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.