Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mischa Elman plays Fauré

A few weeks back, Nick of Grumpy's Classics Cave (see my list of blogs at the right) presented us with a rare Albert Sammons recording of Gabriel Fauré's Violin Sonata in A, Op. 13.  Here's my answer to that wonderful upload - a somewhat less rare, perhaps, though certainly not common, recording of the same work beautifully played by Mischa Elman (1891-1967).  As far as I am aware, this 1941 recording for Victor has never been reissued on CD, although a later Elman recording of the sonata, for Decca in the 1950s, has turned up in a 4-CD Testament box set along with sonatas by Beethoven, Brahms, Franck, Grieg and Handel.  It's rather a surprise to me that this recording was even made, as the Fauré Sonatas were considered music for the connoisseur in those days (perhaps they still are!), and the Victor catalogue of 1941 already boasted a recording by Elman's arch-rival Heifetz, which, in turn, had replaced a recording by Jacques Thibaud.  Elman observes the first movement's exposition repeat, something rarely done on 78-rpm records.

Fauré: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 13
Mischa Elman, violin; Leopold Mittmann, piano
Recorded Spring, 1941
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-859, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 62.88 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 28.7 MB)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Britten for St. Cecilia's Day

Monday, November 22, is the feast day of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, and also the 97th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976).  To celebrate, here are three works (one of them a re-upload) by that great genius, all dating from the 1940s and all recorded within a year of their premières.  First, appropriately enough, is his "Hymn to St. Cecilia," Op. 27, for a capella 5-part chorus, with words by W. H. Auden.  It was begun while Britten was living in the USA, but not completed until he was on his way back home to England in 1942, the ship he was on under constant threat from German U-boats.  This first recording of the piece features the Fleet Street Choir, an amateur group that racked up several important gramophonic firsts, including first complete recordings of Byrd's Mass for Five Voices, Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor, and Randall Thompson's "Alleluia."

Britten: Hymn to St. Cecilia, Op. 27
(+ Holst: This Have I Done For My True Love, Op. 34, No. 1)
Fleet Street Choir, directed by T. B. Lawrence
Recorded January 28, 1943
English Decca K 1088-89, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 77.18 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 29.33 MB)

Next, something rather more familiar - the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell), Op. 34.  The BBC, by the way, often angered the composer when announcing the work by giving only its subtitle and omitting the "Young Person's Guide" part!  Given Britten's lifelong interest in providing musical experiences for children (almost every one of his operas includes parts for child singers), his irritation is understandable.  This first recording of the piece is conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, who also gave the concert première in 1946, and who conducted and narrated the film version, "Instruments of the Orchestra."  Pictured below is the Steinweiss cover design for the American Columbia issue of this set:

Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34
(+ Bach-Sargent: Suite No. 3 in D - Air)
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent
Recorded October 26, 1946
Columbia Masterworks Set MM-703, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 54.81 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.53 MB)

Purcell's shadow also hangs heavily over the String Quartet No. 2, which was composed in 1945 to commemmorate the 250th anniversary of Purcell's death.  This is a re-upload of a recording I originally posted in May 2008, and includes Britten's only recording as a violist in the filler, the Purcell Fantasia Upon One Note:

Britten: String Quartet No. 2 in C, Op. 36
(+ Purcell: Fantasia upon One Note, arranged for string quintet)
Zorian String Quartet
Recorded October 12, 1946
HMV C 3536-39, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 82.89 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 34.67 MB)

John Amis, married to Olive Zorian, the leader of the ensemble on this recording, recalled Britten's reticence talking about his own music during rehearsals for this work.  Amis "listened and would occasionally ask about some detail or comment with delight, 'Oh, I see, this new tune is really the old one upside down,' or something like that, at which Ben would look hard at the score and say, 'Oh, is it? Fancy that?' Sometimes he would wink as he said it.  At other times it was difficult to know whether he was fooling or not."  This anecdote comes from Humphrey Carpenter's fine 1992 biography of the composer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Constant Lambert Conducts

This week I present several rare recordings by Constant Lambert (1905-1951), conductor, composer, raconteur, writer and wit.  As a conductor, he was renowned for his interpretations of Russian and English music, and both are featured in these downloads.  From Russia we get Lambert's brilliant and exciting interpretations of two tone poems, Tchaikovsky's Hamlet and Glazunov's Stenka Razin, and from England the Purcell Chaconne in G minor in a string orchestra arrangment.  (This is not the famous Purcell Chacony, as the first volume of the World's Encyclopedia of Music erroneously states - but an arrangement of No. 6 of the Ten Sonatas in Four Parts, which is also in G minor and also in the form of a chaconne.)  These three different recordings feature three different orchestras, and in fact the Glazunov was the first appearance of the Liverpool Philharmonic on records.  Here are the details:

Tchaikovsky: Hamlet - Overture-Fantasia, Op. 67
Hallé Orchestra conducted by Constant Lambert
Recorded October 9, 1942
Columbia Masterworks set MX-243, 2 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 43.11 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 22.31 MB)

Glazunov: Stenka Razin - Symphonic Poem, Op. 13
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Constant Lambert
Recorded December 22, 1942 and January 12, 1943
English Columbia DX 1107 and DX 1108, 2 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 35.87 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 16.24 MB)

Purcell, arr. Whittaker: Chaconne in G minor, Z. 807
Philharmonia String Orchestra conducted by Constant Lambert
Recorded October 12, 1945
English Columbia DX 1230, 1 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 22.15 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 8.98 MB)

Back in 2008 I uploaded another Constant Lambert recording, in tandem with one by Walter Goehr, as both featured orchestral works of Bizet in their first recordings.  These have been re-uploaded; the details:

Bizet: Carnival (from "Roma" Suite)
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Constant Lambert
Recorded October 29, 1943
English Columbia DX 1136, 1 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 17.37 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 6.63 MB)

Bizet: Symphony in C Major (+ Danse Bohemienne from "Fair Maid of Perth")
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr
Recorded November 26, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece Set DM-721, 4 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 67.45 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.23 MB)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mozart by the Pro Arte Quartet

Here is one of three Mozart string quintets recorded by the original members of the Pro Arte Quartet, an ensemble which is still with us today (and poised to celebrate its centennial in 2012).  From 1921 to 1939 its members were Alphonse Onnou and Laurent Halleux, violins; Germain Prevost, viola; and Robert Maas, cello.  All but Maas were founding members of the ensemble, which was formed in Belgium in 1912.  The Pro Arte Quartet began recording for HMV in 1931, commencing with their famous Haydn series which ultimately ran to 29 string quartets, most of them in their first recordings.  Their recorded output during the 1930s was vast, some 280 issued 78-rpm sides, and included collaborations with pianists Artur Rubinstein, Alfredo Casella, and, most famously, Artur Schnabel.

As I mentioned above, they recorded three Mozart string quintets with British-born violist Alfred Hobday (1870-1942).  Hobday got around; he's featured as second violist in innumerable quintet and sextet recordings of the period, not just with the Pro Arte but also with the Budapest Quartet, and he was in the very first recording of a Mozart quintet, that of K. 516 in G minor with the London String Quartet in 1917, which has been transferred by Jolyon -see here.  My transfer is of the Quintet in D, K. 593:

Mozart: String Quintet No. 5 in D, K. 593
Pro Arte Quartet with Alfred Hobday, second viola
Recorded November 18, 1936
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-350, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 56.68 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 24.47 MB)

Alfred Hobday's wife was the pianist Ethel Hobday, née Sharpe (1872-1947).  Her recording, with the London String Quartet, of Schumann's Piano Quintet for Vocalion was the one which converted Compton Mackenzie, who founded Gramophone Magazine in 1923, into a gramophile.  Alas, I don't have that (though Jolyon does - see the link above), but I do have her recording of Elgar's Piano Quintet, made for the National Gramophonic Society in 1925.  Elgar himself had been approached to play the piano part in this recording, but he declined, recommending Mrs. Hobday instead.  I have re-uploaded this recording, which I originally transferred early in 2008:

Elgar: Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 84
Ethel Hobday, piano, with the Spencer Dyke String Quartet
Recorded December, 1925 by Vocalion
National Gramophonic Society NN through RR, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 96.56 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 36.97 MB)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gladys Ripley sings "Sea Pictures"

This post features the British contralto Gladys Ripley (1908-1955), a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice, whose life, sadly, was cut short by throat cancer at the age of 47 (the age I am now!).  Here she sings Elgar's fine orchestral song cycle, "Sea Pictures" (composed in 1897-99) with, as a filler, a surprisingly gloomy song by Haydn, "The Spirit's Song" ("Hark! Hark what I tell to thee").  This 1946 recording features the collaboration of that greatly underrated conductor, George Weldon (1908-1963), who conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Elgar: Sea Pictures, Op. 37 (+ Haydn: The Spirit's Song)
Gladys Ripley, contralto
Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by George Weldon
Recorded May 28, 1946
HMV C 3498 through C 3500, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 63.46 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.17 MB)

I have up several other George Weldon recordings with the orchestra of which he was Music Director from 1944 to 1951, the City of Birmingham Orchestra.  (That's Birmingham, England, of course - not Birmingham, Alabama! Those of us here in the Southern US have to be reminded of that periodically.)  The first of these is a new offering, and the others are re-uploads of transfers I made over three years ago; however, the Dvořák symphony upload now contains scans of the booklet for the set that I was unable to provide earlier.  Here are the details:

Sibelius: King Christian II Suite - Elegie and Musette
City of Birmingham Orchestra, conducted by George Weldon
Recorded March 22, 1945
Columbia DX 1220, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 18.53 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 7.76 MB)

Edward German: Welsh Rhapsody
City of Birmingham Orchestra, conducted by George Weldon
Recorded April 16, 1945
Columbia DX 1274 and 1275, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 43.43 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 19.7 MB)

Dvořák: Symphony No. 5 in F, Op. 76, and
Glinka: Ruslan and Ludmilla - Overture
City of Birmingham Orchestra, conducted by George Weldon
Recorded June 25-27, 1945 (Dvořák) and June 7, 1946 (Glinka)
Columbia DX 1315 through 1319, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 105.57 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 48.23 MB)

For those interested in reading further about George Weldon, there's a free downloadable biography (in PDF format) available here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Early Haydn by Beecham

This time I present what I believe to be Sir Thomas Beecham's only recording of an early Haydn symphony (from 1763), or indeed any Haydn symphony other than the last twelve (the "London" Symphonies, Nos. 93-104).  Someone correct me if I'm wrong!  Anyway, here it is:

Haydn: Symphony No. 40 in F Major
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
Recorded April 20, 1948
HMV DB 6823 and 6824, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 35.47 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 15.75 MB)

On the eve of the Haydn anniversary year, 2009 (the 200th anniversary of his passing), I uploaded to RMCR four vintage recordings of his symphonies by four different British conductors (including Beecham).  I've re-uploaded these; here are the details:

Haydn: Symphony No. 22 in E-Flat Major ("The Philosopher")
London Baroque Ensemble, conducted by Karl Haas
Recorded July 4, 1951
Parlophone SW 8122 and 8123, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 37.7 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 17.35 MB)

Haydn: Symphony No. 45 in F-Sharp minor ("Farewell")
London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Henry J. Wood
Recorded April 19, 1934
Columbia LX 323 through 325, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 57.34 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 24.42 MB)

Haydn: Symphony No. 95 in C minor
London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty
Recorded October 14, 1935
Decca K 798 and 799, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 38.17 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 16.33 MB)

Haydn: Symphony No. 102 in B-Flat Major
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, Bart.
Recorded June and October, 1949
HMV DB 9449 through 9451, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 48.67 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.55 MB)

Finally, for anyone interested in hearing my own piano playing, about this time last year I participated in a Haydn commemorative concert at my church, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Ga.  From this concert I have uploaded two works: the "Gypsy Rondo" Piano Trio in G (with violinist Laura Reynolds and cellist James Woodall), and the wonderful Andante with Variations in F minor for piano solo.  Enjoy, but don't expect note-perfect playing!

Link (FLAC files, 95.58 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 35.6 MB)