Discophage indeed!

Although it is trivial, I’ve got to share this.

Yesterday I received a message that first puzzled me, sent through the contact form of my website. Those messages are transferred directly to me in the form of e-mails, and I receive an amount of spam through that contact form: serious correspondents use the comment space, by which the messages can be posted at the end of the relevant page. So initially I thought it was more spam, and I was about to ditch it without even reading.

But on second perusal it appeared that it was something else:

From: basia
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2021 7:24 PM
From: basia <email address>
Subject: searching  album/recording
Message Body:
hello
I’m in search for an album a duo from  Les Etoiles
singers Rolando Faria & Luiz Antonio, Les Etoiles – 1982 – LP (2021)
1979 au Discophage, à Paris (album live sorti en 1980 et réédité en 1991)
any information will be appreciated!
thank you basia

This e-mail was sent from a contact form on My Website (http://discophage.com)

Yes the e-mail mixed French and English so I suppose the person is located in France. So here’s my response:

Hello BasiaAnd why are you asking me ? Because the album, CY Records 733.604, was recorded live at the end of the 1970s at a night club in Paris, located “rue des Ecoles” and called “Discophage Sarava”, and my website, 40 years later, is called discophage.com ? Frankly, the link is very tenuous….

Anyway, it’s very easy to find info online about that album, and you mustn’t have tried very hard. First of all, it’s been uploaded on YouTube if you want to hear it
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9PJlTYPaa4&ab_channel=FRENCHVORTEX
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4ihDrts79k&ab_channel=FRENCHVORTEX

From there, you can easily find the LP on sale, and for pretty cheap, on eBay:
https://www.ebay.fr/itm/141453509565

The CD reissue has also been uploaded on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx6PYSxVElQ

…and from the backcover photo that appears at 32:00 it is easy to retrieve the barcode information: 3229261079229

…making it easy to locate the CD on all online commercial websites, like Amazon.fr
https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00004UJPP

It might be of interest to you to know that discogs.com also documents a 45rpm titled “Rolando / Luiz Antonio Au Discophage Sarava”, apparently a promotional copy issued at the time of the performances, with four songs that don’t seem to be on the LP: https://www.discogs.com/fr/Rolando-Luiz-Antonio-Au-Discophage-Sarava/release/3995500

It has also been uploaded on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg7LMOcKNbw&ab_channel=Replay4everFree

…and, if you are ready to shell out 35€ for four songs, it is currently on sale on Rakuten: https://fr.shopping.rakuten.com/offer/buy/54792056/Rolando-Luiz-Antonio-Au-Discophage-Sarava-45-Tours.html

All this research, which is way out of my own scope of interest and which frankly you could have done yourself, took about half an hour of my time: so if I charge you 5 €, which is less of an hourly rate than a cleaning person, I think it is fair, right?

Best wishes

Discophage

BTW, the music is Brazilian disco. Reminds me, when I started publishing reviews on Amazon.com, some ten years ago, and some dunce took me to task in a comment for chosing the alias “discophage” – because it contained “disco”, so that made me a fan of disco music. Well there we are.

On what research and findings the internet now allows, my favorite story is the one of the mystery Vanguard Mahler recording.

Collector’s tip – jinxed (about barcodes, the labels Russian Disc and SOMM’s “Ariadne” series

One of my pet obsessions as a CD collector is: barcodes. I have written and repeated that the barcode is the best, surest and sometimes only way to find your CD online, for purchase on commercial websites or even just documentation. Many entries on many commercial websites are so flawed – and Amazon is the worst – that in such cases you have no chance of finding the CD you are looking for using the most obvious search criteria : composer, work, interpreter, label. Oftentimes those credits are false, or missing, the cover photos are wrong, for another edition or even for an entirely different CD, or missing. Good luck to the “uninformed” purchaser. Chances are, he won’t find what he’s looking for, or he won’t find the cheapest offer on the website, or he’ll unwittingly buy another edition than the one he tought he was buying, or will even find himself landed with a totally different CD from the one he thought he had ordered.

The barcode, on the other hand – if you know the barcode of the CD you are looking for – will take you for sure to that CD. That is because, on most commercial website that I frequent (the Amazons, Rakuten, Melomania, Tower.jp… – things are not as consistent on eBay, it depends if the individual sellers provide the barcode information), the entries are indexed on the barcodes. Most big marketplace sellers – Momox, Zoverstocks, ReBuyReCommerce, Round3, Worldofbooks, you name it (whatever happened to Caiman?) – simply scan their CDs for sale, and the offer is automatically added to the website’s relevant page (and that’s why they don’t even know – and don’t really care – when the information of the CD that they are selling doesn’t match the credits and product info of the page under which they are selling it, because said credits are false). So type the (usually 12, sometimes 13) digits of the CD’s barcode in the search engine, and it takes you to the entry for that CD. Even if the page’s product info and photo(s) are hopelessly false and misleading, there’s a very strong chance that it IS your CD that is sold there. I’ve found great bargains using that trick – because the entry was so flawed that nobody could know what was sold, and consequently nobody bought, and consequently offer prices were low.

It is very rare that the barcode trick doesn’t work. It may happen (on Amazon and Rakuten particularly) because those website have implemented a nasty feature which I guess they thought very clever: a search on the barcode will NOT yield results if there are currently no offers from marketplace sellers. Well, yeah, I guess the clever ignorants who manage the day-to-day computer operations of those websites said to themselves: “if there is no current offer, who would be interested to even go to the offerless entry”? Well: me, for instance because I am compiling a discography. But, okay, there are workarounds (too complicated to describe here). Using those workarounds has also enabled me to find out that on Amazon (and especially Amazon.uk, it seems), sometimes a search on the barcode won’t yield even though there ARE currently offers; I don’t know why.

Worse than that: on Amazon, again, sometimes a search on the barcode WILL take you to the wrong CD. The reason is that, in another example of Amazon’s bureaucratic un-wieldiness, for no reason that I can comprehend except sheer mistake or Gremlin in the machine, an entry will be indexed on two entirely different barcodes, the legitimate one (e.g. the one corresponding to the product info) and another one. They are not, mind you, barcodes of two different editions of the same CD (that would make sense, for instance, with many issues from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when labels like CBS – not yet Sony – or Deutsche Harmonia Mundi had a barcode for their European distribution and another one for their US distribution – but otherwise the two editions were exactly the same CD, cover art, liner notes). In the case of Amazon’s flawed listings, they are two entirely different CDs. It has happened to me a number of times, though infrequently (I think no more than ten in all my online-purchasing “career”) that I thought I had bought a certain CD, and received an entirely different one – usually junk pop music or “easy listening”. That was through no fault of the seller (except the fault of not checking, and not caring, if the entry’s product info matched their CD – see above), but because of the faulty listing indexed on two different and non-related barcodes. I’ve never had any problems getting a refund in those cases – but it was more complicated to buy the CD I was looking for, because I could buy it a number of times and always receive the other, infamous CD. If ever you are considering buying Koch Schwann’s 3-1146-2, barcode 099923114628,

…with Dvorak’s famous Cello Concerto but also his much rarer posthumous Concerto – don’t! Because chances are, you’ll receive instead “Painted Orange”, barcode 5014182482139, published in 1991 on the label Star Song, SSD8213 (there’s another edition of the same – probably US vs Europe, or the other way around – that has more online visibility, barcode 054438821324). I gave up trying (I junked the two copies I had received of “Painted Orange” and kept the jewel cases as spares).

Whenever I discover such faulty entries, it is an ordeal to get Amazon to fix them. Usually, Amazon’s agents misunderstand what I’m asking (“split page, create new page with barcode matching CD information”), and after tiresome explanatory back and forth, it takes them weeks to fix it – and sometimes they even send me a message that it’s fixed, and I check, and it’s not. All this is wearing and not much is at stake, so now I’ve more or less stopped even trying.

It has been exceedingly rare, however, that I’ve received the wrong CD because two entirely different CDs were actually attributed THE SAME barcode. I’m not sure who attributes barcodes, but the way it goes, each label has its own barcode. Among the barcode’s twelve digits, the first five or six are specific to the label (Universal’s, for instance, with the labels DG, Philips, Decca, but also at some point the French Accord, the Australian ABC Classics…, has been, from the start, 02894, Hyperion 034571, Chandos 095115, etc), the next ones individualize the specific issue (usually reproducing its label number). I’ve seen it happen that a label gave the same barcode to two entirely different releases, because of their choices of label numbering: the example that comes to mind is Tahra’s COL 001, a set devoted to the complete Pathé-Saphir recordings of French conductor Edouard Colonne, barcode 3504129000110 – with 3504129 being Tahra’s label designation – which has the same barcode as their Karel Ancerl set, ANC 001. Search the barcode on Amazon.com and it will take you to:

…but type the same in Melomania’s search engine and it will yield:

…and it makes things very frustrating for the buyer who’d be looking for the valuable Ancerl set, because he won’t find it on Amazon. Or maybe he will: maybe one or the other of those offers under Amazon’s Edouard Colonne listing is actually for the Ancerl set; but are you really going to take the chance? Are you going to try and buy the overpriced one-CD Edouard Colonne (best offer on Amazon at the time of writing is 25$), in the hope of receiving a bargain Ancerl 7-CD set (currently on sale on Melomania for 165€ – that’s got to be around 200$ at the current exchange rate)? I wouldn’t. I waited for the coveted Ancerl set to show up on eBay, where I was sure of what was being sold.

But okay: that’s the same label, obviously its label prefix is going to be the same which multiplies the risk of reproducing a barcode between two different releases (although I don’t recall seeing the same with any other label whose discography I compile, so it was pretty thoughtless of the single-handedly-run Tahra) (and a post-script from June 6: I’ve just happened on another case, Chant du Monde 288 015/17 and 288 051. See my blog post from June 6). But two different labels receiving the same label code? How can that happen?

But it does, apparently. Some years ago, I chanced on one such case: barcode 016861395520. That’s the barcode of a valuable CD I have, Emergo Classics EC 3955-2 with the Orlando String Quartet and George Pieterson (clarinet) playing works of Alfred Schnittke, Isang Yun and Tristan Keuris:

   Playlist (141) - Page 2 Orland12

Hence my surprise (well… not really. You grow accustomed to these things) when, searching the barcode on Amazon, I was directed to an entirely different CD: “Photograph Single, Import” by Nickelback, Roadrunners Records RR 3955-2 (note the same label numbering). So, another case of those botched entries indexed on two entirely different barcodes? Not this time – and that was the real surprise: same barcode!

Image 1 - NICKELBACK -Photograph / We Will Rock You- 2 track CD Single Queen cover Image 2 - NICKELBACK -Photograph / We Will Rock You- 2 track CD Single Queen cover

In fact, the Amazon entry is as big a mess as it gets:

And it’s been impossible to get them n to create an entry specific to the Emergo CD. I gave up trying.

Well: long introduction (thanks for reading it to here!) to say that yesterday, I found not one, but a whole series of duplicate barcodes. I was working on one of my discographies, that of the label Russian Disc (valuable for bringing to us many unavailable recordings, live or studio, from the former Soviet Union). Russian Disc’s barcode starts with the digits 74887; it’s flagship series goes by the label numbers RD CD 10 001, 10 002 etc, hence the barcodes 748871000124 , 748871000223 etc. (the penultimate 2 designates a CD, and the final digit goes down one when the label number goes up one, with jumps of four when come the tens, hence 748871000926 and 748871001022 – that’s one of the “mechanics” of barcode progression). But one sub-series of Russian Disc, “Great Soviet Artists”, goes by the label numbers RD CD 15 001, 002 etc., hence barcodes 748871500129, 748871500228 etc. – you get it. I was going to work on compiling that series, starting with 15 001, “Sofronitsky Plays Prokofiev” (backcover photo retrieved from an eBay offer, not high quality, but barcode fully legible):

PROKOFIEV - Sofronitsky - Sonate pour piano n°7 en si bémol majeur op.83

Surprise again, because searching 748871500129 on Amazon didn’t yield the expected Russian Disc Sofronitsky plays Prokofiev, but a record from the label SOMM (and a series called “Ariadne”), 5001: Carole Farley sings Grieg Songs. But the real surprise came from seeing the backcover photo (for once duly provided by Amazon) and the barcode :

And this time, it’s not a one-off, the series goes on. Russian Disc 15 002 ( 748871500228):

TCHAIKOVSKY - Oistrakh - Concerto pour violon en ré majeur op.35

SOMM Ariadne 5002:

…and it goes on. Russian Disc’s series was published in 1993, SOMM’s dates from 2018, so it’s really a case of SOMM parasiting the barcodes of Russian Disc.  I’m conjecturing that what may have happened is that Russian Disc was attributed the five-digit barcode prefix 74887, which, when complemented with their label numbers 1500x, gives barcodes 748871500x2y, and SOMM was landed with the six-digit barcode prefix 748871, which, with the addition of their label numbers 500x, unfortunately gives barcodes 748871500x2y, same as Russian Disc’s.

SOMM’s Ariadne is not an uninteresting series, but what sucks is that they make it impossible to find on many websites, starting with Amazon, the Russian Disc installments. KHATCHATURIAN - Sitkovetsky - Concerto pour violon et orchestre en ré miAnd what pisses me off even more at – again – Amazon, is that now, the reviews I and others posted prior to 2018 under Russian Disc 15 009 (barcode 748871500921), with a fabulous recording of the Violin Concertos of  Khachaturian by the stupendous and tragically short-lived Julian Sitkovetsky (father of Dimitri – “Hearing these recordings as well as Sitkovetsky’s Sibelius, I am left with no doubt that, had he lived, he would have been viewed, indeed, as one of the greatest violinists of the 20th Century, an equal to Oistrakh. A tragic loss for music.”), now appear to be for SOMM’s “Great Classic Film Music, vol. 2”. Oh please! Well, heck… I’m not even going to try and get Amazon to fix it. Here’s a link to my review on Amazon, pending repost on the present website.

Melomania is again fine – probably because the SOMM CDs have not yet reached the shores of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. You can find Russian Disc 15 007 (Heinrich Neuhaus plays Chopin, recordings from 1953-1955) listed on Amazon (badly – no cover photo), because, bizarrely, its barcode is slightly different from the rest of the series: not 748871500723 as it should have been, but 12-digit 744887150075 (as often, information including front and back cover photos is the most complete on Melomania – link will open a new tab). The cover art is different from the rest of the series, and I wonder if that has anything to do with the discrepancy, or the fact that it was published in 1994 (but the rest of the series, which returns to the normal barcode numbering, also). I don’t know.

Also, apparently SOMM’s series stops at 5012 barcode 748871501225. I don’t know what happens next for the series, if it just stops there or is given another barcode. But the good thing about its disappearence is that finally, Russian Disc 15013, barcode 748871501324 (Samuel Feinberg plays Bach’s Well-Temperered Keyboard, 4 CDs, much-coveted and expensive on the marketplace) and subsequent releases are listed. Russian Disc’s Great Russian Artists series seems to stop in 1996 at 15 025, barcode 748871502529, Glière’s Symphony No. 3 “Ilya Murometz” conducted by Natan Rakhlin in 1974, see the excellent entry on Discogs.com.

And while I’m at it, here is, as an teaser to my future (?) discography of Russian Disc, a listing of the releases of that 15 00x “Great Russian Artists” series. There are some gaps, corresponding to issues I haven’t found trace of; since no corresponding listing appears on the existing discographies or on Discogs.com, I am assuming that they were never released.

RD CD 15 001  Sofronitsky plays Prokofiev Tales of the Old Grandmother (11.VI.55), Gavotte op. 12-2, Rigaudon op. 12-3, Légende op. 12-6 (9.VI.53), Prélude op. 12-7 (11.VI.53), Allemande op. 12-8, Scherzo humoristique op. 12-9 (18.VI.53), Sarcasmes op. 17 (10.IV.55), Sonata 7 (11.VI.55), Visions fugitives (10.4.55) (1993) 748871500129

RD CD 15 002 “Oistrakh Plays Tchaikovsky” Violin Concerto (Oistrakh 1939), Rococo Variations (Knushevitsky 1951) All-Union Radio Orchestra, Gauk, Romeo & Juliet (adaptation for Soprano Tenor & Orchestra) Samosud 1954  (1993) 748871500228 

RD CD 15 003  Mravinsky conducts Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings (25.III.49 incorrectly dated 1961), Capriccio Italien (23.II.50), Francesca da Rimini (10.III.48) Leningrad Philharmonic (1993) 748871500327

RD CD 15 004 Neuhaus plays Scriabin Piano Concerto (All-Union Radio Orchestra, Nikolai Golovano 1948), Poems op. 32/1&2, op 59/1, op.  63/1&2, Prelude & Nocturne for the left-hand op. 9, Preludes op. 11/4 & 10, 8 Preludes op. 13 (1993) 748871500426 Front and back cover art with track listing on Discogs.com

RD CD 15 005 Shostakovich plays Shostakovich Cello Sonata op.40 (Rostropovich 1957), Piano Concerto No.1 op.35 (Moscow Philharmonic, Samosud 27.XI.57),  Piano Concerto No.2 op.102 (Gauk, Moscow Radio Orchestra, 1958) (1993) 748871500525

15 006  not found

RD CD 15 007 Neuhaus plays Chopin Barcarolle (1955), Impromptu No.3 (1955), Nocturne, op.62/2 (1955), Piano Concerto No.1 op.11 (All-Union Radio Orchestra, Gauk 1953)  Polonaise op.61 (1955) (1994) 744887150075, barcode 748871500723 not found. Front and back cover photos with track listing on Melomania

RD CD 15 008 Myaskovsky Symphony No.  6 op. 23 Kirill Kondrashin USSR SO (7.II.1959) 748871500822

RD CD 15 009  Julian Sitkovetsky Glazunov Violin Concerto op.82  (Kondrashin, Moscow Youth Orch. 1952), Khachaturian Violin Concerto ((Romanian Radio Orchestra, Niyazi 1954) (1994) 748871500921

BEETHOVEN - Yudina - Variations Diabelli, trente-trois variations pour pRD CD 15 010 Maria Yudina Beethoven Diabelli-Variationen, op.120 (1961), “Eroica Variations” op.35 (1961) (1994) 748871501027

15011, 15012 not found

RD CD 15 013 (4CDs) Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Samuel Feinberg 1969 (1994) 748871501324

748871501423, 15014 not found

RD CD 15 015   Shostakovich From Jewish Folk Poetry, op.79 (Zara Dolukhanova mezzo, Nina Dorliak soprano, Alexander Maslennikov tenor,  Shostakovich piano, 1956), Yuri Shaporin Six Songs (Dolukhanova, Berta Kozel  piano 1952), Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov Four Poems of Rabindranath Tagore (Dolukhanova, Eduard Grach violin, Berta Kozel  piano 1952), Dmitri kabalevsky Six  Joyful Songs (Dolukhanova, Nina Svetlanov piano 1966) (1994) 748871501522 see cover art on Melomania

RD CD 15 016 to 15 020 not found

RD CD 15 021 Pavel Lisitsian Romances by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky Recordings 1939-61. Pianists Naum Walter, Malvel Sakharov, Alexander Erokhin, Boris Abramovich, Andrei Mytnik, Nikolai Korolykov, Alexander Dolukhanian M. Pazovsky (1995) 748871502123 see cover art and track listing on Discogs.com

RD CD 15 022 Pavel Lisitsian sings Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Cui, Balakirev, Arensky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Grieg, Saint-Saëns, Ravel Recordings 1939-61. Piano Malvel Sakharov, Naum Walter, Boris Abramovich, Andrei Mytnik, Nikolai Korolykov, Alexander Dolukhanian, Alexei Zybtsev, Orchestra conducted by Semyon Gorchakov (1994) 748871502222 see cover art and track listing on Discogs.com

RD CD 15 023 Zara Dolukhanova  Arias by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Meyerbeer, Saint-Saëns, Verdi, Mozart, Rossini    Moscow PO, Grigory Stolarov (1995) 748871502321 For track listing, good front and back cover photos on Amazon

RC CD 15 024 not found

RD CD 15 025 Gliere Symphony No.3 in B minor, “Ilya Murometz”          Natan Rakhlin, USSR Radio TV SO 1974 (1996) 748871502529 cover art on Discogs.com

 

Aaron Avshalomov / Avshalomoff’s Orchestral Music vol. 2: Chinese wine in Western bottles

Done. As announced in my blog post of yesterday, I’ve published my review of Aaron Avshalomoff’s Orchestral Works vol. 2: Violin Concerto (Rodion Zamuruev, Moscow SO, David Avshalomov). Soul of the Ch’in, The Hutungs of Peking (Moscow SO, Jacob Avshalomoff) on Marco Polo 8.225034 (1999)

violinists, try it on FOUR strings!

Something to share.

I’m currently listening to and in the process of reviewing a CD of music by Aaron Avshalomoff on Marco Polo, a Violin Concerto  and two Symphonic Poems. Avshalomoff was born in Siberia in 1895 but early on he established in Shanghai and, as the liner notes put it, he “worked to evolve a synthesis of Chinese musical elements with Western tecniques of composing for symphony orchestra”. The Violin Concerto may strike the listener as being to Chinese Music what Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto is to Armenian music, but I have a sweet tooth for it (and for Khachaturian’s VC as well). I’m not going to write the review here, stay tune [PS: here it is].

But I wanted to check how Avshalomoff’s compared to the “famous” “Butterly Lovers” Violin Concerto. Famous mostly in China and South-East Asia that is. I had heard of, seen as I compiled discographies, but never actually heard the “Butterfly Lovers” Co. It was composed for Western violin and symphony orchestra in 1959, in the era of “Chairman Mao”, when composing for Western instruments probably took you to the reeducation camp (just kidding – it was officially premiered in Shangai to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Mao’s victory over Chiang Kai-shek), by a pair of composers, He Zhanhao and Chen Gang (because, in Communist China in those days, you composed collectively). For more on the Concerto, see the entry on Wikipedia (link will open a new tab).

Anyway, it turns out that the Concerto is everything I expected it to be: utter sentimental crap (there’s another similar piece, equally famous in China, the “Yellow River” Piano Concerto, a Chinese imitation of Hollywood Rachmaninov). Judge for yourselves, you may not agree (but just look at the smile over the pretty fiddler’s face, and even before the first note you can grasp the kind of sentimentalism…):

Yes but… One thing on YouTube leading automatically to something related, I chanced on this: a version of the Concerto which I suppose is an arrangement of the original work (no explanation provided, and haven’t found anything online about it), for Erhu – the traditional Chinese two-string fiddle – and an orchestra mixing Western and traditional Chinese instruments. And suddenly it all makes sense! It’s lovely, still (in parts) sentimental but when played on traditional instruments I find the sentimentalism touching rather than corny, it has a wonderful feel of genuine authenticity, and fiddle and fiddler are impressive.

And, again, one thing on YouTube leading to the next, two contemporary Concertos for Erhu – I am indebted to Google translator to simply establish who the composer is (same in both works): Wang Danhong (that’s a she,  I found these biographical tidbits about her).

 

 

I find that these works offer the best of what “cross-over”, or “East Meets West” has to offer, not the bastardization of Eastern music so often encountered in such attemps (or the bastardization of Western music heard in the “Yellow River Butterfly Lovers” concertos), not “the West” appropriating whichever superficial aspects of Eastern music for entertainment, but, in fact, Eastern composers trained in Western compositional techniques and putting those techniques to bear on their own musical traditions. The results are revelatory for both cultures.

And, yes, there ARE some similarities between the Butterfly Lovers Concerto and Avshalomoff’s, although I find the latter free of the corny sentimentality of the former – when played in its original version for Western instruments. Now, I wonder how the Avshalomoff’s VC would sound in a transcription for Erhu. Anybody ready to try it?

Still “doing” LPs – very occasionally

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 – amarec@iafrica.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.

 

 

Kogan madness

One more copy of EMI’s Leonid Kogan “Artist Profile” twofer from 1993, CZS 7 67732 2 barcode 077776773223, has come on sale on eBay – it’s not an entirely rare occurence, copies appear regularly.  It was part of a short-lived series, whose previous installments (numerically) were a Giulini set, barcode 077776772325 (reissuing, among other things, his Second Symphony of Tchaikovsky and Franck Symphony), used copy on sale on Amazon.com at the time of writing for 16.99 $ + shipment, one devoted to Paul Kletzki (useful for Paul Kletzki Profilebringing back the conductor’s Mahler Fourth and Sibelius Second), barcode 077776772622 (currently best offer 13.98), and Efrem Kurtz (with Prokofiev and Shostakovich’s First Symphonies), barcode 077776772929 (9.96) – all of which reminds me that I ABSOLUTELY need to complete my discography of EMI’s series Les Introuvables, Les Rarissimes, Pianistes français and Artist Profile.

Kogan? The prices regularly reached on eBay are madness – last one I had noted, February 2018, went for 449 dollars – but today’s offering must have broken a ceiling:

Yes, you’ve read that right: 400 pounds, roughly 570 USD, for two CDs! It’s gotta be something with violinists, if they reach those prices and that kind of craze and conductors don’t.

My public library has a copy, and I even borrowed it and ripped the contents on my computer. I abstained so far from stealing it, but it’s starting to be worth it; but I fear they’ve sold it already (they do that regularly, to make room for new arrivals), without telling me. There’s a French saying, “qu’importe le flacon, pourvu qu’on ait l’ivresse”, “who cares the bottle, as long as we get the inebriation”: I can satisfy myself with the thought that I have the music on my computer, so who cares if I don’t have the actual set; but I bet that collectors of this set think the opposite: to them, the inebriation is provided by owning the object – who cares the music?

But for the music, for those whose public library wouldn’t be as furnished as mine, I’ve found  a number of workarounds: all the contents of that twofer are available in other editions, especially from EMI Japan. Here’s how it goes:

Brahms Violin Concerto Philharmonia Orchestra, Kyril Kondrashin 22-27.II.59
EMI Japan TOCE-11361 (1999) 4988006772922 (+ Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto André Vandernoot conducting Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire – OSCC)

 

EMI Japan Tower Records Excellent Collection QIAG-50093 (2013) 4988006553347 (+ Serenade mélancolique and Lalo hereafter) Note: this is the one I have

Lalo Symphonie espagnole Philharmonia Orchestra, Kyril Kondrashin 22-27.II.59
Seraphim Series (Japan) TOCE-1578 (1994) 4988006703223 (+ Beethoven Violin Concerto Constantin Silvestri OSCC hereafter), see cover photos on Melomania
EMI Japan TOCE-11359 (1999) 4988006772908 (+ Mendelssohn Violin Concerto Constantin Silvestri OSCC)

 

 

EMI Japan Tower Records Excellent Collection QIAG-50093 (2013) 4988006553347 (+ Brahms above, Tchaikovsky Serenade mélancolique hereafter)

Tchaikovsky Sérénade mélancolique Philharmonia Orchestra, Kyril Kondrashin 27.II.59
EMI Japan TOCE-11356 (1999) 4988006772847 (+ Violin Concerto, Souvenir d’un lieu cher conducted by Constantin Silvestri, see hereafter)

 

EMI Japan Tower Records Excellent Collection QIAG-50093 (2013) 4988006553347 (+ Brahms and Lalo above)

Brahms, Lalo and Tchaikovsky Serenade mélancolique also reissued on SACD Tower Records Definition Series TDSA-58/59 (2017) 4997184982764:


Beethoven Violin Concerto Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (OSCC), Constantin Silvestri 10.XI.59
Seraphim Series (Japan) TOCE-1578 (1994) 4988006703223 (+ Lalo above)

Concertos pour violonEMI France Collection “Gramophone” 4 89134 2 (1996) 724348913425 (+ Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, OSCC Silvestri 10.XI.59)

ベートーヴェン:VN協奏曲EMI Japan TOCE-11362 (1999) 4988006772939 (with Mozart Concerto K216 OSCC Silvestri 26.XI.59)

 

EMI Japan TOCE-16048 (2012), barcode 4988006894549 see cover photos on Melomania

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto OSCC Silvestri 10.XI.59
EMI France CZS 7 67822 2 “Tchaikovsky Les Concertos” (with Piano Concertos by Geoges Cziffra,  Philharmonia, André Vandernoot, by Sylvia Kersenbaum, Orchestra National, Jean Martinon and by Peter Donohoe, Bournemouth SO, Rudolf Barshai, Rococo Variations by Pierre Fournier, Philharmonia, Malcolm Sargent) (1993), barcode 077776782225

EMI France Collection “Gramophone” 4 89152 2 (1996), barcode  724348915221 (+ Piano Concerto by Cziffra Vandernoot)

 

EMI Japan TOCE-11356 (1999) 4988006772847 (+ Meditation: OSCC Silvestri 17.XI.59, Serenade mélancolique with Kondrashin, see above)
EMI Japan TOCE-16047 (2012), barcode 4988006894532 (+ Meditation OSCC Silvestri) see cover photos on Melomania

Beethoven and Tchaikovsky reissued SACD Tower Records Definition Series TDSA-56/57 (2017) 4997184982757 (+ Mozart K261, Mendelssohn with OSCC Silvestri):

Note also that the full program on Artist Profile was also duplicated on a twofer from EMI Korea, “Legendary Leonid Kogan”, CEC2D-0065 (2002) barcode 8809009309297

 

Final remark: when compositions overlap (the Violin Concertos of Brahms, Lalo, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky), the performances on the French 4-CD set “Les Introuvables de Leonid Kogan” (2006), barcode 094635192223 (see listing on Discogs.com), are different :  Charles Bruck for Brahms and Lalo, André Vandernoot for Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, all with OSCC and earlier recordings, from 1955-57.

PS 30 May 2021: three weeks later, again an offer on eBay (same seller, I wonder if the same copy put back on sale after the previous buyer failed to pay?), and this time it went for 235 pounds (that’s about 335 dollars at the day’s exchange rate):

Still way more expensive than what I’m willing to shell out for 2 CDs, but slightly more reasonable. There are two others that, when they show up (rarely), always go at stratospheric prices: Janos Starker’s last recording of Bach’s Suites on Sefel – a seller from Texas called Gnarly Media is currently selling the CD with Suites 4-6 at a start price of 360 dollars, and it’s not even the complete set! But as long as it’s not sold, the price is only the offer price, not the market price – , and French baroque violinist Patrick Bismuth’s Bach Sonatas and Partitas on Stil (and Bismuth’s Bach violin-harpsichord Sonatas on the same label with Marinette Extermann goes pretty high too).

New review: Václav Neumann’s Mahler 9th in Leipzig from 1967

New review ! (of an old recording): Václav Neumann’s Mahler 9th with the Gewandhaus Leipzig Orchestra, recorded in 1967 by the East-German label Eterna (and never circulated in the West back then), CD reissued by Berlin Classics and Brilliant Classics. That nearly completes my survey of the studio versions from the 1960s: only Haitink Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam 1969 to go (plus a few lives). With excellent sonics and a fantastically well-disciplined orchestra, Neumann offers fine things in the last three movements, but his recording fails on an uninflected, unfelt first movement, whose only interpretive point of view seems to be to march on and not linger.