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)!