by Peter Cates
Hazel Scott – Scarlatti Sonata in C Minor; Paradisi Toccata; Hazel Scott Idyll; Signature 15026, ten-inch 78, recorded 1945.
Hazel Scott (1920-1981) was a superb classical and jazz pianist who was born in Trinidad but was brought to study at Juilliard as a child prodigy. Coming of age as an African-American woman during Jim Crow, she was also fearless about not performing in segregated venues and would be eventually blacklisted, like so many similarly courageous artists. Texas Rangers once escorted her out of Austin, because she refused to perform before a segregated audience.
Although her jazz playing was more celebrated, this 78 rpm of two baroque pieces and a delectably lyrical composition of hers are nicely performed. An old record worth the search!
Brahms – 4th Symphony- Serge Koussevitsky conducting the Boston Symphony; RCA Victor DM 730, five 78 12-inch shellac records, recorded 1939.
Conductor Koussevitsky (1874-1949) was such a high-stressed, screaming, haranguing lunatic of an orchestra builder in rehearsal with his 105 players, for his 25 years of leadership, 1924-1949, in Boston, that 106 ulcers developed (two in one man). But the orchestra became second to none in the U.S., making every one of a tall pile of his BSO recordings in the fully excellent category.
This set of the 4th is a tad reserved at the beginning but builds up to a very satisfying excitement, only slightly surpassed by a live broadcast that I also own on CD. The above performance, in LP format, is available from Amazon vendors.
Grace Moore – In Opera and Song; RCA- LCT 7004, ten-inch mono LP, comprised of Victor 78s from the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Born in a Tennessee village in 1898, singer Grace Moore at 8 years old and her family moved to the big city of Knoxville, where she learned to despise urban living- at least for the remainder of her childhood. She would attain fame as a singer of opera, musical comedy hits and other semi-classical numbers on the stage, in film and radio and through records. Unfortunately, in 1947, at the peak of her career, she was killed in a plane crash near Copenhagen, Denmark.
This record contains operetta and Broadway numbers on side one – You Are Love, from Jerome Kern’s Showboat, and Irving Berlin’s Always being examples, while side two has numbers by Tchaikovsky and Puccini. She could be criticized for singing everything, whether pop song or opera, the same, but she deserves high praise for singing so damned beautifully and expressively. Another nice record worth the search.
Her Deep South roots just might be seen in the fact that she refused to sing in vaudeville revues if there were African-American singers. She was also fearless about a scrap, but if her temper got her into trouble, her sense of humor would get her out of it – well, most of the time.
Paul Weston – Music for Romancing; Capitol-CDF 153, 4 seven-inch, vinyl 45s, recorded late 1940s.
Paul Weston (1913-1996) was one of a tiny handful of truly gifted, imaginative arrangers in pop instrumentals and the scoring of charts for singers, including Margaret Whiting, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, the Norman Luboff Choir, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mercer, Gordon MacRae and his own wife, Jo Stafford. All told, this body of recordings enriched the collections of many discerning listeners, still being re-issued as I write here. The selection of instrumentals featured in this album are, as to be expected from Weston, lovingly and tastefully played.
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