September 28, 2013
Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) is another composer who is nearly forgotten, yet at the age of 20 wrote this symphony, his first major effort that rivals some of who he listened to growing up such as Bruckner (1824-1896) and Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). What is the formula that makes one successful and another an unsung composer? I couldn’t begin to count the number of recordings of Rachmaninoff’s and Mahler’s 1st symphonies which were both written as they in the same time frame as Bloch’s symphony in c sharp minor. Both of the former are successful works and included in the list of symphonies that could be performed by a symphony orchestra. The exception is the Israel symphony along with the tireless efforts of Dahlia Atlas who has championed all of his material. Is it perhaps marketing? Naxos is not guilty of the indifference and this is one of a few that have been recorded to CD. Since their beginning as HNH and then Marco Polo they always champion the underdog.
Bloch was born in Geneva, studied in Brussels under Eugene Yseye, composition with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, immigrated to the United States in 1916 becoming a citizen in 1924. He eventually settled for the remainder of his life in Agate Beach Oregon. Because of his Jewish heritage he spent a good deal of his time writing material with a Jewish attitude of spirituality.
Written in 1900 the symphony begins so quietly that it’s a test of the dynamic range of your system. You might even want to turn your volume up for the first minute to hear the beginning which is a prelude of an evil forbidden place that you dare not enter. The movement seques into a ray of hope, a new theme with piercing high notes from the violin as the oboe and reeds carry the melody. It offers hope in this bleak world that started the symphony. The middle section changes in tempo to one of a slight urgency with horns offering majestic fanfares, sounding like Strauss. There is a part where the shimmering of the strings almost sound like a wordless choir in the background as a crescendo is reached. I had to go back and relisten to make sure it wasn’t a choir. It ends as it began on a quiet note with the timpani quite evident as the movement seems to fade away. The andante of the second movement begins with grumblings from the lower register with the horns and the trombones giving us the melody. It is a pretty melody that turns into a major key as the violins sing sweetly, the flutes fluttering like birds, a reminder of spring. Midway through the melody changes with the entire brass section playing the theme, a proud and majestic one which segues right back to our main melody. The vivace of the third movement begins with an extended somewhat complex brass fanfare as if it were an introduction before battle. There are parts which offer a hint of Dukas (sorcerer’s apprentice) and a short section of a soundtrack material, perhaps Korngold. One gets the impression that this part of the symphony has been studied closely by other composers. The final movement begins like it is going to be a fugue but returns to the major theme of the second movement with the brass playing a prominent part. It nicely ties together the work. Applause should be given to the fine brass section of the London Symphony.
Poems of the Sea is a three part 13+ minute tone poem which Bloch writes about the waves of the sea, a chanty, and at sea. The first section offers both the calmness as well as a folk melody. The section begins with a beautiful oboe solo which shows how peaceful the water can be. A chanty which reminds you of an Irish scene is played quite romantically by the strings. The final allegro is upbeat which conjures up images of an Irish jig with the ever dangerous sea in the background crashing against the rock. It reminds me of Sainton’s The Island which ended up as part of the soundtrack for the Gregory Peck version of “Moby Dick”
Hopefully this fine recording will encourage other major symphonies of the world to consider this one on their calendar for future performances. Hats off to the entire recording crew, the London Symphony, and Dalia Atlas for her fine conducting which shows how well she knows and loves these works.
Symphony in C sharp minor
1… Lento-Allegro agitato ma molto energico (22:03)
2… Andante molto moderato (11:11)
3… Vivace (10:18)
4… Allegro energico e molto marcato (11:02)
POEMS OF THE SEA (inspired by Walt Whitman)
5… Waves: Poco agitato (4:25)
6… Chanty: Andante misterioso (3:24)
Total Time is 68:26
September 22, 2013
What a surprise my ears got when I spun the latest release “Kings of Swing” from the SWR Big Band with vocals by Foal Dada. I also relearned a lesson about never assuming content by the cover. When I saw the band dressed in tuxedo’s I thought that this group had no clue about how to play big band material properly. A singer named Dada reeked of scat singing but on both accounts I was wrong. The band was better than the original recordings, having the advantage of excellent acoustics, improved mikes, and digital recording. The singing was so clear with just the right amount of enunciation on key words it became quite evident this should be an award winner; it is that good.
Opus No. 1, written by arranger composer See Oliver, opens the CD, a tune that all of the big bands had in their book. Originally it was recorded for the film “Broadway in Rhythm” (1943) but was cut at the last minute. Tommy Dorsey and Ted Heath made huge hits of it and subsequently it has been used in films where a big band sound was necessary. SWR leader Pierre Paquette offers a nice clarinet solo.
Why Don’t You Do Right, composed by Joe McCoy in 1936 as “Weed Smoker’s Dream, was arranged by Benny Goodman in 1942, sung by Peggy Lee, and ended up selling more than a million copies. It is classic woman’s blues twelve bar minor key material and vocalist Foal Dada does a fine job with a straight no scat rendition. Pierre also adds a clarinet solo.
Marie was originally written for an early sound film with no dialogue by Irving Berlin but became a standard for the Tommy Dorsey band. It offers a perfectly played solo by Ernst Hotter, trombone, and Pierre Paquette doing the vocal. Could one say that it is better than the original? I like the arrangement which has eliminated the famous Bunny Brigand solo replacing it with more trombone works.
Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, sung by Marilyn Monroe in the film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” sung by Fola Dada is another example of how lyrics should be sung. Another winner from SWR!
At Last, a Glenn Miller hit from the film “Orchestra Wives” lightly swings being enhanced by some nice trumpet work from Felice Civitareale. It is classic Miller and a great example of his sound which includes a clarinet leading the sax section. This is a very danceable track if you’re so inclined.
Stealin’ Apples, a “Fats” Waller composition made famous by Benny Goodman, is performed flawlessly by Pierre Paquette in a way that Benny would have been proud of. The drum also offers some nice rhythm with a couple of solid solos.
A Tisket A Tasket, the nursery rhyme adapted to a jazz standard is performed by Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra, is one of the highlights of this album. Fola is right at home using the right inflection and enunciation to rival Ella in her
And The Angels Sing, written by Ziggy Elman and Johnny Mercer was a number one hit for Benny Goodman in 1939. Fola is in top form and rivals the original singer Martha Tilton for performance. The original Ziggy Elman solo is nicely played by Felice Civitareale.
Isfahan is certainly in the category of an underappreciated Duke Ellington number that was part of his “Far East Suite” recorded in 1966. The swazy swaggering alto sax originally performed by Johnny Hodges is in able hands with Klaus Graf. The trombones provide a nice presence with harmony.
Flight of the Bumblebee, the famous Rimsky Korsakov melody from his opera “The Tale of Tsar of Saltan” has become one of the more popular melodies being performed by swing, classical, jazz, and modern groups. There seems to be a frantic pace that has involved Guiness Book of Records as to how fast it can be played. This version is impossibly performed on trombone by Marc Godford. As a former trombone player there is no way I could have done what Godford did.
Trumpet Blues, a Harry James standard, is in reality a frantic paced boogie woogie. Trumpets are front and center with ably backing from the orchestra.
Almost Like Being In Love, a Loewe/Lerner tune has been sung by Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Shirley Bassey, and countless others over the years. Sung in this SWR version with Dada is more than just easy on your ears. You feel and anticipate her every word.
Swing That Music is classic Satchmo with the trumpet licks being played by Martijn Latt with words from the versatile leader Pierre Paquette.
It’s A Wonderful World is one of those songs that just pull at your heart strings. Dada does a fine job that Asthma would have been proud of.
It should be crystal clear, if you’ve read this review how much I like this recording. Any big band collection of material is incomplete without this recording in your collection. While nothing in life is perfect this recording is as close as you’ll get.
September 3, 2013
This new Kritzerland release #KR20026-9 is the third release of this material since 1994 when Rosenthal issued a 2 CD set of his score material on his own Windmere label #42345.I reviewed the release in 2006 and am including a link. https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2006/08/06/the-miracle-workerrosenthal/ To the best of my knowledge I believe 500 were issued. In 2010 Intrada released the Miracle Worker Special Collection #130 portion only and sold a 1000 unit limited edition. The Kritzerland release is also a limited edition of 1000 CD’s.
Since I’ve already reviewed the material the purpose of this review is to point out what the differences are in the three releases.
Track Listing Intrada Special Collection #130
1. Main Title: Helen Alone (02:20)
2. The Train (03:20)
3. Hands (02:04)
4. Doll and Ladder (04:38)
5. She Folded Her Napkin (01:10)
6. To the Garden House (02:49)
7. Nightmare (01:57)
8. Lullaby (02:02)
9. Teaching (04:48)
10. Let Her Come (03:57)
11. Come To Supper (00:50)
12. The Miracle (02:50)
13. Epilogue: Helen and Annie (01:59)
Total Duration: 00:34:44
Track Listing Kritzerland Release #20026-9
1. Main Title (2:20)
2. Train Montage (3:20)
3. Hands (2:05)
4. Doll and Ladder (4:40)
5. She Folded Her Napkin (1:09)
6. The Search/To the Garden House (2:50)
7. Nightmare (1:58)
8. Lullaby (2:04)
9. Teaching Montage (4:49)
10. Let Her Come (3:57)
11. Come to Supper (0:52)
12. The Miracle/The Keys (2:52)
13. End Title (2:04)
14. Percy (2:27)
15. The Keys (Film Version) (1:44)
Total Duration is 39:48
Track Listing Windmere Release #42345
1. PROLOGUE: HELEN ALONE (02:19)
2. ANNIE’S TRAIN RIDE (03:02)
3. CONTACT OF HANDS (02:02)
4. THE MISCHIEF-MAKER (04
5. HELENS’ MOTHER (01:0
6. THE GARDEN HOUSE (02:49)
7. ANNIE’S BAD DREAM OF HER OWN CHILDHOOD (01:57)
8. THE LULLABY (02:00)
9. TEACHING (04:47)
10. REACH, REACH! (03:47)
11. CAPTAIN KELLER CONSOLES (01:18)
12. THE MIRACLE AT THE PUMP (02:49)
13. EPILOGUE: HELEN WITH HER TEACHER (02:00)
Total Time is 34:50
If you compare the Windmere with the Intrada and Kritzerland recordings it appears that it is 28 seconds longer on “Captain Keller Consoles” or “Come To Supper” but in reality it is just a mistake in the timing. They are all the same.
On the “Train” track the Intrada and Kritzerland are both slightly longer adding a little bit more underscore but not significant at the very end of the track.
I’ve listened to the recordings using my sound system, computer, and a flat listen without any treble or bass through my headphones. Through the headphones the Kritzerland does have a slightly cleaner sound. The background seems to be cleaned up but again this isn’t a significant enough improvement to purchase one way or the other. If you have the Windmere or Intrada recordings keep what you have. If you’ve missed out on the other recordings then by all means get this fine recording and you’ll not be disappointed. If it had been released in any year other than 1962 it might have one an Oscar for best score. It is that good.