Complete discography of Altarus Records, more reposts from Amazon, and a new review

No blogpost for a while but a lot of activity nonetheless for

First and foremost, I’ve published my complete discography of the American label Altarus Records. Altarus, run by Chris Rice, started its operations in 1983, still in the LP era, and seems to have folded in 2014 (last releases I’ve found were in 2011). It was an interesting label, specialized in the off-the-beaten track piano repertoire: from Godowsky, Paderewski, Draeseke, Busoni, Percy Grainger, Ronald Stevenson, Harold Truscott, Alan Bush, John Foulds, to Carson Cooman, Rodion Shchedrin, Samuil Feinberg, Gyorgii Sviridov, Lev Abeliovich, Sergei Slonimsky. On their roster of performer they had John Ogdon (in fact they documented, in 6 releases, the pianist’s very last recordings), then-burgeoning Marc-André Hamelin (2 releases), Peter Jacobs (5 releases), Ronald Stevenson (7 releases), Joseph Banowetz, Denver Oldham, Donna Amato (7 releases), Jonathan Powell (joining the roster in 2002, and totalling 9 releases), Carlo Grante (5), Claudius Tanski, Yonti Solomon, Charles Hopkins, and more.

But they were particularly noted for spearheading the rediscovery of maverick composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji. Among their circa 75 releases, 18 were devoted to, or contained, piano music of Sorabji – many of them, premiere recordings. As a matter of fact, Altarus first appeared on my own radar back in 1989, when they published John Ogdon’s recording of Sorabji’s “Opus Clavicembalisticum” (it came on 4 CDs, in a long-shaped box, and was later reissued on 5).

It is my reposting here of a review first published on in 2009, of a double-CD from Altarus – Marc-André Hamelin‘s 1991 recording of the six Sonatas by Russian-Canadian Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté – that brought me back to my Altarus discography and – especially now that the label is gone – prompted me to complete and publish it.

Prior to that I had been trying to “close the circle” of reviews reposted from Amazon to here (see my blogpost from March 6 for an explanation of that) – and haven’t yet entirely succeeded. Nonetheless, following my repost of American Concertos on VoxBox CDX 5158 (see my blogpost from March 10), and other than the Eckhardt-Gramatté above and the three Silvestrov reviews mentioned in my previous blogpost, I’ve reposted:

Roger Sessions: Violin Concerto (Paul Zukovsky, Orchestre Philharmonique, Gunther Schuller), Stefan Wolpe: Symphony (Orchestra of the 20th Century, Arthur Weisberg). CRI American Masters Series CD 676 (1994). I can live without Wolpe – or, to put it more accurately: Wolpe won’t kill me, although I don’t guarantee the same effect on everybody – but I consider Sessions’ 1935 Violin Concerto to be one of the 20th-Century’s masterpieces in the genre.

American String Quartets 1900-1950. William Schuman: Quartet No. 3, Howard Hanson: Quartet in One Movement op. 23, Virgil Thomson: Quartet No. 2, George Gershwin: Lullaby for String Quartet, Roger Sessions: Quartet No. 2, Charles Ives: Scherzo, Peter Mennin: Quartet No. 2, Walter Piston: Quartet No. 5, Aaron Copland: Two Pieces for String Quartet. The Kohon Quartet. VoxBox CDX 5090 (1993). Surprisingly good interpretations by the Kohon Quartet in this – still today, a half-century later – rare repertoire.

Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 7 “A Sea Symphony”, “Pan and the Priest”, Variations on Two Ancient Hymns, Extended Theme (World Youth Symphony Orchestra Interlochen, Hanson),  String Quartet (Lyric Art Quartet, Houston). Bay Cities BCD-1009 (1989). Hanson was born too old in a world too new.

The Juilliard Quartet. Roger Sessions: String Quartet No. 2, Stefan Wolpe: String Quartet, Milton Babbitt String Quartet No. 4. CRI CD 587 (1990). Same comment as above: Babbitt and Wolpe won’t kill me… A disappointing (and ageing) Juilliard Quartet, too.

William Schuman: String Quartets Nos. 2, 3 & 5. Lydian String Quartet. Harmonia Mundi HMU 907114 (1994). Superb.

Walter Piston: String Quartets Nos. 1, 2 & 3. The Portland String Quartet. Northeastern NR 9001 CD (1988)

Walter Piston: String Quartets Nos. 4 & 5, Quintet for Flute and String Quartet. Doriot Anthony Dwyer (flute), The Portland String Quartet. Northeastern NR 9002 CD (1988)

Walter Piston: Piano Sonata, Improvisation, Passacaglia, Piano Quintet. Leonard Hokanson, The Portland String Quartet. Northeastern NR 232-CD (1988). See this one for my “revelations” on Piston’s unpublished, unknown and masterly Piano Sonata.

Felix Petyrek: Piano Music, 1915-28”. Kolja Lessing. EDA (Edition Abseits) 017-2 (2000). How once luminaries become lost in oblivion. Kolja Lessing is an interesting performer, equally proficient at the piano and the violin.

Ignace Strasfogel: Piano Music. Kolja Lessing. Decca 455 359-2 / London 289 455 359-2 “Entartete Musik” (1998)

John Foulds: Seven Essays in the Modes, Variazioni ed Improvvisati su una Thema Originale, English Tune with Burden, Gandharva-Music, April England. Peter Jacobs. Altarus AIR-CD-9001 (1992)

AND (this still happens once in a while – I wish it were more often, but a discography or a review, one must make choices), I’ve posted a new review – of an old disc, Rodrigo’s music for Violin and Piano, by León Ara and Eugène de Canck on Cpo 999 186-2 (1993). Very pleasant, if you are ready to disregard that this music is composed, way into the 1980s, in a style already embraced by Ravel, Falla or Enesco in the 1910s to 1940s.

Next, I hope – for reasons told in the Altarus discography – to complete and publish my discography of the label Continuum.

Ten Years After: Silvestrov gone

No, this is not an obituary. Unfortunate that I should be posting this today, when all you want to do is to shower praise, admiration and solidarity to everything Ukrainian, but it has happened today. I’ve sold on the Amazon marketplace my CD of Valentin Silvestrov‘s piano “bagatelles” (as he himself calls them), performed by Jenny Lin on Hänssler Classics (“Nostalghia“). It is exceedingly rare that I put back on sale a record that has entered my collection – but I had so detested that one that it went directly in the “togo” box (meaning that I prayed never to have to hear it again). It then took 10 years for someone to buy it – you’ve got to have patience with these things. But at least one good came out of that: I took the opportunity to repost here my review of that CD, and two others of Silvestrov. See my Silvestrov introductory page for the links, or search “Silvestrov” in the search engine.

Two more transfers

And two more, because my review of Iain Hamilton’s Violon Concerto op. 15 and Sinfonia for two orchestras and Alexander Goehr’s Violin Concerto op. 13 on EMI British Composers made reference to my reviews of them on

The American Concerto. Works by Benjamin Lees (Violin Concerto), Robert Starer (Concerto for Viola, Strings and Percussion), Meyer Kupferman (Concerto for Cello, Tape and Orchestra), Michael Colgrass (Concertmasters for Three Violins and Orchestra), Lou Harrison (Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra), Walter Piston (Concertino for Piano), William Bergsma (Violin Concerto). VoxBox CDX 5158 (1996)

Alan Rawsthorne: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 (Theo Olof, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Adrian Boult) & 2 (Manoug Parikian, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Schwarz), Improvisations on a Theme by Constant Lambert (BBC Concert Orchestra, Frank Shipway), Divertimento (BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, Bryden Thomson). BBC Radio Classics / Carlton Classics 15656 91952 (1997)

…and one more to go, because the review of Rawsthorne refers to my review of the Violin Concerto of Roger Sessions on CRI. And I see that that refers to others…. But let’s call it a day.

Closing the circle

Okay, great, I’ve been able to “close the circle” that I referred to in my blog post from March 6, that endless round of references , in any of my reviews, sending to other reviews filled with references to yet other reviews…

In the wake of the republication here of my big Michael Tippett discography, I’ve imported most of the reviews of CDs of the composer’s music posted on in late 2013 early 2014 (I’ve got many more in sketch form on my computer) – and left no more references to Amazon’s ASIN numbers. See my Michael Tippett introductory page for links to these reviews (the page also serves as a commented discography) and to the discography.

In the process, because of pairings and more such references, I also transferred over here the following reviews:

William Mathias: Sonata No. 1 & No. 2. John Pickard: A Starlit Dome, Piano Sonata. Raymond Clarke. Minerva Athene ATH CD15 (1998). Great works.

Portreadau Cymreig / Welsh Portraits: Piano Works of William Mathias, Ceiri Torjussen, Pwyll ap Siôn, Geraint Lewis, Richard Elfyn Jones, John Metcalf, John Pickard, Grace Williams, Karl Jenkins, Alun Hoddinott. Iwan Llewelyn-Jones, piano. Sain SCD 2308 (2001)

John Metcalfe: The Inner Life. Black Box BBM 1053 (2000) Yes, this English, New-Zealand born John Metcalfe is NOT the same composer as the Welsh John Metcalf featured on the previous disc!

Iain Hamilton: Violon Concerto op. 15 (Manoug Parikian, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Norman del Mar), Sinfonia for two orchestras. Alexander Goehr: Violin Concerto op. 13, (Manoug Parikian, Scottish National Orchestra, Alexander Gibson). EMI British Composers 5 86189 2 (2004) It is the pairing of a Tippett Piano Sonata with one of the unjustly neglected Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, that led to all this reposting.

Peter Racine Fricker: Symphony No. 2 (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, John Pritchard), Robert Simpson: Symphony No. 1 (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Adrian Boult), Robin Orr: Symphony in One Movement (Scottish National Orchestra, Alexander Gibson). EMI British Composers 5 75789 2 (2002)

Alexander Goehr: Romanza for Cello and Orchestra op. 24 (Jacqueline du Pré, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim), Symphony in One Movement (New Philharmonia Orchestra, Edward Downes). Intaglio INCD 7671 (1993)

Alexander Goehr: Piano Concerto op. 33 (Peter Serkin, London Sinfonietta, Oliver Knussen), Symphony in One Movement op. 29 (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Richard Bernas). NMC D023 (1995)

I’ve also created an Alexander Goehr introductory page, added to the index of composers.

Why NOT downloads?

Friends and guests, dumsmacked at seeing my proliferating collection of CDs, often ask me: “why not do downloads, or streaming, or rip them all to computer and get rid of the objects?”. There are a number of reasons.

First, the price. Used CDs on the marketplace are cheap, much cheaper than downloads, on whose price you have no option. And, unlike used LPs, there is no deterioration in the sonic quality of used-CDs that might deter you from buying them.

Then, the liner notes. Half of what I know in music comes from reading the liner notes. Sure, there’s Wikipedia now, but a world of downloads is a world of ignorant listening.

Then, the sonic quality. When you buy a download, you don’t know what quality of transfer you’ll be getting, unless you go to websites like HD-tracks – and are ready to pay even more. And once you’ve paid, you can’t send it back for refund.

Which brings me to the issue of re-selling: you can with a CD if you wish to, you can’t with a dowload.

Here’s one more: you can’t review streaming, and I’m not even sure you can usefully review downloads. How do you even refer to them? Do they have barcodes, or label numbers?

And then: even though it takes a lot of space, I like the object, I can relate to something you touch, and stack on shelves. You don’t stack downloads on shelves.

And finally this, which is the true reason for my writing this blog post. Back in 2013-2014, when I was doing all my Tippett reviewing, there was an important recording of the first three Piano Sonatas, by Paul Crossley, on Philips – not his later remake (and make of the fourth) on CRD from 1984, which I’ve reviewed here, but his earlier one, from 1973. Crossley is an important interpreter of Tippett’s sonatas, as he commissioned and premiered the third and fourth. But that earlier recording had been CD-reissued only in a 6-CD Tippett collection, which wasn’t worth the buy for me, since I had most of its material on individual discs. Fortunately the three sonatas were available (on the European Amazons only, back then, but for some reason not on; I don’t know if it has changed since) for download, so I bought them in that form (I also have the original LP).

But then, we know what happens to computers. They are very perishable products, and every some years, you have to replace them: I’m trying to eke out my current one, although the t and é keys don’t work anymore, you can’t imagine the ordeal it is to have to go through the ASCII codes for these two letters, Alt 116 and Alt 130 (and I’ve discovered that there are so many ts in the English language!!) – and I consider myself lucky that the shift key and the d key miraculously came back! Changing computers isn’t an entirely simple process, because you have to transfer ALL the contents of one to the other (if you can afford a bit of cleaning up in the process, it’s even better), not only all your documents (simple enough I guess), but the e-mails from your mail client (millions of them – and that’s only the useful ones), all the bookmarked links on your browser, your antivirus. The longer I can avoid that ordeal, the better it is

So, okay, the other day, transferring my reviews, I looked in my computer if I had transferred those Crossley downloads. Zounds, I hadn’t, and I don’t even know why, because I HAD transferred many other music files. I’m pretty sure I have those tracks on an external drive somewhere – but I was burglarized some months ago, little was stolen because who could even steal some dozen or hundred thousand CDs of classical music, or only a fellow music lover with a huge moving truck (had it been Michael Jackson or rap music, I don’t say) but I’m wondering if they didn’t take that external drive.

So, bottom line: why not downloads? Because it’s easier to steal (or lose, or damage) a computer or an external drive than one hundred thousand CDs. Ultimately I may have to purchase those downloads again, which is frustrating – and I need to make a note to always keep a copy of my electronic music files on CD.

And if you are wondering if I really have 100,000 CDs in my collection, answer is: I don’t know, I don’t count. But a year ago I had shelves built that could house roughly 10,000 CDs, and I was happy that (I thought) I was going to be able to finally shelf in one place all the CDs that I hadn’t yet listened to (so I’m not talking here about those I’ve heard and put up, they are in another place). To my great disappointment it turned out that my stock of unheard CDs numbers probably three times that much (I don’t know, I don’t count, but I see the boxes and reckon).


Transferring Tippett and other reviews from

Since republishing here my discography of Michael Tippett the other day (see my blogpost from March 1 and my Michael Tippett introductory page), I’ve put the completion of my Swingle Singer discography on the backburner, and I’ve been busying myself with transferring over here my Tippett reviews from Amazon, mostly from late 2013-early 2014.

It’s a lot work and it takes a lot of time! It’s never just a simple matter of copying and pasting and done, because I try to do here what Amazon would not le me do, and make each review as “encyclopedic” as possible, with complete information on sources, editions and reissues (it is with a vague sense of guilt that I plunder my own Tippett discography – thanks to the guy who compiled it, I should be a little more honest and give him credit!), cover photos (and finding suitable photos online, front and even more importantly, back, because that’s where the indispensable info is, can take some time), recording dates and venues.

And then, there is the matter of references. Typically, in my reviews, I’ll refer to other recordings – some that I’ve reviewed and some that I haven’t. If I just copy and paste from Amazon, those references have the form that links have on Amazon reviews, sending the reader back to an Amazon ASIN number. Now, I have no reason to do Amazon the curtesy of sending readers to them; everybody should be free to go to the commercial website of their preference, or just to discographic websites like or So I need to change those Amazon links into the CD’s label number and barcode – and, if possible, append a cover photo, because it is always more telling for the reader than an abstract and dry suite of digits. And, ideally, if it’s a CD I’ve reviewed, I need to transfer the review over here, so that the link in review A on will lead to review B on And if this review B that was referred to in review A, in turn refers to review C, then I need to import review C as well… It’s an endless Round (as in Schnitzler’s Reigen).

And those Tippett reviews that I’m transferring over here are a good case in point. I’ve started small – I mean, in instrumental lineup – and am almost done reposting here my reviews of Tippett’s Piano Sonatas.  Then, hopefully, I’ll move on to the string quartets, etc. But I can complete the cross-linkings only when I’ve transferred all my reviews of Tippett’s Sonatas – plus some, because in some of those CDs, the sonata(s) is/are paired with Quartets or orchestral pieces, so I need to transfer much more than only the reviews of the Sonatas. And then, because the pairing on one of the CDs is of a Sonata by Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, and in the review I refer to another CD with pieces by that composer, there you go again. And then, that new CD pairs Hamilton with a composition by Alexander Goehr, and in the review I refer to other recordings of the music of Goehr… Round and round it goes.

I’ll soon – when I’m done cleaning up all those cross-links – give the links to all those Tippett reviews, but in the meanwhile you can find them by simply typing Tippett in the search box.

My Amazon Frescobaldi reviews

I’ve taken the opportunity of my recent review of Frescobaldi’s Canzoni on EMI Reflexe to repost four reviews of the composer’s keyboard music published in 2011 and 2012 on Amazon: the boring program by harpsichordist Robert Woolley on EMI Reflexe (1987), the marvelous traversal on accordion by Stefan Hussong on Thorofon (1999), the outlandish but daring approach by maverick pianist Francisco Tristano Schlimé on Sysiphe (2007), and Rafael Puyana Baroque Masterpieces for the Harpsichord (works of Giovanni Picchi, Frescobaldi, Telemann, Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer) on Mercury 462 959-2 (1999), recordings made in 1962 and 1964 (the CD collates one and 1/2 Mercury LPs) and a marvelous recital. And that completes the Frescobaldi reviewing I’ve done so far (but I have many more in my collection)

My 2014 Tippett discography, now available online

Following my blogpost of this morning, recounting the circumstances in which, back in 2014, I had compiled a hopefully complete discography of Michael Tippett for his publisher Schott of London (who didn’t do much with it), and thanks to reader Mark Meldon’s kind invitation to publish it on my website – done. Click here and it will open a new tab with the discography in pdf form, which you can read online and/or download.

I haven’t updated the discography but – sadly for the composer, but fortunately for the discographer – not much has happened on the Tippett discographic front since 2014. The composer seems to be undergoing the fate of many excellent composers after their death: oblivion. May the republication of the discography serve, in whatever minuscule way, to rekindle some interest for the music of Tippett.