BY HERBERT KUPFERBERG
Albéniz and Granados: Spanish Piano Music
José Iturbi, pianist; Angel 35628 and S-35628 (stereo)
Although few performers have longer symbolized Spanish music than José Iturbi, there are elements of surprise and revelation, all pleasant, in this release. In the first place, Iturbi’s recordings have not been numerous in recent years; and in the second, their quality has been variable. This selection of pieces by Albéniz and Granados is a delight from start to finish, however, beginning with the imperious, incisive rhythms of the former’s Asturias and proceeding to the gentler guitarlike chords of the latter’s Spanish Dance No. 12 in A Minor. In between, such old friends as Albéniz’s Tango in D Major and Granados’ Andaluza turn up in bright and swirling pianistic colors.
Kreisler: Praeludium and Allegro, Sicilienne and Rigaudon, Caprice Viennois, Tambourin Chinois, and others
Ruggiero Ricci, violin, and Brooks Smith, piano; Decca DL-710052 (stereo) and 10052
Of the several records labeled “A Tribute to Fritz Kreisler,”or something similar, that have appeared since the great violinist’s death, this attains pre-eminence by reason of its frank lyricism and genial spirit. The fourteen selections are drawn from Kreisler’s more serious essays into composing, as well as from his salon pieces. They are very well played, and add up to a comfortable hour of listening.
Ferdinand Leitner conducting members of Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Bavarian Radio, with Inge Borkh, soprano; Gerhard Stolze and ErnstHaefliger, tenors; Carlos Alexander and Kim Borg, basses; and others; recording supervised by Carl Orff; Deutsche Grammophon 18717/9 and 138717/9 (stereo) : three records
Starting with Friedrich Hölderlin’s translation into German of Sophocles, Carl Orff has composed an Antigonae that seems more Teutonic than Hellenistic. This '‘opera,” with its declaiming choruses and its chanting principals, is characterized by the same percussive rhythms that punctuate all of Orff’s music. As in many of his other works, they begin by being arresting and end by beingnumbing. In Antigonae arias are replaced by rhythmic declamation, often on a single reiterated note; singing as such is a rare commodity on these six recorded sides. German is a language well suited to the kind of staccato speech Orff favors, and he gets more variety than one might expect out of the cantillations and intonations in which his characters express their thoughts and pursue their roles in the tragedy. The orchestra is a symphonic rhythm band, with six pianos, a large array of percussion, and only double basses in the strings; but for all that, the scoring is restrained and subdued, with none of the gusto that marked Carmina Burana, the work that made Orff’s reputation. Deutsche Grammophon has spared nothing in its presentation of this lengthy, difficult work; the performance, supervised personally by the 67-year-old composer, is as adept as it is authentic; the album itself, sturdy and handsome; the printed matter, lavish, with complete German and English texts. All the same, before Antigonae is finished, the six sides seem like sixty.
Richard Strauss: Enoch Arden
Glenn Gould, pianist, and Claude Rains, reader; Columbia MS-6341 (stereo) and ML-5741
Of the many curious musical enterprises involving the young Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, this is the strangest — a resuscitation of an 1890 piano score by Richard Strauss designed to accompany a dramatic reading of Tennyson’s poem Enoch Arden — the story of the shipwrecked mariner who, given up for dead, returns home to find his wife happily remarried, and magnanimously decides to leave her in peace. Strauss’s score is slight, trite, and sentimental: rising to a series of feverish runs when Enoch peeks in on his blissfully ignorant spouse, subsiding to heavy solemnity when he gives his dying blessing to his unseen children. If the record is to be enjoyed at all. it will be for Tennyson’s poem, somewhat trimmed, which is read by Claude Rains not only with utmost seriousness but with absolute conviction. Sentimentality of this sort is out of fashion, and Tennyson along with it, but that deters neither Mr. Rains nor Mr. Gould. This listener’s tear ducts held out sternly until just before the end, but those of his wife broke down long before.
(Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Wind Orchestra Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite
Leonard Bernstein conducting New York Philharmonic with Seymour Lipkin, pianist; Columbia MS-6329 (stereo) and ML-5729
Among the releases with which Columbia is celebrating Igor Stravinsky’s eightieth birthday (June 17, 1962) is this coupling of two works dating from the early 1920s. His fame would be secure without either of them, but they fill brilliantly their minor niches in the Stravinsky canon. No other piece by Stravinsky offers more startling contrasts than this concerto, with its sudden alternations of solemn nobility and breezy flippancy; and the Pulcinella Suite — an updated, sporty version of music by Pergdlesi — is a brash and brassy treat. Bernstein and Lipkin speak Stravinsky’s musical language fluently and elegantly.
Marian Anderson, contralto, and Franz Rupp, piano; RCA Victor LSC-2592 (stereo) and LM-2592
It is not ungallant to note that Marian Anderson is now sixty years old, since she calmly lists her birth date in the reference books as February 17, 1902. In these nineteen newly recorded spirituals, one should not be surprised to find that her voice seems often frayed and sometimes unsteady. What is more important is that her artistry and resourcefulness are unimpaired and that songs like “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “Oh, Didn’t It Rain,” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” carry a conviction which no one else gives them. Perhaps the greatest delight of all is “Scandalize My Name,” an admonition on backsliding that is sung with the utmost warmth and humor.