Monday, November 13, 2006

#154 - Woody's Music Wish List

So I'm in the market for a few recordings. I either need to replace some old recordings that have gotten banged up over the years, or find some that I've never had and always wanted.

This morning I drove to work listening to an old cassette of Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances." I think it's an old Naxos recording of, I don't know, probably the Azerbaijan National Symphony or some such entity. The problem is that the conductor, believing he only had about 15 minutes of tape per side, set a hellatious tempo that either the chorus or the orchestra (or sometimes both, I'd bet) had a difficult time following. In any case, they spend most of their time being barely synchronized. Also, this particular conductor tends to have two dynamics: very soft or HIDEOUSLY LOUD. It's funniest when he tries to get the chorus to match the orchestra during the HIDEOUSLY LOUD sections, because they're already spritzing Chloraseptic by the gallon by this time.

Anyway, I'd love someone to recommend to me a well-crafted recording of this piece in the original Russian. That's the way I sang it several years ago, and I just love the way the language rolls off the tongue. I'm not sure what language this bunch are singing, but it ain't Russian.

Next: I need a good recording of Vaughan-Williams' "Five Mystical Songs." The recording I have (and still love) is an old vinyl of the King's College Choir at Cambridge from the 70's featuring David Willcocks conducting and baritone John Shirley-Quirk. Side A of this platter is V-W's "Mass in G minor." This was the first classical recording my parents ever gave me, and it cemented my love of Vaughn-William's inimitable style. I am dying to perform the "Mystical Songs," but I need a venue. *sigh*

I bought a CD from Amazon a few years ago that featured some chancel choir in St. Louis, I think. It was a sincere recording, but the baritone's tremolo was turned all the way up, and it was difficult to hear what key he was singing in. Sometimes it matched the orchestra, other times it seemed to miss. For sheer entertainment value, this CD is nearly on par with Mrs. Miller.

Anyway, (back to my point) the old vinyl has long since gotten scratched nearly to the point of destruction and I'd love to replace it. I've burned it to a CD for now, but cheap noise reduction algorithms are no substitute for the real deal. So far, the John Shirley-Quirk version is still the best I've ever heard. I wouldn't mind being proved wrong.

Finally: ccwbass reminded me that - lo, many years ago - I had a platter of the 1954 NBC telecast of "Amahl and the Night Visitors." It was an RCA recording, as I recall, and I played that thing over and over and over as I prepared to play Amahl when I was twelve years old. This is where we learned that Woody has fabulous tonal retention. We performed this with the local high school and Mom was our orchestra. We performed it for the local elementary schools one morning as a special assembly, and the performance went off largely without a hitch. Until, that is, the fire alarm went off in the middle of one of my recits. (This was the early 70's, and it was still considered a dangerous prank to pull the fire alarm, causing evacuations and response from the local firefighters. Kids thought this was hilarious and administrators were constantly embarrassed at having to cancel the fire station's response. Nowadays if the worst thing to happen on your campus is a pulled fire alarm, you're having a terrific day.)

We all froze on stage while our director came up and explained to the kids that this was, in fact, good theatre technique. What it really was, in truth, was a bunch of kids who had no idea what to do until the alarm was turned off and the "all clear" was given. But since I had been in the middle of a recit when we stopped, everyone wondered how to get back into the performance. Fortunately Mom began playing right where we'd left off, and this puny boy soprano managed to start right in on pitch. I can be useful that way.

So there's my current short-list. Borodin, Vaughan-Williams, and Menotti.

At some point I'll need to find a good recording of Resphigi's "Laud to the Nativity." I have a recording made by the Cambridge Singers of Pasadena some years ago (I believe that was just before my time with the group), and it's a comfortable recording. Except, unfortunately, for the middle chant portion where the men manage to drop a full half-step about three measures into the a cappella. Otherwise, I've already been playing this one for about two weeks now. I'm in no hurry to replace it. Not yet, anyway.

No comments: