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.