by Peter Cates
Brook Benton and Dinah Washington
Baby; I Do; Mercury- 71565, seven-inch vinyl 45, recorded 1959.
Singer Dinah Washington (1924-1963) landed a contract with Mercury records in 1946 and performed songs from a variety of genres including jazz, blues, R&B, novelties, covers, etc., amassing a sizable pile of disks for the label.
Meanwhile, the much younger, less experienced Brook Benton (1931-1988) had been signed and was making headway with his own brand of pop, when a lyricist Clyde Otis got the idea of bringing the two together for the recording of a song he had written, Baby.
Due to the dissimilarly strong personalities of both singers, a firestorm of sorts ensued. But some kind of deal was hashed out and the two would record Baby and eventually three others before Washington walked out of one of their studio session.
Baby was a mega hit; the spirited but contrived aura of sexual tension between the two, as they sang, worked its musical and monetary magic and the performance was a classic R&B romp, still deserving of hearing 57 years later.
Trout Quintet – Members of the Budapest String Quartet with pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski and bassist George Moleux; Columbia ML 4317, 12-inch mono vinyl lp, recorded 1950.
This music has a bubbly, lovable charm and is the best piece with which to start listening to chamber music, its 4th movement being based on one of the composer’s songs, Die Forelle, or the Trout. It received its first performance in the living room of a wealthy music lover. Also to be noted, Schubert wrote all of the individual parts of each of the five instruments before putting everything together.
The players give a very spirited performance, still available in different venues on the internet.
Violin Concerto No. 2, with violinist Bruno Belcik and Vaclav Neumann conducting the Prague Symphony; Piano Concerto No. 3, with pianist Josef Palenicek and Karel Ancerl conducting the Czech Philharmonic; Artia ALS 7205, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded mid-to-late ‘50s.
Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959) was a Czech-born composer who produced 400 works in the various genres- symphonic, chamber, opera, etc. He confounded so many critics by this productivity because he also maintained a consistent level of high quality, due to regular efficient yet exacting work habits.
Because he lived several years in France, Switzerland and the U.S., his music has an array of qualities – a tight sense of structure; a powerful aura of drama and surging emotion; the infectious rhythms of jazz and Stravinsky; the charm of native slavic folk music; and the exotic, colorful sonorities of such composers as Bartok, Janacek, Roussel and other 20th century figures. But, most importantly, it has a vibrant individuality that gives his writing such staying power after listening to, and living with it for a while.
Both works here demand committed listening before their veiled beauties reveal themselves and the performances are top notch. Only vinyl LPs are available on Amazon of this coupling, starting at $7.50.
A couple of tidbits. When Martinu was a child, his father was the sexton of a church and the family was allowed to live in the tower apartment; being very sickly, the boy was frequently carried up the 143 steps to the family quarters by his father or older sister.
In 1946, while teaching at the Boston Symphony’s summer home in Tanglewood, Martinu was given a magnificent rooftop bedroom at a local estate. One night while walking on the veranda, he fell through a gap in the railing and sustained a fractured skull and concussion. The recuperation period took three to four years during which he gave up all composing. The Wiki bio provides other interesting details of a rich full life for any curious reader.
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