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December 19, 1950 - Image 10

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Michigan Daily, 1950-12-19

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'V

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

/ TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1950

'I

Variety of Classical, Jazz Recordings Available for Ch

ristmas

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* * #

4

Cassical..
0 By AL SILVER
Those of us who heard Becham's superb performance of Mozart's
Symphony No. 38, the 'Prague', at the Choral Union concert, or
who have owned.Sir Thomas' earlier recording, will perhaps be a little
disappointed in his new lp version with the Royal Philharmonic.
Not that this latest edition is unacceptable. The differences be-
tween it and the other performances are small but persistent. One
notices somewhat less restraint, for example, in the wandering phrases
by the strings in the introduction-a little too much shading, an ele-
ment of over-phrasing. There is a freer use of rubato throughout, less
unity among the choirs, a slight imbalance favoring the lower strings.
The lp collector, however, has little choice but the Beecham,
unless he prefers his Prague in the dubious style of th St. Louis
Orchestra. And Beecham's Mozart though it be slightly below par,
is sure to delight.
Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, as performed by Beecham on the
reverse, is much less to this revieweres taste. The orchestral execution
is infallible, but overly deliberate tempi and fussy phrasing produce a
lack of movement in the first and last movements. The adagio is
played with marvelous virtuosity but is much too languishing. Our
preference is for Krips' well-integrated lp with the London Symphony.
* * * *
GUIDO CANTELLI conducts the N.B.C. Symphony on an lp disc
bearing Hayden's Symphony No. 93 and Hindemith's "Mathis der
Maler." The Haydn-released last year-is remarkable for Cantelli's
ill-controlled vehemence and failure to comprehend the composer's
idiom.
The Hindemith represents a complete reversal of form. The N.B.C.
reveals itself as an instrument of great expansiveness and rich tonal
capacity, while Cantelli shapes out the music's drama with a care-
ful hand.: Throughout, the piece is given a compelling broad-based
momentum.
All in all, Cantelli's version is preferable to Hindemith's own
with the Berlin Philharmonic. The composer's Interpretation is
cleaner and more silvery in the first two sections but fails to con-

with a disturbing heaviness of phrasing and of breath. Harrel's con-
stant strainging for an appropriately limpid quality in such songs
as "Und wussten's die Blumen", and "Hor'ich das -Liedchen kingen"
result only in discomfort on the part of both singer and listener.
The tempi in songs like "Die Rose, die Lilie" and "Aus Mar-
chen winkt es" are all too slow, contributing to the general heavi-
ness of approach. On the other hand, in sections stressing mas-
culinity-"Im Rhein", "Ich grolle nicht", "Die alten bosen Lieder"
--Harrell's singing is resolutely eloquent.
As for the vital piano, Reeve's playing is small-scaled and timid.j
As "conceived" by him the role never becomes a full partner in the
musical proceedings. Perhaps Reeve's reticence is just as well for he
is stiff, tinny, percussive and unperceptive. Clumsy throughout, he
reaches new heights of bumbling stolidness in mangling through
Schumann's wonderful postlude for solo piano.
A rare experience awaits those who have not heard "Dichterlibe"
as recorded by Shiotz and Moore on the HMV label. Lovers of
fine lieder should not deny themselves this recording's magical blend-
ing of sensitive talents. The mechanical advantages of lp are not so
great that one would choose to by-pass the memorable artistry on the
English discs.
** . .*
I HAVE BEEN ABLE to hear only one of the Columbia lp's made
at this summer's Bach festival in Pradres, supervised by Pablo Casals.
This disc contains the "Suites No. 1 and 2 for Orchestra."
Casal's integrity in his political life is well known, but we have
had all too few opportunities to witness the man's quality in his music.
These issues therefore fulfill a great need.
Casals does not see the suites through a haze of Wagnerism,
thereby avoiding the ponderousness of Mengleberg, et al. But
there is nothing pallid, no traces of timidity. Listening to the
popular Pglanaise, for example, one is aware of how this piece
has been distorted by others into an over-pretty parody of itself.
The finely-controlled ruggedness of Casals' approach to, this
music is quite literally a revelation.
The sustained nobility of execution, the superb recording-notable
for its transparency and space-the perfect flute of John Wummer

in the Second Suite, a virtuosity which draws attention only to Bach
and never to itself, all make the disc required listening. A reviewer's
words can give little indication of the quality of the experience offered
in these performances.
* * * *
THE RCA MICROGROOVE of Koussevitsky conducting the Bos-
ton Symphony in Haydn's Symphony No. 92 ("Oxford") and the Eine
Kleine Nachtmusik of Mozart is, in my opinion, something to avoid.
Koussevitsky, in contrast to Casals, is not directly in touch with the
spirit of the music.
His Haydn has degenerated since earlier days, when he was
capable of the memorable Symphony No. 102 which is still in-
cluded in the standard catalogue. It is now completely out of
style--fat and $onderous, romanticized in its phrasing, lacking
the earthy bounce of an acceptable Haydn performance. Most
damning is the sluggishness which weighs upon the Adagio's won-
derful middle section.
Mozart's serenade fares little better. The playing is unaccount-
ably stiff throughout. Nonetheless one can enjoy the sheer virtuosity
of Boston's strings until the last movement which, at the hands of
Koussevitsky, is little else than a steel-plated juggernaut. The fast
tempo, calculated to show off the orchestra's skill, is an egregious error
of taste. Further, the acoustics of the Tanglewood Music Shed, where
these pieces were recorded, lacks the warm luster of Boston's Sym-
phony Hall.
Performances of the Haydn by George Szell and of the Mozart
by Klemperer, Kleiber and Beecham would seem to satisfy one's de-
sire to hear this music played well. If anyone is still collecting worthy
jobs on standard discs, a treasurable interpretation of the Oxford
Symphony is provided by Bruno Walter's old set, accomplished with
the Paris Conservatory Orchestra.
AN AVOIDABLY POOR RECORDING should not deter the seri-
ous listener from investigating a Polydor lp of Bartok's- Sonata for
Two Pianos and Percussion, played by the composer and his wife.
The music is difficult but immensely rewarding, a good introduction
to the more abtruse Bartok.

..

I.

SIR THOMAS BEECHAM SERGE KOUSSEVITSKY
* * * * * *
vey the anguish of the last in nearly as convincing a fashion as
Cantelli.
The unfortunate pairing with Cantelli's misbegotten Haydn makes
Hindemith's recording more attractive than otherwise. If one desires
the Haydn work he might investigate Beecham's sophicated treatment
of it on Columbia 78 rpm discs.
LISTENING TO MACK HARRELL'S beautiful singing in a Ravel
song-cycle with the Philadelphia Orchestra during last year's May
Festival, one became convinced anew of his devotion to his music, his
pervasive sincerity. These same qualities are demonstrated again in his
RCA lp of Schumann's great "Dichterliebe" but they do not compen-
sate for Harrell's uneasiness in this intimate medium. The piano part
is essayed by George Reeves.
Notable indeed is the singer's firmness of voice but it is purchased

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i

Jazz .. .

By SAUL GOTTLIEB
uHEGROWING interest in jazz, as differentiated from popular band
music, has resulted in a virtual frenzy of recording activity by
small and big companies of small and big bands playing everything
from Dixieland (real and phony) to what is euphemistically called
"progressive jazz" today.
The smaller outfits are putting out the most musically interesting
labels, although in reissuing some of the things that have become col-
lector's items, their recording technique leaves much to be desired.
* * * * .
THE HOT JAZZ CLUB of America nas just released a group of
fine old numbers which are, unfortunately, re-recordings of the origi-
inals, rather than repressings of the master records. A lot of the finer
touches are lost thereby: particularly in Louis Armstrong's earlier
work, Beiderbecke's incredibly sweet tone, and Jelly Roll Morton's sub-
tle piano.
But the essence of Louis' greatness comes through in most of
them. The rich melancholy and nostalgia, which have become
the signature of his trumpet, are beautifully evident in "Of All
The Things You Done To Me," despite the side's fuzziness in spots.
Its reverse, "Everybody Loves My Baby," is a bit too cute in treat-
ment, even though it manages to retain the peculiarly pleasant
flavor of the music of the twenties. 4k
For a sample of Armstrong's virtuosity you couldn't do much better
than listen to his "St. Peter Blues" in which he almost rips right out
of the record. Backing it up is a real find-"Bridwell Blues," with a
vocal by Nolan Welsh. In the tradition of the bitterly understated
Negro protest blues, Bridwell is comparable to Louis' famous "Black
and Blue and Shine."
IF YOU'VE never heard Beiderbecke on an original, or even on
the Parlophone reissues which the British released in the thirties, you

should get the HJCA 84 on which he does "Since My Best Gal Turned
Me Down and Sorry." They have the nervously light-hearted manner
of the Chicago style jazz plus Bix's remarkable ability to weave in and
out of an ensemble arrangement and yet sound like part of the rhythm
section.
Jelly Roll ("I invented Jazz") Morton can be heard on this
label in four very-worth-while pieces-"Original Jelly Roll Blues"
and "Doctor Jazz," and "Jelly Roll Blues" and "Big Fat Ham."
Sidney Bechet's clarinet-one of the best in the business-is well
represented on a new Brunswick. Working with Noble Sissle's Swings-
ters, Bechet gets the full range of potentials out of the instrument
with his deep-throated tone in "Blackstick." The other side of this,
"When the Sun Sets Down South," does not come off as well,4per-
haps because it tries for pictorial effects. But Bechet's performance is,
as always, exciting.
THE ELLINGTON organization is a very flexible one. The Duke's
son Mercer has started his own record company, Mercer Records,
which has issued several records with various elements of the outfit
combining for some very unique results.
Oscar Pettiford, for instance, stars on the two sides "Perdido"
and "Oscalypso" while Ellington takes a back seat in the rhythm sec-
tion, except for the opening piano solo on the latter, where he's won-
derful. In both numbers Pettiford plays the cello instead of the
bass. "Perdido" is a slow jump tune to which the cello gives great
depth. In "Oscalypso" the instrument provides a sombre quality sim-
ultaneously with a kind of controlled high gayety.
Johnny Hodges takes over the group for "A Little Taste" and
"It Shouldn't Happen To A Dream," in the big band swing style.
"A Little Taste" is nicely mellowed by coordinated use of the rhy-
thm section through the whole number after Hodges' richly-
toned opening alto-sax solo. The Dream shouldn't have happened
-it's a sentimental treatment of a tune that has a surfeit of sac-
*Q*.

charine to start with. Billy Strayhorn's piano helps it in the
breaks, but not much.
Al Hibbler, the Ellington vocalist, gives a good demonstration of
his clean, understanding voice on "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've
Seen" and "White Christmas" but that's all the interest these sigies
have. The Ellintonians are in their commercial mood on these. Hib-
bler, however, gives new dimension to Nobody Knows-his interpreta-
tion is one of strength and dignity, rather than the whining com-
plaint usually heard in renditions of the song.
* * * *
THE FIREHOUSE FIVE have been getting a lot of play by the
disc-jockeys lately, all of which is deserved. A group of Disney ani-
mators who play Dixieland on their nights off, they have a real ball
with their music. It isn't very pure Dixie-it's looser, more raucous,
takes on a.lot of commercial tricks-but it's fun. On the Good Time
Jazz label, the best of the lot is"Riverside Blues" and "Red Hot River
Blues," the latter being a Honky-Tonk take-off on the old "Red River
Valley" which gets a bit hysterical.
For purer Dixie we turn to Frank Gillis and the Dixie Five.
Those who've heard this outfit at fraternity dances here and in
bistros between here and Detroit will be happy to learn they've
just waxed four new sides for United Records in addition to their
album which went on sale recently. "Mr. Jelly Lord" has the Dixie
Five's usual distinctive Dixie style, with a fine sensitive clarinet
solo by Eph Kelley and a beautifully phrased piano section by
Gillis. "Milenberg Joys" on the other side is happy stomp music
--the ensemble work Is particularly satisfying on this one.
"That's A-Plenty" finds the Gillis gang in a relaxed and playful
mood while maintaining control and a sense of order about the tune.
Andy Bartha's trumpeting stands out here. For these records Gillis
included Steve Brown on bass, who helps out the rhythm section in
all of them, but has a great bass solo "My Pretty Girl," the underside
of this platter. Brown, who is almost 70, was the first man to play
bass in a jazz band, back in the twenties. For off-the-beaten-track
bass work, get this one.
AND JUST IN CASE you missed the Dixie Five Album (United
A-100), here's a quick run-through of a few of the numbers played:
"New Orleans Stomp" is about as near as you can get these days
to sheer ensemble playing in the real New Orleans tradition. It was
the white bands-the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and others-which
introduced solos and made Dixieland what it is.
"Winin Boy Blues" is a mixture of styles. Mostly ensemble in
arrangement, it- deviates to Dixieland for a piano solo by Gillis
and clarinet solo by Kelley. There .is a sense of contemplation and
profundity of manner in this old Morton tune that is haunting.
"Dancing Fool" is one out of the mad twenties. "Santanic Blues", is.
a two-beat product that was part of the standard repertoire of the
Original Dixielanders, and "J.S. Blues" is an original "dirty" blues (in
the uncultured rather than the scatological sense of the world) by Gil-
lis.
The prestige item of the season is probably Columbia's lp issue
of "Benny Goodman's 1938 Jazz Concert at Carnegie Hall," one of the
landmarks in the history of Jazz. All the big names are in on this:
Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Krupa, Count Basie, Teddy Wilson, Bobby
Hackett, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams and a dozen others.

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