A conversation is currently underway under my discography of Everest records’ audiophile reissues, about Hi-Fi LPs – there are still fans of those, obviously. In the course of the discussion I said that I personally didn’t “do” LPs anymore – which in fact is false. I occasionally still buy LPs or listen to some I already have in my collection (which must amount, by guesstimate, to roughly 5,000), when a recording of stuff I am currently listening to has not been reissued to CD.
So I thought I’d make a list of my last purchases of LPs (I can’t say “recent” or “latest” purchases, because they are so few and far between that they rapidly exit the category of “recent”). They are not usually Hi-Fi – and some of them have been truly Low-Fi.
There is a story about my latest purchase, from March 2020. Back in the early months of 2019 I had listened to some of the recordings of the complete piano music of Granados made for the British label CRD in the mid 1970s by pianist Thomas Rajna, all reissued to CD, and enjoyed them. I did a bit of online research on the pianist – from the name, I had always thought he hailed from India – probably because Rajna rhymes with Maharadjah (sort of…), but not at all: he was born Hungarian. I chanced on an interview he had given some years ago (it’s still there), and found out that he had moved to Capetown South Africa, and, at the time of interview, was in the process of establishing his own label, Amarantha, in which he would reissue some of his old and unavailable recordings, Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus, made for the label Saga in the late 1969, a Scriabin program made for the even more obscure Gemini (see entry on discogs.com), Liszt’s Transcendantal Studies (CRD, 1978) and more. All that seemed very attractive, the Messiaen especially is a significant recording, as it was only the second ever made, after the one by Madame Messiaen aka Yvonne Loriod, her first, for Adès. But in the absence of any reissue, LP or CD, it soon fell into the shadow of subsequent recordings, Loriod’s remake for Erato, Michel Beroff’s on La Voix de son Maître, Peter Serkin’s masterful account on RCA (there was also John Ogdon’s, but I don’t think it made much of a splash, despite the pianist’s reputation), and all those that came in the CD era.
So I thought I’d try to find Amarantha. Not an easy task. The e-mail address I had found online – can’t remember how – email@example.com came back “address not found”. Fortunately I was able to connect with Mr Rajna through Facebook and Messenger (which I hardly ever use), and he sent me a catalog of Amarantha’s publications. And recounting this story finally gives me the opportunity to draw out a discography of Amarantha.
Purchasing from South Africa isn’t an easy task either, but jump a few months and I bought a number of Amarantha CDs, including the Messiaen. Well, big disappointment (I hope Mr Rajna, now an old man, doesn’t read this): but transferred not, as I had hoped, from original master tapes (probably lost), but directly from the LPs – and not a very good job either, with indiscriminate filtering leaving a dessicated sound unpleasant to the ears (the reissues of live concerts fare much better).
So I ended up buying the three Saga LPs on eBay.
In September 2019: a rarity, Berio’s Sinfonia by The Swingle Singers under Ernest Bour conducting the Southwest German Radio Orchestra of Baden Baden (paired with Raymond Baervoets Konzert für Viola with Ulrich Koch) on SWF 21-22 (see my Swingle Singers discography Part I – another one of those great discographic entreprises that was interrupted in the middle and that I absolutely need to complete! time time time…).
Between November 2018 and February 2019: Swingle II Words & Music, Swingles Reflection on label Ultraprime, André Hodeir Bitter Ending with Swingle Singers on French Epic (see my review of the latter – with a link to the music!) (I’m still on the lookout for the pendant of that recording, André Hodeir’s Anna Livia Plurabelle in the French edition on Epic). And I had already bought a good number of unreissued Swingle Singers LPs in 2012, so you can’t say that I’m fickle… Their original French period is well represented on CD, but not their middle London period, from 1974 to 1982 and the advent of the CD.
March 2018: three rare Honegger on Melodiya and another Soviet label, Torch – the first one I listened to, Concerto da Camera and Symphony No. 2 conducted by Rozhdestvensky, had so many stuck grooves that I gave up trying… The others were Symphony No. 5 (with Stravinksy’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto) by Kurt Sanderling, and Concertino for Piano with Alexander Jocheles, All-Union RSO, Rozhdestvensky (+ Kara Karaev Don Quijote USSR SO, Gauk, Debussy Petite Suite Moscow PO, Kondrashin) on Torch. In March 2013 there had already been Honegger’s Second Symphony paired with Jean Rivier’s own Second Symphony for Strings by Izler Solomon on MGM (I even posted a review of that on Amazon – which disappeared when they withdrew the complete entry…), and, ah! I see that it is now available on Gallica…
January 2016 Beethoven’s Hammerklavier by Beverdige Webster on Dover, a recording reputed for attempting the first movement at the breakneck speed indicated by the composer. Ah ah, someone has uploaded it on YouTube…
A great Michael Tippett spree in 2014, nine LPs from labels as far out as Australia’s Musicon (I need to post over here the very complete discography that I did at the time for his publisher Schott; alas, not much new has happened on the discographic front since…)
October 2012: Berio’s Sinfonia, original version in four movements, with the Swingle Singers and the New York Philharmonic under the composer, a CBS recording paired with Berio’s Visage – so you can’t say I’m fickle… The recording was eventually CD-reissued on a rare, invaluable and short-lived series of Sony, “Prophets of the New”, paired with Berio’s Nones, Concerto for 2 pianos and Allelujah II , barcode 887654999221, and of course I bought it. See details here.
August 2010: Ives Violin Sonatas by Daniel Stepner and John Kirkpatrick, 2 Musical Heritage Society, and I see that you can buy it on download now, see here. Bartok Sonata for Solo Violin by Wandy Tworek on Decca, significant for being (if I recall) the second or third recording of the then new composition (after those of Menuhin and possibly Gitlis), see its entry on discogs.com
January 2009: Crumb Wuorinen Cage Yun by Paul Zukovsky and Gilbert Kalish on Mainstream; it’s been reissued to CD by Wergo on its Earle Brown Contemporary Sound Series Vol.6: “New Music for Violin & Piano” – the complete series is dubbed directly from the LPs! And I had bought quite a number of LPs of music of George Crumb back in October and November 2007, so you can’t say… you know).
Okay, I’m stalling here for today. Stay tune.