Friday, December 8, 2017

Beethoven: Quartet No. 15 (Erling Bloch Quartet)

This year I have certainly managed to acquire a healthy batch of recordings by the Erling Bloch Quartet, and here is the latest installment, apparently the Danish ensemble's only recording of Beethoven:

Beethoven: Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Friisholm-Kassow-Christiansen)
Recorded April 12 and 13, 1951
HMV DB 20143 through DB 20147, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 117.62 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 70.74 MB)

It's a good, honest performance, a little broader in tempo than was customary for 78-rpm recordings of this work, particularly in the finale. It may not have the searing intensity of the 1937 version by the Busch Quartet (which, incidentally, was slated for deletion in the HMV 1950-51 catalogue), but then, which other version did? I hate making comparisons like this, but in the case of this particular piece I can't help it, because of all the Beethoven quartets Op. 132 is the one I love most, and the Busch performance is my ideal...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Happy Birthday, Benjamin Britten!

Benjamin Britten, 1938
Wednesday marks the 104th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten (born November 22, 1913). As a young man in his early 20s he had achieved a certain celebrity, principally as a resourceful composer for documentary films, but it remained localized until this work, and this recording of it, brought him international fame:

Britten: Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10
Boyd Neel String Orchestra conducted by Boyd Neel
Recorded July 15, 1938
Decca X 226 through X 228, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 65.91 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 38.41 MB)

This is Britten's first work to be generally recognized as a masterpiece, written to Boyd Neel's commission for a 1937 appearance at the International Society of Contemporary Music Festival in Salzburg. The ISCM requested that Neel bring a new work by an English composer, and Neel despaired of finding one on short notice until he thought of Britten's high-quality (and speedily written) film work, some of which he had conducted in the studios. Neel's hunch that the young man might quickly furnish a worthwhile score was amply repaid. Britten's initial draft of the Bridge Variations was sketched in ten days, and four weeks later the piece had been fully scored - "one of the most astonishing feats of composition in my experience," said Neel.

This set was reviewed in the November, 1938, Gramophone Shop Supplement (in which it was offered for sale at $7,25, including album). "The discs are the first example of [Britten's] work to reach this country," said the anonymous reviewer. "The principal shortcoming of the present work is the inclusion of genre pieces like the Aria Italiana and Wiener Walz, very cleverly turned out but definitely lessening the effect of the remarkable Funeral March, Chant and Fugue. There is some remarkably powerful and eloquent writing in these last sections, writing that on first hearing mark Britten as a man to be watched. The whole work is an unusually attractive and interesting example of contemporary music on discs, and its best pages are an indication that not only Britain but the world has a highly significant new force to reckon with." Quite a prescient review, although I can't agree with the assertion that the lighter sections constitute shortcomings!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Piano Works of Niels Viggo Bentzon

As my last post featured 20th-century Danish piano music, so does this one, but what a contrast in styles! I had really hoped to offer the two composers together, but with the demands being made on my time lately, it simply wasn't to be. In any event, if Jørgen Jersild's influences were primarily French, those of his contemporary, the somewhat better-known Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000), were undeniably Teutonic. Here are three early examples played by the composer (and an extra, played by an associate):

Bentzon: Toccata, Op. 10 (1941)
Niels Viggo Bentzon, piano
Recorded November 26, 1948
HMV Z 276, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 17.44 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 11.33 MB)

Bentzon: Partita, Op. 38 (1945)
Niels Viggo Bentzon, piano
Recorded May 23, 1946
Concert Etude, Op. 40
Bengt Johnsson, piano
Recorded November 23, 1948
HMV Z 7013 through Z 7015, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 49.16 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 30.41 MB)

Bentzon: Sonata No. 3, Op. 44 (1946-47)
Niels Viggo Bentzon, piano
Recorded June 14, 1949
HMV Z 7030 and Z 7031, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 38.42 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 24.06 MB)

The craggy Toccata was Bentzon's calling card as a young composer; he achieved his first success with it. It is that singular anomaly, a toccata in adagio tempo. This is, in fact, its second recording, replacing one issued under the same number in 1942. The equally craggy five-movement Partita recalls Baroque models in its title only, for the work makes full use of modern piano techniques, with numerous passages written in four staves! The Third Sonata is somewhat more conventional, and bears a dedication to Georg Vásárhelyi, Bentzon's piano teacher and a co-soloist on the recording of Bentzon's Chamber Concerto that I posted three years ago. Bentzon ultimately composed an astonishing 31 piano sonatas (one has to wonder, was he trying to outdo Beethoven?), and the first one remained unfinished. All that was published of it is the Concert Etude that appears as a filler to the Partita.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Jørgen Jersild: Trois Pièces en Concert

Jørgen Jersild
More obscure Danish repertoire this time around, and, after you have heard this, perhaps you will agree with me that its obscurity is quite undeserved! Copenhagen-born Jørgen Jersild (1913-2004) was not even a name to me before I acquired this pair of records. The little bit of information about him I have been able to pull from online (primarily the Wikipedia article) reveals that he was a respected educator in Denmark, and that his music betrays a great deal of French influence (perhaps unsurprising, given that he studied with Albert Roussel). Certainly the French inspiration is very strong, even to the very title, in this masterly, virtuosic piano suite of 1945:

Jørgen Jersild: Trois Pièces en Concert
Folmer Jensen, piano
Recorded March 28, 1950
HMV Z 350 and Z 351, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 37.36 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 24.21 MB)

The "three pieces" are all derived from French dance forms (Tambourin, Romanesque, Farandole), and therefore resembles, externally, a Baroque keyboard suite - although only the Tambourin is commonly associated with the Baroque period. Most impressive is the middle movement, "avec dix Doubles" (with ten variations), on a Renaissance dance pattern related to the Galliard.

This is a rare solo recording by Folmer Jensen (1902-1966), whose forte appears to have been accompanying; tenor Aksel Schiøtz and clarinetist Louis Cahuzac are among the artists who secured his services for that purpose in the recording studios.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 (Beecham)

Early in 1949, to honor the upcoming 70th birthday of Sir Thomas Beecham, RCA Victor put on the American market some half-dozen albums of the conductor's latest HMV recordings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, all sporting the above generic cover created for the occasion. This was the largest of these sets:

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29 ("Polish")
Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded April, 1947
RCA Victor set DM-1279, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 113.12 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 73.55 MB)

Of the six Tchaikovsky symphonies, the Third seems to me the most ideal vehicle for Sir Thomas' talents. This is particularly true of the three middle movements, and how fortunate are we that these are played without cuts! The outer movements do have a few judicious cuts, but to be fair, I've never heard a 78-rpm version of this work that didn't have them. The pioneering version by Albert Coates, of 1932, hacked each of the middle movements down to one side, and Hans Kindler's of 1940 and Gregor Fitelberg's of 1946 each have cuts in the outer movements, the latter hacking the Finale to one side.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Nielsen by E. T.

No, this post has nothing to do with extra-terrestrials! Several weeks ago, I had two different conductors with the same initials featured in one composer at this post. Just so, now I present two different conductors with the initials "E.T." performing Nielsen - more fruits of my recent splurgings on Danish 78s. The details:

Nielsen: En Sagadrøm (A Saga Dream), Op. 39
Copenhagen Royal Opera Orchestra conducted by Egisto Tango
Recorded February 27, 1942
HMV DB 5263, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 22.27 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 14.67 MB)

Nielsen: Little Suite for Strings, Op. 1
Danish State Broadcasting Orchestra conducted by Erik Tuxen
Recorded April 7, 1948
Columbia DDX 17 and 18, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 38.74 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 23.71 MB)

The Sagadrøm record is a real gem, and as for the Little Suite, has there ever been an Opus 1 as accomplished, and as fully characteristic of its composer?

I didn't mean to be gone quite so long, but on top of computer problems, which I'm still working on, I've had to deal with Hurricane Irma, which we in Atlanta didn't get the full brunt of, as Florida did, but we got quite enough - sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, sometimes gusting to 60, and over 3 inches of rain in a single day. The past weekend saw me frantically elevating hundreds of records from the floor of my basement, in anticipation of water from the storm coming in, which, thankfully, didn't happen, but it's always better to be safe than sorry!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Holmboe: Quartet No. 1 (Erling Bloch Quartet)

Vagn Holmboe
Twice in the past I have presented works by the most celebrated Danish composer since Nielsen, Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996): the Serenata, Opus 18 and the Notturno for Wind Quintet, Opus 19 - together constituting two-thirds of the total works of Holmboe recorded on 78-rpm discs. Here now is the third and last of these pioneering recordings:

Holmboe: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 46 (1949)
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Friisholm-Kassow-Christiansen)
Recorded April 9, 1951
HMV DB 20137 through DB 21039, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 58.74 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 38.75 MB)

This fine three-movement quartet, the first of a remarkable series of twenty, was dedicated to, and premièred by, the Erling Bloch Quartet. Holmboe had, in fact, written no less than ten string quartets (not all of them actually completed) before the one he allowed to go out into the world as his First; at the time of its composition, he had already written six of his thirteen symphonies, and all but two of his series of thirteen chamber concertos. The first three of the numbered quartets were written in rapid succession, assigned consecutive opus numbers and recorded within five years - the Second by the Musica Vitalis Quartet for Decca, and the Third by the Koppel Quartet (the dedicatees), also for Decca. The latter was reissued on CD as part of the "Decca Sound - Mono Years" box set issued a couple of years ago.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Goldmark: Rustic Wedding Symphony (Howard Barlow)

Karl Goldmark
Shortly after I started this blog, seven years ago, I posted this recording of Howard Barlow conducting Gordon Jacob's orchestration of Vaughan Williams' "English Folk Song Suite". In the comments section of that post, there was a request for Barlow's recording of Karl Goldmark's delightful "Rustic Wedding" Symphony, which I did not possess at the time. Well, now I do, and here it is:

Goldmark: Rustic Wedding Symphony, Op. 26
Howard Barlow conducting the Columbia Broadcasting Symphony
Recorded June 19, 1939
Columbia Masterworks set MM-385, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 92.83 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 69.18 MB)

This was only the second recording of the work - the first had been made 10 years earlier, by the Vienna Philharmonic under Robert Heger, issued in the USA by Victor but deleted shortly after this fine account by Barlow appeared.

The request for this recording was from Fred, of the excellent blog "Random Classics" which, unfortunately, he felt obliged to suspend four years ago. Fred, wherever you are, I hope you are able to enjoy this recording, seven years late...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bach: Harpsichord Concerto No. 7 (Anna Linde)

Anna Linde
Last year, I presented on this blog what I believed to be the first electrical recording of a Bach concerto, a triple clavier concerto played by three French pianists. Now I present the first complete recording of a Bach clavier concerto played on the harpsichord - I say "complete" because Alice Ehlers had recorded two movements of the BWV 1056 concerto for Homokord in 1926, a recording which achieved nothing like the currency that this one did:

Bach: Harpsichord Concerto No. 7 in G Minor, BWV 1058
Anna Linde, harpsichord, with string orchestra
Recorded October 8, 1928
English Parlophone E 10879 and E 10880, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 40.39 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 22.71 MB)

According to Christian Zwerg's Parlophon discography, the orchestra is that of the Berlin State Opera, and the conductor was Frieder Weissmann, Parlophon's house conductor. And the irony is that, although Weissmann's name is not on the labels, we know far more about his career than we do about the harpsichordist's, for Anna Linde is a figure shrouded in mystery. Here is what we have been able to find out about her (and I am indebted to Nick Morgan and his great sleuthing powers for this information):

She was born Johanna Anna Pincus in Bromberg, Germany (now Bydgoszcz, Poland), in 1880. During the 1910s she studied with Wanda Landowska at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and sometime after this adopted "Anna Linde" as her professional name. In the late 1920s she recorded a handful of sides for Parlophon, among them several with Paul Grümmer playing the viola da gamba (these can be heard at the CHARM website, as can two of her solo sides). Being Jewish, when the Nazis came to power, she was forced to flee Germany, and she went first to Italy, where she made several recordings for the anthology "Musiche Antiche Italiane" (producers of this first recording of Monteverdi's "Orfeo"). After Italy became unsafe for Jews, she emigrated to the USA, took citizenship and appears to have settled in Denver, Colorado, dying there in 1968.

The picture above is the only one I have been able to find of her, and appears to derive from Parlophon publicity material; my apologies for its awful quality but it was little better in my source, which was a reproduction in Frank Andrews and Michael Smith's discography of English Parlophone's 12-inch "E" series, published by the City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bloch: Violin Sonata No. 1 (Josef Gingold, Beryl Rubinstein)

Ernest Bloch, early 1920s
Ernest Bloch wrote two violin sonatas in the 1920s, when he was serving as the first director of the Cleveland Institute of Music, and these have not lacked for performances and recordings from some fairly prominent artists, among them Heifetz, Isaac Stern and Louis Kaufman. The first recording ever made of either of them was for an independent New York label, Gamut, by the husband-and-wife team of Harold and Marion Kahn Berkley, in 1937. This is so rare that I have never encountered it. A year later, Victor recorded the same sonata, and it presumably received somewhat wider distribution, though it is scarcely less common:

Bloch: Violin Sonata No. 1 (1920)
Josef Gingold, violin; Beryl Rubinstein, piano
Recorded c. January 1938
Victor Musical Masterpiece set AM-498, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 69.03 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 49.67 MB)

This recording affords us a rare opportunity to hear Josef Gingold (1909-1995) as a soloist; he was much more active as a chamber and orchestral musician, being in Toscanini's NBC Orchestra and in the Primrose Quartet. Beryl Rubinstein (1898-1952), on the Cleveland Institute's faculty while Bloch was there (and subsequently its director), was one of the dedicatees of Bloch's Second Violin Sonata, along with violinist André Ribaupierre; together they premièred the work in 1925. Curiously enough, another Rubinstein, Artur. participated in the première of the First Sonata, with violinist Paul Kochanski.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mozart Serenades by E. F.

Two albums containing Mozart serenades this week, the common denominator to both being that a conductor with the initials "E. F." leads a (presumably) hand-picked ensemble. Here are the details:

Mozart: "Salzburg Serenades"
(Concertante and Rondo from Serenade No. 9 in D, K. 320;
Serenata Notturna in D, K. 239)
Edvard Fendler conducting the Vox Chamber Orchestra
Recorded c. 1945-46
Vox Album 161, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 63.91 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 41.28 MB)

Mozart: Serenade No. 10 in B-Flat, K. 361, for thirteen wind instruments
Edwin Fischer conducting his Chamber Orchestra
Recorded September 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-743, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 68.76 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.88 MB)

Leipzig-born Fendler (1902-1987), who would appear to have left Germany with the rise of Nazism, ended up with conducting jobs in places as diverse as the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mobile (Alabama) and Beaumont (Texas). He had made recordings in France before the war - among them, another version of this same Serenata Notturna. The "Vox Chamber Orchestra" was, I suspect, an ad hoc body of New York players.

Edwin Fischer (1886-1960) was, of course, much better known as a pianist, but was a fine conductor as well, and he often combined the two roles, most notably with Bach. This recording, made in Berlin, manages to get Mozart's great Gran Partita onto three discs by omitting two movements and excising one of two trios of a minuet, and by scrupulously avoiding repeats. What remains, however, is very well played and conducted indeed.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

More from Morton

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
For easy summer listening, this week I present two more albums of Morton Gould's popular song arrangements, made for Columbia after he had been promoted to green-label Masterworks status:

String Time
1. Body and Soul (Johnny Green)
2. Laura (David Raskin)
3. Holiday for Strings (David Rose)
4. Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington)
5. Solitude (Duke Ellington)
6. Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen)
7. The Surrey With the Fringe On Top (Richard Rodgers)
8. Stormy Weather (Harold Arlen)
Morton Gould and His Orchestra
Recorded July 11 and 15, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set M-663, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 63.38 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.86 MB)

Music at Midnight
1. Caravan (Duke Ellington)
2. Moonglow (Will Hudson)
3. Song of the Bayou (Rube Bloom)
4. Deserted Ballroom (Morton Gould)
5. Mood Indigo (Duke Ellington)
6. Serenade in the Night (Cesare Andrea Bixio)
7. Deep Purple (Peter de Rose)
8. Swamp Fire (Harold Mooney)
Morton Gould and His Orchestra
Recorded November 14, 15 and 22, 1950
Columbia Masterworks set MM-992, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 70.52 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 46.93 MB)

It will be seen that each collection contains two Duke Ellington tunes, and that "Music at Midnight" also has one of Gould's own compositions, originally a piano piece that he had recorded a decade earlier. To the expected string orchestra of "String Time" Gould's orchestrations add a harp and celesta, and, in the case of "The Surrey With the Fringe On Top" - played entirely pizzicato - also such appurtenances as sleigh bells, wood block, whip and even a banjo. "Music at Midnight" has the distinction of being Columbia's last Masterworks 78-rpm set to be released on a regular schedule concurrent with LP releases, in April, 1951. With the May releases 78s were dropped, although five set numbers (993 to 997) had been assigned, and after that, only selected Masterworks releases appeared as 78s, usually semi-classical in nature.

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Festive Ormandy

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
Of Ottorino Respighi's three orchestral suites celebrating his adopted home city of Rome (Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome, and Roman Festivals), I confess my favorite has always been the last one, mainly because it is the most fun. Respighi, like Liszt, seems to be most authentically himself when he can cut loose and play, and nowhere did he do so more than in this piece (unless it was in the kid-in-a-candy-store orchestrations of Antiche Arie e Danze). This is its first American recording to be released (since Toscanini's, with the same orchestra, from five years earlier, did not see the light of day until 1976):

Respighi: Feste Romane (1928)
Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded April 18, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set MM-707, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 60.69 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 39.78 MB)

About five years ago, I uploaded Ormandy's first Philadelphia recording of Sibelius' First Symphony, along with his Minneapolis recording of Kodály's Háry János Suite. I noted the existence of an earlier recording of the same symphony from Minneapolis, and have now located a copy of that, and here it is:

Sibelius: Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 39
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded January 16, 1935
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-290, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 110.30 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 66.42 MB)

Originally issued with a generic cover, by the time of my pressing, c. 1940, the set was sporting this simple but evocative cover design:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Herman D. Koppel

Herman D. Koppel
Nineteen years ago this month, the world of Danish music lost one of its last living links with Carl Nielsen in the passing of pianist and composer Herman David Koppel (1908-1998). (His brother was the violinist Julius Koppel.) Of Jewish heritage, Koppel, who had to flee Denmark in 1943 when the Nazis placed the country under direct military occupation, had considered Nielsen a mentor and had played the composer's piano works in his presence. Koppel made multiple recordings of Nielsen's piano music, of which these appear to be among the first:

Nielsen: Theme and Variations, Op. 40 and Chaconne, Op. 32
Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded December 13, 1940
HMV DB 5252 through DB 5254, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 65.99 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 40.48 MB)

Koppel died on Bastille Day, and here he is playing French music - only the second recording ever made of Poulenc's delightful Trio (after the composer's own, for Columbia, in 1928):

Poulenc: Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano (1926)
Waldemar Wolsing, oboe; Carl Bloch, bassoon; Herman D. Koppel, piano
Recorded c. 1950
Metronome CL 3000 and CL 3001, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 32.22 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 18.71 MB)

Metrnonome Records was an independent Swedish label founded in 1949 by two jazz enthusiasts, brothers Anders and Lars Burman. This was one of their few classical issues.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Florent Schmitt: String Trio (Pasquier Trio)

Florent Schmitt
Best remembered today for his ballet "La Tragédie de Salome" and his choral-orchestral setting of Psalm 47, French composer Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) actually established his reputation as much with chamber music as with those two works, through his massive, hour-long Piano Quintet of 1908. He returned to chamber music towards the end of his life, writing, among other things, a string quartet, a saxophone quartet, a flute quartet, and this string trio written for, and dedicated to, the Pasquier brothers:

Florent Schmitt: String Trio in E Minor, Op. 105
The Pasquier Trio (Jean, Pierre and Étienne Pasquier)
Recorded May 21 and December 3, 1946
Pathé PDT 103 through 106, four 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 81.26 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 46.96 MB)

This is a big, satisfying work in four movements, thickly scored (often, because of double-stopping, it sounds more like a sextet), and of immense technical difficulty. Perhaps this explains its comparative neglect, even among Schmitt's works. I believe it has been recorded only once since, in the early 1980s, on an obscure French label, Cybelia - a valiant attempt, but not equal to the one played by the dedicatees. The Gramophone Shop Supplement of October, 1948, reviewed this set (which sold for $10.48), calling it "music of savage power, strange harmonies, and relentless drive. One is hard-pressed to find what may be called 'beauty'..." The anonymous reviewer was certainly right about the power and drive, but there is nothing in the harmonies that would be out of place in, say, Fauré's late chamber music. For me the piece is a real find, as much so as the Loeffler violin partita that I posted last year.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Boston Pops Miscellany

Arthur Fiedler, c. 1935
Summer is here - traditionally the time when orchestras do their "pops" seasons, and none is more celebrated than those of Boston (though in latter days, rivaled by those in Cincinnati). The Boston "Pops" began making recordings 82 summers ago, and purveyed everything from standard repertoire to traditional and contemporary light music. All three are represented here in this batch:

Wagner: Rienzi - Overture and Tannhäuser - Fest-Marsch
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded June 28-29, 1937
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-569, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 45.17 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 29.84 MB)

Album of Strauss Waltzes
(Wein, Weib und Gesang; Wiener Blut; Künstlerleben; Kaiser; Frühlingsstimmen)
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded 1936-37
Victor Musical Masterpiece set M-445, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 103.12 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 67.24 MB)

Piston: The Incredible Flutist - Ballet Suite
Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
Recorded June 29, 1939
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-621, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 41.67 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 29.91 MB)

Not being a Viennese waltz aficionado, I can't say how authentic Fiedler's interpretations of Johann Strauss may be, but I certainly enjoyed them - he plays them with all the zest and gusto one could want. The Piston recording is wholly delightful, but the solo flutist is unfortunately not credited. On Fiedler's later (1953) recording, James Pappoutsakis did the honors, and since that gentleman became the BSO's assistant principal flute the year this recording was made, it's quite possible he did the honors on this occasion also.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Von Einem: Concerto for Orchestra

Gottfried von Einem, 1944
Born into a wealthy Austrian family (his mother was a baroness), Gottfried von Einem (1918-1996) spent his formative years in Germany. The young man did not have an easy time of it under the National Socialist regime. His interest in the Entartete Musik of Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Hindemith (with whom he wanted to study, but whose exile from Germany prevented that ambition) antagonized the Nazis, as did his love of jazz. Despite his problems with the authorities, von Einem managed to achieve some success as a composer in these years. Herbert von Karajan commissioned him to write a Concerto for Orchestra, which was premièred in April, 1944. With its syncopations and sly allusions to "Jeepers Creepers" in the fast outer movements, it quickly landed its composer in more hot water. Propaganda Minister Goebbels himself ordered that this recording be made for "study purposes":

Gottfried von Einem: Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 4
Saxon State Orchestra, Dresden, conducted by Karl Elmendorff
Recorded July 25, 1944
Deutsche Grammophon set DGS-10, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 50.59 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 33.30 MB)

It seems unlikely that this recording was intended for public consumption, but it did achieve limited circulation after the war, notably in the USA in London Gramophone Corporation's short-lived series of Deutsche Grammophon album sets. The Gramophone Shop Supplement of October, 1949, lists the set at $8.93 (a tidy sum in those days), and offers this in review: "It bears signs of nearly every well known composer of the 20th century, from Mahler, Strauss and Hindemith to Bartók, Stravinsky and even Morton Gould. The texture is essentially light, and occasionally sardonic, while the orchestration is extremely deft. Perhaps the best thing about this music is its very eclectic qualities, and he who has a sense of humor may find some quite enjoyable moments." Irving Kolodin, writing in the Saturday Review of August 27, 1949, was much less charitable, saying, "no tunes seem to occur to him. It is a hash of rather meaningless counterpoints and orchestral effects, without even the seasoning that sometimes makes hash a filling, if not palatable dish." Good old Irving - he never pulled punches!

The Concerto for Orchestra does not appear to have been commercially recorded since, though a live performance by Jeffrey Tate and the London Symphony is now available on YouTube, and makes for an interesting comparison with the present recording - for one thing, the last minute or so of the piece was apparently changed when published (in 1951).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Khatchaturian: Piano Concerto (Levant)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
There was a request for this recording at Buster's blog recently, after he posted some of Oscar Levant's incomparable Gershwin playing. I dug around and found this nice early LP copy, complete with one of Steinweiss' more zany cover designs. This is one of three early recordings listed of Khatchaturian's wild and wacky piano concerto - the others are by Moura Lympany with Fistoulari on English Decca (the first to be issued), and William Kapell with Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony (Victor). Of these, I find Levant's the most convincing, for he cuts loose more than the others do, playing it with all the zest and panache that he brought to everything he touched:

Khatchaturian: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1935)
Oscar Levant with the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York
conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recorded January 3, 1950
Columbia ML-4288, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 88.45 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 58.03 MB)

This recording was also issued as a 78 set (Columbia MM-905), and I am sorry to say I don't have that, nor have I ever seen it anywhere. It contains, as a filler, Levant's rarest recording, apparently unissued in any other form - Rachmaninoff's Prelude in D Minor, Op. 23, No. 3. It is so rare that it is on the wants list of the International Piano Archives at the University of Maryland - although it would be easy to miss this, since they do not identify it as the filler for this Khatchaturian Concerto. If you have it, they would like to hear from you!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

More from the Erling Bloch Quartet

In time for Carl Nielsen's birthday this year (June 9), I present the first recording ever made of a string quartet by him, done during the early months of the Nazi occupation of Denmark by the Erling Bloch Quartet. This recording does not appear to have been reissued on CD; Danacord passed over it in favor of the Koppel Quartet's 1954 account (though their 1984 LP set of early Nielsen chamber recordings did contain a rather inept transfer). I also offer two single discs by the Erling Bloch ensemble to ride, as it were, the coattails of the Nielsen. The details:

Nielsen: Quartet No. 4 in F Major, Op. 44
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Pedersen-Kassow-Svendsen)
Recorded October 26, 1940
HMV DB 1-3, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 71.21 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 42.42 MB)

Hakon Børresen: Scherzo (from Quartet No. 2 in C Minor, 1939)
Schubert: Quartettsatz in C Minor, D. 703
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Friisholm-Kassow-Svendsen)
Recorded November 19, 1942
HMV DB 5282, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 23.70 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 14.98 MB)

Stravinsky: Concertino for String Quartet (1920)
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Friisholm-Kassow-Christiansen)
Recorded August 26, 1952
HMV DA 5275, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 13.81 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 9.16 MB)

The delightful scherzo by Hakon Børresen (1876-1954), a Dane of Norwegian heritage who studied with Johan Svendsen, reminds me of the Scherzo of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, with its pizzicato main section and arco middle section. Yes, the Schubert is complete on one side, thanks to a brisk tempo and the omission of the repeat. The Stravinsky is, I believe, the ensemble's last recording to be issued as a 78,

The issue series in which the Nielsen set found itself was HMV's first automatic set series in Denmark, most of whose numbers were recorded during the Second World War (except for one reissue). I am aware of the existence of the following issues in it:

DB 1-3  Nielsen: Quartet No. 4 (Erling Bloch Quartet)
DB 4-6  Schubert: Fantasia in C, Op. 159  (Erling Bloch, Lund Chistiansen)
DB 7-9  Schubert: "Unfinished" Symphony  (Stokowski, from 1927 Victors)
DB 10-13  Beethoven: "Kreutzer" Sonata  (Bloch, Christiansen)
DB 14-16  Beethoven: "Spring" Sonata  (Bloch, Christiansen)
DB 17-20  Nielsen: Symphony No. 2  (Jensen, earlier recording from 1944)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mozart: Wind Divertimenti (Danish Radio members)

Resuming my uploads of records from Denmark (actually, the one pictured above is from the reclaimed record pile), I present two Mozart divertimenti for wind sextet. These were recorded five years apart, yet share three of the players between them, including the leader of the ensemble, oboist Waldemar Wolsing (1910-1993). Here are the details:

Mozart: Divertimento No. 12 in E-Flat Major, K. 252
Members of the Danish State Radio Orchestra:
Waldemar Wolsing and Erik Hovaldt, oboes
Ingbert Mikkelsen and Knud E. Olsen, horns
Carl Bloch and Leif Carlsen, bassoons
Recorded October 16, 1952
English Columbia DX 1872, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 19.57 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 12.48 MB)

Mozart: Divertimento No. 14 in B-Flat Major, K. 270
Waldemar Wolsing and Hans Woldbye, oboes
Ingbert Mikkelsen and Wang Breidahl, horns
Kjell Roikjer and Carl Bloch, bassoons
Recorded October 19, 1947
HMV DA 5260 and DA 5261, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 26.36 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 16.01 MB)

The HMV records do not identify the players as members of the Danish State Radio Orchestra, but I imagine they were. Two days prior to recording K. 270, Wolsing, Mikkelsen and Roikjer, as members of the Wind Quintet of 1932, participated in this recording of Vagn Holmboe's Notturno.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Henri Sauguet: Piano Concerto No. 1

Henri Sauguet
Henri-Pierre Poupard, better known as Henri Sauguet (he took his mother's maiden name for his professional career), was born in Bordeaux 116 years ago tomorrow (May 18, 1901). He is one of those composers on the periphery of 20th-century European music who, like Vittorio Rieti, first came to my attention through Sylvia Marlowe's championing his work - in Sauguet's case, a Suite Royale for solo harpsichord, a skillful modern evocation of Couperin and Rameau which Marlowe recorded for American Decca in the early 1960s (tacked on at the end of an LP whose main attraction was Falla's Harpsichord Concerto). Sauguet's essentially conservative style made him one of the few Western composers acceptable to the Soviet musical establishment; he wrote a cello concerto for Rostropovich, and Vasso Devetzi had a success there with this piano concerto, the first of three, of which this is the first recording:

Henri Sauguet: Piano Concerto No. 1 in A Minor (1934)
Arnaud de Gontaut-Biron (Gaveau piano) with the
Paris Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Roger Désormière
Recorded June 29, 1943
French Columbia LFX 911 and 912, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 40.57 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 28.29 MB)

The pianist on this recording, Arnaud de Gontaut-Biron (1897-1985), was a French nobleman, a member of a family that in earlier generations had produced several famous soldiers; one of these served in the American Revolutionary War. This appears to be Arnaud's only recording.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The London String Quartet in America

From the 1924 American Columbia catalogue
The London String Quartet, founded in 1908, first came to the USA twelve years later, and, in the words of Tully Potter, "the Americas were the LSQ's Nirvana." They found great success here, so much so that its members eventually settled here. In Britain the ensemble had begun a series of recordings for Columbia in 1914, which included a number of first recordings of "complete" quartets by Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann (complete in the sense that entire works were recorded, but with some movements abridged to fit one side). None of these sets had been issued in the USA at the time of their first tours here, so the American record buyer's introduction to the ensemble was through this disc:

Bridge: Two Old English Songs (1916)
(Sally in Our Alley; Cherry Ripe)
The London String Quartet (Levey-Petre-Warner-Evans)
Recorded March 13, 1922
Columbia A-3677, one 10-inch 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 18.03 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 9.85 MB)

During the spring of 1922 and the fall of 1923, the London String Quartet made a series of recordings in New York's Columbia studios, quite separate from their British series (which had, in any case, by this time been taking place for Vocalion). This produced twelve issued sides, mostly of isolated movements from the string quartet repertory. (No complete quartets for the Americans - yet! That would have to wait for the Masterworks series two years later.) Of these, this Bridge coupling is one of the most valuable, for the arrangements were actually given their concert première by the LSQ in 1916, with Bridge himself taking the viola part.

My thanks to Nick Morgan, not only for spotting this record, but for sending it to me.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy Birthday, Claudio Monteverdi!

Claudio Monteverdi. c. 1630
We have a very important composer anniversary this month - the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi (May 9. 1567), and so I present the first complete recording of his first opera, "L'Orfeo" (1607). This may not be the first opera ever written - that honor goes to "Dafne" by Jacopo Peri (now lost) - but it is the first acknowledged masterpiece in the new genre.  It is also the earliest opera to be in the standard repertoire, although that was probably not the case in 1939, the year this recording was made:

Monteverdi: L'Orfeo - Favola in Musica
Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of Ferruccio Calusio
Recorded December, 1939
Musiche Italiane Antiche 014 through 025, twelve 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 282.17 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 174.67 MB)

And how does this recording stack up today, in the wake of over three-quarters of a century of a performance tradition of this music? Quite well, in my opinion. The producers of this set took pains to ensure that the sound of Monteverdi's orchestra was reproduced faithfully, within the confines of what was possible at the time. True, most of the instruments are modern, and the singers are all of the Verdi-Puccini operatic tradition. But the singing - led by Enrico de Franceschi in the title role - is never less than beautiful, and, in the case of Albino Marone (singing the dual parts of Caronte and Plutone), full of character. The string playing is a little lackluster, perhaps, but the continuo work is all excellent, particularly that of Corradina Mora on her Pleyel harpsichord. The whole performance was obviously a labor of love for all involved. One can imagine them glorying in the positive aspects of their Italian heritage at a time when the world was falling apart around them.

Incidentally, at the Library of Congress' "National Jukebox", it is possible to sample what are probably the earliest recordings ever made of Monteverdi's music - two excerpts from "L'Orfeo" as sung by Reinald Werrenrath and accompanied by the usual Victor studio orchestra, recorded in 1914 for the company's educational series.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Danish Quartet

Gilbert Jespersen                  Erling Bloch                 Lund Christiansen
More Danish gems this time, played by an ensemble founded in 1935 by the three gentlemen pictured above plus one other - cellist Torben Svendsen, whose picture, regrettably, I cannot find. I present three recordings from the late 1930s, one by the full ensemble (flute, violin, cello, piano), and the others featuring two of the possible trio combinations within it:

Bach: Trio Sonata in C Minor (from "The Musical Offering", BWV 1079)
The Danish Quartet (Jespersen-Bloch-Svendsen-Christiansen)
Recorded November 22, 1937
HMV DB 5215 and DB 5216, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 44.85 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 24.88 MB)

Kuhlau: Trio in G Major, Op. 119 - Allegro moderato (first movement)
Members of the Danish Quartet (Jespersen-Bloch-Christiansen)
Recorded November 21, 1938
HMV DB 5226, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 20.16 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 11.83 MB)

Beethoven: Variations on "Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu", Op. 121a
Members of the Danish Quartet (Bloch-Svendsen-Christiansen)
Recorded January 16 and 21, 1939
HMV DB 5229 and DB 5230, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 40.31 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 26.74 MB)

The trio movement by Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) is complete as issued; its composer was German-born but fled to Denmark as a young man to escape having to fight in the Napoleonic wars. During his lifetime he was famous as a pianist and composer of Danish operas, but he is best remembered now for his piano sonatinas and his works featuring the flute.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Corelli: Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 7 (Wöldike)

During the 78-rpm era, record buyers might well be forgiven for thinking that Arcangelo Corelli wrote only one concerto - the ever-popular "Christmas Concerto" - because, for all the attention paid to the other works in his Opus 6, he might as well have. There were, in fact, more recordings made of this eighth of the concerti through 1950 than of the others combined, and not until 1953 did an integral set of the twelve appear (in a Vox LP set) to mark the composer's tercentenary. Meanwhile, a few of the others did manage to make their way to records, including this first recording of No. 7 from Denmark:

Corelli: Concerto Grosso in D Major, Op. 6, No. 7
Chamber Orchestra of the Castle Church, Copenhagen
conducted by Mogens Wöldike
HMV DA 5256 and DA 5257, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 31.15 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 19.15 MB)

The concertino soloists are Else Marie Bruun and Julius Koppel, violins, and Torben Anton Svendsen, cello; the harpsichordist is unnamed, but I presume it to be Wöldike himself.

Regular followers of this blog will no doubt have noticed the preponderance lately of recordings from Denmark; this is due partly to relatively reasonable postage rates from that country to the USA of late, with the result that I have been buying a fair number of 78s from there in recent months. Stay tuned for more recordings by Danish artists and composers...

Friday, March 24, 2017

Happy Birthday, Béla Bartók!

Béla Bartók, 1939
Last year, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Bartók's birth (March 25, 1881), Decca Classics issued a box set of his complete works on 32 CDs. One of these days I suppose I will have to spring for that, but meanwhile, I have acquired and hereby present a somewhat more modest offering, although, I think, no less valuable. Remarkably, Bartók's Sixth Quartet received three recordings in the 78-rpm era, more than did any of his major works except the Concerto for Orchestra and the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (each of which also received three 78-rpm recordings). The first, by the Gertler Quartet for Decca, can be heard at the CHARM website; the second, by the Hungarian Quartet for HMV, I have myself uploaded previously. The third, also for HMV, followed the second by scarcely a month:

Bartók: Quartet No. 6, Sz. 114 (1939)
The Erling Bloch Quartet (Bloch-Friisholm-Kassow-Svendsen)
Recorded April 26, 1948
HMV DB 20104 through DB 20106, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 73.34 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 43.25 MB)

One imagines that the HMV office in Copenhagen was unaware of the existence of the Hungarians' recording (made while that ensemble was in London), or else this duplication of repertoire would probably not have been sanctioned. Then again, the Danish recording had the advantage of price, as it is the only one of the three versions that gets the piece onto three discs rather than four. David Hall, writing in Records: 1950 Edition, sums up the respective merits of the three recordings this way: "The Gertler Quartet recording for English Decca offers the most dramatic and colorful treatment of the music; the Danish Erling Bloch Quartet ensemble, the most lean and rhythmically supple; while the Hungarian Quartet has some of the best qualities of both." He then strongly suggests waiting for the forthcoming Juilliard Quartet recordings of all the Bartók quartets for Columbia...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Rosario Bourdon

Rosario Bourdon
Like Victor Herbert before him, and like Hans Kindler after, Montreal-born Rosario Bourdon (1885-1961) began his musical career as a successful cellist before turning to the baton. Very likely his employment by the Victor Talking Machine Company for over twenty years provided the impetus for him to begin conducting. He was hired in 1909 as their in-house cellist (among the most famous recordings for which he served in this capacity is the Bach Double Concerto played by Kreisler and Zimbalist), but he seems to have been conducting regularly for the company by 1915, and beginning in 1920 he shared the post of music director at Victor with Josef Pasternack. Nearly a thousand of the acoustical recordings on which he participated can be heard at the Library of Congress' National Jukebox. After electrical recording was introduced he appears to have made no records as a cellist. Most of his conducting work was accompanying soloists, but he was also responsible for a good bit of light classical orchestral material, of which the following is a fairly representative sample:

Nevin: Narcissus, Op. 13, No. 4
Mendelssohn: Spring Song, Op. 62, No. 6
Victor Concert Orchestra
Recorded February 21, 1928
Victor 21449, one 10-inch 78-rpm record

Rubinstein: Melody in F, Op. 3, No. 1
Rubinstein: Romance, Op. 44, No. 1
Victor Concert Orchestra
Recorded September 4, 1929, and April 8, 1930
Victor 22508, one 10-inch 78-rpm record

Kreisler: Tambourin Chinois, Op. 3
Kreisler: Caprice Viennois, Op. 2
Victor Salon Orchestra
Recorded May 26, 1939
Victor 26306, one 10-inch 78-rpm record

All conducted by Rosario Bourdon
Link (FLAC files, 53.13 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.53 MB)

Bourdon left Victor in 1931 to concentrate on radio work, so the last of these 78s represents a rather mysterious guest re-appearance. It lasted barely a year in the catalogue.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Knudåge Riisager

Knudåge Riisager
Born in Estonia to Danish parents (his father managed a cement factory there), Knudåge Riisager (1897-1974) would emerge as the most internationally-minded of Danish composers, studying music in France with Albert Roussel and in Leipzig with Hermann Grabner. Certainly his music partakes of the neoclassicism then current in the Paris of "Les Six" and Stravinsky. He achieved fame through his ballet scores, but the work of his most likely to survive is the Trumpet Concertino, a delightfully witty piece (with unmistakable echoes of "Three Blind Mice" in the finale - is this tune known in Denmark also?) that augments the meager solo repertoire for that instrument:

Riisager: Concertino for trumpet and strings, Op. 29
George Eskdale, trumpet
Danish State Radio Orchestra conducted by Thomas Jensen
Riisager: Lille Ouverture, for string orchestra (1934)
Danish State Radio Orchestra conducted by Thomas Jensen
Both recorded January 27-28, 1949
Tono X-25145 and X-25146, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 40.80 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 23.74 MB)

Also by Riisager (whose birthday, incidentally, was yesterday, March 6) I present a ten-inch LP of two sonatas - both sturdy examples of Gebrauchsmusik:

Riisager: Sonata for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 55a
Wandy Tworek, Johan Hye-Knudsen, Esther Vagning
Riisager: Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 55b
Wandy Tworek and Charles Senderovitz
Recorded July 3, 1953
London LS-785, one ten-inch LP record
Link (FLAC files, 75.04 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 50.50 MB)

Just why Riisager elected to call the first of these a Sonata rather than a Trio is not explained in Robert Simpson's otherwise excellent liner notes for this LP, but my guess is that it is because the piano plays a mostly subservient role to the strings.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Purcell: Harpsichord Suites (Sylvia Marlowe)

I have had occasion, in the recent past, to sing the praises of New York's Gramophone Shop, and to enumerate their album series called "Gramophone Shop Celebrities" - two of which, both organ recitals by Finn Viderø, I have posted already. Here is the first offering in that illustrious series, released in December, 1946, and featuring the first integral recording of Purcell's "Choice Collection of Lessons for the Harpsichord" comprising eight suites:

Purcell: Eight Suites for Harpsichord (Z. 660/3 and Z. 666/9)
Sylvia Marlowe, harpsichord
Recorded c. 1946
Gramophone Shop Celebrities Album GSC-2, five vinyl 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 122.19 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 77.73 MB)

This appears also to be one of the first recordings by Sylvia Marlowe to be circulated reasonably widely, although it is still far from common. Previous albums for General (1940 - containing boogie-woogie arrangements) and Bost (1942) do not appear to have survived wartime exigencies. 78 sets for Musicraft and American Decca would follow (one example of the latter, a jazzed-up version of Rameau's Tambourin, can be heard here), but her recording career would not truly blossom until the LP era, most notably for Capitol and, again, American Decca.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Reger: Serenade for Orchestra (Jochum)

Max Reger, 1906
I have had occasion to comment on the Reger Problem elsewhere (Irving Kolodin famously said that Reger's name sounds the same backwards and forwards, and his music often shows the same trait!). Today I present one of the few works of his which I can really enjoy, possibly because it is the first one I ever became familiar with, long ago, through this very recording, before I knew Reger was supposed to be "difficult":

Reger: Serenade for Orchestra in G Major, Op. 95
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam conducted by Eugen Jochum
Recorded June 21 and 22, 1943
Capitol-Telefunken set KEM-8026, five 45-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 106.56 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 66.85 MB)

...but I'm also willing to consider the possibility that I enjoy it because it's a fine piece. Composed in 1905-06, this Serenade is symphonic in scope, its two large sonata-form movements flanking a wispy scherzo and a slow movement of almost Elgarian eloquence. Part of the piece's appeal is that it inhabits a unique sound world, for Reger or anyone else. It is scored for a moderate-sized orchestra, with harp and timpani but no trumpets or trombones, the string section being divided into two separate choirs, one with mutes and the other without. Eugen Jochum (1902-1987) seems to have made a specialty of it, for a recording he made two weeks after the Telefunken one, with the Berlin Philharmonic, surfaced on a Urania LP in the 1950s.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Danish Music for Winds

Jørgen Bentzon
Perhaps it was inevitable after the success of Carl Nielsen's great Wind Quintet of 1922, but Danish composers since then seem to have excelled at enriching the repertory of chamber music for woodwinds. I have already offered two examples of this at this post; now I offer two more:

Jørgen Bentzon: Racconto No. 3, Op. 31 (1937)
Waldemar Wolsing, oboe
P. Allin Erichsen, clarinet
Kjell Roikjer, bassoon
Recorded September 30, 1943
HMV DB 5285, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 24.42 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 14.09 MB)

Vagn Holmboe: Notturno, Op. 19, for wind quintet (1940)
Wind Quintet of 1932
Recorded October 17, 1947
HMV DA 5258 and DA 5259, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 34.08 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 20.84 MB)

These appear to be the first recordings of any work by either composer. Of Holmboe, I have spoken at the post referenced above; this delightful four-movement Notturno has remained one of his most popular works. The fame of Jørgen Bentzon (1897-1951) has been eclipsed by that of his younger cousin, Niels Viggo Bentzon. Jørgen, whose 120th birthday incidentally is approaching (Valentine's Day), was a student of Nielsen, whose influence on his work is strong. The piece recorded here is one of a series of six one-movement works he called Racconti (tales), each scored for a different chamber ensemble.

It should be noted that the members of the trio in the Bentzon work are also members of the "Wind Quintet of 1932" - whose flutist was Johan Bentzon, another cousin.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Boris Godunov - Symphonic Synthesis (Stokowski, 1941)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
This is something that I should really have saved for Stokowski's birthday in April, but I simply couldn't resist posting it on this eve of Inauguration Day. A posting containing Stokowski's theatrical "symphonic synthesis" of the best-known, and greatest, musical work about a political figure (and not only that, but a political figure whose legitimacy to rule was widely questioned), seemed only too apropos. And this is the closest you will find me coming to making political commentary on this blog, for, as Charles Schulz said, when asked why he wouldn't make his "Peanuts" comic strip a vehicle for politics, "why would I want to offend fifty percent of my readers right off the bat?" With that in mind, I hope you will enjoy the music:

Mussorgsky-Stokowski: Boris Godunov - A Symphonic Synthesis
The All-American Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Recorded July 4-5, 1941
Columbia Masterworks set MM-516, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 59.42 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 41.38 MB)

Speaking of Columbia, I have recently completed compiling a numerical listing of their records in American Columbia's celebrity "-M" suffixed series (1925-1954), which I am making available as a PDF file here:

Link (448.08 KB)

Also, I am making available a copy of the Music Lovers' Guide from March, 1934. This magazine, edited by Axel B. Johnson, is the successor publication to the Phonograph Monthly Review, and eventually morphed into the American Music Lover and then the American Record Guide, which still flourishes. Until that happy day when a complete run of the Music Lovers' Guide is available online, this single copy will give you an idea of what the magazine was like:

Link (28.16 MB)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nielsen: Aladdin Suite (Felumb)

This week I present what appears to be the first recording of an orchestral work of Carl Nielsen to occupy more than one record (perhaps, even, more than one side) - five movements from his 1919 incidental music to Adam Oehlenschläger's "dramatic fairy tale" Aladdin. It isn't a work of blazing importance in his oeuvre, perhaps, but it is a lot of fun, and has all the quirkiness I find to be characteristic of Nielsen's music. Outstanding is the section entitled "Torvet i Ispahan" (The Market Place at Ispahan), in which four different sections of the orchestra play simultaneously at different speeds! It's conducted here by Svend Christian Felumb (1898-1872) who, one week before this recording was made, played oboe and English horn on the seminal recording of Nielsen's Wind Quintet.

Nielsen: Suite from the Incidental Music for "Aladdin" (Op. 34)
Tivoli Concert Orchestra conducted by Svend Christian Felumb
Recorded January 31, 1936
Nielsen: Maskarade - Prelude to Act II
Royal Danish Opera Orchestra conducted by Johan Hye-Knudsen
Recorded c. February 1936
HMV X 4676, Z 231 and Z 232, one 10-inch and two 12-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 55.76 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 34.72 MB)