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!