Saturday, December 28, 2013

Franz Reizenstein: Prologue, Variations and Finale

Franz Reizenstein
Franz who? - I hear you say.  And I can't say I would blame you.  My only prior awareness of the Nuremberg-born Franz Reizenstein (1911-1968) was of his participation in the 1956 Hoffnung Music Festival, to which he contributed a highly amusing Concerto Popolare ("A Piano Concerto to End All Piano Concertos").  But the Jewish Reizenstein, who fled Germany for England in 1934, had a much more serious side.  He had studied with Paul Hindemith while still in Germany, and continued studies with Vaughan Williams after his emigration.  (A very useful online biography of the composer can be found here.)  For the brilliant violinist Max Rostal (1905-1991), a fellow emigré, he wrote this set of Hindemith-like variations in 1938:

Reizenstein: Prologue, Variations and Finale, Op. 12
Two Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 7 (Lullaby, Marcia Barbara)
Max Rostal, violin; Franz Reizenstein, piano
Recorded March 12 and July 30, 1945
London set LA-155, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 72.80 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 52.24 MB)

I hope I did the side joins in this set correctly; there has never been another recording of the piece, and I had no score to guide me, for it is long out-of-print.  I even tried contacting the erstwhile publishers, Boosey and Hawkes, who were unable to find a copy in their archives, but did offer to send a score of the orchestrated version! (I declined.)

For those wishing to hear Max Rostal in more mainstream repertoire, the CHARM database has his recordings of two Beethoven sonatas with Franz Osborn - Op. 12, No. 2, and Op. 96.

My best wishes to everyone for a happy and prosperous 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bizet: Jeux d'Enfants (Antal Dorati)

Antal Dorati
As I mentioned at about this time last year, when I put up this post, Christmas is for children, and so children and their games are the focus of this post.  Bizet's delightful set of twelve pieces for piano duet illustrating various kids' antics dates from 1871, and he later orchestrated five of the pieces to form his "Petite Suite."  The latter was recorded several times during the 78 era, but the complete set of pieces in its original duet form had to wait until Vitya Vronsky and Victor Babin released a ten-inch LP of them in 1950.  In the meantime, a young Antal Dorati made this recording of a Ballet Russes arrangement, adding to Bizet's "Petite Suite" five additional orchestrations by Pierre Kolpikoff of pieces previously unrecorded:

Bizet: Jeux d'Enfants - Suite, Op. 22
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati
Recorded September 17 and 27, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-510, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 41.06 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 29.84 MB)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Borodin and Tchaikovsky by Mitropoulos

Cover design by Karl Kezer
Dimitri Mitropoulos, like his Minneapolis predecessor Eugene Ormandy, never disappoints in performances of Russian music.  (My first exposure to Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, almost 40 years ago, was through a blazing Mitropoulos reading on a Columbia 78 set - and oh, how I wish I still had it!)  Here is an LP coupling two Russian masterpieces.  The Borodin Second Symphony was a specialty of Mitropoulos, but the CD reissue companies invariably have tapped his 1941 Minneapolis performance for release, never this New York version which, I believe, deserves attention as well.  The Tchaikovsky First Suite is a rarity as well, and this is only the second recording of it (after Walter Goehr's for Concert Hall, which can be heard here).  Unfortunately the third movement (Intermezzo) is omitted, presumably in the interest of getting the Suite on one side.  What remains is delightful, particularly its final galumphing Gavotte which surely influenced Prokofiev when he came to write his own Gavotte for his "Classical Symphony."

Borodin: Symphony No. 2 in B Minor
Recorded November 2, 1953
Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 43
Recorded October 18 and November 17, 1954
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York
conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Columbia Masterworks ML-4966, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 152.15 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 94.15 MB)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Beethoven: Quartet No. 6 (Coolidge Quartet)

Happy Beethoven's Birthday! Here is my latest Coolidge Quartet find, another in their aborted series to record all the Beethoven string quartets (which stopped short halfway through, with No. 8).  This is the last of the "early" quartets (Op. 18), and the Coolidge Beethoven set which had the shortest catalogue life (since it was the last issued of their Op. 18 sets, all of which were deleted during the Second World War, unlike their two successors):

Beethoven: Quartet No. 6 in B-Flat, Op. 18, No. 6
The Coolidge Quartet (Kroll-Berezowsky-Moldavan-Gottlieb)
Recorded December 19, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-745, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 59.46 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 42.73 MB)

This recording would appear to have been made at the same time as that of the Beethoven quartet which preceded it, if the proximity of its matrix numbers is any indication.  Said matrix numbers can be found here at the British Library website (as can the recording itself...but not for us poor Americans!).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beethoven via Saint-Saëns, Bartlett and Robertson

Camille Saint-Saëns, c. 1875
Beethoven's birthday is upon us again (Dec. 16), and, to celebrate, I present the finest set of variations known to me on one of his themes by someone other than Beethoven himself.  This is Saint-Saëns' 1874 set of variations for two pianos, based on the Trio of the Menuetto from the Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-Flat, Op. 31, No. 3 - and notice how Saint-Saëns works in, at the very beginning of this piece, a sly reference to another great sonata from the same opus, the "Tempest" Sonata, with his arpeggios running up the keyboard in different keys!  The performance here is another gem by Bartlett and Robertson, from their all-too-meager series of recordings for HMV from the early 30s:

Saint-Saëns: Variations on a Theme of Beethoven, Op. 35
Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, duo-pianists
Recorded July 22, 1932
HMV C 2483 and C 2484, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 42.31 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 25.38 MB)

I am aware of only three recordings of these Variations made during the 78-rpm era; this is the second.  The first was by Georges Bertram and Karol Szreter for French Odeon in 1927, and the last was a Victor set by Pierre Luboshutz and Genia Nemenoff issued in 1940.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 (Boult)

Adrian Boult, 1933
An orchestral suite by Bach is hardly repertoire that one would associate with the great British conductor Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983), but this recording, one of Boult's earliest with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (which he helped to found in 1930), is noteworthy for two reasons, both concerning the opening slow section of the Ouverture.  First, to my knowledge it's the only recording of a Bach orchestral suite made during the 78-rpm era to observe the repeat of the opening section.  Second, it's the earliest recording in which the "modern" practice of synchronizing the dotted rhythms (so that, for example, when eighth notes and sixteenth notes occur simultaneously in different parts, the rhythm adopted is that of the sixteenths) is heard.  Boult must have received coaching in this from Arnold Dolmetsch, for who else in England at that time would have known about it?  This practice became almost universal for Baroque music in the 1960s (and indeed there was a backlash against it starting in the 1980s, led by the American musicologist Frederick Neumann, and put into practice by Reinhard Goebel and his wonderful ensemble "Musica Antiqua Köln"), but it's rather startling to hear it in a 1933 recording.  Indeed the performance is very stylish and modern-sounding, and only the absence of any continuo instrument reminds one that it dates from eighty years ago:

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068
Prelude from the Violin Partita, BWV 1006 (arr. Pick-Mangiagalli)
BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult
Recorded May 22-23, 1933
HMV DB 1963 through DB 1965, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 69.15 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.99 MB)