Greetings and hello! It’s really wonderful working with Peter Nagy and making this contribution to ‘Dawn of Sound’. This is an opportunity to share my world of vintage audio on CD with like minds or should I say like ears!! In my mind an old recording, a vintage recording, is a portal. It’s a doorway to an experience that I can never have myself. It goes without saying that I’m grateful to audio restorers and conservators who take the time, have the initiative and understand the technologies to make this valuable and timeless material available today.
Let’s begin with a new round of releases of music on vintage recording on compact disc:
SIX BROWN BROTHERS – THOSE MOANING SAXOPHONES
Arch 5008 (2004)
This is a collection of mainly Columbia, Victor and Emerson acoustic recordings issued originally between 1911 and 1920. Typical of the work that ‘Archeophone Records’ compiles, there are some added items that were never issued but available here for the first time. To appreciate this disc you have to love the saxophone. The appeal of this colleciton of sax players comes initially from the novelty factor….no one else had dared to present five saxophones and later six in the same company….ever! Through frequent appearances and clever musical adaptions and compositions the brothers became a hit. The music making is clever, sophistocated and today all we can do is marvel at the instrumental acrobatics. The successful restorations should endeavour to convey their unique sense artistry and the astonishing amount of fun listening to their music gave (and gives today) listeners. 24 tracks of recordings from 1911 until 1920 and the ‘cream’ is some material never before available including what researchers estimate to be the soundtrack from an early talkie….a Vitaphone movie featuring the Browns in performance….I wonder if anyone has found the Vitaphone images? Restoration quality is directly tied to the quality of the original pressings available and these vary from moderate to approaching excellent. In addition to stellar restorations the amount and quality of accompanying research is excellent. A quality production. http://www.archephonerecords.com
ECHOES FROM ASBURY PARK
Arthur Pryor and His Band
2006 This is a window into a different time period. Communities all over North America sported locally organized bands. These were bands of mainly brass and woodwind instruments. The best of these, in fact one of the legendary bands of all time, was directed by one of the truly great instrumentalists of all time, a musician by the name of Arthur Pryor. Pryor’s speciality was the trombone, cornet and trumpet. Legend tells us that he could make audiences weep……..his playing was so moving. Arthur Pryor was a star! He dazzled listeners with his own stellar playing. and was a master bandleader as well. Here is a collection of vintage recordings from 1903 to 1911 that feature both Pryor’s direction of “His Band” and his performing. Remember….many of these recordings are now more than 100 years old. This source material has stood up well….Archeophone must have access to near pristine copies of these discs. Restorations are astonishing, the booklet supplied affords a look into a world that has now gone and I can only hope that Archeophone issues more of this material. Bravo!! http://www.archeophonerecords.com
HOLST/VAUGHAN WILLIAMS – THE COMPOSERS CONDUCT
Naxos Historical 8.111048
2006 Two composers leading orchestras recording their own works. Gustav Holst’s quasi-ballet score, “The Planets” directed by him and Symphony No. 4 written by Ralph Vaughan Williams and conducted by him as well. First to the Holst. This was the second and last time Holst would record ‘The Planets’. There were a set of acoustic Columbia recordings made in 1923. When the electrical era dawned Columbia hurriedly converted to the new system and Holst was hustled into the recording studio to record anew this cycle of symphonic movements. The 1923 recordings are available on a ‘Pearl’ CD (GEMM CD 9417). In the three years from 1923 until 1926 (when these recordings were originally made) a lot may have changed in Holst mind. Debate for yourself which is more successful at capturing the essence of this music. This Naxos reissue of these electrical recordings is excellent. The success of these reissues in very large measure goes to the restoration skills of Mark Obert-Thorn. I get tingles every time I see this man’s name on a CD restoration. Same with the Vaughn Williams from 1937. Amazingly quiet surfaces to the point where you can easily forget that you’re listening to a set of 78’s from pre-World War 2. http://www.naxos.com
Take Two Records
PIONEERS of the THEATRE ORGAN
Take Two TT 511 CD This is an impressive package! 40 tracks contained over 2 CD’s. Recordings from 1926 to 1940. Theatre organists and the instruments they played upon from the United States and Britain….it probably doesn’t get much better than this. Theatre organs are heaven sent! While this collection comes pretty close to the majesty of hearing one live, a theatre organ in the flesh is an awesome spectacle to behold. Get ready for some impressive music making. The forty tracks feature the kind of repertoire for which these musicians became famous. In practically all cases the organists themselves have supplied the clever arrangements that abound on these CD’s. The quality of the transfers depends completely on the quality of the supplied recordings. For the most part these are good to excellent. This set will not disappoint. Highly recommended. http://www.yesterday.com
I purchased this CD for the piano concerto by Robet Schumann. The Swiss-born/French pianist, Alfred Cortot must have loved this concerto. This is the second of three recordings he made of this music. The first was an acoustic recording made in 1923, this recording herein dates from 1934 and there is a recording from 1927. In each case British conductor, Landon Ronald directed the orchestras that Cortot performed with. The acoustic recording remains unavailable. The 1927 effect has been issued on an Andromeda CD and now this Naxos effort. I’ve heard Cortot’s 1927 recording….his recorded performance on CD is marred by ineffective and careless transfers (we’ll revisit this in the future!). This just leaves this Naxos Historical issue which is superb. Behind this effort is the near legendary Mark Obert-Thorn and yes I’ve had the accompaning tingles again. Cortot’s playing leaves some folks cold. I venture to say that some people say that Cortot is careless even clumsy but his playing absolutely fascinates me. Anyone loving the concerto by Robert Schumann will not be disappointed with Cortot’s approach. http://www.naxos.com
These CD’s reviewed by Adrian Shuman. January 2007.