Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The lute - what's to be grumpy?

Quite a lot, actually!

First, obviously... him. Grubby the entry to my lair may be, but I can't bring myself to besmirch it further - suffice to say that the lute (and Dowland) have mingled freely with the discarded bones and guano for some time, thank you; the last thing I allow in the cave is littering by the international entertainment industrial complex.

But wait: is it just my smell - or do surprisingly few music-lovers seem impelled to join me in foraging outside the central repertoire? Isn't that a bit like eating only meat and two veg? In the 1960s, it was perhaps not too much to hope that this wonderful instrument and music might join the mainstream. Today, the lute's perhaps lost its taint of homespun bohemianism but it seems as marginal as ever.

Enough, already!? Lute-lovers have been superbly served on disc over the last three decades (Naxos, signing Christopher Wilson and Nigel North - inspired!). Sure, but the lute's pioneers on record have been almost completely silenced, thanks to a combination of that same lack of curiosity allied to the myopic meliorism which ensures that almost no pre-'HIP' recordings of early music are reissued or broadcast, except those by performers famous in other repertoire.

That's a red rag to Grumpy! I've already passed several old lute recordings all over various newsgroups; now here's a fresh do-do, in the shapely and fragrant form of a groovy little Véga 45 issued in 1959 and entitled, simply, 'Luth', which I just bought from a great eBay LP seller whom I can highly recommend as a nice guy and honest dealer, Gerard of Eagle4Records.

It's played by Mildred Clary, the French music journalist, biographer and broadcaster who seems to have started her career as a guitarist (her Homenaje for Debussy was reissued in EMI France's box of Falla 'Introuvables') and lutenist. I'm not a lutenist meself, so I can't comment on her technique, but I find her manner poetic and well attuned to this music, which she rightly describes as 'd'une très grande beauté'.

Not sure exactly what all the pieces are - early music nomenclature was often pretty vague at the time - so I'd welcome more precise identification! In the meantime, I've labelled the tracks in the FLAC tags pretty much as they are on the sleeve (which conflates the last two bands of Side 2 into one). Here's Clary's original sleeve note:

GREENSLEEVES. — Air célèbre qui date du regne d'Henri VIII, et auquel Shakespeare fait allusion, à deux reprises, dans Les Joyeuses Commères de Windsor.
KEMPS JIG. — Kemp était un comédien célèbre du XVIIe siècle. Certaines pièces de luth lui ont été attribuées.
OPHELIA. — Vieille ballade datant du début du XVIe siècle et que Shakespeare fait chanter par Ophélie, dans Hamlet, lorsqu'elle devient folle.
ALMEN (Allemande). — Cette pièce est de Robert Johnson, luthiste à la Cour d'Angleterre au XVIIe siecle, et renommé autant par son jeu que par ses compositions.
THE SICK TUNE (L'air malade). — D'un auteur anonyme du début du XVIIe siècle.
PIVA (danse d'origine paysanne) et PAVANA ALLA VENETIANA de Joanambrosio Dalza figurent dans un recueil de tablature de luth publié en 1508, et qui est l'un des plus anciens que l'on connaisse.
GAILLARDE. — Pierre Attaignant auquel on doit cette gaillarde, ainsi qu'un grand nombre de danses et autres pièces pour luth, fut l'éditeur de musique de Francois Ier.
FABORDON (Faux-bourdon). — Le faux-bourdon est une sorte d'improvisation sur un plain-chant liturgique. Le premier manuscrit connu où l'on voit ce style d'écriture date du XIIIe siecle.
PAVANE. — Illustre luthiste espagnol, Luis Milan, l'auteur de cette pavane, vécut à la Cour du vice-roi de Valence: Don Fernando d'Aragon. Il compose de nombreuses pièces pour la vihuela (luth espagnol), d'une très grande beauté.

No denoising apart from ClickRepair; 9 mono FLACs, with a sleeve scan, in a .rar file at:


Mildred Clary died, aged 80, last Thursday, 18th November 2010. Some notices.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Hot Bach de France: Reine Gianoli, 1951

Incomprehensible, really, to me, that such different, personal, committed, superb playing can be left out in the eternal cold by the 'rights' holders. The first, I believe, of many Bach LPs recorded by Gianoli for Westminster, not one of which has been reissued on CD (nor has Petri's Westminster legacy, which is even more incomprehensible). Yes, grumpiness is the only possible response...

I could not find a recording date anywhere; the Westminster LP seems to have come out in 1952 and this British Nixa issue in 1955; the label states it was recorded in Vienna. As so often with piano recordings from this period, the instrument itself is rather out of tune but somehow that hardly seems to matter!

3 fully tagged mono FLACs, declicked only, with a sleeve scan, in a .rar file at:

Yours ever,

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Jeanne Behrend plays Louis Moreau Gottschalk, 1956

For my second dropping, a 12" MGM LP which I bought sealed some years ago on eBay but only opened the other day, as it's just the sort of thing to fling out of my cave-mouth.

I can't now remember when I was first turned on to Gottschalk - perhaps it was by Georges Rabol's Opus 111 CD back in the early 1990s. Then I read S. Frederick Starr's fine biography Bamboula! and later bought Jeanne Behrend's edition of Gottschalk's Notes of a Pianist - one of the funniest and most endearing memoirs that I have ever read, the kind (like Samuel Pepys's diary) that makes the difference in centuries seem irrelevant.

Starr highly recommends Behrend's pioneering 1956 MGM disc, surely the first all-Gottschalk LP, as one of the best. Well, I just had to have it! Having now listened to it, I can't say Behrend's playing is the subtlest I've heard but it has spirit, conviction, authority, drama and a great sense of the pieces' shape. Behrend had previously recorded a recital of early American piano solos, including one by Gottschalk, for Allegro; these remained her only LPs, though she also made 78s, including a set of Saint-Saëns' Carnaval des animaux with Stokowski.

Of course, one important purpose of this uploading exercise is to let you decide - do you agree with Starr? Does this LP and thousands like it deserve its present oblivion?

10 mono FLAC files in two .rar archives:

As before, no processing other than ClickRepair and monoing. Track titles and other info in FLAC tags. The order of the pieces as listed on the back cover is not the order in which they're presented on the disc and in my dub!