Sunday, May 8, 2011

Music from the past....















Music it has to be said played an important part in my life and especially through my childhood whither or not it's what we call popular or what is usually classified as classical. Music has this amazing ability to transmit emotions, stimulate the mind as well as taking us on epic journeys of discovery.
Sometimes music is an end in itself such as such as recital or rock concert, it may the accompaniment of a dance as many Waltzes were intend to or an integral part in a grand production such as stage show, opera or ballet together with other artistic disciplines.
Music has a lot to offer people especially children and thoughtful educators have always tried to introduce not just musical concepts as harmony, melody, time etc as well but encouraging children to play an instrument themselves as well as in ensembles.
At my primary school I played the xylophone, glockenspiel, triangle as well as tambourine in school productions, assemblies and we had separate music classes during the week to learn new pieces of music as well as develop our abilities which for some of was a challenge!
One of the first prices of classical music I heard was Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazade  an epic tale based on the book of 1000  and one nights (aka The Arabian Nights) told in rich symphonic sound with a wonderful role the Violin when I was just over nine years of age when my teacher decided to play it for us.
It wasn't long before I was pestering pop for a copy of this on lp record as by that point I'd gotten a stereo phonograph of my own.
Fortunately in my country there were and still are many classical music programs on the radio that give you the opportunity to explore works you may be unfamiliar with and through them I learned about people like Beethoven, Chopin and Berlioz among others and their music.
As well in time I started to build my own library of recordings such as the Beethoven Symphonies in my teens that I write about yesterday.I also had recordings of Tchaikovsky ballets at the time - he was a way with musical characterizations like Puss and Boots in the third act of  Sleeping Beauty and I adore the entire Nutcracker suite.
So you could say my classical music collection originally started on ye olde lp record and for a brief period went to cassettes as their quality improved in the early 1980's.
The first classical cd I bought was one of Sibelius's tone poems by the Berlin Philharmonic followed by  Lalo Espagnole Symphonie disc in 1986.
I had a mania for "Cutgut Music" and was lucky to get the two lp box set of Paganini's First Violin Concerto and 24 Caprices as performed by Itzhak Perlman on British  HMV with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Laurence Foster replacing them on cd eventually.
Back then cd's were quite expensive £12.49 or more and many discs only contained one major work say Beethoven's 5th Symphony running for about 35 minutes performances that were also often were on mid or budget price tapes and lp's so I didn't get anymore .
In 1987 four years after the introduction of cd in Europe, the first Mid Price discs started to come out and the then PolyGram companies - DG, Decca and Philips - issued a series often adding extra works to improve the value for money.
That was when I first made a head start adding titles by Mozart, Handel, Stravinsky (The Rite Of Spring in the version I had owned on tape) and Holst as well as getting Rostropovich's award winning Tchaikovsky ballet suites collection performed by the Berlin Philharmonic.
As part of my Ravel splurge I got Margaet Agrerich's recording of the Paino Concerto in G with the B.p.o. conducted by Abbado, the recordings made by the Boston Symphony Orchestra of his orchestral music and Ma Mére L'Oye with the Los Angeles Philharmonic all from the DG Galleria series.
By 1988 Naxos had pioneered the budget price new digitally recorded cd and I picked up several in that series made using Eastern European orchestras but the big push was 1991 and the anniversary of Mozart's birth which DG celebrated in style with the Mozart Masterpieces collection of 25 cd's all at budget price many of which had been previously on more expensive labels.
I bought a shedload of them at the time and they remain the hub of my Mozart collection featuring the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras and leading DG pianists and violin players from the 60's to the early 1980's.
I also bought the recording ocf Ravels String Quartet in F by the Britten quartet coupled with two Vaughan Williams compositions including On Wenlock Edge which were written after he studied under Ravel on the EMI label.
It was around this period I discovered the violinist  Anne Sophie Mutter although many over in England were more taken by Nigel Kennedy whose recording of the Four Seasons by Vivaldi was one of the top selling albums of 1989/90 and I bought several discs of her performances.
I picked up some budget DG issues that although lacking essays contained great performances the Tone poems of Brahms, Richard Strauss, ballet favourites from Offenbachs Gaité parisien, Chopin's  Les Sylphides  and Beethoven's Violin Concerto.
I went mad in 1992 buying the City of Birmingham S.O recordings with Simon Rattle of Sibelius's symphonies on EMI. I bought a complete set of Beethovens Piano Concertos and some solo Piano pieces having borrowed these performances (Kempff's) off and on from the municipal library. In 1993 I added to my lone 1987 full price buy - the Grieg Peer Gynt suite (Academy of St Martins in the Fields) - adding his Symphonic Dances and Violin Sonatas followed in '96 by the Piano Concerto (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).
I also made a bit of a start on American Classics by Bloche, Ives, Copland and Barber which I had loved from high school even if some think nothing American is fit to put on the same level as 19th and 20th century European composers.
Naxos that budget label I mentioned earlier had by then taken on the mantle of recording the less popular tackling in a systematic way all this material and it hadn't been unnoticed that they recordings were often as good as or even better than the traditional majors such as Sony (CBS), EMI and DG/Philips/Decca. In fact they were to become the one of the two largest companies recording the classics! I got the complete Falloni set of Schubert symphonies issued in 1994/5 they did and some titles from the Iceland Symphony orchestras Sibelius cycle of 1999/2000.
Currently I am building on this collection having added complete series of Mozart's Quintets and Quartets and have replaced a couple of older discs that gave me the 'bare bones' of the piece  but didn't didn't really satisfy.
Unfortunately a few of my discs bought in 1991/2 are going bronzed due to a cd pressing plant problem that could cut short their life so am investigating replacements.

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