REVIEW POTPOURRI – Violin Concertos; Singer: Don Williams; Movie: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Bjarne Brustad

Violin Concerto No. 4

William Walton

Violin Concerto

Bjarne Brustad

Camilla Wicks, violin, with Herbert Blomstedt and Yuri Somonov conducting the Oslo Philharmonic, Simax PSC 1185, CD, live broadcasts.

Sir William Walton

The 4th Violin Concerto of Bjarne Brustad (1895-1978), one of Nor­way’s leading 20th century composers, is a meandering exercise full of dramatic, pounding chords that go no­where; the only Violin Concerto of Sir Wil­liam Wal­ton (1901-1983) is an exciting example of perky, exotic rhythms and emotionally wistful poetry that, for me, gets better with every hearing. Both performances are as fine as is usually the case with the wonderful violinist, Camilla Wicks, and conductors Herbert Blomstedt in the 1968 broadcast of Brustad and Yuri Simonov in a 1985 one of Walton.

Wicks, now 89 and retired since 2005, made her debut playing a Mozart Concerto at 7.

Don Williams

Country Boy
MCA, MCAC-37232, cassette, released 1977.

Don Williams

I first encountered Don Williams (1939-2017) as part of Pozo Seco, an exquisitely accomplished duo that included another singer, Susan Taylor, and in 1969, when I was a high school senior . They released an LP, Shades of Time, consisting of a folk­/country assortment of very fine songs that were finely performed – I have owned a few copies over the last 50 years because I kept letting them go to others.

When he became a purely country singer, I still liked the smoothly soothing voice and delivery but thought the songs were mainly so-so or, at best, okay, thus losing interest in him.

Country Boy, a 1977 studio album was the usual assortment of his trademark love ballads and did not sustain my interest. However, his integrity and personality were of the highest calibre throughout his phenomenally successful career. He was a model husband to his wife of 57 years and wonderful father to two sons!

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World

starring Spencer Tracy, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Jimmy Durante, Three Stooges and almost every other comedian and numerous actors and actresses alive in 1963; directed by Stanley Kramer; approximately 3 hours, DVD.

This is the funniest, longest, most expensive and most profitable comedy ever produced in cinema history. I have seen it at least 20 times and still laugh myself into a strait jacket.

A few examples of its humor – Buddy Hackett and Rooney in an airplane with the drunk pilot, Jim Backus, knocked out; Jonathan Winters single-handedly destroying a garage; Jimmy Durante driving 1 mph around hairpin curves with no railings and weaving on both sides and several dozen greedheads on a rickety ten-story fire ladder! One final funny – arch con man Phil Silvers licking his smiling cobra chops and spewing, “Try me – I’m gullible!”

Best watched in two or three installments or you will be laughed out!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Wilhelm Furtwangler conducts Bethoven; Jane Glover conducts Haydn; Movie: The Last Hurrah; Band: The Cars; Dvorak

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Beethoven

Pastoral Symphony and Leonore Overture No. 3
Wilhelm Furtwangler conducting the Turin Radio Orchestra of Italy; Urania URN 22.227, CD, from a 1952 broadcast and issued 2002.

Wilhelm Furtwangler

Wilhelm Furtwangler (1886-1954) was one conductor now considered by more collectors and listeners to classical recordings to be very close to the greatest who ever lived – despite a catalog of recordings that are often live broadcasts of just fair to average sound quality, a wayward conducting technique and a tendency to do certain pieces over and over; for example, there are 11 or more different performances of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony.

But there is an exalted inspiration that seeps into his conducting and stirs this listener. He will use very slow, lumbering tempos or speed them to a Richard Petty level to achieve these depths. Sometimes he misses this target and mixes good and bad qualities. Still, a friend who owns just about every lp, cassette and cd of him commented to me that even 5 minutes of inspired music-making will be 10 or 15 bucks well spent .

Because of Furtwangler’s decision to stay in Germany during the Hitler years of 1933-45, he stirred a lot of controversy. And because of limited space, I cannot go into detail. However, it should also be known that the conductor used his influence to help many individuals and their families to leave Germany for safe haven . Those curious should check out Google and other related sources.

These two Beethovens are available in numerous good modern editions by other conductors but this cd should please fans of the conductor and is cheaply priced and available through the online Berkshire Record Outlet where I found my copy.

Haydn

Symphonies 83, 84 and 88
Jane Glover conducting the London Mozart Players; Musical Heritage Society 322541A, cassette, recorded 1989.

Jane Glover

Jane Glover has become one of the finest interpreters of lesser known baroque composers such as Cavalli, on whom she has expended much research, and of the later two geniuses of the 18th century classical period, Mozart and Haydn. These three works of the latter are among the most graceful, spirited symphonies to be found in the composer’s very extensive catalog. And Glover and her players deliver exceptional performances.

The Last Hurrah

starring Spencer Tracy, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Pat O’Brien, etc.; directed by John Ford; Columbia Pictures, dvd, 1958, 121 minutes.

Spencer Tracy

Spencer Tracy delivers one of his typically first class performances as Frank Skeffington, the Irish-American mayor of an unnamed New England City who is running for a fifth term. The conflicts between him, because of his roguish but essentially decent populist style of leadership, and a couple of power blocs, especially the old blue blood wasps, lend much interest to the story line, which is both funny and moving. And the large superb cast, which includes the other above-mentioned names, has been called by one reviewer “the largest collection of scene-stealers in the history of cinema.”

The Cars

Since You’re Gone; Think It Over
Elektra/Asylum, E 47433, seven inch 45, recorded 1981.

The group, Cars, was formed in Boston, in 1976 – the same year I moved back to Maine after my three-year sojourn in Beantown. After listening to this 45, I found myself captivated by the pulsating arrangements, utilizing interesting percussion sounds, but was unimpressed by the namby pamby two songs which went nowhere!

Dvorak

9th Symphony From the New World
James Loughran conducting the London Philharmonic; Mendelssohn: The 4th, or Italian Symphony- Antonio Pedrotti conducting the Czech Philharmonic; Net Surfin’, VMK-1059, cd, Dvorak recorded 1997, Mendelssohn from 1951.

James Loughran

This CD features two very talented conductors not generally known to even the typical American concertgoer and their interpretations of very well known symphonies. The Scottish-born James Loughran, now 87 and still active as a conductor and teacher, did one of the loveliest, most satisfying recordings of the Dvorak New World.

The even more unknown but very gifted Italian, Antonio Pedrotti (1901-1975) left one gem of an Italian Symphony, a Mendel­ssohn staple that can work as quickly as a sleeping pill in the wrong hands; this Maestro imbued the piece with perkiness, elegance and sweet poetry in just the right proportions. The CD is very cheaply priced on Amazon.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Jazz musician: Stan Kenton; Comedian: Robert Benchley; Composer: Beethoven

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton Presents
Capitol T248, mono lp, 1955 re-issue of original 78 singles and a ten-inch LP from 1950.

Stan Kenton

The great Stan Kenton (1911-1979) recorded a batch of singles in 1950 that highlighted the arranging and compositional skills of such SK loyalists as Shorty Rogers, Bill Russo, Frank Marks and Johnny Richards. The titles- Art Pepper, Maynard Ferguson, June Christy, etc., – feature performances by the named individual and exciting ones at that. My favorite, June Christy, has her wonderful voice all over the place, mostly humming but in her inimitably sultry manner.

Copies of the LP start at four dollars, while a few selections from the album can be accessed on youtube.

Robert Benchley

Benchley’s Best
Audio Rarities LPA 110, ten-inch LP, no date of release info anywhere, although I would guess the ‘50s because 10-inch LPs were pretty much discontinued in the US by the late ‘50s, as they were very easy to steal.

Robert Benchley

Robert Benchley (1889-1945) was a writer, a noted wit at the Algonquin Hotel Round Table, an actor, and a radio comedian.

The above LP has four skits from his radio programs, including two of his Flying Broomstick routines and a “lecture” on the history and development of swing music. In fact he begins his talk with the following:

“Tonight, I wish to lecture about the origin and development of swing music, do a survey of 17th century Italian art, and perhaps scramble some eggs…I can speak with authority on swing because I can’t carry a tune either…. The composer who is most responsible for its beginnings is Johann Gottfried Inglenook Gesundheit, who was born in Japan in 1789. It has been written that he was a backwards but friendly child and was taken out of school when he was five years old. ”

Two more – “Why don’t you get out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini?” and “All it takes to make a monkey of a man is to quote him!”

Benchley died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1945 at 56. His son, Nathaniel Benchley (1915-1981) wrote children’s books and a bio of his father, while his grandson, Peter (1940-2006), authored the novel and screenplay, Jaws.

Three copies of the LP are priced from $49 to $75 through Amazon and none of it is available through YouTube, although there are other Bentleys on YouTube in plentiful supply!

Beethoven

Piano Sonatas 7, 9, 30, and 31
Awadagin Pratt, pianist; EMI 7243 5 55290 2 2, CD, recorded 1994.

Awadagin Pratt

Three of these four Sonatas – 7, 30 and 31 are huge favorites of mine, especially 7 with one eloquent second movement Largo that raises goosebumps on my arm every time I hear it. The Pittsburg-born pianist, Awadagin Pratt now 52, gives performances that mix gentle lyricism, the required virtuosity and an interesting silky type of phrasing at odd moments. Other than that, he plays in a straightforward, very honest manner that conveys a genuine love for these works. And they are well worth getting to know.

The entire CD can be heard on YouTube and is priced inexpensively on Amazon.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Musician: Morton Gould; Singer: Frank Sinatra; Conductor: Tchaikovsky

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Morton Gould

South of the Border
Columbia, m-593, 4 ten-inch 78s, recorded mid-’40s.

A very gifted pianist, composer, arranger and conductor, Morton Gould (1913-1996) straddled the worlds of classical and popular music very comfortably in a manner similar to Andre Kostelanetz, conductor and film composer John Williams and the latter’s Boston Pops predecessor, Arthur Fiedler. His classical compositions, often evoking American history, include Fall River Legend with its depiction of Lizzie Borden; and my favorite, the very powerful Spirituals for Orchestra. In later years, he wrote pieces featuring a rapper and a singing chorus of firemen for the city of Pittsburgh.

His LPs conducting such favorites as Rimsky’s Scheherazade, Copland’s Rodeo, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 and ballet waltzes, etc., are on my shelves.

But his most successful endeavors lay in the imaginative arranging of pop standards on a slew of albums, from the ‘40s until the late ‘60s, that were frequently categorized as mood music, similar to those of Kostelanetz, Fiedler, Percy Faith, Mantovani, Paul Weston and Bert Kaempfert. The above set consists of such hits as Brazil, Cielito Lindo, La Golondrina, and the mirthful Mexican Hat Dance. Unfortunately, it was only released on 78s and a ten-inch LP and is out of print, but a copy is listed on Amazon for 12 bucks; two selections from the album are also accessible on YouTube.

Frank Sinatra

The Voice
Columbia CL 743, LP, released 1955.

By the time this re-issue of selected early-to-mid ‘40s 78s appeared, Sinatra had been with Capitol records a couple of years. However, Columbia had quickly realized the cash cow potential of their own stockpile of tapes and began releasing 10- and 12-inch LP transfers. The move has proven very successful in the 65 years since.

The Voice contains 12 exquisite examples of the singer’s phrasing, characterizing and other facets of his unique set of pipes. And Axel Stordahl’s arrangements achieved a compatibility with “Old Blue Eyes” that was later matched only by Nelson Riddle. The songs include A Ghost of a Chance, Try a Little Tenderness, Spring is Here, etc. and the album has been transferred to CD.

An FS quote – “Alcohol is man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says to love your enemy!”

Tchaikovsky

Symphony No.6, “Pathetique”; Serenade for Strings; for the 6th, Marko Munih conducting the Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ljubljana; for the Serenade, Conrad Von Der Goltz conducting a chamber orchestra; CBS Special Productions PT 21698, cassette, released 1989.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) conducted the world premiere of his 6th Symphony just nine days before his death, caused supposedly by cholera after drinking an unboiled glass of water in a restaurant. To my mind, it is one very emotionally searing work and has benefited from a rich list of good to very great recordings, of which I own a few dozen.

The above is conducted by the 82-year-old Marko Munih, one of two very gifted conductors – the other being his late contemporary, Anton Nanut, who died just last year at 85 – whose recordings, via mainly cheap CDs sometimes labelled confusingly, have made their way to Western collectors since the collapse of the Iron Curtain. The performance is intensely powerful yet nicely poetic, while the playing is responsive and masterful, definitely as accomplished as the world’s finest in both Europe and the U.S. The sense of tragedy in the final 4th movement is well sustained.

The beautiful Serenade is also performed well.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Giuseppe Tartini; Singer: Annette Funicello; Band: Antal Kocze and his Gypsies

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Giuseppe Tartini

D minor Violin Concerto; Pietro Nardini: E minor Violin Concerto; and Giovanni Battista Viotti Violin Concerto No. 22; Peter Rybar, violinist, with Clemens Dahinden conducting the Winterhur Symphony Orchestra; Westminster XWN 18192, mono LP, recorded 1952.

Peter Rybar

This very antiquated LP contains very lovely examples of 18th century Italian composers, who were also very gifted and acclaimed violinists. The Viotti Concerto being my special favorite, all three Con­ certos are beautiful creations and played with exceptional feeling by violinist Peter Rybar (1913-2002) and nicely accompanied by Switzerland’s Winterhur Symphony under the able Clemens Dahinden.

Before Rybar’s recordings were transferred to CD, their LP issues could fetch 200 bucks, if they were in mint condition! Finally, the recorded performances can be heard on youtube in separate posts.

Annette Funicello

The Story of My Teens
Buena Vista- BV 3312, lp, recorded 1962.

Annette Funicello

The most popular singer, actress and all-around personality to be mentored by Walt Disney himself, Annette Funicello (1942-2013) had a very sweet endearing presence. As a kid, I found that she definitely held my attention in her numerous TV appearances, and remember her, Tommy Sands, Ray Bolger and Ed Wynn in 1962’s Babes in Toyland.

I also admired her cheerfulness and courage during her last 21 years of suffering from MS and was saddened by her tragic passing five years ago.

The above album contains most all of her hit singles and should be listened to in small doses at best; the early ‘60s chewing gum genre had way too much sugar content, although the arrangements were quite good. Yet I did read that she really didn’t enjoy recording!

Antal Kocze and his Gypsies

Gypsy Songs and Czardas, Volume 3
Westminster WL 3013, 10-inch LP record, recorded 1954.

During my decades of trying to listen to every record that falls into my lap, I have heard a number of them featuring gypsy music, most of them ranging from barely tolerable to okay. Kocze’s players are new to me and, based on back cover info, were very popular in Europe during the first half of the last century. After playing this record, I understand why. The music is very beautiful and beautifully performed with sentiment, taste and discerning intelligence, one charmer of an album.

Some interesting facts – the music of Kocze and his colleagues often served as unintrusive background ambiance for the adulterous flings of various Habsburg wastrels in exclusive cafes before the dynasty’s power became history. Secondly, the very former Prince of Wales, before his short-lived term as Edward VIII, heard the ensemble and invited Kocze to London to play two nights for Papa George V. Finally, the great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, was so impressed that he wrote some music for the band.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Jermaine Jackson, Sibelius 5th Symphony No. 5, and TV series Father Brown

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Jermaine Jackson

Frontiers
Motown M7-898R1, LP, recorded 1978.

Jermaine Jackson

Older brother of Janet, the late Michael and six other siblings and former member of the Jackson 5, Jermaine Jackson has reached a pinnacle of success as singer, songwriter, reality TV star and Jackson family spokesman at the nice young age of 63. The above LP, Frontiers, is a solid, very listenable example of late seventies Motown soul. My personal favorite among the eight tracks is the vibrant, charming Castles of Sands, the instrumentation alone worth the price of admission.

A few tidbits – like the rest of the family, he was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness but converted to Islam in 1989. He’s the father of seven children from three wives and a girlfriend.

Finally in 2015, his third wife was arrested and charged with physically abusing her husband and would file for divorce citing irreconcilable differences!

Most of the album can be heard on YouTube.

Sibelius 5th Symphony No. 5

Night Ride and Sunrise
Georges Pretre conducting the New Philharmonia; RCA Victor LSC-2996, stereo LP, recorded 1968.

Jean Sibelius

Conductor Georges Pretre (1924-2017) gave performances of these two works of the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) that are a bit more refined than the roaring, majestic, almost savage ones of the other notable conductors of the past – and a few of today. But the unique power and beauty of both works does reveal itself gradually.

Georges Pretres

The record’s producer, Richard Mohr, wrote an essay for this album that provided insight into Pretre’s working methods and revealed the relentless, sweating studying and rehearsing over and over again before a tape machine is even turned on. Pretre knew perfection for this record was impossible but he was determined to come veryyyyyyyyyyyyy close !

Sibelius wrote about his own feelings when he finished composing the 5th Symphony. “I already begin to see dimly the mountain that I shall certainly ascend. God opens His door for a moment and His orchestra plays the Fifth Symphony.”

Since I have been listening to this piece for more than 40 years, I totally agree with the composer on this one!

Father Brown

starring Mark Williams, etc., BBC TV series, six seasons since 2013.

Mark Williams

I just started watching 10 days ago, and am on episode 6. I read some of the stories over 30 years ago and enjoyed the plots, perky characters and the moral and spiritual edification of them, the reasons why I like the show as well. I have not seen the ‘70s BBC version with the late Kenneth More!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composers: Rachmaninoff & Haydn

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Rachmaninoff

Symphony No. 2; Vocalise; Scherzo in D Minor
Pavel Kogan conducting the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra; Alto- ALC 1031, CD, recorded 1990.

Pavel Kogan

This Symphony would easily make a list of five starter Symphonies for newcomers. It abounds in gorgeous melody, grandly sweeping orchestral passages and a compelling, noble optimism combined with bits of wistful melancholy that provides some contrast but never swamps the good feelings. The accompanying Vocalise is a very popular short staple, sometimes performed by a soprano with full orchestra, while the Scherzo, composed at 14, is a mildly pleasant exercise.

Pavel Kogan, now 65, conducts a powerful performance recorded with a commendable, spacious dimension.

Kogan’s father, Leonid Kogan (1924-1982), was considered one of the two greatest and most prominent violinists in 20th century Russian history, the other being David Oistrakh (1908-1974). Kogan himself is an accomplished fiddler but prefers conducting. And Kogan’s son, Dmitri, was a phenomenal violinist, well on his own way to a star-studded career when he died of cancer at 38 just last year in 2017.

A highly recommended CD still available through Amazon vendors.

Haydn

Symphonies 88 and 92
Hermann Scherchen conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra; Westminster XWN 18616, mono LP, recorded 1951.

Hermann Scherchen

Conductor Hermann Scherchen (1891-1966) was a gifted interpreter of a wide range of composers from Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart through Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms and Tchai­kovsky to Mahler, Schonberg, Berg, Webern, Malipiero, Reger, etc. He recorded dozens of LPs for Westminster starting in the early ‘50s, most of these now available on CD, along with live broadcasts.

According to one player, he could be a brutal taskmaster; others dismiss such comments. Anyways, this pair of performances is quite feisty and engaging. The 92, better known as the Oxford Symphony, was written to commemorate the University granting the composer an honorary degree. However, a few scholars have disputed whether this is the correct piece. Regardless, this one and 95 are my two current Haydn favorites for frequent listening.

A favorite quote from the Maestro: “Music does not have to be understood. It has to be listened to!”

A personal aside on potential musical talent of the future:

In recent months I have been listening to two performers I know well. However, I will not reveal their identities for the sake of privacy nor mention the genre of their own artistic work most definitely.

The point of my jaw flapping is to encourage musical talent out there in the wind, so to speak, and to hope and pray that they keep at it, if they feel compelled to do so, despite the necessities of survival and the entire gamut of other obstacles, both internal and external.

When I was 25 and possessed various delusions of Peter the Great grandeur, mainly becoming a world renowned classical record critic, I sent a batch of my reviews to both the late music critic, Irving Kolodin (1908-1988), and the very gifted writer and classical review editor, James Goodfriend, of the now defunct Stereo Review.

Kolodin quickly responded with a note suggesting that I avoid extremes of approval and disapproval, cut out the very worn cliches and other verbiage of other reviewers and work hard on a personal style of my own. He added, “This is not meant to discourage you. Only you can discourage yourself!” I know I have failed to create an individual style that would resound with millions of readers and bring fame, fortune and permanent happiness, but I have most definitely made peace with myself and God, try to do my daily best and find contentment in where I am at the beautiful, most comely age of 66. I would suggest, though, that Irving Kolodin’s motto on encouragement be typed on a card and kept within easy reach of anyone who aspires to success in any morally legitimate activity.

Jim Goodfriend’s reply took just more than a year but he gave a list of very useful do’s and don’ts. One most memorable one aimed at any aspiring writer reading this screed was to use nouns and verbs as much as possible and as few adjectives and adverbs.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Rimsky-Korsakov, Janacek, Tom Petty, and Little Jimmy Dickens

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Rimsky-Korsakov

Scheherazade
Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony; Stravinsky: Firebird Suite-Lorin Maazel conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony; Khachaturian: Gayne Ballet Suite excerpts- Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic; Deutsche Grammophon- 413 155-4, 88 minute cassette, from 1960 and 1978 original tapes.

The exotic, very listenable and ever popular Scheherazade has received a deluge of recordings since the beginning of records; conductor Andre Previn once commented on its popularity among musicians as the reason for the high quality of most recordings, as opposed to other frequently recorded pieces.

Seiji Ozawa conducted a nice performance with the Boston Symphony back in 1978 that is part of the above tape, along with 2 other items, from different conductors and orchestras- namely the Stravinsky Firebird Suite and Khachaturian Gayne Suite. This cassette of 88 minutes of great Russian orchestral music may be deleted but it often shows up at used record stores and thrift shops and on Amazon.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Mojo
Reprise-523971-2, CD, recorded 2010.

Tom Petty (1950-2017) was, I confess, one artist I had little familiarity with before hearing this CD. And it is one great collection of 15 songs that are most definitely rock, but exciting, musically satisfying rock that will withstand repeat hearings, unlike most other albums of the genre.

One powerful, moving track is the last one, Good Enough, about the narrator’s past love for a woman who had the kind of allure that would consume one’s soul – hence the reason to finally cut her loose or be destroyed:

“God bless this land/God bless this whiskey/I can’t trust love/It’s far too risky/If she marries into money/She’s still gonna miss me/And that’s good enough/Gonna have to be good enough.”

Janacek

Slavonic Mass
Bretislav Bakala conducting the Brno Radio Symphony Orchestra, chorus, and soloists; Urania URLP 7072, 12- inch LP, recorded early ‘50s.

Leos Janacek (1854-1928) was to 20th century Czech classical music what Antonin Dvorak was in the 19th century – two composers who carved a unique importance in their country’s cultural life that prevails to this day.

During his early years, Janacek displayed talent in playing piano and organ and conducting choirs. For a while, he was a music critic but got into trouble with some powerful institutions because of his very severe, outspoken opinions. Thus he practically starved for a few years. Eventually, he found work as a conductor and established a music conservatory in the Czech city of Brno, where he spent upwards of 40 years teaching, researching and composing.

His compositions began flowing in 1904 with the opera, Jenufa, when he was already 50. But it was another 12 years before it became an international success and brought fame to its composer. Other works followed, firmly establishing Janacek as a major figure of his time.

The main reason for the popularity of his music was its wild, very exciting use of irregular, complicated rhythms and exotic half-melodies. Many listeners, including myself, were grabbed by these works when hearing them for the first time, without knowing or even caring what was happening. His Sinfonietta is an excellent introduction and can be heard on youtube in a number of different performances.

The above Slavonic Mass is similarly characterful, far from being the typical solemn affair that Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, and Verdi wrote, just to name a few great examples. But it too has a beauty of its own, even though eerie, weird, haunting and startling are adjectives that come to mind.

Its world premiere wasn’t until shortly after Janacek’s death in 1928, while the first US performance in 1930 in New York City utilized singers and musicians from the Metropolitan Opera. This week’s record features the extraordinarily gifted conductor, Bretislav Bakala (1897-1958), delivering an interpretation of exceptional drama, atmosphere, poetry and sheer power and setting a standard for later recordings, several of which are very fine. I own a few of them featuring such conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Rudolf Kempe, Karel Ancerl, Antoni Wit, etc.

An addendum: Unfortunately, Bakala left the tiniest handful of recordings, but a CD often cheaply priced, is floating around on a few sites such as Berkshire Record Outlet, and Amazon; it features mid-’50s Iron Curtain radio broadcasts of him and the great Russian pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, collaborating in two very exciting and satisfying performances of the Beethoven First and Third Piano Concertos. Very highly recommended!

Little Jimmy Dickens

Country Boy; I’m Fading Fast with the Time
Columbia-20585, ten-inch 78, recorded 1949.

Standing 4 feet, 11 inches tall, Jimmy Dickens (1920-2015) nicknamed himself “Little” after he began scoring hits. He was singing on a Saginaw, Michigan, radio station where he was heard by Roy Acuff, who then brought him to the attention of both Columbia records and the Grand Ole Opry. Country Boy hit #7 on the charts along with numerous others during his 17-year association with the label before leaving in 1965 to record for Decca and, in 1971, United Artists.

This record contains two songs imbued with a pleasant, down home, endearing charm that was uniquely his own. In 1951, he would be instrumental in paying Roy Acuff’s good deed forward by discovering Marty Robbins and bringing him to the attention of Columbia.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Music of Richard Strauss, Maurice Ravel, and more…

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Music

of Richard Strauss (1864-1949), Maurice Ravel (1874-1937), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791); Elisabeth Soderstrom (1927-2009), soprano, with various conductors and orchestras; BBC Legends ­– BBCL 4153-2, CD, from 1960, 1971 and 1976 broadcast concerts.

Nicolai Gedda

Like her compatriot, the great tenor Nicolai Gedda (1925-2017), Swedish-born soprano Elisabeth Soderstrom sang in several languages, and possessed one of the most beautiful, disciplined voices to be found anywhere.

The above CD contains three live broadcast performances from the BBC – Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Royal Philharmonic conducted by the late, phenomenally great Antal Dorati (1906-1988), from October 3, 1976; Ravel’s Sheherazade with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez (1925-2016), from August 3, 1971; and two arias from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Sir John Pritchard (1921-1989), from August 20, 1960.

Richard Strauss wrote his final work, the Four Last Songs, in 1948, one that has generated a number of very good recordings. The words are pre-occupied with the confrontation with, and acceptance of, one’s mortality. After a lifetime of composing some of the most exciting music that display the full expressive and technical range of the modern orchestra – including the crazy, brilliant tone poems, Don Juan, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Death and Transfiguration, A Hero’s Life, etc., and the awesomely violent operas, Salome (with its Dance of the Seven Veils and Final Scene, in which the deranged Salome sings of her love for John the Baptist to his head on a platter) and Elektra – as well as a batch of rather dull pieces, Strauss presented music of the deepest, most eloquent serenity. Soderstrom and Dorati did a very satisfying performance that holds its own with other singers and conductors.

The composer was married for more than 50 years to his wife, Pauline; he once described her as ” very complex, perverse, coquettish, at every minute different from how she had been a moment before,” and often screaming at him, “Richard, we are low on cash – go write something!,” even though they were quite wealthy! But he reportedly considered their marriage a very happy one.

The Ravel Sheherazade and the Mozart Figaro arias are also given exemplary performances, consistent with Soderstrom’s unusually gifted reputation for adapting her beautiful voice to the exacting style and sound of different composers. For lovers of true vocal art, this cd is especially recommended!

Hymns Triumphant
Volume 2

arranged and conducted by Lee Holdridge; Birdwing BWC 2058, cassette, recorded 1984.

Lee Holdridge

The very talented composer, conductor and arranger, Lee Holdridge (1944-), has assembled and ar­rang­ed approximately 30 hymns and conducts the Amen Choir of the Van Nuys, Cali­fornia, First Baptist Church and England’s National Philharmonic Orchestra in performances that lack the sentimentality of previous similar glee clubby albums. Holdridge has arranged for numerous singers, the most prominent being Neil Diamond, while both men collaborated on the soundtrack for Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He has also composed a fine Violin Concerto and music for various films and TV shows, which are listed in his wiki biography.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Pianist: Paul Baumgartner; TV Series: Cold Justice

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Paul Baumgartner

Piano Recital
recorded February 17, 1964; Ermitage-ERM 200-2 ADD, CD.

Paul Baumgartner

Swiss-born Paul Baumgartner (1903-1976) was most definitely below-the-radar, when compared to Rubinstein, Brendel, Ashkenazy or Horowitz, but he was highly revered by connoisseurs of really fine piano recordings. This CD preserves a live concert of the following works – Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and An­dante Favori, the Brahms Opus 117 3 Intermezzi, Debussy’s 1st Images and Masques, Schubert’s 6th Moment Musical and Chopin’s 4th Ballade and 3rd Waltz of Op. 70.

Baumgartner’s artistry was splendid but of the quieter mode, rather than of cheap, virtuosic self-indulgence. Instead he used virtuosity, of which he possessed infinite amounts, scholarship, exquisitely honed dynamics, passion and soul-filled intelligence to convey the particular beauty of each selection in the program, whether it be the muscularity of Beethoven, the nobility and reserved sentiment of Brahms, the dew drops of Debussy, the lyricism of Schubert or the captivating, grace of Chopin. My favorite performance, by a tiny margin over the others, is of the lesser known but very engaging Beethoven Andante Favori in which Baumgartner pours out his soul in each note, one of the most moving performances I have heard in a long time!

Most, if not all, of this recital is accessible via individual yts !

Cold Justice

featuring Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary; produced by Dick Wolf; premiered 2013, each episode one hour, accessible via Netflix

Kelly Siegler

For the last two or three weeks, I have been viewing one or two episodes of this investigative program most evenings and am on the second season. It follows former Hous­ton prosecutor Kelly Siegler and her colleague, retired Las Vegas homicide investigator Yolanda McClary, as they travel around the country investigating cold cases of murder that are languishing in local police department files. According to the pronouncements at the beginning of each episode, a murder is committed in the US about every 36 minutes and there are over 200,000 unsolved homicides since 1980.

Yolanda McClary

What I find most engaging and endearing about the show is the absence of melodramatics, especially eerie music and the use of actors in staged re-enactments. Also, the 2 women’s warm personalities; their very caring interactions with families of the victims; their very personable working relationships with colleagues; and finally their comprehensive knowledge of investigative science contribute immeasurably to the well paced unfolding of each story.

Not to mention the remarkable advances in DNA processing just in the last ten years. These innovations alone led to the apprehension of a rapist/murderer of a young 25 year old Pocatello, Idaho, woman; ten years earlier, his hand print had been found on the outside of the victim’s back door. But, his priors were a few burglaries, he had no known connection to the victim and he left no other implicating marks, while the police had two other major suspects and scratched him off their list! With new techniques, the investigators were able to find new, more incriminating DNA within the existing DNA and to figure out the hand print came from within the house rather than outside!