Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bliss: Music for Strings (Boult)

Arthur Bliss
I can't claim a great deal of familiarity with the music of Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975), but of the dozen or so works I have heard, by far my favorite is the Music for Strings, a three-movement symphony in all but name.  I find much of Bliss' work to be rather dry, but that cannot be said of this piece, which has a richness and sweep very reminiscent of Elgar, albeit combined with more astringent harmonies than old Sir Edward would ever have employed.  It was introduced at the Salzburg Festival of 1935 by Adrian Boult, who made its first recording two years later:

Bliss: Music for Strings (1935)
BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult
Recorded March 24 and June 5, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-464, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 56.35 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.46 MB)

Friday, March 11, 2016

The New Art Wind Quintet

The New Art Wind Quintet (Murray Panitz, Melvin Kaplan,
Aldo Simonelli, Tina di Dario, Merrill Wilson)
Last month, when I posted the First String Quartet by Nicolai Berezowsky, Nick of Grumpy's Classics Cave commented that we can now hear all commercial 78s of his work, given that Symposium Records made available the other candidate, a New Music Quarterly issue of two movements of Berezowsky's 1928 Suite for Woodwinds. That exchange led me to seek out the third and last commercial recording of Berezowsky's music made during his too-short lifetime. This was an early LP containing the same Suite for Woodwinds, this time complete:

Milhaud: Two Sketches for woodwind quintet, Op. 227b
Berezowsky: Suite for Woodwinds, Op. 11
Irving Fine: Partita for Woodwind Quintet (1948)
The New Art Woodwind Quintet
Issued July, 1951
Link (FLAC files, 77.61 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 60.21 MB)

The Milhaud (derived from piano pieces) and Berezowsky works are enjoyable enough, but the real masterpiece here is the Stravinsky-influenced Partita by the even shorter-lived Irving Fine (1914-1962), who died of heart disease at age 47.

Murray Panitz, the flutist on this recording, went on to become the principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, succeeding William Kincaid in 1961 and serving until his death in 1989 at age 63.