Wednesday, December 31, 2008
End of year gems, Part 1
This set starts with two magnificent 1940 duo-piano sides by Pierre Luboshutz and Genia Nemenoff, straight off a Victor Red Seal 78. Luboschutz' arrangement of Cesar Cui's Orientale may be the finest treatment of the exotica staple this blogger has ever heard, and the LOUD rendition of Mussorgsky's Coronation March (from Boris Godunov) has a power a mere orchestra can't match. The I/#VI routine happens all the time in music--Bernard Herrmann's Day the Earth Stood Still prelude, the opening bars of Percy Faith's 1949 arrangement of Deep Purple, the first movement of Grofe's Niagara Falls Suite, and so on. We hear the progression a zillion times in our lives, and every single time it sounds weird and wrong and wonderful.
Our third 78 rip--the Band of the H.M. Grenadier Guards' 1939 recording of Entry of the Gladiators--sounds great, I'm just now realizing. Just after I'd edited and EQ'd it, I wasn't sure if it sounded any good--my ears were too tired to make a judgment. My rested and refreshed ears hear remarkably realistic sound from this very clean 1939 78 (not a dirty word to be heard). As far as Entry versions go, this is pretty reserved, but it's all the more interesting for it. I love the tempo acceleration at the end. Does this piece (by Czech composer Julius Fucik) evoke images of ancient Rome for you? I didn't think so. Like you, I see clowns and elephants and a big tent.
String Beans is a very jazz and bluesy dance side with a strong 1924 feel. I can say that because I know it was recorded in 1924. Amazingly, the 1911 Slippery Place Rag, featuring the Victor Military Band is a faster, livelier and more supple performance. That's not supposed to happen, especially since the earlier example is by a marching band. But I don't explain 'em, I just feature 'em. And leave out the th.
Our last end-of-year gem is from a 45 on the 49th State Hawaii Record Co. label. (Say that twenty times, fast.) It features Genoa Keawe, who passed away in February of this year, and Her Hula Maids. I usually refrain from describing anything in music as pure, but this performance is so unbelievably pure, what else can I call it? Purely beautiful, too. I guess I once regarded Hawaiian music as lightweight. Frivolous, even. Then I heard this record. Gone forever was that silly idea.
End of year gems, Part 1.
ORIENTALE (Cui, Arr: Luboshutz)--Luboshutz and Nemenoff, piano duo, 1940.
CORONATION SCENE from Boris Godunov--Same, 1940.
STRING BEANS--Vincent Rose and His Montmartre Orch. of Hollywood, 1924.
SLIPPERY PLACE RAG (Hacker)--Victor Military Band, 1911.
ENTRY OF THE GLADIATORS (Fucik)--Band of the H.M. Grenadier Guards, 1939.
LITTLE BROWN GAL--Genoa Keawe and Her Hula Maids.