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.