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July 27, 1976 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-07-27

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Arts & Entertainment Pag

Tuesday, July 27, 1976

Newest classical records delight

Koussevitzky's Copland

in 1951 that "Koussevitzky
would have excelled in anything
he undertook." That's the kind
of man Koussevitzky was. At
the age of 17 he left home de-
termined to study at the famed
Moscow conservatory. As he ar-
rived penniless, he was forced
to take up an instrument that
offered a scholarship, like the
double bass.
Within ten years he was hail-
ed as the greatest virtuoso on
that instrument since Dragnetti
and Bottesini, Shortly after his
marriage to the rich Natalie
Konst1uatiovna, he was bitten
hy the conducting hug. Study-
ing the world's greatest conduc-
tor. %Nikish, Mahler, and Wein-
gartner) by following the musi-

cal score from the audience and
practicing on an ensemble of
musicians from the Berlin Hoch-
schule, he quickly learned the
secret of leading a symphony
It wasn't long before he es-
tablished himself as a distin-
guished conductor. When he
came to the United States in
1924, to become the music di-
rector of the Boston Symphony
Orchestra, he devoted himself
just as absolutely to the cause
of American classical music.
ONE COMPOSER who worked
closely with Koussevitzky was
moved to say, "I can't imagine
vhat tny career would have
been like, especially in the be-
ginning, without him." The

speaker was Aaron Co
and now - at last - w
hear his music as inter
by the composer's c
The disc (RCA Victrola
1739) features three C
favorites: Appalachian S
El Salon Mexico, and th
cols Portrait, narrated b3
vyn Douglas. While RC.
given this record a goo
of advance publicity, it w
be available to record
until next week.
The performance of El
is of particular interest. I
the 78 era (when it was
ed) it was the only av:
recording of the music, a
twins all of its freshness
Made in 1938, the sound
from hi-fidelity, but the
formance alone cannot f
lift the listener out of his

ve c
e L
A h
d d

nd, IT IS, AS WERE all of Kous-
can sevitzky's performances, a high-
ted ly personal statement which can
est be as disturbing to the com-
poser as it is exciting to the
MI listener. Thus, when rehearsing
and the world premiere of Leonard
ng, Bernstein's The Age of Anviety,
in- the composer took issue with
tel- Koussevitzky's tempo choice at
has one point, pleading "but maes-
eal tro, it's jazz!", Koussevitzky
not replied, "Yes, but it must be
res noble jazz." Copland summed
it up best: "A Koussevitzky
lon performance wasn't always
ing what you (as a composer) want-
ss- ed, but it was good!"
re- . Brilliance keynotes Koussevit-
ay. zky's handling of the opening
far section of this work. Then he
er- lingers tantalizingly on the dis-
to sonant chords which follow,
ir. beautifully setting the Mexican
atmosphere for the work. His
c choice of tempo is considerably
slower than that to which we
are accustomed, but still man-
ages to sound convincing.
About mid-way through this
relatively brief composition, he
changes gears and brings the
tempo up to what we might call
normal. This, when contrasted
with the opening section, makes
the thrilling conclusion all the
more colorful and exciting.
died in 1951), Koussevitzky was
often admonished for concen-
trating too much on the details
of a composition, and thus los-
ing sight of the structure of
the work as a whole. This is
sitply false, and is refuted
most forcefully by this record-
ng. In addition to this archi-
tectural talent, Koussevitzky
had a keen sense of humor, and
he used it to make this read-
tng of Salon Mexico memorable.
she clarinet solo, especially,
nust be heard to be believed.

It still makes me laugh every
time I listen to it,
The recording of Appalachian
Spring was made shortly after
the premiere performance, and
the orchestral playing is sur-
prisingly sloppy. It seems as
though RCA wanted to get out
a recording of the work as
qtickly as possible, no matter
what the cost. Yet the maes-
tro's reading is so lovingly
fashioned that flaws are ob-
scured. Retakes (inathose days
were no simple matter) would
simply have drained the per-
formance of spontaneity.
Indeed, hearing Koussevitzky
play this music is like hearing
it for the first time - no mean
feat considering how overplayed
this music is. The interpreta-
tion of each section of the suite
is suited perfectly to the com-
poser's intentions. Under Kous-
sevitzky's baton, a sensuous at-
mosphere is created by the
opening bars. The hard-driving
middle section is played with
typical Koussevitzky verve, and
the variations of the Shaker
tune-the highlight of Copland's
score-build to a tremendous
FOR THE record player, what
it all boils down to is this: if
you want the highest of high
fidelity in addition to an ex-
cellent performance of this
music, buy Bernstein's Colum-
bia recording. If you want the
authority of the composer's own
reading (complete with the or-
iginal chamber orchestration of
Appalachian Spring), buy Cop.
land's Columbia disc. Hot if
you want the most fascinating
(and very probably the best)
interpretation of this music
ever put on record, buy the
Koussevitzky - quickly, before
RCA changes its mind and cuts
it out of the catalogus again.

Ann Arborites in love
with big 'Blue Frogge

DRINNERS and dancers alert-Ann Arbor
has a new disco and the Blue Frogge
promises to be a good one. It opened last
Friday night with a caried crowd, and atnaz-
ingly, everyone seemed to be enjoying them-
I think the key to this mass pleasure was
the sers:tile sound system installed by Tom
Cha-vey in connection with Astrae Sound Co.
and Soniid Production. What makes this par-
ticilar system so unique in Ann Arbor (and
in almost any disco that I have ever been
n) is the fact that they took the time and
expense to baffle the ceiling. This allows the
dancers to get the full effect of the music,
but the people off to the sides and at the bar
can carry on conversations at reasonable
vocal levels. I was able to get various com-

in, and from the looks o fthe place that
night I think they will achieve that.
Thoug the place is billed as a disco they
do serve lunch and dinner seven days a
week. They also have facilities for live music
and plan to have bands occasionally. Every
Tuesday night WAAM will broadcast live from
the place. They have also installed a TV
room (another amazing feature of the sound
system is that a full disco can be playing in
the msain room and it is possible to shield all
sound from the TV room) and hope to have a
type of weekly schedule (Monday Night Foot-
ball, Mary Hartman). Caldwell was adamant
in his desire to create a place for the town
and not just a facet of it. One thing I was
glad to hear was that they want to attract
an after-theatre crowd - something that this
town desperately needs.

Prokofiev's 'Stone Flower'


ments from people throughout the evening ANY AND EVERY dancer will be thrilled
and the music was non-stop. Try that at any to hear that the Blue Frogge was designed
other dance bar. with an ample dance floor. One could ac-
The lights were a bit too reminiscent of tually move and not just bounce up and downr
Christmas for my taste, but I was assured for fear of poking the wrong partner.
that this was expected of all discos. However, I do have several complaints about the
I do not care what anyone says, strobe lights place, the first being their spinner, who ap-
are dated and should not have been em- peared to be rather inexperienced. He was>
ployed. All I can think of when I see one is never able to blend the songs to the point
incense, peace signs, and fringed leather where there was no pause in the dancing. He
jackets. also 'cheated' according to disco standards }{
and played sides of an album, thus letting
THE DECOR, much to my relief, did not the recording company do his job for him. AP
consist of various pictures of blue frogs. In disco rarely plays any slow songs and if they
fact, I only saw one the whole evening and do, it is the last number of the evening. This
that one was hidden politely behind the bar, spinner decided to slow everyone down in
Jack Perlmitter and Carl Freiwald are re- the middle of the night with not one, but a.
sponsible for the interior, which was done in series of such songs.
rather aquatic tones of blue and green. I My other complaint is financial - two dol-
talked to them Friday and they both stressed Lars is a bit much cover to pay for a local
that they were trying to reach a medium with bar and that price does not include any
the decorating. They wanted it casual enough drinks. However, I was assured by Caldwell
so students would feel comfortable, but re- and the manager that the cover would vary
fined enough for businessmen's lunches, depending on the night of the week, what is
Collections of old paintings have been hung featured, and that it would never go over
on various walls throughout the place, and two dollars. Their drinks are also a bit over.
as trite as it sounds, it does provide a nice priced by local standards. Perhaps they are
blend of antique and modern. trying to attract a 'discriminating' crowd, but
Joe Caldwell, one of the major backers of at those prices they will not attract regulars.
the disco was celebrating his success Friday After the novelty wears off, finances will dic-
and he told me that the atmosphere that he tate destination.
and the rest of the backers are aiming for But even in spite of the cost, this new bar<
is the feeling that it is "everyone's place". is greatly needed in town, and even nicer,
They do not plan or want to cater to any spe- the bar is catering to the town. I can only
cial interest group. They want to have a bar wish Caldwell and his group the best of luck,
that anyone can come to and feel at ease but I don't think they'll need it.

HE LATEST re-issue from
London Stereo Treasury fea-
tures music of that 20th century
genius, Serge Prokofiev. Orig-
inally released in 1965, the disc
(STS 15286) contains a suite of
music from the composer's
last ballet, The Stone Flower,
in a stunning performance by
the Suisse Romande under the
direction of Silvio Varviso.
When this music was first
performed in the west, toward
the end of the 1950's, one critic
described it as "Music of such
retroversion that - more than
once-one was tempted to doubt
Prokofiev's authorship." Per-
haps he was tempted, but no
one who is familiar with the
composer's output up to thiA
time could possibly have any
doubt that this score is among
Prokofiev's most sublime mas-
terpieces. Truly, the music is
not as complex as the Scythian
Suite or the cantata Seven,
They are Seven, but neither is
the Fifth Symphony. It is also
true that the music was written
during very trying times for the
composer. In 1943, his wife was
sent to a Soviet labor camp.
Two years laterrhe suffered a
heart attack from which he
never fully recovered. And in
1948, his music was condemned
by the government, and further
performances were forbidden-
until the reticent composer 're-
formed.' Not long after, he died
a broken man.
IF SOME of the music Pro-

kofiev composed during this
time suffered as a result of this,
the Stone Flower is an excep-
tion. The score has a good deal
in common with the music he
composed shortly after his re-
turn to Russia-Lt. Kije, Peter
and the Wolf, and the Music for
Children. Two themes from the
latter composition are used ex-
tensively in the ballet. Further,
this work has all the drama of
his Romeo and Juliet, and all
the child-like innocence of his
Cinderella-his two finest bal-
lets. All that it lacks is a de-
cent libretto-but then so does
Swan Lake.
The performance is surpris-
ingly good. The Suisse Romande
has never been known as a vir-
tuoso orchestra, yet on this
record their playing is superb.
Varviso demonstrates that he is
a sensitive interpreter of this
repertory, going far beyond
mere surface brilliance to give
a reading which is direct, and
at times deeply moving. His
performance outclasses by far
the recording of these same ex-
cerpts that Gennady Rozhdest-
vensky made for Angel/Melo-
diyaSurprisingly, the Russian's
performance is stodgy and lack-
ing in focus. Of course, if you
want the complete ballet, you
must settle for Rozdestvensky.
But at the $18 price tag for the
three record Columbia box, this
budget recording of the best
moments from the ballet is for

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