Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Shellac's Revenge

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

It is our custom during Lent to program organ music, and this year I have two posts (this one, and another next week) where we will explore baroque and renaissance organ repertoire, performed (unashamedly, might I add) with “big organ” bombast.

Before getting started with this week’s post, I want to “plug” a blog that I have encountered last year, The Shellackophile, which presents “Recordings of classical music from the 78-rpm era (mostly)”. Today’s musical shares and some of the commentary come from this fine effort by a like-minded music collector and enthusiast.

George Dorrington Cunningham (1878 - 1948) was an important English organist and teacher, who counted among his students the two other eminent British organists on deck this week, E. Power Biggs and George Thalben-Ball. There is no doubt that there is a long tradition of organ music in Britain, and it probably dates back to one of the great organ composers of the Baroque era, Georg Fredertic Handel, who elected to become a British subject in 1726.

The Handel organ concertos, composed in London between 1735 and 1751, were written as interludes for performances of his oratorios. They were the first works of their kind for organ with chamber orchestra accompaniment and served as a model for later composers.

The Shellackophile writes:

[Cunningham’s] recordings of two Handel concerti, with George Weldon and the City of Birmingham Orchestra, were made late in his life, and exhibit a considerably beefier style of Handel playing than we are accustomed to today, with a big organ sound and a full symphonic-sized string orchestra accompaniment:

[George Thalben-Ball] turns in a performance of Handel's Organ Concerto in B-Flat, Op. 7, No. 3, as arranged and orchestrated by Sir Henry J. Wood. Thalben-Ball's playing is flamboyant, to say the least, and the Wood orchestration, for full symphony orchestra with brass and percussion, is certainly anachronistic but it's great fun! Handel's original ordering of the movements is also altered, and this performance interpolates not only the Minuet from "Berenice" but also a big cadenza by Thalben-Ball that takes up most of the last side.

[E. Power Biggs’] career at Columbia spanned some thirty years, but before this, he had been at Victor from 1939 to 1946, where most of his work was done on the 1937 Aeolian-Skinner organ built to Baroque specifications and located in Harvard's Germanic Museum. His recordings included collaborations with Arthur Fiedler and his Sinfonietta composed of Boston Symphony players.
The digital transfers are quite good, though we have to remember that the recording (and playback) technology would have been taken to its limits by such a tsunami of sound!

Happy Listening!

George Frideric HANDEL (1685 –1759)

Organ Concerto No. 2 in B-Flat, Op. 4, No. 2 [HWV 290]
Organ Concerto No. 4 in F, Op. 4, No. 4 [HWV 292]
G. D. Cunningham (William Hill & Sons organ, Birmingham Town Hall)
City of Birmingham Orchestra
George Weldon, conducting
[Recorded June 4, 1945; English Columbia DX 1358 – 1360]
Source: http://shellackophile.blogspot.ca/20...concertos.html

Concerto No. 13 in F Major ("The Cuckoo and the Nightingale") [HWV 295]
E. Power Biggs (Aeolian-Skinner organ, Germanic Museum, Harvard University)
Arthur Fiedler's Sinfonietta
[Recorded March 17, 1940; RCA Victor set M-733]
Source: http://shellackophile.blogspot.ca/20...ale-biggs.html

Organ Concerto No. 9 in B-Flat, Op. 7, No. 3 [HWV 308]
(arr. Henry J. Wood)

Thomas Augustine ARNE (1710 –1778)
First movement (Allegro moderato) from Organ Concerto No. 6 in B-Flat (ca. 1751)
(Arr. George Thalben-Ball)
George Thalben-Ball (unspecified organ [Handel], St-Mark's Chursch, London [Arne])
Philharmonia Orchestra
Walter Susskind, conducting
[Recorded June 4, Sept. 23, and Oct. 11, 1948; HMV C 3814 – 3816]
Source: http://shellackophile.blogspot.ca/20...concertos.html