Istvan Marta – Doom. A sigh (1989)

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“Doom. A sigh” is based on two songs that Istvan Marta recorded during his visit to Romania. The first, sung by mrs. Pieter Bendek, 58, evokes her long dead parents, and the second, sung by mrs. Gergel Imre, recounts the scene of a bloody battle.

“In the summer of 1973, I visited the village of Trunk, Romania, a community of 400 Hungarians belonging to a folk group known as the Csangos. With my rudimentary equipment, I recorded some folk music and took some pictures. The village had been spared by civilization and the mass media. The people still spoke an archaic Hungarian and rarely moved beyond the comfines of their settlement. Their way of life, nevertheless, was doomed to extinction. Lack of schools and other circunstances were forcing the children to speak a language foreign to them; an encroaching government was weakening their sense of identity and family bonds. The village welcomed and accepted me. I was allowed to record their ancient stories, tales and songs, all in a peculiar Hungarian that predates the language reform of the early nineteenth century. Upon my return, I sent some photographs of the trip to my hosts in Trunk. Half a year later, the police identified those who had sung for me and levied heavy fines on them in punishment. It’s highly probable that the inhabitants of the village of Trunk were made to leave their homes and were resettled elsewhere in the years following 1973, purportedly because of the construction of a power station. In March 1974, I received a telegram in Romanian: “Do not come again”. I have heeded the message.” – Istvan Marta, 1989.

Maurice Duruflé – Prélude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain op. 7 (1942)

Maurice Durufle Playing The Organ In 1956

The Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain, Op 7, is a tribute to Duruflé’s friend and colleague and the brother of the distinguished organist Marie-Claire Alain, Jehan Alain, who would undoubtedly have become a leading French composer, and whose life was tragically snuffed at the outset of the Second World War in 1940. Duruflé arrived at the theme for this work in the same way that Ravel had done for his Minuet sur le nom d’Haydn: by extending the musical alphabet past H (the German equivalent for B natural) in the following way:

A — I
B — J
C — K
D — L
E — M
F — N
G — O
H — P etc

such that ALAIN comes out as ADAAF. In the final section of the Prélude, Duruflé quotes the theme of Alain’s most popular work, Litanies. The double fugue is a stunning example of contrapuntal writing. The two fugue subjects are expounded separately in compound time: the first is written in quavers, the second in semiquavers. The composer uses the first fugue subject in inversion and stretto; the tension is heightened by closing the distance between the subject entries of the stretto, and the whole ends in a blaze of glory.

From the YouTube comments:

This is the Prelude from Maurice Duruflé’s Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain, a work written in anguished tribute to a fallen colleague, French organist, composer and war hero Jehan Alain (1911-1940). Alain was among many French fighters evacuated from the Dunkirk beaches alongside the British Expeditionary Forces, whom they had been assisting. These French servicemen were then processed through the former Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum in Wandsworth, South London, which was by then an MI6-run clearing camp called the London Reception Centre. Alain volunteered to return to France: a skilled motorcyclist, he became a dispatch rider in the Eighth Motorised Armour Division of the French Army. On 20 June 1940, he was assigned to reconnoitre the German advance on the eastern side of Saumur, and encountered a group of German soldiers at Le Petit-Puy. Coming around a curve, and hearing the approaching tread of the Germans, he abandoned his motorcycle and engaged the enemy troops with his carbine, killing sixteen of them before being killed himself. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery and was buried by the Germans with full military honours.

This recording is taken from an old 1970 LP – long out of print – called “Modern French Organ Music” which was recorded by André Isoir (b.1935) with Jean-Claude Raynaud at the Basilica of Saint Sernin in Toulouse. This recording is doubly interesting in that it gives an insight into the sound of the 1888 Cavaillé-Coll organ at Saint-Sernin before the somewhat controversial restoration of 1996-97. I do not seek to take sides in that particular debate and ask that you please refrain from stirring up further controversy. Enjoy the music! A particular thank you must go to American theatre organist Llewellyn (“Lew”) Williams (of the Organ Stop Pizza restaurant, Mesa, Arizona, with its four-manual, 78-rank Wurlitzer), who sent me this fantastic recording.







Igor Stravinsky – Le Sacre du Printemps (1913)

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Before the first gramophone disc recordings of The Rite were issued in 1929, Stravinsky had helped to produce a pianola version of the work for the Aeolian Company. He also created a much more comprehensive arrangement for the French player piano company Pleyel, with whom he signed a contract in 1923 under which many of his early works were reproduced on this medium. The Pleyel version of The Rite of Spring was issued in 1921; the British pianolist Rex Lawson recorded the work in this form in 1990.

In 1929 Stravinsky and Monteux vied with each other to conduct the first orchestral gramophone recording of The Rite. While Stravinsky led L’Orchestre des Concerts Straram in a recording for the Columbia label, at the same time Monteux was recording it for the HMV label. Stokowski’s version followed in 1930. Stravinsky made two more recordings, in 1940 and 1960. According to the critic Edward Greenfield, Stravinsky was not technically a great conductor but, Greenfield says, in the 1960 recording with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra the composer inspired a performance with “extraordinary thrust and resilience”. In conversations with Robert Craft, Stravinsky reviewed several recordings of The Rite made in the 1960s. He thought Herbert von Karajan’s 1963 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic, was good, but “the performance is … too polished, a pet savage rather than a real one”. Stravinsky thought that Pierre Boulez, with the Orchestre National de France (1963), was “less good than I had hoped … very bad tempi and some tasteless alterations”. A recording by The Moscow State Symphony Orchestra in 1962 was complimented by the composer for making the music sound Russian “which is just right”, but Stravinsky’s concluding judgement is that none of these three performances is worth preserving.

As of 2013 there are well over 100 different recordings of The Rite commercially available, and many more held in library sound archives. It has become one of the most recorded of all 20th century musical works. A work that addresses this wealth of available recorded versions is Stefan Goldmanns “Edit”, mounting one continuous recording from hundreds of cut segments from 14 recorded versions.

William Basinski – Melancholia I & XIV (2003)

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Originally released a year after the increasingly iconic The Disintegration Loops, a decade later Melancholia still stands as William Basinski’s second most beloved album. To commemorate its 10-year anniversary, we are honored to present the first-ever vinyl edition of this otherworldly piece of music. Remastered from the original recordings and pressed onto audiophile-quality 100% pure virgin vinyl, this limited-edition vinyl reissue is packaged in a stunning gatefold jacket featuring all-new artwork. It is truly a sight and sound to behold. Like many of Basinski’s most soul-stirring works, Melancholia began as a series of short tape loops captured in the early 1980s. Basinski then stored them away for decades, revisiting them at a different time in his life, at which point they took on a stunning new sound all their own – one that many consider to be among the finest of the past decade. [Source]



Michael Nyman – In Re Don Giovanni (1981)

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Critically acclaimed as Nyman’s groundbreaking record that combined minimalist, experimentalist music and jazz improvisation for the first time, this album has only ever been available on the rarest of long-since deleted vinyl.

The first Michael Nyman Band Album originally released in 1981, beautifully packaged in a 6 panel digipack and including two limited edition posters of the the original UK and Japanese LP artwork.

Most of the music on Michael Nyman was material from the early films by Peter Greenaway such as “Bird Anthem” (Act Of God) and “Bird List Song” (The Falls). The album also includes his first concert work for the band, “In Re Don Giovanni” which was released as a single on Les Disques du Crepuscule (home of Cabaret Voltaire, Durutti Column and Josef K amongst others) under the title Mozart. The most groundbreaking track on Michael Nyman, however, is “Waltz in F”, a piece Nyman wrote for art students whilst teaching at Trent Polytechnic in 1977, Nyman subsequently commandeering two modern jazz improvisers, Evan Parker and Peter Brotzman, to “destroy” this piece. Ultimately, Parker and Brotzman ended up playing over and around ten separate tracks whilst Nyman and Cunningham mixed in their Waltz.




[Dedicated to Jan Munkvad]

Prokofiev: Sonata for 2 Violins in C, Op.56 (1932)

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Sergei Prokofiev composed his Sonata for Two Violins in C major, Op. 56, in 1932 during his vacation near St. Tropez as a commission piece to conclude the inaugural concert of Triton, a Paris-based society dedicated to presenting new chamber music. That concert was held on December 16, 1932.

However, with the composer’s permission, the sonata was performed for the first time three weeks earlier in Moscow, on November 27, 1932, by Dmitry Tsyganov and Vladimir Shirinsky, both members of the Beethoven Quartet. The performance at the Triton concert was the “Western premiere”. The performers on that occasion were Robert Soetens – for whom Prokofiev would compose his second violin concerto in 1935 – and Samuel Dushkin, for whom Stravinsky composed his violin concerto a few months earlier. The work was published in 1932 in Berlin by Editions Russes de Musique.

In his 1941 autobiography, Prokofiev wrote about the origin of the work:

Listening to bad music sometimes inspires good ideas… After once hearing an unsuccessful piece [unspecified] for two violins without piano accompaniment, it struck me that in spite of the apparent limitations of such a duet one could make it interesting enough to listen to for ten or fifteen minutes.

Regarding the Paris premiere, Prokofiev further adds:

[My] Sonata was presented at the official opening of Triton, which chanced to coincide with the premiere of my ballet On the Dnieper. Fortunately the ballet began half an hour after the end of the concert, and so immediately after the Sonata we dashed over to the Grand Opéra – musicians, critics, composer all together.

Mvt.1 – Andante cantabile
Mvt.2 – Allegro

David & Igor Oistrach, violins
Recorded live on 14 April 1961

Pictures: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)




Egon Wellesz – Idyllen, op. 21 (1917)

Egon Wellesz was undoubtedly one of Vienna’s modernist masters, lost to the city and posterity after exile in 1938. He, along with Alban Berg and Anton Webern made up the original group of pupils to study with Arnold Schoenberg. [source]

Egon Wellesz (1885-1974): Idyllen, fünf Klavierstücken zu Gedichten von Stefan George, op.21 (1917).

I. In ruhig fließender Bewegung
II. Schwebend
III. Mäßig
IV. Verträumt
V. Langsam. Frei im Vortrag

Margarete Babinsky – pianoforte.

[Here you can read Egon Wellesz on Schönberg, 13. September 1934.]

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Egon Wellesz as painted by Oskar Kokoschka 1911