REVIEW POTPOURRI: Composer: Hector Berlioz; Dance band: The Serenaders; Composer: Sigmund Romberg


Damnation of Faust
Daniel Barenboim conducting the Orchestre de Paris, Chorus, and Children’s Chorus with soloists Placido Domingo, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Yvonne Minton, etc.; Deutsche Grammophon 2709087, recorded 1978, three 12-inch vinyl stereo LPs.

Hector Berlioz

This magnificent, very colorful work of at least two hours is not an opera, because it is unstageable, instead being “in the wind;” nor an oratorio, because it was not inspired by the Bible, but rather a classic literary poem of the great German writer, Goethe. In the end, the term “Dramatic Symphony” became loosely attached to it for all intents and purposes.

This performance is splendidly sung and played and is well worth getting to know with its abundant melodic material, including the supremely riveting Hungarian March, itself the most famous piece in the score.

The Serenaders

The Serenaders

A Kiss in the Dark
Medley Waltz; The Waltz Is Made for Love-Medley Waltz: Victor 18972, ten-inch shellac 78, recorded October 18, 1922.

In looking around, I have been unable to glean anything about the Serenaders, a dance band that recorded several Victor acoustics before disbanding and disappearing forever. The arrangements are very pleasant and not quite as syrupy as other dance records of the era, while the instrumentalists are top notch.

As a rule, I think of Victor Herbert as a more interesting composer than Kalman and The Kiss… bears out Herbert’s gifts; the Waltz Is Made … is pretty but reveals Kalman as a second rate Johann Strauss, Jr.

Sigmund Romberg

Blossom Time
Al Goodman conducting his orchestra and chorus, with soloists Earl Wrightson, Donald Dame, the Mullen Sisters, etc.; RCA Victor WK 5; five blue vinyl seven-inch 45s; recorded mid to late ‘40s at the Lotus Club in New York City.

Sigmund Romberg

This operetta is based on melodies of the Austrian composer Franz Schubert and is one of the loveliest concoctions of singing tunes and sheer fun – Romberg (1888-1953), along with Rudolf Friml and Victor Herbert, formed the great trinity of the best composers in the profession in the U.S.

Al Goodman recorded a sizable batch of these presentations for Victor; I own most of them and treasure dearly, as they were very wonderful performances and make worthwhile listening for adventurous collectors!

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Conductor: Carlo Maria Giulini; Country Singer: Bobby Bare; Duets by Bing Crosby & Mary Martin

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates

Mahler Symphony No. 9

Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Weitblick- SSS0140-2, 2 CDs, from live concert of February 9, 1973.

Carlo Maria Giulini

I have already commented at length on the late great conductor Carlo Maria Giulini in this column. He displayed a very high level of power, beauty and clarity in most of the recordings that I have heard on my shelves and elsewhere, even with his sometimes overdone slow tempos.

This live broadcast of Mahler’s very accomplished and achingly beautiful 9th Symphony is very good without the annoying hyper intensity that often spoils other recordings.

The Weitblick label has also released a number of other live concerts by other great conductors of the past- names like Eugen Jochum, Georges Pretre, Sergiu Celibidache, Yevgeni Svetlanov, etc., every one of them synonymous with quality; these often reveal more excitement in the heat of the moment than the studio note – perfect records glutting online inventories and all too often selling at higher prices. Berkshire Record Outlet stocks a number of these and charges lower prices more frequently than Amazon and the other retailers in cyberspace. It has frequently been my main source because of its large stock of quality product and price.

Bobby Bare

Constant Sorrow

Bobby Bare

RCA Victor LPM-3395, mono edition, recorded 1965, 12-inch LP.

Now 81, country singer Bobby Bare has recorded almost 38 albums and giving superb performances of both his own and other people’s songs. Every record I own of him is a pleasure; this one is no exception and features his own Times Are Gettin’ Hard and I’m A Long Way from Home; Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, Willie Nelson’s One Day at a Time, and several others. Chet Atkins provided the usual A-plus production while Anita Kerr worked up several exquisite arrangements.

Bing Crosby & Mary Martin

Lily of Laguna; Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie; Decca 18278, 10-inch shellac 78, recorded March 13, 1942.

Bing Crosby

The truly great Bing Crosby (1903-1977) is paired here with Broadway star Mary Martin (1913-1990).

Although Bing recorded with a large number of musical celebrities during his 50 years of more than 4,000 sides, I never knew of this coupling, as his assured, relaxed singing style with nearly perfect phrasing and timing and Martin’s elegantly poised, polished, refined and aloof vocal craft would seem to me totally incompatible and one major reason why her stage successes with South Pacific and Sound of Music could never translate to the movie screen.

Mary Martin

They sang the above songs with their commendably professional best but left me cold ! However, other folks might respond differently

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Film: Nightcrawler; Singer: Big Joe Turner

Peter Catesby  Peter Cates


Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal

starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, etc. Directed by Dan Gilroy, Open Road films, released 2014, 117 minutes.

The story line of Nightcrawler involves a night drifter/loner, Lucas Bloom, who stalks the mean streets of Los An­geles and stumbles onto a major source of income as a photographer of particularly gruesome accident scenes. As portrayed quite skillfully by Jake Gyl­lenhaal, Bloom exudes an unsettling, bleak, nihilistic lack of any moral compass; in another time, he would have been a perfect recruit for Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen.

Rene Russo

Rene Russo

This film draws much of its suspense from the unwavering foreboding of the Los Angeles night as distilled through the masterful cinematography, a quality that riveted my attention more than Bloom’s personality or the well-honed chain of events. And the solid acting of Rene Russo and Bill Paxton enhanced the film a lot.

Joe Turner

I’ve Been to Kansas City; Decca/MCA Records MCAD-42351, CD, consists of original Decca 78s recorded between 1940-41.

Big Joe Turner (1911-1985) was a roaring grizzly bear of a singer/ blues shouter who performed for the better part of 60 years and made many records. Born in Kansas City, his early years working as a bartender/ singer led to becoming known as the Singing Barman.

Big Joe Turner

Big Joe Turner

His musical colleagues on these sides include a Who’s Who of American jazz – Hot Lips Page, Don Byas, Pete Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Art Tatum, Edmund Hall, Billy Taylor, etc. All 13 sides are first rate, particularly Corrinne, Corrina and Piney Brown Blues.

The most truly successful song he may have composed is Shake, Rattle and Roll.