Latest additions and reviews

Finally! It’s there! (what took them so long?)

Finally! At last! Alleluia! I’m done hoping (and hoping less and less) and I can hop and gambol… DG has reissued William Steinberg’s complete Beethoven Symphonies with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

 

 

Here is why this is important (and the discographic story behind that publication):

These recordings had been made between 1962 and 1966 for the label Command Classics.  Command is somewhat forgotten, except by hyper-specialized fans of those things, and largely because, unlike, say, the labels Everest (see my discography of its CD- and other Hi-Fi reissues), Mercury or Vanguard, its classical catalog was badly let down by the CD labels. Why? One could only surmise (and rue) that the mastertapes were lost.

Which would have been (or would be) a huge loss. Because those mastertapes were no usual mastertapes; they were recorded by famous sound engineer and “father” of the Mercury Living Presence sound, C. Robert Fine.

The story is that, when things started to turn financially bad for Everest, only a few years after the launching of the label in 1958, they sold (in March 1961) their recording equipment and their famed 35mm three-track magnetic film to Fine, who had his own recording studio in New York and was then working principally with Mercury. Fine then put it to good use for Mercury (but Mercury’s Halcyon years were nearing to an end then) and Command, the label established in 1959 by Enoch Light (see a presentation and discography here).

Now, in the quasi-thesis I wrote on “Mercury Living Presence” and posted on Amazon some years ago (I really need to transfer it over here), in view of the fact that the label had also published, especially in its later years, recordings originally made by Philips, I explored the question: what is it that makes an authentic “Mercury Living Presence” recording?

And the answer to that was: C. Robert Fine (or his close assistants) and his remarkable use of a one-microphone pickup during the mono era, and three in the stereo era.

Now, the implication of that was that, if it was the presence of Fine or his close assistants and mic techniques that defined the “Mercury Living Presence” sound, then, by all means and intents, the recordings he made using the same mics and techniques for Command or any other label should be included in the canon of Mercury Living Presence recordings.

So here we are, back to Steinberg. Think what you will of the interpretations (I haven’t even started to listen to the set), but their importance is that they add an entry to the discography of Mercury.

And that’s why their absence on CD was intolerable. Where were those fine mastertapes (pun intended)? Who had them? Were they lost? Damaged beyond recognition?

One thing seems sure: not all of them were lost in 1988. That’s when MCA Classics, then the owner of the rights to those recordings, published on CD Steinberg’s Beethoven symphonies Nos. 2, 4 and 7 (and Leonore Overture No. 3), two separate CDs but part of the same set (as was MCA’s custom in that series), MCAD2-9810 A & B, barcode  076732981023. And the backcovers of those two discs stated explicitly (except for Symphony No. 2): “remixed and transferred to digital directly from original master 35mm magnetic film”.

MCA chose to release the other symphonies in the performances of Hermann Scherchen (1, 3, 6, 8), Pierre Monteux (9) and Artur Rodzinski (5), from the Westminster label (to which they also owned the rights), and I can’t complain, because I love those performances, particularly those of Scherchen. But that left opened the question of the 35mm film for the other Steinberg symphonies.

And I waited for the rest to show up, and the years piled, then the decades.

A ray of hope appeared in 2011: a Canadian label called XXI published the complete symphonies, XXI-CD 2 1750, barcode 722056175029. At last! I plunged on the set like the survivalist after a two-week trek in the Sahara desert without a bottle. Cruel disappointment: despite the imprimatur of apparent legitimacy represented by the reproduction of the Universal logo at the back of the set, it was all dubbed from LP (I see now that the transfers were done by Yves Saint-Laurent, whose own label, YSL, regularly earns accolades for its transfers of old recordings or live concerts). No! We don’t want those recordings dubbed for LPs that, if we are so desparate to hear them, we can always buy on the marketplace, we want transfers from the mastertapes, no surface noise, Fine’s original sound! And as one Amazon reviewer commented, “none of this is told or explained on the covers of this box set.”

 

 

So, at last, more than 30 years after the release of those two MCA CDs, we have them (I read at the back of CD 5: “Unfortunately, the original tapes for the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony could not be found. Therefore for the master a vinyl pressing had to be used”). What took them so long? Where were the tapes? No idea, I need to inquire.

Good liner notes to the DG set (there were none in the XXI reissue, just the label numbers of the original LP releases), on Steinberg, Command Classics and C. Robert Fine. But DG could have given Fine more typo prominence: other than in the liner notes, he is credited nowhere (he was in the XXI reissue).

I did a quick check on the sonics of the DG reissue in comparison to the earlier MCA release. Other than in the Second Symphony, where a certain harshness in the MCA sound has disappeared, and the Leonore 3 Overture, which benefits from more brightness in the new release, I don’t hear any significant difference. Review will come later.

Mahler in France

Following my blog post of yesterday, I went ahead and wrote a review of the 1988 publication of Théâtre du Châtelet on Mahler and France, from which I had drawn my anecdotes about Mahler and Marie-Georges Picquart. The publication is a valuable resource for the Mahlerite – of interest obviously limited to French-reading audiences. The volume is long out-of-print, but copies can be found on Amazon.fr and eBay.

When “Dreyfusisme” leads to Mahlerism

This probably will be of interest only to those well-versed in France’s history at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, or those who saw Roman Polanski’s latest film from 2019 on what is known in France as the “Dreyfus Affair”, An Officer and a spy (in French: “J’Accuse”, after the title of the famous article by Emile Zola – link to Wikipedia article), but re-reading an issue of the magazine Musical, published in the December 1988 by Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on “Mahler et la France” (link will open new tab to my review), I discovered that one of the first French Mahlerites, and as early as 1900, had been the now famous Capitaine (later Général) Picquart, impersonated in the film by Jean Dujardin. I hadn’t realized, or didn’t remember, from the Polanski film that Picquart was born in Strasburg, which was a French city when he was born in 1852 (with an Alsatian-speaking population, a German-derived dialect)  but turned German in 1870, and not only did he speak fluent German, byt he must have spoken French with a more heavy alsatian accent than pictured by Jean Dujardin in the film. Anyway, Picquart, himself a keen amateur pianist and who had befriended Mahler upon the latter’s first visit to Paris in 1900 with the Vienna Philharmonic (programs included Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Schubert, Bruckner – Scherzo of the Fourth Symphony -, Wagner, and even Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique, but no Mahler), even illegally sneaked out of France without authorization from his superiors in May 1905 to go to Strasburg and attend a performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony conducted by the composer.

Even more touching, a common friend, the Viennese Berta Zuckerkandl, wrote this in her autobiography : “Picquart told us how, when he was imprisoned, dishonored, molested, he thought only of one thing: if one day he came back to life, he would do a pilgrimage of sorts in all the places where his god Beethoven had lived. And his second dearest wish: to hear Tristan conducted by Mahler. The first was accomplished et, on the same evening, the second will be: to the bliss of Picquart, Mahler programmed Tristan and will be conducting it himself. Picquart is elated as a child. He is so impatient that he rushes to the Opera an hour before the performance. As I didn’t leave with him, we agreed to meet on the grand staircase. My sister (…) and Picquart had just left, when a telegram was delivered, from Georges Clemenceau, then France’s Prime Minister, that said: “please announce to General Picquart that I have appointed him War Minister. He must leave at once”. Undescribable scene on the staircase of the Opera, where Picquart was waiting for us. When he read the telegram, he blenched, not with joy but with furore. And, losing his self-control, he threw to me with anger: ‘that telegram, you had a duty to set it aside. Tomorrow morning first thing would have been soon enough’.”

Incidentally, that Berta Zuckerhandl may be a mere footnote in the biography of Mahler, but she had an important role in his life: it is at a dinner party at her house that Mahler fist met the young Alma Schindler, in 1901. With all that, you’d think it was through his acquaintance with Mahler that Picquart got to meet and befriend Mrs Zuckerhandl; it is, in fact, the other way around: the small circle of French admirers that Mahler met in Paris in 1900 included Paul Clemenceau, the brother of Georges; Paul’s wife, Sophie, was Berta’s sister (and both were the daughters of a famous progressive journalist, founder of the Wiener Tagblatt and then Neues Wiener Tagblatt, Moritz Szeps); she asked Mahler to give her hello to her sister when he returned to Vienna; which he did, and that’s how he got included in the progressive socialite circle of the Zuckerhandls.

Picquart’s admiration for Mahler was apparently reciprocated, too, and Mahler is said to have appreciated Picquart’s “strong personality, purity, exceptional class”. And Alma! She pined. In one of her books on Mahler, she writes: “Picquart exuded wisdom and strength of character. [Mahler’s French admirers] undoubtedly composed to the most cultivated circle of Europe. Picquart could barely be called a man. He looked like an angelic creature, with eyes like a mountain spring, blue and clear, he talked seldom, but with wisdom…. When, the first time, I looked him in the eyes, I knew Dreyfuls had been wrongfully indicted… Picquart spoke fluent German, knew all the literature, knew the music of Mahler which he had become familiar with by playing it four-hands with [his friend, member of “the circle” and passionate amateur musician, General Guillaume de] Lallemand. Seeing him, you could believe in all possible metaphysics, but you wouldn’t have fancied him as a great warrior”.

Polanski should have used the music of Mahler in his film.

…and one more reason to hate Amazon (as if we didn’t have enough as it is)

As I was looking at and transfering those old reviews of Mahler’s 9th Symphony (see my previous post), I discovered that Amazon had suppressed one more of those features that, early on it the website’s existence, made it more than just a commercial website: a community experience and spirit. It had always been possible to comment on the reviews posted by other people. It was a great way to engage in conversations among music-lovers, and I had precious exchanges in the comments under my reviews, or the reviews of others. Admittedly, some of those were heated, and sometimes even on the wrong side of civility, but they still were that: conversations and exchanges between people sharing the same passion for music. I my case, I also used the comments to extend my reviews, and provide information – links to other reviews, more comments, discographies – that wouldn’t fit in the reviews, for reasons of length or limited number of links allowed.

Well – gone, void, annihilated. All of a sudden Amazon decided that the comments were useless – not just new comments, mind you, but ALL of them.

Okay, I understand that, on some controversial products, and especially, I suppose, political books, some of the comments could be close to harassment and the trolls became unmanageable. But Amazon’s response to that (if it was indeed a response to that) is another case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and punishing everybody, accross the board and indiscriminately, for the actions of very few.

The loss is irretrievable. The discographic information I myself provided in the comments, I can probably either reconstruct or, hopefully, find in the drafts of the reviews that I keep on my computer (in case something like that happens). The quasi-doctorate thesis I wrote on the label Mercury, I’m not sure, and I shiver at the thought of looking in my own files and discovering that I haven’t kept it (I think – I hope – I have). But the exchanges? The contributions of others? All the controversies and anecdotes under the reviews of Bernstein’s live Mahler 9th in Berlin in 1979, with the trombones missing their entry at the climax of  the Finale, and the post by the guy called “corno” something who claimed to have participated in that concert and that the trombones had been distracted by the commotion of someone in the audience suffering a heart attack (what a great way to go: at the climax of Mahler’s 9th), and a next post claiming that he was making this up – all these exchanges that I would have loved to repost here: gone, suppressed, annihilated. Jeff Bezos is obviously no more interested in developing any “community spirit” at Amazon, but just in making it the vehicle to compete against Elon Musk as the wealthiest man in the universe.

So be it, and I keep using Amazon when I find the cheapest prices there (only for CDs; for books I go to my local bookstore, and for food to my local grocery store). But all this confirms that I need to spend the time required to quickly transfer all my reviews over here, because one day, sooner than I think, Jeff will find it expedient to send them to oblivion.

For more reasons to hate Amazon, see here , here, here, here – and it is not limitative. But don’t bother, really.

I’m back ! (I hope)

Long period of inactivity on Discophage.com, due to external circumstances, not lost interest for music and records. And now, I’m back, and for long I hope. Circumstances led me to need to consult some of my old reviews of Mahler’s 9th Symphony posted on Amazon ten years ago – can it be that long ago !? Seems like yesterday… – , so it prompted me to transfer them over here… and, in the process, to resume what I had interrupted back in 2011 (there was a “stray” review in 2014 as well): listening to and reviewing recordings of Mahler’s 9th.

So, here they are: the reposts:

Bruno Walter with the Vienna Philharmonic, 1938 on EMI (link will open new tab to the review)

Hermann Scherchen live with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, 19 June 1950 on Orfeo

Jascha Horenstein with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, June 1952, Vox

Leopold Ludwig with the London Symphony Orchestra, November 1959, on Everest, first version in stereo

Bruno Walter 1961 with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, CBS-Sony

John Barbirolli with the Berlin Philharmonic, January 1964, EMI

Kirill Kondrashin, Moscow Symphony Orchestra, May 1964, Melodiya

Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic, December 1965, CBS-Sony

Karel Ancerl, Czech Philharmonic, April 1966, Supraphon

Otto Klemperer, New Philharmonia, February 1967, EMI (in fact I had already reposted that one some while ago, when I sold the copy I had of another edition than the one I am keeping in my collection)

Georg Solti, London Symphony Orchestra, April-May 1967, Decca

Maurice Abravanel, Utah Symphony Orchestra, April 1969, Vanguard

Carlo Maria Giulini, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, April 1976, DG

And, a new review (first in a long series I hope) ! Rafael Kubelik with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, February-March 1967, DG

 

Tranfering reviews from Amazon to Discophage.com involves much more than just copy and paste. One thing I can do on my website is to conflate the reviews of all the successive CD-editions of a recording, where on Amazon I had to post a review under each. But then I  have to do a lot of online research to find suitable cover photos online of editions I don’t have and all the associated product information, e.g. label number and barcode. For those Mahler reposts I’ve also done a lot of research on Japanese editions. I also have to update all the weblinks contained in the review, or replace them with barcode of the referenced CD (I try to avoid giving links to Amazon here, or any commercial website)…. and I’ve listened again to those recordings, in part or total… and occasionally slightly amended the reviews…

All this takes time (I started those reposts on April 1) but it makes (I hope) each of the reviews posted or reposted on Discophage.com an entry to an ever-growing CD-encyclopedia; in fact, I’m not aware of any other website that provides not just detailed review, but complete info on the CD-editions. But, okay, I’m starting with ten, I need to go to 10,000…

In fact it’s the plan. For Mahler’s 9th, I’ve pretty well covered the studio versions up to the 1960s (reviews of Neumann with the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig in 1967, and Haitink with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 1969, are pending, as well as Paul Kletzki’s cut version with the Israel Philharmonic  from 1954, originally on EMI), but I still have a number of live versions to review (they’re on my shelves: Rosbaud, Mitropoulos with New York and Vienna, Barbirolli with New York, Horenstein with the LSO, Szell in 1969, Bruno Maderna and Boulez with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the early 1970s, another one by Maderna with the Radio Orchestra of Turin in 1972). And that, save one or two, covers all the versions listed up until then by the great Mahler discographer Peter Fülöp. And then I can “do” the 1970s and early 1980s, studio and live, and complete the pre-digital era. Then digital, from then to today. The great thing with masterpieces of the magnitude of the 9th Symphony, is that one never grows tired of listening.

I’ve also reposted here my reviews of the two successive editions, 1995 and 2010, of Fülöp’s magisterial Mahler Discography, not only because I referenced it is some of the reviews, but also because it is an indispensable purchase for the serious Mahlerite. I’ve updated the reviews with recent exchanges of correspondences with Fülöp.

P.S. Oh, and – yeah. Speaking (in passing) of Amazon: one more reason to hate them, read this.

A minuscule new entry in my Christian Ferras CD-discography

As I was discographying DG France’s collection “Doubles”, I chanced on a Christian Ferras reference that no discography that I have seen mentions: the Brahms Violin concerto with Karajan on a budget-price collection from DG called “2 CD Compact Classique”, 413 844-2 (barcode 028941384423) paired with  Beethoven’s Romanzen by David Oistrakh , Bruch’s Violin Concerto by Yong Uck Kim and Okko Kamu, Dvorak’s Violin Concerto by Edith Peinemann and Peter Maag. That set, and the “Compact Classique” collection in general, indicated no copyright year. I tentatively date it 1992 based on an adjacent issue on DG “Double”, 413 853-2, “Maurice André Chefs d’oeuvre de la trompette” (“earliest” label number I’ve found in the “Double Collection”- or rather, lowest, because label numbers may not always follow chronology of publication), which bears a copyright year of 1992. The dating appears however to be contradictory with the label number. Earlier DG releases have higher label numbers, for instance DG “Resonance” 429 513-2 which is copyrighted 1990. On the other hand, the 413 sequence (barcode 0289413XXX2Y) appears to date from 1985. See for instance Karajan’s Four Seasons with Michel Schwalbé, reissued on DG 413 836-2 (barcode 028941383624) and reviewed in The Gramophone of  September 1985, or further down, Respighi’s Fountains and Pines of Rome by Karajan on 413 822-2 (028941382221), reviewed in The Gramophone of January 1985, etc.

But the set’s entry on Discogs.com shows that the two CDs comprising the twofer bear a higher label number, 435 252-2 and 435 253-2, and  indeed, the 435 publications (barcode 0289435XXX2Y) date in general from 1991-1992, although that 435 sequence appears to have many gaps in its 1,000 possible releases; closest I found is 435 262 (barcode 028943526227), an Archiv CD with Christmas Concertos performed by The English Concert under Trevor Pinnock, from 1991, see Discogs.com. I am supposing then that DG-France or whoever it was that published those “Compact Classique” sets and Maurice André’s “Double” compilation circa 1991-1992 slotted into earlier label numbers that had not been used at the time.

So, all this for a minuscule new entry in my, in intent and hope, thorough-est Christian Ferras CD-discography.

 

 

eBay finally getting their act together, after years of inaction?

I spend a lot of time – here or even without venting it publicly – complaining about the unhelpful, customer-adverse rather than “-centric”, bureaucratic mess that Amazon has become. But eBay tends to be no better.

I buy a lot of CDs on eBay, when prices are more attractive than on Amazon – which happens especially when I buy in bulk from a given seller, because I can get rebates on combined shipments, an advantage that Amazon doesn’t offer. Payment through paypal is also very easy, two clicks and it’s done. And there are other attractions to eBay. But eBay is like Amazon: such an obdurate, bureaucratic mess in some aspects that it is absolutely infuriating. As satisfied as I am with getting my CDs cheap, I woudln’t put my life on the line to save eBay if it was threatened.

I’ve recounted here the asinine stupidity of the translation “dildo” that they implemented back in 2015 on some of the German listings. If you want to know how Handel becomes “Commerce” and Till Eulenspiegel becomes “Till Owl Mirror”, go read it. To this day this grotesquerie continues.

Another problem that appeared one day – past exchanges of mail show that it had already started in October 2016 – was with the Summary page. That’s the page – or rather, the pages – that recap the objects you are following (“watch list”), or those you have purchased. That or these pages all of a sudden were taking hours – well, maybe a minute, which in the time of the internet seems like hours – to load. Scrolling down a page was so slow you thought it was mired in wax or something. Or whenever I made a change to one of the pages, like suppressing an object that I had been watching: hours to load again (and some spooky jumping from page to page in the process). Paying my bulk purchases became a nightmare, because when I needed to suppress from the list of purchases to pay those that seller had not yet invoiced (it happens with some sellers I do regular custom with): hours to re-load with each suppressed item, so imagine if I had to take ten off the list. Infuriating.

From the little I could make up of it, it had to do with some script or scripts – for ads, maybe, I’m not sure – that were endlessly running while the page was loading and slowed down everything. So, of course, I contacted eBay. And, of course, the response was: “it’s not us, it’s you. Empty your caches, delete your cookies, use another browser, check the settings of your antivirus. It’s not us, it’s you”.

Yeah, sure: so why was it doing it ONLY with eBay, and with no other website, not Amazon, not Wikipedia, whichever browser I used, even the already obsolete Internet Explorer 11? They didn’t care, “yeah it can happen, it’s not us, it’s you”.

Sometimes, you feel that those people are hired and trained and paid not to solve problems, but to deflect requests and throw the hot potato out the office window. Of course, that attitude, “it’s not us it’s you”, isn’t very conducive to examining if it may not be “us” after all, and fixing whatever problems.

I gave up and was left to mumble and grumble against the inconvenience of eBay and the incompetence of its staffers.

BUT! Wait. This is not a post just to vent and complain. This is one to say that one should never lose hope and optimism. THINGS HAVE SUDDENLY GOTTEN BETTER WITH EBAY ON THAT FRONT.

First, a few months or weeks ago, I noticed that the loading and scrolling of the Summary pages got fine! What a relief. Now, the price to pay was that I couldn’t delete items from those pages anymore, the link to delete didn’t work. But okay, I could live with that better than with the sticky loading and scrolling. But, more good news: now, just recently, the delete function was effective again.

Problem solved, then.

Now, I will NOT say “thank you eBay”. I’ll say: “so, after all, it WAS you, and not me, not my caches, no my cookies, not my browser, not my antivirus? WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO FIND OUT AND FIX IT???? And have you learned the lesson? I bet you haven’t”.

Now, how ’bout fixing that problem with the translation dildo, you know?

Not the kind of stuff that I usually buy and review… but there’s always endless ramifications to the simplest things

Not the kind of stuff I usually buy and review, but… I chanced on this one as I was working on a discography of the French label Chant du Monde, and I thought it would make a nice gift for a friend of mine who just had a baby. I wasn’t even going to consider reviewing it… and then one thing led to the other, and even the apparently simplest, most unconspicuous things can lend themselves to very elaborate reviews, once you start digging… So, that story is told under my review of Berceuses du Monde Entier (Lullabies from Around the World) sung by Colette MagnyTalila, Marina Vlady, Brenda Wootton, Naomi Moody and Toto BissaintheChant du Monde LDX 200312 (1990), CML 500312 (1995), 500312 (2004).

Recent acquisition and review of 8-CD set Michèle Auclair

Michèle Auclair Milestones of a Legend. 8 CDs The Intense Media 600317 (2016) barcode 405379600317. Concertos  of Mozart (Nos. 4 & 5) (Stuttgart Philharmonic, Marcel Couraud 1961 from Philips), Brahms (Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Willem van Otterloo 1958 from Philips), Tchaikovsky (Austrian Symphony Orchestra, Kurt Wöss circa 1950 from Remington), Haydn Violin Concerto No. 1 (Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Jacques Thibaud 1938 from La Voix de Son Maître / Disque Gramophone), Bruch (Austrian SO, Wilhelm Loibner from Remington circa 1952), Sonatas of Bach (Marie-Claire Alain 1956-1957 from Les Discophiles Français), Debussy & Ravel Sonatas (Jacqueline Bonneau circa 1960 from Les Discophiles Français), Encores by Kreisler (Otto Schulhof circa 1953 from Remington)

I chanced upon this set as I was compiling my big CD-discography of Christian Ferras.  The same label has also issued a set devoted to him, 600379 barcode 4053796003799,  which I’ve left out of the discography, because obviously it offers what I believe are bootleg dubs of material that was reissued by the official labels, EMI and DG, in transfers that I trust will be infinitely better, so why bother? The label, “The Intense Media”, appeared to be an offshoot from the infamous German label Membran, that I had first encountered some years ago when it issued large sets devoted to the great conductors of the past, adorned with inept titles for the supermarket, like “Maestro Classico” (for Furtwängler!), “Maestro decente” (Böhm), “Maestro Brillante” (Ormandy…) and the likes, and, more fundamentally, that obviously plundered all the other labels they could find, official like Sony or RCA, or non-official like Dante, Biddulph etc.  And now Dante and Biddulph are dead, and Membran thrives? That’s rewarding the bad guys. Nonetheless, the CD reissues of Michèle Auclair are few and hard to come by in the West (she appears to enjoy a much greater standing in Japan and Korea), and although I had some of the Japanese “official” reissues, the set was cheap and I thought I’d give it a try.

Well, turns out that all my “expectations” were fulfilled: the Auclair set is obviously plundered as well from previous reissues by other labels; I could check that for sure with the Brahms and Mozart Concertos, by comparing with my Japanese editions, and I have no reason to believe that the set proceeds otherwise with the rest of its material (it may be cause for some to rejoice, then, that the sonics won’t be any worse than the original reissues they were  copied from). Also, you may think you are making a good deal for 8 CDs, but each CD is very short, the worst being the Debussy-Ravel Sonatas, running 28 minutes.

But to make my review useful, I’ve added a discography of all those other, mostly Japanese, CD reissues of Auclair’s recordings.

Recently acquired: Yvonne Loriod, The Complete Vega Recordings 1956-1963 (Decca)

Recently acquired (and that I hope to fully review someday):

A superb 13 CD set from Decca, “Yvonne Loriod, The Complete Vega Recordings 1956-1963” (2019) barcode 028948170692

Years ago, I had, if I remember well, a very scratching, 10″ LP with two Mozart Concertos played by Loriod and conducted by Boulez, that I had inherited, I think, from my dad or my uncle. Yes! Boulez conducting and Loriod – Madame Messiaen – playing Mozart. Not exactly what you might have expected from those two specialists of 20th century, avant-garde music. But the record was so unbearably scratchy that I happily parted with it, offering it to a dear friend of mine and record collector.

Well, those Mozart concertos are back, first time on CD – there were actually four of them recorded by Loriod and Boulez for Vega, Nos. 1-4. No scratches, excellent transfers. In fact, the set is lavishly done, with an excellent booklet that is in itself a fine compendium of Messiaen documentation, sporting reproductions of the original Vega LPs, rare early photos of the Messiaens and associated performers, and posters of various concerts of Loriod and Messiaen, an introduction by esteeemed French critic, Messiaen specialist, founder of the Olivier Messiaen piano competition and erstwhile artistic director of Vega records in the early 1960s, Claude Samuel, and moving tributes by Loriod’s pupil and Messiaen specialist Roger Muraro, and by musicologist and Messian biographer Nigel Simeone. No slapdash job, a work of care.

As for the recordings compiled on those 13 CDs, I had many of them, both on old crackling Vega LPs and on their CD reissues by Adès or, later, Accord, which picked up the Adès catalog in the 1990s. But some are rarities making their first CD appearance: the four Mozart Concertos (CDs 1 & 2), Liszt’s Piano Sonata (CD 2), 12 Chopin Etudes and 8 Schumann Novelettes (CD 3), the complete Iberia of Albeniz (CDs 4 and 5) – only excerpts had been previously reissued to CD, in 1985, by Adès, 14.071-2 barcode 3129671407127 -, Jean Barraqué’s daunting Piano Sonata (CD 6). The Messiaen recordings – Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus, Visions de l’Amen, Cantéyodjayâ, Catalogue d’oiseaux, 7 Haikai, Oiseaux exotiques, Turangalîla Symphonie –  are not to be confused with those she later made for Erato. 7 Haikai was first CD-released in 1985 on Adès 14.073-2 (barcode 3129671407325), paired with Boulez’ Marteau sans maïtre and Sonatine for Flute and piano, Vingt Regards on Adès 14.112-2 (1987) bc 3129671411223, Visions de l’Amen and Cantéyodjayâ on 13.232-2 (1988) 3129671323328. Falla’s Night in the Garden of Spains was reissued in 1989 on Adès 13.272-2 barcode 3129671327227 (with Dances from the Tri-Cornered Hat and Arbos’ orchestration of Albeniz’ Iberia, all conducted by Manuel Rosenthal). Maurice Le Roux’ Turangalîla was first reissued on Accord 204 792 bc 3229262047920. Oiseaux Exotiques, Boulez’ Sonata No. 2 , Henze’s Concerto per il Marigny, Berg’s Sonata, Webern’s Variations op. 27 and Schoenberg’s Suite op. 29 saw their first CD outing in 2006 on two Accord sets documenting  Boulez’ Domaine Musical 1956-1967, 476 9209 barcode 028947992096, and 476 8862 bc 028947688624. Those two sets were reissued in 2015 with more on a 10-CD set, Accord 4811510, barcode 028948115105, the “more” including Boulez’ first (and rough) recording of  Marteau sans Maître, with Marie-Thérèse Cahn, in 1956 (the version previously reissued was with Jeanne Deroubaix, from 1964). There were a number of individual reissues  of the Messiaen recordings (and Falla’s Night) on Accord, but all Vega / Adès’ Messiaen was compiled (with Catalogue d’Oiseaux making its first CD appearance) in 2008 on a 7-CD set Accord 480 1045 “Messiaen Les Premiers enregistrements 1956-1962”  barcode 028948010455.

The set is wrong in some of its indications of “First CD release”. As I mentioned, excerpts from the four books of Iberia were published on Adès 14.071-2 (1985) barcode 3129671407127. The four Mozart Fantasias, Sonata K331, Rondo K485 were on Adès’ budget collection “Or”, 13.204-2 (1987), barcode 3129671320426 (best documentation for the latter is on Muziekweb.nl). But all these early Adès CD reissues are now offered on the marketplace (if they are at all) at cut-throat prices, it’s good to have them back in a single set. Nigel Simeone, in his otherwise very detailed and informative essay on Loriod’s performance and recording career, is, I believe, also wrong when he states that that Loriod and Messiaen’s first recording of Visions de l’Amen, in 1949, was made for the American label Dial. I believe it was for the French Contrepoint, 6 78rmp sides CO 1 to 6. My understanding is that Dial 8 was a reissue to LP.

As a great bonus, the set adds two recordings made for Boîte à Musique (Messiaen’s 8 Preludes, 1958, first CD reissue) and Club Français du Disque (Stravinsky’s Petrouchka by Orchestre des Cento Soli under Rudolf Albert, a recording from 1957 in which Loriod was the pianist). The latter was previously reissued to CD on Accord 476 8957, barcode 028947689577 (paired with Le Sacre by same conductor and orchestra).

One small frustration, maybe: Decca left out the recordings made for Vega’s successor Adès, of Yvonne Loriod’s sister, Jeanne, a famous player of Ondes Martenot, who participated with Yvonne in (most of) the recordings of Messiaen’s works with piano and Ondes. Vega’s Turangalîla-Symphony conducted by Maurice Le Roux is there of course, but in the early 1980s Adès published two LPs of Jeanne’s Sextet (originally on 21.007, see entry on Discogs.com), and two pieces there included were for Ondes and Piano, with Yvonne at the piano, of course: André Jolivet’s 3 Poèmes pour ondes Martenot et Piano and Darius Milhaud’s Suite pour ondes musicales Martenot et Piano.

Independent even of one’s appreciation on the interpretations, this becomes (if you don’t already have the Accord 7-CD set mentioned above) an indispensable acquisition for the fan of Messiaen, one of the building blocks of any serious Messiaen collection, together with the twofer from EMI’s Rarissimes, 3 85275 2 (2007) barcode 094638527527 (documenting the earliest recordings on Ducretet-Thompson, Pathé, Contrepoint and others: Trois petites Liturgies de la présence divine, Visions de l’Amen, Quatre Etudes de rythme, 3 preludes, Offrandes oubliées), and the great Erato 17-CD set ECD 71580 (1988) 3269657158022, reissued on 2292-45505-2, barcode 022924550522, augmented reissue (18 CDs) Warner  2564 62162-2 (2000)  825646216222 (and, for Messiaen’s organ works, you also have EMI-France’s 4-CD set 7 67400-2 “Messiaen par lui-même” documenting the composer’s 1957 recording, barcode 077776740027). But in this case, it is not just a tribute to Messiaen, it is a beautiful tribute to Yvonne Loriod.