Friday, January 13, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 035 - Stork

 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.

035 Stork

The stork has some similarities with the 034 Duck -- and some additional problems. The beak is way longer on the toy I built than it shows in the diagram. The issue is one I've run across before. There are two dowel rods running through the metal piece, and one simply blocks the other.

In this case, the dowel representing the beak was blocked by the one serving as the neck. In retrospect, I might have come closer to the illustration by cheating a little. I could have had the neck dowel go just a little way into the head, which would have allowed the beak dowel to move further inside and thus make a shorter beak. And it would have made the exposed neck longer, bringing it closer to the depicted toy.

In the current construction, the open side of the head's metal piece is facing downwards, so the bird looks complete from both sides. In order to have a shorter beak, I'd have to turn the box on its side to give the neck dowel a hole to slide into, which would mean the toy could only be viewed from one side only. So we'll just go with the modified version, I think.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Berl Senofsky in Concert - a legend returns

Berl Senofsky, though an influential and respected artist, didn't record a lot. So his reputation rests mainly on accounts of those who heard him in performance or studied with him.

This new release adds to his slender catalog of recordings and provides some additional insight into his artistry. It's a recording of Senofsky's recital at the Expo '58, Brussels.

He had won the Queen Elisabeth International Competition prize at the age of 29 -- the unanimous selection of judges David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin, and Zino Francescatti. This recital recorded just three years later, hints at what those prize-winning performances were like.

The recording has been lovingly remastered with minimal tinkering (that I can hear). It's a rich, warm, analog sound that places Senofsky front and center in the audio mix.

I could easily hear the delicacy of Senofsky's tone, especially in quiet passages. Long notes sounded full and well-rounded. Double and triple stops were executed cleanly and clearly heard in the recording.

Senofsky plays in an old-fashioned style, but with a more restrained vibrato than most prewar artists. It's a sound that's both of its time and one that transcends it through the beauty of his expressiveness.

Especially fine, I think, are the Ysäye Sonata No. 6, Op. 27, and Bach's Chaconne from the Partita No. 2, BWV 1004. Not to take anything away from the performances with pianist Marie Louise Bastyns, but when Senofsky played alone, I was enthralled.

Berl Senofsky In Concert at EXPO '58 Brussels
Berl Senofsky, violin; Marie Louise Bastyns, piano
Bridge Records 9470

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Barbara Harbach Orchestral Music III - Portraits in Sound

This volume brings listeners up to date with Barbara Harbach's symphonic output. It features symphonies No. 7-10, composed between 2014 and 2015.

Harbach is an economical symphonist -- the works are uniformly short, focused, and efficiently orchestrated. All four symphonies follow a straight-forward 3-movement fast-slow-fast structure. Yet with all these constraints, Harbach shows a great deal of imagination and variety.

Symphony No. 7, "O, Pioneer" uses music from her opera of the same name. Harbach manages to evoke the great expanse of the Nebraska prairie without for a moment sounding like Aaron Copland. No mean feat.

I have to admit I didn't enjoy Symphony No. 8 "The Scarlet Letter" as much as the others. The three movements are character studies of Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale. To my ears, only the middle movement, Chillngsorth captured the emotional turmoil of the character. The outer movements, though pleasant, weren't as engaging.

Symphony No. 9, "Celestial Symphony" also repurposes music from another source. This time, Harbach's score to the silent film  "The Birth Life, and Death of Christ" (which I reviewed in its original form). The movie is a series of tableaux, and the original score for 13 instruments had a static quality to it.

Recast in symphonic form, Harbach explores and more thoroughly develops her material. I think it's a successful reworking. The music sounds more dynamic, and the enhanced instrumental palette allows for more nuanced musical expression.

The final work, "Symphony for Ferguson" fell just short of the mark, I think. Though I would be hard-pressed to suggest a composer who might come closer. Harbach, a member of the University of Missouri-St. Louis faculty, was commissioned to write a symphony of healing in the wake of the Ferguson riots. The music needed to speak to all the citizens of the community.

Harbach wove together tunes such as "Wade in the Water," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and 'Chester," to suggest that blending of cultures. While skillfully written, to my ears it just sounded like a medley rather than a work of great emotional appeal. Even the final movement, adopting the jazzy "St. Louis Blues," didn't quite gel for me.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this release. Barbara Harbach is a composer who follows her own muse, and I continue to admire her originality.

Music of Barbara Harbach, Volume 11 
Orchestral Music III - Portraits in Sound 
Symphonies Nos. 7-10
London Philharmonic Orchestra; David Angus, conductor
MSR Classics