REVIEWS: Composer: Edvard Grieg; Conductor: Karl Bohm; Singer: Johnny Mathis


by Peter Cates
Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg

Robert Riefling

Piano Concerto
Lou Shankson, piano, with the Philharmonia Orchestra; Royale 18163, 10-inch vinyl LP, copyright 1956.

This infinitely lovely Concerto of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) receives a really good performance, but not from the above listed parties, which are pseudonyms. Research in recent years now identifies the team as Norwegian pianist, Robert Riefling (1911-1988), with the Oslo Philhar­monic under the direction of Odd Gruner-Hegge (1899-1973).

Rief­ling was imprisoned in a concentration camp for 3 to 4 years when Norway was under Nazi occupation.


Missa Solemnis

Karl Bohm

Karl Bohm

Karl Bohm conducting the Vienna State Opera Chorus and Philharmonic; DG 2707080, 2 stereo LPs, recorded 1975.

This mammoth epic from Beethoven’s last years, when he was totally deaf and willingly living in a hovel, is one grand listening experience in which even a newcomer to classical music could be inspired without any prior study. The great conductor, Karl Bohm (1894-1981), drew an exquisite performance from everyone involved here .

There are numerous, inexpensive offerings of the set, in both LP and CD formats, available through different Amazon vendors.

Johnny Mathis

Chances Are/The Twelfth of Never
Columbia 4-40993, seven-inch 45 vinyl record, recorded 1957.

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis was 19 years old when he was discovered singing in a nightclub by Columbia records executive George Avakian (still living at 98) in 1954. Avakian was totally convinced he had heard a singer whose success would know few bounds and he was proven right – in later years Mathis would chart five albums simultaneously in Billboard, surpassed here only by Sinatra and Barry Manilow.

The two hits were also great songs given great performances, with Ray Conniff’s vibrant arrangements, similar to the ones he provided for Marty Robbins’s Story of my Life and White Sportscoat and Pink Carnations.

At 82, Mathis has reduced his concert schedule to ONLY 50 to 60 appearances a year.

My copy of the 45 is the briefly used yellow label from the mid-’50s with the four Columbia eyes. Collectors are particularly enamored of two-, four-, and six-eye mint copies of Columbia 45s and 10- and 12-inch LPs from the ‘50s and ‘60′, especially classic rock and jazz.

NCIS – right now my favorite Netflix show, mainly because of Mark Harmon’s LeRoy Jethro Gibbs character – what a role model for so many of us!

REVIEW POTPOURRI, Week of June 22, 2017


by Peter Cates

Bach Suites 2 and 3

Fritz Rieger conducting the Munich Philharmonic- Mercury MG10068, vinyl lp, from 1940’s German radio broadcast tapes.

Fritz Rieger

These two Orchestral Suites of J.S. Bach constitute some of the most joyous, very melodic and quite listenable music, both for newcomers to classical music and experienced connoisseurs who already find them infinitely re-listenable. The Second is scored mainly for strings and solo flute and has been recorded by such gifted tootlers as James Galway and Jean Pierre Rampal. The Third is a festive affair evoking the spirit of a holiday in which the entire orchestra, particularly the brass and percussion, display their wares. However, a special quieter movement is the soothing and delectable Air for the G String.

Fritz Rieger (1910-1978) was conductor of the Munich Philharmonic for over 25 years, beginning in 1941, before he took a position with the down under Melbourne Symphony in the land of duck-billed platypuses and Aborigines. (For those readers who are wondering about Munich, 1941, yes he was a member of the Nazi Party. But there is documentation that he kept his own hands clean and was de-Nazified quickly.)

The performances are very graceful and grandiose, truly living breathing renditions of an exceptional quality while the mono sound is vivid for its day, as German radio had magnetic tape several years before we did !

I have collected other recordings of Rieger and enjoy them a lot – the complete Mozart Magic Flute, Brahms 1st Concerto with pianist Witold Malcuzynski and the Robert Schumann A Minor Concerto with Rudolf Serkin. YouTube has several Rieger items, some of which I have posted recently, including an early ‘70s video of the Maestro rehearsing a Bach Concerto for 4 Pianos with three other now deceased conductors, Rafael Kubelik, Rudolf Kempe and Wolfgang Savallisch.

Against All Odds

Jeff Bridges

Rachel Ward

Soundtrack- composed by Michel Colombier; Atlantic 80152-1-E, stereo LP, recorded 1984.

I have never seen this Jeff Bridges/ Rachel Ward thriller but, having read the Wiki synopsis, am now curious. The soundtrack itself is a first class mishmash of instrumentals underscoring the action and individual tracks by Peter Gabriel, Stevie Nicks, Big Country, Mike Rutherford, Kid Creole and the Coconuts and, last but not least, the sublime Phil Collins hit, Take a Look at Me Now. The instrumentals by Colombier and Larry Carlton are powerful and soaringly eloquent. Recommended listening.

Bennie Moten

Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Jazz- X- EVAA-3004, ep 45 reissue, early ‘50s from Victor shellac 78s recorded December 13 and 14, 1926, in Chicago.

Bennie Moten

Bennie Moten (1894-1935), led an outstanding Kansas dance band that was, arguably, the most popular one in that burg for much of the 1920s and early ‘30s until Moten’s tragic 1935 early death from a botched tonsillectomy. The four numbers on this 45 – Kansas City Shuffle; Yazoo Blues, Midnight Blues, and Missouri Wabble – make for compelling listening. Every note is alive, every texture well articulated and the variety of sounds coming from my speakers, ranging from the spunky banjo picking of Sam Tall to the brass shadings of cornettists Ed Lewis and Lamar Wright; trombonist Thamon Hayes; and Abe Bolar on tuba, etc., gives this record its status as a classic.

Composer: Ludwig von Beethoven; Dance Band: Russ Morgan; Vocal group: Peter, Paul and Mary


by Peter Cates


String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130 – Quartetto Italiano Angel 35064, 12-inch LP, recorded early ‘50s

Ludwig von Beethoven

Ludwig von Beethoven

The 16 String Quartets of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) constitute some of the composer’s most powerful and beautiful music, especially the last five. 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 were composed between 1823 or 1824, during a time when Beethoven was plagued by total deafness, a parasitic nephew, bad health, money, personality conflicts, the filth of his living quarters and other manure piles of aggravations, once in a while alleviated by a good day or two.

These Quartets mirror the manic ups and downs, victories and defeats and sideways in a most compelling, stirring manner. Among the paradoxes of Beethoven were the obstacles of his daily life, ones in which he either lacked the ability or willingness to confront; versus the discipline to compose not only the above Quartets, but also such creations as the 9th Symphony and Missa Solemnis while totally deaf.

The 13th Quartet is as good an example as any to begin with; I would suggest, especially to beginning listeners, to just turn on the music, sit back and let it happen. One can do the studying up later.

The Quartetto Italiano played this music totally by memory for the recording. And it is a very good performance, while the early ‘50s LP
sound is exemplary for its time.

Russ Morgan and his Wolverine Band

Everest SDBR 1095, stereo LP, recorded 1960.

Russ Morgan

Russ Morgan

Russ Morgan (1904 -1969) led one of the best dance bands during the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, until his death. The above LP, however, is a bit more animated than his usual standard. Wolverines being a clue, Morgan assembled a group of some of the finest sidemen active in ‘50s recording sessions, including trumpeter Dick Cathcart, clarinnettist Matty Matlock, guitarist George Van Epps, saxist Eddie Miller, etc. The rousing program includes such oldies as Mama’s Gone, Goodbye; Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home; That Da-Da Strain; Squeeze Me; etc., while the jacket is provided with informative notes by Morgan’s wife, Shirley, and son, David. Worth the search.

Peter, Paul and Mary

Warner Brothers, WS1449, stereo LP, recorded 1962.

Peter, Paul and Mary

PPand M were, arguably, one of the finest musical vocal groups in any genre. This first of several great albums during their initial seven- or eight-year run (followed by solo outings and intermittent reunions) still holds up incredibly well as a listening experience, even for myself who is no longer a folkie. My personal favorites are, and will always most likely be, 500 Miles, Its Raining, Cruel War and If I Had My Way, especially with the late Mary’s eloquent, haunting gifts of both phrasing the melodic line with both P’s deploying their own harmonies or vice versa.

Finally, their gifted music director, Milt Okun, who whipped the Chad Mitchell Trio into pristine shape for their own several Mercury albums, carefully and methodically honed, nurtured and led them to a level of success they would most likely have never achieved if they had been on their own.

Composer: Giacomo Puccini; Singer: Burl Ives; Composer: Johann S. Bach; Organist: Robert Elmore


by  Peter Cates
Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini


Madame Butterfly Selections
Arthur Pryor’s Band; Victor – 31697, 12-inch one-sided black label acoustic shellac 78, recorded approximately between 1905 and 1913.

Several shellacs from the pre-1924 acoustic era feature symphonic bands doing very nice performances of operatic excerpts. Arthur Pryor’s Band left one devoted to the matchless melodies from the opera, Madame Butterfly, of Giacomo Puccini (1857-1924) and is recommended heartily to collectors of early acoustic band disks.

Burl Ives

Burl Ives

Burl Ives

Songs of the West
Decca – DL 4179, mono LP, recorded 1961.

Burl Ives applies his Down Comforter of a voice to a dozen western classics – Home on the Range, Mexicali Rose, Cool Water, Jingle, Jangle, Jingle, Empty Saddles, etc.- and has the arrangements of Decca’s late, great Nashville A t R man, Owen Bradley, and the Anita Kerr Singers, both uncredited on this album.

My absolute favorite, one I have played many times with pleasure, is The Cowboy’s Dream, with its gospel message and the exquisite, separately recorded, different harmonies of Anita and her colleagues added gradually in each of the choruses. Recommended!

Bach on the Biggest

Robert Elmore, organist; Mercury SR90127, stereo LP, recorded 1956.

Johann Bach

Johann Bach

Organist Robert Elmore (1913-1985) was recorded on November 23, 1956, playing the Auditorium Organ of the Atlantic City Convention Hall. To call this instrument a behemoth of Great White

Robert Elmore

Robert Elmore

Whale proportions would most likely be an understatement. Its volume alone is equal to that of 25 brass bands; 225,000 feet of lumber was used in its construction, including 10,000 just for the 12 pipes; and the hall itself is more than 13 stories and occupies four city blocks.

Elmore’s playing of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major and Sleeper’s Awake and In Dulci Jubilo Chorale Preludes is both magnificent and magnificently recorded. A record worth seeking out!

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Dick Kuhn and his Orchestra; Death of a Salesman; Handel


by  Peter Cates

Dick Kuhn and his Orchestra

Wild Flower; Bambalina- Decca -3723, ten inch blue label 78 disc, recorded March 25, 1941.

Dick Kuhn

Dick Kuhn

There is very little information to be gleaned anywhere on bandleader Dick Kuhn, he starting his own band while in high school being about the only morsel uncovered.

It would perform in the tradition of such dance bands as those of Guy Lombardo, Sammy Kaye, Griff Williams and Lawrence Welk, but with more animation, intelligence and nuance. Kuhn was also quite gifted as a saxist.

The orchestra could be seen during the late ‘30 New York City’s Times Square and heard regularly on the very popular radio station, WOR; it recorded a batch of 78s for Decca, Mercury and a couple of lesser known labels in its ‘30s and ‘40s heyday.

The Decca blue label 78 series was spearheaded by company manager Jack Kapp around 1936 or ’37 as a catalog of 35 cent records, as opposed to the dollar records of the major competitors, Victor and Columbia; it soared in sales when the dads all across the country would send their kids to the record shop every week with a dollar for the latest three releases (Within at least two years, Victor would respond by launching its own 35 center, Bluebird, and Columbia, Okeh).

A quartet of popular song lyricists/composers are credited with the above two selections, Wild Flower and Bambalina — Otto Harbach (1873-1963), Herbert Stothart (1885-1949), Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960), and Vincent Youmans (1898-1946) . As to why so many talents were assembled for these two songs, anyone’s guess is as good as mine, but this record is quite pleasant to listen to, with an added vocal trio.

When Herbert Stothart visited Scotland in 1947, he suffered a heart attack and later wrote a symphonic piece for orchestra- Heart Attack: A Symphonic Poem, about his tribulations. He started another piece, Voice of Liberation, when he died of cancer at the age of 63, in 1949.

Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller; written in 1949. Arthur Miller (1916-2005) wrote such classics of the theater as The Crucible,which dealt with the evil of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials; and All My Sons, which confronted the profiteering of the munitions industry.

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller

The main character, Willy Loman, threw himself into being a salesman who was liked; the problem was that this goal was the only one that truly mattered. Then, when his company started squeezing him out gradually because his sales had gone down, he fell to pieces.

Reading this play, one not only feels the injustice, the anger, the terrors at the heart of our lives that bring us down when bad things happen, but also the flaws in our character, that contribute to it. Finally,

Miller leads us to care for Willy as a fellow human being and to feel his suffering as though he were a long time friend! And it holds up so well with re-reading!

Handel – Semele

Anthony Lewis conducting the English Chamber Orchestra and Saint Anthony Singers with various soloists; L’Oiseau-Lyre OLS- 111-3, three 12-inch stereo vinyl LPs, recorded 1955.

George Handel

George Handel

George Frederick Handel wrote one big beautiful opera here with arias, more choruses than normal in an opera and bracing orchestration; it was premiered in 1744 during Lent and was received with very mixed feelings. After several performances during the remaining 15 years of the composer’s lifetime, it would not be heard again until an English revival in 1925; since then, it has slowly made its way to a significant repertory status.

Its story line features an illicit attraction between the betrothed Semele and the god Jupiter, with tragic consequences.

The above set was its first recording and, to my mind, is very good. I would especially cite two women who gave master lessons in expression, articulation, and breathing – soprano Jennifer Vyvyan (1925-1974) and alto Helen Watts (1927-2009).

Only the LP set is available through Amazon vendors, no CD transfer having ever been made.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Kodaly, Ella Fitzgerald, & The Pelican Brief


by  Peter Cates


Hary Janos Suite; Respighi: Feste Romane- Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra; RCA Victor LM-1973, 12-inch vinyl mono LP, released 1956.

Zoltan Kodaly

Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) was, arguably, one of the four best known conductors of the 20th century, the others being Leopold Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler, and Leonard Bernstein (these three definitely being subjects for later columns.) . That said, it now occurs to me I did a column devoted to the Maestro’s wide influence a while ago. Therefore, I move on to this week’s record.

The featured pieces are the Hary Janos Suite, composed in 1926 by Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), and Feste Romane, from 1928 and composed by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) . Along with his lifelong friend, Bela Bartok, Kodaly was one of Hungary’s two best known 20th century composers. Hary Janos is a mythical character who proceeds to run off with Napoleon’s wife, Marie-Louise, and unleashes a series of near-lethal events before he miraculously makes things right. The Suite is a colorful piece of orchestral virtuosity.

In 1959, Kodaly’s first wife of 48 years died; he then married a 19-year-old student, with a 58 year age difference, and both were one happy couple (supposedly) until his own death in 1967, one year after a concert tour in the U.S.
Respighi’s Feste Romane evokes the spirit of Roman history from ancient times onwards – the spiritual pilgrimages to the Holy City, the romance of October Festival, the Circuses with their just plain fun-loving folks taking in the feasting of savage lions on the martyrs, etc.

Both works have immense potential appeal for beginning classical listeners and Toscanini’s conducting bristles with excitement.

Ella Fitzgerald

with Nelson Riddle’s arrangements and conducting; Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson; Verve V6-4054, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded 1962.

Ella Fitzgerald

The words Swings Brightly do not hint at the supremely splendid, vibrant excitement of this album. As far as I am concerned, Ella Fitzgerald sings renditions of the 12 songs contained here that have been rarely surpassed by anyone for power, beauty, elegance and all the other grossly overused synonyms for musical pleasure; and Nelson Riddle’s arrangements are those of once in a lifetime. Simply try Duke Ellington’s I’m Gonna Go Fishing, which I shared on my fb home page from YouTube, where it can be easily heard!

Pelican Brief

starring Julia Roberts, etc.; directed by Alan J. Pakula; Warner Brothers, 1993, 141 minutes.

Two Supreme Court justices of radically different ideologies are murdered on the same day. Thus no common thread is found to launch any type of investigation, until a Louisiana law student, Darby Shaw (played by Ms. Roberts), shows a brief to her professor who passes it along to a friend at the Justice Department.

Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts

All hell breaks loose for her – her car explodes, killing her professor inside who was borrowing it; she is pursued by killers from out of nowhere and doesn’t know who to trust. It’s 141 minutes of cat and mouse paranoia adding up to a most entertaining film. The late Hume Cronym does a captivating turn as one of the two murdered judges.

REVIEWS: Composer: Jean-Baptiste Loeillet; Film: Carousel; Conductor: Gennady Rozhdestvensky


by  Peter Cates

Jean-Baptiste Loeillet

Jean-Baptiste Loeillet

Sonatas; Trio Sonatas; and Lesson for the Harpsichord
Pierre Pouleau, recorder; Andre Chevalet, oboe; and Yvonne Schmit, harpsichord. Music Guild MS-113, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, released 1965.

One of a select group of baroque composers who wrote truly beautiful music for both the flute and recorder, Jean-Baptiste Loeillet (1680-1730) was born in Belgium, became a very talented player on the flute and harpsichord during early childhood, and traveled to England at 25 years old where he settled for life. He composed mainly for the flute, taught and arranged concerts for the wealthy, through which he became financially quite comfortable.

The performances are superb, and, fortunately for those with a record player, the album is still available through several Amazon vendors for prices starting at six dollars.


starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Cameron Mitchell, etc.; directed by Henry King; 20th Century Fox, released June, 1956.

Gordon MacRae

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel began as a hugely successful Broadway musical in 1945, but its transformation into a film shot in exquisite living color, and with better singers, superior orchestration by Alfred Newman and, for most of the film, the backdrop of our own Boothbay Harbor, turned it into a true cinematic classic – worthy of the several best film lists it has made. It and the 1945 State Farm are my two favorite R & H films.

Shirley Jones

The manner in which the movie segues at the beginning from a mundane conversation in heaven to the glorious Carousel Waltz is a case in point. Three of the greatest songs in Broadway musical history – If I Loved You, When the Children Are Asleep, and You’ll Never Walk Alone – are given the best performances they have ever received in the most pleasing seaside settings. The choreography along the marina and, later, on a lonely beach are dazzling set pieces of limber, supple virtuosity. And watching Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones and Barbara Ruark singing in their prime is a singular pleasure!

Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique

Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra; Eurodisc 201 984-250, 12-inch stereo LP, recorded 1967.

The conductor, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, is, at 85, one of the more accomplished and interesting conductors to have emerged since the early ‘60s. First, he is accomplished because he was barely 22 years old when he was scoring successes in his appearances with various major Russian orchestras and both the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet through live appearances and recordings. He also has upwards of 1,500 musical works of a wide range of composers committed to memory. Finally, all of the recordings I have heard of his are consistently good, unlike several of the shining stars of the firmament of today. And I own at least a shelf of them.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky

Secondly, he is interesting because of the manner in which he conducts. I once saw him live in Boston’s Symphony Hall back in ’73 when he was on tour with the Leningrad Philharmonic (now, since the fall of the former Soviet Union, referred to as the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic.). That evening, he used very precise but conventional gestures.

However, I have seen footage of him not conducting the orchestra at all while it is playing but walking around the stage smiling a lot, yet barely moving his arms. Other times, he has been known to flail his arms without the baton or grabbing it with both hands effortfully, as though it weighed 50 pounds. Still, he gets quality work while being the ham!

The Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique is one of my favorite works to collect in duplicate recordings and, it being a special favorite, I own at least 40. Rozhdestvensky’s LP is good but not great. My absolute favorite is the 1975 recording of Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic has been available through Amazon and its vendors as a CD for years and, more often than not, inexpensive. The third movement, Scene in the Fields, has rarely sounded more serene or sublime while the fifth movement’s Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath is most colorful and ominous.

REVIEWS: Musician: Aladdin; Music Maker: Artur Rubinstein; Recording Artists: Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius


by  Peter Cates

Words of Inspiration

by Aladdin
Dot DLP 3570, mono LP, recorded early ‘60s.


Aladdin Ahmed Abdullah Anthony Pallante (1912-1970) was best known as a regular on the Law­rence Welk Show from 1953 to 1967 and a talented violinist, comic foil for novelty songs and skits and reciter of inspirational verse. This LP features him in some of his most popular recitations – Why Do I Love You?, Deck of Cards, A Cowboy’s Prayer, Windows of Gold and Touch of the Master’s Hand. Each one is accompanied by some of the most beautiful music performed exquisitely by Welk’s instrumentalists.

Five used copies of the LP are available from three different Amazon vendors, ranging from $5 to $20.

Aladdin suffered a heart attack in 1967, resigned from the show and died in 1970 at 57.

Artur Robinstein

Complete Polonaise and 4 Impromptus
Artur Rubinstein, pianist; RCA Victor LM-7037, two mono LPs, recorded 1965.

Artur Rubinstein

Artur Rubinstein (1887-1982) was a great player, not only of Chopin, but also Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, etc., and my shelves bear witness with 78s, 45s, LPs and CDs. His happy go-lucky personality and sociability at more parties than one could shake a stick at belied his purposeful discipline and very high standards.

However, he admitted in his memoirs that, before he turned 42, he caroused most of his days away until he had a very serious inkling that his talent was being squandered. Fortunately, he regrouped and became the much-loved music maker for the remaining 50 years of his life.

The performances are, of course, top-notch, and these pieces, with their infinite range of mood, will repay concentrated listening. A must set for Chopin fans!

Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius

I’ll Never Be Free
RCA Victor APL1-2781, stereo LP, recorded 1978.

In recent years, I have become a fan of the late country singer Jim Ed Brown (1934-2015) and own a batch of recordings covering three major phases of his career and focus-first, with sisters Maxine and Connie as The Browns from the early ‘50s until 1967; then on his own from ’67 until ’75; and finally part of a duo with Helen Cornelius from ’75 until she ended the partnership in ’81.

Jim Ed Brown

At first, Brown was skittish about pairing up with anyone, but RCA A&R man Bob Ferguson prevailed with his idea that Brown and the then unknown Helen Cornelius (1941-) might be a good fit. He proved right; the two blended exquisitely and this album is one lovely disk. The ten selections are new to me but not one of them is a dud.
My absolute favorite, one I have played over and over again, is Lay Down the Burden of Your Heart. It never fails to provoke goosebumps!

Helen Cornelius

On June 4, 2015, country legend Bill Anderson presented Brown with the medallion for inclusion in the Country Music Hall of Fame, in the presence of family and friends, at his hospital bedside as he was dying from cancer; then everyone sang Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Brown passed away on June 11, at 81.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Baritone: Emilio de Gogorza; Author: Edward Garnett

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Emilio de Gogorza

The Holy City
Victor- 74041, one-sided, 12-inch 78, recorded 1906.

Emilio de Gogorza

The baritone Emilio de Gogorza (1872-1949) recorded more discs for Victor than has been documented accurately. Despite this number and his success as a concert artist, he never appeared in any opera on stage due to terrible near-sightednss.

The Holy City has been recorded many umpteens of times since the cylinder days. My favorite records of this are the Richard Crooks 1935 Victor 78 and the 1950 Decca ep 45 but Gigorza performed it with intelligence, sensitivitivity and a very polished voice- qualities that have been consistently noted by his fans.

He was married for 25 years to the famed soprano Emma Eames (1865-1952), who grew up in Bath and whose house is still standing!

Letters from Joseph Conrad

Edward Garnett, ed.; The Bobbs-Merrill-Company, 1928, 302 pages.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) did not master English fluently until his 20s. Later the Polish-born merchant marine seaman would leave his oceanic livelihood to devote his energy full time to becoming one of a tiny handful of the greatest 20th century writers and a vibrant, multi-faceted individual to those fortunate enough to have met him.

Edward Garnett

I have read and deeply enjoyed Heart of Darkness (the basis for the late ‘70s film classic Apocalypse Now), Lord Jim, the short story “Typhoon”, “Under Western Skies”, and, a huge favorite of mine, “Victory”. Searchers for truth abound in his stories with their exotic and frequently hostile locales in the darker corners of Europe, Czarist Russia, and Africa, and on board the ships travelling the dangerously wide open seas.

This book of correspondence has an insightful introduction and notes by Conrad’s longtime younger friend and editor, Edward Garnett (1868-1937), who was most helpful in motivating the often insecure writer to keep working during their mutually edifying friendship- starting in 1895, just when Conrad began his writing career, to 1924, when the author suffered a fatal heart attack. However, only Conrad’s letters to Garnett make up the bulk of this fascinating volume.

I offer select comments from Conrad to provide a sense of his larger than life personality:

His ability to put pain in its rightful place with an unexpected twist while carrying on about petty matters- “Why am I fooling thusly while there is a pain in my back to which a jab with a carving-knife would be a soothing application?”

His impatience with people – “Don’t you know my dear Edward how stupid people are! They take delight in merest twaddle, they look out for and welcome the obvious. And they understand hardly anything which is not either one or the other.”

His praise of Garnett’s uncanny ability at helping him write his best work – “You are a dear good old critic – you are! You’ve a way of saying things that would make an old sign-post take to writing. You put soul and spunk into me – you, so to speak, bamboozle me into going on – and going on and going on. You can detect the shape of a mangled idea and the shadow of an intention in the worst of one’s work – and you make the best of it. You would almost persuade me that I exist. Almost!”

Reading him at first can be difficult but patience, as I know from my own experience, yields rewards of great worth. I recommend Heart of Darkness for the beginner.

REVIEW POTPOURRI, Week of April 27, 2017

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Whether in an urban or rural area, very devoted, if not compulsive, record collectors patrol the Goodwills and other such venues looking for that particular record, whether rare or not, that strikes their fancy and often buy just a few more that just happen to have been put out that day. This week, I am doing little summaries of 78s that might tweak some interest, whenever and wherever they might be found:

  1. John Charles Thomas – Smiling Eyes; Roses of Picardy, Brunswick 10274, recorded 1924.
    The genial John Charles Thomas (1895-1961) sang with much gusto and sincerity, whether opera or, as on this disk, favorite songs of the day; his records were consistently enjoyable, this one a really choice example. He appeared a few times on Groucho Marx’s TV show, You Bet Your Life, which can be viewed on YouTube.
  2. Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers – Blue Shadows on the Trail; Pecos Bill, RCA Victor 20-2780, recorded December 1, 1947.
    The Sons of the Pioneers blended nicely with their former King of the Cowboys (1911-1998) colleague in these two songs from Walt Disney’s 1947 animated feature, Melody of Love.
  3. Eddy Howard – Someone Like You; When the Angelus Is Ringing, Mercury 5254, recorded 5/49.
    A few years ago, I was going to tell my brother, who is a blues fan, with such favorites as B.B. King, Albert King and John Lee Hooker, about my favorite white blues singer, when he interrupted me with “Eddy Howard!” And, yes, I was dumb-founded. But this singer/bandleader (1914-1963) had a gift for turning the above pop novelties into delectable vocal miniatures, unlike any other of his generation, but was tragically taken from us at the horribly young age of 49.
  4. Les Brown – Robin Hood; Sleigh Ride in July, Columbia 36763, recorded 11/18/44.
    Whatever Les Brown (1912-2001) may have lacked in imagination or taste, he made up for with solid musical leadership. Robin Hood is a funny swing number with lyrics by Louis Prima while Sleigh Ride in July, a classy Burke/Van Heusen ballad, has some very lovely woodwind/brass sonorities.
  5. Julia Lee – A Porter’s Love Song; Since I’ve Been With You, Capitol 40008, recorded 8/9/46.
    A blues singer/pianist from 1927, when she made her first 78, Julia Lee (1902-1958) recorded 78s for the then trail-blazing Capitol Records from 1944 until her hits dried up in 1949. For the rest of her life, she was popular locally in Kansas City until her death from a heart attack. These two songs are feisty crowd pleasers, while her backup, labelled as her Boy Friends, includes Benny Carter, Nappy LaMarre, Vic Dickensen, Red Norvo, Red Nichols, etc.
  6. Perry Como – If You Were My Girl; I Cross My Fingers, RCA Victor 20-3846, recorded 1950.
    I have already proclaimed Perry Como (1912-2001) as one of my top five or six favorite male singers. I agree with a local church choir director who felt that Como had a set of pipes during his prime that were unsurpassed in her experience for the sweet, sincere beauty of sound, phrasing, projection and charisma, which I amen whole-heartedly. Unfortunately the two songs were clunkers – they went in and out my ears with no effect, emotional or otherwise. And Como’s long term conductor and arranger, Mitchell Ayres, despite his best efforts, could do nothing to breathe any life into them !!
  7. Chuck Foster – Dardanella; Who Put that Dream in Your Eyes, Mercury 5125, recorded 12/47.

Dance bandleader Chuck Foster (1912-2001) experienced several peak years of popularity when his very well-liked group was constantly in demand, mainly during the World War II years through to the early ‘50s, and it recorded a few sides for Mercury from the mid- to late ‘40s.

Meanwhile, singer Tommy Ryan (1921-2007), who had spent most of the war years as one of Sammy Kaye’s leading vocalists, would join Foster and his ensemble at least for the above two sides. The results were pleasant without being particularly moving.
Ryan pretty much ended his showbiz career in the mid-’50s, during which he began pursuing other careers and hobbies with abundant success. However, he remained the entertainer to his family, friends and some fortunate customers and, according to his son, had a beautiful voice up to his eighties, singing at Bar Mitzvahs and other similar social events.

Foster continued leading dance bands until the early ‘80s but his recording career would end after the release of one LP in 1959 for the Phillips International label.