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.

Comments are welcome