American Piano Music from 78rpm Recordings
Marionettes Suite, Op. 38 [10:41]
Prelude in D minor, Op.13, No.5 [1:23]; Prelude in F sharp minor, Op.11, No.1
Prelude in B flat major [1:35]; Prelude in C sharp major [3:07]; Prelude in
E flat major [1:11]
Daniel Gregory MASON
The Whippoorwill, Op.9, No.4 [from Country Pictures] [3:20]
March Wind, Op.46, No.10 [from Virtuoso Studies] [1:49]
John Alden CARPENTER
Country Jig [2:31]
Song After Sundown [2:54]
March [from 5 Pieces for Piano] [1:56]
Adagio Cantabile [2:36]
The Lonely Fiddlemaker [2:16]
White Birches, Op.12, No.1 [from The New Hampshire Woods] [2:07]
Navajo War Dance, Op.20, No.1 [2:25]; Sourwood Mountain, Op.78, No.3
Improvisation [No. 2 from 5 Improvisations] [0:55]
Rudolph Ganz (piano) (Marionettes);
Jeanne Behrend (piano) (Piano Music by American Composers)
rec. c.1941 (Behrend) and c.1944 (Marionettes)
Issued in 1947 as US Decca album A-576 (Ganz); Catalogue Nos. 24153-4 (Behrend);
RCA Victor Musical Masterpiece Series M-764; 17910-17913
PRISTINE PAKM 044 [46:57]
For all that people kvetch about record companies at no time in history have
we ever had so much music available. The present CD is part of the array of
evidence that can be adduced to substantiate that statement.
These valuable retrievals from two rara avis albums of American 78s present
music that is light on the ear. The Macdowell Marionettes suite (1888-1901)
gathers eight pieces each with a Schumann-like fairytale - or even silent movie
- title. These inventive little mood vignettes (Prologue; Clowns; Lover; Soubrette;
Sweetheart; Villain; Witch; Epilogue) are typical of sub-Chopin salon though
some do make a fleeting pass in the direction of Rachmaninov and transcend the
genre. This suite seems not to have been included in James Barbagallo’s
four Naxos CDs (vol
4) of the Macdowell piano music or at least not under this title.
Ganz, Geneva-born, was a Busoni pupil in Berlin but arriving in Chicago in 1901.
Chicago was to become his adopted home though he did have time for European
tours between 1908 and 1912. He was music director of the St. Louis Symphony
Orchestra (1921-27) and had made recordings with them for Victor. He married
Mary Forrest, an American concert singer in 1900. In addition to an early Symphony
his oeuvre included an orchestral suite of twenty Animal Pictures (1933).
His Piano Concerto was introduced in 1941 with the composer as soloist. You
can hear this extravagant four movement work on Cedille CDR 90000 029. It’s
in a blend of styles. These span Rachmaninovian romance (second movement), Ravel’s
mercurial fantasy (G minor concerto) and a Shostakovich-like abruptness in the
first movement. A sort of nervy elegance suffuses the whole thing. A 1940s Chicago
Symphony Orchestra/Frederick Stock radio broadcast of the Concerto by Ganz was
issued on Dante HPC050. Ganz can be heard in more classical repertoire on Guild.
Philadelphia-born Jeanne Behrend (1911-1988) attended the Curtis Institute in
the early 1930s where she was a piano pupil of Josef Hofmann. Her composition
tutor was Rosario Scalero. Fellow Curtis student Barber wrote an Interlude
I - an episode of cloudy introspection - which is dedicated to her. She
championed Harl Macdonald’s (1899-1955) out-west Concerto for Two Pianos
and Orchestra which was recorded with her by Stokowski (Cala
CACD 0501). She championed Americana as we can see and her compositions
included the piano suite A Child's Day, From Dawn to Dusk for
orchestra (1939) and a Lamentation for viola and piano (1944). She edited
Louis Moreau Gottschalk's Notes of a Pianist in 1964. By the bye: Philip
Martin’s 8 CD Gottschalk set has just been issued on Hyperion CDS44451/8.
Chasins’ D minor prelude is rather grand and in hock to Rachmaninov
while the F sharp minor is a scintillating little raindrop sprint. Gershwin’s
three preludes are familiar enough and their jazzily smoochy and rapid-fire
loucheness is well caught by Behrend. Daniel Gregory Mason’s The
Whippoorwill is peaceful with fragrant echoes of Macdowell’s pastoralism.
Speaking of Macdowell the Lisztian scramble that is March Wind
is from his Op.46 Virtuoso Studies. Its celerity is such that it would
work well on a pianola roll. I wonder if one was made. John Alden Carpenter’s
Diversion is impressionistic and for English listeners is strongly redolent
of John Ireland. With other hats on Carpenter could be jazzy asw e know from
his ballets. David Guion’s Country Jig has an barn-dance
style with a flock of wild banjos flying down hill out of control. The Guion
can also be heard on Naxos
8.111120. Randall Thompson’s Song After Sundown is a
touching little atmosphere piece closer in ecstatic style to the Carpenter.
Freed’s March from his Five Pieces is a clunky muscle-powered
piece like a brutal and stubborn carillon. Robert Nathaniel Dett wrote
some superb choral-orchestral music such as Chariot Jubilee and The
Ordering of Moses; why don’t we hear it. Clive Lithgow recorded his
suite In The Bottoms in 1971 for Philips LP (9500 096) but this warm-hearted
Adagio Cantabile is a contented piece. There’s a whole New World
CD devoted to his piano music. In The Lonely FiddlemakerLeo Sowerby
takes us to the same territory as Guion but with a splash of Bushmills. US-based
pianist Harold Bauer who premiered Holbrooke’s first piano concerto
was also a composer. His glimmeringly romantic White Birches from The
New Hampshire Woods suite attests to this. Arthur Farwell’s
music amounts to a sleeping giant with his Brucknerian massive Rudolph Gott
Symphony and his tone poem The
Gods of the Mountains. Here he appears on a smaller scale with the stern
Navajo War Dance and the gawky light-hearted Grainger-reminiscent Sourwood
Mountain. Farwell was an Indianist composer alongside Cadman and Converse.
Beach’s very short Improvisation is a sort of waltz fragment.
Pristine extend their arm yet deeper into the most exotic corners of the repertoire.
Next thing you know they will find that fabled set of 78s of the Holbrooke Fourth
Symphony made by the Torquay Municipal Orchestra; I can dream.
Pristine extend their arm yet deeper into the most exotic corners of the American