves (1906-1993), a pupil of Marguerite Long who went on to teach Pascal Rogé and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, among others. The name of Hélène Pignari (sometimes billed Pignari-Salles; I assume she married a Monsieur Salles at some point?) comes up sometimes in connection with recordings in partnership with violinist Louis Kaufman for Concert Hall, but of Schavelson I can find out nothing. If anyone out there knows anything more about these two ladies, please comment! The conductor, Gustave Bret (1875-1969) appears to have also been an organist and composer with a particular interest in Bach. In 1933 he directed a recording of the Vivaldi-Bach concerto for four keyboards (with Pignari again as one of the pianists) for French HMV, which can be heard at the CHARM website.

Thanks also to PMR, I have new information about this recording of the Bach Double Concerto by Anton Witek and his wife - apparently it was made at Bayreuth in 1928; for further details see my update to that post.