In this new column, we hope to review some recent gramophone records issued during the last quarter, in the hopes it will encourage you, our reader, to discover perhaps some new music, or at least to guide the spending of your hard earned cash.
There are two sections, the first dealing with classical recordings, the second with progressive popular music and jazz. Neither Terry nor myself have any qualifications suitable for passing judgements on new records except that as Kitty Barne (a writer on musical matters) once said 'they know music is as necessary to them as the air they breathe'. To those who know, that phrase will need no explanation, to those who don't, you have our condolences! This column, therefore is written for the music lovers of you, there must be some somewhere! The success of this column depends on you. If you enjoy reading our column let us know, if you disagree with what we think, let us know, if you want information or an article on a particular aspect or composer, let us know. If this article encourages you to learn new music, which you enjoy, then we are fulfilling our purpose. You will quite quickly discover out likes and dislikes, after all music and its appreciation is a personal affair, though we will try to be as unbiased as possible so bear with us!
The last two years, being the centenary of Berlioz and Beethoven have left us with a wealth of fine new recordings. Colin Davis has almost completed his Berlioz cycle, (on Philips all at £2.40) and Daniel Barenboim has completed the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. All these discs can be recommended. Here are a few outstanding ones:
Philips SAL 3441.
Philips SAL 3573.
Romeo and Juliet (tear jerker)
Philips SAL 3695-6
Piano Sonatas; Moonlight,
HMV HQS1076 (about £1.50)
Waldstein and No. 31;
'Hammerklavier' - for the best performance of this Ashkenazy gives a superb reading of this very difficult work on Decca SXL6335 (£2.40) or a cheaper version by Charles Rosen coupled with Sonata No. 27 on CBS Classics 61173 (£1.50).
I should like to mention the Beethoven Symphonies too, but that demands an article by itself. Here are a few of the most interesting records released during the last few months.
A coupling of the popular Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with his marvellous Violin Concerto on RCA LSB4016 at £1.49 with the London Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa (a bright young Japanese conductor) with John Browning piano and Erik Friedman violin. If you haven't got either of these works, this is a real bargain.
An excellent performance and recording of Elgar's Enigma Variations coupled with Brahms Variations on a theme by Haydn on Decca SPA121 at 99p, the late Pierre Monteux conducting the LSO.
A new recording of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony on CBS 72866, a very fine performance, second only to Svetlanov and the USSR S.O. on HMV/Melodiya ASD2420 (both at £2.40). This is not a work to buy unless you already know the composer's work. If you want to try him, his 5th Symphony is better, his music has a somewhat aggressive quality, but is not what I would call 'ultra-modern'. It is typically Russian, long drawn phrases and melodic lines, with contrasting fast scherzos, usually very powerful descriptive. A good performance of the 5th on RCA SB6651 Andre Previn. Also the composer's son conducts a fine performance on HMV/Melodiya ASD2668. (Both £2.40).
Finally, Beethoven Overtures. Consecration of the House, King Stephen, Egmont, Leonore 2 & 3 on CBS Classics 61209 at £1.49. Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York PO. Rather fast performances, but none the less good value for money.
I hope there has been something of interest in the above. Remember, there is no better tonic after a busy day, than to sit down and listen to some fine music - undisturbed for an hour or so - does you the world of good. Incidentally, all above records are in stereo. Good listening.
In recent weeks John and myself have discussed the idea of writing an article on music for 'Contact', as we could foresee that it might appeal to the vast multitudes (well, five or six perhaps). John has dealt with the classical music, so prepare yourself to read my contribution. Those people who fall asleep whilst reading it, will be awarded a weekend stay in the lion pit at Whipsnade Zoo, with three free changes of underwear.
There has been a number of very interesting albums released recently for example 'Long Player' by The Faces, which is on the Warner Bros. label, and also a solo album by Rod Steward called 'Every Picture Tells a Story', on the Mercury label, which is somewhat a masterpiece. One of the best British groups of all time were the now sadly defunct Cream. Only Jack Bruce the bass guitarist has released material of any notable high standard since the group split up. His latest album 'Harmony Row' can be found on the Polydor Super label and is well worth a listen.
Two of the best up and coming groups in the country have just had their debut albums released. They are Quiver and Head, Hands and Feet, on Warner Bros. and Island respectively. The music of both groups has a nice gentle country feel about it. One of the best Continental groups around is a German group called Amon Duul II. Their latest album 'Dance of the Lemmings' on United Artists, is very good. Actually, if the British public went mad and bought this album in vast numbers, it would probably help our entry into the Common Market.
One of the best groups to come from Ireland is a folk duo Tir na nOg, which is a legendary mythological island, off the coast of Ireland, where Ancient God's and Goddesses used to live. Their first album called simply 'Tir na nOg' has been released on the Island label and is really nice.
An album which all folk fans should have is called 'Lord of All I Behold' by Robin and Barry Dransfield on the Trailer label. Their music explore mainly traditional folk.
Today modern Jazz is becoming very popular amongst the younger generation. In Britain we have some of the finest jazz musicians in the world. One of these is the alto-saxophonist Mike Osborne whose album 'Outback' on the Turtle label, is somewhat of a landmark in his career. Another excellent jazz album released is 'We'll Talk About it Later' on Vertigo, by Nucleus. The group consists of some of the finest jazz musicians around, and incidentally, the group were last year's Grand Prix winners in the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Other albums to listen out for are Tapestry by Carol King (A & M), Loudon Wainwright album (America's new Bob Dylan) and an interesting Classical record by the Italian composer Berio on the RCA label, and is titled Sequenza VI - Chemins II - Chemins III. This album is strongly related to the avant-garde jazz/pop. Look out too, for the new album by The Who, which should be well worth waiting for.
Any comments, criticisms, questions, doubts regarding our sanity to Witton Branch (Home!)