Latest additions and reviews

Complete discography of Altarus Records, more reposts from Amazon, and a new review

No blogpost for a while but a lot of activity nonetheless for Discophage.com.

First and foremost, I’ve published my complete discography of the American label Altarus Records. Altarus, run by Chris Rice, started its operations in 1983, still in the LP era, and seems to have folded in 2014 (last releases I’ve found were in 2011). It was an interesting label, specialized in the off-the-beaten track piano repertoire: from Godowsky, Paderewski, Draeseke, Busoni, Percy Grainger, Ronald Stevenson, Harold Truscott, Alan Bush, John Foulds, to Carson Cooman, Rodion Shchedrin, Samuil Feinberg, Gyorgii Sviridov, Lev Abeliovich, Sergei Slonimsky. On their roster of performer they had John Ogdon (in fact they documented, in 6 releases, the pianist’s very last recordings), then-burgeoning Marc-André Hamelin (2 releases), Peter Jacobs (5 releases), Ronald Stevenson (7 releases), Joseph Banowetz, Denver Oldham, Donna Amato (7 releases), Jonathan Powell (joining the roster in 2002, and totalling 9 releases), Carlo Grante (5), Claudius Tanski, Yonti Solomon, Charles Hopkins, and more.

But they were particularly noted for spearheading the rediscovery of maverick composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji. Among their circa 75 releases, 18 were devoted to, or contained, piano music of Sorabji – many of them, premiere recordings. As a matter of fact, Altarus first appeared on my own radar back in 1989, when they published John Ogdon’s recording of Sorabji’s “Opus Clavicembalisticum” (it came on 4 CDs, in a long-shaped box, and was later reissued on 5).

It is my reposting here of a review first published on Amazon.com in 2009, of a double-CD from Altarus – Marc-André Hamelin‘s 1991 recording of the six Sonatas by Russian-Canadian Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté – that brought me back to my Altarus discography and – especially now that the label is gone – prompted me to complete and publish it.

Prior to that I had been trying to “close the circle” of reviews reposted from Amazon to here (see my blogpost from March 6 for an explanation of that) – and haven’t yet entirely succeeded. Nonetheless, following my repost of American Concertos on VoxBox CDX 5158 (see my blogpost from March 10), and other than the Eckhardt-Gramatté above and the three Silvestrov reviews mentioned in my previous blogpost, I’ve reposted:

Roger Sessions: Violin Concerto (Paul Zukovsky, Orchestre Philharmonique, Gunther Schuller), Stefan Wolpe: Symphony (Orchestra of the 20th Century, Arthur Weisberg). CRI American Masters Series CD 676 (1994). I can live without Wolpe – or, to put it more accurately: Wolpe won’t kill me, although I don’t guarantee the same effect on everybody – but I consider Sessions’ 1935 Violin Concerto to be one of the 20th-Century’s masterpieces in the genre.

American String Quartets 1900-1950. William Schuman: Quartet No. 3, Howard Hanson: Quartet in One Movement op. 23, Virgil Thomson: Quartet No. 2, George Gershwin: Lullaby for String Quartet, Roger Sessions: Quartet No. 2, Charles Ives: Scherzo, Peter Mennin: Quartet No. 2, Walter Piston: Quartet No. 5, Aaron Copland: Two Pieces for String Quartet. The Kohon Quartet. VoxBox CDX 5090 (1993). Surprisingly good interpretations by the Kohon Quartet in this – still today, a half-century later – rare repertoire.

Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 7 “A Sea Symphony”, “Pan and the Priest”, Variations on Two Ancient Hymns, Extended Theme (World Youth Symphony Orchestra Interlochen, Hanson),  String Quartet (Lyric Art Quartet, Houston). Bay Cities BCD-1009 (1989). Hanson was born too old in a world too new.

The Juilliard Quartet. Roger Sessions: String Quartet No. 2, Stefan Wolpe: String Quartet, Milton Babbitt String Quartet No. 4. CRI CD 587 (1990). Same comment as above: Babbitt and Wolpe won’t kill me… A disappointing (and ageing) Juilliard Quartet, too.

William Schuman: String Quartets Nos. 2, 3 & 5. Lydian String Quartet. Harmonia Mundi HMU 907114 (1994). Superb.

Walter Piston: String Quartets Nos. 1, 2 & 3. The Portland String Quartet. Northeastern NR 9001 CD (1988)

Walter Piston: String Quartets Nos. 4 & 5, Quintet for Flute and String Quartet. Doriot Anthony Dwyer (flute), The Portland String Quartet. Northeastern NR 9002 CD (1988)

Walter Piston: Piano Sonata, Improvisation, Passacaglia, Piano Quintet. Leonard Hokanson, The Portland String Quartet. Northeastern NR 232-CD (1988). See this one for my “revelations” on Piston’s unpublished, unknown and masterly Piano Sonata.

Felix Petyrek: Piano Music, 1915-28”. Kolja Lessing. EDA (Edition Abseits) 017-2 (2000). How once luminaries become lost in oblivion. Kolja Lessing is an interesting performer, equally proficient at the piano and the violin.

Ignace Strasfogel: Piano Music. Kolja Lessing. Decca 455 359-2 / London 289 455 359-2 “Entartete Musik” (1998)

John Foulds: Seven Essays in the Modes, Variazioni ed Improvvisati su una Thema Originale, English Tune with Burden, Gandharva-Music, April England. Peter Jacobs. Altarus AIR-CD-9001 (1992)

AND (this still happens once in a while – I wish it were more often, but a discography or a review, one must make choices), I’ve posted a new review – of an old disc, Rodrigo’s music for Violin and Piano, by León Ara and Eugène de Canck on Cpo 999 186-2 (1993). Very pleasant, if you are ready to disregard that this music is composed, way into the 1980s, in a style already embraced by Ravel, Falla or Enesco in the 1910s to 1940s.

Next, I hope – for reasons told in the Altarus discography – to complete and publish my discography of the label Continuum.

Ten Years After: Silvestrov gone

No, this is not an obituary. Unfortunate that I should be posting this today, when all you want to do is to shower praise, admiration and solidarity to everything Ukrainian, but it has happened today. I’ve sold on the Amazon marketplace my CD of Valentin Silvestrov‘s piano “bagatelles” (as he himself calls them), performed by Jenny Lin on Hänssler Classics (“Nostalghia“). It is exceedingly rare that I put back on sale a record that has entered my collection – but I had so detested that one that it went directly in the “togo” box (meaning that I prayed never to have to hear it again). It then took 10 years for someone to buy it – you’ve got to have patience with these things. But at least one good came out of that: I took the opportunity to repost here my review of that CD, and two others of Silvestrov. See my Silvestrov introductory page for the links, or search “Silvestrov” in the search engine.

Two more transfers

And two more, because my review of Iain Hamilton’s Violon Concerto op. 15 and Sinfonia for two orchestras and Alexander Goehr’s Violin Concerto op. 13 on EMI British Composers made reference to my reviews of them on Amazon.com:

The American Concerto. Works by Benjamin Lees (Violin Concerto), Robert Starer (Concerto for Viola, Strings and Percussion), Meyer Kupferman (Concerto for Cello, Tape and Orchestra), Michael Colgrass (Concertmasters for Three Violins and Orchestra), Lou Harrison (Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra), Walter Piston (Concertino for Piano), William Bergsma (Violin Concerto). VoxBox CDX 5158 (1996)

Alan Rawsthorne: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 (Theo Olof, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Adrian Boult) & 2 (Manoug Parikian, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Schwarz), Improvisations on a Theme by Constant Lambert (BBC Concert Orchestra, Frank Shipway), Divertimento (BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, Bryden Thomson). BBC Radio Classics / Carlton Classics 15656 91952 (1997)

…and one more to go, because the review of Rawsthorne refers to my review of the Violin Concerto of Roger Sessions on CRI. And I see that that refers to others…. But let’s call it a day.

Closing the circle

Okay, great, I’ve been able to “close the circle” that I referred to in my blog post from March 6, that endless round of references , in any of my reviews, sending to other reviews filled with references to yet other reviews…

In the wake of the republication here of my big Michael Tippett discography, I’ve imported most of the reviews of CDs of the composer’s music posted on Amazon.com in late 2013 early 2014 (I’ve got many more in sketch form on my computer) – and left no more references to Amazon’s ASIN numbers. See my Michael Tippett introductory page for links to these reviews (the page also serves as a commented discography) and to the discography.

In the process, because of pairings and more such references, I also transferred over here the following reviews:

William Mathias: Sonata No. 1 & No. 2. John Pickard: A Starlit Dome, Piano Sonata. Raymond Clarke. Minerva Athene ATH CD15 (1998). Great works.

Portreadau Cymreig / Welsh Portraits: Piano Works of William Mathias, Ceiri Torjussen, Pwyll ap Siôn, Geraint Lewis, Richard Elfyn Jones, John Metcalf, John Pickard, Grace Williams, Karl Jenkins, Alun Hoddinott. Iwan Llewelyn-Jones, piano. Sain SCD 2308 (2001)

John Metcalfe: The Inner Life. Black Box BBM 1053 (2000) Yes, this English, New-Zealand born John Metcalfe is NOT the same composer as the Welsh John Metcalf featured on the previous disc!

Iain Hamilton: Violon Concerto op. 15 (Manoug Parikian, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Norman del Mar), Sinfonia for two orchestras. Alexander Goehr: Violin Concerto op. 13, (Manoug Parikian, Scottish National Orchestra, Alexander Gibson). EMI British Composers 5 86189 2 (2004) It is the pairing of a Tippett Piano Sonata with one of the unjustly neglected Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, that led to all this reposting.

Peter Racine Fricker: Symphony No. 2 (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, John Pritchard), Robert Simpson: Symphony No. 1 (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Adrian Boult), Robin Orr: Symphony in One Movement (Scottish National Orchestra, Alexander Gibson). EMI British Composers 5 75789 2 (2002)

Alexander Goehr: Romanza for Cello and Orchestra op. 24 (Jacqueline du Pré, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim), Symphony in One Movement (New Philharmonia Orchestra, Edward Downes). Intaglio INCD 7671 (1993)

Alexander Goehr: Piano Concerto op. 33 (Peter Serkin, London Sinfonietta, Oliver Knussen), Symphony in One Movement op. 29 (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Richard Bernas). NMC D023 (1995)

I’ve also created an Alexander Goehr introductory page, added to the index of composers.

Why NOT downloads?

Friends and guests, dumsmacked at seeing my proliferating collection of CDs, often ask me: “why not do downloads, or streaming, or rip them all to computer and get rid of the objects?”. There are a number of reasons.

First, the price. Used CDs on the marketplace are cheap, much cheaper than downloads, on whose price you have no option. And, unlike used LPs, there is no deterioration in the sonic quality of used-CDs that might deter you from buying them.

Then, the liner notes. Half of what I know in music comes from reading the liner notes. Sure, there’s Wikipedia now, but a world of downloads is a world of ignorant listening.

Then, the sonic quality. When you buy a download, you don’t know what quality of transfer you’ll be getting, unless you go to websites like HD-tracks – and are ready to pay even more. And once you’ve paid, you can’t send it back for refund.

Which brings me to the issue of re-selling: you can with a CD if you wish to, you can’t with a dowload.

Here’s one more: you can’t review streaming, and I’m not even sure you can usefully review downloads. How do you even refer to them? Do they have barcodes, or label numbers?

And then: even though it takes a lot of space, I like the object, I can relate to something you touch, and stack on shelves. You don’t stack downloads on shelves.

And finally this, which is the true reason for my writing this blog post. Back in 2013-2014, when I was doing all my Tippett reviewing, there was an important recording of the first three Piano Sonatas, by Paul Crossley, on Philips – not his later remake (and make of the fourth) on CRD from 1984, which I’ve reviewed here, but his earlier one, from 1973. Crossley is an important interpreter of Tippett’s sonatas, as he commissioned and premiered the third and fourth. But that earlier recording had been CD-reissued only in a 6-CD Tippett collection, which wasn’t worth the buy for me, since I had most of its material on individual discs. Fortunately the three sonatas were available (on the European Amazons only, back then, but for some reason not on Amazon.com; I don’t know if it has changed since) for download, so I bought them in that form (I also have the original LP).

But then, we know what happens to computers. They are very perishable products, and every some years, you have to replace them: I’m trying to eke out my current one, although the t and é keys don’t work anymore, you can’t imagine the ordeal it is to have to go through the ASCII codes for these two letters, Alt 116 and Alt 130 (and I’ve discovered that there are so many ts in the English language!!) – and I consider myself lucky that the shift key and the d key miraculously came back! Changing computers isn’t an entirely simple process, because you have to transfer ALL the contents of one to the other (if you can afford a bit of cleaning up in the process, it’s even better), not only all your documents (simple enough I guess), but the e-mails from your mail client (millions of them – and that’s only the useful ones), all the bookmarked links on your browser, your antivirus. The longer I can avoid that ordeal, the better it is

So, okay, the other day, transferring my reviews, I looked in my computer if I had transferred those Crossley downloads. Zounds, I hadn’t, and I don’t even know why, because I HAD transferred many other music files. I’m pretty sure I have those tracks on an external drive somewhere – but I was burglarized some months ago, little was stolen because who could even steal some dozen or hundred thousand CDs of classical music, or only a fellow music lover with a huge moving truck (had it been Michael Jackson or rap music, I don’t say) but I’m wondering if they didn’t take that external drive.

So, bottom line: why not downloads? Because it’s easier to steal (or lose, or damage) a computer or an external drive than one hundred thousand CDs. Ultimately I may have to purchase those downloads again, which is frustrating – and I need to make a note to always keep a copy of my electronic music files on CD.

And if you are wondering if I really have 100,000 CDs in my collection, answer is: I don’t know, I don’t count. But a year ago I had shelves built that could house roughly 10,000 CDs, and I was happy that (I thought) I was going to be able to finally shelf in one place all the CDs that I hadn’t yet listened to (so I’m not talking here about those I’ve heard and put up, they are in another place). To my great disappointment it turned out that my stock of unheard CDs numbers probably three times that much (I don’t know, I don’t count, but I see the boxes and reckon).

 

Transferring Tippett and other reviews from Amazon.com

Since republishing here my discography of Michael Tippett the other day (see my blogpost from March 1 and my Michael Tippett introductory page), I’ve put the completion of my Swingle Singer discography on the backburner, and I’ve been busying myself with transferring over here my Tippett reviews from Amazon, mostly from late 2013-early 2014.

It’s a lot work and it takes a lot of time! It’s never just a simple matter of copying and pasting and done, because I try to do here what Amazon would not le me do, and make each review as “encyclopedic” as possible, with complete information on sources, editions and reissues (it is with a vague sense of guilt that I plunder my own Tippett discography – thanks to the guy who compiled it, I should be a little more honest and give him credit!), cover photos (and finding suitable photos online, front and even more importantly, back, because that’s where the indispensable info is, can take some time), recording dates and venues.

And then, there is the matter of references. Typically, in my reviews, I’ll refer to other recordings – some that I’ve reviewed and some that I haven’t. If I just copy and paste from Amazon, those references have the form that links have on Amazon reviews, sending the reader back to an Amazon ASIN number. Now, I have no reason to do Amazon the curtesy of sending readers to them; everybody should be free to go to the commercial website of their preference, or just to discographic websites like Discogs.com or Muziekweb.nl. So I need to change those Amazon links into the CD’s label number and barcode – and, if possible, append a cover photo, because it is always more telling for the reader than an abstract and dry suite of digits. And, ideally, if it’s a CD I’ve reviewed, I need to transfer the review over here, so that the link in review A on Discophage.com will lead to review B on Discophage.com. And if this review B that was referred to in review A, in turn refers to review C, then I need to import review C as well… It’s an endless Round (as in Schnitzler’s Reigen).

And those Tippett reviews that I’m transferring over here are a good case in point. I’ve started small – I mean, in instrumental lineup – and am almost done reposting here my reviews of Tippett’s Piano Sonatas.  Then, hopefully, I’ll move on to the string quartets, etc. But I can complete the cross-linkings only when I’ve transferred all my reviews of Tippett’s Sonatas – plus some, because in some of those CDs, the sonata(s) is/are paired with Quartets or orchestral pieces, so I need to transfer much more than only the reviews of the Sonatas. And then, because the pairing on one of the CDs is of a Sonata by Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, and in the review I refer to another CD with pieces by that composer, there you go again. And then, that new CD pairs Hamilton with a composition by Alexander Goehr, and in the review I refer to other recordings of the music of Goehr… Round and round it goes.

I’ll soon – when I’m done cleaning up all those cross-links – give the links to all those Tippett reviews, but in the meanwhile you can find them by simply typing Tippett in the search box.

My Amazon Frescobaldi reviews

I’ve taken the opportunity of my recent review of Frescobaldi’s Canzoni on EMI Reflexe to repost four reviews of the composer’s keyboard music published in 2011 and 2012 on Amazon: the boring program by harpsichordist Robert Woolley on EMI Reflexe (1987), the marvelous traversal on accordion by Stefan Hussong on Thorofon (1999), the outlandish but daring approach by maverick pianist Francisco Tristano Schlimé on Sysiphe (2007), and Rafael Puyana Baroque Masterpieces for the Harpsichord (works of Giovanni Picchi, Frescobaldi, Telemann, Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer) on Mercury 462 959-2 (1999), recordings made in 1962 and 1964 (the CD collates one and 1/2 Mercury LPs) and a marvelous recital. And that completes the Frescobaldi reviewing I’ve done so far (but I have many more in my collection)

My 2014 Tippett discography, now available online

Following my blogpost of this morning, recounting the circumstances in which, back in 2014, I had compiled a hopefully complete discography of Michael Tippett for his publisher Schott of London (who didn’t do much with it), and thanks to reader Mark Meldon’s kind invitation to publish it on my website – done. Click here and it will open a new tab with the discography in pdf form, which you can read online and/or download.

I haven’t updated the discography but – sadly for the composer, but fortunately for the discographer – not much has happened on the Tippett discographic front since 2014. The composer seems to be undergoing the fate of many excellent composers after their death: oblivion. May the republication of the discography serve, in whatever minuscule way, to rekindle some interest for the music of Tippett.

 

To make a short story long: about LP EMI Australia SOXLP 7552, Britten String Quartet No. 2, Tippett String Quartet No. 2. Carl Pini Quartet

 

 

There’s a long story to this LP, and here it is.

In the late 2013-early 2014, I was on a Michael Tippett listening spree. Tippett is somewhat shadowed by Britten, I consider him something like the “number 2” British composer of the second half of the twentieth-century, somewhat more of a “modernist” than Britten in compositional approach, although he was his elder by a number of years (but Tippett came of age late). These days, sadly, he seems to be suffering the fate of many excellent composers after their deaths: oblivion. Anyway, I am very fond of his music.

Some years earlier, I had found an excellent discography of Tippett online, hosted by The Michael Tippett Society or something of the sort, but when I returned, in 2014, it was, alas, gone – even the website was dead. With some Google browsing I found the contact of a Michael Tippett Foundation, which I thought might be it.

From: me
Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 10:38 AM
Subject: discography and website
Hi, there used to be a Michael-Tippett.com website with a complete discography. It is now invaded by a horrendous ad for some bank or loaning system, which is an insult to Tippett’s memory, really. Has that anything to do with you? Was this a former domain of yours that is now parasited by who knows who? Is the complete discography and bibliography available with you?
Sincerely
Me

But they said they weren’t the same and knew nothing about the other organization and its discography. The only discography to be found online was the one hosted by Tippett’s publisher, Schott of London, and it was pretty pitiful, its selection apparently chosen at random, and with some essential discs of the Tippett discography not mentioned, like the recording of the complete Piano Sonatas on CRD by Paul Crossley, who had no less than commissionned and premiered Sonatas 3 and 4: not a performer and recording to be neglected.

I was rather incensed to see Tippett so “betrayed” by his own publisher, and I wrote Schott an e-mail that was not particularly kind and polite.

From: Me
Sent: Friday, January 17, 2014 12:42 PM
Subject: Tippett discography
Hi, on advice of the Michael Tippett Society, I’ve been looking at your discography of Michael Tippett. Well, I guess it is kind of you to even provide one, but – sorry to be harsh – yours is so incomplete that it is immensely frustrating, if not truly appalling. Like, you don’t even mention the versions of Paul Crossley among your listing of the piano sonatas – not only his earlier recording for Philips of Sonatas 1-3, although they HAVE been reissued on CD, but even his 1984 recording of the four on CRD – which is really an insult to Crossley and possibly to Tippett, given the pianist’s role in the inception of Sonatas 3 and 4. Did something happen between he and the composer that makes him now taboo? You have two different listings for the First String Quartet – because one CD calls it the Quartet in A MAJOR rather than Quartet in A, so you consider it as two different works ??? And likewise, you have two listings for Quartet No. 3, 4 and 5 (but not for 2???), only to send the Naxos recording to the second listing? And what about the Chandos recording by the Kreutzer Quartet? You fell out with Chandos? They refused to pay you copyright?
Indeed, although I haven’t checked on all the entries, you fail to mention many Chandos recordings: not the Piano Concerto, not the Fantasia on a Theme of Handel, and some of the Symphonies mentioned only in the set gathering them together but not in their original issues which had important complements (like those mentioned above). And why even mention the composer’s own recording of the Handel Fantasia with Margaret Kitchin, not reissued on CD? After all, it’s not very significant: only the composer’s recording, forget it.
So, all this is very frustrating, because what could have been a very useful feature of your Tippett pages turns out to be, because of its glaring gaps, more misleading than informative. If I can help to improve things, let me know. It would be nice if a truly complete discography of Tippett was available online.
Thank you for being the publisher of Tippett during his lifetime and after. THAT was useful.
Sincerely
Me

 

I would have expected them to respond – if they even did – with a resounding “fuck off!”. But no. Schott’s artistic director Sally Groves – she turned out to be the daughter of noted conductor Sir Charles Groves – responded very kindly, and with an invitation:

Sent: Friday, January 17, 2014 2:06 PM
To: Me
Subject: Fw: WG: Tippett discography

Dear You,

Many thanks for your email and it is great to hear from such a strong Tippett fan.

I am assuming that by the ‘Michael Tippett Society’ you mean the Michael Tippett Musical Foundation, which only gives funding to non-Tippett projects, in accordance with the composer’s wishes. Sadly, there is no real Michael Tippett Society which could partner our efforts here at Schott, as with Benjamin Britten and many other composers.

You are right to take us to task over the Discography on our website: it is patchy and needs to be properly overhauled.  

Your wide expertise as evident on various websites and your knowledge of Tippett’s recordings leads me to ask if you would be prepared to make a properly critical Tippett discography?  

With all good wishes,
Sally

Sally Groves

 

I have no clue how Sally could have concluded about my “wide expertise as evident on various websites”, as I had written Schott under my real name, not my “Discophage” alias from which she might have infered that I had, indeed, a measure of discographic expertise. I don’t know, maybe she was being ironic, with a typical Brit’ sense of understatement. Like, translated in Texan: “Yeah, buddy! Talkers, we see a lot’ o’ them around here. But why don’t you show if you can DO anything?”

Well, I happily picked up the gauntlet, only asking, as a favor, to be remunerated in scores of Michael Tippett that were missing to my collection – scores of contemporary music, and especially full orchestral scores, are EX-PEN-SIVE! It was ultimately a lot of work, which I’d have done even for free (look at the other discographies posted on this website – and you have no idea how many are dormant on my computer !), so I consider that I made a very good deal.

In constructing my own discography I was able to use, of course, all the previous ones, those published in Tippett biographies and the one, fairly large but far from complete, maintained by the helpful Archivist from Schott Alan Woolgar.

Getting the broad lines was easy enough, what made compiling that discography a helluvalotowork was checking all the minutiae, the obscure releases of obscure Tippett repertoire on obscure labels. It involved exciting sleuth work, too, especially for recordings from Japan and listed online only in Japanese characters (I went to Tippett’s entry and associated ones on Wikipedia English, than clicked on the Japanese page, to copy those names and indications in Japanese characters, and then paste them for Google searches), and it was often with a minuscule but elating sense of victory that some of the riddles were solved.

That research was also, for me, a watershed in my approach to discographies, as it is there and then that I realized the importance of barcodes. Given the vagaries, inconsistencies, and downright mistakes of listings on many online websites, commercial or discographic, I realized that the surest and sometimes only way to find a CD online was using the barcode. This has become since my discographic mantra (see my Christian Ferras CD-discography, for instance), and I’ve had to sweep out many memories from my brain, in order to make space for so many barcodes (I don’t yet dream of barcodes – I think, because I don’t usually remember my dreams… Which raises a difficult question: if androids dream of electric sheep, what does that make me when I start dreaming of barcodes?). I am sometimes dumbsmacked when I go back to some of my pre-2014 reviews and realize that I was lacking accuracy in my referencces to other CDs because… no barcode! Before 2014 was prehistory for me as a reviewer and discographer.

Of course, I took the opportunity of that discography to complete my own collection, with many purchases including of rare LPs that had never been reissued to CD.

************************************

And here how I get back to the LP in question. This one LP from EMI Australia 1972 showed up in the discography and, with its clever coupling of Britten and Tippett’s respective Second String Quartet, it seemed very attractive… but to be found nowhere, except as a listing in the discographies. So, I added it in the permanent searches of my eBay profile… and waited. A fisherman needs patience, nothing moves for a time, until it does.

Well, it took 8 years. Prior to that, the search yielded, occasionally, but it was always junk, pages and listings where the words “Britten”, “Tippett”, “Carl” and “Pini” were mentionned (that’s how Inter… nets function), but never my LP.

And finally, Eureka, end of September ’21, it showed up, a London seller, with bidding deadline set on October 7. I put on all my alarm clocks not to forget that one.

It says a sad tale of the composer’s current standing that I was the only bidder. But, hey, no personal complaint here, I won it for 10 pounds, add customs and post and double the price, but after 8 years of wait I was ready to break the piggy bank. So I paypaled it and waited to receive it.

And waited.

And waited.

And it wasn’t coming, long after CDs subsequently bought from the UK had arrived.

So I started getting alarmed, and thinking that LP was cursed. I contacted the seller, who very courteously gave me the expected appeasing talk, “normal, covid, UK Post, it can take longer, be patient”, but with each day I got more jittery.

So a month later, with deep disappointment I had to cross out any prospect of receiving the LP (it happens, very occasionally, that an order will get lost in the mail), asked the seller for a refund, which was duly afforded. Cursed LP! A fisherman has to be patient, and be ready for the line to break at the last second. So I was going to wait again, for who knows how many years.

And two days later the LP was delivered. I was happy to refund the refund.

Almost the end of my story, but there is a small codicil. Earlier this year I digitalized the LP – clean copy, quite surfaces, there won’t be much de-clicking to do – and put it aside. Some days later, I realized that I needed to take photos of back and front covers – those on the listing had been excellent, but as I let time lapse it wasn’t on eBay anymore. So I looked for the LP – and it was impossible to find where I had put it. I searched everywhere, once, twice, and again, and it was driving me crazy. Cursed LP!

In those cases, go run an errand, get your mind off of it, then start again. So I did – and, of course, it was there, very close to exactly where I thought I had put it, only in a different position than what I had envisioned – more visible, in fact, but when you are looking for the invisible you are likely to miss the visible.

Or maybe it was Buzz Lightyear and the other Toys who had borrowed the LP to rescue the universe, and put it back in it’s place when I left the house for my 10-minute errand of groceries. They are known to do such mischievous things.

**********************************

It’ll be some time before a review the LP, I think, because it has to be comparative and I’ll have to plunge in multiple recordings of both quartets. But I thought I wouldn’t wait that long to tell the story of this LP. Cover illustration is pretty nice, too isn’t it?

Ultimately, it is ironic that Schott did close to nothing with my Tippett discography. For a (short) while, it was hosted on a page of their website, so burried that even I, knowing where it was, had difficulties finding it. No chance for a Google search “Michael Tippett discography”. And then, it was gone, even from there. Probably not coincidentally, that’s also when Schott’s Sally Groves retired. Well, their loss: I think it was a great service to the Tippett admirer – however few are left.

I need to repost it here and for that, I’ve got to do a bit of cleaning-up work. Sadly for the composer but happily for the discographer, not much I think has been added to the Michael Tippett discography since 2014.

 

And, while I was at it…

And, while I was at it, I reviewed a CD of Frescobaldi’s Canzoni on EMI Reflexe, by Kees Boeke (recorders), Wouter Möller (baroque cello) and Bob van Asperen (harpsichord and positive organ). The music is gentle and sweet and ultimately rather boring I find, music not to disturb the courtly patrons, but the review serves as an introduction to the EMI Reflexe collection and its glorious cover art from the 1970s.