Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Il pleuvait sur Peckham...

Once again, thanks to the selflessness of British collector Paul Steinson, we are able to enjoy two acoustical rarities. The first was recorded on a very wet day in 1923 - in Peckham!

Liszt Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat
Anderson Tyrer (piano)
British Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Adrian Boult
Velvet Face 557-58

Joe Batten's Book, London: Rockliff, 1956, p.61: ‘Dr. Adrian Boult’s first recording for Velvet Face was Liszt’s E flat Piano Concerto, Anderson Tyrer being the soloist. Our well-concealed recording studio in Peckham was remote from the West End. The first session had been called for ten in the morning ; since dawn it had rained hard and incessantly. Through this downpour Boult pedalled across London on a bicycle; when he arrived at the studio his clothes were soaked. But he made nothing of it, mounting the rostrum and getting to work without any fuss. As he conducted, water dripped from coat and trousers and collected in puddles about his feet. Despite this physical discomfort, he made a musicianly job of the Liszt work.’

As the set was issued in July 1923, I guess these sessions took place in the first half of that year - does anyone have a more precise date? The recording was mentioned in The Gramophone in January 1924, in Compton Mackenzie’s quarterly retrospective, but, as far as I can make out (since The Gramophone’s online archive is so hard to search), it was never fully reviewed - I wonder why not?

This is often stated to be the Concerto's first recording; most of Arthur de Greef’s version with Ronald on HMV (D 890-92) was actually waxed earlier, in 1922, but not completed until September 1923. This Velvet Face version has a cut of a few bars marked Grandioso at the end of the first side, not a bad one; otherwise, it is complete. I have merely run Mr. Steinson’s dub through ClickRepair, with decrackling, and joined up the sides (as you will hear, since the surface noise changes quite abruptly).

Download the single, fully-tagged mono FLAC file from my midden.

Some time in the following year, the same team returned (I imagine) to Peckham:

Franck Variations symphoniques
Anderson Tyrer (piano)
British Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Adrian Boult
Velvet Face 599-600

This set, recorded complete, was issued in November 1924, when it was reviewed in The Gramophone. The reviewer, Peter Latham, preferred Arthur de Greef’s 1922 version with Ronald on HMV (D 697-98), transferred and recently uploaded by this enterprising fellow-blogger (doubt he's a fellow-troglodyte, though). I'm just glad to have both!

Technical bits as above. Download the single, fully-tagged mono FLAC file from here.

As ever, the Cave resounds with thanks to Mr. Paul Steinson. All such offerings are, of course, grumpily - I mean, gratefully - received...

Saturday, 6 November 2010

It's not about fur coats, you know

There's more rubbish talked about 'classical' music than almost anything else I know of - I hear and read it every day, which is why I'm in an almost perpetual grump. Then I get cheered up by people like my hero Damian, who told me recently that he has an old LP of Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli in the pipeline. Sent me shuffling off to dig out this one, which has been mouldering in the wine boxes (great for storing LPs, in the somewhat cluttered Grumpcave):

Palestrina Missa Papae Marcelli a 6 vv
rec. 3 July 1952
Missa brevis a 4 vv, Missa ad fugam a 4 vv (excerpts)
rec. 17 February 1955
Netherlands Chamber Choir, Felix de Nobel
Philips Réalités C.3

One of the things that people don't get about classical music is, precisely, that it's 'classical' - a long, continuous, self-referential tradition, typified by and crystallised around exemplary, 'classical' genres, styles, works, idioms and gestures, a tradition on which composers comment in the very act of adding to and extending it. So trying to find another name for it or pretending that crooning musicals is part of that tradition, is to misunderstand it (innocent) or traduce it (guilty). I'm also not in favour of encouraging people to talk while it's going on. You can do that at home.

Unfortunately, another misconception (apart from the fur coat one), which has been abetted by musicology's obsession with dots and dashes, politics and gender, is that performers play little or no part in this tradition or its development; thankfully, that's slowly changing - but it's not going to change any faster if dog-in-the-mangerish copyright laws and corporate ignorance mean we can't hear more than a handful of old performances.

If anyone's 'classical', of course, it has always been Palestrina. But I bet no choir or conductor today would think they have anything to learn from this lovely LP, which I am proud to own in a limited, numbered (oops - a fur-coat moment! Darn, rumbled) gatefold sleeve with lovely notes and illustrations, which my scanner can't cope with - clock the mess it made of the cover. I wish I had the Dutch Masters CD of the Netherlands Chamber Choir but, in their wisdom, Philips pre-decided I wouldn't want it - and who am I to argue? The gods of marketing, we are told, are always right.

This record was also issued in Britain on Philips NBL 5033, which was well received by Alec Robertson in the May 1956 issue of The Gramophone. Bits of it were also coupled with other things, which Grumpy would love to hear.

On side 1, the Missa Papae Marcelli sounded good on the turntable but, oddly, slightly worse after declicking and monoing - perhaps the clean-up made the rumble, traffic and air-con more audible. The 7 fully-tagged mono FLACS are in a .rar file here.

I was more worried about the quality of side 2, which is quite full (even though they've omitted the Credo and Benedictus of the Missa ad fugam, about which I can find nothing online). It sounded congested towards the end - and I slightly crashed the zero barrier at one peak - but I feel it's emerged from the wash smelling slightly sweeter. I decided not to chop these masses into movements, so 2 fully-tagged mono FLACS are in a .rar file here.

More goodies soon, if I can find them under the bat guano...

I just found the recording dates amongst Mike Gray's data on CHARM, which I couldn't access last weekend. Sorry, you'll have to correct the 'date' and 'comment' tags. Explains why the Missa Papae Marcelli sounds quite different from the others - it was recorded 2½ years earlier.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Hurrah for job lots!

Recently, I took a punt on a job lot of 78s on eBay... result!

Busoni String Quartet in C Op.19 - (ii) Andante
Mozart String Quartet in G K.387 - (iv) Molto allegro
Odeon O-6273, rec. 10 November 1924
Roth Quartet
(Feri Roth, Mauritz Stromfeld, Herman Spitz, A. Franke)

The seller had been kind enough to list all 150+ discs (other sellers, please note, you lazy so-and-sos!) - but not always with enough detail to be quite sure exactly what they contained. I feared this might be from the Roth Quartet's incomplete recording of Schubert's 'Death and the Maiden' Quartet D.810, issued in Britain on Parlophone (E 10767-68) and transferred by CHARM (their only other British issue, not on CHARM, was E 10656, a snippet of Debussy's Quartet).

Yippee, it wasn't! Instead, I found this interesting acoustical rarity, in an original sleeve, as many in the job lot were: and it contains what must be one of the earliest recordings of a work of chamber music by Busoni - anyone know of an earlier one? What's more, this coupling is not listed in Hansfried Sieben's Odeon Matrizen-nummern der Serie xxB (30 cm) von 6815-9598, (1923-1953) (Düsseldorf, 1988). On the other hand, Sieben does list the players, by surnames only; I've been able to get first names for all but the ’cellist.

My fellow-collector Jolyon Hodson has kindly made this transfer (I haven't the right kit, at the mo) and the scans. By my reckoning, this is only the third ever recording of the Finale of Mozart's K.387 (the first was by the Flonzaley for Victor and the second by the Léner for Columbia) - and it goes at a heck of a lick!

Download the 2 mono FLAC files, fully tagged, in a .rar file from here.

Some ten months later, the Roth recorded the Menuetto of K.387 (xxB 7237, face no. unknown, issued on O-80283). If anyone has that, we'd love to hear it.

I must say I'm chuffed to bits with my job lot bonanza and I hope to be able to post more goodies from it soon. I have some German Parlophons and even rare Homochords (Robert Pollak, Fery Lorant - yes!).

I wish I had more Odeons like this, though. They recorded a lot of chamber music, including some twelve discs with the Roth Quartet. (By the way, why is seemingly no one in Germany posting stuff like this on the web? Is anyone collecting these discs?)

Odeon even recorded a disc of ‘Old English Dances from Shakespeare’s Time’, with the Munich Viol Quintet! That would make Grumpy exceedingly happy...


Jolyon has found a notice, in The Musical Times of November 1924, of a 'very animated performance' of Busoni's Op.19 by the Roth Quartet, 'very well received', at a Busoni commemoration organized by his pupil Edward Weiss - of course, silly me, I'd forgotten Busoni had just died (27 July 1924)!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Albert Sammons plays Fauré, 1937, HMV private issue

Once again, I am deeply indebted to Mr. Paul Steinson for the following treasure!

Fauré Violin Sonata in A Op.13
Albert Sammons (violin), Edie Miller (piano)
recorded 10 & 12 November 1937
HMV private issue JG 60-62

I am very happy to be able to present this on Mr. Steinson's behalf. He kindly provided me with his dub of the original set, as well as the above label scan; I have only passed the dub through the marvellous ClickRepair (declick and decrackle), monoed it and joined up the sides where necessary - no more. Any definciencies are thus of course mine!

Download the 4 mono FLAC files, fully tagged, in a .rar file here.

My other favourite recording of this lovely Sonata is by Lola Bobesco and Jacques Genty, recorded in 1950 by Decca and reissued by Testament.

I see Sammons and Edie Miller made at least one other privately issued duo recording together, of Turina's Violin Sonata No.1 in D Op.51, on three 78 sides; on the odd side, Edie Miller played Poulenc's Mouvements perpetuels.

The Steinson cornucopia will continue shortly, with two rare acoustic concertante sets played by Anderson Tyrer with the British Symphony Orchestra under Adrian Boult!

Update, 31 October:

A friend suggested I try reequalizing this with the Blumlein curve (using brilliant Brian's wonderful Equalizer) and, I agree, the recorded image is now clearer and better balanced - but the surface noise obtrudes more!

Anyway, see what you think: as before, 4 mono FLAC files, fully tagged, in a renamed .rar file here.

Update, 10 December:

Pristine Classical has now redubbed and remastered this recording and made it available as a commercial download; better still, it is coupled with Sammons' 1926 Columbia set of Beethoven's Violin Sonata in A Op.47, the 'Kreutzer', never previously reissued on CD or as a download (the only reissue I know of was a 1982 Pearl LP). As I very much support Pristine's work and don't wish to take away its custom, my version may no longer be downloaded. Information about Pristine's reissue can be found here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Buckets, spades - and 78s!

The other half turfed me out of the cave last month, for a seaside holiday in Brittany. It was lovely, I must admit - especially as I was lucky enough to find this set in a pretty little town inland!

Aren't these labels great?

Pathé X.5459-60 Wagner Tannhäuser Overture
Large Symphony Orchestra, François Ruhlmann
recorded c. November 1928?

I was humming and hawing in the second-hand bookshop over whether to buy these - I'd already bought a few LPs and the cave's cache of cowrie shells is very low at the mo - when my French cousin casually opened a book... and found a 10-Euro note in it! Sold! So thanks to him for generously sponsoring my purchase and this post (and for having us to stay and for making that fantastic mayonnaise...).

And thanks too to Jolyon for transferring and editing together these four sides and scanning the labels. (I've bought him a pressie - he doesn't know yet.)

There's some interesting information on Wikipedia about François Ruhlmann (1868-1948), conductor of so many pioneering opera sets for Pathé, as well as quite a few purely orchestral records like these - Damian has already transferred and shared two: Chabrier's España and Rossini's Guillaume Tell Ouverture. Damian dated España, on X 5446, to 1931 - but I'm told that's too late; November 1928 is more like it, apparently. Sound-wise, that feels more likely to me, I must say.

Download the mono, fully-tagged FLAC file here.

By the way, I'm very interested in two mysterious chamber music sets that were issued by Pathé about this time, the great Classical quintets for piano and winds in E flat: Beethoven's Op.16 on X.9791-94 and Mozart's K.452 on X.9822-25. I missed a copy of the former on eBay a while ago - drat and blast! - and I omitted to save the label pic, though I do remember that it wasn't one of these 'Art' labels. Were they really 10-inch, as this listing says? Surely 29 cm, i.e. just under 12-inch. Frustratingly, both sets were issued without any artist credits. If you have any idea who played these, when they were recorded or - even better - you have copies you'd like to share, do get in touch - or post them outside your own cave?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

Bach Brandenburg Concerto No.2 in F BWV 1047
Ernest Hall (trumpet), Frank Almgill (flute), Leon Goossens (oboe),
Samuel Kutcher (violin), Rudolph Dolmetsch (harpsichord),
London Chamber Orchestra, Anthony Bernard
Brunswick 30137-38 (rec. 1928-29?)
property of Mr. Paul Steinson

A great reason not to be grumpy!

Paul Steinson, a music-lover and record-collector in England, read the article about downloads of historical recordings in Classic Record Collector (No.61, Summer 2010, pp.46-49) and noticed that the British Library's Archival Sound Recordings website has some of Anthony Bernard's legendary 'lost' cycle of Bach's 'Brandenburg' Concertos - but not No.2. This recording has previously been reissued but only in a set of cassettes which accompanied Ewald Junge's biography of the conductor, Anthony Bernard - A Life in Music, published as a limited edition in 1992.

This first-ever complete cycle of the Brandenburgs, recorded I should think some time in late 1928 and early 1929 (does anyone have more precise dates and/or a location?)*, was slated for release on twelve records, 30135-46, in March 1929. That month The Gramophone published a fascinating article by Bernard himself, recounting the difficulties posed by the recordings and revealing that the sessions, which he called a 'costly enterprise', had been completed only days before the time of writing. As he admitted, 'The Second Brandenburg Concerto with the very high trumpet part could not be given exactly as written by Bach; both microphone and wax would have rebelled.' Perhaps the second side, which was published from take 11(!), was one of the last to be redone? For a while, I thought Bernard had deployed a harp on continuo in the slow movement; but it must be a harpsichord stop, chosen by Rudolph Dolmetsch on the instrument, presumably from the family workshops, which he played in this Concerto as well as in Nos.3, 4 & 6 (and a Pleyel in No.1).

But the same month, the entire cycle was suddenly cancelled and almost completely destroyed; some copies must have got out, as there are survivors, seriously rare (no full set is known, I gather). The sad story has been told in detail by David Patmore in Classic Record Collector's 'Rarissima' column (No.44, Spring 2006, p.9). Dr. Patmore countered Junge's suggestion that the cycle was withdrawn because 'Bach was too risky commercially' with the more plausible explanation that, in 1929, Decca, which had just taken over Brunswick, was in dire straits and had to retrench and regroup drastically.

With extraordinary generosity, Mr. Steinson has transferred his own complete set of No.2, scanned the label of the first side (above), and agreed to allow the transfer to be further processed, if need be, and shared here by Grumpy. The entrance to the cave has been duly spruced up and all coprolites and mouse skellingtons swept to the back. The indefatigable and highly knowledgeable Jolyon has tweaked the difficult side-join in the first movement and sprinkled his fairy-dust on Brunswick's sound, which he calls 'nasty' and 'harsh' and which made him wonder if this was one of the company's 'Light-Ray Process' efforts: 'The original recording has been made in a rather boxy room. The last movement is transposed a semitone up but the trumpet plays an octave down anyway so I left the pitch alone. I have pushed all the instruments back a bit so they are not so in your face. I can't get rid of all the edginess but I hope it is a bit clearer.' I think it is an improvement but mainly I'm thrilled to be able to hear this at all!

Download Jolyon's version of Mr. Steinson's transfer as one fully-tagged, mono FLAC file, from here.

Can anyone explain the matrix numbers starting BA? Bernard's Brandenburgs begin at BA71, yet Ross Laird's great Brunswick book shows no such matrices originating in London, only in Buenos Aires! Any matrix numbers for the rest of the cycle gratefully received. And scour your attics: the keyboard part in Concerto No.5 was played on the piano by Walter Gieseking, no less - wouldn't it be grand to hear a complete set of that!

My eternal thanks to both Mr. Steinson and Jolyon - exactly the kind of generous, altruistic collectors (like so many of the bloggers over on the right-hand side of this page) who will be the subject of the next article about downloads of historical recordings, in the forthcoming (Autumn) issue of CRC.

*Postscript: Jolyon, who has a usefully forensic approach to discography, reckons from the matrix numbers that this Concerto may have been recorded between the 10th & 18th of October 1928. Nothing to do with Buenos Aires, he assures me; these BA-prefixed numbers were a London series not recorded in the documents available to Laird (and indeed none of Bernard's sessions have numbers in Laird's book).

And it turns out the BL does in fact have a copy of this set. It should have been included in the Archival Sound Recordings Bach survey but for some reason was omitted; I understand this may be rectified! At the moment the BL is busy hoovering up some rare and interesting early Beethoven quartet recordings which were also overlooked and should be posted on ASR fairly soon.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

What Lights Your Fire (I Use Dried Dung)

Hello all,

It's almost restored my faith in human nature: we all like Bach and Monteverdi!

Sorry, it's not very clear - Blogger doesn't seem to like my big tiffs - so here are some stats, as of a few days ago:

Top of the list is Reine Gianoli's Bach on Westminster (recently transferred from LP and issued on CD by Green Door in Japan), at 218 takers;
next is Roger Wagner's Monteverdi Primo libro de' Madrigali, with 196 downloads!
Just behind, at 192, are the Fuchses doing Mozart's K.364;
at No.4, the Quartetto Italiano's 17th C Italians with 143;
followed by Jeanne Behrend's all-Gottschalk LP at 142 (Side 2) and 133 (Side 1);
and, suprisingly, by Mildred Clary's little lute 45 at 134.

Very encouraging!

Of course, I can't share all sort of stuff I'd like to - contemporary music, mainly.

Anyway, this got me thinking about my Desert Island Discs. A few years ago these'd have gone something like this:

Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine, 1610 / Taverner Consort, Choir & Players, Andrew Parrott / EMI Reflexe
Bach Well-Tempered Clavier BWV 846-893 (can I have the lot?) / Glenn Gould / CBS
Beethoven String Quartet in a Op.132 / Busch Quartet / EMI Références
Beethoven 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli Op.120 / Alfred Brendel / Philips
Schubert Die Winterreise D.911 / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore / EMI
Brahms Symphony No.2 in D Op.73 / erm... can't remember now - Chailly?
Bartók String Quartet No.4 Sz.91/ Hungarian String Quartet / DG
Stravinsky Agon / SWF Baden-Baden SO, Hans Rosbaud / Adès

Bum, that just squeezes out:
Tippett Symphony No.3 / LSO, Sir Colin Davis / Philips
[or, possibly, Elgar Symphony No.2 in Eb Op.63 / LPO, Sir Georg Solti / Decca]

Yes, it's always a tough one - but I gotta change some things:

Machaut The Mirror of Narcissus / Gothic Voices, Christopher Page / Hyperion (or maybe the Messe de Nostre Dame, if there was an outright winner in that complicated field?)
Monteverdi Vespro - stays in! (though Parrott's Orfeo has always run it close)
Purcell Dido and Aeneas / Taverner Consort, Choir & Players, Andrew Parrott / OU-Chandos
Bach Art of Fugue BWV 1080 / (probably) Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Goebel / Archiv Produktion
[but possibly Berlin Bach Academy, Heribert Breuer / Arte Nova]
Beethoven... yeah, keep both, though I rarely pull those off the shelf these days
Brahms No.2 - likewise (and happy to take whichever one comes along...)
Birtwistle Earth Dances / Cleveland Orchestra, Christoph von Dohnányi / Decca
(but there have been some stunning broadcasts, too - and if Yan Tan Tethera was commercially available I might have to go for that!)

Wot, no Schubert? Lord, this is hard.

No, feck it, I'm going to cheat:
Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending / Isolde Menges, orch., Malcolm Sargent / HMV (download from CHARM - side 1, side 2, side 3)

So - how about you?

Friday, 13 August 2010

Ffunky Ggibbons, Locke & Purcell

Here's another one you won't want!

But I love these recordings of 17th C consort music by string quartet. They bring it out of the music chest and the library and into the concert hall - especially peformances as confident as these, by the New Music String Quartet: Broadus Earle, Matthew Raimondi (violins), Walter Trampler (viola), Claus Adam (cello). Recorded by Peter Bartók in about 1952, I reckon, for his own label, on which this was first released as LP number 913, some time in the first half of 1953. The Quartet made quite a few interesting LPs of early music for Bartók, from Alessandro Scarlatti to F.X. Richter; some have been reissued on CD - but not this one. This World Record Club Recorded Music Circle issue must date from the late 1950s, no? I wish I knew more about this fascinating label: all info grumpily received.

The two Gibbons 4-part Fantasias (his only two) have been transposed up a fourth; at this pitch and in the NMSQ's hands they zing with high tension and rhythmic drive. Perhaps the Quartet should have upped Locke's sixth Consort of Ffowre Parts too; it comes across least well of the 5 pieces here. This was not its first recording; amazingly, that was made in 1929 by the National Gramophonic Society, with André Mangeot and his International String Quartet playing Mangeot's edition of a transcription by Warlock (I dunno what edition was used here - quite possibly the same?). The movements are Fantazia, Courante, Ayre, Saraband.

The famous Purcell Chacony, on the other hand, has a reticent delicacy that I really like - no Nymanesque chugging or overblown climax. Not on the disc, anyway.

Download the 5 fully tagged mono FLAC files in a .rar archive from here.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

'Dry' my a*se!

I mentioned to a friend recently that I'd done a dub of this record and he called it, 'Dry'. It's a criticism I've often heard of Foldes and I don't quite understand it; I prefer to think of him as 'classical'. He's one of my favourite pianists - and sorely neglected in CD reissues. DG seems to think he's only fit for compilations of the 'Liebestraum', 'Für Elise', 'Passion for Piano', and 'Piano Weekend' variety. They can't be bothered to reissue his milestone solo Bartók cycle (just one Dokumente CD that's been around for years) and for some incomprehensible reason they never marketed the superb if unnecessarily selective Original Masters 'Wizard of the Keyboard' twofer in the UK - I had to buy mine from abroad (and three nanoseconds later it's been deleted, anyway, though you can buy it as a FLAC download, which is a small mercy - get it, the Stravinsky Sonata and Barber Excursions are my absolute tops for these works).

So, for grumpy fellow Foldes fans and sceptics, here is his fine 1958 'Emperor' with Ferdinand Leitner, from a stereo Heliodor LP published in 1959, which I picked up in a local charity shop recently. I haven't put up the filler, the little Sonata in G Op.79, because it's very short, not quite so interesting and the nitwit who last owned this disc managed to slather that bit in some annoying gunge which our little miracle helper ClickRepair can't deal with.

Otherwise, ClickRepair has done a great job and I find the 1958 sound remarkably good. Can't say the same for the grungy and depressing cover - how many copies did this sell? Also, I specially bought an A3 scanner so I could do LP covers: well, bravo the person at Mustek who put a raised, chamfered edge round the platen just high enough so that LPs, which don't fit by a couple of mm, sit half on and half off the platen: not only is one or the other side chopped off but the other is also out of focus. If you wanted to help users frame their paper originals, 1 mm, unchamfered, would have been fine. The software is also beyond dire.

Two stereo, fully tagged FLAC files (Adagio and attacca Rondo are one file) in a .rar file at:

Friday, 25 June 2010

A rainy Saturday afternoon in Poitiers

My idea of heaven, really: a handsome old European city in a beautiful landscape - and a charity shop with French LPs and 78s! Here's a little something from my all too meagre haul:

(I had to make the pic B&W after my scanner turned the faintly sepia-like original into a sickly pink)

This appears to be a French Club national du disque issue of a Musical Masterpiece Society recording, with the influential Czech-born Viennese conductor and teacher Henry Swoboda conducting the Netherlands Philharmonic (on the MMS, see David Patmore, 'Your room a Concert Hall', Classic Record Collector, Vo.6 No.23, Winter 2000, pp.38-42). According to the Bibliothèque nationale's catalogue, dépôt légal of the MMS issue was in 1955, so I've taken a punt on that as recording date.

Interestingly, after the amusing balls-up I related in my previous post, I found that this 10-inch LP has its labels reversed - or, rather, the labels themselves aren't (side and matrix numbers are consistent with the very extensive markings in the run-off area) but the title listings on them are, with Symphony No.94 billed as No.100 and vice versa.

Rather nice performances, too!

8 mono FLACs in a .rar file here. Yes, I know, there's hum and rumble - they don't bother me too much but if you want to take them out and repost the results, please feel free! Better still, teach me how to do it... Otherwise, I found the sound rather good and needing only declicking (apart from the very end of No.100, which gets a bit harsh and crackly).

Back to Poitiers: I recently spent a delightful if drizzly Saturday enjoying its commanding site on a limestone ridge, exploring the lovely streets, squares, old merchants' houses and modern shops. When I asked in a musical instrument shop if anyone sold classical LPs, they said no, Poitiers is more rock and country! But, hurrah, later, conveniently after the sight-seeing, I stumbled on a charity shop with a few crates of LPs and 78s.

If you've never seen the facade of Notre-Dame-la-Grande, go: it's stunning and has been rightly compared to a mediaeval ivory panel (the neighbouring food market is predictably mouth-watering). The inside is thoroughly Viollet-le-Duc-ized but none the less atmospheric (and damp) for that. But I preferred the more austere cathédrale de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul, with its amazing 12th C stained-glass window, 13th C carved choir stalls and, best of all, barely altered 1790 organ, the last work of François-Henri Clicquot, who died during the construction, completed by his son Claude-François. I would love to hear this last flowering of 18th C French organ-building - and I would love to go back, with more transport, to the shop where I found this LP and a shedload of ancient vertical cut Pathé 78s! I could only carry a few so I took two, and I already regret leaving the 10-inch lateral cut Pathé (X9918) of cellist Marguerite Caponsacchi - but she was only playing arrangements of Schumann and Schubert.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A balls-up all round...

I just bought this nice-looking LP (people go on about DG's design, which was indeed fab, but so was Telefunken's, antiquely austere and delightfully discreet) on eBay - and was immediately struck by a discrepancy on the front:

Er, since when has minor Mozart and Beethoven chamber music had anything to do with the North German organ!? This is the kind of mistake you can understand being made with computers but I'm surprised to find it from the days of cutting, pasting and typesetting by hand. Anyone else come across anything similar?

(Talking of the North German organ, I also just bought a 2-LP set of 'Buxtehude and His Contemporaries', superbly played by Lionel Rogg, HMV SLS 801/2 - odd number, don't you think? - not from eBay, from JustClassical, which I can highly recommend for excellent service. As EMI has just reissued another batch of Rogg's Buxtehude, I guess this outstanding set will never appear as digits...)

Anyway, that's not all.

Side 1 contains the first of those string trios based on fugues by Bach and attributed (less and less securely, it seems) to Mozart as K.404a, and the Flute Quartet in C K.285b, both played by members of the Alma Musica Sextet. I already knew of this side from its first issue on a nice 1955 LP entitled 'The Golden Line of Polyphony', London/Ducretet-Thomson DTL 93046, but that's a rarity and this Telefunken pressing (I don't have a date for it) seemed minty-mint, so I was looking forward to sharing it with you.

As I'm getting to be more and more of a Rampal fan (I've been buying the outstanding reissues of his early recordings on Premiers Horizons, the label of the Association Jean-Pierre Rampal - they're cheap, too, get them!), I was chuffed to see that Side 2 apparently contains Beethoven's Trio in G WoO 37 for flute, bassoon (Paul Hongne) and piano (Robert Veyron-Lacroix) and the Air russe, No.7 of the 10 National Airs with Variations Op.107 (also with Veyron-Lacroix). I think these must be the recordings listed by the Bibliothèque nationale as first issued on Ducretet Thomson LPG 8002 (dépôt légal 1952), not the mid-1960s ones made for the Club français du disque and now available as part of a complete set of Beethoven's chamber music on VoxBox CDX-5000.

But I was a smidge surprised to find that Side 2 is merely a repeat of Side 1, though for some reason the Bach/Mozart string trio was mastered at a slightly higher level! The two sides have different labels and matrix numbers, as expected. Anyone know how this might have happened?

Anyway, on Mediafire you will find a .rar file containing mono FLACs of the 'wrong' Side 2, which is decently played by:

- Everard van Royen (flute)
- Paul Godwin (violin - see his fascinating biography)
- Johan van Velden (viola) and
- Carel van Leeuwen Boomkamp (cello - Anner Bylsma's teacher; here's a biog in Dutch).

I won't pretend Alma Musica was the best ensemble ever, even of its day, but I admire its pioneering spirit and programming.

In the meantime, I'm sorry not to be able to offer you Rampal's early Beethoven. Maybe Premiers Horizons will reissue it; they seem to have gone back to tape masters wherever possible (e.g., for the Discophiles français LPs with Ristenpart) and the results are stunning. (Obviously, it's not in Accord's 8-CD box set 'Concertos et Récitals 1961-1965 Vol.1', 480 1324 - but forget about getting a track listing from Universal Music France, for that you'll have to go to Universal Music Italy.)

In fact, this makes me really grumpy: if a small label can put out these Ristenpart gems at such a reasonable price, why can't we have them all? A big Ristenpart box from EMI, which now owns the outstanding Discophiles français catalogue? Or, better still, a complete Discophiles français Edition!?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Dilemma and a Freebie

Deepest apologies for my long absence! I've been doing paid work, now that I'm in the 4th (and, let's hope, final) year of my PhD and no longer have a stipend...

First, the freebie: pursuing my grumpily unfashionable theme of unloved early music records, here is the Quartetto Italiano (Paolo Borciani and Elisa Pegreffi, violins; Piero Farulli, viola; Franco Rossi, cello) playing Italian mid-Baroque 4-part sonatas - or, as the lovely Columbia sleeve has it:

Class, eh?And yet - not one of the Quartetto's best albums, to be honest. Still, I think it's well worth hearing - this is a wonderful repertoire, which I've been collecting and enjoying on CD for years, and now I'm often finding that musicians of the 1950s and even earlier made some very honourable stabs at it.

Of special interest, as noted by J.N. (Jeremy Noble?) in The Gramophone (May 1957, pp.453-54), is the way 'the Quartetto Italiano have made a gesture towards authenticity by abjuring vibrato in the earliest pieces' - so, yar boo sucks to all those who imagine such devices were only thought of in the 1970s. The rest of this review strikes me as a tad churlish, which can't have helped this LP to sell; in his haste to point out that these are not really string quartets and mostly have a continuo part, the writer forgot that modern string quartets (notably André Mangeot's various formations) had been playing 16th, 17th and 18th C string consorts for more than half a century - and why the hell not!? No string quartet today will start a programme with Gabrieli, Marini or Vivaldi - and we're the poorer for it. Even the Pro Arte Quartet recorded a Vivaldi concerto (DB 2148, 1933 - never reissued - and, again, why the hell not!?) and if he was good enough for them...

So, 7 mono FLAC files at

I've tried to identify all the pieces but I got lazy with Vitali's Capriccio - if anyone can pin-point that (or confirm that this is Neri's Sonata quinta from Op.2*) I'll be... less grumpy than usual. Michael Gray's data ( gives a recording date only for the items on side 1 (and the Italian LP number); I've assumed side 2 was recorded the same day. Talking of the Italian issue, the Quartetto's own very useful website gives the date of April 1957, which must be the release date, as well as the entire original Italian sleeve note by Luigi Pestalozza. I hope you can make out Columbia's translation in my scan, and also the section titles: each piece is one file but three consist of more than one section. In fact two aren't quite right here: the Marini apparently goes (a) Entrata grave (b) Balletto allegro (c) Gagliarda (d) Corrente (e) Retirata (so my Manze CD says); and the Vivaldi should be (a) Largo molto (b) Allegro ma poco andante.

[*P.S. This has now been confirmed by the mighty Jolyon!]

The Dilemma

Should I give recordings away free? This one, yes: I've done nothing beyond the usual ClickRepair and the condition of side 2 was not quite what I was led to believe by the seller, so there's quite a bit of shushy noise in the Vitali and some clunks in the Vivaldi. (Also, are my dubs getting worse or what?) But I have a couple of other LPs of this type which are rarer and musically more rewarding. If academic work is not forthcoming after I finish my Phd (if I ever do...) and even if it is, I'd like to make a living in this reissues racket; if these guys can do it, why not me?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

CHARM sound archive goes online

Send the family on holiday, clear your diary, farm out the pets, buy in plenty of tins and put the phone on divert: you will spend the next two weeks on your own, in the dark, happily hunting and listening to a treasure trove of long-forgotten goodies from the wonderful to the weird.

More than 5,000 historical recordings (each one, a side of a 10- or 12-inch coarse-groove disc), dating from about 1915 to 1952, have just been made available online for anyone to stream or download, free, anywhere in the world.

The CHARM online sound archive combines transfers made under the auspices of two academic projects: CHARM itself, the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, which ran from 2004 to 2009; and 'Musicians of Britain and Ireland, 1900-1950', brainchild of Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson of the Music Department, King's College, London, one of the Associate Directors of CHARM. Daniel brilliantly secured funding from the UK's JISC and so more than doubled the number of transfers funded under CHARM.

The transfer engineers were Andrew Hallifax, who has worked with many classical artists and companies as well as making recodings for his own record label, Big Ears; and Martin Haskell, who has worked for Decca, ASV and other companies and engineered many, many reissues of historical recordings.

The project would not have been possible without the amazing discographical research done over many decades by the likes of Frank Andrews, Michael Smith, Ernie & Ernest Bayly and Bill Dean-Myatt, all published by the CLPGS, and by Alan Kelly of Sheffield.

I must declare an interest: I ended up being the main selector of recordings to be transferred by the two projects, though others, inside CHARM and out, were also free to make suggestions; and our warmest thanks must go to the doyen of British critics of singing, John Steane, for kindly and freely giving of his fabled expertise in that domain.

You will find all the information you need about the two projects and the CHARM archive, about searching, file formats and players and so on, on the site. So:

Get searching and enjoy!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Roger Wagner directs Monteverdi Madrigals, 1951?

Hello all,

For some years now I have admired the work of choral director Roger Wagner and everything of his I hear only increases my admiration. Some time ago I posted on various newsgroups my transfer of his lovely Capitol LP of Stephen Foster songs, which I continue to enjoy and delight my friends with (now, if only I could buy the Korean EMI CD reissue or, better still, EMI would reissue more of their Roger Wagner archive in the Western hemisphere!).

Next I would like to present his Lyrichord LP of Monteverdi's first Book of Madrigals; as far as I can tell, it is a 1953 reissue of a 1951 origination on Allegro (interestingly, only Side 2 has an Allegro matrix number and sounds distinctly worse than Side 1 - lower level, more noise; they can't have re-recorded Side 1, can they?). The Allegro issue was apparently listed and/or reviewed in two American publications, The Gramophone Shop Supplement in August 1951 and Consumers' Research Bulletin in October '51, neither of which I've seen. My estimate of the recording date is based on these but it could have been earlier. According to the Chorale was signed to Capitol in 1949, but perhaps that contract wasn't exclusive, as I see that in 1951 Allegro brought out an LP of Bach Cantatas with the Chorale.

This Monteverdi is a bit of a 'run-through', in places (as many such traversals are), and I'm not sure all stanzas of all the poems are sung (not that I've checked) but it's an amazingly stylish, confident and pretty enjoyable presentation, sung by a small ensemble rather than the large choir one might expect to hear at this time.

It was also a time when so much early music was still presented in rag-bag anthologies from widely disparate periods and styles, so this record strikes one as a very serious enterprise. In fact, I wonder if it wasn't the first recording of a complete book of madrigals - does anyone know?

The Singers are listed on the back and include one especially interesting name - I wonder what else of this nature she sang in?:

Marni Nixon and Ewan Harbrecht (sopranos)
Katherine Hilgenberg (contralto)
Richard Robinson (tenor)
Paul Salamunovich (baritone)
Paul Hinshaw (bass)

One of my usual pretty basic transfers, using ClickRepair: 21 tagged mono FLACs, with a so-so scan of the texts on the back of the sleeve, in one .rar file which can be downloaded from Mediafire here.

Still some sonic problems, such as slight blasting on peaks towards the ends of sides and quite a bit of surface swish and swoosh. A friend told me about Waves' Z-noise gizmo and demonstrated it very convincingly on a track from my Mildred Clary lute disc. >Sigh<, another piece of software to buy! Enjoy!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Vinyl fest on Classical Collection, BBC Radio Three

Hi all,

One of the things I do to earn a crust (and keep the grumpy hormones flowing) is produce music programmes for BBC Radio Three. I work as a freelancer, employed by British independent production company Classic Arts - to whom many thanks!

The main programme I make is Classical Collection, presented alternately by pianist and teacher Sarah Walker and Gramophone Editor-in-Chief James Jolly. They're both thoroughly good eggs and I love working with them - no grounds for grumpiness there!

Each week's programmes are more or less loosely built around a theme - very far from loosely, when I choose them, as when we did 'Music Restored - Reconstructions and Completions' a couple of weeks ago and (slightly to my editor's dismay) every single piece fitted the theme. Yes, I never do things by halves.

But next week, starting at 10:00 am on Monday 25th January, is really special and unusual: all the music, with very few exceptions, comes from LPs and has never been issued on CD.

Given the rapid adoption of CD in the mid-1980s, this is surely the first time in a good two and a half decades - a generation, in fact - that this has been done for a 'routine' music sequence on Radio Three.

The few exceptions are three recordings which have been issued on CD only in Japan (in two of those cases, nearly twenty years ago); and two more which have been issued on both LP and CD, by one of my very favourite record labels, Testament (these LPs are still available).

In addition, all the recordings bar one were transferred by me, here behind the second stalagmite on the left, on my bank of grubby second-hand equipment, and all bat guano cleaned off using the wonderful ClickRepair.

The exception to that is Paul Paray's 1953 Detroit recording of Beethoven's Symphony No.7, which has recently been remastered from an original Mercury LP by Pristine Classical, to whom many thanks for providing us with FLACs!

Many of the LPs came from the BBC's large library of commercial recordings but some are my own copies, some were kindly supplied by record companies and one was lent by one of the artists, from his own collection.

Full playlists for Monday to Wednesday have been posted on Radio Three's website; Thursday and Friday should follow soon (slightly less user-friendly listings can also be found at the Radio Times website).

Of course, Classical Collection allows me to 'share' with fellow music-lovers many recordings and compositions which I could never post here, as they are still in copyright.

Among these are the Suite from Stravinsky's Pulcinella, conducted with great verve and charm by Heinrich Hollreiser on mid-'50s Vox; the Schubert Quintet in C D.956, recorded at the 1982 Lockenhaus Festival by a group including Kaja Danczowska, a Philips digital LP which I believe was never issued in the UK; and Danczowska again, playing Mozart with Krystian Zimerman, no less, on a Polish Wifon LP.

Another highlight is the estampie Chominciamento di gioia, in a fantastic early 1970s arrangement and performance by Thomas Binkley and the Studio der frühen Musik. In the mid-80s, half of the parent Telefunken LP, Musik der Spielleute, was cack-handedly and quite irrelevantly tacked onto the end of a CD of Minnesänger music, which, to judge from the current policy of the bigger 'media companies', means that, even though much (not all, note) of Binkley's superb Telefunken legacy has been reissued, Chominciamento and the other overlooked pieces will now never see the light of day.

Now that is grounds for grumpiness!