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!?