REVIEW POTPOURRI: Pop Artists

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I started collecting records:

Gustav Mahler

My first encounter with the music of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) occurred during the spring of 1963, when I was 11. That year RCA Victor had developed the Dynagroove recording process, initially releasing 10 LPs with both mono and stereo editions, and touting the enhancement as the great est advance in sound since the electrical microphone in 1924 during the 78 days. I remember salivating over the record ad in the Portland Sunday Telegram advertising the black label pop and red label classical items, wanting all of them and worrying about whether I would like the music later. In those days, I considered any LP from RCA Victor and Columbia as a status symbol, just as I did the huge Magnavox cabinet with radio, phonograph, and color TV and the Thunderbird convertible. I was definitely a crass materialist in those days – money was everything!

Meanwhile, RCA released a $1 album, entitled The Sound of Tomorrow, which was heavily advertised on Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Disney, RCA being its sponsor, but also in Buick ads, as RCA forged a deal with the auto company for its dealerships to be the exclusive venue for purchasing the record. Naturally, one afternoon, Mom drove me to Waterville’s own Buick dealer, then owned by a family friend, Nick Saporita, and located on Silver Street, and I took my copy home to play on the $32 manually operated RCA Victor stereo player. The machine was given to me as a birthday present but I was given to understand that it was the family player. Such double-dealing was then common as part of family sharing.

Side one had the black label, thereby providing the following five pop artists:

  1. Peter Nero, a most agreeable pianist who would sneak in quotes from classical pieces as part of his usual pop program.

    Peter Nero

  2. Marty Gold, a very gifted pop arranger/ con­­ductor who worked for both Victor and Kapp records.

    Marty Gold

  3. Hugo and Luigi, a duo of producers and arrangers for the Roulette and Victor labels, specializing in records of very pleasant chorus and orchestral selections.
  4. Dick Schory, a soft jazz arranger.

    Dick Schory

  5. Sid Ramin, a jazz arranger/ conductor with imagination and taste who helped Leonard Bernstein with orchestration during the Broadway run of West Side Story.
    The second side red label featured the following five fine artists:
  6. Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Boston Symphony in the second movement of the Mahler 1st Symphony. Finally, this joyous Scherzo was my first hearing of the music of a composer who previously had just been a slightly intriguing name in a Columbia Record Club booklet. Leinsdorf at that time was beginning what would be seven years as Boston’s Music Director.

    Erich Leinsdorf

  7. Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops. This orchestra would make many records featuring both pop and the classics while Fiedler had formidable talent, wide-ranging musical curiosity and taste and astute political and business skills.

    Arthur Fiedler

  8. Robert Shaw Chorale. Like Arthur Fiedler, Shaw was a very gifted orchestral conductor but his fame lay in the many records with his chorus and training choirs all over the world. His Christmas album from the late ‘40s, Joy to the World, is still available on CD and sounds great with its a capella singing.

    Robert Shaw

  9. Charles Munch with the Boston Symphony. Munch spent 13 very exciting years in Boston, made a lot of great records and retired in 1962, being replaced by Erich Leinsdorf.
  10. Leontyne Price was one of the finest sopranos who ever lived and possessed a voice with both power and beauty during her thankfully long prime, giving goosebumps to many, including myself.

My second Mahler record wouldn’t be added to my then very small collection for three years due to very limited cash and the distractions of other composers!

REVIEWS: Bandleader: Spike Jones; Composers: Telemann & Maurice Ravel

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 7

As I slowly edged into liking classical music, via cartoons and storybook records, I remember Beethoven being the first composer to grab my attention, through two symphonies – the 5th and 6th, better known as the Pastoral. The great conductor, Bruno Walter (1876-1962), would be the first to give me the intensive exposure to both pieces. Mom owned a 78 set of Walter’s 1941 5th, a very satisfying performance full of conviction and spirit.

My Uncle Paul Cates owned an LP of the sublime Bruno Walter/Philadelphia 1946 Pastoral that he left at the family homestead along with a pile of other interesting disks while he lived in West Berlin for much of the ‘50s and ‘60s. I played that record many times while visiting Grammie Cates. My introductions to the beauties of the composer’s Emperor and Violin Concertos followed within the year.

Spike Jones

Spike Jones

Thank You, Music Lovers
RCA Victor, LPM-2224, recorded 1960.

A dozen of Jones’s wacky, weird 78s, featuring spoofs and putdowns of musical classics, such as Der Fuehrer’s Face, William Tell Overture , You Always Hurt the One You Love, My Old Flame, etc.; have been re-recorded in better sound and provide fun similar to Frank Zappa’s shenanigans from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Telemann

George Telemann

Concertos for Oboe, 2 Flutes and Orchestra; Suite for Recorder and Orchestra
Kurt List and Zlatko Topolski conducting the Austrian Tonkuen­stler Orchestra; various soloists; Musical Heritage Society, MHS 743, recorded 1967.

George Philip Telemann (1681-1767) was quite the prolific composer, much of his music, whether sacred or secular, very pleasurable. This assortment of works are the most beguiling listening experiences I have encountered in a very long time, and receive top notch performances. During his lifetime, he achieved far greater popularity than his friend, Bach.

Maurice Ravel

Bolero, Rhapsodie Espagnole, La Valse and Scheherazade Overture
Jean Martinon conducting the Orchestre de Paris; Angel, S-37147, recorded 1975.

Maurice Ravel

Most every recording of Jean Martinon (1911-1976) that has come my way has given enduring pleasure, whether Beethoven or the Rus­sian, Sergei Prokofiev. His career as the conductor of the Chicago Symphony after succeeding the phenomenally brilliant Fritz Reiner was cut short mainly by hostile music critics.

However, he returned to Paris and recorded a series of LPs devoted to the complete works of Debussy and Ravel that were superbly balanced, tasteful and yet musically alive examples of really great conducting. And the above record was every bit as fine as the others I have heard.

REVIEWS – Musicians: Gene Krupa & Anita O’day; Album: Christmas with the Lennon Sisters

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 6.

A chance encounter during the summer of 1962 led to a consuming fascination with classical music that still prevails today. I came into the living room late one warm August afternoon where I found Mom in conversation with a door-to-door salesman. Somehow the talk turned to books, which still didn’t grab my attention – my interest in collecting and intensive reading was sparked later in eighth grade, but then he commented on having some nice records as well. By 11, I was interested in records in general and enjoyed pawing through people’s collections, when given permission.

The gentleman was Leslie Davis; he invited me to his house that night, which is still located directly across the street from the East Vassalboro Grange Hall; he had recently moved there from North Carolina with his wife, Annette, who was a native of here and whose parents had owned and lived in the house several years earlier before they both passed away; and he then owned about 125 classical LPs, to my mind a humongous collection. We began a friendship of 20 years, ending with his death in 1982, at 66.

He opened my ears and heart to many beautiful symphonies and concertos, via his Motorola monaural console, but disliked opera because it contained, in his own words, “too much screeching.” I used to put his records in order very often and for free because I loved the covers, titles and labels- red seal Victors, Angels, Capitols, Columbia Masterworks, etc.

Even though I went away for periods of a few years, I always gravitated to the Davis home for spirited talk about books, records and other subjects, and a few shared meals. Annette died in 2005 and willed the records to Vassalboro Historical Society, who, in turn, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Thus the coming full circle!

Gene Krupa – How High the Moon; Tea for Two

with singer Anita O’Day; Columbia, 38345, ten-inch shellac 78, recorded 1945.

Gene Krupa

Drummer Gene Krupa (1909-1973) gave the instrument new depths of musical expression with his extended solo in Benny Goodman’s megahit Sing Sing Sing! during a big band era tenure with the clarinettist. By the early ‘40s, he had his own orchestra and hooked up with Anita O’Day (1919-2006), with whom he would record 44 sides.

Her rendition of Tea for Two is intelligently sung, nuanced but still swinging, a true classic which straddles the fence between big band and post-World War II bop. The purely instrumental How High the Moon is one pulsating beauty.

Anita O’Day

Although both Krupa and O’Day were musically very accomplished and popular with their fan base, they had their own individually private struggles with alcohol and drugs. Coincidentally on separate occasions, they were each arrested for marijuana possession and sentenced to 90 days in the lockup.

Christmas with the Lennon Sisters

Dot DLP 25343, 12-inch vinyl stereo LP, recorded 1961.

The Lennon Sisters were talented, whatever one’s individual opinion might be, and their performances of the 14 carols contained herein are consistent in quality with the girls’ records elsewhere. Although I am not their biggest fan, I do enjoy them in small doses, and find their singing here of Adestes Fideles beautifully arranged and nuanced, thanks to the conductor, Milt Rogers.

Unfortunately, I was only able to hear six songs complete, two abridged but missed out on the other six due to a large piece of the record missing.

REVIEWS: Record Album – Atlantic Rhythm and Blues 1947 – ‘74; Conductor – Ernst Schrader

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 5.

I began receiving Golden Records as early as my fourth year, more often than not in the six-inch yellow record format. Many of the selections were from the Great American Kiddie Songbook – such captivators as Pony Boy, Pony Boy; Skip to My Lou; Get On Board Little Children; I‘m Getting Nothin’ for Christmas. There were tie-ins from TV shows – Maverick, Wyatt Earp, Leave It to Beaver. Finally Bing Crosby told stories and occasionally sang, always illustrated with hat, pipe in mouth and Golden book in hand.

My first encounter with Mitch Miller’s name occurred via these little discs. I would be caught up, at the age of 8, in the rousing Sing Along LPs when my Aunt Margaret played her copy of the Folk Songs album – I fell in love with the sounds of his male chorus and guitar/banjo rhythm section lifting my spirits with Listen to the Mockingbird, Aunt Rhody and Goodnight Irene, and, within three years, would own all of the Sing Alongs. Part 6 next week.

Atlantic Rhythm and Blues 1947-1974

Atlantic, A1 81620,
14 LPs, released 1985.

Before I encountered this admittedly very bulky set, I don’t believe I had ever seen a better one in all of my years of listening and collecting. It has assembled almost 70 singers and instrumentalists- Wilson Pickett, the Coasters, Aretha, Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Ben E. King, Otis Redding, La Vern Baker, Roberta Flack, Tiny Grimes, Brook Benton as well as lesser knowns, Eddie Floyd, Joe Morris, Don Covay, Tommy Ridgley, Chris Kenner, Doris Troy- oh well, the list goes on and on. And each is represented by one or more tracks, every one of them at the very least ranging from quite good to beyond superb.

The annotations, photos, art work and biographical details are wonderfully spread out on seven sets of 2 lps each and stored in a slipcase covered with the red and black Atlantic label trademark. I found my vinyl copy reasonably priced at a local outlet. But it could prove elusive and pricey, whether in used outlets or on the Internet. But interested listeners will find this true treasury of so much great music well worth the search!

Dvorak

Symphony No. 2
Ernst Schrader conducting the Berlin Philharmonic; Avon, AVS 13015, 12-inch LP, originated from late ‘40s German radio broadcast tape and Urania LP.

There is nothing else to be known about conductor Ernst Schrader other than he is, or more likely, considering the time frame of this recording, was a real person – a legit label has stamped his name on one or two releases nobody has stepped forward to stamp him as a pseudonym. And the Berlin Philharmonic is most definitely for real.

Although the mono radio sound of this record is adequate, the performance is spontaneous, and expressive, reserving all out drama until the last of the four movements.

Dvorak actually composed nine Symphonies but his first four were unnumbered until the 1960’s, when they became 1 through 4, the old 3 became 5, 1 then 6, 2 7, 4 8 and the New World 5 then 9. The re-numbered 7th was greeted enthusiastically at its London world premiere on April 22, 1885, with the composer conducting while his publisher paid him $1500, a huge sum in those days.

I own a batch of very good recordings and, elsewhere, have not heard a single dud. The ones on my shelves- Anguelov, Mata, Valek, Bernstein, two Giulinis, Kubelik, Leitner, Colin Davis, Sejna, Talich, Ancerl, Kertesz, Dorati, Monteux, Neumann, possibly a few others, in addition to the above Schrader.

REVIEWS: Singer: Pat Boone; Guitarist: Jim Hall; Book: Roosevelt and Hopkins

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records, Part 4.

Pat Boone

Around 1957, I discovered the resounding voice of the then 23-year-old Pat Boone and the beginning of a spurt of hit 45 singles that sustained him until 1960. The first one that I heard from off the radio was the riveting Don’t Forbid Me (although I would not own a copy of this record for at least another 30 years).

During the next six years, I would assemble a batch of 45 singles and extended plays; and LPs, featuring both the top 40 moneymakers and selections that didn’t sell as well. Among the hits were There’s a Goldmine in the Sky; April Love, which is arguably one of his three finest; A Wonderful Time Up There; With the Wind and Rain in Your Hair; For My Good Fortune; I’m Walking the Floor Over You; Speedy Gonzalez; Dear John; etc.

There were also two LPs that perhaps weren’t mega sellers but, for me, are still worthy of the occasional spin – Star Dust, which is devoted to the classic Great American Songbook and has such standbys as Deep Purple; Ebb Tide; St. Louis Blues; Autumn Leaves, and the title song; and Hymns We Love, an album easily equal to the sacred music ones of George Beverly Shea and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Finally, Boone had the arrangements of the gifted Billy Vaughn.

The black label with the rainbow colored letters was also an attractive feature and a reason why I have gathered an array of 45s, LPs and one 78 by Dot artists from various rummage sales over the years, as well as specimens of the earlier maroon label. Part 5 next week!

Jim Hall

Concierto
CTI- ZK 65132, cd, recorded April 16 and 23, 1975.

Jim Hall

The very superb jazz guitarist, Jim Hall (1930-2013), brought together a who’s who of jazz talent to create one of a handful of truly beautiful, mellow and, most importantly, musically substantial albums to be heard anywhere. The standouts are trumpeter Chet Baker, who had almost a decade left of concerts and recordings before he self-destructed from his drug addictions at an Amsterdam hotel in 1988; alto saxist Paul Desmond, who died in 1977 from lung cancer but would especially be remembered for his over 15 years with the Dave Brubeck Quartet; and bassist Ron Carter, still alive and well at 80.

The gem in this program is the 20 minute Don Sebesky arrangement of Rodrigo’s already exquisite Guitar Concerto, one in which everyone in the group plays their heart out. Totally recommended and available for listening on youtube !!!

Roosevelt and Hopkins

An Intimate History
by Robert Sherwood; Harper and Brothers, 1948, 934 pages.

I am in the process of reading this magnum opus on Franklin Roosevelt’s closest personal advisor, Harry Hopkins (1890-1946 , who was pulled out of the New Deal bureaucracy to serve at the President’s beck and call for most of World War II. Whatever Hopkins lacked in any real background in the diplomatic or military spheres, which his boss supplied on a personal level, he made up in the intuition department- truly knowing when to speak and when not to, skills FDR prized above everything else. The President so valued Hopkins that he moved him and his family into a suite in the White House so as to have instant access.

The fascination of this relationship is written with storytelling prowess by Robert Sherwood, a playwright who served on Hopkins’s team and was a close friend. The inevitable panorama of five to six very tumultuous years in the White House, ones not matched since, are presented in a comprehensive manner. Many famous players such as Churchill, Stalin, and others; the endless intrigues; the horrific decisions and their context – are all served up in such a compulsively readable manner that may lead to at least a month of all-nighters!

REVIEWS: Composer: Johannes Brahm; Film: Hitch, starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records — Continued!

Along with the Burl Ives records, there were others given to me. Numerous titles from such labels as Golden Records, Peter Pan and Children’s Record Guild abounded. I remember a Johnny Ray Columbia 45 hit — Just Walkin’ in the Rain – that I heard a lot on the radio. One day Mom bought me a copy of it — my first example of owning a record I had already grown to like from listening to the radio but far from being the last one.

Although I didn’t add any more of Ray’s records until more than 40 years later, I continue to regard him as an intriguing singer with a very individualistic style of delivery. I would also recommend watching the Jack Benny skit on YouTube, in which the comedian visits the singer’s home, as one of the funniest ever produced! (To continue next week…)

Brahms

Piano Quintet
Leon Fleisher, piano, with the Juilliard String Quartet; Odyssey Y 35211, 12- inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded early ‘60s.

Johannes Brahm

This composition was originally scored and performed as a Quintet for five string players and a Sonata for two pianos but Brahms and his two closest friends, violinist Joseph Joachim and Clara Schumann, widow of the great composer, Robert Schumann, felt something was missing. It was then rescored for piano and four string players and became a success that continues to be performed to the present day, with a large number of fine recordings.

It has a kind of special beauty, rhythmic power and sense of tragedy that combine into a unique musical experience. The pianist Leon Fleisher and his Juilliard colleagues gave their all, making this recording one that will reward numerous hearings.

Hitch

starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Allegra Cole, etc.; directed by Andy Tennant; Columbia Pictures; 118 minutes; 2005.

Will Smith

Eva Mendes

This film deals with the activities of a matchmaker, Hitch (Will Smith); his would-be girlfriend, Sara (Mendes), who is also a gossip columnist; a paunchy, klutzy stockbroker, Albert (James) ; and Albert’s girlfriend of a lifetime, Allegra (Valletta), who is beautiful, filthy rich, and very down to earth, an unusual combination. The stars do magnificent work in a very funny film, my favorite being Eva Mendes, who, as Sara, does a wonderful scene of emotional vulnerability in opening up to Hitch about her childhood when she felt really hurt – the kind of honesty in acting that is so rarely seen at anytime in a film of today without the hysterics.

In other words, one superb film!

REVIEWS: Composer: Prokofiev; Film: Baby’s Day Out

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records- Part 2!

With respect to the Burl Ives 78s discussed in last week’s column, I had the privilege of interviewing the head producer for Columbia’s popular records division and later tv sing along personality, Mitch Miller (1911-2010) in 1992 at Houston’s Lancaster Hotel. When I inquired about the records, he replied that he was present during the 1949-1950 recording sessions and commissioned many of the songs from songwriters. Also the men’s chorus supporting Ives were later members of Mitch’s tv sing along gang ! (Part 3 next week.)

Prokofiev

Romeo and Juliet
Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting the New York Philharmonic; Columbia MS 6023, 12-inch vinyl stereo LP, recorded 1958.

Dimitri Mitropoulos

Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960) was yet another of several gifted conductors, alive and dead, who are on my list of favorites. He spent nine years, 1949-1958, as music director of the New York Philharmonic. Here he encountered much disrespect, back biting and other forms of nastiness from players, critics, board members and, most of all, from his successor, the far more well known Leonard Bernstein, who routinely undercut him any way he could while publicly proclaiming the older man as a beloved mentor and the closest of friends.

Meanwhile, despite this cesspool, he conducted many fine performances of a repertoire ranging from Mozart to 20th century composers such as Copland, Shostakovich, etc. The Prokofiev record of excerpts from his great and very popular ballet is a very exciting one. For those who don’t recognize the title beyond its connection to Shakespeare, certain melodies have used on tv and in movies as background.

In private life, he was a very kind, caring man. In order to help others in need, he lived in a second rate hotel and ate in cheap cafeterias and greasy spoons.; thus his earnings assisted with the basic needs of food, lodging, etc., for those unfortunates who came to his attention. He routinely emptied his pockets for the panhandlers.

Finally, he was a lifelong chain smoker, thus suffering from high blood pressure throughout most of his New York Philharmonic years. Both ironically and sadly, after leaving New York in 1958, he encountered greater respect and opportunities conducting in Europe, but his health problems worsened. On November 1st, 1960, in Milan, Italy, he suffered a fatal heart attack on the podium while rehearsing for an eagerly awaited performance of the Mahler 3rd Symphony.

Baby’s Day Out

starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Joe Mantegna, Joe Panteliano, Brian Haley, Cynthia Nixon, Fred Dalton Thompson, etc.; directed by Patrick Read Johnson; 20th Century Fox, released 1994, 99 minutes.

The plot line of this piece of very light entertainment centers on a most lovable crawler of a baby boy, whose parents are beyond super-rich, and his abduction by three hoodlums, posing as baby photographers. It is quite fun from when the baby crawls off to wander around the city and the three kidnappers unleash a Pandora’s Box of grueling pain trying to get him back.

Two such situations :

A. A gorilla protecting the baby brings his fist down on the kidnapper’s hand when the latter tries to snatch the child .
B. The leader of the gang hides little guy inside his coat when two cops walk over to question him. The baby starts a lighter inside the pants, waving it back and forth in front of the hood’s zippered area.

Great fun, despite the movie itself being a box office failure in the US!

REVIEWS: Conductor: von Karajan; Novelist: Arnold Bennett; Film: Four Brothers

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records! (Beginning a series of weekly paragraphs.)

The first records I ever owned, at 2 years old, were Columbia yellow label 10-inch 78s – three in number – all featuring Burl Ives applying his warm, cuddly baritone to such titles as The Little White Duck; Lollipop Tree; Old Witch, Old Witch; The Little Engine That Could; and several others. I discovered the thrill of ownership, of music being transferred from a round circulating disc through a needle to a speaker and of the escape to be had from the mundane everydayness of one’s life that could creep in at any moment!!

Haydn

Paris and London Symphonies
Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic; DG -477 7917, six CDs, recorded 1981-82.

Herbert von Karajan

I have had a long listening love/hate relationship with Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989). He could do a performance that would send one into clouds of bliss, such as, for example, a mid-’60s Deutsche Grammophon LP of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons. Then an early 1980s digital recording of the Holst Planets that would drive one crazy with its bombastic slickness and superficiality, as if he didn’t give a hoot !

Hearing the above set of 18 of the most beautiful symphonies Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) ever composed, I wanted to take back every bad response and rehear the bad records. These symphonies each have captivating opening movements; playful and heart-warming Andantes, Adagios and Allegrettos, often with a little joke thrown in; cheerful Minuets; and perky, snappy Finales. They rank among the select group of musical works that are truly life-affirming, thus making this box of CDs a genuine bargain of under 20 bucks in several venues I have checked.

Arnold Bennett

Imperial Palace
published 1930, 625 pages.

Arnold Bennett

For me, Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was one of the most consistently readable and enjoyable novelists, as well as critics and essayists, of a generation of English writers that include such powerful names as Joseph Conrad, John Galsworthy, and Ford Madox Ford. Bennett’s gift was in re-creating the lives of middle- and working-class folks, but he could do memorable rich individuals too.

Imperial Palace would be Bennett’s last novel. Consisting of 625 pages, it would be his longest as well. Focusing on a luxury hotel modeled after London’s Savoy, it chronicles the type of panorama one would expect as its inner workings, but told mainly through the eye of its manager, Evelyn Orcham, and a meticulously competent one at that!

The reader encounters a most memorably depicted array of characters and situations. In fact, there is not a dull page in the book due to Bennett’s extraordinary story-telling skills at placing one in the novel as the proverbial fly on the wall. One scene that will always stick in my mind is a breakfast meeting between Orcham and a multi-billionaire in the latter’s private suite. I could feel the hearts of both men beating throughout this early morning chess game.

Totally recommended to anyone who enjoys a first class, old-fashioned reading experience!!

Four Brothers

starring Mark Wahlberg, etc. 2005.

Mark Wahlberg

A woman is murdered at work during a hold-up. Her four grown-up adopted sons inevitably investigate the circumstances and take joint action. This is a very entertaining revenge film, shot – no pun intended – mainly in Detroit!

REVIEWS: Singer: Yvonne Elliman; Conductor: Antal Dorati

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

Yvonne Elliman

If I Can’t Have You; Good Sign
RSO, RS 884, seven-inch vinyl 45 record, recorded 1977.

Yvonne Elliman

Yvonne Elliman (1951-) first raised the goosebumps on my arms during a chance hearing of the then newly-released Jesus Christ Superstar, back in November 1970, via a friend’s set, followed shortly by the purchase of my own copy. However, it would be played so often during the next several months that I grew so sick of it I couldn’t listen to it for at least 30 years (A similar experience occurred with my copy of Carole King’s Tapestry. I still can’t stand Tapestry but I can rehear JCS occasionally now with fresher, more mature ears!)

If I Can’t…. is a superb number composed by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibbs, or the Bee Gees, and performed with finesse by Elliman but the flip side, credited to the very gifted team of Carole Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester, left me cold !

This year, as Elliman was preparing for an appearance in Guam, she was arrested for the possession of marijuana and other drugs and is still in custody!

Mozart

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music)
Linz Symphony; Antal Dorati conducting the London Symphony; Mercury SR 90121, 12-inch stereo LP, recorded early ‘60s.

Antal Dorati

Antal Dorati (1906-1988), along with Herbert von Karajan, Leopold Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler and Eugene Ormandy, were the five most prolific conductors when it came to the number of recordings bearing their names, in each case, well above six hundred. Of course, there is no way I can hear all of them; also, the ones I have heard over the last 50 years have inspired mixed reactions from boredom to riveting. But, during the last two years, I have developed an interest in his conducting, as far as a thorough reconsideration of the recordings I didn’t like earlier and an eagerness to hear ones I don’t own.

I experienced this change of heart when I read a piece on the Maestro in which the record reviewer Richard Freed discussed how Dorati’s consistently high standards and thorough musicianship had borne fruit in every recording the critic had heard thus far. I found it especially edifying because I had always enjoyed Freed’s individualistic discernment, combined with a voracious determination to hear every classical record coming his way. And Dorati was the only conductor who could do no wrong in his eyes.

Secondly, a group has sprung up in England that is determined to release every studio and live recording bearing Dorati’s name, whether it be the rarely heard 7th Symphony of Alan Pettersson or six different Berlioz Symphonie Fantastiques; they have developed a catalog of formidable size and temptation. If I were 40 years younger, I would make a mad attempt to collect it all!

The Mozart 36th, or Linz, Symphony is one of my half dozen favorites of the Austrian genius. Its leisurely lyrical outpouring of the sweetest melody is unequaled by #s 35 and 38-41, as special as they are. Dorati’s rendition is both leisurely paced but rhythmically incisive.

The accompanying Nachtmusik is a very popular work elsewhere but, unfortunately not one I have liked much in recent years; however, Dorati conducted a most satisfying performance that has me enjoying its beauties once again.

Composer: Brahms; Composers: Mendelsohn & Beethoven; Guitarist: Big Bill Broonzy; Band leader: Glen Gray

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

Brahms

Two Piano Concertos
Dimitris Sgouros, piano, with Emil Tabakov conducting the Sofia Philharmonic; 1 plus- 51 000; 2 CDs, recorded 1999.

Sgouros plays with commendable musical feeling the two very powerful Concertos, still among my top five in this genre. Tabakov and his players provide exciting support, making this a reasonably priced and desirable album for getting to know Brahms through some of his very best music.

Mendelssohn and Beethoven Violin Concertos

Joshua Bell, violinist, and Sir Roger Norrington conducting the Camerata Salzburg; Sony-SK 89505, CD, recorded 2002.

These two Concertos are basic also to a classical CD collection because of the sweet melodic appeal of both works. Bell and Norrington give a top notch collaboration.

P.S. Norrington blew opportunities for repeated engagements with the Cleveland Orchestra because he showed up for a rehearsal dressed in shorts, sandals and a T-shirt, thus repelling most of the much more modestly dressed players.

Big Bill Broonzy

Big Bill Broonzy

Bad Acting Woman; I’m Woke Up Now
Okeh, 6724, ten-inch 78, recorded early ‘40s.

Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958) came out of a share croppin’ background and preaching to become one of the finest writers and performers of blues from the ‘20s through the ‘50s, living in Chicago for many of those years and recording pile discs for a sizable number of labels. The above two songs are typical of blues – the treacheries of love relationships, addictions, employment problems, etc. And there is always the lament of Woe Is Me !

Broonzy was a true artist – he knew timing, delivery, drama, and context. And the record is a treasure!

Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra

Bei Mir Bist Du Schon; Let’s Make It a Lifetime
Decca 1575, ten-inch 78, recorded December 1, 1937.

My three favorite big bands are those of Woody Herman, Harry James and Glen Gray – the last of whom made more sweet music than swing, unlike the other two. I own a number of his blue label Decca 78s (the ones that originally retailed for 35 cents a platter) and later LPs for Capitol, Hindsight, Harmony, etc.

This record contains a good rendition of the Andrews Sisters’ megahit, Bei Mir Bist du Schon and a very nice ballad that I was previously unfamiliar with, sung wonderfully by one of Gray’s lead singers at the time, Kenny Sargent. What gives this record and others of Gray is the classy intelligence and good taste in the arrangements. There are not the trite notes, the bombastic sounds and the simply bad material that so often bedevil certain other groups that will remain unnamed. I return to the Grays, the Hermans and the James’s for repeat hearings with pleasurable anticipation.