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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.

A mystery Swingle Singers album, and back to my Swingle discography

I’m back, and we’ll see how long that lasts (I’ve announced so many times that I was back for good to resume my activities of reviewing and discographying, only to be swallowed up by other chores, that I think it’s best to shut up with great proclamations now), with a new review of a mystery Swingle Singers album, from 1990, and the continuation (Part II of III) of my Swingle Singers discography.

In fact – since I have not quit my activities of a compulsive buyer of CDs – I chanced on a Swingle Singers CD from 2015 that I hadn’t been aware of: “Deep End”, on the ensemble’s label, SWINGCD25 (2015), barcode 5037300796666. Normal, my great flurry of Swingle Singers listening and reviewing had been in the early 2010s, and that had led to many reviews posted on Amazon.com (including some of LPs never reissued to CD) and to a number of “Listmanias” which served, to the extent made possible by this “community” feature that Amazon once offered, as an online discography of the Swingle Singers. Well, that lasted until the day Amazon decided that profits were more important to them than communities – and that the two were contradictory – and suppressed overnight all the listmanias.

But that wrong led to a good, and back in 2018 I started reposting my reviews over here, and started a fully-fledged chronological and critical discography, much more complete than what the Listmanias and other Amazon features ever allowed.  I posted Part I of the discography, documenting the French Swingle Singers, in activity from 1962 to 1973. I also drafted Parts II and III, which would have documented the English Swingles, from 1973 to present… and, absorbed in other chores, left it all that time on ice.

So that 2015 CD brought me back to the Swingle Singers and the dormant discography, which I started cleaning up and updating, and I published Part II, 1974-1984, a neat and clean 10-year period, at the end of which founder Ward Swingle stepped out as a singer; from then on he acted as musical adviser and arranger.

In fact Part II of the discography required very little work, the draft I had left in 2018 was in near-publishable form. It’ll take longer with Part III, because there is work required to document and review the many CDs published during that longest period (almost 30 years!) of the Swingle Singers’ existence.

But, researching for Part III, again I chanced on an album from 1990 which, when I first busied myself in the early 2010s with the Swingle Singers’ discography, neither I nor Swingle Singers discographer and biographer Thomas Cunniffe on Jazzhistoryonline.com had been aware of – meaning that neither had Wikipedia, Amazon or Discogs.com: “Spotlight on Bach“, published by the hitherto unknown to me label Sonoton from Germany. Now the disc is documented on Discogs.com – and this is truly serendipitous, as apparently the listing was submitted on February 1 or 2, a mere two weeks before I looked…. The LP edition had been submitted “over three years ago”, and there’s an entry for the LP on the European Amazons, ASIN B003B6VTTQ (but I haven’t found any for the CD; the fact that it doesn’t have a barcode makes it difficult if not impossible to list on Amazon). Its contents are available online as downloads, and the Swingle Singers’ discography on Wikipedia now references, however uninformatively, those dowload editions. Finally… I was lucky enough to find the CD online for sufficiently cheap (there is currently a copy on sale on Discogs, for anyone interested).

And what a bizarre, bizarre album! Since it was published in 1990, same years as the Swingle Singers “The Bach Album“, released on their own label, Swing CD 5, and shares a number of tracks with it (but also omits six from that album), is was tempting to thing that it was, at least partially, another edition of it. But not so simple.

Already, there had been an issue with The Bach Album in relation to the one published by Virgin Classics in 1994 under the title “Bach Hits Back“, which reprised all its contents and added five new tracks. Bach in the early 2010s Cunniffe and myself spent lots of head-scratching time trying to figure out if the Virgin album was simply an augmented reissue of The Bach Album, or new recordings. When I was finally able to find a copy of The Bach Album to compare, it turned out that the question didn’t lend itself to an easy, binary answer “yes” or “no”. Apparently “Bach Hits Back” was different recordings, since tempos usually differed, and they were all sung “a capella” (as became the wont of the ensemble in the early 1990s) where The Bach Album usually had underpinnings of drums and double-bass (as had been the custom established from the start by Ward Swingle with his Paris ensemble).

But closer examination in fact revealed that many tracks were indeed the same recordings, but that tempos had been electronically fiddle with to give the illusion of different recordings, and that, in The Bach Album, the drum-double-bass underpinning had been overdubbed to the a capella vocals later used by Virgin. See the review of The Bach Album for the details on this.

So, back to Sonoton, again it appears that most of the common tracks (save, judging by ear, two) are the same recordings as on The Bach Album, but with different mixings (usually more reverb’) and different drum & double-bass accompaniments.

Does that make Sonoton a “fake” of The Bach Album, or rather, both Sonoton and The Bach Album, fakes of Virgin’s later and entirely a capella “Bach Hits Back”, which one may conjecture are the “original” and “bare” recordings, to which perc’ and bass were overdubbed in the two others?

I thing not. Especially in pop music but not only, an album is not the reproduction, imitation or memento of a live concert, it is an autonomous artefact. You don’t buy, say, Sargent Pepper or The White Album to be the documentation of a concert given on a London rooftop – they are sonic objects in themselves. So I think “The Bach Album” and “Bach Hits Back” are two independant sonic objects, two different Swingle Singers’ variations on Bach, so to speak.

Not so clear with the Sonoton album, because its arrangements and “fiddlings” don’t change or add all that much to their twin tracks in The Bach Album. When a different percussion underpinning, it’s really almost imperceptible.

That said, there is more in “Spotlight on Bach” than on The Bach Album, and that “more” makes it truly outlandish.

First, in many of the pieces, Sonoton offers multiple versions, eg different “fiddlings” with the original source (whatever those may be): with drums and double-bass, with double-bass but without drums, with organ or without or even organ alone, or a capella; slow or faster…

Then, talk about “Spotlight on Bach“! The album also features Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (four versions! A capella gentle, forceful with loud pop drums, the a capella version of the previous and the organ accompanimens of it!) and the first movement from Vivaldi’s Autumn – pieces not otherwise represented in the Swingle Singers discography.

And finally, as if all that wasn’t outlandish enough, the disc ends with 25 tracks featuring 59-second and 29-second versions of the previous tracks! Who is this for? Advertisement companies? “You need a 29-second serving of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with pop drums to sell spaghetti? You got it!”

Strange label, this Sonoton… From Germany, no barcode. The booklet’s last page lists some of the label’s other publications, and apparently they were specialized in transcriptions of the great Classical hits. Try samples of their Debussy CD on SCD 047. Very thorough discographic info on the label’s suprisingly abundant catalog, here.

To me, as a Swingle Singers completist, the value of the CD stems from the material not otherwise available in The Swingle Singers discography: Ode to Joy (but the “forceful with loud pop drums” version would have delighted Clockwork Orange’s Brian DeLarge….), Vivaldi’s Autumn, the hummed version of Bach’s “Es ist genug” (I thing it moves me because it reminds me of the Finale of Berg’s Violin Concerto), to which I’ll add the a capella version of “In Dulci Jubilo” (for once, not the same recording as the one on Virgin Classics).

Still, this one is really for the die-hard Swingle completist… If you want to hear Bach by the Swingles (and you should), better go to Virgin Classics’ “Bach Hits Back” – because it is much more easily available than both Sonoton’s “Spotlight…” and “The Bach Album”, because it offers five additional tracks to The Bach Album and because, last but not least, it is sung entirely a capella. And don’t forget, of course, the Paris Swingle Singers Jazz Sebastian Bach vols. 1 & 2.

See my review for more details. I’ve also reposted a number of reviews of Swingle Singers albums from the late 1980s and early 1990s, and, if interested, pending the publication of the discography’s Part III with direct links, just type Swingle Singers in the search engine and they’ll show up in reverse order of reposting.

The REAL market value of Starker’s fourth Bach Suites on Sefel

As a follow-up on my blog post of September 16, “Seller madness – or buyer’s ?“. So, now, we know the REAL market value of Janos Starker’s Bach Suites on Sefel (his fourth out of five recordings) :

 

The indication of 17 bids is deceptive because some bidders made multiple bids, but I count 8 bidders, which is significant enough: the offer met its demand – and Ieronim of Romania is now a rich man (though maybe not as rich as he hoped…)

 

 

Not worth a mention in the Kobbé

27 September 2021. I was yesterday at the Paris Bastille Opera, attending a performance of Georges Enesco’s rare opera Oedipe. Now, I must declare myself a great and unconditional fan of Enesco (or, using the Romanian spelling, Enescu) . His violin sonatas belong to my pantheon of the greatest works in the genre of all times – and not only the famous Third “in the Romanian popular style” (indeed an absolute masterpiece, a work of devastating evocative power), but also his Romantic second, and his ultimate cycle “Impressions of Childhood”, which, if even possible, go further and higher than the Third. I love his way-less-popular  two string quartets, Piano Quintet and Octet. Although I have many versions in my CD-library, I am much less familiar with his orchestral output – I’m just lacking listening time.

So I was really looking forward to the opportunity of Oedipe.

Well… I must declare myself a great fan of  Enesco… but not anymore unconditional, and not of all his music. I found Oedipe excruciatingly boring. The music sounded to me very banal: big orchestral forces and a lot happening in the orchestra, but all couched in a late-Romantic idiom which you have heard so many times – if you have a little interest in that style –  in the works of Zemlinsky, Joseph Marx, Franz Schmidt, Arnold Bax, Josef Suk, and many others, and displaying little of the daring inventiveness found in Enesco’s chamber music…. None of the oriental lushness of Szymanowski (which you may have expected of Enesco), very little of the shimmering delicacy of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. The vocal lines are run-of-the-mill French opera, with, to compound the problem, a constant solemnity because, of course, Oedipus is seee-rious and serious must be solemn. The lyrics are by Edmond Fleg, a French playright who had his hour a modest fame in the 20th-century French “Republic of Letters”. The one thing I can say in favor of Fleg is that, although his lyrics are written in verse (much of them alexandrines, the canonic 12-syllable verse of French poetry), they flow naturally enough that, unless you have an ear very attuned to these things, you won’t even know that it’s verse… as in Meilhac and Halévy’s libretto for Bizet’s Carmen… And I won’t hold it against Fleg that he certainly doesn’t observe all the very constraining rules of French classical poetry, because, after all, who cares…. On the other hand, Fleg’s lyrics and “poetic language” do add their layer of constant (and ultimately boring) solemnity of the whole proceedings. One interest at least with Enesco’s (and Fleg’s) Oedipe is that is doesn’t just sheepishly follow the famous play of Sophocles, it compounds the various Oedipus-traditions of the Greek mythology and stages what Oedipus-Tyrannos presents as mere references to things past: the birth of Oedipus and his sacrifice because of the fateful oracle told to his father Laïus, Oedipus’s flight from Corinth where he had been raised by the Queen and King as their own son and ignorant that he wasn’t, the encounter with Laïus at the crossroads of Corinth and Thebes and his murder at the hand of Oedipus, the riddle with the Spynx and the espousal with Jocasta. The opera’s third act stages the actions in the play of Sophocles, and the fourth act corresponds to Sophocles’ other and less-famous play on Oedipus, recounting the death of the blind castaway accompanied by his daughter Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus. Another interesting thing about Fleg is that, as my bored mind was wandering away from the opera, I said to myself at some point that next thing the Paris Opera might do is to produce this other great neglected opera in French language, by a composer who presents some similarities with Enesco (not French, but French-speaking, his musical invention rooted in popular traditions – not Romanian, but Jewish): Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth. And, checking on Edmond Fleg’s biography on Wikipedia, it turns out that he authored two opera librettos in his life – the other being, you’ve guessed, Bloch’s Macbeth

The production didn’t help, either. It was staged by Wajdi Mouawad, a Lebanese stage director and playwright who enjoys a certain recognition in some French theatrical circles. Well, I don’t know about his theatre productions, but here he seems to have been content with staging the way they did 50 or 60 years ago: everybody singing to the public (always a problem, possibly, in venues as huge as the Bastille opera), making no pretense at even trying to address their interlocutor. Set design were “abstract” although evoking, perhaps, some massive Babylonian (rather than Greek) archicture. And those costumes! I thought I was seeing old images from Wieland Wagner’s Ring productions in Bayreuth in the 1950s…. A cliched imagery of Ancient Priests and Vestals…

And why did Oedipus trudge along with only ONE shin protection? I mean, I get the point of having arm protection only on the arm that bears the sword… but leg? Are we supposed to understand that he’s some Karate Kid who strikes only with the left foot? But the hair-dresses were even worse: I don’t know if they were supposed to depict the horns of stags or mooses, or some wild vegetation… I guess that the notion is that those Ancient Greeks from the mythical ages had some special link with nature – you know, “Gaia”, “Mother Earth” and all that mystical drivel – that we’ve lost, and maybe there were some reminiscences of the films of Pasolini. They were grotesque.

Oedipus is a huge role and Christopher Maltman coped valiantly and with powerful vocal projection, although by no stretch of the imagination could you believe you were watching a 20-year old character (and by then Jocasta must be how old? 35? And when the plague strikes Thebes, that’s another 15 years later…)… Maltman’s French was okay, and I’m ready to accept that French baritones able to cope with the acoustics of the Bastille Opéra aren’t an abundant commodity… but the Russian Ekaterina Gubanova as Jocasta? Why? It’s a small role (all roles other than Oedipus are relatively small), and sure you are going to need a dramatic soprano, but can’t you find a dramatic soprano more fluent in the French language these days? And it isn’t a question of nationality: Anne-Sophie von Otter coped very well in the role of Merope (Queen of Corinth, adoptive mother of Oedipus) and with pristine French accent.

Of course, I leaf through the thick booklet published by Opéra Bastille, or the libretto to the 1990 EMI recording with José van Dam and conducted by Lawrence Foster , and I read all these eulogies about Oedipe, how it’s Enesco’s great masterpiece, that obsessed him night and day for 30 years, I read Menuhin’s testimony  (a great pupil and disciple of Enesco, as, later, was Christian Ferras) which opens the EMI booklet- “here lies the very soul and heartblood of Enesco”: and how could I not doubt my own judgment? Let me quote the EMI liner notes, by distinguished French critic and musicologist Harry Halbreich (with my own comments in brackets, and a translation that I’ve slightly ammended to better fit the original French): “Oedipe is a supreme masterpiece in the history of opera of all times [let us start in a bang, and refrain from no exaggeration],  one of the peaks of 20th-century opera  among a handful of works that include Pelléas, Wozzeck, Lulu or Die Soldaten [Halbreich does speak of “a handful”, meaning that he is mentioning the five top operas in 20th century music: no Puccini, no Britten, no Strauss – not Salomé and Elektra, really? -, no Janacek, not Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, but Enesco’s Oedipe…]. Yet one looks for a mention of it in the main opera guides – even the celebrated Kobbé – in vain: this is beyond comment”.

What do you mean, “beyond comment”, Harry? Quite the opposite! How do you explain that so many commentators and critics would have neglected such an absolute masterpiece, part of the top-five of the twentieth century. Nobody oversaw Pelléas, Wozzeck, Lulu or even Die Soldaten… Well, I have an explanation for you: if your premise is false, then your conclusion will be as well, you know? If Oedipe is NOT the masterpiece you make it, then no wonder all those commentators, including the Kobbé, have neglected it…

And, coming back to Menuhin’s comment: he adds that “perhaps the most haunting fragment of the opera, one which continues to return to my mind, is the Shepherd’s flute solo at the crossroads, just before the fateful encounter in the first act“. Well, sure, I agree: that was about the ONLY memorable moment in the opera, one in which the Enesco from the 3rd Sonata seems to pierce through. No wonder it is the one that kept haunting Menuhin.

Yet, as I was listening and trying to keep focused, I was thinking that perhaps it was the inept and even corny staging that prevented me from grasping the beauties of Enesco’s orchestral writing… despite the fact that, given the ineptitude of what was going on on stage, I hadn’t much else to do but to try and concentrate on the orchestra. At one point I thought it might be helpful to draw a Symphonic suite from Enesco’s Oedipe, or a “Symphonic synthesis” as Leopold Stokowski dubbed it when he did the same with Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. So I decided I’d give a second chance to Enesco’s opera, and pulled out the 1990 recording by Lawrence Foster with José van Dam on EMI that had been lying on my shelves awaiting a listen for more than a decade. I’ll try and review it (I also have the recording in Romanian from Electrecord).

Seller madness – or buyer’s?

As a follow-up on my blog post about “Kogan madness“:

Yeah, yeah, I know : Janos Starker WAS one of the greatest cellists of the second half of the 20th century, worthy of unrestricted admiration and collecting. And I know: his penultimate (out of five) recording of the Cello Suites, from 1984, on the small (and long gone) Canadian label Sefel is a rarity.

But an ask price of 1,000 dollars for the two CDs ?

Hey, that’s madness!

I don’t want to lay too much blame on the seller, Ieronim (based in Romania). I’ve bought from him in the past, a couple of times (never at those prices!), and he’s often got good and rare stuff – incredible what finds its way to Romania, not usually recognized as the center of the world of Classical music. I do think it is crazy to expect to find someone ready to shell out one thousand bucks on 2 CDs, but if he does – madness is the buyer’s and the blame goes on him!

Anyway, I’ll put the offer on my watchlist, to know if buyer’s madness manifests itself. So far, Ieronim’s 1,000 dollars is not the market value of the Sefel recording. It’s market value will be determined when the offer meets a demand. Discogs.com, which functions as both an encyclopedia of recordings and a marketplace, indicates that the most expensive CD1 sold from their platform is 55 euros – still expensive for a CD, but way more reasonable (in fact, I was almost tempted to spend 40 on only one CD of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas by Patrick Bismuth on Stil, one of those rarities I’m hopelessly hoping to find for around 20… and then balked).

By the way, I’ve just checked the other eBay offer I had mentioned at the end my “Kogan madness” post, of only one of the two Sefel CDs, by a Texas-based seller alliased Gnarly-Media. His start price was 360 dollars back then.

Well, it turns out the “listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available”. From that I understand that he withdrew it because it didn’t sell – no wonder.

But what I find particularly, well, interesting, is that apparently, when the guy got no bids at 360 dollars, he relisted his CD as “buy it now”…. and at an offer price of… 1078 dollars! Why 1078, rather than, I don’t know, 1,000, or 1,077? No clue.

Anyway, it strikes me as a real revolution in micro-economics: when your goods don’t sell, triple the price!

As they say: as long as you haven’t sold, you ain’t rich.

 

PS from 2 October 2021: see my follow-up, and learn the REAL market value of these two CDs

 

 

La Zarzuela on EMI-Spain (Hispavox) 1991-92 and some reissues from 2000

For whomever’s interest (fans of Zarzuela, the Spanish operetta, evidently): as I was working on my discography of EMI’s budget and mid-price series, I chanced upon a collection that EMI-Spain (Hispavox) released back in 1991 and 1992 (the heydays of the CD), reissuing recordings originally made from 1958 to 1969, and that is very badly represented on the Amazons, even Amazon Spain, probably because the series was circulated before the invention of Amazon and in a country that is aloof from the international marketing circuits. The begining of the series was reviewed in the July-August 1992 issue of the Spanish record magazine Scherzo (pages 86 and 87), which at least helped me to track down the collection (things are easier to find when you know them to exist). I’ve found a few subsequent releases from 1992, not listed in Scherzo.

 

(For better legibility here is the magnified list)

One additional difficulty is that the series was released in various batches, but for some reason the barcodes of the second series, 7 67428 2 to 7 67434 2, are out of sync with EMI’s normal barcode sequence, and that remains a puzzle to me. Discogs as often was very helpful as it documents a number of those releases – but not all. Here’s the list, and, when CDs are not listed on Amazon, I provide links to Discogs or other websites, for more complete information and cover photos. In some cases, when useful, I provide cover photos. A number of them were reissued in 2000. I haven’t (yet) looked systematically to establish if all were, but initial research suggests that this was not the case. I indicate those I’ve chanced upon.

First batch:

CZS 7 67322 2  (2 CDs) La Zarzuela 1. Amadeo Vives: Doña Francisquita / Bohemios. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Ana Higueras etc, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963, 1964  (1991) 077776732220. Reissue EMI 5 74209 2 (2000) 724357420921
Note: reissue has a very elusive presence online, but here is the cover photo:

 

 

 

CZS 7 67325 2  (2 CDs) La Zarzuela 2. Pablo Sorozábal: La tabernera del puerto / La del Manojo De Rosas. Leda Barclay, Alfredo Kraus, Pilar Lorengar, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Sorozábal 1958, 62 (1991) 077776732527. Reissue EMI 5 74158 2 (2000) 724357415828

CDZ 7 67328 2  La Zarzuela 3. Ruperto Chapi: La Revoltosa / Tomas Breton: La Verbena de la Poloma. Teresa Tourne, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal, Federico Moreno Torroba 1963, 1961 (1991) 077776732824. Reissue EMI 5 74162 2 (2000) 724357416221

CDZ 7 67329 2  La Zarzuela 4. Federico Moreno Torroba: Luisa Fernanda. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Moreno Torroba 1960 (1991) 077776732923. Reissue EMI 5 74153 2 (2000) 724357415323

CDZ 7 67330 2  La Zarzuela 5. Pablo Sorozábal: Katiuska. Pilar Lorengar, Alfredo Kraus, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Sorozábal 1958 (1991) 077776733029. Reissue EMI 5 74161 2 (2000) 724357416122

CDZ 7 67331 2 La Zarzuela 6. Federico Chueca: Agua Azucarillos y Aguardien / Federico Chueca y Joaquin Valverde: La Gran Via. Teresa Tourné, Ana Higueras, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963 (1991) 077776733128, reissued  EMI 5 74152 2 (2000) 724357415224

CDZ 7 67332 2  La Zarzuela 7. Jose Serrano: La Canción del Olvido. Isabel Castelo, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963 (1991) 077776733227. Reissue EMI 5 74157 2 (2000) 724357415729

CDZ 7 67333 2 La Zarzuela 8. Pablo Luna: Molinos de viento. Teresa Tourné, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1963 (1991) 077776733326

 

CDZ 7 67334 2  La Zarzuela 9. José Serrano: La Dolorosa. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1966 (1991) 077776733425. Reissue 5 74216 2 (2000) 724357421621

CDZ 7 67335 2 Antologia de la Zarzuela vol. 1 (compilation of excerpts from the above) (1991) 077776733524

Second batch:

7 67428 2 Antologia de la Zarzuela vol. 2 (1991) 077776742820 (is the barcode indicated at the back although it should have been, following EMI’s barcode sequence, 077776742823)

CDZ 7 67429 2  La Zarzuela 10. Jacinto Guerrero: Los Gavilanes. Dolorès Ripollès, Alicia Armencia, Renato Cesari,  Pedro Lavirgen, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid,  Federico Moreno Torroba 1961 () probable barcode 077776742929 (not found online, no bacover photo located), should be, following EMI’s barcode sequence, 077776742922, not found online (and so forth for the next releases). Reissued EMI 5 74154 2 (2000) 724357415422 

Note: I’ve seen many indications online that the reissue dated from 1996. Not so, and I don’t know where that date comes from. Backcover photo clearly shows © 2000 and the CD is part of a barcode sequence whose other installments are from 2000 indeed:

 

 

7 67430 2  La Zarzuella 11. Pablo Sorozabal: Don Manolito. Celia Langa, Renato Cesari, Jorge Algorta, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal  1959 (1991) 077776743025

7 67431 2  La Zarzuela 12. Pablo Sorozabal: Black, el payaso.  Leda Barclay, Alfredo Kraus, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1958 (1991) 077776743124

7 67432 2 La Zarzuela 13. Pablo Sorozabal: Las de Cain. Teresa Tourné, Ana Higueras, Renato Cesari, Julio Catania, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1965 (1991) 077776743223

 

7 67433 2 La Zarzuela 14. Pablo Sorozábal: La eterna cancion. Teresa Tourné, Pedro Lavirgen, Ana Maria Higueras, Renato Cesari, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1965 (1991) 077776743322

 

7 67434 2 La Zarzuela 15. Pablo Sorozabal: Adios A La Bohemia. Pilar Lorengar Renato Cesari, Manuel Gas etc, Orquesta de Conciertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozábal 1962 (1991) 077776743421 (Note: should have been 077776743424 following EMI’s normal barcode sequence, and that one does yield an entry on Amazon, although without offer. But backcover photo on discogs shows clearly the barcode ending with 421 on back of CD)

7 67443 2 Preludios e Intermedios de Zarzuela : Gimenez, Breton, Chapi, Chueca, Caballero, Barbieri. Orquesta de Coniertos de Madrid, Pablo Sorozabal (1991) 077776744322

The series was continued in 1992:

7 67450 2 La Zarzuela 16. Jacinto Guerrero: Ed Huesped del Sevillano.   Dolores Perez, Carlo Del Monte, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 1969 (1992) 077776745022

7 67451 2 La Zarzuela 17. Jesùs Guridi: El Caserio. Dolores Perez, Carlo Del Monte, Luis Sagi-Vela, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 1969 (1992) 077776745121. Reissue 5 74156 2 (2000) 724357415620

7 67452 2 La Zarzuela 18. Amadeo Vivès: Maruxa. Dolores Perez, Josefina Cubeiro, Luis Sagi-Vela, Chano Gonszalo, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745220. Reissue 5 74212 2 (2000) 724357421225

7 67453 2 La Zarzuela 19. José Maria Usandizaga: Las Golondrinas. Josefina Cubeiro, Isabel Rivas, Vicente Sardinero Ramon Alonso, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745329. Reissue 5 74215 2 (2002) 724357421522

7 67454 2 La Zarzuela 20. Francisco Asenjo Barbieri: El Barberillo de Lavapies. Mari Carmen Ramirez, Dolores Perez, Luis Sagi-Vela, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745428. Reissue EMI 5 74163 2 (2000) 724357416320

7 67455 2  La Zarzuela 21. Ruperto Chapi: El Rey Que Rabio. Luis Sagi-Vela, Josefina Cubeira, Orquesta Lirica Española, Federico Moreno Torroba 69 (1992) 077776745527

Fourth batch:

7 67470 2 La Zarzuela 22. Jacinto Guerrero: La Rosa del Azafran / Manuel Fernandez Caballero: Gigantes y Cabezudos. Maria Espinalt, Marcos Redondo, Conchita Panades, José Permanyer, Orquesta Lirica Española, F. Delta / Rafael Ferrer 62 (1992) 077776747026. Reissue 5 74155 2 (2000) 724357415521

7 67471 2 La Zarzuela 23. Soutullo y Vert: La Del Soto Del Parral. Maria Espinalt, Juan Gual, Jeronimo Messeguer, Orquesta Lirica Española, Rafael Ferrer 62 (1992) 077776747125

7 67472 2  La Zarzuela 24. Francisco Alonso: La Parranda / José Serrano: Los Claveles. Lolita Rovira, Marcos Redondo, Maria Espinalt, Pablo Civil, Orquesta Lirica Española, F. Delta / Rafael Ferrer  (1992) 077776747224

4 67473 2  La Zarzuela 25. Amadeo Vivès: La Generala. Maria Espinalt, Lolita Torrento, Jeronimo Villardel, Orquesta Lirica Española, Rafael Ferrer 62 (1992) 077776747323

To all this I’ll add a 4-CD compilation also from 1992:

CZS 7 67580 2 (4 CDs) Antologia de la Zarzuela (1992) 077776758022

There may be more, but that is, for the moment, my contribution to the art of the Zarzuela.

eBay France remains an asinine website – and (no direct link) about Stockhausen

To follow-up on my post from June 2020, “George Friedrich Commerce and Till Owl-Mirror, really???? eBay and their asinine translation dildo“:  A beautiful offer came up on eBay a couple of days ago – if you are a Stockhausen fan, that is, and have some hundreds of dollars to spare: a book, “Conversations with Stockhausen”, by Jonathan Cott, published in 1974 by Picador.

Photo 51 - Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur SketchPhoto 4 - Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur Sketch

 

What “justifies” the 300$ price-tag (well… not in my eyes) is that the copy boasts a manuscript inscription by the composer, and the offer’s title says it all: “KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN EXPERIMENTAL COMPOSER SIGNED BOOK WITH HEART SKETCH”. And the photo says it even better:

Photo 2 - Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur Sketch

Well, okay, fine, if you are in that kind of worshiping and collecting, if you think that owning a scribbled scrap from your idol puts you in contact with the breath of genius, you may go for it. I would probably if it were Bach or Beethoven or Mahler and at that price (wisfhful thinking of course, and it says a lot about the hierarchies in recognition). That’s not my issue (or rather, target of irony) here.

My target is again the translation device that eBay has thought appropriate to impose on its users. I thought it applied only to offers from Germany/in German, but apparently not (this one is from the US and in English). So, in French, the offer’s title gives “Karlheinz Stockhausen Experimental compositeur signé livre avec cœur Sketch”. You need to know French to realize that it so doesn’t make sense that it’s laughable – I had to go to the original English to get what it meant.

Oh well it’s a small thing and I shouldn’t even be wasting my time ridiculing it. If you have a passion for Stockhausen, buy it!

And I shouldn’t be making fun of Stockhausen anyway (I wasn’t) or Stockhausen worshipers, since some years ago, I couldn’t resist buying, from the Stockhausen Foundation, a beautifully wrought music box, part of a limited edition of 12 series, each with (they said) only 40 copies, and each with a different tune composed by Stockhausen, “12 melodies of the star sign” or Zodiac. Of course I bought the box playing my own astrological sign tune. More about those Zodiac Music Boxes on the Stockhausen website.

Can’t remember how much I paid, but I remember they were pricey. But, hey, look, it was worth it, wasn’t it?

My house was burglarized a few weeks ago as I was away from home. Well, they didn’t take any CDs (what would they do with tons of classical music CDs and scores – only a fellow collector might want to do that), and I don’t keep jewels at home, but I was afraid they’d have stolen the music box. No, sigh of relief, they really weren’t connoisseurs, or perhaps they rewinded, played the tune and were chased away by sheer disgust (I’ve read that classical music played in department stores has the same effect).

Checking on the Stockhausen website, I see that most are now sold-out (I was going to buy one or two more to gift to family, but alas!…). Only Taurus and Capricorn are left.