Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shostakovich: First Piano Concerto

Here is the first recording of Shostakovich's First Piano Concerto, for piano, trumpet and strings.  It's played with panache by the Australian pianist Eileen Joyce (1908-1991), accompanied by the Hallé Orchestra (with principal trumpeter Arthur Lockwood) under the tragically short-lived Leslie Heward (1897-1943).  This recording was actually presented about a month ago by Tin Ear at The Music Parlour, as part of a series of Leslie Heward recordings, but that derived from a 1985 LP transfer, whereas mine is from the actual 78s (American pressings of British matrices), so I hope Tin Ear will forgive my encroachment upon his territory.  Besides, with my transfer you also get the filler side, a solo piano recording by Eileen Joyce of two Scriabin preludes.  And it gives me an excuse to present another Steinweiss cover:

This is the third copy of MM-527 that I have owned; the first I acquired on a hot summer day in 1976, when I was thirteen.  I was strolling the streets of downtown Decatur, Ga., probably going from the library to catch the bus home, when I spied a new used-bookshop called Cantrell's Books and Things at 112 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue (now the site of a folk art gallery intriguingly called "Wild Oats and Billy Goats").  Going in, I found that among the "things" were one wall lined with 78-rpm classical sets going for 50 cents per disc.  I had about four and a half dollars on me, so I bought as much as I could afford, namely, two sets: one was Beethoven's Op. 132 quartet played by the Budapest Quartet (Columbia MM-545) and the other was this Shostakovich piano concerto recording.  I had recently discovered Shostakovich and knew several of the symphonies but none of the concertos.  I loved Op. 35 on first hearing; it is still one of my favorite Shostakovich works, and this is still my favorite recording of it.

Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35 (+ 2 Scriabin Preludes)
Eileen Joyce, piano; Arthur Lockwood, trumpet;
Hallé Orchestra conducted by Leslie Heward
Recorded October 24, 1941
Columbia Masterworks MM-527, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 56.81 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 28.63 MB)

Another record by Miss Joyce is this one of two Beethoven bagatelles, including the ever-popular "Für Elise":

Beethoven: Bagatelle in C, Op. 33, No. 2 and "Für Elise"
Eileen Joyce, piano
Recorded May, 1940
English Columbia DX 974, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 15.32 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 7.2 MB)

And from Leslie Heward, two recordings that I uploaded previously, of Haydn and Mozart, which are still available:

Haydn: Symphony No. 103 in E-Flat ("Drum Roll")
Mozart: Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K. 546
Hallé Orchestra conducted by Leslie Heward
Recorded September 29 and 25, 1941
Columbia Masterworks MM-547, three 78-rpm records
English Columbia DX 1056, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 82.75 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 34.94 MB)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Handel Organ Concertos

This week I present several recordings of Handel organ concertos by two British organists that, decidedly, represent a bygone style of playing this music!  Featured first is George Dorrington Cunningham (1878-1948), who went by the rather unfortunate initials "G. D." (I wonder if they had the same connotations in those days?), and who was appointed Birmingham City Organist in 1924.  E. Power Biggs was one of his students.  His recordings of two Handel concerti, with George Weldon and the City of Birmingham Orchestra, were made late in his life, and exhibit a considerably beefier style of Handel playing than we are accustomed to today, with a big organ sound and a full symphonic-sized string orchestra accompaniment:

Handel: Organ Concerto No. 2 in B-Flat, Op. 4, No. 2 and
Handel: Organ Concerto No. 4 in F, Op. 4, No. 4
G. D. Cunningham (organ) and the
City of Birmingham Orchestra conducted by George Weldon
Recorded June 4, 1945
English Columbia DX 1358 through 1360, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 59.19 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.99 MB)

If the Cunningham performances seem oversized, they're positively sedate compared to what follows.  Cunningham's student, and successor as Birmingham City Organist, was George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987), who here turns in a performance of Handel's Organ Concerto in B-Flat, Op. 7, No. 3, as arranged and orchestrated by Sir Henry J. Wood.  Thalben-Ball's playing is flamboyant, to say the least, and the Wood orchestration, for full symphony orchestra with brass and percussion, is certainly anachronistic but it's great fun!  Handel's original ordering of the movements is also altered, and this perfomance interpolates not only the Minuet from "Berenice" but also a big cadenza by Thalben-Ball that takes up most of the last side.

Handel: Organ Concerto No. 9 in B-Flat, Op. 7, No. 3 (arr. Henry J. Wood) and
Arne: Organ Concerto No. 6 in B-Flat - Allegro moderato
George Thalben-Ball (organ) and the
Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Walter Susskind
Recorded June 4, Sept. 23, and Oct. 11, 1948
HMV C 3814 through 3816, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 59.9 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 27.31 MB)

Sir Henry Wood, of course, was a great conductor who left a fair number of recordings himself (though his recorded legacy hardly does him justice), and among these were several featuring Baroque music.  One of the very first uploads I ever offered, way back in the spring of 2007, was one of him conducting two Bach Brandenburg Concertos, and this is still available for those who may have missed it the first time:

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G and
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-Flat
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Henry J. Wood
Recorded June 16, 1932 (#3) and June 12, 1930 (#6)
Columbia 68084-D, 67842-D, and 67843-D, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 53.32 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 20.4 MB)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Robert Shaw's Bach Magnificat

This week I present the first-ever recording of Bach's great Magnificat in D, the Virgin Mary's hymn of praise uttered while pregnant with the Christ Child (Luke 1:46-55).  This features the dean of American choral conductors, Robert Shaw (1916-1999) in one of his earliest recordings.  The chorus is the RCA Victor Chorale; the soloists are Suzanne Freil, soprano; Blanche Thebom, mezzo-soprano; Ernice Lawrence, tenor; and Paul Matthen, bass; and the orchestra is made up of New York musicians including William Vacchiano (of the New York Philharmonic), trumpet; Robert Bloom (of the NBC Symphony), oboe d'amore; and Arthur Lora (also of the NBC Symphony), flute.

Bach: Magnificat in D, BWV 243
Soloists, RCA Victor Chorale and Orchestra conducted by Robert Shaw
Recorded June 18, 1946
RCA Victor set DM-1182, five 10-inch records
Link (FLAC file, 72.59 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 35.29 MB)

It would be impossible to overestimate the influence that Robert Shaw had on American choral singing.  Toscanini famously said, after a 1945 performance of the Beethoven Ninth for which Shaw had trained the chorus, "in Robert Shaw I have at last found the maestro I have been looking for."  Shaw's influence on the musical life of my native city, Atlanta, is also incalculable.  To this day Atlanta is a city with many enthusiastic choral groups.  Shaw was music director of the Atlanta Symphony during my formative years (from 1967, when I was four, to 1988) and his choral concerts with the ASO and the ASO chorus were always big events.  In the spring of 1998 I was fortunate enough to hear one of his last performances, of the Bach B minor Mass.  I was sitting in the front row of Atlanta's Symphony Hall, and from the very start, with that big shout of "KYRIE" from the chorus I was jolted out of my seat, and remained on the edge the entire evening.  A magnificent performance in every way, the fruit of over fifty years of living with this great music.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Other (not Sigmund) Romberg

The German cellist and composer Bernhard Romberg (1767-1841) was an almost exact contemporary of Beethoven, whose works for the cello are still widely used as teaching pieces.  We have him to thank, unfortunately, for there being no Beethoven cello concerto - Beethoven offered to write one for him, but Romberg turned him down, saying that he preferred to play his own works.  Among these are ten cello concertos, eleven string quartets and three symphonies, plus this Toy Symphony that enjoyed a certain popularity in the 1800s.  It's a delightful piece in four movements with an especially enjoyable Rondo finale, and a score is downloadable from the Petrucci Music Library here.

Bernhard Romberg: Toy Symphony (Symphonie burlesque, Op. 62)
New Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dr. Malcolm Sargent
Recorded Sept. 16, 1929
HMV C 1776, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 21.33 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 8.7 MB)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Band Classics, part 2

This post is a follow-up to my August post of recordings by Arthur Pryor's Band, though the range is a little bit broader, including a few "popular" selections, and including one recording in the spirit of the Christmas season - though it actually was recorded four days after Christmas, 1909, and released for the Easter 1910 trade!  Perhaps a hundred years ago the Hallelujah Chorus was associated more with Easter than with Christmas, which makes sense, given its placement in the Handel oratorio.  In any case, it's sung here by a mighty chorus of eight, accompanied by Sousa's Band.  It's one of thirteen pieces in this collection of downloads, from five different concert bands, one from south of the border and one from "across the pond."  Here are the details (fuller discographic information is given in the text file included with the downloads):

EMMETT: Dixie (Pryor's Band, 1907)
GOTTSCHALK: The Dying Poet (Sousa's Band, 1912)
GOTTSCHALK: The Last Hope (Vessella's Italian Band, 1914)
HANDEL: Hallelujah Chorus (Victor Chorus and Sousa's Band, 1909)
LAMPE (arr.): Sunny South Medley (Pryor's Band, 1908)
MEYERBEER: Coronation March (Pryor's Band, 1918)
PERRY: The Warbler's Serenade (Pryor's Band, 1913)
PRYOR: The Whistler and His Dog (Pryor's Band, 1913)
ROSSINI: Semiramide Overture (Police Band of Mexico, 1907)
SOUSA: Wedding March (Sousa's Band, 1918)
TCHAIKOVSKY: Overture 1812 (H.M. Grenadier Guards Band, 1915)
VERDI: Reminiscences of Verdi (Sousa's Band, 1912)
WAGNER: A Dream of Wagner - Fantasie (Pryor's Band, 1912)

Of the music itself it isn't necessary to say much, except that Sousa's "Wedding March" was composed in 1918 to replace those of Wagner and Mendelssohn due to anti-German sentiments during World War I - which, thank goodness, it obviously didn't do!  And I make no apologies for including "Dixie" - a grand old tune still loved by many of us Southerners even though the words no longer really represent us.  What better excuse to enjoy a band arrangement?

Link (FLAC files, 143.2 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 53.62 MB)

All of these are Victor recordings except the one of Tchaikovsky's "Overture 1812," which was one of the few acoustic recordings made by the Grenadier Guards Band for English Columbia to be released in the US by American Columbia.

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)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Howard Barlow conducts Vaughan Williams

Here's a delightful recording conducted by the all-but-forgotten Howard Barlow (1892-1972), a broadcasting pioneer and champion of unusual repertoire (you can find a nice appreciation of his legacy here).  This is of Gordon Jacob's orchestration of Vaughan Williams' military band classic, the English Folk Song Suite (1923).  In 1940, when this recording was issued, this may well have seemed unusual repertoire, and indeed it appears to be the first (and, in the 78-rpm era, only) recording of the 1924 Jacob orchestration, which has since become standard.

Of course, for me, a good excuse to listen to any Barlow-Columbia Symphony recording is to hear the beautiful oboe playing of Mitch Miller, and here he doesn't disappoint - just listen to that oboe solo at the beginning of the second movement!

This recording was also issued, naturally enough, in England, and was reviewed in the September 1940 issue of The Gramophone.  The recording was still listed in the 1954-55 UK Columbia Catalogue, though it was slated for deletion with that issue.

Vaughan Williams (arr. Jacob): English Folk Song Suite
Columbia Broadcasting Symphony, conducted by Howard Barlow
Recorded December 19, 1939
Columbia Masterworks set X-159, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 29.41 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 15.45 MB)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Janáček's Confidential Letters

Here is the first recording of the last major work by Leoš Janáček, his String Quartet No. 2 of 1928 (subtitled "Confidential Letters" on the record labels, though nowadays more commonly translated as "Intimate Letters").  The quartet, like many of the works of Janáček's last ten years, was inspired by his unrequited love for Kamila Stösslová, a married woman 38 years his junior, and its title was Janáček's own.  It is played in this recording by the Černý Quartet, which was really the Prague String Quartet - however, the recording was made during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the Nazis forbade "nationalistic" names for native organizations, so the ensemble became known after its violist, Ladislav Černý (1891-1975).  The other players were Alexander Plocik and Herbert Berger, violins; the cellist was either Iwan Vectomov or Josef Simandl.

Janáček: String Quartet No. 2 ("Confidential Letters")
Černý Quartet
Recorded April 5, 1943
Ultraphon G 12968 through G 12970, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 57.03 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 24.63 MB)

About two years ago I posted an earlier Prague String Quartet recording, which I have re-uploaded:

Dvořák: String Quintet in E-Flat, Op. 97
Prague String Quartet with Richard Kosderka, second viola
Recorded November 17, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-811, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 100.61 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 54.5 MB)

As you all can see, I am back after my hiatus with the Bach Brandenburg. It went reasonably well, despite the fact that a string broke on my harpsichord just minutes before the concert, as I was tuning it. I don't think I'll be playing the harpsichord again any time soon. Temperamental beasts, they are. I've even changed my picture on this blog from one of me playing the harpsichord to one of me as I looked when I began seriously collecting 78-rpm records. I love the Brandenburg #5 and would gladly play it again, but the next time it will be on a modern piano. After all, if Cortot, Serkin, Lukas Foss and Murray Perahia could play it, beautifully, on the piano, why can't I? Their recordings, especially Cortot's, blow all the harpsichord recordings of the piece out of the water. If only Artur Schnabel had recorded it! - it was in his repertoire.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sanromá and the Boston Pops

Puerto Rico-born Jesús Maria Sanromá (1902-1984) was for 20 years the official pianist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  While in this capacity, he recorded six concerted works for piano and orchestra with the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler, one each year between 1935 and 1940.  This is the offering from 1938, the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, taken from a slightly worn copy of Victor set AM-780.  The concerto takes 5 sides of the three records; on the last side is a solo recording by Sanromá of two of Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words":

Link (FLAC files, 52.04 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 26.98 MB)

This might be my last post for a couple of weeks, as I have been asked to perform the solo harpsichord part of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with a local community orchestra on Oct. 24, and preparing this will be taking up most of my free time between now and then.  So to tide everybody over, here are links to all the Arthur Fiedler-Boston Pops recordings I had transferred and posted previously to RMCR, one of them another of the Sanromá piano concertos:

Gluck-Mottl: Ballet Suite No. 1
Recorded March 24, 1940
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-787 (2 records)
Link (FLAC file, 39.29 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 21.07 MB)

Khatchaturian: Masquerade Suite (Waltz, Nocturne, Mazurka, Romance, Galop)
Recorded June 18, 1947
RCA Victor set DM-1166 (2 records)
Link (FLAC file, 43.13 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 20.92 MB)

MacDowell: Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 23 (with Jesús Maria Sanromá)
Ibert: Divertissement
Recorded July 1, 1936
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-324 (5 records)
Link (FLAC files, 89.35 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 46.28 MB)

Rossini-Britten: Matinées Musicales (March, Nocturne, Waltz, Pantomime, Moto perpetuo)
Rossini-Britten: Soirées Musicales - Tarantella
Recorded June 21, 1947
RCA Victor set DM-1204 (3 10-inch records)
Link (FLAC files, 38.9 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 19.2 MB)

And, one with the Fiedler Sinfonietta (a chamber orchestra composed of Boston Symphony players);

Telemann: Don Quichotte Suite
Recorded March 21, 1940
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-945 (2 records)
Link (FLAC file, 40.43 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 16.86 MB)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Preludio a Cristobal Colón

Columbus Day weekend is here, and to celebrate, a weird tribute to the great explorer from a musical explorer, the Mexican Julián Carrillo (1875-1965).  This is the "Preludio a Cristobal Colón" (1922), his first work to employ the principles of the 13th Sound, his system of dividing the octave into smaller intervals than the 12 half-tones normally found in Western music (hence, the "13th" sound - beyond 12 - get it?).  If you think of the note "C" on the piano, a white key, and the black key beside it, "C-sharp", and then imagine seven more notes between these two (corresponding to quarter, eighth, and sixteenth-tones), you will get an idea how Carrillo's system works.

Despite its apparent complexity, the system actually produced some quite listenable, if strange-sounding, music.  This "Preludio," scored for wordless soprano and 5 instruments, ends up being a rather lugubrious piece with an E-Flat-minorish feel, its mournful quality probably not surprising when you consider the ill effects of European settlements, as begun by Columbus, on Native American populations, of which Carrillo was a descendant.

Carrillo: Preludio a Cristobal Colón
13th Sound Ensemble directed by Angel Reyes
Recorded February 7, 1930
Columbia Masterworks 7357-M, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 20 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 7.47 MB)

This record stayed in the Columbia catalogue for about 20 years, and was frequently cited in reference works of the time as an example of the most experimental music available on records.  David Hall, in his 1948 "Record Book," described the "resulting sounds as...not unlike those one hears from insect life in a field on a hot summer afternoon."

Exactly one other recording existed in the Columbia catalogue of a piece that employed microtones - a movement of a Duo for two violins by Czech composer Alois Hába (1893-1973).  It was to be found as the last item in the Columbia History of Music, Vol. 5, dealing with 20th-century music, which roughly ordered its 16 selections from the most musically conservative to the most far-out.  The Hába piece was placed even after a piece by Varèse!  Two years ago I transferred this entire volume of the Columbia History, which has been newly uploaded here:

Columbia History of Music, Vol. 5
Recorded 1934-37
Columbia Masterworks set M-361, eight 10-inch records
Link (FLAC files, 122.08 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 53.29 MB)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two Symphonies from Philadelphia

This week I present two recordings of symphonies from the earliest part of Eugene Ormandy's 44-year long career as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra (a post he held from 1936 to 1980).   First is Schumann's Second Symphony in a dynamic, virile reading which makes one regret that Ormandy never did a Schumann cycle - the only other Schumann symphony he recorded was No. 4, with the Minneapolis Symphony in 1934 (a recording I haven't heard).  This version of No. 2 was made during Ormandy's first two recording sessions with the orchestra:

Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded December 13, 1936 and January 9, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-448, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 78.13 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.55 MB)

The other work is a comparative rarity: the First Symphony of Colorado-born Harl McDonald (1899-1955), entitled "The Santa Fé Trail."  It's picture-postcard music with a slightly Impressionistic hue; not great music, perhaps, but fun and well-made, and superbly played by the "Fabulous Philadelphians" in a recording made in 1940:

McDonald: Symphony No. 1, "The Santa Fé Trail"
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded October 20, 1940
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-754, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 44.99 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 23.68 MB)

McDonald, at the time this and other recordings of his orchestral works were made, was the business manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  This prompted Irving Kolodin, in his 1950 "New Guide to Recorded Music," to comment rather sarcastically on the "subtlety in the art of perpetuating one's writings that hadn't occurred to such men as Copland, Barber, or Piston."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Albert Sammons plays Grieg

Here is a rare sonata recording by the man considered by many to be the greatest British violinist, Albert Sammons (1886-1957).  It is of Grieg's Sonata in G, Op. 13, recorded on March 12, 1925 with Sammons' longtime sonata partner William Murdoch (1888-1942) at the piano.  This was one of the last acoustical recordings made by Columbia (they had switched to the Western Electric recording process by October 1925) and consequently experienced a very short catalogue life, issued in November 1925 and deleted in Feburary 1928.

Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 2 in G, Op. 13
Albert Sammons, violin; William Murdoch, piano
Recorded March 12, 1925
English Columbia L 1661 through L 1663, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 63.25 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 24.61 MB)

The three Grieg violin sonatas enjoyed a much greater circulation 75-100 years ago than today.  Heifetz recorded Op. 13 in the 1930s, and there's a famous 1928 recording of Op. 45 in C minor by Fritz Kreisler and Sergei Rachmaninoff.  This Sammons recording appears to be the first one made of Op. 13, a charming work.

Only a month after making this recording, and still by the acoustical recording process, Sammons made his first complete recording of a violin concerto, and his only recording of a non-British concerto at that.  This was Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1, with an unidentified orchestra conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty.  Early in 2008 I did a transfer of this recording, which is still available for download:

Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26
Albert Sammons, violin, with orchestra conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty
Recorded April 9, 1925
Columbia Masterworks Set No. 30, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 65.85 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 24.17 MB)

Albert Sammons, for all his many achievements as a soloist, was also a great quartet leader.  He was one of the founding members of the London String Quartet in 1908 and played first violin in it for nine years, until being called up for military service in 1917.  The Fall 2010 issue of Classic Recordings Quarterly features a fine article by Tully Potter about the LSQ and its recordings.  Late in 2007 I did transfers of a group of LSQ recordings from 1915-17 (when Sammons was still in it), featuring music by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Tchaikovsky, which are still available for download:

Mozart: Quartet No. 16 in E-Flat, K. 428
Schubert: Quartet No. 12 in C minor, D. 703 ("Quartettsatz")
Schumann: Quartet No. 3 in A, Op. 41, No. 3
Tchaikovsky: Quartet No. 1 in D, Op. 11: Scherzo
London String Quartet (led by Albert Sammons)
Recorded 1915-17
English Columbia L 1015, 1043, 1044, 1199, 1200, 5 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 105.6 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 38.35 MB)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dmitri Shostakovich!

One of my all-time favorite composers, Dmitri Shostakovich, was born 104 years ago this Saturday, on September 25, 1906.  To celebrate, I present two early recordings of his music, including one that might very well be the earliest.  This is of two excerpts from his 1929 ballet, "The Golden Age" - the Polka and Russian Dance.  It was recorded in the early 1930's for Pathé (issued by Columbia in the US and Britain) by the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris under Julius Ehrlich - the exact recording date is unknown.  The other contender for the title of "First Shostakovich Recording" would be Stokowski's November 1933 account of the First Symphony, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which has been reissued on CD by Pearl.  Both recordings were reviewed in the September 1934 issue of Gramophone Magazine, which I would love to be able to link to, but, maddeningly, this review does not appear to have been scanned into Gramophone's archive, nor do PDF scans of the actual pages appear to be downloadable as in the past.  (Fortunately, about a year ago, I did get to download PDF scans of a number of Columbia ads from the magazine, including one that advertises this Ehrlich recording, and have included it in the ZIP file at the link below.)  The record of "Golden Age" excerpts was one of a pair designed to show how "far-out" the music from Bolshevik Russia had become.  The other record features orchestral music that graphically illustrates the noise made by machinery - Mossolov's "Steel Foundry" and Meytuss' "Dnieper Water Power Station."  The whole package was called, in its American release, "Strange Music of the Modern Russian School" - a hilarious title, I think!  Here are the links for this set:

"Modern Russian Music"
Orchestre Symphonique de Paris conducted by Julius Ehrlich
Columbia Masterworks set M-347, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 27.12 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 12.81 MB)

The other Shostakovich recording I present is of the Ninth Symphony of 1945, for me one of the most delightful of his fifteen symphonies.  This is only the second recording made of it, by the New York Philharmonic (or, as it was called in those days, the "Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York") conducted by Russian-born Efrem Kurtz (1900-1995).  It's a fine one, marred only by the extremely slow tempo that he takes for the second movement, probably resulting from an incorrect metronome marking in the earliest scores of the symphony published in America.  It was released at the same time as the first recording, by Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony (currently available on a Biddulph CD).  I've also included, as a bonus, a transfer of a single record by Kurtz and the New York Philharmonic, of a Shostakovich Waltz and a Prokofiev March:

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 9, Op. 70; Waltz from "The Golden Mountains"
Prokofiev: March, Op. 99*
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Efrem Kurtz
Recorded April 8, 1947, and *April 20, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set MM-688, four 78-rpm records and
Columbia Masterworks 12881-D, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 82.33 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 41.48 MB)

Below I reproduce the cover art for the 78-rpm album of the Shostakovich Ninth (thanks to Buster, Joe and others for the advice on how to do scans of large record covers!).  It's by the inimitable Alex Steinweiss, Columbia's art director during the 40s.  Note the stick figures in the background: there are nine of them, to match the fact that it's a "Symphony No. 9" - a typical Steinweissism.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bach by Bartlett, Robertson and Barbirolli

This time I present a fairly rare recording of a Bach concerto by the British husband-and-wife piano duo team of Ethel Bartlett (1896-1978) and Rae Robertson (1893-1956), pictured above with tenor Peter Pears on the left.  (The picture was taken by Benjamin Britten - who wrote three works for the Robertsons - while he and Pears were staying at the couple's California home during the summer of 1941.  It was while staying here that Britten ran across a magazine article about George Crabbe, that ultimately led to the creation of his most famous opera, "Peter Grimes.")  The Robertsons were of diminutive stature - notice how Pears is standing on a lower stair in the picture - but there was nothing diminutive about their piano-playing.

This recording of Bach's Concerto in C, BWV 1061, was made in London in 1933 with a pickup orchestra conducted by John Barbiroll (who in previous years had given cello recitals with Bartlett as his accompanist).  It seems to have been the first recording of the work, although a much more famous one was made only three years later, also by HMV, featuring pianist Artur Schnabel and his son Karl Ulrich Schnabel, with Adrian Boult conducting the strings of the London Symphony.  The Bartlett-Robertson version, however, must have still had some customers, as it was much cheaper - only 8 shillings for two Plum Label records, versus 18 shillings for three Red Label records in the Schnabels' version!  In any case, the Bartlett-Robertson records remained available until 1943.

Bach: Concerto in C for two claviers and strings, BWV 1061
Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, pianos
Orchestra conducted by John Barbirolli
Recorded December 20, 1933
HMV C 2648 and C 2649, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 43.19 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 18.1 MB)

Over three years ago I posted to RMCR two other Bach recordings by Ethel Bartlett, one with her husband, one with Barbirolli in one of his rare cello recordings.  These are still available for download; the details:

Bach: Organ Sonata No. 1 in E-Flat, BWV 525, arranged for two pianos
Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, pianists
Recorded July 20, 1933
HMV C 2614, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 21.26 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 7.94 MB)

Bach: Sonata in G, BWV 1027, for viola da gamba and harpsichord
John Barbirolli, cello, and Ethel Bartlett, piano
Recorded July 1, 1929, by Columbia
National Gramophonic Society 133-134, 2 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 35.67 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 16.13 MB)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roussel: Symphony No. 3

Well, Satyr has been giving us a number of fine recordings by Albert Wolff lately, over on the blog "78 toeren en LPs," and here's my contribution to the Wolff-fest: the first recording of Roussel's Third Symphony, from a set of French Polydor 78s.  This was recorded c. 1932, shortly after Wolff and the Lamoureux Orchestra gave the Paris premiére of the symphony, and only a year or two after the world premiére, in October 1930, by the Boston Symphony under Koussevitzky, who commissioned the work as part of the orchestra's 50th anniversary celebrations.  It was a rare honor in those days for a contemporary work to be recorded so soon after its unveiling!

Roussel: Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 42
Lamoureux Orchestra conducted by Albert Wolff
Recorded c. 1932
French Polydor 566126 through 566128, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 56.18 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.75 MB)

Albert Roussel (1869-1937) is one of those curious composers (like Scriabin or Szymanowski) whose works written in the last fifteen or so years of his life are so unlike his earlier, yet fully mature works that it's sometimes hard to believe they're by the same composer.  In Roussel's case, he migrated from a post-Impressionistic style to a somewhat abrasive neo-classicism as found in this Third Symphony.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vaughan Williams: Violin Concerto

Here is another recording première: the Vaughan Williams Concerto in D Minor for violin and string orchestra, written in 1925 for Yelly d'Aranyi, and given the rather ironic subtitle "Concerto Accademico" - a subtitle the composer came to dislike. Ironic, because there really is nothing academic about it; it's earthy, vigorous and boasts a particularly beautiful slow movement. There is the slight aura of Bach about it: if Villa-Lobos could write works he called "Bachianas Brasileiras" (Bach in Brazilian style) then this is surely a "Bachianas Anglicanas" or something like that - Bach in English peasant dress. In any case, I loved this concerto on first hearing it at age 13, and it remains one of my very favorite Vaughan Williams works.

Vaughan Williams: Concerto in D minor (Concerto Accademico)
Frederick Grinke, violin, with the Boyd Neel String Orchestra
Recorded May 8, 1939
English Decca X 248 and X 249, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 44.85 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 17.8 MB)

This recording features Winnipeg-born Frederick Grinke as the violin soloist, with the Boyd Neel String Orchestra conducted by - you guessed it - Boyd Neel. While Grinke moved from Canada to England as a young man, Neel made the reverse transition in middle age, becoming head of Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music in 1953. The strong Canadian ties of both men ensure that a fair number of their recordings can be heard at The Virtual Gramophone (see my list of links at the right), but this Vaughan Williams concerto is not among them. Nor are two other Boyd Neel String Orchestra recordings that I posted to RMCR previously, which are still available for download:

Dvorak: Serenade for Strings in E, Op. 22
Boyd Neel String Orchestra (leader: Frederick Grinke) conducted by Boyd Neel
Recorded Dec. 10, 1937 and February 18, 1938
English Decca X 214 through X 217, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 64.39 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 27.49 MB)

Stravinsky: Apollon Musagètes - Ballet (1928)
Boyd Neel String Orchestra (leader: Louis Willoughby) conducted by Boyd Neel
Recorded Feb. 17 and April 29, 1937
English Decca X 167 through X 170, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 71.62 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 29.09 MB)

The Stravinsky ballet is also a first recording (though Koussevitzky, with the Boston Symphony, had recorded one section of it in 1928), and the Dvorak Serenade might be, too.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Griffes: Poem for Flute and Orchestra

Here is something that will delight flute fans and fans of American music: the first-ever recording of the impressionistic Poem for Flute and Orchestra, composed in 1918 by Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920), who is pictured above.  It is played, magnificently, by Joseph Mariano (1911-2007), Professor of Flute at the Eastman School of Music from 1935 to 1974, with Eastman's director, Howard Hanson, leading the Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra.  This is from a somewhat battered copy of Victor 11-8349, recorded May 8, 1942 - and not helped by the fact that it was pressed during World War II in recycled shellac!  But the beauty of the performance, I think, makes up for the less-than-perfect sound.

Link (FLAC file, 23.26 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 10.2 MB)

Arguably, no other man ever did more for the cause of American classical music than Howard Hanson, who once estimated that over 2,000 works by 500 American composers (including, of course, himself) were premiered in Rochester during his 40-year tenure as director of the Eastman School.  Earlier I posted to RMCR several of Hanson's early Victor recordings with the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, including two of his own works.  These are still available for download.  The details:

Howard Hanson: The Lament for Beowulf, Op. 25
with the Eastman School Choir
Recorded May 7, 1941
Spencer Norton: Prologue from Dance Suite
Recorded May 9, 1941
Victor set DM-889, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 52.27 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.72 MB)

Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 21 ("Nordic")
Recorded May 7, 1942
Victor set DM-973, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 65.99 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 29.36 MB)

Charles Martin Loeffler: A Pagan Poem, Op. 14 (after Virgil)
Piano obbligato: Irene Gedney; English horn: Richard Swingly
Recorded May 10, 1941
Victor set DM-876, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 56.21 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 27.85 MB)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy 100th, William Schuman!

Okay, so I'm a little late to the party here, since the 100th anniversary of the birth of William Schuman (1910-1992) was at the beginning of the month (August 4) and here we are nearing the end of it, but what's a few weeks between friends?  In any case, to celebrate, here's the first recording of any of William Schuman's five string quartets (the first of which was withdrawn).

William Schuman: String Quartet No. 3 (1939)
Gordon String Quartet
Recorded c. 1946-47
Concert Hall Society Release AB, three vinyl 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 58.2 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 28.42 MB)

The Concert Hall Society was established in 1946 as a mail-order subscription label, and dedicated to presenting esoteric classical repertoire.  (Concert Hall Society also made the first recording of a William Schuman symphony - his fifth, the Symphony for Strings.)  Although RCA Victor had been using vinyl as a pressing material since 1945 for a limited number of releases, Concert Hall Society was one of the first two record labels to employ vinyl exclusively (the other was Young Peoples' Records, founded about the same time, and also as a mail-order subscription label).  For more information about the Concert Hall Society, click here.

We've certainly had a lot of important composer birthdays this year!  Two great American composers' centennials (William Schuman and Samuel Barber) and the 200ths of Chopin and the other Schuman(n) - Robert.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Classics from Arthur Pryor's Band

In the earliest days of commercial recording (roughly, from 1890 to 1910), military and concert bands, unlike orchestras, were frequent visitors to the recording studio. The reason for this is simple: massed strings didn't record well, while brass and woodwinds did. Bands recorded everything: popular songs of the day, medleys from operettas and musical shows, dance music, and, of course, marches. This upload, however, focuses on band transcriptions of standard orchestral repertoire. The following works are presented:

GRIEG: Peer Gynt Suite - "Morning" and "Death of Ase"
LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 - Finale
ROSSINI: William Tell Overture
SCHUBERT: Unfinished Symphony - First movement (abridged)
TCHAIKOVSKY: Marche Slave (abridged)
WAGNER: Tannhäuser Overture (abridged)

These were all recorded between 1905 and 1914 (complete recording details are supplied in a text file accompanying the recordings) by Arthur Pryor's Band, one of the most active concert bands making records in the USA during this period.

Link (FLAC files, 134.31 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 49.75 MB)

Arthur Pryor (1870-1942) was a virtuoso trombonist who joined Sousa's Band in 1892, becoming assistant conductor of that legendary organization before leaving to form his own band in 1903. It was Pryor who actually conducted Sousa's Band on records - apparently the great man considered recording beneath him. He was also a composer, his most famous piece being "The Whistler and His Dog." (Fans of "The Little Rascals" films will remember Buckwheat pretending to whistle while a somewhat damaged record plays behind a curtain; "The Whistler and His Dog" is the tune in question.)

A particularly pioneering effort is represented by the movement from Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, which was recorded in 1910 and released in November of that year. It would appear that this was the very first time Victor recorded any part of a symphony. The record must have sold reasonably well, for the band had to remake it two years later. Clearly, the record-buying public had a taste for "serious" symphonic fare. Certainly my copy of Victor 31798 was much loved by its original owner!

In 1912, Victor embarked on a program of recording abridged symphonic works, not with a band, but with its own in-house orchestra, the Victor Concert Orchestra. Two Haydn and two Mozart symphonies, the Beethoven Fifth and the Schubert Unfinished, as well as movements from Mendelssohn's "Italian" and Dvorak's "New World," were among the offerings. Most of these do not credit any conductor, though Walter B. Rogers, Victor's house conductor, was probably responsible for most of them. Nearly three years ago, I uploaded to the newsgroup "rec.music.classical.recordings" (RMCR) a selection of these recordings, containing the following:

HAYDN: Military Symphony (No. 100 in G)
MOZART: Symphony in G minor (No. 40, K. 550)
MOZART: Jupiter Symphony (No. 41 in C, K. 551)
BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3 (Op. 72a)
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 - Adagio
    (played by Vessella's Italian Band, as a filler for the Leonore Overture)

These are still available for download at the following links:

Link (FLAC files, 181.49 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 67.8 MB)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Virtuoso String Quartet

The Virtuoso String Quartet (Marjorie Hayward and Edwin Virgo, violins; Raymond Jeremy, viola; Cedric Sharpe, cello) was organized by the Gramophone Company of England (HMV) in 1924, and was, apparently, the first chamber music group formed specifically for making recordings.  Their recording career was brief, however.  By the late 1920s, ensembles with international reputations, such as the Budapest Quartet, were recording for HMV, and the Virtuoso Quartet with its more localized reputation was shunted aside in favor of these.  A pity, for the Virtuoso Quartet was a fine ensemble whose performances are passionate and compelling, and whose recordings, which include four Beethoven quartets and quartets by Tchaikovsky, Franck, Debussy and Ravel, as well as numerous shorter works, have become sought after by collectors.

I have three of their Beethoven quartet recordings available, as well as a group of shorter works, headed by Ravel's Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet (with harpist John Cockerill, flutist Robert Murchie, and clarinetist Charles Draper) and including the first of Frank Bridge's "Three Idylls" for string quartet, composed in 1906.  (Benjamin Britten, who was Bridge's pupil, wrote variations for string orchestra on the second of these Idylls.)

Beethoven: Quartet No. 6 in B-Flat, Op. 18, No. 6 and
Schubert: Moment Musicale
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded from December 6, 1926, to January 31, 1927
HMV D 1206 through D 1209, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 83.68 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 57.02 MB)

Beethoven: Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded May 20 and June 18, 1924
HMV D 953 through D 956, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 94.01 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.44 MB)

Beethoven: Quartet No. 12 in E-Flat, Op. 127 and
Dittersdorf: Quartet No. 5 in E-Flat - Minuet
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded from October 26, 1925, to October 12, 1926
HMV D 1183 through D 1187, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 107.58 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 72.12 MB)

Ravel: Introduction and Allegro
(with John Cockerill, harp; Robert Murchie, flute; Charles Draper, clarinet)
Bridge: Three Noveletten - No. 3 in E-Flat
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded February 4 and March 18, 1929
HMV C 1662 and C 1663, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 36.10 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.29 MB)

Bridge: Three Idylls - No. 1 in C-Sharp Minor
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded June 18, 1928
HMV C 1593, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 20.47 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 13.87 MB)

Bridge [arr.]: Londonderry Air and
Haydn: "Emperor" Quartet - Theme and Variations
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded July 1 and November 21, 1927
HMV C 1470, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 22.17 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 16.52 MB)

Julius Harrison: Widdicombe Fair - Humoreske, Op. 22 and
Haydn [attrib.]: Quartet in F, Op. 3, No. 5 - Serenade
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded November 21, 1927, and July 8, 1928
HMV B 3137, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 15.74 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 11.25 MB)

Since this was originally posted, I have made available two additional transfers of VSQ recordings.  I list them below, for the convenience of having all my files of their recordings in one place:

Gossec: Tambourin (arr. Cedric Sharpe)
Grainger: Molly on the Shore
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded July 1, 1927
HMV B 2589, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 16.40 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 9.56 MB)

Franck: Quartet in D Major
Virtuoso String Quartet
Recorded January 14 to April 20, 1925
HMV D 1006 through D 1011, six 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 149.02 MB)
Link (FLAC files, 74.09 MB)