Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hometown5000 Trove of December 2011

Shortly after I began to re-succumb to the charms of the 33 1/3 vinyl album, I happened into the city library of Hometown5000, the only building -- to date -- to have my name carved on its edifice.  And there, for 50 cents a pop, were vinyl LPs!  Fortunately, I only had two dollars with me, so I was limited to four.  Except, I might have taken five.  By accident.

The first pick was this solid 1963 recording of the Fourth Beethoven Piano Concerto, featuring an uncannily young Van Cliburn.

It is of course an excellent recording, and comes with slavish liner notes with sentences like "Mysticism alone can be a closed circle."  Great stuff.

Then we've got this groooOOooOOooovy 1967 recording of The Baroque Art of Telemann.

It looks more like a Jimi Hendrix album cover than a Georg Philipp Telemann cover, no?  The design is by Jules Halfant, who didn't do covers for Hendrix -- he was on a different label -- but who did design a lot of rock covers and was clearly comfortable in the psychodelic mode.  [Clue that the artist was seconded from the rock music division: the six-peg cello.]

It's interesting to listen to Telemann played in 1967, because that was a time when music of the Baroque period -- which is to say, the stuff before Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven -- was being rediscovered and rehabilitated after more than a century during which it had been very rarely performed.  These days, musicians who play Baroque music tend to specialize in the period and try to reproduce a dry, crisp, precise sound that we think is the way the composers intended it to be played.  In 1967, though, this was still a pretty new idea, so on this record you get Telemann being played as if he were Mozart -- nothing dramatic, but it seems a bit lush if you listen to a lot of classical music.

But we can top that: a recording of Vivaldi concerti from 1953!  With a woodcut design that reminds me of my grandmother!  Or just of grandmothers in general!

If the 1967 Telemann seems a little lush, this Vivaldi record is played like a full-blown Romantic symphony.  It might as well be Leopold Stokowski conducting something like, well, like anything I guess (Stokowski was famous for taking any piece of music in the repertoire and turning the emotional fervor up to a torrid level.)  Treating Vivaldi like Tchaikovsky is a perfectly legitimate interpretation of the notes on the page, actually, but it sounds really odd to a modern classicalhead.

This one, also, is played with a fine Romantic intensity.  But then, it's a piece of fine, intense Romanticism.  And wowie-zowie, it is one freaking awesome performance.  Worth every penny of its 50 cents, plus a reasonable chunk of the turntable.

Like the label says, "Incomparable HIGH FIDELITY."

But you can't go out and just buy up no-risk classical gems.  Where's the sport in that?  No, the true music lover must take risks!  Otherwise, how can you grow?  So I picked up this one too.

Hey, it could have been awesome!  Mustard blazers, baby!  Regrettably, it's not especially great.  Turns out that the Salem Singers are still around and active, though, 43 years after this album was recorded!  Presumably there's been some turnover of personnel, but still.  They've put out a dozen or so records over the years, and would be happy to sell you some of the newer ones from their website.  Or, you can come by Castle5000, and I'll put this older one on the hi-fi and we can have drinks.


Christine M. said...

that Sibelius is worth it for the graphics alone!

Ben said...

Re: the "six-peg cello." Doesn't the viol de gamba, which was the baroque precursor to the modern cello, a six-stringed instrument? Maybe Halfant wasn't tripping as much as we thought!

Michael5000 said...

CM: I know, right?

Ben: Aw, hell. Nothing worse than being caught out ignorant when you're trying to look all smart catching someone out ignorant. However, I remain convinced that Halfant was tripping at least a little.