They Shall Have Music

Everyone should get a Vox record called The English Country Dancing Master. It is newly issued and first of a series to be made by Richard and Theodora Schulze, a young couple who are believers that music should be a joy. At their hands it is, and they have worked to make it so. Anyone who can listen to their Rigs of Marlowe, played on the soprani no recorder (his) and the harpsichord (hers), without feeling a freeing glee needs doctoring badly.

The Schulzes are, respectively, tall and gaunt, and short and sprightly, and they play the clarinet, the oboe, the recorder (any range), and the harpsichord. They grew up in the Chicago-Gary area; he in Calumet, she in Hammond. Neither was born into a musical family. His father ran a telephone office, hers a restaurant. When he showed a love for the clarinet, he landed in the American Conservatory of Music, the preparatory school for most Chicago music making. When she displayed talent on the oboe, she Found herself a pupil of Alfred Barthel, the famous oboist. The two youngsters discovered each other in Indiana and became each other’s instructors, she teaching him French woodwind technique, he introducing to her the beauties of seventeenth-century song. In his spare time, he studied physics at Wabash College, whereby he became, in 1953, a draftsman and designer for the Fairchild Corporation in New York. The job furnished a living after they were married.

They dearly desired a harpsichord, and since they could not afford to buy one, they built one. An account of this endeavor has been published by Pageant Press. It took a year, but the instrument is still in service, in their Carnegie Hall studio, and sounds fine.

They became interested in recorders because these were the instruments on which their best-loved music was played, and they wanted to play it and hear it as it had come forth first.

“Recorders,” says Richard Schulze, “are the most awkward of woodwinds. The fingering is terribly complicated, and breath control takes a long while to learn. The soprani no makes people sit up and take notice, but it isn’t the hardest to play. I guess the alto is. Presentday woodwinds are easy by comparison.”

The Schulzes intend to keep playing recorders and any other instruments that come their way as they work through the pleasures of music that people have played across the centuries simply for delight. Since Vox is ready to pay for their hours of hazardous piping, they intend to go on into the domain of the French dancing master and the American dancing master. “The French will be pretty early, but it sounds so modern it will surprise you,” says Mr. Schulze. “The American we are going to play just as it has come down to us — New England country dances, Western square dances, Southern and mountain reels. The best indication of what’s worth while is what has survived. Anything we play is something we like ourselves.”

The next to last item on the disc titled English Country Dancing Master is by an English city concert master named Henry Purcell, and I am sure he would have thought well of the whole venture.

The Scott Hypothesis

Boston is bordered on the west by electronics. Belting the city, across the route once ridden by Paul Revere and his daring companions, is a string of bright new buildings, mostly single-storied and imaginatively tinted. They represent the Yankee challenge in modern industry and reflect the research constantly in progress at Harvard, M.I.T., and other great New England schools, together with the incomparable skilled labor supply this has brought into being. Not least impressive of the buildings is a structure identified, with admirable simplicity, as H. H. Scott, which houses, during work hours, more than three hundred people, and its product is reproduced sound, pure as it can be made.

Hermon Hosmer Scott is a softspoken, middle-sized man, with a down-East accent to which he is entitled. One of his forebears was adjutant of a militia detachment which made itself famous at Concord on April 19, 1775. He still lives in the neighborhood, near Maynard, with his wife, Eleanor, and two daughters, Priscilla and Jane.

It would be downright silly to introduce H. H. Scott to veteran record listeners. We have been gratefully aware of him since 1947. He is the man who took the grit out of Grieg and the scratch out of Scriabin, by inventing, back then, the Dynaural Noise Suppressor, the only device of its kind that ever actually worked, so far as I know. It killed irrelevant record noise, without detracting from the music. It really did, and still does. If you use an HHS/DNS, a 78 sounds as clean as an LP, and an LP sounds as clean as live FM. The Suppressor even now is incorporated in some Scott amplifiers, because record fanciers want it, and Scott, a loyal record fancier himself, supplies it.

Scott has received many engineering citations, some for truly basic work in electronic measurement; and his scholastic record at M.I.T. is still spoken of with awe. Yet he is honored and heeded most by his friends on the grounds of ethics and aesthetics. This is important and is reflected in the clear reliability of his products. A walk through the plant makes plain that H. H. Scoit employees never, never, never (as the song says) will be slaves. My guide was Victor Pomper, Scott’s vice president and inseparable companion. All the pleasant ladies with their soldering irons called him Vic, and he knew their first names, too. What this means, most importantly, is that living-room listeners do not get H. H. Scott FM tuners or preamplifiers with fractured cold-solder joints. The things work, and keep on working, because they were made with devotion and, I think, with pride. “No one’s afraid of anyone else here,” Pomper remarked. “They’ll all fight like lions if they think they’re right, and we’ve never lost a good top-level man in the history of the company.”

Pomper designs the exteriors of Scott high fidelity equipment, though he has no formal training in such matters (he is an engineer, too), and this is why most of it comes forth in brushed gold. Pomper is partial to brushed gold; it is so elegant. An example is the new Model 399 stereo tuner-amplifier, a glistening device obviously made by perfectionists for perfectionists. It will perform any stereo function, with easy power, and its frontal escutcheon is not only elegant but self-explanatory.

Scott’s own insistent ideas lie behind the designs. He is terribly irritated by imperfections of any kind. As an opera lover he abominates sopranos who look like barrage balloons. As a manufacturer he grieves over audio instruments that suggest something filched from a battleship’s innards. He does not see why an amplifier or a tone arm should be ugly, any more than a cello is. To this we owe a revolution, since it was Scott who, in 1953. gave us the Model 99 amplifier, which did not need to be hidden. It could be laid on a bookshelf, where, in its gold and leatherette sheathing, it looked quite as quietly worthy as a de luxe edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia. Everyone now follows this precedent, but it was Scott who established it, and the Scott musical gear still looks best of any.

In Scott there is a survival of the Yankee aesthetic, which gave us once a countryside of beautiful architecture, fully useful, and equipped it with furniture to match. It is good to have someone like him around, still confident in the tradition.

The MacLeish Hypotheses

Lately, Archibald MacLeish, poetplaywright and sometime Librarian of Congress, put to us by way of a television play a good thought in a good sentence: “The secret of freedom is courage.” The play recounted one citizen’s fight for a school tax, but the gist of it was the third of three definitions given us this last twelve years by MacLeish, in sequence.

The first definition was, to initiate the sequence: The secret of faith is feeling. This was propounded in the dramatic poem Actfive, 1948. The second was: The secret of courage is faith; which he conveyed in the late Broadway success J.B., built upon the Scriptural tale of the many tribulations and temptations of Job.

Actfive and J.B. have been recorded and are worth hearing and hearing again. The first is on a Caedmon disc made in 1949 and still available. MacLeish reads it, and in it there is a short, touching profile of MacLeish and others of us who feel sometimes as he does in this world. (The blinded gunner at the ford. The responsible man, fagged out but still trying.) It isn’t subtle, and perhaps it isn’t clever, but there are times in some centuries, and this may be one, when grace and symmetry are not enough, when a well-reasoned big sentimentwhether one agrees with it or notis worth more than bushels of small perfections.

To record J.B., at the end of its recent run, apparently was a joint notion of Davidson Taylor, the radio announcer; Dario and Dorle Soria, producers of RCA Victor’s celebrity series; and Alan Kayes, who is artistand-repertory manager for the company.

J.B. is two hours long; MacLeish helped record it; and it is a success, especially in stereophony. The Satanmask speaks from the left loudspeaker, the God mask from the right, and in between poor J.B., today’s Job, fights his ordeals — the deaths of his children, ruin, pain, and disfigurement — and keeps his faith.

I do not suppose the album will make money, but there are other rewards. It is an excitement to follow a good poet on a spiritual exploration. This thing will go to the right hearts, those that Mr. MacLeish was aiming for. Everyone who was involved should feel good about it.

Record Reviews

Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta

Martin: Petite Symphonie Concertante

Leopold Stokowski conducting soloists and orchestra; Capitol SP-8507 (stereo) and P-8507

Stokowski’s stature shows here in the Bartók, where he permits no clatter; the work comes out as music, and wonderful music it is. There is no point in identifying soloists. On this job, everyone was a soloist, and the virtuosity continues in the twomovement Martin work, which sounds like modernized Saint-Saëns (I mean that as a compliment); it showers you with a scintillant percussive song. Capitol’s engineers have given the sound perfect clarity. One warning: the sound level is low, so you need a fairly good amplifier to get the most out of the record.

Beethoven: Concerto No. 5

Robert Riefling, piano; Odd GrüdnerHegge conducting Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; RCA Camden 566 and S-566 (stereo)

For the second time a $2.98 Camden disc made in Norway takes top ranking among stereo recordings of major piano concertos (the other was the Rachmaninoff Second, S-475). This Emperor outrates sonically the Rubinstein-Krips, and musically all others. It has all the martial bang and lyrical liquidity it should, and also that peculiar asset so essential to good Beethoven playing: tempos loyally observed. Mr. Riefling, of whom I have never heard before, may not be the world’s greatest pianistic technician, but he is a devoted Beethovenian, which is good enough for me.

Berlioz: Symphonic Fantastique

Pierre Monteux conducting Vienna

Philharmonic Orchestra; RCA Victor LSC-2362 (stereo) and LM-2362 The most exciting Fantastique in the very early days of LP was that of Mr.

Monteux with the San Francisco Symphony. This was then outpointed, purely in sonics, by other versions. Now comes the same concept, with a better orchestra and in sound that alternately ravishes the ears and rattles the wits. The little woodwinds sing like cherubs; the big viols sneer like demons; and the huge brasses ring down doomsday. All concerned must have enjoyed themselves enormously making the record; it thrills, from beginning to end.

Haydn: The Seasons

Sir Thomas Beecham conducting Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Beecham Choral Society; soloists; Capitol SGCR-7184 {stereo) and GCR-7184: three records The Seasons, a secular oratorio, was Haydn’s last big work, and it is the work of a happy and very, very clever old man. He wrote it as a sort of nature chronicle, with three rustic philosophers as narratorstwo men and a woman. The script came from a Scottish poet, James Thomson, who wrote it just before Haydn was born. This is the first English-language Seasons on records, and it is most endearing. Spring sings, summer murmurs and thunders, autumn conserves, winter huddles and hopes. Old Sir Thomas knows exactly what to do with old master Haydn’s wise and genial writing. The result is ageless.

Puccini: Tosea

Francesco Molinari-Pradelli conducting Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, George London; other soloists; Chorus and Orchestra of the Saint Cecilia Academy, Rome; London OSA-1210 (stereo) and A-4235: two records Tosca makes good stereo melodrama, no doubt of that, especially during the torture scene and the murder. Tebaldi’s Floria has a gorgeous voice, even if she’s a little ladylike; Del Monaco’s Mario is robust and loud; London’s Scarpia is dramatically the most convincing; this is a villain you would hesitate to cross. My only real disappointment was with the musket volley when Mario was shot. Even in stereo, those muskets wouldn’t scare a mouse. Still, one does not buy an opera for gunshots.

Schuman : Symphony No. 1; Manfred Overture

George Szell conducting Cleveland Orchestra; Epic BC-1039 (stereo) and LC-3612

Mr. Szell told me once he aimed to make the Cleveland the subtlest orchestra in the United States, and it seems to me he has. The Spring Symphony here is a kaleidoscope of instrumental sounds, really vernal in its skillfully planned glint, and still impelled with a gay romantic rush.

I cannot imagine its being played much better or recorded much better. All the faultless diction of the orchestra comes through the loudspeakers with real beauty, which is rarer than we realize.

Vive La Marche!

Paul Paray conducting Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Mercury SR-90211 (stereo) and MG-50211 Ordinarily I deplore this kind of hi-fi collection, but I let myself hear the Marseillaise played by the venerable républicain, Citoyen Paray, and I was a goner. This is what scared eighteenth-century European monarchs out of their high boots, and you really can hear why. The other marches include a very good Gounod Marionette (you know — Alfred Hitchcock) and a lively Berlioz Rákóczy.