Friday, September 30, 2016

The Modern Jazz Quartet & Orchestra

September 30, 2016. Today's @NashLibrary vinyl is by The Modern Jazz Quartet & Orchestra (Atlantic Records, 1961). I love that the front of this album emphatically declares that it's in STEREO.

The original members of The Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) first performed together as part of Dizzy Gillespie's big band in 1946. The group went through various membership iterations, but the longest-standing membership included John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Connie Kay on drums, and Percy Heath on bass. 

The works on this recording are the result of third-stream composition, that is, a composition that synthesizes the essential techniques and characteristics of contemporary Western art music and other musical traditions. In this case, "classical" music is fused with jazz. The first person to coin the term "third-stream" was the composer, conductor, and writer Gunther Schuller during a lecture at Brandeis University in 1957. One of Schuller's works, the "Concertino for Jazz Quartet & Orchestra," is performed on the B side of the album. Schuller also conducted several of the works on the album.

One of the oddest arrangements is "England's Carol" by John Lewis. It is a combination of jazz and classical orchestra for an arrangement of the tune that most of us know as "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

As a flute player, the third-stream example that instantly comes to mind is Claude Bolling's "Suite for Jazz Piano Trio". Guess what? Nash Library has vinyl of that piece too!

Gunther Schuller"Third stream." Grove Music OnlineOxford Music OnlineOxford University PressWeb30 Sep. 2016.<

Thomas Owens"Modern Jazz Quartet." Grove Music OnlineOxford Music OnlineOxford University PressWeb30 Sep. 2016.<

Gunther Schuller. The Modern Jazz Quartet and Orchestra. New York: Atlantic, 1961. Sound recording.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More Prokofiev!

Yes. I'm on a Prokofiev kick. My craze with the Nash Library vinyl began when I was researching recordings of the Prokofiev flute sonata. Hopefully my research paid off. Today's Prokofiev features Isaac Stern performing the first and second violin concertos. I first experienced the playing of Isaac Stern during a summer job in college. I worked at a women's clothes shop in Old Saybrook, CT. We would play CDs to create lovely, ambient clothes-shopping music. One of my favorite recordings was Isaac Stern performing famous violin works from movies, like the piece Pour Una Cabeza (a.k.a. the tango from Scent of a Woman).

I love that the notes for this recording begin with a physical description of Prokofiev: "He was tall and bald-headed and looked exactly like a well-to-do business man. His suit was a conservative English tweed; his tie a small-patterned foulard. His unremarkable face was clean-shaven. Prokofiev sat eating and talking with a minimum of motion and without changing his poker-face expression . . . Judged by his looks, Prokofiev might have been the author of the President's Annual Report of the Consolidated Utilities Corporation. There was an air of authority about him and the evidence of seasoned judgement in his remarks. Prokofiev is a man who know exactly what he wants, formulates his aims with absolute clarity and has the talent, healthy vitality, and capacity for hard work to achieve them."

The premier of the First Violin Concerto took place in 1923 under the direction of Sergei Koussevitzky, with Marcel Darieux as the soloist. The reactions of the press were mixed. Unfortunately Prokofiev's style straddled the line between too modern and too traditional. This often led to criticism from both sides of the tonal argument. The Second Violin Concerto is quite different, with clear tonality and the echoes of Russian folksong.

In this recording, Isaac Stern is accompanied by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

Dorothea Redepenning"Prokofiev, Sergey." Grove Music OnlineOxford Music OnlineOxford University PressWeb29 Sep. 2016.< grove/music/22402>.

Sergey Prokofiev, Isaac Stern, Leonard Bernstein, Dimitri Mitropoulos, and Sergey Prokofiev. Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 19: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63. England: Fontana, 1958. Sound recording.

Nash Library Catalog Record

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Moura Lympany plays Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev

Record:  Moura Lympany plays the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no. 1 in f-sharp minor and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto no. 1 in d-flat minor.

The obituary for Moura Lympany (1916-2005, English) can be found here.

According to the LP sleeve, Prokofiev performed his Piano Concerto no. 1 at the end of his ten-year course of study at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire in 1914. It was quite audacious to perform your own piece for your piano exam! He chose to perform his own work on the grounds that "there was a chance that my own [piece] might impress the examiners by the novelty of technique: they simply would not be able to judge whether I was playing it well or not!" His logic worked and he took first prize. The author of the sleeve notes, Leonard Duck, describes the concerto as a "vigorous, striding affair" and as "nervous, spasmadic."

Rachmaninoff wrote his Op. 1 when he was eighteen. The author of the sleeve notes for this piece, Scott Goddard, says Rachmaninoff's compositional prowess at such a young age must be due to his "unusual mental vigor." Although completed in 1891, he later revised it in 1917 and dedicated it to his previous piano teacher, Alexander Siloti.

Lympany's performances are superb.  Her clear articulation and technical ability are perfectly offset by the Philharmonia Orchestra's bombastic playing.

Prokofiev, Sergey, Moura Lympany, and Walter Susskind. Concerto No. 1, in D Flat Major, Op. 10. Angel Records, 1958. Sound recording.

Prokofiev, Sergej S, Sergej S. Prokofiev, Sergej S. Prokofiev, Boris Berman, and Neeme Järvi. Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Flat Major Op. 10: Piano Concerto No. 4 in B Flat Major Op. 53 (for the Left Hand); Piano Concerto No. 5 in G Major Op. 55. Colchester: Chandos, 1990. Sound recording.

Rachmaninoff, Sergei, Idil Biret, Antoni Wit, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Nicolò Paganini. Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. S.l.: Naxos, 2000. Sound recording.

Nash Library Catalog Record

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bela Bartok Playing His Own Works

"Béla Bartók Playing His Own Works: Excerpts from 'Mikrokosmos'"

Released in 1952 by Columbia Records (ML 4419), the excerpts were originally recorded by Bartók (1881-1945, Hungarian) himself in 1940.  Bartók is important in music history not only for his work as a composer, but also for his research collecting, notating, and analyzing folk music from Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria.  His research is often considered to be the beginning of the academic field of musicology, and especially of ethnomusicology.  This particular disc contains 33 excerpts from his 6-volume didactic work entitled Mikrokosmos.

From the sleeve:
     "Mikrokosmis is a set of one hundred and fifty-three short pieces for the piano student, beginning with comparatively easy studies and continuing with those for more advanced pupils.  Bartók worked on it for eleven years, from 1926 to 1937.  As John Weissmann says, 'The series is not merely a graded piano-method based on advanced principles, but also--and this is perhaps even more valuable-- a collection of models in composition.  In fact, a detailed analysis of every piece would result in a textbook on the technical principles of contemporary music.'
    Nicolas Slonimsky has written of Mikrokosmos thus, 'The particular problem posed by each exercise is indicated by the titles . . . Several pieces bear titles of the particular mode they are written in.  There are pieces written in the folk style of different nations, particularly Balkan nations . . . There are descriptive pieces . . . There are sound imitations . . . There are dances- classical and Balkan national . . . "

Malcolm Gillies"Bartók, Béla." Grove Music OnlineOxford Music OnlineOxford University Press.Web27 Sep. 2016. <

Béla Bartók. Bèla Bartòk Playing His Own Works: Excerpts from "Mikrokosmos". New York: Columbia, 1952. Sound recording.

Nash Library Catalog Record

About Me

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Since earning her Ph.D. in music theory and history from the University of Connecticut in 2014, Dr. Sekula has been a full-time faculty member with the department of music at USAO where she teaches the music theory curriculum and conducts the concert band. Sekula also serves as the coordinator for the department of music. She has previously earned Bachelor’s degrees in music education and flute performance from Lebanon Valley College and a Master’s of Music in flute performance from George Mason University. Sekula has studied flute with Barbara Divine, Dr. Theresa Bowers, Judith Lapple, and Dr. Barbara Hopkins.