CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
28 FEBRUARY 2012
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.
Bate, S.: Pno Conc 3, Sinfa 1; Reizenstein: Pno Conc 2; Sangiorgio/Yates/RScotNa O [Dutton]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
Dutton's ongoing revival of orchestral music by British composer Stanley Bate (1911-1959, see the newsletters of 26 January 2011) continues here along with some by German-born Franz Reizenstein (1911-1968), who makes his first appearance in these pages. Each is represented by a piano concerto in addition to a sinfonietta by Bate, and all three works are world premiere recordings.
Reizenstein, who had been a student of Hindemith (1895-1963) in Berlin, was one of the many musicians forced out of Germany when the Nazis came to power. Accordingly he moved to London in 1934, where he enrolled in the Royal College of Music, studying with Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). He would go on to become a distinguished teacher, highly acclaimed concert pianist and composer of some note, whose music is long overdue for revival.
Many will remember him for that hysterically funny Concerto Populare - A Piano Concerto to End All Piano Concertos he created for the first "Hoffnung Music Festival" (1956). But the selection on this disc, the second of his two numbered piano concertos, finds him in a more serious frame of mind, and was originally designed as a showpiece for his own considerable keyboard mastery.
Completed in 1961, it's in three movements beginning with a virtuosic allegro having a tightly structured symphonic accompaniment that owes allegiance to Hindemith. His influence is even more evident in the andante, where the orchestra is given a practical gebrauchsmusik-like theme that’s commented on by the soloist.
There's a catchy rhythmic whimsicality about the final allegro that would seem to be a Reizenstein trait. Once again bravura passages predominate, ending this modern day romantic concerto with some brilliant digital fireworks.
Next up, music by Stanley Bate who left England in 1938, and spent time in Australia, the US and Brazil before returning to London in 1949. So it's not surprising to learn the second of his piano concertos (there are five), which dates from 1940, was premiered by Sir Thomas Beecham in Carnegie Hall in 1942 with the composer as soloist.
It's in the usual three movements with an allegro whose beginning brings Prokofiev's (1891-1953) piano concertos (1911-32) to mind. The clever interplay between the galloping main theme and antic second, as well as a flaming cadenza keep the listener on the edge of his chair.
There's an attractive relaxed pastoral lyricism about the piano-embellished opening of the andante. It's followed by some nimble, almost jazzy passages for the soloist, after which the music resumes its leisurely pace, and builds to a dramatic crescendo. The movement concludes much in the same spirit as it began, and couldn't be more different from the flamboyant finale to come.
This begins with a brief moving andante segment that explodes into a brilliant allegro chock-full of ear-catching motifs and rhythms. It also recalls the Prokofiev (see above), Shostakovich (1906-1975) first (1933), and Bartok (1881-1945) second (1930-31) piano concertos.
In essence a rondo of Bates' own design, the central idea undergoes colorful developmental transformations each time it reappears. Virtuosity is rampant, particularly in the closing measures which, to quote the informative album notes, end the concerto "with great éclat."
The CD ends with the first of Bate's two sinfoniettas (1938 and 1944; second currently unavailable on disc), which is a capricious four-movement neo-classical creation, juxtaposing fast and slow episodes. The twitchy initial presto might well be music for one of those barnyard cartoons of the 1920s with scratching hens and crowing roosters. But not the following andante, which is a series of captivating disembodied melodies for winds and strings.
Another short-lived presto smacking of Hindemith is next, and then the finale. This begins with a leisurely andante, again scored for winds and strings, which suddenly shifts into a manic concluding presto reminiscent of the introduction to Ibert's (1890-1962) Divertissement (1930). It would seem the composer had a devil-may-care attitude when he wrote this one!
Italian pianist Victor Sangiorgio is no stranger to these pages (see the newsletter of 7 October 2011), and once again gives us riveting performances of the two concertos. His technical command of these demanding scores is only exceeded by an obvious enthusiasm for the music. Conductor Martin Yates and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) couldn't be more supportive of him, and give all three pieces that little extra touch which turns something good into extra special.
While the Bate concerto was done at the RSNO Center, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, and the other selections at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the recordings are quite consistent, projecting broad, deep soundstages in reverberant acoustics that should appeal to those liking wetter sonics. The piano is ideally placed and balanced with a tone that’s well rounded, while the orchestral timbre is completely convincing. The extended frequency and dynamic ranges arising from these colorful scores make this disc a logical choice for audiophile romantics.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y120228)
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Castellanos, E.: Santa Cruz de Pacairigua, Río de las siete..., Ste Avileńa; Wagner/Venez SO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED BEST FIND (1 CD)
Except for two years of piano studies in New York City, Venezuelan Evencio Castellanos (1915-1984) was very much a homegrown musician. And based on the sampling of his symphonic works here, he would seem to be that country's leading twentieth century composer. With a melodic flow recalling Villa-lobos (1887-1959) and a rhythmic urgency like that found in Ginastera (1916-1983), these brilliantly scored works cannot but impress.
The program begins with two tone poems. The first from 1954 is entitled Santa Cruz de Pacairigua, and was occasioned by the construction of a church near Caracas. The boisterous percussion-laced beginning paints a festive picture of a local religious celebration, and ends suddenly followed by a lovely mystical episode.
This transitions via a four-note motif on the tubular chimes into a winsome South American waltz, after which we get a sunlit pastoral passage with chirping birds and more bells. The piece then concludes in high spirits just as it began. The world of Ginastera's Panambi and Estancia (1937 and 1941) is not far away!
The second selection known as El Río de las siete estrellas (The River of the Seven Stars) (1946) takes its inspiration from Andrés Eloy Blanco’s (1897-1955) 1943 poem that's a fabled history of precolonial Venezuela involving its indigenous Indian population. The chief's alluring daughter is apparently represented by the pristine, relaxed opening with its woodwind solos, and "Seven Stars" motif played on the celesta.
Several colorful animated episodes follow. These include a couple of outbursts for full orchestra, the first succeeded by an intriguing introspective piano-embellished passage probably associated with the aforementioned stars. The second recalls Falla's (1876-1946) "Ritual Fire Dance" [track-2, beginning at 08:23] from El amor brujo (Love the Magician, 1914-16), and could conceivably be related to a mythical volcano mentioned in the story.
More "star music" follows, and then a warlike segment recalling the memorable Battle of Carabobo (1821), which led to Venezuela's independence. The poem ends in a jubilant nationalistic peroration with fragments of the Venezuelan national anthem embedded in it. Hugo Chávez (b. 1954) would love it!
The program closes with Suite Avileńa written in 1947. It's named after Mount El Ávila just north of Caracas, and is a musical remembrance of that landmark in five short scenes. Castellanos bases most of his melodies on Venezuelan popular songs, and calls for a couple of folk instruments, namely the four-stringed guitar-like cuatro and ubiquitous Latin-American maracas, in the score.
Entitled "Avileńa," the first scene is absolute magic, and recalls the early morning chants of flower merchants in Caracas. Oddly enough it anticipates Mike Oldfield's (b. 1953) Tubular Bells of 1973.
There's an ethereal childlike innocence about the next selection, "La ronda de nińos" ("Round of the Children"), recalling Debussy's Children's Corner (1906-08) and La Boîte ŕ joujoux (The Toy Box, 1913; see the newsletter of 10 March 2011). While the eerie, meditative "Nocturno" is made all the more mysterious by some catchy cuatro and celesta ornamentation.
But the mood lightens with the two closing scenes, "Amaneer de Navidad" ("Christmas at Dawn") and "Navidad" ("Christmas"), where the composer alludes to Venezuelan Christmas carols as well as the old familiar "Adeste Fideles." The former has a captivating processional that sweeps the listener off his feet, while the latter has a big tune [track-7, beginning at 05:08] reminiscent of Gottschalk's (1829-1869) Bamboula (1844-45). Maybe both composers had the same folk song in mind!
Conductor Jan Wagner gets stunning performances of this little-known music from the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra. His attention to rhythmic as well as dynamic detail in the two tone poems, and sensitive handling of the suite guarantee these luxuriant scores never become overromanticized.
Calling for extensive percussion sections with Latin-American exotica, these brilliantly orchestrated pieces have the potential for some awesome sonics. The recordings are accordingly impressive, projecting a broad but sunken soundstage in a moderately reverberant acoustic. However, some may feel there would have been a greater sense of clarity and focus had the orchestral image been more panoramic. Be that as it may, the overall orchestral timbre is very pleasing with no digital glare.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P120227)
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Franck, Ed.: Stg Qnts 1 & 2; Edinger/Kaiser/Kimstedt/Haiberg/Maechler [Audite (Hybrid)]
RECOMMENDED (1 SACD)
As far as romantic composers named Franck are concerned, France may have produced César (1822-1890), but Germany did them one better with Eduard (1817-1893) and his son Richard (1858-1938)! Both of the latter penned a significant amount of distinguished chamber music, some of Richard's having already appeared in these pages (see the newsletter of 17 November 2007). And now it's Eduard's turn!
His two beautifully written string quintets featured on this new hybrid, CD(2)/SACD(2/5.0), disc fall easily on the ear and will delight all romantics. A private student of Mendelssohn (1809-1847), it's not surprising to find Eduard's earlier one, written in his early twenties (c. 1844), was greatly influenced by Felix.
In four immaculately constructed movements, the opening allegro is a delicate wistful offering that recalls Mendelssohn's Octet (1825). It builds to a dramatic climax, and is followed by a winsome scherzo, which brings the overture from his incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-42) to mind. Thematic references to the previous movement and some delicate pizzicato touches make this section all the more appealing.
The andante has a violin-dominated, chromatically searching central idea, and closely woven contrapuntal accompaniment that are all Eduard! It’s a lovely movement with an underlying sadness that anticipates the final prestissimo.
This begins with a weeping main subject followed by an attractive sighing second. There are affinities here with the faster sections of Schubert's (1797-1828) String Quintet (1828).
Probably conceived some twenty-five years later (c. 1870), Franck's second quintet is also in four movements, but considerably more harmonically and rhythmically adventurous. The initial sonata form allegro is masterfully constructed with a first theme which the album notes tell us quotes the ever popular one in the slow movement of Beethoven's (1770-1827) Pathétique Piano Sonata (No. 8, 1798). An imaginative development with some mysterious contrapuntal touches, and a thematically playful, rhythmically intriguing final coda make this movement all the more captivating.
There's something funereal about the moving andante that seems to take its cue from the more dolorous movements in Beethoven's late string quartets (1823-26). However, grief turns to pastoral jollity in the following rustic menuetto, which mimics the sound of a hurdy-gurdy.
But Eduard saves the best for last with a superb final theme and variations [track-8]. The ingenious question-answer subject [00:01] is ideally suited to the ten transformations which follow, and unify the quintet by recalling thematic moments in preceding movements.
Generally speaking, rhythmic alterations yield the first two variations [V1-00:50 and V2-01:31], while melodic ones give rise to the following three [V3-02:07, V4-02:53 and V5-03:35]. The composer then juggles both of these parameters to produce the concluding five variants [V6-05:01, V7-05:32, V8-06:26, V9-07:08 and V10-07:30]. The last is directly linked to its predecessor, and serves as an exhilarating final coda for this charming quintet.
Violinists Christiane Edinger and Tassilo Kaiser, along with violists Rainer Kimstedt and Uwe Martin Haiberg joined by cellist Katharina Maechler give us good accounts of both works. Their committed sensitive interpretations of these rarities will most assuredly add to the growing number of Franck fans.
A coproduction of Audite and German Radio, these studio recordings project an ideally imaged soundstage for an ensemble this size in a warm acoustic. The string tone is bright but musical on the stereo tracks with the SACD one having less glare and more air. The multitrack mode adds just the right amount of backchannel ambience to further soften the strings. Accordingly audiophiles will most likely prefer the SACD tracks to the CD one.
One last thought, if you enjoy this release, be advised there are quite a few other Audite discs featuring more chamber music by Eduard as well as Richard.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P120226)
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Kreisler, F.: Stg Qt; Zimbalist: Stg Qt; Ysa˙e: Harmonies...; Fine Arts Qt/Klöber/Europe PO [Naxos]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
A few months ago we told you about some chamber music by the great Belgian violinist Eugčne Ysa˙e (1858-1931, see the newsletter of 21 September 2011), and Naxos now gives us this intriguing release with an orchestral rarity by him. They sweeten the pot further with a couple of seldom heard string quartets by two other legendary twentieth century violinists, Austrian-born Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) and Russian-born Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. (1890-1985), both of whom considered him "the master of us all" (see the informative biographical album notes). Incidentally the Ysa˙e and Zimbalist are world premiere recordings.
The program begins with Fritz's four-movement quartet from 1919. A 4x4 virtuosic showpiece, the opening fantasia is a highly chromatic, emotionally wrought outpouring with a lovely Kreisleresque idea (LK) [track-1, beginning at 01:09] we'll be hearing from later. Those romantic portamento sighs that frequent his music are pervasive.
In the extraverted scherzo that follows, the composer alternates antsy episodes having a rhythmic flightiness typical of Mendelssohn (1809-1847) with amorous ones characterized by an Eastern fluidity (see the newsletter of 21 September 2011). While the next introspective "Einleitung und Romanze" ("Introduction and Romance") is a gorgeous, harmonically peripatetic piece evoking feelings of nostalgia.
There's a folkish cheekiness about the beginning of the concluding "Retrospection" that brings Korngold's (1897-1957) Much Ado About Nothing (1818-20) to mind. Some agonized rubato passages recalling the work's opening measures follow, and then the quartet ends with remembrances of LK [track-4, beginning at 07:17], bringing everything full circle.
Originally dating from 1931, Zimbalist revised his quartet in 1959, and that's the version heard here. Also in four movements the anguished initial moderato is full of Russian soul with sorrowful Slavic motifs and only occasional flashes of hope. The overall effect is tearfully moving.
Depression turns into mania with the next con brio that's a fidgety scherzo with sporadic violin expletives. It couldn't be more different from the following andante, which has a couple of gorgeously dark ideas that reinstate the mood of the first movement but with occasional amorous overtones. Lest things get too sullen, Efrem then ends his quartet with a brilliant allegro full of vivacious fiddle fireworks. They serve to remind us of what an incredible violin virtuoso the composer was.
The disc concludes with Ysa˙e's Harmonies du soir (Evening Harmonies) written between 1922 and 1924. It might best be described as a fifteen-minute reverie for accompanied string quartet whose members are joined by the violin, viola and cello sections of a symphony orchestra. The quartet reminds us of its presence with occasional solos by its members that break through an otherwise massed string sound.
This highly chromatic music transcends impressionism for a level of expressionism like that found in Schoenberg's (1874-1951) Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), which was originally for string sextet (1899), and later arranged for string orchestra (1917). However, unlike the Schoenberg whose rapturous ending is related to earthly love, we're told its closing measures are meant to invoke a glorious sunrise. Be that as it may, those loving Verklärte... will be beside themselves with this discovery.
Founded in 1946 the Fine Arts Quartet (FAQ) has gained a reputation as one of America's finest chamber ensembles, and their carefully judged interpretations of these quartets certainly show why. Many will find their more pragmatic approach to the Kreisler preferable to the other maudlin versions currently out there. As for the Ysa˙e, the FAQ and Philharmonic Orchestra of Europe strings under conductor Otis Klöber deliver a stirring account of this arcane score.
Made at Wittem Monastery's Romanesque library in the Netherlands, these recordings project a moderate, well focused soundstage for all three works in a minimally reverberant acoustic. The FAQ members seem to be placed in front of their respective string sections for the Ysa˙e, thereby more effectively highlighting their solos.
The string sound in all three pieces is natural bordering on lean. However, there are several minor thumps in the Kreisler, possibly resulting from the performers being on a “tympanic” platform. That said, the sonics are good, but fall short of demonstration quality.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P120225)
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Wachner: Trip for Org & Orch, Cl Conc; Bélanger/Andrews/Wachner/MontMet O/McGill ChO [ATMA Cl]
AUDIOPHILE (1 CD)
This new release from ATMA Classique is noteworthy from two standpoints. First it will introduce you to US-born Julian Wachner (b. 1970), who has already established himself as one of America's leading conductors, and on the basis of this release would also seem to be one of its up-and-coming composers. Second, the leadoff selection features a rarely recorded organ which is one of the finest in North America.
In his candid album notes Wachner tells us he borrows extensively from the past to come up with music that lies somewhere in the stylistic spectrum stretching from Impressionism through Expressionism. That's fair commentary on the two symphonic concertante works making up this program, both of which have an eclecticism worthy of the best colorists composing today (see the newsletters of (12 April 2010, as well as 6 January, 25 May and 21 September 2011).
Completed in 2004, the Triptych for Organ and Orchestra is in three movements lasting forty minutes. It was commissioned for the 100th anniversary of Saint Joseph's Oratory, Montreal, where this recording was made utilizing the Basilica's spectacular 78 stop (5,811 pipes) organ built in 1960 by Rudolf von Beckerath of Hamburg, Germany.
The first movement entitled "Logos" ("The Word") lasts twenty minutes, and according to the composer can stand alone as an organ concerto. Its haunting introduction begins with percussion-reinforced shouts from the brass and spooky bell-laced woodwind passages, all of which demonstrate the Basilica's impressive five second reverberation to great effect. The organ soon enters assertively, eventually dominating the proceedings and bringing the introduction to a peaceful close.
The orchestra then returns in a highly agitated state [track-1, beginning at 06:34] with dramatic asides from the organ and percussion, including tubular chimes. What follows is best described as a modified sonata from exposition and development ending in a meditative cadenza for the soloist [track-1, 14:45 through 16:46]. A thrilling recapitulation introduced by the tutti with organ pyrotechnics and some seismic bass concludes this section of the trilogy on a resurrectionary high.
The last two movements are each half as long as the first, and named "Agape" ("Love") and "Angelus" ("Angel of the Annunciation") respectively. The former is a moving, subtly registrated adagio, where the organ enters into a divine dialogue with several solo instruments, showing off some of those expressive stops that make German instruments like this so special.
All Heaven breaks loose in "Angelus" as the trilogy concludes with a whirlwind toccata in the Romantic French tradition of Widor (1844-1937, see the newsletter of 8 February 2010), Vierne (1870-1937) and Jongen (1873-1953, see the newsletter of 26 March 2010). The organ sets things in motion with breathtaking fusillades of notes that will dominate the entire movement. But the tutti explode periodically in a display of colorful orchestral effects that include prickly percussion and woofer-rending bashes on the bass drum. This celebratory Saturnalia persists up to the last couple of measures when Wachner ends the triptych with the sole sound of bells and flutes spiraling heavenwards.
The disc is filled out with a clarinet concerto written in 2002 to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Lukas Foss (1922-2009), who was one of the composer's teachers. It takes the form of an introduction and allegro marked "Misterioso" and "Pulse!" The opening part is a haunting reverie much in keeping with its title, and demonstrates the clarinet's liquid legato.
It transitions directly into the concluding section, which is a spirited virtuosic romp for the soloist at times recalling the clarinet's more antic moments in Eastern European folk music. A brilliantly scored orchestral accompaniment makes this all the more colorful, and has some commonalities with Foss's own superb clarinet concerto (1941-42). Lukas must have loved it!
Philippe Bélanger, titular organist at Saint Joseph's, and clarinetist Scott Andrews, are our soloists here. They're critically acclaimed virtuosos, and play this music with an enthusiasm that adds all the more to its appeal. With the composer conducting both selections, these would seem to be definitive performances. The playing he gets from the Montreal-based Metropolitan as well as McGill Chamber Orchestras in these respective works is sumptuous.
A Canadian production, the "Maple Leaf" engineers have outdone themselves! Made five years apart in St. Joseph's (2005, see above) and Pollack Hall (2010), Montreal, the recordings are superb, understandably projecting different sonic images appropriate to their program material and venues. Triptych... immerses the listener in a cathedral of sound with the organ and orchestra ideally captured and balanced. The concerto is equally appealing with the clarinet and tutti perfectly positioned across an immaculate soundstage.
Audiophiles are in for a treat with this disc, and may find themselves fantasizing what it would have been like in multichannel super audio. And on that note, those with home theater systems and sound field processors should definitely try it in a surround setting!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y120224)
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Whiteman, Paul & Orch: Songs V5 (25, 1920s); B.Crosby et al/Whiteman O [Vocalion]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Vocalion's stroll down memory lane with dance band leader Paul Whiteman (1890-1967) and his orchestra continues with this fifth installment of songs. It's a compendium drawn from 78s he made for Columbia in 1928-29 featuring a slew of outstanding soloists and jazz greats.
A classically trained musician, he supervised all the arrangements. Consequently in addition to the seat-of-the-pants spontaneity and informality typical of jazz recordings, you'll find an overall sense of structure making these numbers classics in their own right.
As with the previous four volumes (see the newsletter of 10 March 2011), the twenty-five selections on this release are exceptional for their diversity of songwriters, artists, and uniformly outstanding performances. Several selections will be familiar, and may even elicit an occasional nostalgic tear. Unfortunately there's not enough room here to go into detail about everything (see the excellent album notes), so here are some of the highlights with the original recording dates and CD tracks in brackets.
The charming "Get Out and Get Under the Moon" [1928, track-1] is sung by one of the greatest crooners of all time, Bing Crosby (1903-1977), with a little vocal help from his friends. The catchy accompaniment has some campanological embellishments and fleeting snatches of Irving Berlin's (1888-1989) first hit song "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1911).
A couple of tracks later we travel south of the border for a 1928 bestseller, the Latin-flavored "Chiquita" [1928, track-4]. It's followed by the standout foot-tapping "Tain't So, Honey, Tain't So" [1928, track-5], again sung by Bing with some standout cornet solos by the legendary Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931).
And no, all that meowing is not an editing boo-boo on the part of Vocalion's remastering wizard Michael J. Dutton, but the introduction to the novelty number "Felix the Cat" [1928, track-9]. Inspired by that cartoon character of the silent film era, it’s a feline tune if there ever was one -- Zez Confrey (1895-1971) move over!
But on to slightly less frivolous matters with British pianist-composer Billy (William Joseph) Mayerl's (1902-1959) "Georgie Porgie" [1928, track-10] sung by a male trio consisting of Bing, Harry Barris (1905-1962) and Al Rinker (1907-1982), who were collectively known as The Rhythm Boys. They go on to give us an infectious "Out o'Town Gal" [1928, track-11] and "Lonesome in the Moonlight" [1928, track-12]. The former has catchy banjo and piano figurations as well some razzle-dazzle trumpet work, while the latter hints at Wagner's (1809-1847) "Bridal Chorus" from Lohengrin (1850).
Then it's time for Irving Berlin's little known but perky "How About Me?" [1929, track-13], and the perennially endearing "Lover Come Back to Me" [1929, track-15] from Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951) and Oscar Hammerstein II's (1895-1960) 1927 operetta The New Moon. There's also that all time favorite "Louise" [1929, track-18] first sung by Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972) in the 1929 film Innocents of Paris, but done here by Bing.
A couple of songs from the 1929 movies Say It with Songs starring Al Jolson (1886-1950), and Marx Brothers' The Cocoanuts follow. The Rhythm Boys return for the first one, "I'm in the Seventh Heaven" [1929, track-19], which also has an engaging introductory bass saxophone solo with a jazzy Beiderbecke coronet descant plus a bit of barroom piano. While the other, "When My Dreams Come True" [1929, track-21], is another winning Irving Berlin number beginning with spiffy exchanges between the brass, reeds and strings.
The instrumental that's next, "Laughing Marionette" [1929, track-22] is a titillating trinket from the pen of "British Light" composer Walter R. Collins, who flourished around the middle of the last century. You may recognize it as the background music for some of those 1920-30s cartoons frequently shown on early morning American television.
However, all good things must come to an end, and the disc concludes with "At Twilight" [1929, track-24] and "Without a Song" [1929, track-25]. In the former you’ll hear snatches of "Japanese Sandman" (see the newsletter of 13 August 2008) and Puccini's (1858-1924) "Un bel di" ("One Fine Day") from Madame Butterfly (1904). Do you suppose they imply everyone woke up in "The Land of the Rising Sun"?
As for the last number sung by Bing and recorded on 9 October 1929, its hope-filled message belies what the mood of the country would soon be after the US Stock Market began to crash just a few days later (24 October 1929). That would herald the Great Depression and an end to all the innocence, optimism and euphoria running through these songs that had characterized the 1920s in general!
Paul Whiteman was a highly trained musician as well as a perfectionist whose arrangements were classically inspired, brilliantly scored, and meticulously executed. In fact, they're somewhat concerto-like because the instrumental soloists were only allowed to "jive" in short fixed "cadenzas" designed to enhance the music, and not as meaningless displays of virtuosity. That along with his wide-ranging love of the classics, popular fare and jazz gave the world one of the twentieth century's greatest music makers.
Today we can appreciate him all the more thanks to Michael Dutton's (see above) digital revitalization of everything here. There's no hint of those nasty swishes, snaps and pops associated with 78s, while every bit of the music's frequency spectrum captured on the originals comes across despite extensive noise reduction. Those with home theater systems and sound field processors should be able to recreate a stunning sonic approximation of a 1920s ballroom!
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P120223)
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