Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1931-01)

Record Details:

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133 January, 1931, Vol. V. No. 4 than as a model for his own art to follow. One of the violin concertos was developed into a colossal work for four pianos and a quartet of strings (anticipating such “ultra- modern” multiple piano effects as those of Antheil todayI). in the work played here Bach has strengthened and enlarged the original, and has expanded and matured forms which in Vivaldi were only implied. Indeed it seems to contain all the essence of Bach’s contrapuntal style. The deft Mozartian lightness by which Vivaldi’s most characteristic works are recognized is evident here scarcely at all. The Allegro moves swiftly, abounding in repeated patterns, but it is simple in conception. Herr Sittard's playing is extraordinaiy. I have heard this concerto played by only one other organist, the late Lynnwood Farnum (who unfortunately never re- corded), but there is difficulty in comparing the two men, for the German plays on the organ of the Michaelskirche, Hambourg, one of the largest and finest in the world. But even apart from the advantage of this instrument, Sittard achieves an uncanny clarity and ultra-smoothness of the voice weaving. The Bach Prelude in E flat minor is more pretentious. A sustained pedal point with harmonic excursions and clashes in the upper voices is employed with singular effectiveness, ihe prelude is for the most part solemn in mood, but in- tensely complicated in its texture. Sittard plays equally well here, ultilizing skillfully the opportunities for contrast afforded by the Michaelskirche organ. As in previous re- leases of this series, the recording is capable of transmitting the most grandiose effects. Handel (arr. Best) : Organ Concerto No. 3— Adagio (2 parts), played by Edouard Commette. Columbia 2326-D (DIO, 75c.) English and German organs bore so little resemblance to each other in the eighteenth century that we cannot wonder at the technical differences between the organ compositions of Handel and those of Bach. The pedal-board was not introduced into England before the last of the eighteenth century whereas it had been in use in Germany all during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Handel wrote a great many concertos for organ, as well as for other instill- ments, and his own performances of them in England oc- casioned the most hyperbolic ecstacies in the form of poems and other tributes from his contemporaries. One historian says in reference to these works: “Public players on keyed instruments, as well as private, have totally subsisted on these concertos for near thirty years.” . Evidently Handel must have been a matchless player and must have enchanted his audience with his marvellously beautiful improvisation, for this concerto—although strong healthful music—does not cany us away today. Handel, unlike Bach, often left spaces in his published work to the musical discretion of the im- provising performer. I presume that the work of Best in connection with this concerto had partly to do with provid- ing these cadenzas, as well as arranging the orchestral parts for performance on the solo instrument. Best was a distin- guished British organist, who, besides editing over twenty volumes of Handel, was an author of note on the art of organ playing; he exerted a marked influence in England on this subject. Commette, like Sittard, adds with every new release to the worthy reputation established by his first recordings. The recording is less spacious here, but the performance, while not as sensational, is soundly competent. E. Y. G. Ancient Instruments Destouches (arr. Casadesus) : Menuet du pays du tendre, and Martini : Plaisir d’Amour, played by the Henri Casadesus Society of Ancient Instruments (Henri Casadesus, Viola d’Amore; Marius Casadesus, Quinton; Lucette Casadesus, Viola da Gamba; Maurice Devilliers, Bass Viol; Regina Pastorny-Casadesus, Harpsichord and Harpe Luth). Columbia 50262-D (D12, $1.25). Father Martini’s haunting air finds the nostalgic tones of the viola d’amour an ideal medium. There are a number of other good recordings, most important of which is the vocal version sung by Nina Koshetz, but none fits the music more becomingly than this of Casadesus, with its improvisa- tory introductory cadenza, and its beautifully drawn melodic line floating above the quiet accompaniment of viols and harpsichord. Are we ever to hear more of Martini’s music besides the Plaisir d’Amour? He composed prolifically both for instruments and voices, and was one of the most dis- tinguished theoreticians of the eighteenth century. Des- touches lived from 1692 to 1749, a Parisian, who abandoned a military career for that of a musician and from 1728-31— director of the Paris Opera. He wrote numerous operas and ballets, in one of which Louis XV danced. The present minuet was arranged by Henri Casadesus for a quartet of viols and harpe luth. It is a sturdy dance with abundant swing and go, played here with vigorous spirit. Pleasant as the music is, it is the musicians and their instruments that give the disc the market interest. Colum- bia does a fine service in making available to Americans an example of the work of the Societe des Instruments Anciens, founded in 1900 by Henri Casadesus, and which has only lately begun to record for the Columbia company in France. The Casadesus group has appeared in concert in this country, once with the Boston Symphony (works by Lerenziti, Borghi, and Asioli). The family of viols is now represented in current use only by the bass viol, which still appears in double bass choirs, although most basses now follow the violin pattern. The viola d’amore is occasionally heard in solo, and is called for in some modern scores (notably Loeffler’s Death of Tintagiles, where it has an im- portant obbligato role). There are seven regular strings played with the bow, and seven more (tuned in unison with the others) which are not directly played, but which vibrate sympathetically, giving the instrument a singularly warm and haunting tone. The quinton is a small five-stringed viol, coming between the viol group proper and the violins. It is not stated whether the instrument used here is a treble or tenor quinton. The three lower strings of the former are the same as the corresponding three of the modern violin, and the three lower strings of the latter are the same as three of the modem viola. The viola da gamba (leg- viol) is so-called because it is held between the knees violon- cello fashion. The qualities of the various instruments are better shown in the Destouches minuet where they have greater independence than in the Martini air where the solo viola d’amour is excellently displayed, but where the other instruments are relegated to a subdued accompanying role. Another member of the Casadesus family—a highly dis- tinguished one in French musical circles—is Robert, who hp^s made several solo piano records, also,, for Columbia. Violin Palmgren: Finnish Romance; Hannikainen: Linjaalirat- taat; and Merikanto: Valse Lente, played by Arvo Hanni- kainen, with piano accompaniments. Victor (Finnish list) V-4083 (DIO, 75c). After such formidable names one is prepared for a musi- cal explosion, but instead of that one hears mild and wholly charming little lyrics, of folk song cast, and in the Palm- gren piece, a touch-of greater depth. Hannikainen plays them with unpretentious competence and a delicacy that is re- vealed also in his own composition. String Quartet Mendelssohn (arr. Held): Scherzo, and Bizet: UArlesienne — Adagietto, played by the Musical Art Quartet Sascha Jacobsen, Paul Benard, Louis Kaufman, and Marie Roemaet-Rosanoff). Columbia 2342-D (DIO, 75c), The Musical Art Quartet has been steadily gaining an enviable reputation, augmented without doubt by its excel- lent series of recordings for Columbia, particularly the larger Schubert works of a couple of years ago. It has very pleasant and competent way with slighter pieces, and the present coupling is a neat example of its proficiency and good taste. The Mendelssohn Scherzo is taken with the proper briskness, but cleanly and without forced haste. The Bizet Adagietto, which we have already had from Columbia in a splendid orchestral version conducted by Mengelberg, is played with a refreshingly firm sure touch, carefully avoiding the lushness which wquld reduce the gentle music to indistinguished senti- mentality. The recording is exceedingly good on both sides, and the well-balanced tone is caught with strong, even reasonance. A felicitous example of an introductory string aartet disc. 0. C. O.