Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 3 (Efrem Zimbalist)

Efrem Zimbalist
For someone of his eminence during the golden age of violin playing, Efrem Zimbalist (1890-1985) did not have a recording career that really did him justice. Yes, there was the series of acoustic sides for Victor beginning in 1911, but he had Elman and Kreisler (and, later, Heifetz) to compete with in that sphere, and his usefulness to the company seems to have been principally to play obbligati to his wife, soprano (and Red Seal luminary) Alma Gluck. (His best-remembered recording is the famous Bach Double Concerto with Kreisler.) In 1928 he switched to Columbia, an association that produced some 34 issued sides, but only one recording of an extended work, this Brahms sonata:

Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108
Efrem Zimbalist, violin; Harry Kaufman, piano
Recorded May 19, 1930
Columbia Masterworks Set No. 140, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 62.75 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 42.74 MB)

This recording would have been intended to replace the one by Arthur Catterall and William Murdoch in Columbia's catalogue, and would itself be replaced eight years later with the version by Joseph Szigeti and Egon Petri. New York-born Harry Kaufman (1894-1961) may not be in quite the same league as Murdoch or Petri, but as someone who was head of the Department of Accompanying at the Curtis Institute at the time this recording was made, he acquits himself admirably. Zimbalist himself was later Curtis' director (from 1941 to 1968).

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Carpenter: Adventures in a Perambulator (Ormandy)

John Alden Carpenter
Barely remembered today, John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951), born 140 years ago next Sunday (Feb. 28) in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Illinois, was among the most celebrated of living American composers in the period before such younger men as Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber became prominent. Like his almost exact contemporary, Charles Ives, he was a successful businessman who composed in his spare time, and also like Ives, his works are imbued with an American spirit; but while Ives' works are an evocation of 19th-century America through sometimes aggressively modern-sounding means, Carpenter's take the opposite route, often evoking the 20th century (e.g., his ballets Krazy Kat and Skyscrapers) in a more conservative style. One of his best-remembered works is this charming baby's-eye view of life on the streets one hundred years ago, written in 1914 for Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:

Carpenter: Adventures in a Perambulator, suite for orchestra
Recorded January 17, 22 and 23, 1934
Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro - Overture
Recorded January 23, 1934
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-238, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 86.50 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 55.47 MB)

These were some of the fruits from Ormandy's first recording sessions as conductor of a major symphony orchestra. The series of sessions actually ran from Tuesday, January 16, through Wednesday the 24th - every day except Sunday. The session of the 17th which produced this Carpenter suite also produced the recording of Kodály's "Háry János" Suite that can be heard here.

UPDATE (June 16, 2016): The listings at USCB's online Discography of American Historical Recordings (formerly the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings) now include the 1934 Ormandy-Minneapolis sessions, and they indicate that retakes of the Carpenter suite from January 22 (sides 3 and 4) and January 23 (sides 6 and 7) were used for M-238.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Two "Firsts" from the Coolidge Quartet

Nicolai Berezowsky
With these two sets, I am now about two-thirds of the way through completing what Nick, of Grumpy's Classics Cave, has quaintly called my "heroic quest" - my effort to possess a complete run of the Coolidge Quartet's recordings of 1938-40. (Every time I hear the word "quest" I, perhaps inevitably, think of Don Quixote - thanks to that little ditty by Mitch Leigh, "The Impossible Dream.") Today's installment contains something I am quite thrilled to be able to offer, a work by the Coolidges' own second violinist, Nicolai Berezowsky (1900-1953):

Berezowsky: Quartet No. 1, Op. 16
The Coolidge Quartet (Kroll-Berezowsky-Moldavan-Gottlieb)
Recorded May 31, 1938
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-624, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 46.71 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 33.06 MB)

This piece, published in 1931, is hardly profound but is highly enjoyable, its four movements squarely in the neo-classical tradition with strong echoes of Stravinsky and Hindemith. Berezowsky enjoyed a certain amount of success as a composer during his lifetime, with four symphonies and several concertos to his credit. (His Fourth Symphony can be heard here on YouTube.) Sadly, he committed suicide at the age of 53, and his work has since fallen into oblivion.

The other item today is the first installment of the Coolidges' ill-fated Beethoven cycle:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 18, No. 1
The Coolidge Quartet (Kroll-Berezowsky-Moldavan-Gottlieb)
Recorded March 17, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set AM-550, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 60.00 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.33 MB)

Both downloads contain PDF files of the original program booklets, that of the Berezowsky offering his own analysis of his quartet.