Friday, October 21, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 024 Hammer, handle, and rake

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

024 - Hammer, handle, and rake

This is an interesting set of tools. In the instruction sheet, the three were grouped together the same way stamper, wind wheel and fork (Nos. 21-23) were. Those three tools were each assigned a number  -- these three received a single number. There's a practical reason. You can't make the stamper, wind wheel, and fork at the same time -- there are only two wooden collars for the three handles.

For this set, the provided pieces can assemble all three. So I'm assuming that's why they're grouped.

The hammer reminded me somewhat of Thor's (as drawn by Jack Kirby). I didn't know quite what to make of the middle toy, called the handle. Handle for what? To me, it looked more like some type of martial arts training staff.

Construction of the three tools was mostly easy. Joining the two dowels with the wooden sleeve was a little tricky, but otherwise, it was smooth sailing. And the finished toys held together pretty well.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Discoveries

Ralph Vaughan Williams is one of my favorite composers. For me, then, Discoveries is a delight -- and an aptly named one. The works on this album all emerge from the obscure corners of Vaughan Williams' catalog.

Though there's very little "pure" RVW here (almost every work is either an arrangement or orchestration), it all rings true. The origins of the works on Discoveries are fascinating, and much too convoluted to recount here -- be sure to read the liner notes if you purchase the album.

The Three Nocturnes date from RVW's orchestration studies with Ravel, and are settings of one of his favorite poets, Walt Whitman. The rich, rounded tones of Roderick Williams' baritone fit beautifully in the transparent framework of the orchestrations. I was reminded of Flos Campi or Pilgrim's Progress as I listened.

The Four Last Songs (1954) were settings of his wife's Ursula's poetry. Though parts of two uncompleted song cycles for voice and piano, Anthony Payne (who also orchestrated the Nocturnes) masterfully turned them into a grouping for mezzo-soprano and orchestra that hangs together beautifully. Jennifer Johnston's warm, creamy voice gives the songs a poignant, bittersweet quality appropriate to these autumnal works.

Adrian Williams' arrangement of music from RVW's 1927 opera The Poisoned Kiss does the world of music a service. This symphonic rhapsody, entitled A Road All Paved with Stars is 27 minutes of lush, lyrical RVW at his pastoral finest. The Poisoned Kiss is seldom performed -- this rhapsody could well rescue the music from complete obscurity.

Also included is a suite from Stricken Peninsula, a war department film. With the score missing, Philip Lane had to reconstruct the music by transcribing it from the film. As expected, the music's somewhat patriotic and inspirational in tone, but not over the top. It's simply Vaughan Williams.

An ideal lineup of forces were assembled for this recording. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins are old hands at interpreting the music of their native son. If you're an admirer of RVW, or even English music in general, this album is worth getting.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Discoveries
Three Nocturnes for Baritone and Orchestra (1 & III orchestrated by Anthony Payne); A Road All Paved with Stars - A Symphonic Rhapsody from the Opera "The Poisoned Kiss" (arranged by Adrian Williams); Stricken Peninsula - An Italian Rhapsody for Orchestra (reconstructed from the film by Philip Lane); Four Last Songs for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra (orchestrated by Anthony Payne)
Roderick Williams, baritone; Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-soprano; BBC Symphony Orchestra; Martyn Brabbins, conductor
Albion Records ALBCD028

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

William Byrd: Pescodd Time - a welcome re-issue from Alpha Classics

Pescodd Time is part of Alpha Classic's ongoing reissue series of significant early music recordings. The disc was the first recorded by harpsichordist and conductor Bertrand Cuiller and showcases his love of English renaissance music -- particularly that of William Byrd.

I don't have the original release, so I can't say if it's been remastered. But the sound quality of this 2005 release is quite good. The instruments are close-mic'd, but not overly so. I could hear the action, but rather than detract from the music, it simply added to the authenticity of the performance.

Cuiller's program includes a variety of keyboard works by Byrd. Works like the Fantasia in D minor and the In nomine IX (basically theme and variations) show the richness of Byrd's musical imagination as the melodies transform from the very simple to the beautifully ornate.

Byrd's settings of pavanes, galliards, allemandes, and courantes have a certain elegance to them. As Cuiller notes, "they don’t seem intended to be actually danced," but rather "invites us to dance and sing inwardly."

No question -- this recording was worthy of a re-release. I'm glad it's available again.

William Byrd: Pescodd Time
Bertrand Cuiller, harpsichord
Alpha Classics ALPHA 319