Latest additions and reviews

4 December 2018

In the wake of my reviews of Los Malagueños – Antonio Cano and family on Harmonia Mundi, I’ve transfered, updated and enhanced my reviews of Vanguard’s Manitas de Plata (originally posted on Amazon.com in April 2014):

Manitas de Plata: Gipsy Flamenco. Vanguard OVC 8018 (USA), Vanguard 08 8018 71 (Europe) (1993)

Manitas de Plata: Olé! Vanguard OVC 8068 (1994)

“The Flamenco Guitar of Manitas de Plata”, Vanguard 08 9158 72 (2 CDs, 1994) compiling the two previous CDs.

1 December 2018

Reviewed Los Malagueños: Flamenco. El Malagueño (Antonio Cano), Marino Cano (second guitar), Nena and Conchita Cano (vocals). Harmonia Mundi “Musique d’abord” 190965 (1988), 195965 (2000), from LP HM / HMU 965 “Los Malagueños Chants et guitare/vol. 3”, the companion disc of a CD I reviewed last SeptemberGuitares gitanes (Gipsy Guitars), Harmonia Mundi “plus” HMP 390925 (1994), Harmonia Mundi “Musique d’abord” 195925 (2017).

30 November 2018

Disappointing program of Folksongs of Catalonia: harmonizations by  Amadeo Vives, Lluis Millet, Antoni Pérez Moya, Josep Cumellas i Ribó, Enric Morera i Viura, Eduard Toldrá, Nadal Puig, Salvador Mas, Pau Casals. Orfeó Catalá, Jordi Casas. Harmonia Mundi Ibèrica HMI 987006 (1992) and reissues. The songs are unsophisticated and the harmonizations not particulary ear-catching. A curiosity: the arrangement for soprano and chorus by Pau (Pablo) Casals of the Christmas Carol  El cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds), which he made famous through his arrangement for cello and piano, which he played at all his concerts after his exile from Spain (1939), and which subsequently (and consequently) became the unofficial anthem of Catalonia. The arrangement sounds extremely nostalgic – I could have mistaken it for a Russian folksong, had I not known it was Catalan – which is bizarre, considering that it’s a song in which the birds happily welcome the birth of Jesus… A case, I guess, where context engulfed content.

28 November 2018

Transferred the remainder of my Amazon reviews of Vivaldi’s mandolin and lute concertos:

Intégrale des oeuvres avec luth (complete works with lute): Concertos RV 558, RV 540, RV 93, Trios RV 82 and 85. Michel Amoric (lute), Jean Estournet (violin and direction), Jean-Philippe Vasseur (viola d’amore), Ensemble instrumental (rec. 1981). Adès 14.024-2  (1986)

Music for Lute and Mandolin (Concertos RV 532 for two mandolins, RV 425 for mandolin, RV 93 for lute, RV 540 for viola d’amore & lute, Trios RV 85 & 82 for lute, violin & cello). Paul O’Dette, Robin Jeffrey (second mandolin), Paul Goodman (violin & viola d’amore), The Parley of Instruments, Paul Goodman and Peter Holman (12/84). Hyperion CDA66160 (LP 1985, CD 1986) and subsequent reissues

Concerti per Liuto e Mandolino / Concertos for Lute and Mandolin (Concertos RV 558 for multiple instruments, RV 540 for viola d’amore & lute, RV 425 for mandolin, RV 93 for lute two violins & b.c., RV 532 for 2 mandolins, Trio RV 85 & RV 82 for violin lute and b.c.). Duilio Galfetti & Wolfgang Paul (mandolin), Luca Pianca (archlute), Enrico Onofri (viola d’amore), Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini December 1990, April/May 1992. Teldec 4509-91182-2 (1993) and subsequent reissues

Good thing done. Now I need to listen to and review my two remaining versions, by Fabio Biondi and L’Arte dell’Arco. Then I can move on to other (Vivaldi) things – like, how about my complete comparative survey of the Four Seasons? Or the flute and recorder concertos?

26 November 2018

Long time no activity on Discophage.com. Well, here is a return in a whimper rather than in a bang, with a review of four lovely 18th-century Italian concertos for Mandolin by obscure composers whose dates history hasn’t even retained, recorded by Claudio Scimone in 1971 and reissued by Erato in 2009, 5050466-5691-2-7 . And since, in the review, I referred to Scimone’s two recordings of Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concertos, I went ahead and transferred from Amazon.com my reviews of the 1969 recording (with the same Alessandro Pitrelli and Bonifacio Bianchi as on the Italian Mandolin Concertos) and 1983 remake (now with Ugo Orlandi and Dorina Frati). As always, that process of transfer over here involves much more in content… and time! than just copy and paste. I’m hoping to transfer my other reviews of alternative versions of the Vivaldi Mandolin Concerti, by The Parley of Instruments on Hyperion and the extraordinary Il Giardino Armonico on Teldec.

Other than that, these last few months without any activity on Discophage.com, I’ve been still buying an unreasonable amount of CDs with the secret hope of living 1,000 years, with each CD very cheap but 1 million times cheap starts piling after a while, listening to a few but not reviewing (time consuming! Just look at the research behind the oh-so-inconspicuous Erato disc of the mandolin concertos….), busying myself with many label discographies – Harmonia Mundi, Erato, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Hyperion, Chandos among the biggies, but also Cascavelle, Tahra, Fnac Music, Continuum, Montaigne, Salabert, Bluebell – so many in fact that I can’t mention them all, but hope to publish them eventually.

18 September 2018

An aside: Guitares gitanes (Gipsy Guitars), by El Malagueño (Antonio & Marino Cano, guitars, with Isabel, chant). Harmonia Mundi “plus” HMP 390925 (1994), Reissue Harmonia Mundi “Musique d’abord” HMA 190925 (2017). Enjoyable recital of Spanish guitar. Is it “authentic” flamenco ? I don’t know. Purists are very touchy about these things. They scorn Manitas de Plata, not, mind you, because Manitas isn’t musical (they don’t really pronounce on that), but because he isn’t authentic flamenco. Not being a purist, and not even a connoisseur, I can feel free to enjoy the music offered here by Antonio Cano aka El Malageño (the guy from Málaga). Again, what was going to be a very quick and short review – in essence: “not being a purist and not even a connoisseur of flamenco, I can feel free to enjoy the music” – turned out to require more work, time and minutiae than that: first, establishing the sources, from LPs published by Harmonia Mundi in the early 1970s; and then, trying to find out – just like that, out of simple curiosity – biographic elements about the guitarist. On the last point, I failed, and there remains a mystery there. Other than the few recordings made for Harmonia Mundi, the guy seems to have left no trace on the internet.

8 September 2018

Long time no review. I’m back, although for a very “peripheral” review, The Soviet Army Choir on Chant du Monde. Not that I’ve been totally inactive in music all these months, just too busy sorting out the many CDs that I keep buying (there’s something self-defeating there) and working on various discographies. Indeed, I was adding to my Chant du Monde discography when I chanced on the riddle of two different CDs of the Soviet (or “Red”) Army Choir published by Chant du Monde under the same label number, 274.768. The earlier release sold very cheap, so I went for it.

As always, I’m hoping to return for more.

9 April 2018

Follow-up on my recent chance discovery of Piers Hellawell (see my blog post from March 29): received, heard and reviewed Piers Hellawell: Inside Story for violin, viola and orchestraThe Still Dancers for string quartetQuadruple Elegy (in the time of freedom) for violin and chamber orchestra. Metronome Recordings MET CD 1059 (2002) and found that it entirely lived up to its promise. “The music of Hellawell is much of what I wish for when I listen to contemporary music: its language is advanced and demanding enough – no neo-romantic, clowingly sentimental film-music like gestures here, a genre in which many prominent composers seem to revel these days – but not intractably “avant-garde” either (vade retro, Ferneyhough and Wuorinen!); busy orchestrally, very colorful and atmospheric, loud at times and dramatic, dynamic and propulsive in the outer movements in a manner – oh very vaguely – reminiscent of Walton’s First Symphony. But also extremely lyrical – again, not the sentimental and mawkish lyricism of the reactionary neo-romantics, not a lyricism that whines, a passionate lyricism that scorches”. Although Hellawell occasionally uses some “advanced” performance techniques and modes of sound production,  there’s nothing that strikes me as truly “ground-breaking” in his music, but he seems to me to offer a superb synthesis of “the old and the new”.