Polish-born Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) composed his incredibly beautiful two Piano Concertos when he was 20. The first one was my favorite of the two for decades while the second didn’t particularly thrill me until more recent years.
As usual with my favorite pieces, I have collected duplicates of the two Concertos and one in particular of the second stands out. It is a Columbia Masterworks LP , ML 4135, the first American release of a 1946 English Columbia recording featuring two Polish artists, pianist Witold Malcuzynski (1914-1977) collaborating with Paul Kletzki (1900-1973) conducting the then-newly created Philharmonia Orchestra of London which producer Walter Legge (1906-1979) assembled mainly for recording purposes.
The second movement Larghetto is one of my top five favorite piano concerto second movements for its exquisite notes – the other four being those of the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto, the Beethoven 3rd and Emperor and the Rachmaninoff 2nd. Malcuzynski and Kletzki conveyed a feeling they were laying their hearts and souls out there with just how closely they submitted to communicating its divinely inspired ebb and flow.
In 1940 Malcuzynski and his wife escaped from Nazi-occupied France to Portugal in a sealed train car; Maestro Kletzki left Poland during the early 1930s but lost his mother and two sisters during the Holocaust.
A biographer of Chopin, James Gibbons Huneker (1857-1921), wrote the following about the music from the composer’s last years of failing health: “Forth from his misery came sweetness and strength, like honey from the lion.”
Singer Bob Crewe (1930-2014) raised a large sum of money to finance his first record of two quite forgettable songs, Don’t You Care and Pride, with arranger Gil Evans and his orchestra, which was released as a ten-inch 78 rpm in 1953 (BBS 118).
Crewe later achieved fame as a songwriter of late ‘50s hits such as Silhouettes, Walk Like a Man, and Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You. He also produced a batch of songs for the Four Seasons. In 2014, he died in a nursing home in Scarborough.
Evans later arranged for jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.
A pair of Haydn Symphonies, Numbers 7 and 49, were given very sprightly performances by Vilmos Tatrai (1912-1999) and the Hungarian Chamber Orchestra on a 1967 LP on the high quality Qualiton label (LPX 1103). Qualiton records had a huge distribution center in Queens, New York, which was started by a Hungarian lawyer named Otto Quittner (1924-2011) who supplied me with a number of review copies for my columns in the now-defunct Sweet Potato music publication in Portland before I moved to Houston in 1980 for 16 years.
The Very Best of Connie Francis (1937-) features 15 of her megahits from the late ‘50s to the early ‘60s, including, of course, Who’s Sorry Now, Among My Souvenirs, Where the Boys Are, Second Hand Love, My Happiness, etc. Despite the sticky sweet sentimentality of some of these songs, she sang them beautifully and received good arrangements.
Responsible journalism is hard work!
It is also expensive!
If you enjoy reading The Town Line and the good news we bring you each week, would you consider a donation to help us continue the work we’re doing?
The Town Line is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit private foundation, and all donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Service code.
To help, please visit our online donation page or mail a check payable to The Town Line, PO Box 89, South China, ME 04358. Your contribution is appreciated!