24 january 2019

An offshoot from the original Paris Swingle Singers  (1963-1973): the 1976 album “Quire is a choir” (reissued to CD in Japan in 2002), performed by Christiane Legrand and two other former members of the ensemble (and joined by a fourth singer to form a vocal quartet). I chanced upon a contemporary review as I was working on my “ultimate” Swingle Singers discography. The ensemble, underpinned by a small rhythmic section comprised of stalwarts from the Swingle Singers era, like Daniel Humair and Guy Pedersen, covers – “imitates”, or “reproduces”, would be even better words, when you look at the process of making the album – some great jazz standards, in the dee-dumming style invented by Ward Swingle. Exciting, fun, and sometimes – when the sopranos have to go in the stratosphere to imitate the upper reaches of the piano – even clownesque. It was the group’s only album.

23 January 2019

My reviews of the string quartets of Kevin Volans, which I brought over here from Amazon.com, made references to Terry Riley’s series of string quartets written in the 1980s for the Kronos Quartet, because they both offered a mesmerizing blend of “World-Music Meets The Classical Tradition”. So I imported my reviews of Terry Riley (except for those of “In C”, stay tuned).

Now I need to do Steve Reich….

21 January 2019

The one pain in the butt with this website is with collection CDs. Because of my composers’ index, when I review a CD with multiple composers, I’ll reference the CD in the introductory page of each of them. And when the introductory page doesn’t exist yet, I have to create it. So when it’s a CD like Folk Songs on Dischi Rircordi CRMCD 1009 (1989), an homage to Berio collecting works by composers who, for most of them, are not prominent, I’ve got to create an entry for each: Betty Olivero, Andrea Mascagni, Carlo Galante, Zygmunt Krauze, Virgilio Savona, Salvatore Sciarrino, Claudio Ambrosini, Andrej Petrov, Luca Francesconi, Hubert Stuppner and Walter Zimmermann: that’s 11 times as much work as with a single-composer CD… VERY tedious. Of course, once the entry is created, it’s done, and I can reuse it whenever I review another CD of the same composer. I know already that it will be the case with Sciarino, Francesconi and possibly Krauze. But the others? They are so “non-prominent” (I don’t want to say “obscure” and avoid offending anybody!), that chances are, I’ll never review anything else of them. Same thing with The Kronos Quartet’s “Pieces of Africa” on Elektra Nonesuch, with works African musicians Dumisani Maraire, Hassan Hakmoun, Foday Musa Suso, Justinian Tamusuza, Hamza El Din, Obo Addy, Kevin Volans. Among them, only Volans is the composer with multiple entries and reviews…

20 January 2019

Long time no post, but I’ve been working like hell on my Swingle Singers discography (see my blog post of 26 December 2018). I Apparently I haven’t moved beyond the publication of part I (but I’m constantly complementing that one), dealing with the Paris Swingles, 1963-1973. Part II (early London Swingles, 1974-1984) and III (Swingles to present) are still in draft form, because each discography links to the individual reviews and I have many of those still to repost.

That said, I’m a little stalled at this instant, because I can’t find my CD of Berio’s A-Ronne & Cries of London on Decca! To my present surprise, I hadn’t reviewed it on Amazon, so I’d like to do so here. But it’s not on the shelf with its Berio companions where it should be, it’s not on the shelf of the recently acquired Berio CDs still to be listened to, not in various other boxes our drawers where I thought it might be if it wasn’t in the most obvious places…. To be honest, my many CD boxes are invasive and messy, so I don’t think it’s lost. Just… somewhere. The recordings are on You Tube, I guess I could review the bloody CD without even actually having it… but it would be more satisfactory if I could find it!

So, in the meanwhile, as a recreation of sorts, I decided to import all my reviews of CDs of South-African composer Kevin Volans.It’s something I had wanted to do for quite some time, the box had been laying there under my bed… Now it’s done. Click on the link of my Volans introductory page to access all the reviews.

1 January 2019

To be honest, I’m cheating. I haven’t posted this blog post on January 1. In fact I write it on January 20 and have edited the publication date. But it’s something I had been thinking of since January 1: my list of good (discographic) resolutions for 2019 – the ones I know already I WON’T comply with, no way.

– OPEN the hundreds of CD boxes that I’ve purchased and not opened since 2016 and Trump’s election, and sort out all those CDs (no, not actually LISTEN to them, I can’t do that in a year, 100 is more likely: just list them and put them up for further listening).

– Transfer from Amazon my reviews of Mahler, Schubert’s two quintets, Toscanini (that is to oblige Laurence Levine who had again some very kind words for me in an exchange over here), Beethoven’s Concertos and I’ll probably think of a few other cycles to boot…. [a postscript and reminder to myself: Gossec, Cowell, Henry Brant, Ten Holt, Tippett, Malipiero’s symphonies…]

– Complete listening to and reviewing my many recordings of Mahler’s symphonies, Beethoven’s Concertos and Symphonies, Schubert’s 8th and 9th, last String Quartets… Bach’s B-minor Mass and Goldberg Variations…. Brahms’ Concertos… Bartòk, Stravinsky, Honegger….

– Hey, maybe even transfer over here from Amazon my great Mercury discography (78s and early LPs, and CD reissues) and publish here my great, huge and complete discographies of defunct CD labels, Vanguard, Dante, Adda, Collins Classics, and many others that I maintain. Oh, and my great Tippett discography, of course. [afterthought 30 January:] And Concerto Köln.

– Digitalize, listen to and review the few LPs that I have bought these last few years (some rare Soviet Honeggers, Tippett, Swingle Singers – stuff never reissued to CD) and maybe some of the unreissued LPs that had already been in my collection.

That’s enough for 2019 and 2020 (I’m cheating again: I’ll constantly add on to this list as new ideas and wishes come to mind). I’ll use this list not as an injuction, but as a reminder of my wishes at the begining of the year.

26 December 2018

Today I sold on Amazon my extra copy of EMI CMS 7 63277 2 , Mahler’s 9th Symphony conducted by Klemperer (with Wagner: Siegfried-Idyll), first CD reissue in the West (1989). So I took the occasion to import my Amazon review.

Although I haven’t posted any daily news, I haven’t been idle on discophage.com these last few weeks, on the contrary. I’ve been working like hell transfering my reviews of The Swingle Singers (I’ve reviewed a lot) and compiling my “ultimate” chronological and critical Swingle Singers discography. There are a few “secrets” in the Swingle Singers’ discography that I’m possibly the only person to know! Not that it’s very important in the larger scheme of things….

What prompted my return to the Swingle Singers (my big Swingle Singers infatuation had taken place in 2011-2012) is that I finally found on eBay one of their very rare LPs, André Hodeir’s jazz cantata after Anna Livia Plurabelle’s concluding monologue in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, “Bitter Ending“. I’ve not only written the review… I’ve uploaded my transfer of the LP, for every one to be able to hear it.

I had originally posted my Swingle Singers discography on Amazon.com as a “listmania” – lists of recommended purchases, they were, but I used them to offer discographies. And then Amazon changed its policies, so you couldn’t publish any more listmanias (don’t they like the notion of recommending purchases to fellow Amazon buyers? Does Bezos make soooo much money that he wants Amazon buyers to stay reasonable?), but those already published remained online (although they didn’t respond to searches, so good luck finding them, if you didn’t have the link of the page already). And last time I looked, in early December, I saw that they had taken them down. No more of my great chronological and critical discographies on Amazon – Schubert’s String Quintet and Trout Quintet, The Swingle Singers, Furtwängler’s different versions and editions of Schubert’s 9th, a few label discographies, I can’t even remember right now what I had published: a lot of work just vanished at the snap of two fingers.

When friends asked me why I didn’t do my own website and I answered that I had all I needed on Amazon, AND a readership, why didn’t they think of objecting: “yes, but you don’t have control, and all your work may vanish at the snap of Jeff’s fingers…”. Oh, well, I would have probably shrugged it off…

Speaking of the 1,000 reasons to hate Amazon (at least as a place where to post serous reviews), when I returned, earlier this month, I found out that I was now barred from reviewing, or even modifying my earlier reviews! Why? Because now thise asses have enforced a new rule: you’ve got to have spent 50 bucks in the last year to be allowed to review! No matter if you’ve spent 100 times that on the European Amazons. I seldom buy anymore from .com, because the postage prices charged for shipment of CDs to Europe have been so ludicrous – I suspect, because of USPO rather than because of Amy, but that makes no difference. There’s no incentive in buying a bargain CD at 3 dollars, if it’s going to cost you 20 more to ship it.

Not that not posting any more new review bothers me. I haven’t in almost a year. But the fact that I won’t even be allowed to modify my previous reviews does infuriate me. Not that I’d want to add – in fact, I’d want to substract. Whenever I resposted a review over here, I took to baring the original Amazon one to its bare essentials, a three-line summary, with an invitation to read more on my website. It rubs me now when I think that my reviews add, however minimally, to the value of Amazon. But, no, “infuriate” isn’t even the word. I guess it infuriated me 10 minutes when I found out. Now I don’t even really care any more. Just fuck Amazon.

Again, importing all those reviews and re-doing the discography is a hell of a lotta work, because: checking and double-checking the references and dates (recording and publication), scanning front and back of my CDs and LPs, finding suitable cover photos online of the editions I don’t have, finding contemporary reviews, cross-linking the records and reviews I refer to in the reviews.

Here’s already the Part I of my discography, 1963-1973 and the Paris Swingles. The rest is in the works.

 

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.