REVIEW POTPOURRI: Bucharest, Romania, Radio Hall

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Last week, I listened to a live link, via computer, from the Bucharest, Romania, Radio Hall; it is one of two major venues in that city to see classical music concerts, the other being the Atheneum. And very frequently, these concerts can be heard worldwide on romania muzical.

George Enescu

Luiza Borac

The concert featured the Radio Orchestra in a program of three works – the Enescu and Grieg Piano Concertos, played by the exceptionally gifted Luiza Borac, and Antonin Dvorak’s 7th Symphony conducted by Rossen Gergov, currently music director of the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra.

George Enescu (1881-1955) is best-known for his Romanian Rhapsodies 1 and 2 and was also a great violinist, conductor and teacher. Cellist Pablo Casals wrote that Enescu was “the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart.” Casals’s quote was a bit exaggerated but it also conveyed the depths of his own feelings about the composer.

Rossen Gergov

The 1st Piano Concerto, Part 1, was Enescu’s only Piano Concerto and left unfinished. It is beautiful music, in the late romantic style favored by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, etc., yet having its own individuality. Ms. Borac gave captivating renditions of the work and the much more popular Grieg Piano Concerto.

Sarah Orne Jewett

The deeply moving 7th Symphony received a very fine interpretation from Gergov and the orchestra players.

Quote from Maine novelist Sarah Orne Jewett, 1849-1909, who lived her entire life in South Berwick – “Find your quiet center of life and write from that to the world.”

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Mother’s Day from Elijah Parish Lovejoy

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

A poem very suited for Mother’s Day from Elijah Parish Lovejoy (written when he was already living in the Mid-West during the 1830s and would be killed on November 7, 1837, by an angry mob for his anti-slavery editorials, two days short of his 35th birthday) taken from the 1854 Native Poets from Maine anthology:

Elijah Parish Lovejoy

To My Mother.
My Mother! I am far away
From home, and love, and thee;
And stranger hands will heap the clay
That soon may cover me;
Yet we shall meet- perhaps not here,
But in yon shining, azure sphere;
And if there’s aught assures me more,
Ere yet my spirit fly,
That heaven has mercy still in store,
For such a wretch as I,
‘Tis that a heart so good as thine,
Must bleed – must burst along with mine.

And life is short at best, and Time
Must soon prepare the tomb;
And there is sure a happier clime,
Beyond this world of gloom-
And should it be my happy lot-
After a life of care and pain,
In sadness spent, or spent in vain-
To go where sighs and sin are not-
‘Twill make the half my heaven to be,
My Mother, evermore with thee!

Owen Lovejoy

His mother, Elizabeth Pattee Lovejoy, outlived him.

Two of Lovejoy’s brothers, Joseph and Owen, published a book about him in 1838.

John Quincy Adams

The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, wrote an introduction to the volume from which the following two sentences are taken – “Martyrdom was said by Dr. Johnson to be the only test of sincerity in religious belief. It is also the ordeal through which all great improvements in the condition of men are doomed to pass.”

Those who wish to know more about this uniquely great man, born and raised in the then-‘Albion wilderness,’ would find his Wiki piece quite comprehensive on its own terms and a point of departure for further reading.

 

REVIEW POTPOURRI: E.B. White, Johnny Mathis, Heinrich Schutz

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

A few weeks ago, I covered E.B. White. Today I have an opening paragraph from his April 1939 entry in One Man’s Meat:

Saturday. A full moon tonight, which made the dogs uneasy. First a neighbor’s dog, a quarter of a mile away, felt the moon – he began shortly after dark, a persistent complaint, half longing. Then our big dog, whose supper had not sat well, took up the moonsong. I shut him in the barn where his bed is, but he kept up the barking, with an odd howl now and again; and I could hear him roaming round in there, answering the neighbor’s dog and stirring up Fred, our dachshund and superintendent, who suddenly, from a deep sleep, roused up and pulled on his executive frown (as a man, waking, might hastily pull on a pair of trousers) and dashed out into the hall like the moon might be a jewel robber. The light lay in watery pools on lawn and drive. The house seemed unable to settle down for the night. and I felt like moaning myself, for there is something about a moon disturbing to man and dog alike.

Again the great E.B. makes this resonant casual description of a spring morning in Maine seem so simple – simple as doing spinal surgery.

Recently heard

Johnny Mathis

Faithfully
Columbia, CS – mid-’60s LP.

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis

Now in his 80s, Johnny Mathis has some of the finest of pop love songs. He knows how to exactly put across material ranging from the Great American Songbook through Broadway staples to current chart-toppers. Faithfully collects a range of 12 songs; West Side Story’s Maria and Tonight, Sinatra’s Where Are You? and the Doris Day’s Secret Love, etc.

Heinrich Schutz

Twelve Small Sacred Concertos
Wilhelm Ehmann conducting instrumental and vocal soloists; Musical Heritage Society MHS 3769, LP, recorded 1970s.

Heinrich Schutz

Another great composer of very beautiful music for the church, along with Bach, was Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672), born 100 years before Bach, and is much more well known than the latter composer. The 12 works are hymns of sorts with similar pious words, and involve organ, viol da gamba, lute, etc. Wilhelm Elmann was one great German baroque interpreter; this record is worthwhile listening.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW POTPOURRI: The Carol Sudhalter Quartet and other recordings

The Carol Sudhalter quartet

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The Carol Sudhalter Quartet

Live at St. Peter’s Church; Carol Sudhalter, baritone sax and flute; Patrick Poladian, piano; Kevin Hailey, double bass; and Mike Campenni, drums. Alfa Projects AFPCD194, CD, a recorded live concert, from March 7, 2018, at New York City’s St. Peter’s Church.

Carol Sudhalter, now in her 70s, has gained a much-justified fan base in New York City’s Queens in the last 35 to 40 years as one of the finest jazz musicians on baritone sax and flute. Her quartet, consisting of three extraordinary musicians, include pianist Patrick Poladian, Kevin Hailey on the traditional double bass and Mike Campenni on drums.

They perform nine selections in a 50-minute program; the composers are comprised of such jazz legends as Bill Evans, Sunny Rollins, and Hank Mobley, along with good tunes by pianist Poladian, Carol herself (in which she sings very nicely) and a beauty, Luiza, from the Bossa Nova legend Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Carol is open to bookings here in Maine. For those who run clubs and other such venues, the contact email address is sudhalter.com . Her music making can also be heard on several YouTubes.

This CD is one that holds up with repeat listenings.

Given my perpetual fascination with duplicate recordings of favorite classical works, I offer quick comments on four different renditions of the ever popular Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, arguably the most famous Piano Concerto ever composed:

A live broadcast featuring Van Cliburn with Istvan Kertesz conducting the Berlin Philharmonic; Priceless C70581, cassette, released mid-1980s. It is a good performance but doesn’t stand out like others. Strange, because Cliburn and Kertesz did exceptional recordings in otherwise separate realms. And there is no information with the tape about anything.

Another Tchaikovsky work is the Violin Concerto in an exciting Yehudi Menuhin/Ferenc Fricsay collaboration with the RIAS Orchestra, of Berlin, possibly the same studio one released elsewhere on Deutsche Grammophon.

A studio CD of pianist Misha Dichter, with Jan Latham-Koenig, a name new to me, conducting the Baden-Baden, Germany, SWF Symphony Orchestra; DDD USCD71845. Misha Dichter recorded this back in the mid 1960s with Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra for RCA Victor, a solid dramatic performance on its own terms.

Dichter’s re-make is even more exciting and was recorded the same day, March 22, 1988, as the composer’s Second Symphony, the Little Russian, with the gifted well-known David Zinman replacing Latham-Koenig at the podium.

Two CD couplings of Tchai First with the wonderful Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto:

Hiroko Nakamura with Evkeny Svetlanov conducting the USSR State Academy Symphony Orchestra; Sony SK48030, recorded at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall May 23 and 28, 1990.

Geza Anda with Alceo Galliera conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra; Testament SBT 1064, recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios (the exact same locale as the classic Beatles album in 1969), with Rachmaninoff’s G Major and G Minor Preludes, October 12 – 15, 1953, and January 4, 1954.

The late pianist Hiroko Nakamura possessed an elegant balance of sweet lyricism and tart intensity that added an extra special quality to these much-recorded works. It was a style that didn’t call attention to itself, unlike the differently gauged flamboyance of such virtuoso titans as Horowitz, Richter, Lazar Berman, and Georg Bolet. There were a few moments when her lyricism skirted blandness. But these performances were quite enjoyable. And Svetlanov conducted with lots of excitement and intensity.

She died of colon cancer, at 72, in 2016.

Geza Anda (1921-1976) left a sizable recorded legacy of crown jewels. He had precisely-filleted virtuosity, probing musicianship, commitment to the score, legendary virtuosity and a roaring zest for the good things in life – wine, good hardcover books, records with a high class music system and great conversation for when hard labor was over.

According to one observer, “he disliked sackcloth and ashes.”

The performances of both Concertos, with the superlatively powerful and eloquent conducting of the horrifically underrated Alceo Galliera (1910-1996) and the sizzling two very famous Preludes render this CD an absolute must for listeners who truly care about this music.

Another Jim Thompson quote, from his 1961 novel, The Transgressors, describing a good guy deputy sheriff and a bad guy muscle man, Augie the Hog Pellino, from the Tony Soprano cosmopolitan New Jersey areas, stalking each other in the West Texas nighttime countryside, the sheriff with the greater advantage – “Pellino was doubtless a real handy boy around the big towns, but out here he probably stumbled over his own feet. Set a little trap for him, and he’d run over himself to get into it.”

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Heckle and Jeckle

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Heckle and Jeckle

4 cartoons, posted on YouTube.
From 1946-1952.

Paul Terry

Among the funniest animated characters, right up there with Foghorn, Wiley and Bugs, were two blisteringly arrogant magpieish partners in crime, Heckle and Jeckle. These semi-birds/buzzards of too many feathers were among the creations of animator Paul Terry (1887-1971); he launched Terrytoons, which included Mighty Mouse and Farmer Alfalfa, with his lazy dawg, and a host of other such beings. I remember some of these from my 1950s childhood, when they and other such suitable, syndicated programs were scheduled during the Monday through Friday children’s hour between 5 and 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday mornings.

The four very hilarious examples of their unique scorched-earth humor were the following:

The Uninvited Pests – 1946. Farmer Alfalfa and his lazy, good-for-nothing, very loyal and endearing dawg are trying to have a family picnic but the two pestulants are fighting hard battles to keep them derailed.

King Tut’s Tomb -1950. Arguably the funniest visit to Tut’s underground museum of Egyptian mummified cadavers. The choreography of the magpies and mummies are worth the time spent .

Bulldozing the Bull -1951. H and J see huge profit potential for their homemade hot tamales inside the food court of a bullfight astrodome; unfortunately, they don’t have enough pocket change for admission from the beer-bellied ticket seller. And his personality might seem nice upon initial acquaintance but, once they connive at getting in for free, his true colors are quickly seen in all their deadly glory.

Ned Sparks

He even uses the bull as an agent of his wrath. But the giftedly manipulative birdbrains convince the bull to deploy his wrath towards the ticket seller.

Off to the Opera -1952. Heckle and Jeckle deliver a comic rendition of Rossini’s Barber of Seville that holds its own with the one of Bugs Bunny and his arch nemesis, Yosemite Sam.

Actor Ned Sparks (1883-1957) did captivating voices for both conbirds from the mid-’40s to early ‘50s.

 

 

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composers: Ginastera, Chopin, Moussorgsky; Pianist: Charles Rosen

Charles Rosen

 

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Ginastera

String Quartets 1 and 2
Henschel Quartet; Arte Nova-ANO 721250, cd, recorded December 9, 10 and 14, 1999.

Alberto Ginastera

Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) was born in Buenos Aries, Argentina, to a Catalan father and Italian mother. In addition to composing a huge legacy of his own music in different forms, he taught much of his life. His students included the well-known Tango composer Astor Piazzolla and classical-pop arranger Waldo de los Rios, whose own 1970s Ode to Joy was a smash hit in the U.S.

The Two String Quartets, from 1948 and 1958, have wild, savage rhythms in the fast movements, haunting mystery and beauty in the slower ones and wondrous moodiness evoking the vast landscapes of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, etc. I have played both works several times this week, enjoying them more and more.The best approach for new listeners is simply to relax and let the music happen.

The Henschel Quartet was founded in 1988 ; its members were three siblings – brothers Christoph and Markus Henschel on violin, sister Monika as violist and cellist Matthias Beyer-Karlshoj. They are still together, except for a different violinist since Markus left in 2012.

Chopin

2nd Piano Concerto and the Liszt 1st PC
Charles Rosen with John Pritchard conducting the New Philharmonia; Odyssey Y 31529, LP, 1972 reissue of an original 1966 Epic LP.

Charles Rosen

Charles Rosen (1927-2012) was one extraordinary pianist, very gifted writer on music and other subjects and brilliant teacher who crammed several lifetimes into one. He not only played these Concertos well but wrote the insightful liner notes on the back of the record jacket.

Moussorgsky Pictures

at an Exhibition (Orchestrated by Maurice Ravel); Night on Bald Mountain; Vladimir Golschmann conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra; Vanguard SRV-117SD, LP, recorded early 1960s.

Vladimir Golschmann (1893-1972) brought a suave elegance to these two works, so often performed with hyper intensity; and they hold their own against the great number of other recordings of them. His 27 years as music director of the St. Louis Symphony from 1931 – 1958 were very accomplished ones and he treated his players as colleagues, getting very good performances on 78 and LP records.

 

 

 

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Book: Above Suspicion by Joe Sharkey

Author Joe Sharkey

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Above Suspicion
written by Joe Sharkey; published 1993, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 310 pages.

Above Suspicion is the account of an eastern Kentucky woman, Susie Smith, murdered back in 1989 by the area FBI agent, Mark Putnam, also a married man with whom she was having an affair. The murder case has sustained interest since then with films, other books and droves of media coverage while this title was turned into a film a year ago. Meanwhile the author Joe Sharkey has been working on an updated edition.

I have dipped into it as I frequently do these days with the many read and unread books around here, not finishing that many.

The author has a gift for narration and a sense of humor. So I offer an example referencing the criminal element in those Kentucky mountains:

To a bank robber, eastern Kentucky offers unusual challenges and unusual opportunities. In some ways, it is not an ideal place to rob a bank. For one thing, the region has an FBI office, and bank robbery has been a federal crime since John Dillinger’s days. For another, robbing a bank is usually a daylight pursuit requiring the capacity to get away in a car – not an easy task in a place where the roads run up one side of a mountain and wind down the other, and the nearest interstate is two hours of bad road away.

But on the other hand, banks in isolated mountain settlements tend to be guarded with about as much fortification as a hot dog stand, in towns without full-time police protection. So they draw free-lance opportunists who haven’t always clearly thought through their plans, such as the robber who hid on a bank roof to pounce on the driver from the Piggly-Wiggly store making his night deposit – and missed, knocking himself out cold in the parking lot. Or the hapless gang who held up a bank on Peter Creek, found themselves stranded when the getaway driver got lost en route, politely borrowed a teller’s car keys, and ran out of gas a half mile down the road.

I notice the rave reviewers mention nothing about the humor.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: The Native Poets of Maine

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The Native Poets of Maine

S. Herbert Lancey, editor.
Published in Bangor, Maine, by David Bugbee and Company in 1854. 324 pages.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The above anthology from so long ago is a sizable representation of poets born in our Pine Tree State and some of their works; the most well-known is Portland’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), but Albion’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy (1802-1837), even though not that famous as a poet, did the ultimate sacrifice in Alton, Illinois, at the hands of an angry mob because of his fearless stand against slavery.

Seba Smith

The other names, now mere footnotes in history, include Biddeford’s Grenville Mellen, North Yarmouth’s William Cutler, Exeter’s David Barker, Strong’s Florence Percy, Belfast’s William G. Crosby and Sidney’s Harriet Atwell and so forth and their poems do evoke something of Maine, even if just a couple of lines — the four seasons, joys, sorrows, daily routines.

Most of them in quality are between commonplace and slightly higher. Despite these lackings , this book is fascinating historical documentation of what some people in my native state were thinking and feeling 170 years ago.

I offer one exceptionally vivid poem from Buckfield’s Seba Smith:

The Snow Storm

The cold winds swept the mountain’s height,
And pathless was the dreary wild,
And mid the cheerless hours of night
A mother wandered with her child :
As through the drifting snow she press’d,
The babe was sleeping on her breast.

And colder still the winds did blow,
And darker hours of night came on,
And deeper grew the drifting snow :
Her limbs were chill’d, her strength was gone;
‘O God!’ she cried, in accents wild,
‘If I must perish, save my child !’

She stripp’d her mantle from her breast,
And bared her bosom to the storm,
And round the child she wrapp’d the vest
And smil’d to think her babe was warm.
With one cold kiss, one tear she shed,
And sunk upon her snowy bed.

At dawn a traveller pass’d by,
And saw her ‘neath a snowy veil;
The frost of death was in her eye,
Her cheek was cold, and hard, and pale;
He moved the robe from off the child,
The babe look’d up and sweetly smiled.

There are 13 copies of this book on Book Finder, priced from $26.74 to $116.52.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: A live link from London’s Barbican Centre

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

A live link from London’s Barbican Centre

Bernard Haitink

A live link from London’s Barbican Centre that I watched this past Sunday, March 10, 2019, and available on YouTube until June 10, 2019; this includes two intermission features from host Rachel Leach.

Live: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 (with pianist Till Fellner) and Bruck­ner Sym­phony No. 4 – Lon­don Sym­phony Orchestra under the direction of Bernard Haitink .

World-renowned conductor Bernard Haitink celebrated his 90th birthday on March 4, and, with guest-conducting engagements scheduled over the next several weeks, verifying that he remains at the top of his game being a consistently fine interpreter, as he’s been for the last 60 or more years, of a wide range of symphonic music.

Till Fellner

The Mozart and Bruckner have the glistening freshness of someone discovering this music for the first time. I have an earlier home-recorded cassette of the Maestro’s mid-’80s Boston Symphony 22nd PC with Alicia di Larrocha, while my first Bruckner 4th was his 1960s LP. These earlier performances prove his commitment to glistening freshness, even though, being human, he can’t achieve it every time. I have some examples of when he can be dull.

Nevertheless, this link is recommended for all fans of the conductor and for the mo­ments of so many people showing their love and consideration for him.

I offer a few examples of his extensive recorded legacy, including his 25-plus years as music director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam:

Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto with Claudio Arrau.

First Mahler 9th Symphony.

First Richard Strauss Heldenleben.

And London Philharmonic Beethoven 2nd and 9th Symphonies; and Shostakovich Leningrad and 10th Symphonies.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – John Coltrane: Lush Life

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Lush Life

John Coltrane, tenor sax
Heritage, 513289L, CD, 1987 reissue of sessions from 1957-58.

John Coltrane

One of the greatest saxophone players in the history of jazz, John Coltrane (1926-1967) left a huge recorded legacy, each listing imbued with consistently high quality. Lush Life gathers five previously available selections from the late ‘50s – Like Someone in Love, Cole Porter’s I Love You, Trane’s Slow Blues, I Hear a Rhapsody and the title composition by Billy Strayhorn.

He assembled several distinguished musicians including Donald Byrd on trumpet, pianist Red Garland, Earl May and Paul Chambers playing bass and drummers Art Taylor, Louis Hayes and Al Heath.

The entire CD is very good but my absolute favorite is Lush Life with very beautiful playing by Coltrane, Garland, Chambers, Byrd and Hayes. It evokes loneliness with haunting eloquence. Strayhorn wrote the piece during the 1930s while many singers and instrumentalists have also recorded it.

Jazz critic Joe Goldberg’s insightful liner notes are included with the CD.

***

Don Rickles

From the late, great cheap shot jokester/comedy star, Don Rickles, 1926-2017. – “I don’t drink much anymore, but when I traveled with Frank Sinatra, God rest his soul, I used to drink like I could do it. He made it a test. In Vegas, the Rat Pack, which I was a little part of, drank all night and slept most of the day. Then, about 5 o’clock, we’d meet in the hotel steam room, lock the door, and steam our brains out.”