Sunday, February 17, 2013

Debussy and Ravel by Newell and Wummer (and others)

Laura Newell, John Wummer, Milton Katims
Two sets this week, the common denominator of both being not only French impressionism, but the same harpist and flutist.  These are Laura Newell, active in the 1940s and 1950s as a freelance harpist (she was Robert Shaw's choice for both recordings by his Robert Shaw Chorale of Britten's Ceremony of Carols), and John Wummer, principal flute of the New York Philharmonic from 1942 to 1965.  They're both joined by Milton Katims, who played second viola on a number of Budapest Quartet recordings of Mozart and Beethoven quintets, and later conducted the Seattle Symphony, for this Debussy trio:

Debussy: Sonata No. 2, for flute, viola and harp
John Wummer, Milton Katims, Laura Newell
Recorded April 24, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MX-282, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 49.8 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 27.1 MB)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
(restored by Peter Joelson)

Laura Newell was also associated with the brothers Sylvan and Alan Shulman, all three being members of the group "New Friends of Rhythm" for which Alan Shulman wrote jazz-influenced arrangements and compositions.  So it's natural that she should have recorded Ravel's Introduction and Allegro with the Shulmans' Stuyvesant String Quartet:

Ravel: Introduction and Allegro
Laura Newell, harp; John Wummer, flute; Ralph McLane, clarinet
Stuyvesant String Quartet (Shulman-Dembeck-Kievman-Shulman)
Debussy: The Maid with the Flaxen Hair (arr. Grandjany)
Laura Newell, harp
Recorded March 22, 1940
Columbia Masterworks set MX-167, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 34.1 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 21.6 MB)

As I mentioned in an earlier post about the Stuyvesant Quartet, the two inner parts changed hands several times during their first few years of existence.  This appears to have been the only recording that John Dembeck, who that same year moved to Toronto and eventually became a Canadian citizen, made as their second violinist.

All my old files are now up and running; and the links from my blog have been changed to the new ones.


  1. Thanks, Bryan - FYI, I am preparing a post of music by Griffes and Foote with another flutist, Julius Baker. Appearing in the Foote Night Piece are Sylvan Shulman and Bernard Robbins, who was then the Stuyvesant second violin.

    1. Sounds like a worthwhile project, Buster, and I look forward to hearing it. Wummer also recorded the Foote, on a single Columbia 78 with the Dorian Quartet, but I've never heard it.

  2. New Friends of Rhythm

  3. Bryan, do you happpen to know from your research which Victor and
    Columbia classical sets were the first to be issued with 'silver'-
    print labels rather than gold?

    Mike in Plovdiv

    1. Mike, I wish you'd asked me this ten years ago, when I still had over 50% of both companies' 40s classical sets! But I don't remember seeing gold print labels on any Victor sets above, say, M-800, and for Columbia, past about M-500/X-220.

  4. Thanks -- that confirms my nostalgia-like memory i.e., it ain't what it useta be. I did
    look thru your liszts, trying to remember which I had and what colour, and that was
    my best guess.