Monday, December 21, 2015

Mozart: Quartet in D, K. 499 (Budapest Quartet)

As I have mentioned before, this year I came into possession of four or five Budapest Quartet sets from the ensemble's vintage period (1933-35) in superb early Victor pressings. Here is one of those, a Mozart recording from 1934:

Mozart: Quartet in D Major, K. 499
The Budapest String Quartet (Roisman-Schneider-Ipolyi-Schneider)
Recorded April 5, 1934
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-222, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 67.87 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 40.13 MB)

It's interesting to note that the records of this set were issued in Victor's lower-priced 12" Red Seal series (9000 and up), priced at $1.50 per disk, as opposed to the $2 series (6000 and up, skipping to 14000 when 8999 was reached). Only in 1935 did the Budapest Quartet "graduate" to the higher-priced series; of course, such distinctions were erased when, in 1940, Victor dropped the price of almost all Red Seals to $1 per 12" record. (The exceptions were the operatic ensembles - Lucia sextets and Rigoletto quartets - which remained $3.50 as before.)

My best wishes to everyone for a Merry Christmas and a safe, prosperous 2016!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 (Barbirolli, 1940)

Jean Sibelius
Sorry for the long absence, but it's become more and more difficult for me to find time to work on this blog. I've spoiled everyone in the past with weekly posts, and now I find that one or two posts a month is the best I can do. Be that as it may, I didn't want to miss the Sibelius sesquicentennial next month (Dec. 8), and here is my little contribution to the celebrations, John Barbirolli's first recording of a Sibelius symphony:

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
New York Philharmonic conducted by John Barbirolli
Recorded May 6, 1940
Columbia Masterworks set MM-423, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 99.37 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 66.72 MB)

This was Barbirolli's second Philharmonic session for Columbia; the first had produced this recording of another Second Symphony - that by Brahms.  In between these two sessions, Igor Stravinsky made his first recordings with the Philharmonic, conducting his own "Rite of Spring" and suite from "Petrouchka."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Balakirev: Piano Sonata (Louis Kentner)

Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) is one of those composers who is more talked about than played. The founder of Russian nationalism in music, and organizer of the famous group known as "The Mighty Handful", he was eclipsed as a composer by three of the fellow members of that group - Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky. (The fifth member, César Cui, was influential mainly as a critic.) This is unfortunate, for there is some most enjoyable, well-crafted music among his output. Typical is this piano sonata, which has its roots in a student composition, though it achieved its final form only five years before his death:

Balakirev: Sonata in B-Flat Minor (1905)
Louis Kentner, piano
Recorded June 2, 1949
English Columbia LX 8810 through 8812, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 62.64 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 39.26 MB)

This was one of a number of recordings made under the auspices of the Maharaja of Mysore's Musical Foundation, established by Jayachamarajendra Wadijar (1919-1974), the 25th and last ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore before it was merged into the Republic of India in 1950.  The good maharaja is perhaps most famous for his sponsorship of Medtner, whose Third Piano Concerto was dedicated to him. Three Medtner Society volumes containing the composer's own interpretations of his three concertos were issued under the Foundation, as well as a volume of his songs with the composer accompanying Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Balakirev's First Symphony was recorded by Karajan (with the Philharmonia Orchestra), and Louis Kentner made a nine-disc set of Transcendental Etudes by Sergei Lyapunov, a student of Balakirev.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Beethoven: Quartet No. 5 (Coolidge Quartet)

With this set, I'm one step closer to having a complete run of Coolidge Quartet recordings - 11 down, 8 to go! This one is part of their ill-fated Beethoven series, which only got as far as Opus 59, No. 2 before the Coolidges' recording activity abruptly ceased. This one of Opus 18, No. 5, is actually available elsewhere online, from the British Library, but we poor Americans cannot listen to those files, so I'm happy to now be able to provide our chance to hear them:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 5 in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5
The Coolidge Quartet (Kroll-Berezowsky-Moldavan-Gottlieb)
Recorded December 18, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-716, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 55.40 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.15 MB)

My latest discographic project is an article on the Coolidge Quartet, which was published in the June, 2015, issue of the 78rpm Community's Discographer Magazine.  This can be read online here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Paderewski: Piano Concerto (Sanromá, Fiedler)

As I've mentioned elsewhere, Puerto Rican-born Jesús Maria Sanromá (1902-1984) was the official pianist of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops orchestras for over 20 years, and while there, made several recordings of piano concertos with them, including the first complete recording of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and concertos by Mendelssohn and MacDowell. Perhaps the rarest collaboration is this one of Paderewski's youthful A Minor Concerto of 1888, not only a first recording of the piece, but seemingly the first recording of any work by Paderewski requiring more than two 78-rpm sides:

Paderewski: Concerto in A Minor, Op. 17
Jesús Maria Sanromá, piano
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded June 30, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-614, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 79.45 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 56.99 MB)

The Paderewski concerto may not be an earth-shattering masterpiece, but it is great fun, and Sanromá plays it for all it is worth. (The piece, incidentally, was tapped for the very first issue in Hyperion Records' acclaimed series "The Romantic Piano Concerto".) Paderewski played it at his American debut in 1891, and that wildly successful American tour quickly became a media circus, giving rise to such cartoons as the one shown above.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Munch, New York Philharmonic)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
This Saturday, September 26, marks the birth anniversary of the great Alsatian conductor Charles Munch (1891-1968), and so I present the first recording he made in America, in 1947, not with the Boston Symphony (that appointment was to come two years later) but with the New York Philharmonic. It's also the second-only recording made anywhere of Saint-Saëns' "Organ" Symphony (after Piero Coppola's 1930 version for French HMV) - perhaps understandably, it wasn't until the stereo era that the piece became the vehicle for high-powered collaborations between famous organists and conductors that it is now:

Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Charles Munch
Edouard Nies-Berger (organ); Walter Hendl (piano)
Recorded November 10, 1947
Columbia Masterworks set MM-747, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 90.03 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 54.40 MB)

Edouard Nies-Berger (1903-2002), born in Munch's hometown of Strasbourg, was a protegé of Albert Schweitzer. He came to the USA in 1922 and was the official organist of the New York Philharmonic at the time this recording was made. Shamefully, Columbia did not even bother to identify his first name, billing him on the cover and labels as "E. Nies-Berger." But that was more information than they gave about the pianist, who was completely uncredited. James North, in his Philharmonic discography, says that Walter Hendl (1917-2007), then the assistant conductor of the orchestra, fulfilled this role.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Brahms: String Quartet No. 2 (Budapest Qt.)

Another gem from the 1935 incarnation of the Budapest Quartet this week, recorded at the same sessions that produced this Mendelssohn recording I uploaded some weeks ago.  This is not one of the works that made it into the Odyssey LP boxes that were discussed in comments to that post, though it did make it into a Biddulph CD set of the Budapest Quartet's Brahms recordings that appeared about 20 years ago - which, I imagine, is long out-of-print as well.

Brahms: String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 51, No. 2
The Budapest String Quartet (Roisman-Schneider-Ipolyi-Schneider)
Recorded April 30 and May 1, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-278, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 85.53 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 49.35 MB)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Happy Birthday, Antonín Dvořák!

Tuesday marks the 174th anniversary of the birth of Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904). I guess that means I'm a year ahead of celebrating a nice round number (175th), but so what? - any excuse to listen to Dvořák's music seems a good one to me. And so here is his Cello Concerto, one of the works composed in America, and suffused with nostalgia and homesickness. Of course, almost every cellist of note has recorded it, and most of these recordings that I've heard fall short of the ideal interpretation. It requires a performance of total emotional commitment, while at the same time avoiding sentimentality, and that's a fine line indeed! I think this version by Piatigorsky, himself a lifelong exile, comes as close as any I've heard (naturally, it doesn't hurt to have the support of Ormandy and his great orchestra):

Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104
Gregor Piatigorsky, cello
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded January 17, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set MM-658, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 88.01 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 64.36 MB)

This cover design of this set affords another excuse to add to my ongoing Alex Steinweiss gallery:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bloch: String Quartet No. 3 (Griller Quartet)

The Griller Quartet with Ernest Bloch, 1947
About a month ago, I sprang for the recent Decca big box (53 CDs) called "Decca Sound: The Mono Years." Some real gems are rattling around in there, and one of the highlights has been the set of four Bloch string quartets played by the Griller Quartet, who were the dedicatees of the master's Third Quartet of 1952. But it struck me as I was listening to this, that the recording is different than another one that I've had on a ten-inch LP for some time, and consulting Philip Stuart's Decca discography revealed the reason why: the recording on the ten-incher was not reissued in the complete set - instead, an entirely new recording was made, even though it was a mere year later! The earlier recording, which to my knowledge has never been reissued, was made a mere five days before the British première of the piece:

Bloch: String Quartet No. 3 (1952)
The Griller String Quartet (Griller-O-Brien-Burton-Hampton)
Recorded June 16, 1953
London LS-840, one ten-inch LP record
Link (FLAC files, 63.38 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 46.29 MB)

The main difference between the two versions seems to be one of playing time: the earlier one is nearly two minutes slower than the newer one.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Beethoven's Ninth - The First Recording

This is my 300th post on this blog - can you believe it? Something really big seemed called for, so I offer a recording that I have posted before, but this time, it's complete! Seven years ago I offered all I had of this pioneering recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, almost certainly the first complete one ever made, but that was only the first two movements. Now I have the whole thing, complete with album (the cover is pictured above) and I am pleased to present it now:

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Neues Symphonie-Orchester conducted by Bruno Seidler-Winkler
with soloists and the chorus of the Berlin Staatskapelle
Recorded c. 1923
Deutsche Grammophon 69607 through 69613, seven 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 185.69 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 114.34, MB)

Bruno Seidler-Winkler (1880-1960), the hero of this undertaking, had been the music director of Deutsche Grammophon since 1903, and left that position the year this recording was issued, so this must have seemed at the time a fitting cap to his career there. But in fact, it was the opening salvo in Deutsche Grammophon's bid to have all nine Beethoven symphonies recorded and available for sale. In the same month as this Beethoven Ninth recording was issued (December, 1923), Seidler-Winkler's of the Fifth and Pfitzner's of the Sixth were also released, according to Claude Arnold's "The Orchestra on Record, 1896-1926" (Greenwood Press, 1997). Here are the details of DGG's first Beethoven symphony cycle, in order by catalogue number:

69607-13: No. 9 (Neues S.O./Seidler-Winkler, issued Dec. 1923)
69638-41: No. 5 (Neues S.O./Seidler-Winkler, issued Dec. 1923)
69642-47: No. 6 (Neues S.O./Pfitzner, issued Dec. 1923)
69659-62: No. 7 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Walter Wohllebe, issued March 1924)
69663-67: No. 4 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Pfitzner, issued Aug. 1924)
69706-11: No. 3 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Oskar Fried, issued July 1924)
69760-63: No. 1 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Klemperer, issued Dec. 1924)
69786-88: No. 8 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Klemperer, issued May 1925)
69799-802: No. 2 (Berlin Staatskapelle/Fried, issued Nov. 1925)

Parlophon, with the same pool of Berlin players working under Eduard Mörike and Frieder Weissmann, entered the race as well in 1924 (intriguingly, also with the Ninth). By March, 1925, they had all nine recorded and available for sale, while DGG lagged with their last two issues.

The Seidler-Winkler Ninth seems to have been more widely disseminated than some of the other Beethoven symphony sets. Vocalion in the USA carried it - in fact it appears to be the only album set they ever issued from DGG sources. They took out an ad in the Talking Machine World magazine of November 15, 1924 (image borrowed from Allan Sutton's "Recording the Twenties", Mainspring Press, 2008):
And from eBay I borrowed this image of one of the Vocalion labels (notice their characteristic red shellac was used):
In Europe, outside Germany, the set was first marketed with the "dogless" Gramophone label (one of the spookiest designs on a record label I have ever encountered! - again, an image borrowed from eBay):

My copy, however, is a German one, with Nipper in full-color glory:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe (Phillippe Gaubert)

Phillippe Gaubert
This week, a fine recording by the French flutist and conductor, Phillippe Gaubert (1879-1941) - the Second Suite from Ravel's ballet "Daphnis et Chloé" - a piece which, with its beautiful flute solo in the middle section, one imagines was close to Gaubert's heart. It isn't the first recording of this music - Koussevitzky beat Gaubert to that honor by eighteen months - but it is the first made in France, and was the only competing version to Koussevitzky's throughout the 1930s:

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé - Suite No. 2
Orchestre des Concerts Straram conducted by Phillippe Gaubert
Recorded March 24, 1930
Columbia Masterworks set MX-32, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 43.19 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 27.85 MB)

My thanks go to Adam Schweigert for the loan of this and several other sets that I have posted here earlier this year, among them Szell's first Cleveland recording of Mozart's 39th Symphony, Stock's of Brahms' Tragic Overture; Barbirolli's of Brahms' Second; Kubelik's of excerpts from Smetana's Ma Vlást, and excerpts from the film Humoresque played by Isaac Stern.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Early Music from Germany in the 1930s

Well, I'm back online, thank God, and on a new laptop to boot. So for my first offering post-crisis, something easy for me to prepare, and that means dipping into my reclaimed record pile. These two records are somewhat related, for they both were recorded in Berlin in the 1930s, and they both are of German music of an earlier time. Here are the particulars:

Gluck: Don Juan - Selections from the Ballet (1761)
Hans von Benda's Chamber Orchestra
Recorded November 21, 1935
Victor 13648, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 20.58 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 14.20 MB)

Philipp Heinrich Erlebach: Suite No. 3 in C Major (1693)
Kammermusikkreis Scheck-Wenzinger
Recorded October, 1938
HMV EH 1221, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 23.65 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 13.46 MB)

As will be seen in the picture above, Victor did not deign to correctly identify Herr von Benda's orchestra, substituting instead its own pseudonym in something reminiscent of the days of acoustical recording. Irving Kolodin, in his 1941 Guide to Recorded Music, rightfully took a dim view of this, praising the performance (and giving the conductor his rightful credit) while commenting, sourly, about the "implication of the label that it was made in America by a conductor so obscure that his name need not be mentioned...Surely Victor cannot expect us to endorse such feeble anti-Nazism as this evasion of a reasonable responsibility."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Poulenc: Double Concerto (Whittemore & Lowe)

I'm having ISP problems right now, and having to type this on the fly using my church's wi-fi (a friend did the actual uploading of the files), so I don't have time to say anything more about this set than that it appears to be the first recording of this delightful work:

Poulenc: Concerto in D minor for two pianos and orchestra
Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, duo-pianists
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded December 15, 1947
Link (FLAC files, 52.52 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 39.45 MB)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mendelssohn: Quartet No. 1 (Budapest Quartet)

I've lately managed to acquire a few sets by the Budapest String Quartet in their glory days - when the group still boated one Hungarian in their lineup (István Ipolyi, viola) but was otherwise transitioning to the all-Russian ensemble that defined them for later generations. These recordings date from 1933-35, and in most cases my copies are really nice ones on Victor "scroll" labels as depicted above. One of the rarest is of this Mendelssohn quartet, which seems to have lasted only a couple of years in the Victor catalogue:

Mendelssohn: Quartet No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 12
The Budapest String Quartet (Roisman-Schneider-Ipolyi-Schneider)
Recorded April 29, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-307, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 69.62 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 42.83 MB)

This is the quartet that has the famous "Canzonetta" - which was often recorded as a separate piece in those days, but this appears to be the only recording of the complete quartet made during the 78 era.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hans Kindler

Slava Rostropovich, for all his achievements, was far from being the first cellist to make for himself a successful conducting career. He wasn't even the first cellist to become the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. That honor goes to the orchestra's founder, the Rotterdam-born Hans Kindler (1892-1949). Kindler's recording career began in 1916 with Victor, as a cellist, on their lower-priced Blue Label series (five of these sides can be heard at the Library of Congress' National Jukebox). In 1919 he was promoted to Red Seals. Then, nine years after founding the National Symphony Orchestra in 1931, he came back to Victor as a conductor, with some 64 issued sides to his credit made between 1940 and 1945. The most interesting of these were on single records, including American works by Chadwick, William Schuman and Mary Howe. I'm sorry to say I don't have any of those, but here are three singles I do have, the first two listed being from the reclaimed record pile:

Corelli-Arbós: Suite for Strings
Recorded November 8, 1940
Victor 11-8111, one 78-rpm record

Liszt-Kindler: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6
Recorded January 17, 1945
Victor 11-9154, one 78-rpm record

Mussorgsky-Kindler: Boris Godunov - "Love Music" (Act III)
Recorded April 2, 1942
Shostakovich: The Age of Gold - Polka
Recorded January 29, 1941
Victor 11-8239, one 78-rpm record

All by the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.)
Hans Kindler, conductor
Link (FLAC files, 53.80 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 38.14 MB)

A number of Kindler's National Symphony recordings received a new lease on life in the 1950s, on the RCA Camden reissue label, including the Liszt record above. The pseudonym used was the "Globe Symphony Orchestra."

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Honegger Conducts his "Symphonie Liturgique"

Last year, I was able to offer, in time for Bastille Day, the first recording of a symphony by Honegger, the Second, in a riveting performance by Charles Munch. I'm afraid I'm a little late for Bastille Day this year, but here's the other Honegger symphony to be recorded on 78s, his very powerful and equally war-weary Third, called "Liturgique" on account of the titles of its three movements, each named after a part of the Requiem Mass. These titles are actually announced on this recording conducted by the composer, who, presumably, is the announcer as well:

Honegger: Symphony No. 3 ("Liturgique")
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arthur Honegger
Recorded c. 1947
French Decca A-15004 through A-15007, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 78.55 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 51.95 MB)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Early Music Revival in America

Early music - particularly music of the Baroque - has become such a part of out musical fabric in recent years that it's hard to recall a time, less than a century ago, that there had to be special advocacy for it. One of the most prominent of its advocates in the USA was the Dutch-born Ben Stad (1885-1946), who, with other members of his family, founded the Philadelphia-based American Society of the Ancient Instruments in 1929. The group consisted of Stad, playing viola d'amore; his wife, Flora, at the harpsichord; their son, Maurice, playing bass viol; Flora's brother, Josef Smit, playing viola da gamba, and a family friend, Jo Brodo, playing "quinton" (what we would now call pardessus de viole). The ensemble was modelled after the famous Société des Instruments Ancienes in France, founded in 1901 by the Casadesus family. The French ensemble made a fair number of recordings - most of them devoted to pastiche pieces written by Henri or Marius Casadesus and attributed to older composers. On the other hand, the Stad ensemble, although they surely had some of these Casadesus pastiches in their repertoire, recorded mostly genuine works:

Music of Early Composers (Set I)
1. Byrd: Pavane (The Earle of Salisbury) and Galliard
2. Purcell: Chacony in G minor, Z. 730
3. Stad [arr.]: "Suite d'Aires [sic] de la Vieille France"
4. Alessandro Marcello: Concerto in D minor - Adagio
5. Benedetto Marcello: Sonata in G minor, Op. 1, No. 4
6. Sacchini: Chimène - Allegro spiritoso
7. Mouret [attrib.]: Divertissement - Passepied
The American Society of the Ancient Instruments
Recorded October 23 and November 1, 1933, May 3, 1934, and June 5, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-215, two 12" and two 10" 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 86.93 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 58.54 MB)

I've included with this download an article about the American Society of the Ancient Instruments, from the 1988 Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America.

I've had occasion to talk about another American early-music pioneer, harpsichordist Lewis Richards, at this post, and now, thanks to Nick at Grumpy's Classics Cave, I have another of his three Brunswick releases.  Richards was a member of the Casadesus Société before the First World War, and he is known to have acquired music from the Casadesus family, including one or both of the following, probably spurious, pieces:

Ayrton [attrib.]: The Brook
Rameau [attrib.]: Rondeau
Lewis Richards, harpsichord
Recorded April 8 and 16, 1926
Brunswick 3205, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 14.81 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 8.72 MB)

Thanks again to Nick not only for providing me with the record, but also for helping with discographic details.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Sanromá, Fiedler)

Cover design by Peter Arno (?)
For the Fourth of July holiday weekend, I offer that most quintessentially American concert work in its first recording with pretensions to completeness - and a smashing performance, at that. Jesús Maria Sanromá's way with this music is so full of panache and improvisational flair that it is almost like hearing it for the first time, and most subsequent recordings seem to me staid by comparison. Sanromá was the official pianist of the Boston Pops at the time that organization's first recordings were made, and, in fact, this version of the Rhapsody comes from the Pops' very first day of sessions:

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Jesús Maria Sanromá, piano, with the
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded July 1, 1935
Gershwin: Strike Up the Band
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded July 3, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-358, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 52.44 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 33.70 MB)

As I said, this is the first recording of the Rhapsody with pretensions to completeness, with only two minor cuts made. The piece had, of course, been recorded many times before, in a dizzying array of arrangements (including Larry Adler on the harmonica, Jesse Crawford on the Wurlitzer organ, and the Eight Piano Ensemble, whose version can be heard at the CHARM website), but all of these, including Gershwin's own recording with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, abridged the piece to fit onto two sides.

Ken Halperin's blog shows an alternate cover design for this set, which he believes might be by Steinweiss. My copy of the set has the one pictured above, but lacking its front cover, as the previous owner wished to keep it for framing! Fortunately, the back cover is identical, except for having the spine binding on the right instead of the left. This was Victor's practice during the early 1940s with its pictorial album covers.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mogens Wöldike - Two Brandenburg Concertos

Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg
As the 200th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach approached in the year 1950, several record companies worldwide engaged in a flurry of activity making new recordings of his works, including several versions of the six Brandenburg Concertos.  Columbia had a version with Fritz Reiner conducting an ad hoc ensemble of New York players, and Decca had the newly-signed Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under its founder, Karl Münchinger.  HMV countered with piecemeal issues of the six concertos with Mogens Wöldike leading two different Danish ensembles (Nos. 3 and 6 being done by an ensemble of soloists), recorded over a span of one-and-a-half years.  Nos. 4 and 6 of this set can be heard at the CHARM website; to complement these, I present Wöldike's readings of Nos. 3 and 5:

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048
Chamber Ensemble of the Chapel Palace, Copenhagen,
conducted by Mogens Wöldike
Recorded December 1, 1949
Bach: Partita No. 1 in B-Flat, BWV 825 - Sarabande
Liselotte Selbiger, harpsichord
Recorded February 3, 1950
HMV C 3947 and C 3948, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 40.01 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.03 MB)

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050
Herman D. Koppel, harpsichord; Leo Hansen, violin; Poul Birkelund, flute;
Danish State Broadcasting Chamber Orchestra
conducted by Mogens Wöldike
Recorded May 31, 1950
HMV DB 20118 through DB 20120, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 60.63 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.54 MB)

Herman D. Koppel, the harpsichordist in No. 5, can be heard in an utterly different triple concerto here - as pianist in Niels Viggo Bentzon's Chamber Concerto recorded the following year.

For those interested, here are the particulars of the order of recording for Wöldike's set of Brandenburgs, culled from Michael Gray's listings, WERM, and Frank Andrews' HMV "C" Series Discography:

No. 4 - mats. 2CS2718-22: Nov 29 '49 & Mar 1 '50* (DB 20109-11 & C 4073-5)
No. 3 - mats. 2CS2723-25: Dec 1 '49 (DB 5291-2 & C 3947-8)
No. 6 - mats. 2CS2813-17: May 27 '50 (DB 20121-3 & C 4164-6)
No. 5 - mats. 2CS2819-24: May 31 '50 (DB 20118-20)
No. 2 - mats. 2CS2908-11: Dec 20 '50 (DB 20107-8 & C 7848-9)
No. 1 - mats. 2CS2952-56: Mar 10 & 11 '51 (DB 20140-2)

*Most, if not all, issued takes of No. 4 are surely from the later date, on the evidence of the high take numbers (4's and 6's).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Berg: Lyric Suite (Galimir Quartet)

Alban Berg
Of the three composers of the Second Viennese School, Alban Berg has always been my favorite, because the expressive and emotional power of his music shines through the often harsh sounds of his chosen idiom (i.e., music not based in traditional tonality) more strongly for me than it does with the works of Schoenberg or Webern, geniuses though those two undoubtedly were. Berg was, essentially, a Romantic composer, and his best interpreters, which included Felix Galimir (1910-1999), have understood this. Galimir and his three sisters founded a string quartet while they were students at the Vienna Conservatory, which learned Berg's then-newest work, the Lyric Suite, being coached by Berg himself in its performance. (The full story can be read here.) At about the time of Berg's death, in 1935, the group recorded it - the first recording of any of his works:

Berg: Lyric Suite, for string quartet
Galimir String Quartet of Vienna
Recorded c. 1935
Brunswick-Polydor set BP-2, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 79.54 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 49.87 MB)

My source is a superb set of pressings on the short-lived Brunswick-Polydor label, the successor to Brunswick's gold-label classical series that also featured mainly Polydor material. Introduced in 1937, the entire series, such as it was, seems to have been retired when CBS purchased the American Record Corporation in 1939.  I have been able to trace information about only eight album sets in the series, as follows:

BP-1 Stravinsky: Violin Concerto (Dushkin; Lamoureux/Stravinsky)
BP-2 Berg: Lyric Suite (Galimir Qt.)
BP-3 Roussel: Symphony No. 3 (Lamoureux Orch./Wolff)
BP-4 Beethoven: "Hammerklavier" Sonata (Kempff)
BP-5 Verdi: Quartet in E minor (Prisca Qt.)
BP-6 Bach: English Suite No. 3 (Alexander Borovsky, piano)
BP-7 Beethoven: Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (Prisca Qt.)
BP-8 Heinrich Schlusnus Lieder Album (Graener, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss)

The first four sets were 12-inch sets, and the other four were 10-inch.  All except BP-6 and BP-8 had "slide automatic" couplings available as well, an "A" appearing after the album number to indicate this.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 (Rodzinski)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
For four years, Artur Rodzinski was the music director of the New York Philharmonic (1943-47), but his recording career with that august organization occupied only two of them - eighteen sessions from December, 1944, to October, 1946. The first of these produced recordings of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" Symphony and of Gershwin's "An American in Paris" that were quickly released. The second session, four weeks later, produced this Brahms symphony which, for reasons unknown, had to wait over a year and a half for its issue:

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York conducted by Artur Rodzinski
Recorded January 8, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MM-621, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 108.62 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 72.20 MB)

This was only the second recording of a Brahms symphony made by the Philharmonic; it was preceded by Barbirolli's 1940 version of the Second. (A complete cycle did follow in the early 1950s, conducted by Bruno Walter.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Happy 150th, Carl Nielsen!

This year marks the 150th birth anniversaries of two giants of Scandinavian music - Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen. Sibelius' anniversary won't be for another six months, but Nielsen's is this Tuesday, June 9, and so I present two early recordings of his music - one of them, as far as I can determine, the very first recording of a large-scale work by Nielsen, a youthful violin sonata as played by his son-in-law Emil Telmányi:

Nielsen: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Major, Op. 9
Emil Telmányi, violin, and Christian Christiansen, piano
Recorded October 13, 1935
HMV DB 2732 through DB 2734, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 59.79 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 35.36 MB)

The other offering is a mature piano work in a recording from late in the 78-rpm era:

Nielsen: Theme and Variations, Op. 40
Arne Skjold Rasmussen, piano
Recorded January 17, 1952
Tono A-177 and A-178, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 33.85 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 24.70 MB)

Apropos of Sibelius and Nielsen, the two appear to have been friends. And the Finn admired the Dane's music greatly; the story goes that Sibelius, perhaps embarrassed by the obvious disparity in their worldly success, generously told or wrote to Nielsen (sources seem to differ which), "I don't even reach as high as your ankles!"

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mendelssohn: "Italian" Symphony (Harty)

This week, I present one of the last major recordings made by the Hallé Orchestra under the man who guided its musical fortunes for 13 years (from 1920 to 1933), the great Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941). This is their 1931 recording of Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony, an endearing reading full of vivacity and authentic string portamenti, in a splendid early Columbia "Vivatonal" pressing I was lucky enough to find recently:

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 ("Italian")
The Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Hamilton Harty
Recorded April 10, 1931
Columbia Masterworks Set No. 167, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 90.41 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 62.77 MB)

Included with the download is the original 16-page booklet of program notes, which even includes a listing of all Columbia Masterworks sets available up through the time of this release at the end of 1931. It reveals that even at this late date, no less than fourteen of Columbia's earliest acoustical sets were still available for sale.

Friday, May 22, 2015

First Recordings by the First Piano Quartet

I'm revisiting the reclaimed record pile this week, with the first three issued recordings by the First Piano Quartet (Vladimir Padwa, Frank Mittler, Adam Garner, Edward Edson). Initially all three were issued in Victor's "Double Feature" series, a semi-classical line priced 25 cents lower than the Red Seal series. The 1948 RCA Victor Catalog describes these as having teal labels; however, as can be clearly seen, my copy of one of them has an ordinary black label. My guess is that they replaced the teal labels with black ones as being cheaper to produce. In any event, all three issues were subsequently upgraded to Red Seal status a year later, the form in which I have the other two (in somewhat battered copies, I'm afraid):

Chopin: Polonaise in A-Flat, Op. 53
RCA Victor 46-0005, one 78-rpm record
Paganini: Variations in A minor (composed by the ensemble's members)
Chopin: Etudes, Op. 25, Nos. 6, 1 and 9
RCA Victor 12-0250, one 78-rpm record
Liszt: Second Hungarian Rhapsody
RCA Victor 12-0251, one 78-rpm record
The First Piano Quartet
Recorded c. early 1947
Link (FLAC files, 57.89 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 41.69 MB)

The Paganini Variations were the group's radio theme signature, according to the label, which also bears the cryptic composer credit "Paganini-Garner-Edson-Mittler-Padwa" - it is of course the same theme that also inspired Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Lutoslawski and so many others for variations.

Friday, May 15, 2015

MacDowell: "Indian" Suite (Howard Barlow)

Cover image restored by Peter Joelson
This week, an album by that indefatigable purveyor of unusual and little-known music on record, Howard Barlow (1892-1972), who, with his Columbia Broadcasting Symphony, was responsible for a number of recorded premières, including this one.  Actually, four-fifths of one, because another Howard - Hanson - beat Barlow to the punch by four days in recording the fourth of the five movements of this MacDowell Suite (the "Dirge") as part of his first Victor album of American music, which didn't actually hit the stores until after the present recording did:

MacDowell: Suite No. 2 in E minor, Op. 48 ("Indian")
Columbia Broadcasting Symphony conducted by Howard Barlow
Recorded May 15, 1939
Columbia Masterworks set M-373, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 78.16 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 62.05 MB)

The simple but appealing cover design shown above is original to the set, which is a nice early pressing.  I'm pretty sure it predates Alex Steinweiss' design work for Columbia, and there were a few other sets from the same time period (middle to late 1939) that featured a composer's silhouette, as this one does.  Later copies of this MacDowell set that I've seen use an ordinary generic cover.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Andor Földes)

Andor Földes, 1956
The Hungarian pianist Andor Földes (1913-1992) studied under the two towering musical figures of his time and place - Ernst von Dohnányi and Béla Bartók, and in fact became best known for his performances of the latter composer's works. He came to America around 1940, and would first have become known to American record-buyers through his role as accompanist to another compatriot, violinist Joseph Szigeti, in a series of prewar Columbia recordings, most notably sonatas by Schubert and Debussy. In 1947, Földes gave the New York première of Bartók's Second Concerto, and made the first recording of it two years later, in France:

Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2 (1931)
Andor Földes, piano
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux conducted by Eugène Bigot
Recorded June 27 and 29, 1949
Polydor (France) A6.320 through A6.322, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 65.70 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.66 MB)

These French Polydor pressings, though looking lovely, turned out to be quite noisy. I did what I could with them with several different styli, but some sides still have an audible swish and in fact the right channel turned out to be unusable. Despite this, I still think it sounds better than the Vox LP which was the recording's only issue in the USA.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hindemith from the Recording Horn

Happy May Day! Some fifteen months ago, when I uploaded the Los Angeles Wind Quintet's recording of Hindemith's delightful Kleine Kammermusik, I expressed the hope that I might someday be able to hear the work's first recording, an acoustical version by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Quintet, anachronistic as that may seem. (It was one of Polydor's very last acoustical recordings.) Well, my wish has been granted, for a copy has recently come my way, and you, my loyal audience, get to hear it too:

Hindemith: Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2
The Leipzig Gewandhaus Wind Quintet
Recorded c. 1925
Polydor 66376 and 66377, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 43.10 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 26.09 MB)

The performance is very good, especially considering that the work was written (and published) a mere three years before this recording was made, and its idiom would have been equally new to the Leipzig players - who, Jolyon tells us (in connection with his very welcome upload of their recording of August Klughardt's Quintet), were Carl Bartuzat, flute; Walter Heinze, oboe; Willi Schreinicke, clarinet; Gunther Weigelt, bassoon; and Richard Schaller, horn. Only Bartuzat's year of birth is known for sure, and he was thirteen years older than the composer. This was the first recording of a work by Hindemith in which the composer himself didn't actually perform, and the playing, like Hindemith's own, is spirited and in certain spots a bit rough-and-ready. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (Ormandy)

In 1937, the name of Leopold Stokowski must have seemed inextricably bound with that of the Philadelphia Orchestra, as far as record buyers were concerned, for it had appeared so for nearly 20 years on Victor Records. The set I present today heralded a new order, for it was the first-issued recording by the Orchestra under its new music director, Eugene Ormandy (he and Stokowski were actually co-conductors there during his first two years), just arrived from Minneapolis:

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74  ("Pathétique")
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded December 13, 1936, and January 9, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-337, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 98.34 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 68.09 MB)

This recording, as well as that of Schumann's Second Symphony, was made during Ormandy's first two sessions with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the first two of over 400 sessions he would undertake with them over the next 46 years. Information about these comes from a marvelous new volume by Richard A. Kaplan, "The Philadelphia Orchestra: An Annotated Discography" - published just this year by Rowman & Littlefield. Kaplan believes that the Philadelphia Orchestra's move to Columbia in 1943 was more than anything else a strategic move on Ormandy's part, and indeed the evidence shows that Victor was not particularly interested in promoting him. Stokowski continued to record with the Orchestra through 1940, even after Ormandy had become the sole music director, and then there was Toscanini's ill-fated series of sessions with the Orchestra in 1941-42. Small wonder that Ormandy jumped at the chance to move to Columbia, where he quickly became the star attraction.

The evocative cover design pictured above was not original to the set, but a wartime reissue. I have borrowed the image from Ken Halperin's marvelous site Collecting Record Covers, for my own copy of DM-337, a slightly worn pre-war edition, has a generic cover.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Stravinsky: Petrouchka (Coates)

Another Albert Coates birth anniversary is upon us (April 23 - Thursday, this year), so for this week I present his version of Stravinsky's Petrouchka. This is only the second recording ever made of that great ballet; Eugene Goossens' pioneering acoustical version with the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra, which Satyr has available, was the first. Coates' recording would have been intended to replace it, of course:

Stravinsky: Petrouchka (complete ballet)
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates
Recorded October 19 and 24, 1927, January 5 and February 15, 1928
HMV Album 54 (D 1521 through D 1524), four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 100.66 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 60.12 MB)

It's worth noting that this is one of the few Coates recordings made by HMV that did not get issued in the USA by Victor - an honor that even most of his acoustical recordings enjoyed. I presume that is because Koussevitzky recorded the Suite from Petrouchka at about the same time, as his first recording with the Boston Symphony, and Victor considered the Coates set, complete though it was, superfluous. (Victor had issued the Goossens recording in 1925.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Happy Birthday, Gregor Piatigorsky!

Unsigned cover design for Columbia MX-258
This Friday, April 17, marks the 112th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century, Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976). For a musician of his stature, he left far too few solo recordings - a handful for German Odeon in the late 1920s, all of short pieces, and a somewhat more substantial batch for HMV in the 30s (including a Beethoven sonata with Schnabel, and a Brahms with Rubinstein). But it wasn't until the 40s, when he came to America, and signed on with Columbia, that more of an effort was made to commit his repertoire to disc. These two sonata recordings are among the fruits of that association:

Beethoven: Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Op. 102, No. 2
Gregor Piatigorsky, cello; Ralph Berkowitz, piano
Recorded June 6, 1945
Columbia Masterworks MX-258, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 39.14 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 30.53 MB)

Brahms: Sonata No. 2 in F Major, Op. 99
Gregor Piatigorsky, cello; Ralph Berkowitz, piano
Recorded May 28, 1947
Columbia Masterworks ML-2096, one 10-inch LP record
Link (FLAC files, 66.00 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 44.94 MB)

Almost twice as much music was recorded by Piatigorsky for Columbia as was actually released. There were unissued versions of the Grieg, Debussy and Barber sonatas - this last-named, Columbia actually went so far as to assign a set number for (MM-737), and both Piatigorsky and Barber were eager to have it released. My guess is that a suitable filler side could not be agreed upon. These sonata recordings finally saw the light of day in 2010, with the issue of a six-CD set by West Hill Radio Archives, a set that is indispensable for lovers of Piatigorsky's art, and which, when last I checked, was being sold at Berkshire Record Outlet at a reduced price.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture (Stokowski, 1942)

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
(portrait by Ilya Repin, 1893)
For Easter weekend, and in celebration of Leopold Stokowski's birth month (April 18, 1882), I present one of Stoki's more controversial interpretations, that of Rimsky-Korsakov's 1888 Russian Easter Overture. Controversial, because it features one of his many retouchings of orchestral scoring - and this in a work by a composer renowned for his mastery of orchestration! In this case, an anonymous male voice substitutes for a trombone in the recitative-like middle section, singing words of the Russian liturgy:

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36
NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Recorded April 23, 1942
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-937, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 33.71 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 23.40 MB)

This brilliant piece must have been particularly dear to Stokowski, for he recorded it no less than four times - in 1929 with the Philadelphia Orchestra; the present version; in 1953 with "his symphony orchestra"; and in 1968 with the Chicago Symphony. The 1953 recording also uses the voice-for-trombone substitution; there, the singing is credited to bass Nicola Moscona. (Moscona can be heard on this recording of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony.)

A happy and blessed Easter to everyone!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 4 (Dennis Brain)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
Today I present one of the earliest solo recordings by the tragically short-lived horn virtuoso Dennis Brain (1921-1957), which may not be particularly rare, perhaps (most of his recordings have been widely reissued over the years), but it is wonderful, and putting it on this blog is an excuse to put another delightful Steinweiss album cover into the public eye! This is, for all intents and purposes, the recording that introduced Dennis Brain to the American record-buying public (as a soloist, that is - the Léner Quartet's version of a Mozart divertimento, in which he and his father Aubrey had augmented the ensemble by two horns, had been issued here in 1940). It was the first to be made available as domestically-pressed discs obtainable through regular channels, some four years after it was released in England:

Mozart: Horn Concerto No. 4 in E-Flat, K. 495
Dennis Brain, with the Hallé Orchestra
conducted by Malcolm Sargent and Laurence Turner
Recorded June 21, 1943
Columbia Masterworks set MX-285, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 51.45 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.16 MB)

The double conductor attribution requires some explanation. The story is that Sargent was late for the recording session, so Turner, the orchestra's first violinist, took over and conducted the recording while waiting for him to arrive. English Columbia solved the problem of wording the record labels in a most frustrating manner for record collectors, by leaving off the conductor's name(s) entirely. At least they were honest, I suppose. Victor, when issuing Stokowski's 1939 recording of Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals" with the Philadelphia Orchestra, credited everything to Stoki, even though one of the sides was a retake conducted by Saul Caston.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

William Boyce: 8 Symphonies (Max Goberman)

Max Goberman
The Philadelphia-born violinist and conductor Max Goberman (1911-1962) was a true recording pioneer. He will probably always best be remembered for being the first to attempt to record all the Haydn symphonies, a project cut short less than halfway through by his untimely death from a heart attack, a month shy of his 52nd birthday. (My first-ever exposure to the Toy Symphony that we used to believe was by Haydn was through Goberman's recording of the piece for Young Peoples Records, a company for which he made important contributions in the late 1940s.) Goberman's first major recording project was undertaken with a chamber orchestra he helped found, the New York Simfonietta, and comprised the first-ever recording of the eight symphonies by William Boyce:

William Boyce: The Eight Symphonies
(edited by Constant Lambert)
The New York Simfonietta conducted by Max Goberman
Recorded c. 1937
Timely set 1-K, nine 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 156.17 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 94.87 MB)

Max Goberman was the musical director for Timely Records, a small New York-based company founded around 1935 and originally specializing in political material, which in 1937 was sold to an insurance executive named Leo Waldman. Waldman changed the focus of the label to esoteric classical material, and this Boyce set was the first issue under his aegis. Within two or three years the label was defunct, its assets sold to General Records' owner Hazard Reeves, the famed sound engineer.

The Boyce symphonies were available in those days only in an error-ridden edition by Constant Lambert, who himself would record extracts from them in 1940 as part of a ballet, "The Prospect Before Us." At the time of his death, Goberman was working on a new edition of the symphonies, which has since become the standard.

Incidentally, the 52nd birthday that Max Goberman didn't get to celebrate is a landmark I expect to reach this May. Furthermore, Goberman died a mere five months before I was born. Eerie, isn't it, that Fate should place these records in my hands at this time of my life!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Two More by the Coolidge Quartet

Robert McBride
I recently acquired two more recordings by the Coolidge Quartet (William Kroll and Nicolai Berezowsky, violins; Nicholas Moldavan, viola; Victor Gottlieb, cello), and with them, I am about halfway to having a complete collection of the issued commercial recordings of this unjustly neglected ensemble. For the first one, which is the only single-record issue in the Coolidges' discography that I can trace, they are joined by Arizona-born composer-oboist Robert McBride (1911-2007), who gained some fame as a young man for writing pieces with catchy, evocative titles such as "Jingle Jangle", "Swing Stuff", etc. Arthur Fiedler promoted him on records with the Boston Pops before discovering Leroy Anderson (Youtube has his recording of "Fugato on a Well-Known Theme" here). His Oboe Quintet, despite its academic title, inhabits the same lighthearted world; it's in a single jazzy movement marked With kick:

Robert McBride: Quintet for Oboe and Strings (1937)
Robert McBride, oboist, with the Coolidge Quartet
Recorded October 27, 1939
Victor 2159, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 13.52 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 8.70 MB)

The other Coolidge item here is more self-explanatory; it's the third installment of their ill-fated Beethoven quartet cycle:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 3 in D Major, Op. 18, No. 3
The Coolidge Quartet
Recorded October 27, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-650, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 45.64 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 30.68 MB)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Brahms: Symphony No. 2 (Barbirolli)

John Barbirolli, c. 1940
Surely one of the hardest acts to follow in the history of orchestras and their conductors was Toscanini and his ten years as music director of the New York Philharmonic (1926-36). 37-year-old John Barbirolli was chosen for the job, and achieved fine results in the seven years he was there. When he arrived, the orchestra still had a recording contract with Victor, but the company seems to have done little to promote the Philharmonic - perhaps understandably, when they also had Boston, Philadelphia and Toscanini's new orchestra at NBC on the books. When the contract lapsed in 1940 Columbia eagerly signed the orchestra and its young music director, no doubt with an eye to recording it with other conductors in their stable, especially Stravinsky and Bruno Walter. But to Barbirolli, rightfully, went the honor of conducting the Philharmonic's first recording for Columbia, and here it is:

Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York
conducted by John Barbirolli
Recorded March 27, 1940
Columbia Masterworks set MM-412, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 93.74 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 63.90 MB)

At just over 33 minutes long, this may well be the fastest Brahms Second on record, yet it never sounds rushed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 (Mitropoulos)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
This weekend - March 1 - marks the 119th birth anniversary of the great Greek maestro, Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960), principal conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra from 1937 to 1949. From 1939 to 1946 the orchestra and its conductor recorded exclusively for Columbia, afterwards signing on with RCA Victor. From their last series of Columbia sessions came this exciting version of Tchaikovsky's "Little Russian" Symphony:

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 ("Little Russian")
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded March 10 and 11, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set MM-673, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 85.70 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 58.08 MB)