Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops Orchestra- Saturday Night Fiedler

This record, normally $6, was bought during Half Price Book’s Memorial Day Sale so with discount, it came out to $4.80.  Call it inflation, but I have realized an increase in second hand records over the last year.  So I am in the ethical quandary of either raising my spending limit to $6 or lying about the prices of records.  Anyway, I got this on the suggestion of sorts from my friend Scott.

Yes, my friend Scott told me about this record as this as well as the Ethel Merman disco album (posted on this blog in 2014 I believe), were in his father’s record collection.  So when I found a copy, I took it up to legendary Houston spot Dan Electro’s, (where Scott is also a co-owner) and we gave the record a spin.  It was insisted by Scott that we listen to both sides.

This led to a pretty decent conversation regarding pop orchestras, in which I theorized that pop performance, for the most part will get scant attention and effort from classical symphonies that perform them.  This is based on articles I have read for this blog from conductors of orchestras focused solely on pops.  Oddly enough, I ran into a woman later than night whose mother was in the Houston Symphony.  She confirmed what I had thought, that pops was just something they were contractually obligated to play and that is where it ends (although I had 10 minutes of what may have been the second most asinine conversation of recent times to get this answer).

As Scott would say, this was probably Arthur Fiedler’s ultimate album.  The liner notes were written on June 9, 1979.  A month later Fiedler wound die of cardiac arrest.  He had been in failing health for some time.  Part of me wonders if he would have liked something more traditional to end his career with.  The other part of me thinks that this is probably as good as any way for the most famous pop conductor to go out on.

Anyway, this record, recorded live at Symphony Hall in Boston Mass, features long standing pops conductor Fiedler and his Boston Pops with their take on the disco craze of the time.  Fiedler always did have a knock for translating current popular music in the orchestrated form. This record came out while the genre of disco was in decline.  But here it is, regardless.  Side one contains a medley of songs from the disco high watermark moment, the movie Saturday Night Fever. The second side contained a disco-esque arrangement of to Bach classic’s, “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” and “Air for the G String”.  Interesting stuff.

For a sample, I went with the latter, which I think Scott really liked anyway, simply titled “Bachmania”.

I do not like posting Fiedler’s record due to the high amount of auto correct I get on his last name but decent enough album.  Satisfactory.

Dvorak- Slavonic Dances

This was $2.00.  After seeing a performance of Dvorak’s Rusalka, his work had been on my radar.  

When the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) wrote the Slavonic Dances, he was virtually unknown outside of Prague.  After winning an Austrian State prize for composition, one of the judges, Johannes Brahms was impressed and recommended him to his publishing firm, Simrock.  Simrock commissioned Dvorak to write a sequel to Brahms’ Hungarian Dances from 1869.  He first wrote Op 46 in 1878.  Op 72 followed in 1886.  Both were successful and well received.

This record features both Op 46 and 72 as played by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.  It was released on Vox Records in 1961. The music is pretty stirring and although it used Brahms’ work as a starting reference, the music is purely Dvorak.  For samples, I went with movement #2 from Op 46 and movement #7 from Op 72.

Good little record.  Satisfactory.

The Moody Blues- Days Of Future Passed

This was unbelievably only a dollar,  which is strange to me considering it was in pretty good shape.  I mean it was one of the biggest records of its period, at least the biggest one for the Moody Blues, I believe.  At the time of writing this, I am watching Game 7 of the Oilers-Ducks so I may be in and out of this post.

This was The Moody Blues’ second album. After not finding a lot of success as a R&B band, a few members shuffled and a new larger sound was formed with a more symphonic edge. Essentially, it was the beginning of prog rock. In order to capitalize on this sound as well as payback the debt the band owed the Decca on advances, the band agreed to make a record of Dvorak’s “Symphony No 9”.  It would be released on new subsidiary, Deram and used as a model to showcase the new Deram Studio Sound format.

The band was given creative control of the project but decided to abandon it for a different project, a pop record with orchestral interludes based on the concept of a day(Note”:  this story has been disputed). Anyway, the band recruited Peter Knight and the London Festival Orchestra to provide the interludes.  The result was this record, which was a huge success for the band.  “Nights in White Satin” also became a massive hit and was the only instance of interplay between the Blues and the orchestra.

Pretty good album.  Kind of dated concept now, but in 1967, I imagine it was pretty radical.  I liked the album.  I went with “Lunch Break: Peak Hour”, mainly because it is brief, but also because it is a good example of both Orchestra and band.

Good album. Satisfactory. Well, the Oilers, sadly enough did not make it.  I know to a reasonable person, just making it as far as the did was a big accomplishment, given their record in recent years. Well, I guess I was just expecting a Cup this year after the way they played.  Losing Game 5 hurt.  But, still, got to give credit to a good young team who will be a force to reckon with next year.

VA- Curtains Up! Music and Plunk, Tinkle, Ting-A-Ling

This was a dollar.  I like percussion-esque albums as well as orchestra pops.  This combined both. Internet service is still intermittent at best in my apartment.  This leads to brevity for today’s post.

This is a collection of various symphony orchestra’s conducting various numbers with a focus on various mood effects, mostly percussion.  The conductors on this album include Howard Hanson, Antal Dorati, and Frederick Fennell.  The composers on the record include Leroy Anderson, Percy Faith, Cole Porter, John Phllip Sousa, and Bela Bartok among others.  It was released by Mercury Records in a series of Curtain Up! Releases.  My guess is it was released sometime around 1958 to 1960.

I really liked this album.  A bunch of good interpretation of songs.  Musically, it covers a large span of sounds.  A lot of goods spots.  I had to pick two.  I went with Anderson’s “The Typewriter” and Porter’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy”.  But I did like a whole lot of other songs on this album including “From The Diary Of A Fly”, “The One-Hoss-Shay”, and “Butantan”.  But I felt Porter’s song was the best on the album and “Typewriter” has that gimmicky appeal that I do love so.

Great little record.  Satisfactory. Probably deserves more writing on this post but not happening this week.

Robert Shaw Chorale- Operatic Choruses

This was a dollar.  Lot of opportunities to have fun with this post.  Well, time is kind of limiting that this week.  time and bad internet connection at the house.

Oddly enough this today, I am going to see the last of the Ring Cycle, Gotterdammerung and yes, it has bothered me every year on some level that I am watching the work of a rabid anti-semite.  Well, the Houston Grand Opera has been doing a piece from the cycle every year and I have been all in up til this point.  After I went to the first part, Das Rheingold, I started getting season tickets.  The first year, I only went to two operas, but after that, I have been arguably attending most shows a season and have really enjoyed them.

As far as this production, it is OK.  Technically, it has been great.  Production-wise, I am not a fan of the modern set and custom although many people are raving about them.  I also felt the dragon in last year’s Seigfried was clown shoes. It looked like a rubik snake.

For this record, I was going to ask my pal Scott for his thoughts about operatic chorus as he served some time in the Houston Grand Opera’s chorus.  However, he has been busy , re-opening Dan Electro’s Bar in Houston.  And likewise, I have been to busy to drive to the Heights to see him.  Well,  if you are in Houston, check out the bar.  It is a Houston classic spot. I am sure if I got around to asking him, Scott would say something to the effect of the importance of the chorus to opera and its role in the production.  Here’s an idea, why not go to Dan Electro’s and ask him?

Well, there is this album from the conductor, Robert Shaw (1916-1999).  Released in 1956, I think by RCA Victor, it is a collection of popular choruses and is quite good.  Good song collection that culls famous work from the French, German, and Italians.  A lot of decent tunes including, Bizet’s Carmen, Gounod’s Faust (which I saw at the HGO within the last two years, Verdi’s Nabucco, and Wagner’s Lohengrin.  On that note, I did not realize that Wagner wrote “Here Comes The Bride” until I heard this album. That means most married folk now have an ethical dilemma as well. Turns out your drunk uncle was not the only anti-semetic thing at your wedding.

For a sample, I was stuck between a bunch of songs, but ultimately decided on Verdi’s “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore.  Yeah, I like the simple effects.  If you have watched any type of TV for the last 20 years, you know this song.

Good album.  Satisfactory.  I really wanted to do more with this post but , what can you do.


Walt Disney Presents- Peter and The Wolf/ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

I got this for the Peter and the Wolf side.  The other side, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, conducted by Leopold Stokowski will go unmentioned for the most part during this blog.  This was $1.

Peter and The Wolf was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid and one of my favorite pieces of music. Sergei Prokofiev wrote the work in 1936 after being commissioned by the Central Children’s Theater in Moscow to write a symphony for kids.  The point of the work was to a)introduce kids to musical instruments and b) illustrate the virtues of vigilance, bravery, and resourcefulness.  Each character is given its own instrument and theme.  The work proved to be quite popular and has been adapted many time, most notably perhaps, the 1946 Walt Disney cartoon this album is taken from.

Narrated by Sterling Holloway, this is a pretty straight adaptation of the work with some slight differences.  The character’s all have names except for the wolf.  That is kind of messed up.  Maybe if he had a name, he wouldn’t be so vicious.  In the Disney version, the Duck turns out to be alive at the end. For a sample. I went with the last part of the work. It features a lot of the character themes as well as the hunter’s music (which is among my favorite) and a triumphant end theme for Peter.



Ravi Shankar- In San Francisco

I can not remember if I got this at the Half Price Books in Sugar Land or the one on FM 529.  Anyway, I got a discount on it during Labor Day so it came out to $4.  I have not posted any Ravi Shankar on this blog as of yet.  Not a whole lot of Indian music either.  Probably because up to this point, I had not found much of it.  Thanks to an influx of records from SugarLand HPB, that should change this year.

Ravi Shankar (born in Benares, British India in 1920), was an accomplished Indian classical musician before he started touring Europe and THE US in 1956.  These efforts brought him more exposure and eventually George Harrison discovered his music.

Of all the artists who would bring Indian music into pop in the 1960’s, there was none so influential as Harrison, who would study with Shankar for 6 months in 1966. Shankar continued to perform worldwide until his death in 2012 at the age of 92.  Incidentally, musician Nora Jones is Shankar’s daughter although she hid this fact early in her career.

This album, recorded at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium in 1967 (I think it was recorded in 1967.  for sure that was the year it was released) features Shankar on the sitar, the instrument he made famous. He is backed up by Alla Rakha on the tabla as well as Kamala on the tamboura.  This album features 3 songs, all long length.  These consist of a raga, a dhun, and a tabla solo.  I question the inclusion of a tabla solo on an album that should showcase Shankar, but it is not a bad piece of work.  The other numbers are quite interesting.  

The album includes some definitions of Indian classical forms and instruments but I am too lazy to include them here.  Use Google if you are curious.

As I like to keep my samples short, I went with the shortest track on this album that highlighted Shankar’s work.  So from the two to choose from, I went with the 16 minute “Raga Bhupal Todi”, “a pentatonic morning raga of five notes which omits the fourth and seventh and depicts the mood of sadness”.

Good album.  Satisfactory.  I should have more Indian music posted this year.  However, due to the amount of spell check notifications, writing these posts are less fun than others.

Vladimir Golschmann- Mussorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition)

Welcome to a fresh week of Donkey Show. Kick off the official start of this month’s anniversary celebration with this piece of work.  I bought this record for the same reason I posted it.  I have posted several versions of this work (well really only two-ELP’s and Tomita’s) and I felt that it would be a good idea to someday visit the proper piece. This was $1.60 with discount.

I also recently saw Pictures at an Exhibition performed at Jones Hall last month.  I had not been to Jones Hall since I was on a school field trip in elementary school.  Anyway, it was pretty good time and a pretty moving performance.  Mussorgsky’s piece was accompanied by Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments as well as John Adam’s Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra featuring Tim McAllister on sax..  All three pieces were conducted by Hans Graf, a former Houston Symphony director from Germany.  

Current director, Colombian born Andres Orozoco-Estrada, spoke to the audience beforehand about each piece of work as well as some general music appreciation.  This was interesting and entertaining as well.

Anyway, that night’s performance as well as the version on this album are more of a tribute to Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) who took Mussorgsky’s piano piece and turned it into the full orchestrated version we know today.

According to Orozco-Estrada’s speech, Ravel wrote the book on arranging for orchestra, quite literally.  In his book, Ravel highlighted both his greatest successes as well as his failures in orchestrating pieces of work. As far as the original work goes, it’s origins have been well documented (or at least documented) in this blog as well as Google.

Pictures at an Exhibition is Ravel’s best known arrangements of other peoples work.  I was amazed at the performance how well someone could completely flesh out such an arrangement from a sole piano piece.  Regardless, it is a fine piece and it is represented well on this album.  The conductor, Vladimir Golschman (1893-1972) was  French born but moved to the US where he led the St Louis Symphony from 1931 to 1958.

This album also features “A Night at Bald Mountain” which I was familiar with but unaware that this was also Mussorgsky’s work. However, I am going with the track that got me to the dance, a piece from Pictures.  I was leaning towards “Limoges/Catacombae” as a sample but somehow decided to go the easy route with what is the highlight of the piece  the epic ” The Little Hut/ Baba-Yaga” and the grandiose and majestic “Great Gates of Kiev”.  Both numbers draw on allusions to earlier movements in the piece.  It serves as a great end to this piece.

Satisfactory Record.



Rostal & Schaefer / Ron Goodwin- The Beatles Concerto

This was $4 and purchased to offset some of the $1 crap I bought on the same day.  Got to try real hard to screw up the Beatles.  Not saying that hasn’t been done and posted on this webpage.  Just saying it does take some concentrated effort.


Well, no trip to Phoenix is complete without some sporting event so Saturday night, the whole family went to a hockey game.  The Pittsburgh Penguins were playing the Coyotes.  Oddly enough, it was Larry Fitzgerald Bobble Head Night.  Great game.  Sidney Crosby was 2 points away from 1,000 so every time he touched the puck, you got excited.  Coyotes led for most of the game until the Penguins tied it up late in the third. The Coyotes then found themselves short handed in overtime but managed to hold Pittsburgh off long enough to score the game winner in the last minute of overtime.  Great game.

I learned last night that Concerto’s are meant to highlight a particular instrument. This piece of work show cases the piano talents of one Peter Rostal and John Shaffer as well as the writing/arrangements of John Rutter against the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra led by George Martin’s (who also produced the record)  buddy and first signing, Ron Goodwin(1925-2003).  Goodwin scored over 70 pieces of film, mostly UK releases including I’m Alright Jack.  He also scored Where Eagles Dare and Force Ten From Navarone. 

Released in 1979, this album contains one side consisting of three movements of the Beatles Concerto which had been performed worldwide since 1977.  The second side contains six Beatles impressions.  Both side are pretty good.  The concerto is a more complete work with elaborate orchestrations. The principles were trying to arrange and perform the Beatles’ work in a style of Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky. To this end, they were wildly successful as the work gained such comparisons instead of being a straight interpretation. The second side is also interesting as it takes Beatles songs and performs them in style similar to other composers.

I wanted to take samples from both sides to illustrate these things. From the first side, I leaned heavily towards the 3rd movement which puts “Can’t Buy Me Love” against a different background and marries it to “The Long And Winding Road”.  For the second side, I was really torn between  “A Hard Day’s Night” which wonderfully borrows from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” from which I should know by the now after doing this site, the style of which the music alludes to but don’t.  All I can say it that is a grandiose rendition.

Good album.  Satisfactory.

Mantovani- Plays The Immortal Classics

This week’s theme around here is Continental Music and in a strange kind of way that did not come to me at first, this fits that classical Continental definition.  This was 80 cents.  Like a fish, I was probably hooked by the bright colors on the cover.

This was released by UK’s Mantovani in 1956.  Surprisingly enough the album in not overburdened by strings, which was his big thing.  All (well most of ) the big names of classical music are here; Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Handel, Bach, Chopin, and on of my favorites, Tchaikovsky. Again, I thought it would have been more stringy, but Mantovani held true to original work to which I am ambivalent about. Not to say there are no strings on this album. Several songs are string heavy but not in the over the top style of cascading strings that Mantovani is known for.

For a sample, I went with Prelude in C Sharp Minor by Rachmaninoff and Waltz from String Serenade by Tschaikowsky.

It is a toss up.  If he put more strings on it, there is no guarantee that it would have worked or would have been done tastefully.  On the converse, it does not sound bad as it is.  I tried hard to do the other but I just keep coming back to Meh.