by Peter Cates
Two Piano Concertos
Dimitris Sgouros, piano, with Emil Tabakov conducting the Sofia Philharmonic; 1 plus- 51 000; 2 CDs, recorded 1999.
Sgouros plays with commendable musical feeling the two very powerful Concertos, still among my top five in this genre. Tabakov and his players provide exciting support, making this a reasonably priced and desirable album for getting to know Brahms through some of his very best music.
Mendelssohn and Beethoven Violin Concertos
Joshua Bell, violinist, and Sir Roger Norrington conducting the Camerata Salzburg; Sony-SK 89505, CD, recorded 2002.
These two Concertos are basic also to a classical CD collection because of the sweet melodic appeal of both works. Bell and Norrington give a top notch collaboration.
P.S. Norrington blew opportunities for repeated engagements with the Cleveland Orchestra because he showed up for a rehearsal dressed in shorts, sandals and a T-shirt, thus repelling most of the much more modestly dressed players.
Big Bill Broonzy
Bad Acting Woman; I’m Woke Up Now
Okeh, 6724, ten-inch 78, recorded early ‘40s.
Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958) came out of a share croppin’ background and preaching to become one of the finest writers and performers of blues from the ‘20s through the ‘50s, living in Chicago for many of those years and recording pile discs for a sizable number of labels. The above two songs are typical of blues – the treacheries of love relationships, addictions, employment problems, etc. And there is always the lament of Woe Is Me !
Broonzy was a true artist – he knew timing, delivery, drama, and context. And the record is a treasure!
Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra
Bei Mir Bist Du Schon; Let’s Make It a Lifetime
Decca 1575, ten-inch 78, recorded December 1, 1937.
My three favorite big bands are those of Woody Herman, Harry James and Glen Gray – the last of whom made more sweet music than swing, unlike the other two. I own a number of his blue label Decca 78s (the ones that originally retailed for 35 cents a platter) and later LPs for Capitol, Hindsight, Harmony, etc.
This record contains a good rendition of the Andrews Sisters’ megahit, Bei Mir Bist du Schon and a very nice ballad that I was previously unfamiliar with, sung wonderfully by one of Gray’s lead singers at the time, Kenny Sargent. What gives this record and others of Gray is the classy intelligence and good taste in the arrangements. There are not the trite notes, the bombastic sounds and the simply bad material that so often bedevil certain other groups that will remain unnamed. I return to the Grays, the Hermans and the James’s for repeat hearings with pleasurable anticipation.