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Monday, January 07, 2013

The day before



A bright and sunny day though it has to be admitted that the sky is also overladen with pesky clouds too – but it is a day of no school so one should not be overly depressed by the potential overwhelming of the sun.

I should, I suppose, take back some of my anger expressed towards the saintly delivery company MRW yesterday.  Today, bright and early a cheery man drove up and actually delivered two items that I had purchased from Amazon and even as I type I am loading up one of the deliveries to iTunes.

All the major recording companies seem to be trying to wring the last few drops of money out of their old recordings so there are box sets at amazing prices to be had by those who read Amazon listings for fun. 

My latest acquisition is a 100-disc compilation entitled “The Masters of Music” as this compendium cost me less than forty quid one has to look for the catches in such a bargain.  And they are not difficult to find.  The disc that I am downloading at present is the “Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in B Minor” by Wilhelm Furtwangler who is better known to me as one of the Great Masters of conducting rather than composition.  This will be the first time that I have (consciously) heard any of his music.  In this performance the orchestra is conducted by the composer – in 1939! And even in its re-mastered form it sounds like it! 

And many of the discs are from the 40s and 50s, and their contents do not stretch the format – many of the discs contain under 50 minutes of music.  Though, to take just one of the 100 recordings which is from the 50s and is under 50 minutes long: Glenn Gould with the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert von Karajan playing a Beethoven concerto – who can complain about that combination, especially at that price!  I suppose that one can always justify having historic recordings in your collection and certainly at under 50p a disc, especially as some of the offerings are from much later times it would be churlish to be ungrateful.

The other box sets that I have bought (all at bargain prices) from Philips, Decca, Mercury etc are startling in quality and price.  And although many of the pieces of music are popular classics the performances are well worth having as excellent extra versions in their own right.

Many of these discs I remember from my time in university and later when they were the expensive full-price versions that I couldn’t afford.  I relied on the wealth of cheap recordings that coincided with my adolescence to boost my collection, labels like Allegro, Hallmark, Marble Arch, Heliodor, Saga and of course, Music for Pleasure and Classics for Pleasure.  God bless them all!  They formed my musical taste – though often more by the quality of the cover art than anything else more musically respectable!

My first Nielsen and Mahler records were bought purely because I liked the pictures on the covers of the records: I had never heard of either of the composers!  In the case of Mahler’s symphonies I would say that I have not progressed very much beyond my initial liking of the 4th and later adoration of the 1st.  I have, of course listened to all of them (including the 0th or 10th) and heard most of them in concerts but Mahler is not to my taste whereas Nielsen has become one of my favourite composers and certainly the one to whom I listen most and I can, with certainty, trace my early knowledge of the composer to a chance purchase of a Heliodor record in the years when the world was young!  I would also say with more than reasonable confidence that my present collection of Nielsen recordings is unmatched in Castelldefels; surely to god there cannot be two of us with the same fixation!

Meanwhile, in the background, Furtwangler’s concerto plays through the speakers of my new iMac and it becomes clearer why this is the first time I have heard it.  However I will give it another chance, though the dead sound of this recording with the orchestra seemingly playing at the end of a corridor does it no favours!  And it’s over an hour long!  Though the second movement is growing on me!

All this typing is displacement activity, as I should be checking that I have white shirts which are capable of being worn in public – which means ironing, which in turn means misery.  I have never managed to find that imaginary point of enlightenment where ironing is anything other than a supremely irritating chore.  So I do very little of it and only iron, as it were in self-defence when it is impossible to avoid.  Teaching, however is one of those times when a wrinkled, curling collar is simply not acceptable.  Damn it!

We are now getting close to lunch time, but Toni is still far from well and has stayed in bed so we will have to cope at home and not go out to one of our chosen eateries – ah well, what better way to prepare for the harsh reality of teaching tomorrow!


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