30 November 2017

Because the orchestrated version of Schumann’s Der Rose Pilgarfahrt, as conducted in 1974 by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos on EMI, didn’t give entire satisfaction, and because, based on Schuman’s own testimony, the original version with piano accompaniment seemed truer to his original conception, I ordered the recording made by the label ebs in 1990, which boasted being the premiere recording (of the piano version) – and it was cheap enough.

I then put up EMI’s CD on my shelves – only to discover that the ebs version was already there! Of course I had totally forgotten about it – it entered my collection in 1994… Now, I have so many records that it’s easy for me to forget what I have, and that’s why I keep files – I’m slowly moving to computerizing them, but they are, at the present, cardboard files. The ebs recording was duly listed. Only, when I checked on my files to see if I had any recordings of the work, I had looked at the end of the Schumann’ files, where I normally list the choral works; but, because it is the version with piano accompaniment, I had entered it with the lieder, just after the piano works and before the chamber music. Well… too late to cancel my order, so now I have two copies of the ebs recording, and I feel particularly stupid.

In fact, I think the CD was given to me by the American tenor Scot Weir, who sings on it. I met Scot at the Salzburg Festival, where I was a stage manager and he was singing Basilio in Mozart’s Nozze. Scot was called late to replace another tenor in a concert with Britten’s Les Illuminations and he asked me to give him a little coaching in French. Well, I can testify to what a great ear and knack for foreign accents Scot has. After a few hours, I can tell you that he sung better French than most of your French singers, and the concert was superb. When he made the Schumann recording, in 1990, Scot had been singing as troupe member in German operas for a decade, and his German also sounds near-spotless to my non-German-native ears.

27 November 2017

Another CD that I pulled out of the incoming lot and listen to just to get an idea, and ultimately listened serious and reviewed: Schumann’s late cantata Der Rose Pilgerfahrt (The Pilgrimage of the Rose) in Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos’ classic 1974 recording on EMI with the Düsseldorf forces which were the distant heirs of those who had premiered the work. The piece is almost exclusively lyrical, much Eusebius and little Florestan. Careful listening with score lent more rewards than first casual hearing, although the piece doesn’t really stick in mind. Stellar cast, but Frühbeck’s conducting seems objectionably slow at times.

24 November 2017

Started listening to Schumann’s Der Rose Pilgerfahrt (The Pilgrimage of the Rose), in Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos’ reference recording from 1974 on EMI, with a stellar vocal cast. On first hearing, not really convinced by the music, but some of it may have to do with Frühbeck’s conducting, not always as animated as I think the music calls for, but some of it may come also from Schumann’s rather bland orchestration.

But in the midst of it, checking on the mail of the day, I was returned to my review of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser’s Songs of the Hebrides. When I first wrote the review, ten days ago, I had checked the songs on the CD against the scores available on the International Music Scores Library Project. Some I was unable to locate, including the marvelous “The Uncanny Mannikin of the Cattlefold”, and assumed they were on the fourth volume referred to by the liner notes and not available on IMSLP (turns out that there was also a fifth volume). As I was researching the volume on the Internet, if only to find a table of contents, I chanced on an offer from a marketplace seller on Abebooks, which was within my range of price; so I  bought it; and that’s what came in the mail today. I’ve got to confess that I am impressed to hold in my hands and have in my collection a book of scores that is almost a century-old. And the score of “The Uncanny Mannikin” is indeed included. I edited the review with the new info in my possession. Now back to Schumann.

21 November 2017

Once again. I receive a bunch of CDs in the mail, I unpack, I quickly listen to one out of curiosity – this time, Carl Orff’s Christmas Story and Christmas Songs on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi -, sounds inconspicuous enough, quick listen quick review, but then, there’s this little bit of thread sticking out – in this case, simply establishing the sources of the recordings gathered on that CD -, and I start pulling, and untangling… and what I thought would be a quicky ends up in many hours spent on Internet research and a very long review. Well, nobody’s forcing me… And that research unearthed a composer unknown to me: Gunild Keetman.

15 November 2017

Still exploring the early CD catalog of Hyperion, with another CD of folksongs by soprano Alison Pearce and harpist Susan Drake, recorded in 1981, “Songs of the Hebrides”, Hyperion Helios CDH88024, from the collection assembled in the early 20th century by folksong archivist and pianist Marjory Kennedy-Fraser. Some of them rise above the merely “pretty and sweet”, thanks in part to Kennedy-Fraser’s imaginative accompaniments (addendum from November 24: and again what I thought would be a quick and short review turns out into a long review involving many hours of research… and even more).

14 November 2017

What have I been doing since my last post? Listening but no time to write or complete the reviews (very frustrating), some discographying – and A LOT of filing, ordering, indexing, shelving. I’m buying so much, taking advantage of incredibly cheap offers on eBay or Amazon, that I’m reaching the point of collapse where I spend more time sorting out what I’ve bought than listening to it.

And then I listen to an inconspicuous disc like “The Rising of the Lark: Haydn’s Welsh Folksong Arrangements” (selection) by Alison Pearce (soprano) and Susan Drake (harp) on Hyperion CDA66104, and what I expected would take me five minutes and four lines to review, turns out to initiate hours of research, just to establish what exactly these performers are playing. Well – deed done.