Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Birthday, George Frederick Handel!

The 330th anniversary of the birth of George Frederick Handel is Monday, February 23, and to celebrate, I'm revisiting the reclaimed record pile, which had a number of single 78s of Handel's music.  Here are a couple of the most interesting ones:

Handel: Nel dolce dell'oblio - Cantata, HWV 134
Ethel Luening, soprano; Otto Luening, flute;
Sterling Hunkins, cello; Ernst Victor Wolff, harpsichord
Recorded c. 1936
Musicraft 1010, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 25.30 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 13.53 MB)

Handel: Chaconne in G Major (with 21 variations), HWV 435
Yella Pessl, harpsichord
Recorded June 3, 1936
Columbia 68599-D, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 27.95 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 15.58 MB)

The Musicraft record was one of that company's very first releases.  It features Otto Luening (1900-1996), later to gain fame as an electronic music pioneer, and his then-wife, Ethel (neé Cobb).  The record by Yella (Gabriella) Pessl (1906-1991) is one of about eighteen issued by Columbia in 1936 and 1937; she then defected to Victor, where she concentrated on recording chamber music, while Ernst Victor Wolff (1889-1960), a mainstay of the early Musicraft catalog, replaced her as Columbia's resident harpsichordist.  Both Pessl and Wolff, incidentally, used a Maendler-Schramm harpsichord (a German make in production between 1906 and about 1960), and the recording careers of both seem to have petered out after about 1940.


  1. Thanks so much, I'm looking forward to these! Did you see that Symposium put out a very interesting selection of New Music Quarterly Recordings, with items by Otto Luening performed by him and Ethel, and that Luening's rather marvellous Gargoyles for violin and tape, with violinist Max Pollikoff, is in one of Sony's 'Prophets of the New' remasterings? Best wishes, Nick

    1. Hi Nick, I was unaware of the Symposium release, but, looking into it, find that it's download only, and apparently not available to us poor Americans! I do have an old CRI LP which has the Ives songs and violin sonata, and the Quincy Porter viola piece, but in an awful transfer with fake stereo added - no doubt the Symposium issue is much preferable.

  2. Hi Bryan,

    Thanks for this post!
    FYI, seems like the 'Handel: Nel dolce dell'oblio - Cantata, HWV 134" FLAC zip file is corrupted.
    Keep posting! :-)