Monday, May 28, 2018

Holmboe Quartets (Copenhagen String Quartet)

The Copenhagen String Quartet (Tutter Givskov and Mogens Lydolph, violins; Mogens Bruun, viola; Asger Lund Christiansen, cello) gave the first performances of most of Vagn Holmboe's string quartets from No. 7 on (there were twenty in all). For the Danish Fona label, the group recorded the first ten of these, on five LPs. I have three of them:

Holmboe: String Quartets Nos. 1 and 4
The Copenhagen String Quartet
Fona TF 109, one stereo LP record
Link (FLAC files, 215.70 MB)
Link MP3 files, 80.19 MB)

Holmboe: String Quartets Nos. 2 and 6
The Copenhagen String Quartet
Fona TF 111, one stereo LP record
Link (FLAC files, 214.24 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 77.67 MB)

Holmboe: String Quartets Nos. 9 and 10
The Copenhagen String Quartet
Fona TF 133, one stereo LP record
Link (FLAC files, 227.53 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 81.92 MB)

The first of these LPs is a 1970 reissue of a recording originally made in 1963; the other two are 1973 issues. The liner notes, included with the downloads, are all in Danish, so if anyone conversant with that language cares to translate, the rest of us would be much obliged! It should be noted that the cellist in this ensemble, Asger Lund Christiansen, had also played in the Erling Bloch Quartet, who made the first recording of any of Holmboe's quartets, in 1951.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

More Hindemith Trios

This may well be the first time on this blog that I have offered the same work in consecutive posts, or even featured the same composer. But Nick's recent postings, at Grumpy's Classics Cave, of Mozart and Beethoven string trios played by the Pougnet-Riddle-Pini trio reminded me that I had their valuable coupling of the two Hindemith trios in its third Westminster incarnation, as part of their "Collectors' Series", a mid-60s reissue series derived from monaural chamber music recordings of a decade earlier (and, thankfully, not "updated" with fake stereo trickery):

Hindemith: Two String Trios (No. 1, Op. 34; No. 2, 1933)
Jean Pougnet, violin; Frederick Riddle, viola; Anthony Pini, cello
Recorded in the autumn of 1954
Westminster W-9067, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 110.32 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 72.90 MB)

I am indebted to Nick, not only for inspiring this post, but also for rendering practical service in eliminating the results of an awful gouge in the vinyl on the first side, affecting the first minute or so of the Op. 34 trio.

While I was working on the above transfer, it occurred to me that if I transferred one more LP, I could have available on this blog all the recordings of Hindemith's string trios to be made before the advent of digital recording (including the ones the composer participated in). I am not aware of any other recording of No. 2 besides the one I posted last month, but of No. 1, besides the incomplete one by the Amar-Hindemith Trio, a stereo LP version was made in 1968 by three young German musicians, coupled with the first recording, by a different ensemble, of Hindemith's Op. 16 string quartet:

Hindemith: String Trio No. 1, Op. 34
Rainer Kussmaul, violin; Jürgen Kussmaul, viola; Jürgen Wolf, cello
Hindemith: String Quartet No. 3 (old No. 2) in C, Op. 16
Schäffer Quartet (Schäffer-Szabados-Pill-Racz)
Recorded in the summer of 1968
Musical Heritage Society OR-H-297, one stereo LP record
Link (FLAC files, 239.37 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 85.52 MB)

This recording was made by an independent German recording company, Da Camera, in Heidelberg, and was part of a 9-disc retrospective of Hindemith's chamber music. In Germany the series was published as a box set, whereas in the USA each record was obtainable separately. Of the three musicians playing the Op. 34 trio, only one is still with us: Jürgen Kussmaul, born in 1944, was two years older than brother Rainer, who departed this life only last year. The cellist, Jürgen Wolf, was born in 1938 and died in 2014. Their playing of Op. 34 contrasts markedly with that the Pougnet ensemble; the latter really dig into the music while the Germans are more careful and always beautiful-sounding. The Pougnet's approach is much closer to the Amar-Hindemith's in the two movements where direct comparisons are possible.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hindemith: String Trio No. 2 (Goldberg, Hindemith, Feuermann)

Front of booklet for Columbia Set 209
This may not be a particularly rare recording, having been reissued numerous times on CD labels devoted to historical recordings (the current availability of these, however, may be another matter). But I have come across a nice early US pressing of the set, complete with its booklet of program notes containing an analysis of the piece (by Roy Harris, of all people), and so here it is:

Hindemith: String Trio No. 2 (1933)
The Hindemith Trio (Goldberg-Hindemith-Feuermann)
Recorded January 21, 1934
Columbia Masterworks Set No. 209, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 64.74 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 42.17 MB)

This set has the distinction of containing the first work of Hindemith to be issued on records in the USA on domestic pressings (April, 1935); hitherto, American record collectors interested in Hindemith had to rely on imported pressings (mostly from Polydor). The recording remained available until the end of Columbia's production and sale of classical 78s, about 1951 or so.

The week of this recording saw a flurry of activity in the studio for these three gentlemen. Also on January 21 (a Sunday), Goldberg and Hindemith recorded a Mozart duo (K. 424), then, the following day, the full trio recorded Beethoven's Serenade (Op. 8). On Tuesday, January 23, Goldberg had to leave for a concert tour; coming to the studio to bid his colleagues farewell, he found them listening to the playback of a Scherzo that Hindemith had written that morning for himself and Feuermann! This was intended as a filler for a recording Hindemith made the same day, on five 10-inch sides, of his solo viola sonata (Op. 25, No. 1), though in the end it was not used as such, being released instead in the Columbia History of Music, Vol. 5. On Saturday, January 27, Feuermann recorded Hindemith's solo cello sonata to complete this valuable little group of recordings. All of them were made available on American Columbia during the 1930s, though only the two trios and the Scherzo survived the purge of wartime deletions.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Howard Ferguson: Octet

Howard Ferguson
The work that put Belfast-born Howard Ferguson (1908-1999) on the musical map was his Octet, scored for the same forces as Schubert's, written when he was a young man of 24. Dedicated to his composition teacher at the Royal College of Music, R. O. Morris (whose other students included Gerald Finzi, Michael Tippett, Constant Lambert and Edmund Rubbra), the work began life as a clarinet quintet, then was expanded into an octet at Morris' suggestion.  Here is its first recording, made ten years later:

Howard Ferguson: Octet, Op. 4
The Griller String Quartet (Griller-O'Brien-Burton-Hampton)
augmented by
Pauline Juler, clarinet
Cecil James, bassoon
Dennis Brain, horn
James Merrett, double bass
Recorded April 7 and May 24, 1943
Decca AK 1095 through AK 1097, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 53.49 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 32.61 MB)

This is one of Dennis Brain's earliest recordings, and, of course, he would make many more before his untimely death in 1957 of an auto accident. It appears, however, that this is the only recording by Pauline Juler (1914-2003), a fact that seems doubly regrettable when one hears her fine account of the prominent clarinet part in Ferguson's Octet. But Juler, who had studied with Charles Draper, gave up performing publicly after her marriage to cellist Bernard Richards in 1948.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Beethoven: Sonata, Op. 109 (Denis Matthews)

Denis Matthews
Happy New Year! For my first post of 2018, I offer the first recording by Denis Matthews of a piano sonata by Beethoven, one of two composers with which he was most closely associated (the other being Mozart):

Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109
Purcell: Suite No. 2 in G Minor, Z. 661
Denis Matthews, piano
Recorded May 15 and 31, 1946
Columbia DX 1509 through DX 1511, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 57.34 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 37.02 MB)

As always, I didn't mean to be away from blogging quite so long! It's true that I haven't been acquiring records lately, certainly not at anything like my old rate, but I haven't been idle with respect to my record hobby - far from it! I was sidetracked, just before Christmas, with the exciting discovery (for me) that two vintage record magazines are now available online from the Internet Archive, both published by the H. Royer Smith Company of Philadelphia - Disques (1930-33) and The New Records (1933-56). (Granted, this is not a complete run of the latter, but it at least takes one well into the mono LP era.) So I have spent most of my free time perusing these. Particularly exciting is the chance to obtain issue dates for American Columbia releases of the early and middle 1930s, information about this period being rather hard to come by. I have updated my three Columbia discographical files to reflect what I have found:

Columbia Masterworks Sets
Columbia Blue Label -D Series
Columbia Celebrity -M Series

For the first two of these, only the information on issue dates has had to be updated, but for the Celebrity Series I have added a few actual titles of whose existence I was previously unaware.

Perhaps some day I will do a series on month-by-month issue dates of Columbia Masterworks sets in the USA.