Record Reviews

Bach: Complete Organ Music, Volume I

Lionel Rogg, organist; Epic B3C-766: three records

This is a fine example of the textual perversity of record manufacturers. The extensive liner notes of this album are replete with standard information about the music being played, but not a word about the performer, the type of organ being used, or the place of origin. Such information happens to be highly pertinent, for the playing is of an extraordinary quality. In fact, this is one of the noblest and most sensitive Bach organ albums to have appeared in years, with sound that is room-flooding without being overpowering. Actually, Lionel Rogg is Swiss by nationality, and the organ sounds more modern than baroque. Since this is to be the first of a series (welcome news!), Epic will have an opportunity to tell us more ol this superb organist and his instrument. Included in this album are such works as the Passacaglia and Fugue in G Minor and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Britten: A Charm of Lullabies

Alaureen Forrester, alto, with John Newmark, pianist; Westminster WST17137

One danger of a lullaby record is that it may well put a listener to sleep. This collection by Maureen Forrester does no such thing. In addition to the cycle of five Britten songs which provides the title, the record includes lullabies by a half dozen other composers, in French, Spanish, Italian, German, and English. All are sung with limpid freshness by the warm-voiced Miss Forrester. There’s plenty of variety before she reaches the climactic and inevitable Brahms Lullaby, but a couple of unexpected delights are a French Languedoc doll song by one Deodat de Severac, and a charming Berceuse by, of all people, Charles Ives. 1’here are twenty-two songs altogether, and never a yawn among them.

Gav: The Beggar’s Opera

Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting Elsie Morison and Monica Sinclair, sopranos; John Cameron, baritone; Owen Brannigan, bass; and actors of Old Vic Company; Seraphim SIB-6023: two records

When the London theater-owner John Rich put on John Gay’s Beggars Opera in 1728, the saying ran that the success of the work had made Gay rich and Rich gay. It has been providing at least gaiety ever since, and it continues to do so in this stimulating recording. The presence of an Old Vic speaking cast provides a ripe theatrical atmosphere, and the singers more than match them in gusto. The saga of Polly Peachum and her MacHeath had a good deal of sharpness even in the pre-Brecht era, and its songs are tasty, if a bit repetitious. There’s plenty of fun in this album, and some lusty, understandable English.

Strauss: Klektra

Georg Solti conducting Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, with Birgit Nilsson and Mane Collier, sopranos; Regina Resmk, mezzo-soprano; Gerhard Stolze, tenor; Tom Krause, bass; and others; London OS A-1269: two records

Birgit Nilsson’s inability to achieve quite the same electrifying effect on records that she produces in the opera house remains a puzzlement. This recording has plenty of musical thrust and intensity, and a couple of harrowing screams at the right moments. Yet it remains only an approximation of what Miss Nilsson accomplishes when she sings the part of Agamemnon’s daughter on the Metropolitan Opera stage. Regina Resnik is a stalwart Klytemnestra, and the London engineers pour on the sound. Yet the best advice remains for anyone wishing to experience the excitement of a Nilsson Elektra at the Met: buy a ticket.

Satie: Piano Music, Volume II

Aldo Ciccolini, pianist; Angel S-36439

The piano music of Erik Satie, brisk, brusque, and altogether bracing, occupies a world of its own, and Aldo Ciccolini inhabits it gracefully. The titles should suffice to give an idea of these comic, satiric, and derisive pieces — “The Eccentric Beauty,” “Automatic Descriptions,” “Veritable Flabby Preludes (for a Dogj,” “Unpleasant Glimpses,” and the like. Ciccolini has demonstrated his flair for such pieces with a previous record, and in this new collection his touch is as sure as ever. Chopin preludes they’re not, but we all need a change of pace from time to time.

Portugal’s Golden Age: Classical Music of the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries

Ruggero Gerlin, harpsichord; Geraint Jones, organist; Gulbenkian Foundation Chamber Orchestra and Chorus; Mercury SR-4-9122: four records

This album lifts a curtain on a musical tradition hitherto largely unknown. The Gulbenkian Foundation of Portugal has sponsored research into the country’s musical past and come up with a fair amount of intriguing material. Especially noteworthy arc several motets by one Pedro de Cristo, and a perky, prickly organ toccata by “Brother Jacinto,” whoever he may have been. And a composer named Carlos Seixas, whose works run throughout the album, approaches major stature. A good share of the music is thoroughly conventional and uninspired, but some of these ancient Portuguese worthies wrote pieces that can freshen up a jaded musical palate.

An Evening of Elizabethan Verse and Its Music

W. H. Auden, reader, with Noah Greenberg conducting New Fork Pro Musica Antigua; Odyssey 32-16-0171

Words and music have seldom been blended more fascinatingly than on this record, made in 1954, and now rereleased on the low-price Odyssey label. The British poet W. FI. Auden reads poems by Ben Jonson, Thomas Campion, Edmund Spenser, and others, and each verse is followed by a musical setting exquisitely performed by the New York Pro Musica Antiqua. Most magnificent of ail is a setting by Thomas Tomkins from the biblical Book of Samuel, “When David heard that Absalom was slain."’ Tomkins’ intertwining musical lamentations on the words “Absalom, my son, my son” are unforgettably moving, and demonstrate that Elizabethan composers were as capable of intense musical expression as any who came after them.

The Godfrey Cambridge Show

Godfrey Cambridge, comedian; Epic P’IN15115

Godfrey Cambridge is a Negro comedian who uses a scalpel rather than a meat-ax to score his points on racial as well as other matters. In addition, when he’s at his most serious lie’s also at his funniest. For example, a sequence in which he dolefully wonders why Negroes score so low in aonviolent crimes: embezzlement, tax evasion, art forgery, to name three. Now, those arc crimes for which he’d like to see some racial equality, he says. Virtually all of the record is both shrewd and entertaining, its only drawback being the annoyingly hysterical five audience at the Las Vegas nightclub where the recording was made.