CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
10 MARCH 2011
The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the Web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.
Debussy: Orch Wks V5 (Boîte..., 6 Épigraphes..., 2 Estampes... & 2 others), Märkl/LyonNa O [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Debussy; Prels (24, arr orch C.Matthews); Matthews, C.: Post Monsieur Croche; Elder/Hallé O [Hallé]
AUDIOPHILE (2 CDs)
Down through the years, many conductors and composers have expended a great deal of time and effort to transform Claude Debussy's (1862-1918) piano music into symphonic fare, and these two releases include some of the best to date. All carefully crafted colorized versions of monochrome keyboard pieces, you'll find they add another level of enjoyment to the originals.
The first album is the fifth in Naxos' ongoing series devoted to orchestral works either by Debussy himself, or arranged by others from his piano music. All of the selections on this CD are from the latter category, beginning with La Boîte à joujoux (The Toy Box, 1913), which like his earlier Children's Corner (1906-08) was written for his young daughter. Both pieces were for the most part orchestrated by Debussy's good friend André Caplet (1878-1925, who was a highly regarded conductor-composer in his own right (see the newsletter of 28 March 2007).
A ballet in seven parts (read the album notes for a detailed description of the scenario), it would be hard to find a more delicately scored impressionistic piece than Boîte.... Is there a hint of Paul Dukas' (1865-1935) Sorcerer's Apprentice as well as the opening from Stravinsky's (1882-1971) Rite of Spring (1913) in the prelude? And the next tableau seems to have more Dukas as well as an amusing reference to "Golliwog's Cakewalk" from Children's Corner.
A florid waltz and several delightfully varied dance numbers follow. However, the mood turns momentarily more subdued in the second tableaux until some toy soldiers (see the newsletter of 28 February 2010) enter with humorous references [track-4, beginning at 02:29] to the "Soldiers' Chorus" in the fourth act of Gounod's (1818-1893) Faust (1859). A mini skirmish breaks out, but quickly ends as the scene concludes peacefully.
The third tableaux is a lovely pastoral with folk overtones, winsome woodwind solos, and a dotty central section. The bustling conclusion has a droll reference to Mendelssohn's (1809-1847) "Wedding March" from A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42), and segues right into the fourth tableaux.
This begins with a brass fanfare harboring the tune for the old nursery rhyme "Pop Goes the Weasel." The music then becomes more subdued, only to erupt in a burst of Gallic gallantry that oddly enough seems to anticipate "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead," from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. The tableaux ends as suddenly as it began, followed by a brief epilogue that concludes the ballet with references to the opening prelude and four ff happy-faced chords.
The great Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet (1883-1969) orchestrated the next selection, Six épigraphes antiques (Six Ancient Epigraphs, 1900). Again originally for piano, Debussy wrote these to accompany a recitation of poems drawn from Pierre Louÿs' (1870-1925) collection known as Les Chansons de Bilitis (The Songs of Bilitis, 1894).
Quintessential Debussy, Ansermet turns these into highly atmospheric symphonic sonnets. The first invokes the rustic world of the god Pan playing his flute. The second and third conjure up melancholic settings not far removed from Nocturnes of the same year. Four and Five are examples of oriental exotica which the impressionists captured so well, while the flighty sixth ends the set unpretentiously.
The first two of Debussy's three Estampes (Prints, 1903) for piano come next in orchestrations by Caplet (see above) and Henri Büsser (1872-1973) respectively. A friend of Debussy as well as a conductor-composer himself, many will remember the latter as the arranger of the ever popular Petite Suite (1886-89).
Labelled "Pagodes" (“Pagodas”), Caplet instills his symphonic expansion of Estampes No. 1 with an overpowering sense of Sino-mysticism. It couldn't be more different from Estampes No. 2 titled “La soirée dans Grenade” ("An Evening in Granada"), where Büsser creates a tasty tapas anticipating the Iberian segment in Images (1905-12).
The next selection is a transcription by Italian conductor Bernardino Molinari (1880-1952) of Debussy's piano piece L'Isle joyeuse (The Joyous Isle, 1904). It may well have been inspired by Antoine Watteau's (1684-1721) painting The Embarkation of Cythera (1717), and is a gorgeous symphonic miniature. It's filled with an infectious joy and giddiness like the more motive moments soon to inhabit La Mer (1905).
The disc concludes with a realization by French pianist-composer-conductor Marius-François Gaillard (1900-1973) of Le triomphe de Bacchus (The Triumph of Bacchus, 1882). It's based on the only surviving fragment of a student piano piece Claude was working on at the Conservatoire in 1882, but eventually abandoned. Granted it could almost be out of a Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) tone poem, however there are flashes of pentatonism auguring his emergence as the father of French impressionist music.
As on their four previous Debussy volumes for Naxos (8570759, 8570993, 8572296 and 8572297), German-born conductor Jun Märkl and the Lyon National Orchestra deliver dynamically articulated, sensitively phrased readings of these colorful scores. Maestro Märkl is to be commended for his dexterous handling of music that's childishly spontaneous one minute and sensuously withdrawn the next.
In attempting to capture all the detail of intricately scored works like these, many recording engineers would resort to miking and mixing techniques producing desiccated, in-your-face sonics. But that's not the case here where the soundstage projected is highly focused without seeming overly confined. Done at the Lyon Auditorium on three separate occasions between 2009 and 2010, the recordings sound consistent, and the orchestral timbre is bright. You may notice some low end noise [tracks 5 and 9] probably due to outside traffic.
Turning to the next album, four years ago Hallé released two separate CDs, which between them contained orchestrations of all Debussy’s twenty-four piano preludes (1910-12) along with a couple of his most popular symphonic works. Now they give us this twofer devoted just to the preludes, which should appeal to any who passed up the originals because of their "war-horse" couplings.
The arrangements were done by British composer Colin Matthews (b. 1946), older brother of David (b. 1943), who's also been mentioned in these pages (see the newsletter of 23 February 2011). And rather than repeating what we said about the preludes on the first Hallé disc, interested parties are directed to the newsletter of 7 April 2007.
The comments there also apply to the other preludes in this compendium. Highlights among them include the supple "Danseuses de Delphes" ("Dancers of Delphi," Bk. 1, No. 1), Iberian-scented "La sérénade interrompue" ("Interrupted Serenade," Bk. 1, No. 9) and enchanting "Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses" ("Fairies are Exquisite Dancers," Bk. 2, No. 4). There’s also "Voiles" ("Sails," Bk. 1, No. 2) laced with references to La Mer (1903-05, see the newsletter of 9 March 2006).
The Italianate "Les collines d'Anacapri" ("The Hills of Anacapri," Bk. 1, No. 5), flamboyant "Feux d'artifice" ("Fireworks," Bk. 2, No. 12) and timeless "La cathédrale engloutie" ("The Sunken Cathedral," Bk. 1, No. 10), with simulated church bells and organ, are orchestrations that would turn Respighi (1879-1936) green with envy. But that's not all folks!
Having already established himself as a "completist" when he updated Holst’s (1874-1934) The Planets (1916) with Pluto (2000), the waggish Matthews pulls a similar stunt here with his Postlude: Monsieur Croche. It’s an ingenious epilogue of his own design titled after the pen name Debussy used as a music critic in the 1900s. You’ll find it an exuberant contemporary afterthought with impressionistic touches that’s the perfect postscript for this extraordinary undertaking.
Conductor Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra deliver outstanding performances of all this music in demonstration quality sound. Although the discs were recorded at different locations, the soundstages projected seem identical and in similar, ideally reverberant venues. The audio engineers have outdone themselves giving us stunning sonics characterized by natural sparkling highs, superb midrange presence, and seismic transient bass. The dynamic range is second to none, so be careful setting your playback level.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P110310, Y110309)
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Dillon, L.: Stg Qts 2-4, What Happened (pno qt); Hochman/Daed Qt [Bridge]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
This new release from Bridge Records rates three gold stars for content, performance and sound! It features some rewarding chamber music by American composer Lawrence Dillon (b. 1959). The second, third and fourth string quartets from his Invisible Cities Cycle of six, plus the piano quartet included here will appeal to those liking inventive contemporary music with an emotional as well as intellectual dimension.
Famed French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) once said, "Nature is an infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." The composer tells us this notion was the starting point for his fourth quartet, which he wrote in 2009 and accordingly named "The Infinite Sphere."
He uses the old familiar round and rondo to create a two-movement musical fantasy exploring thoughts brought on by Pascal's epiphany. It’s a fascinating convoluted creation that whirls and whirs, whose visual analogy might be Aughra's orrery in the observatory scene from the 1982 film The Dark Crystal. And rather than going into more detail here, you're directed to the informative album notes for additional particulars.
Next up, the single movement third quartet known as "Air" (2005) [track-3]. In five connected sections, there's an appealing palindromic symmetry about this piece where the beginning mirrors the end. Dillon says it pays homage to the Italian da capo aria, and it begins with a shimmering "aura" followed by a grief-stricken "aria" [01:01] of his own device. A rhythmically repetitive "air" appears next [05:21], living up to its name in more ways than one by blowing lyrically hot and cold. The "aria" then returns [07:46] in a sighing, even more sorrowful context, and the piece ends with a brief reference to the opening "aura" [10:24].
The word fugue is derived from fuga, which in Italian means "flight." So it's not surprising the composer chose fugal devices as the basis for his second quartet nicknamed "Flight" (2002). In six movements related one way or another to flying, the opening one, "Birds," captures the ecstasy we humans imagine our feathered friends must feel soaring overhead. The scherzo-like "Insects and Paper Airplanes" is a real "humstinger" with buzzing outer sections surrounding a gliding inner one. Incidentally the mosquitoes, or whatever they were, get swatted in the end.
You'll find "Stars" a gorgeous nocturnal contemplation of those heavenly bodies as they circle Polaris, while "Langley" is an amusing second scherzo depicting one of man's early, more humorous attempts to fly (see the album notes). The pendular "Swings" ponders playgrounds and the innocent dreams of children on them. It's contiguous with the last movement, "Daedalus and Icarus," which is an austere double fugue whose subjects were inspired by those Greek pioneers of naval aviation. The tragic final coda reflects thoughts of the death and destruction visited on mankind by modern day war planes.
The program closes with a piano quartet, which the composer calls "What Happened" (2005). In three alternating fast-slow-fast movements, the opening one, "Gathering," with its mysterious questioning and angular answering themes immediately catches the listener's attention. In extended sonata form, it ends summarily to be followed by the brief hymn-like "Congregation."
This is in complete contrast to the finale, "Scattering," which is an engaging virtuosic romp not far removed from Shostakovich (1906-1975) in one of his more twitchy moments. The quartet then ends in medias res, leaving the listener wondering, "What happened?"
Dillon couldn't have better advocates of his music than the Daedalus Quartet. With technical ability to burn its members give articulately phrased, dynamically sensitive renditions of his ingeniously quirky scores. The same applies to pianist Benjamin Hochman who plays the last selection with a lightness of touch perfectly suited to its frequently cheeky disposition.
With an old pro like Judith Sherman at the controls, and an ideal chamber venue such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City, it's no wonder these recordings are demonstration quality. The soundstage projected is perfectly proportioned, the string tone convincingly natural, and the piano beautifully captured with analogue musicality.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110308)
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Foulds: Music IV & VI; Indian, Henry VIII & Française Stes; 4 Short Orch Wks; Corp/BBCCon O [Dutton]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
A welcome addition to Dutton's first volume of English composer John Foulds' (1880-1939) music in the "British Light" tradition (see the newsletter of 13 December 2010), all of the numbers on this second one make their CD debuts. Influenced by the folk music of several countries, including America as well as India, and brilliantly scored for differently sized orchestras, the imaginative scope of these selections is considerable.
Foulds wrote a number of suites, referring to some as "Music-Pictures Groups," two of which are included here. Group IV from 1916-17 [tracks-7 through 9] is just for strings, and the composer, who was an amateur painter himself, may have attempted to style its three sections after the artists named in their titles (see the informative album notes). Be that as it may, the central "Evening in the Forest..." is drop-dead gorgeous.
Group VI, subtitled "Gaelic Melodies" (1924) [tracks-1 through 3], is for full orchestra. It's as "Irish as Paddy's pig" with Celtic dance-like outer sections bracketing a movingly mournful inner one.
Three of his other most engaging suites are also featured, beginning with the five-part Indian [tracks-11 through 15]. Written between 1932 and 1935 for a small orchestra replete with exotic percussion, it's based on folk songs collected by Foulds' second wife Maud MacCarthy (1882-1967, see the newsletter of 15 April 2008) during her years in India.
As far as ethnically colored symphonic music goes, the composer's consummate ability to Occidentalize exotic Eastern melodies makes this piece second to none. Highlights include two fetching songs from Bombay [track-12] and southern India [track-15] respectively. Hearing this imaginative synthesis of East and West, it's hard to believe its première had to wait until 1983.
In 1924 Foulds wrote a substantial amount of incidental music, thirty-two numbers in all, for a lavish London production of Shakespeare's (c. 1564-1616) Henry VIII (1613). The five-part suite he extracted from all this is included here [tracks-16 through 20]. Asked by the play's producer to instill his music with Elizabethan ambiance, you'll find it anticipates Sir William Walton's (1902-1983) Shakespearean film scores (1941-55). Particularly impressive are the stately "King's Pavane," spirited "Passemezzo (for Anne Boleyn)," and festive "Baptism Procession" honoring no less than the infant Elizabeth I.
The four-movement Suite Française [tracks-21 through 24] was composed in 1910 as a sequel to Holiday Sketches (1908, see the first volume referenced above). It starts off with a rousing march apparently meant to represent the Zouave Infantry, who were the first French colonial army troops. But in all honesty you may find it sounds more like something you might hear under the "Big Top!"
A delicate Gallic fairy dance, heroic hymn of Wagnerian gravity, and joyful finale recalling the opening march complete the suite. The earliest work here, there's a naive spontaneity that makes it most attractive.
The four shorter selections filling out the disc include The Florida Spiritual of 1925 [track-4]. It reflects the composer's insatiable interest in folk music of other countries, which even extended to Negro spirituals. A unique Foulds' miniature it's in the spirit of Frederick Delius' (1862-1934) Florida Suite (1887-89) and the big tune from Dvorák's (1841-1904) New World Symphony (No. 9, 1893).
The other three are charming, undiscovered "Pops" treasures. La Belle Pierrette of 1922 [track-5] is a catchy intermezzo, while the 1916 Darby and Joan [track-6], the English equivalent of America's Ma and Pa Kettle, is a sentimental geriatric English idyll. There's a cinematic sweep to the Strophes from an Antique Song (1927) [track-10], which appears in a later orchestration (1934). Like his Sicilian Aubade and Isles of Greece also from 1927 (see the first volume referenced above), it was probably inspired by a trip he made to Sicily that same year.
As on their previous Fould's disc (see above), conductor Ronald Corp and the BBC Concert Orchestra invest these pieces with that little extra nationalistic touch that makes them far from ordinary "Pops" fare. A big round of applause goes to a number of the BBC musicians for their vital, beautifully played solo work in several of these selections.
The Indian Suite was recorded in St. Jude-on-the Hill, London, and the other pieces at Colosseum Town Hall, Watford. They're generally good, but the soundstage in St. Jude's is a bit broader and more convincing. The orchestral timbre is bright and clear with all of the soloists well balanced against the rest of the orchestra. However, there is some digital grain in the high-end.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P110307)
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Schumann, Cam.: Vc Sons 1 & 2, Concert Pieces (2, vc & pno); Kliegel/Piemontesi [Naxos]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
One of the best kept secrets in the classical world to date, the music of German composer Camillo Schumann (1872-1946) on this new Naxos release must rank as a major romantic discovery! A master melodist and consummate craftsman, he studied with Carl Reinecke (1824-1910, see the newsletter of 24 July 2008) as well as another great undiscovered German composer, Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902, see the newsletter of 9 June 2008). You'll find Schumann’s music grounded in his namesake Robert's (1810-1856, no relation) along with that of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).
The piano dominates all three of Camillo's cello sonatas, which undoubtedly explains why he referred to them as for "piano and violincello." They are virtuosicly demanding works that may bring Rachmaninov (1873-1943) to mind, particularly the first dating from the early 1900s, with which this CD begins.
In three movements, the opening allegretto is in sonata form with an imploring initial idea that's briefly elaborated on, and followed by a lovely flowing melody. The impressive development which is next may call to mind Dvorák's (1841-1904) second cello concerto (1894-95). The recapitulation brings a welcome return of the opening themes, ending the movement unpretentiously.
The equally attractive andante borders on the rhapsodic, and is the quiet before the stormy finale. This is a bravura allegro having a couple of attractive contrasting ideas, which are grist for a technically demanding developmental mill. It ends with a thrilling thematic recap and final coda that make this stunning sonata a musical experience not soon forgotten!
The two Konzertstücke (Concert Pieces) for cello and piano from 1900 are marked "Romanza" and "Mazurka." These are not light encore fare, but heavy-duty undertakings with challenging parts for both soloists. The former finds the composer at his tunefully expressive best as the cello turns into an instrumental heldentenor. The other selection is a rhythmically supercharged vehicle for both of the performers to show off their technical abilities.
A quarter of a century separates the first from the second sonata (1932), which concludes this disc. Written between the two world wars when times were hard for many Germans, and particularly Camillo who had difficulty making ends meet, this is understandably a darker, much more complex and intense work than its predecessor.
In four movements lasting half an hour, the opening allegro begins with a grave extended theme (GE), again recalling the Dvorák mentioned above. However, every now and then the clouds part allowing a melodically sunny passage of exceptional beauty to shine through.
The next movement is another thematically fetching "Romanza" that’s spiced with a curious, fleeting parentheses [track-7, 02:43-03:40]. The latter anticipates the mood of the upcoming scherzo, which has delicate bouncy outer sections bookending a gently rocking inner one.
The final allegro begins with a perky idea related to GE, and builds to a climax that could almost be out of Rachmaninov [track-9, beginning at 01:26]. This along with other ideas derived from what we've heard in previous movements are skillfully developed with more flashes of Rachmaninov. The sonata then ends gloriously with a potpourri of great tunes and an extraordinarily appealing final coda.
With over three hundred opuses to his credit, Camillo Schumann was for the most part a composer of chamber and instrumental works that included some for organ. Sadly enough only a couple of these are currently available on disc, and having heard what's here, most would have to agree how woefully underrepresented he is. Let’s hope the enterprising folks at Naxos will continue their invaluable revival of his music.
Neglected repertoire frequently gets short shrift from the performance standpoint, but not here! Pianist Francesco Piemontesi and cellist Maria Kliegel play the hades out of these selections, making an even stronger case for a Camillo revival. Both winners of numerous international prizes, Kliegel can count János Starker (b. 1924) as well as Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) among her mentors. And on the evidence of this disc, she must have been one of their prize pupils.
Made at DRS Radio in Zürich, Switzerland, the recordings project a generous soundstage in a warm acoustic that burnishes Schumann's richly appointed music. The piano is well rounded, while the cello sound is exceptionally silky, undoubtedly due in no small part to Ms. Kliegel's amazing technique.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y110306)
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Whiteman, Paul & Orch: Songs V3 (26, 1920-30s); B.Crosby et al/Whiteman O [Vocalion]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Whiteman, Paul & Orch: Songs V4 (24, 1920-30s); B.Crosby et al/Whiteman O [Vocalion]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Here are two follow-on volumes to the ones we told you about in 2008 (see the newsletter of 13 August 2008) featuring Paul Whiteman (1890-1967) and his dance band orchestras along with a number of outstanding soloists doing songs of the 1920s and 30s. A classically trained musician, these compendiums are drawn from 78s with arrangements supervised by him. As a consequence you'll find there's a sense of structure in addition to the usual seat-of-the-pants spontaneity and informality typical of jazz recordings that makes these classics in their own right.
Recorded between 1925 and 1939, the fifty songs on these CDs (twenty-six on volume three and twenty-four on volume 4) are exceptional for their diversity of songwriters, artists, and uniformly high standards of performance. Many selections will be familiar, and may even cause an occasional nostalgic tear. While there's not enough space to go into detail about everything, here are some highlights with the original recording date and CD track indicated in brackets.
The third volume includes a killer version of "San" [1928; track-5] with Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931) cornet. Then there's the beguiling "Oriental" [1928; track-6] where Whiteman shows his classical background with references to Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) Marche Slave (1876) as well as Rimsky-Korsakov's (1844-1908) Sadko (1898) and Le Coq d'Or (1909). From Rudolf Friml's (1879-1972) operetta The Three Musketeers (1928; currently unavailable) there’s the lovely "Ma Belle" [1928; track-7] and "March" [1928; track-8], the latter with a young crooner named Bing Crosby (1903-1977). And speaking of Crosby, he's also the soloist for "I'm Afraid of You" [1928; track-9].
"My Blue Heaven" [1927; track-11] with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey (1904-1957 and 1905-1956) also features some knockout banjo playing. Bix returns in the campy "My Pet" [1928; track-12], and Bing is joined by Al Rinker (1907-1982) for the catchy "Wistful and Blue" [1926; track-16], which was the first recording Crosby ever made with Whiteman. And moving right along, there's "Happy Feet" [1930; track-21], "A Bench in the Park" [1930; track-22] and "I Like to Do Things for You" [1930; track-23] with fabulous solos by jazz legends Eddie Lang (1902-1933, guitar) and Joe Venuti (1903-1978, violin).
Volume four tees off with instrumental versions of two winning Gershwin (1898-1937) songs, "That Certain Feeling" [1925; track-1] plus "Sweet and Low Down" [1925; track-2], from George and Ira's musical comedy Tip-Toes (1925). Speaking of George, he figures heavily in "The Birth of the Blues" arrangement [1927; track-6] where Rhapsody in Blue (1924, 1926, revised 1942), originally commissioned by Whiteman (see the newsletter of 22 November 2010), is frequently quoted.
A version of "Avalon" [1928; track-3] complete with slide whistle could almost be out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. By the way, the melody bears a strange resemblance to Cavaradossi's aria "E Lucevan le Stelle" ("And the Stars Shown") from Puccini's (1858-1924) Tosca (1900). So much so the composer's publisher filed a lawsuit, winning $25,000 along with the rights to the song. And continuing in an operatic vein, there's a colorful Gypsy bash from Emmerich Kálmán's (1882-1953) Gräfin Mariza (Countess Maritza, 1924) [1926; track-7] that's just a hop and a skip away from Victor Herbert's (1859-1924) The Fortune Teller (1896).
With lyrics and melodies among the most sophisticated ever written, Cole Porter's (1891-1964) music became extremely popular when the recordings included here were made. He's accordingly well represented with "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)" [1928; Track-8], a medley of 1929 songs [1933; track-14], and the timeless "Night and Day" from The Gay Divorcée (1932).
Then there are some kitschy novelty tunes like Dardanella [1928; track-4] with more great solo work by Bix (see above), the brilliantly scored "Dancing Tambourine" [1927; track-5], as well as Felix Arndt's (1889-1919) ants-in-the-pants "Nola" [1929; track-11]. And venturing further and further east, we're treated to Whiteman's upbeat take on Liszt's Magyar meditation (1811-1886) Liebestraum (c. 1850), more "Song of India" [1929; track-12] from Sadko (see above), and the rarely recorded ersatz Nipponese number "Japanese Mammy" [1928; track-9].
The album would be undernourished without some Irving Berlin (1888-1989, see the newsletter of 27 November 2009), who's represented by his "Say it with Music" [1939; track-21], "Lady of the Evening" [1939; track-22], "Soft Lights and Sweet Music" [1339; track-23], and of course the classic "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" [1939; track-24] from the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919. The last two selections find Paul conducting "The Swinging Strings," which was an elegant smaller ensemble of his.
A highly trained musician and perfectionist, Whiteman did arrangements that were classically inspired and meticulously orchestrated. They could even be described as "concerto-like" because the instrumental soloists were only allowed to "jive" in short fixed cadenzas designed to enhance the music without becoming vacuous displays of virtuosity. That along with his wide-ranging tastes, which included the classics as well as popular fare and Jazz, gave the world one of its greatest music makers.
Today we can appreciate him all the more thanks to the efforts of audio wizard Michael J. Dutton who's digitally revitalized everything here. There's no hint of those nasty swishes, snaps and pops associated with 78s, while the frequency response remains amazingly wide with no noticeable degradation from noise reduction regimens. Those with home theater systems and sound field processors should be able to recreate a close approximation of this music in a ballroom setting. The 1920s and '30s have never sounded better!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P110305, P110304)
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