REVIEW POTPOURRI: Poet Constance Hunting & Out of print recordings on YouTube

Constance Hunting

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Poet Constance Hunting

Poet Constance Hunting (1925-2006) taught English literature and creative writing at the University of Maine’s Orono campus from 1968 until her death. She originally trained to be a classical pianist but left that to focus on her writing. She also established Puckerbrush Press, edited the Puckerbrush Review, which published and promoted good work by many writers from Maine and elsewhere, and wrote over a dozen volumes of her own poems.

She commented on why Maine was important to her in a quote drawn from the 1989 anthology of Maine literature, Maine Speaks, which was edited by herself and several other members of the Maine Literature Project:

“Maine is important to me as a writer; its atmosphere seems to allow the freedom to try things, to explore possibilities. If one thing doesn’t succeed, try another!….I also like to go to our woodlot and help get ready for that long Maine winter. Maine makes us believe in weather. And that in turn makes us believe in Maine.”

Her poem New England nailed a maximum of substance with a minimum of words:

are the sheep of these
and fog
is the wool of these

For what it’s worth, the poet herself left out a period at the end of the poem.

Out of print recordings available on YouTube

Richard Strauss

Youtube has been beneficial in making available long out of print recordings for free listening on the computer speakers. I wish to mention two very good classical 78 sets.

A. The brilliant German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) conducted a very good 1927 set of Mozart’s 40th Symphony, a work that I consider the toughest of his 41 symphonies to conduct well and, until hearing Strauss’s performance, I felt that Sir Thomas Beecham’s 1937 Columbia recording was the only one that truly breathed. I have heard other recordings that are good, just not great. Strauss’s achieved that level of brilliance and beauty ten years before Beecham did.

Another English conductor Sir Adrian Boult told of Strauss coming to London in 1914 to guest conduct a program featuring three of his own works and the Mozart 40th. He had four hours of rehearsal time with the orchestra, devoted one hour to his own works, and rehearsed the 25-minute Mozart for the other three hours.

B. I have written previously here on other recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony. One very notable 1936 Columbia 78 set was conducted by Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941) and distinguished for its balance of gripping power, delectably understated poetry and dance-like elegance. The Paris Conser­vatory Orchestra was very responsive to his leadership.


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