Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nielsen: Quartet No. 3 (Erling Bloch Quartet)

Erling Bloch Quartet
Carl Nielsen wrote four string quartets, the last one dating from 1906.  This means that all of them are relatively early works, for he lived another twenty-five years.  It has been regretted by many (including the composer's daughter, who is said to have encouraged him, to no avail) that he made no contributions to the genre in his musical maturity, especially as Nielsen was a violinist himself and might be expected to have a special understanding of writing for stringed instruments.  But he wasn't interested, and on the basis of the direction his music took in the last fifteen years, I can understand why: his later works glory in contrasts between instruments, and the homogeneous sound of the string quartet wouldn't offer much scope for that kind of writing.  Be that as it may, there is much to enjoy in the Nielsen quartets, and the present one is, for me, the best of them:

Nielsen: Quartet No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 14
The Erling Bloch String Quartet
Recorded September 22-23, 1946
HMV DB 20100 through DB 20103, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 83.07 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 48.10 MB)

The distinguished Danish violinist Erling Bloch (1904-1992) founded the quartet bearing his name in 1933; its other members were Lavard Friisholm, second violin (who later directed the Copenhagen Collegium Musicum, whose recording of Bentzon's Chamber Concerto I uploaded recently), Hans Kassow, viola, and Torben Svendsen, cello.  With Svendsen, Bloch later founded the Danish Quartet, an ensemble consisting of flute (played by Gilbert Jespersen, the dedicatee of Nielsen's Flute Concerto), violin, cello and piano.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Massenet: Le Cid - Ballet (Fiedler)

Cover design by Herschel Levit
Vive l'Espagne! It seems as though, prior to the arrival on the international music scene of native Spanish composers like Albeniz, Granados and Manuel de Falla, the French had a monopoly on musical representations of their southern neighbor.  This point was driven home by Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Shepard in the liner notes for their 1971 album "Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog" (which featured "semi-conducted" versions of Chabrier's España, Lecuona's Malagueña, a suite from Bizet's Carmen and Ravel's Bolero), which stated with irony that "the consistency of our Spanish program is marred only by the fact that Lecuona was not a French composer."  Well, here's some more zestful Spanish music by a Frenchman, zestfully performed by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops:

Massenet: Le Cid - Ballet Suite
Arthur Fiedler and the Boston "Pops" Orchestra
Recorded July 10-11, 1945
RCA Victor set DM-1058, three 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 47.18 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 32.25 MB)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bach from Copenhagen

Frederiksberg Church, Copenhagen
This week, two organ pieces by J. S. Bach, played by an organist about whom I can find out absolutely nothing online - indeed, there's more information available about the organ itself!  Presumably, Georg Krarup was a staff organist at the Frederiksberg Church in Copenhagen, built in 1734 on land donated by King Frederick IV; the organ used in this recording is the church's third, built in 1947 by the firm of Marcussen & Son, and is an instrument with a light, pleasing, Baroque-style sound:

Bach: Trio Sonata No. 4 in E Minor, BWV 528 and
Bach: "Little" Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in F Major, BWV 556
Georg Krarup at the organ of Frederiksberg Church, Copenhagen
Recorded c. 1951-52
HMV Z 7046 and Z 7047, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 40.59 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 22.59 MB)

This recording has the distinction of being the last release that I can trace in HMV's Danish plum label automatic-sequence series, which featured some very interesting repertoire, as can be seen from this list (the orchestra is always that of the Danish State Radio, unless otherwise indicated):

Z 7000/3 Nielsen: Symphony No. 2 (Thomas Jensen)
Z 7004/7  Brahms: Symphony No. 2 (Fritz Busch)
Z 7008/12 Dvorak: "New World" Symphony (Nikolai Malko)
Z 7013/5  Niels Viggo Bentzon: Partita for piano, Op. 38 (Composer)
Z 7016/8  Haydn: Symphony No. 91 (Mogens Wöldike)
Z 7019/21 Tchaikovsky: Francesca da Rimini (Issay Dobrowen)
Z 7022/6  Nielsen: Symphony No. 5 (Erik Tuxen)
Z 7027/9  Bach: Cantata No. 82 (Bernhard Sonnerstedt, Wöldike)
Z 7030/1  Bentzon: Piano Sonata No. 3 (Composer)
Z 7032/3  Beethoven: Gellert-Lieder, Op. 48 (Børg Lowenfalk, Lund Christiansen)
Z 7034/5  Bach: Orgelbuchlein - 12 selections (Georg Krarup)
Z 7036/7  Bentzon: Chamber Concerto, Op. 52 (Copenhagen Collegium Musicum)
Z 7038/40 Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf (with Danish narration) (Markevitch, Philharmonia)
Z 7041/3  Jørgen Jersild: Alice i Eventyrland (Wöldike, Danish Madrigal Cho.)
Z 7044/5  Bach: Orgelbuchlein - 9 selections (Krarup)
Z 7046/7  Bach: Trio Sonata No. 4 (Krarup)

The Brahms, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky sets also turned up in the regular English plum label C series.