Saturday, 28 April 2012

Cape with Good Hope (8 Down, 1 To Go!)

EMS 213 cover

Josquin 14 secular chansons
Pro Musica Antiqua, dir. Safford Cape
EMS 213 (rec. autumn 1950, Brussels)

On Thursday 26th April, I finished the penultimate chapter of my PhD thesis, which is the main thing that’s been keeping me from posting more coprolites from the Cave. Chapter 8 is three times longer than it should be and has taken me months to write, rather than the mere weeks I’d projected. Oh well, I’ve learned a lot in the process. Now I just need to re-read it plus the preceding seven, all 320 pages, before I tackle what I’ve been dreading – the final chapter, with my supposed ‘conclusions’. My main conclusion is, I don’t know what to conclude!

As a tiny celebration (and distraction), here is one of the too many LPs I’ve bought recently. In fact, I already had two copies of this lovely disc but they looked too beaten up to dub – it’s hard to tell, as they’re pressed on red vinyl, which is pretty but doesn’t show scratches or dirt. I’m trying to collect as many records of this great group as I can. I’ve just bought a couple more good uns, so we could be in for a Cape bonanza.

This record is remarkable in several ways. First, remember that in 1950 devoting an entire LP to one prehistoric composer was seriously avant-garde. Second, the sleeve carries detailed information on the music and performances, texts and translations, although not, oddly, the group’s line-up (singers of solo items are credited). Third, and most important, these are really fine performances, which present the wonderful music simply, seriously, and with complete conviction. The famous and glorious Deploration on the death of Ockeghem is here - I’ve never enjoyed it as much. Also deeply moving are Malheur me bat (which spawned several parody masses) and Incessamment mon povre cueur lamente, the latter sung with noble dolour by the great Jeanne Deroubaix. I really like the instrumentals, too – the close miking brings the gently raspy, gutty, hairy sounds into sharp focus and creates an atmosphere of intimacy and concentration – no hey-nonny-nonsense here.

The recording struggles a bit with some of the vocal numbers, though that could also be wear on my copy. Or my arm, which I never rebalance, as I should. Still, it’s come up pretty well. I see that in 1961 Archiv issued an LP devoted to Josquin, with a mass and some of the same chansons, performed by Pro Musica – but they must be re-recordings, as it was also issued in stereo (APM 14171, SAPM 198171) and I don’t believe Archiv went in for fake stereo (does anyone have it or know?). By the way, I’ve not checked if modern musicology still thinks all this is by Josquin.

Download the 14, fully tagged mono FLAC files, plus my not very good but legible scan of the back of the sleeve (my stupid A3 scanner has a chamfered border round the platen which just prevents LP covers from lying flat!), in a .rar file, here.

Tomorrow, Sunday 29th April, Jolyon and I are off to sell some 78s and LPs at the Croydon Record Fair – and probably buy far too many as well! See you there?

ADDENDUM: Listening again, I’ve remembered that the levels as originally mastered are a bit all over the place: the first  item, an instrumental, is too high compared to the vocal number which follows; several vocals sound a bit low. But I haven’t altered any levels. Also, if it had been up to me I would have ended the disc with the Deploration rather than Basiez-moi. But there you go, I’m sure Ockeghem would have agreed that life must go on, eh?

CORRIGENDUMDIDUMDIDUM: Doltishly, I included earlier versions of two files in the .rar; these both have ‘OLD’ in the file-name. The only difference from the newer versions is that I hadn’t faded out the residual surface noise at the end of one, which closes side 1, or faded it in at the start of the next, which opens side 2 with rather more noise. Sic errat Grumpius.

Friday, 6 April 2012

No sewing-machine here!

Sewing shop, Lumix LC1, 6-Apr-12

Domenico Scarlatti 8 Essercizi per gravicembalo
Eliza Hansen
(‘Christophori’ model harpsichord by Neupert)
Archiv 13 001 (rec. 22 & 23 October 1953)

Apologies, I’ve had this on the stocks for some time, but I’ve been grumpier than usual. Also, I’ve become self-defeatingly perfectionist about my transfers; I’ve done several interesting LPs that I just don’t feel are good enough to inflict on you. What I’d have been quite happy with, some months ago, now sounds hummy, crackly, distorted or dull.

No danger of that here, though – what a sparkling gem of a disc! I was walking to our little Lidl this morning (their trout fillets smoked with juniper berries are the best) when I passed one of our other locals – the sewing supplies shop, where I buy embroidering wool for Ma Grumpy. A wonderful time-warp.

It reminded me to post this disc – as a counter-example. All right, the Neupert. A little metronomic rigidity, perhaps, yes. I see Lionel Salter called it stolid; I think that’s going too far. It’s not auto-pilot, sewing-machine playing. I get the strong feeling Hansen is seeing through the notes to the gestures – and relishing the fabulous, free-wheeling writing.

I’d never heard Hansen before – do read the short biog on (link above), she’s obviously an important and interesting figure. I’m on the hunt for her other Archiv disc – annoyingly, I bought a copy recently but on receiving it found it was mono. That’s the trouble with those ARC-prefixed US pressings – you can’t tell from the number which mode it’s in (or have I missed something?). Though the dealer should have said, frankly.

8 mono, fully-tagged FLACs, in a .rar file, here.

P.S.: Please all visit Jolyon’s new blog, Fluff on the Needle!