Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 (Ormandy)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
The Ormandy series continues with what Columbia proudly hailed in its liner notes for this set as "the first recording of a Tchaikovsky symphony that Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra have made for Columbia Masterworks" - the Fourth.  (Of course, they had already recorded the Fifth and Sixth - but that was for Victor.)  This is the first of four recordings the Fabulous Philadelphians were to make of Tchaikovsky's "Fate" symphony (the others were in 1953, 1963 and 1973):

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded December 3-4, 1947
Columbia Masterworks set MM-736, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 112.24 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 53.86 MB)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Maggie Teyte in 18th-Century Arias

Cover design by Henry Stahlhut
The great British-born soprano Maggie Teyte, née Margaret Tate (1888-1976) made her reputation as an interpreter of French art songs, especially those of Debussy, who actually coached her for the role of Mélisande in his opera Pelléas et Mélisande when she replaced its originator, Mary Garden.  As the vast majority of her discography is of music written after 1850, it is something of a surprise to hear her in music that is mostly from a century earlier, as in this rather rare album:

French Operatic Arias
1. Pergolesi: La Servante Maîtresse - Air de Zerbina
2. Monsigny: Rose et Colas - Le Sagesse est un trésor
3. Grétry: Zémire et Azor - Rose chérie
4. Dourlen: Les Oies de Frère Philippe - Je sais attacher des rubans
5. Monsigny: Le Déserteur - Adieu. chère Louise
6. Grétry: Le Tableau Parlant - Vous étiez, ce que vous n'êtes plus
Maggie Teyte, soprano, with orchestra conducted by Jean Paul Morel
Recorded September 21 and 23, 1946
RCA Victor set MO-1169, three ten-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 51.97 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 27.1 MB)

Actually, of course, Pergolesi wasn't French, but as the liner notes to this set make clear, his opera La Serva Padrona (which Teyte here sings an aria from, in French) was a big influence on French opera, and, by extension, on Mozart.

As I was working on this transfer, I found myself thinking of one of my earliest record-collecting influences, William P. (Bill) Brooks, who was a big fan of Maggie Teyte.  Mr. Brooks was a kindly old gentleman in his 70s when I first knew him (I was 11) with a little white mustache that reminded me of Arthur Fiedler; he himself had been collecting records since his teen years, and that was when Caruso was an active recording artist!  His house in the Virginia-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta was crammed with records of all speeds and sizes, and he would invite me over and sell me 78s cheaply to encourage my own budding hobby.  Through records I got from him I discovered the genius of Koussevitzky, Albert Coates, Vaclav Talich, Schnabel, Gieseking, the Flonzaley Quartet and countless others; he even introduced me to the delights of Florence Foster Jenkins!

His musical tastes were idiosyncratic, to say the least.  He disliked Bach, my favorite composer, and I would rib him about this mercilessly, which he took with his usual good nature. On the other hand, he liked Handel, and preferred Haydn to Mozart.  His favorite composer was Berlioz, and he admired Mahler long before Mahler was fashionable; he had long owned the Bruno Walter 78 sets of "Das Lied von der Erde" and the Ninth Symphony.

Not one to sit around the house after his retirement, Mr. Brooks worked until the end of his life, manning the exit desk four hours per day at the library at Emory University, where I often would go and chat with him.  Mr. Brooks passed away in 1986, aged 86, when I was 23, and I feel privileged to have known him.  His birthday, I discovered through a Google search, was August 18, so I am putting this Maggie Teyte set up today in his honor.  Happy birthday, Bill Brooks, wherever you may be.
Bill Brooks at his library post, c. 1978
(talking to my little brother, Gregory)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Walton by the Hollywood String Quartet

The Hollywood String Quartet
The legendary Hollywood String Quartet (Felix Slatkin and Paul Shure, violins; Paul Robyn, viola; Eleanor Aller Slatkin, cello) has been well-served on CD, with most of their Capitol Records output from 1949-1958 having appeared on the Testament label.  Their performance of the Walton string quartet, the work's first-issued recording (a 1948 version by the Philharmonia Quartet for English Columbia was apparently made, but never issued) also appears on the Testament lists, but there's a slight difference between that version and the one I present here.  The original recording omitted the repeat in the Scherzo (second movement), for the players felt that the repeat detracted from the excitement of the piece.  The composer didn't agree, so he asked that it be re-recorded - and it was, a year later; this is what you hear on the Testament release.  The original recording sans repeat is here:

Walton: String Quartet in A Minor (1947)
The Hollywood String Quartet
Recorded November 2 and 3, 1949
Capitol set KCM-8058, three 45-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 70.72 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 35.78 MB)

On a personal note, this set represents my first-ever purchase on eBay some 15 years ago.  It was part of a lot of some 50 Capitol classical 45 sets, all in mint condition; if I remember correctly, they had previously belonged to a Capitol employee at their factory in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the eBay seller, whose main focus is pottery and jewelry and who appears to still be going strong as a "power seller" in Scranton, had somehow fallen heir to them.  There was some good stuff in that lot but this Walton quartet, for me, is the cream of the crop. Many of the sets had a brochure advertising Capitol's then-new classical series, and I've added scans of this to the download.  For several months they made a great ballyhoo about offering classical records at all three speeds, but when it became obvious that LP was going to win they quietly withdrew the 45 and 78 sets.  I don't think the re-recording of the Walton quartet's Scherzo made it to either short-play format.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Brahms: Hungarian Dances (Harry Horlick)

Harry Horlick
According to Wikipedia, the Tiflis-born violinist Harry Horlick (1896-1970) learned Gypsy music while traveling with Gypsy bands in Istanbul, before coming to America and achieving success as a radio conductor with a program featuring light orchestral music, "The A&P Gypsies" (sponsored by the grocery store chain), which ran from 1924 to 1936.  Thus, one imagines, his interpretations of Brahms' Hungarian Dances have a certain ring of authenticity to them:

Brahms: Hungarian Dances Nos. 1-7 and 17
Decca Concert Orchestra conducted by Harry Horlick
Recorded September 5, 1939
Decca Album 89, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 74.97 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 30.69 MB)

After his radio stint was over, Horlick signed with Decca and from 1938 to 1942 made some two dozen albums with eponymous light orchestras, both for the cheaper blue label (35 cents) and, as here, for the slightly more prestigious red label series.  This review of the Brahms set makes it seem as though Decca was intent on encroaching upon the classical territory dominated at the time by Victor and Columbia; as it turned out, of course, Decca did not develop a serious classical presence in the USA until the days of LP, other than through imports of English Decca and Parlophone matrices which had already been ongoing at the time this set was released!  In Decca's defence, however, neither Victor nor Columbia had a whole album devoted to the Brahms Hungarian Dances at the time.

Horlick later (in the late 40s and early 50s) made a few albums for MGM, and in the late 50s made a couple of LPs for Pickwick's Design label.