Category Archives: music

Rediscovering significant piano music of the past

Rediscovering significant piano music of the past

by johnkersey

We live in an age of mysteries. The omnipresence of today’s recordings of classical music, many of which are of little-known repertoire, might lead us to believe that there is little left of the past to discover. Yet we have only to move back in time by a little over a hundred years to find the ghosts of a forgotten Romanticism waiting to be reanimated and to present to us an aesthetic very different from that of our own age. This was the era when the piano was at the centre of musical life; at the heart of the home and at the crux of the conception of the Romantic as artist.

Romantic Discoveries Recordings seeks to present innovative world première recordings informed by extensive research into the performance history of the Romantic era, and recorded in a natural ambience evoking the acoustic of the typical Romantic salon. These are not intended to be audiophile releases; instead, they are interpretatively faithful performances that aim at an honest, direct and sympathetic portrayal of music that is being introduced to the listener for the first time.

“His catalogue represents a huge contribution to the recorded repertoire of piano music by romantic unsungs…I have several of these CDs now and I must pay tribute not only to Kersey’s advocacy but also to his pianism. He has a fine technique but isn’t showy and he lets the music speak for itself. There’s something very appealing about this self-effacing, honest approach.” Mark Thomas, The Joachim Raff Society

“A great feast for the Beethoven connoisseur” (of CD19) James Green, author, The New Hess Catalog of Beethoven’s Works

“A true and nowadays unique artist, a pianist who has discovered a quantity of really unsung and memorable piano music…In my view, it is at the moment the most remarkable serial of unsung piano music of a high level, so not “lovely pieces” from days gone by, but the ambitious search for original and lasting works.” Dr. Klaus Tischendorf,

Audio samples

Some of our CDs have short audio samples available as Mp3 files, enabling you to download a track and listen before deciding whether to purchase. To listen to the tracks, you will need an Mp3 player. Many computers already have a media player installed. If you do not already have a media player, you can download the free FLV player available here. Alternatively, you may like to listen to the two hours of online sample tracks here.

Two new CDs published

Dr Sean Gabb:

Note: I’d never heard of Gernsheim before this morning, or heard any of his music. But, if his Fantasie op.81 is any indication of his talent, he is unjustly unknown. Many thanks to John Kersey, one of our regular contributors, for having brought his music back to life – and all praise for such fine playing.

I recommend John’s recordings to all our readers. The first reason shouldn’t need spelling out, but does. We are a movement of outsiders. Sometimes, we are odd in ourselves. More often, we have, by holding unfashionable ideas, placed ourselves at best on the margins. Some of us have artistic or other talents that, displayed without the accompanying libertarianism, might have made us moderately rich and famous. We have a duty to praise and generally support those libertarians who have such talents.

Indeed, there is occasional criticism on this Blog of the Jews. Whether or not any of this is justified does not concern me here. What does matter is how the Jews have, without losing themselves in the wider population, risen to considerable wealth and influence by consistent ethnic nepotism. The lefties have done the same. So have the Freemasons. We should learn from this. And the first lesson to be learned is that we should praise and support the talents of our fellow libertarians, no matter how apparently tangential they may appear to the core libertarian case.

The second reason is unpolitical. The German musical tradition between about 1750 and 1900 is one of the greatest of all human achievements. But those of us who are not musical scholars are unable to appreciate it in full. We can listen to the music of Beethoven and Schubert and Schumann and Mendelssohn and Brahms. We can listen to the alternative approaches, after Beethoven, of Liszt and Wagner. But we are not aware of the context in which these giants worked. They worked within, or reacted against, a large community of other musicians. If we do not know these other musicians, our appreciation of the great composers is defective. Imagine that we only knew of what was achieved in Hollywood between 1930 and 1950 by watching “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Maltese Falcon.” These are great works that stand by themselves. Of course, though, they are best appreciated by knowing what else was coming out of the main studios at the time.

Regardless of whether he was any good – and he seems to have been a man of solid ability – we should listen to the music of Friedrich Gernsheim.

For these reasons, and perhaps for others, I do most earnestly urge our readers to buy this CD. SIG

Originally posted on John Kersey:

Two new CDs have been issued by Romantic Discoveries Recordings:

Piano Music of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), volume 2
John Kersey, piano

Audio sample: Fantasie, op. 81 (from vol. 1)

Total time: 76 minutes 13 seconds

Sonata in F minor, op. 1
1. Langsam, getragen (7’49”) 2. Lebhaft (3’31”) 3. Leidenschaftlich bewegt (10’06”)
Zwei Klavierstücke, op. 39
4. Lied (4’34”) 5. Gavotte (4’40”)
Tondichtung, op. 72
6. Hymnus (3’11”) 7. Romanze (5’45”) 8. Intermezzo (6’25”) 9. Jubilate (5’18”)
10. Waltz, op. 70 (4’50”)
Symbole, op. 59
11. Nachtstück (5’13”) 12. Elegie (5’11”) 13. Im Schilf (3’36”) 14. Romanze (3’00”) 15. Aeolus (2’55”)

Piano Music of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), volume 1
John Kersey, piano

Total time: 72 minutes 16 seconds

1. Fantasie, op. 27 (21’04”)
Ins Stammbuch, op. 26
2. Andantino (1’49”) 3. Allegretto grazioso (1’40”) 4. Andante (3’39”) 5. Allegro con brio e giocoso (2’27”) 6…

View original 207 more words

RIP Colin Davis, 25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013

I never had the good fortune to see him in a live performance. Also, I have never been a fan of the English composers he did much to champion. However, we have lost one of the outstanding conductors of the past half century.

Here is his recording of the Berlioz Requiem. Something goes wrong with this in the Tuba Mirum – possibly a fault of the sound engineers when all four military bands come in to join an already vast orchestra and choir. Even so, it is the grandest and most moving performance of the work I have heard. No other performance I know comes close to it. I first heard it in in 1976 – indeed, I was carrying a recording of it when I was nearly killed in a road accident. It astonished me then. It still does. The hairs still prick up on the back of my neck when it reaches Te decet hymnus Deus in Sion at 4:15. Nor is it dismissive of the rest if I describe the Offertorium as astonishingly beautiful.

RIP, Colin Davis – our greatest loss of the year so far.

The Late Kim Jong-Il: A Man of many Talents

Mr Putin: A Man of Many Talents!

A Mind Blowing Performance

I stopped paying much attention to Beethoven in 1981, after having a quasi-religious experience while listening to Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor. I never stopped listening; I simply stopped listening properly. I now glory in his rediscovery. I bought the Hogwood/Lubin/AAM PC box set in 1990 out of  a sense of duty. It’s an astonishing achievement. Here is the 1st movement of No. 5 in Eb major. What I most like about this performance is the total abandonment of restraint within a set of broadly Mozartian assumptions.

For the Symphonies, though, Mrs Gabb has bought me the 1963 Karajan set. John Kersey recommends it; and, while she won’t let me remove the cellophane wrapping until Christmas Eve, and will then nag me about the state of my hearing whenever I play the disks, the YouTube previews sound very exciting.

Next year, I may give up on torturing my women with the flute, and take to the piano.


Tu es Petrus….

I must say that Catholics know how to put on a show. If they’d only give up on the guitars and the use of native languages, I’d be inclined both to drop the CofE and to stop dithering about Orthodoxy. Even the outrageous claim, starting at 14:48, is made almost reasonable in that priest’s voice, and with Mozart to accompany.

New CD published by Distinguished Musician and Scholar and Libertarian

A new CD has been published by Romantic Discoveries Recordings.

Piano Music of Sydney Smith (1839-89) volume 2
John Kersey, piano

Total time: 76 minutes 47 seconds

1. Nadeshda, fantasia on the opera by Arthur Goring Thomas (1850-92), op. 211b 2. Aspiration (mélodie), op. 208 no. 1 3. Inquiétude (impromptu), op. 208 no. 2 4. Gavotte and Musette, op. 188 5. Vie orageuse (Deuxième ballade), op. 203 6. Chant de berceau, op. 156 7. Harmonies du soir (morceau élégant), op. 54 8. Menuet romantique, op. 174 9. Rayons d’or (Bagatelle), op. 176 10. Happy memories (morceau de salon), op. 77 11. Kermesse (Scène hollandaise), op. 181 12. Voix du coeur (Mélodie), op. 178 13. Zeffiretta (Morceau de salon), op. 159 14. Bacchanale, op. 170

Our thanks to the Sydney Smith Archive for supplying scores of these rare works.

Sydney Smith represents a lost generation of English composer-pianists who enjoyed both critical and commercial success in his heyday, only to be eclipsed by a rapid change in musical fashion that was compounded by his own ill-health. Born in Dorchester, in close proximity to Thomas Hardy, Smith won a place at the Leipzig Conservatoire aged seventeen and studied there for three years under Moscheles and Plaidy (piano) and Grutzmacher (cello). The Crown Prince of Prussia was apparently greatly impressed with his talent, and Smith’s move to London in 1859 marked the beginning of a career as a recitalist (notably at the Crystal Palace) and teacher. Added to this was the beginning of a prolific career as a melodic and effective composer of works for the salon and concert hall, many of which became included in popular anthologies of piano music of the day. This oeuvre made Smith one of the most famous musicians of his day, not only in England, but in Australia, America and continental Europe, and his name became a household word. Smith was particularly known for his virtuoso opera transcriptions, but as this album will show, was also gifted in a variety of short original forms, including characteristic dances and evocative mood-pieces. These works are written in a masterly way for the piano, showing a mature understanding of pianistic effect (with a good deal of influence from Chopin and Liszt) and providing a considerable technical challenge for the performer. The present recital offers probably the only opportunity at the moment to hear any of Arthur Goring Thomas’s last opera “Nadeshda” and is otherwise devoted to a varied selection of Smith’s original works, concentrating particularly on those from his later years.

The Wonders of Technology

Mrs Gabb bought me a Soundlogik USB turntable for my birthday – £22.50 from The Factory Shop. I was prepared to be disappointed. However, it digitises old records as well as I’ve ever heard them play. Indeed, a capture of The Nelson Mass from 1979 sounds about as good as the CD version, allowing, of course, for surface noise. If I fiddle about with changing the needle, it will also do 78rpm records. I think we’ve now reached the point where cheapo stuff is about as good as the more expensive. I will, in due course, upload some of the captures.


Here is a digitisation of Porgi Amor – mono, 1958, Karajan/VPO, Schwartzkopf:

And here is a stereo recording from 1960 of Bruno Walter conducting the 3rd Movement of Mahler’s Symphony No 1 in D:,%20ohne%20zu%20schleppen.mp3

Bored with Jimothy Savile and Paedohunts and Modern England in General

Non-Political: Review of Beethoven, Symphony No 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 (Hogwood/AAM)

Note: I’m much better at literary than musical criticism, so I’ll give this selection of reviews by other people. My own opinion is that, while they provide an excellent Beethoven S3, Hogwood/AAM fail with S9. The scherzo is crisp and manages to startle in ways that modern performances don’t usually manage. But the adagio is too fast, and doesn’t seem to hang together. The outer movements are like decaffeinated coffee in their systematic avoidance of grandeur. I could mention the sudden loss of speed in the march variation in the final movement, and especially in the fugue – which puts me in mind of a worn out ostrich with its lack of speed, let alone take off – and the continuing lack of momentum right to the end. But this takes me into details about which I have little experience of writing. It’s enough to say that, coming from one of the best S3s I’ve heard, Hogwood/AAM are disappointing in S9.

It may be that, from BS7 (+ -) onwards, the authentic movement loses its reason for being. Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, et al are not well served by orchestras and performance styles that have come down from the middle of the 19th century. Particularly with Haydn and Mozart, there is a loss of balance and blurring of structure in performances that treat them like precursors of Beethoven. Even without all the stripping away of the authentic movement, they do benefit from smallish forces. However, where Beethoven is concerned, it was for his later works that modern performing styles – and even modern instruments – were largely developed. Playing S9 as if the score had just been given to men trained on Haydn has a certain historical interest, but doesn’t make for a good performance.

Oh, I could add my recollection that LvB was allowed to direct the first performance of S9, but that he was stone deaf, and continued conducting at least the scherzo for some while after the players had finished. This lets me ask to what extent a composer’s performance wishes should be respected? I can’t answer with the precision I’d like. But I have heard a recording of Tennyson reciting his Charge of the Light Brigade. It is ghastly, and can’t have been all to blame on the oddity of having to recite into a phonograph horn.

My favourites for BS9 are Karajan and possibly Klemperer. The latter is admittedly slow – slower in the final movement even than Hogwood/AAM. But all the grandeur you could ever want is there. SIG Continue reading

Brief Note on Original Performances

I’m presently finishing a book, and am otherwise busy with going through a student’s thesis. However, I’ve been listening in whatever breaks I can get to Beethoven S3, Hogwood/AAM. I don’t like their BS8 – brutal tempi, even if the metronome markings may call for them. BS3, though, is done very well. The tempi are much closer to what you get from Bohm/Klemperer/Karajan. The performance is generally civilised and well-balanced, and also exciting. What I particularly like is that I can hear the scoring, which is something you often don’t get with c20 mainstream performances. Continue reading

J.N. Hummel: An Appreciation

Dr Alan C. Clifford

Mozart’s most famous pupil, Haydn’s successor at the Esterhazy court, a friend (and rival) of Beethoven, a ‘father-figure’ to Chopin and teacher of several other young romantic virtuosi including Mendelssohn, Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in Bratislava in 1778 and died in Weimar in 1837.  A child prodigy, he became one of the most brilliant virtuoso pianist-composers of the early nineteenth century.  Schubert wished to dedicate his last three sonatas to Hummel whose music links the classical and romantic periods.  Continue reading

I Can’t Sing this One Either

Sean Gabb

But at least I don’t have to count my way through every bar, staring and rubbing my eyes!

Something Wonderful

Sean Gabb

The score is handy for telling me the piece is in Db. And it generally helps explain why my own efforts at singing it in the car have not so far matched those of Mme Callas….

Religion and liberty

David Davis

My younger boy had his first communion today, nine years after the other one who blogs sometimes on here. Unlike many other hard-libertarians, I see no conflict whatsoever between the profession of  libertarian ideas, and (with my hard-scientist-hat on) the hypothesis that the astonishing level of observed order in the Universe and its Laws of action _/may/_ be the result of what goes on in God’s Mind.

Creationists have tragcially got the wrong end of the stick. They take folk-tales like the Book of Genesis, written down as the Apostle Paul said quite clearly, “through a glass, darkly”, and try vainly and without hope of success to conflate their supposed meaning to overlay and explain observed reality. It will never work and will only lead to more ructions and maybe “rivers of blood”, but I hope not. Only if the socialists, who cleverly encourage these sadly misguided people for the useful idiots they are, manage to get all the lights turned out and the food-production facilities destroyed, as they wish to do.

The older one has no problem being a libertarian, while heading for a scientist of some kind who can also gig on stage with an electric cello or guitar, and yet can calmly stroll up to the Priest  in Mass. Perhaps the younger will be as lucky. Perhaps this intellectual integration can only be properly accomplished in the Anglosphere?

Exams=Toilet Paper

Fred Bloggs

I have just been looking on the AQA site and i found the grade boundaries for januarys GCSE’s, and needless to say they symbolize perfectly how our education system is Stuka diving into oblivion.

To see how horrific the grade boundaries are click Here.

The Wednesday saddo-slot

What a pompous, ill-informed, socialist prat.

David Davis

Find out who he is, here.

Eurovision “song” “contest”: there will be no reason to be forced to watch it at all (at-all-at-all-at-all) now that Sir Terry Wogan is not performing.

David Davis

I have always wondered what the point of the Eurovision “Song” “Contest” was.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there were some fairly good Beat Groups, such as ABBA, and even some soloists, such as Cliff Richard, who sang fairly musical stuff, which was kind of about something or other that people cared about. (I count ABBA as honourary British since they could (a) sing, (b) write music, (c) they were Swedish, kind of,  and (d) they sounded quite good most of the time.) The times were pre-the-rise-of-the-EUSSR-supersoviet, and so people tended to vote for the best song, and never mind whow their awful neighbours were whom they had to be seen to publicly-placate-on-EUSSR_wide-TV, so that they would not get into trouble with the authorities Gestapo afterwards and have their benefits EU handouts withdrawn.

Then, we were dragged more firmly into the EUSSR EU, and we started to stop winning. This in itself didn’t totally matter, as we had Sir Terry Wogan to compère it and be suitably cynical about everybody on there, in his charming way, the good Englishman that he is, so he is, to be sure, to be sure.

Now, there is no point in being on. Not only do we not win, or even come next-to-bottom as opposed to absolutely totally and utterly bottom, but we absolutely tank. This is because nobody feels they have to pretend to like us any more, as we are Maritime-liberals with no land borders and they are Euro-authoritarians with very very long borders with other scratchy neighbours.

But the worst thing culturally speaking, about it, is that nobody even pretends to vote for the best music any more. They vote for whoever is the most powerful neighbour, or the one with most “clout of the day” in the corridors of Eurofascism power.

Furthermore, dear old cynical, funny Sir Terry is going. What’s the point of the thing? Why don’t we just read some books instead, while the blasted thing is on?

I don’t think that Libertarians would object in any way if the European subject-peoples of the EUSSR want to self-flagellate publicly to “music”, on the Wireless Tele Vision once a year, while pretending to sing songs which they think will be “for” “Europe”. But I guess that most liberals, being somewhat puritanical (unlike socialists) about time and resources wasted on pointless acts such as flag-waving, parading and collectively performing – especially acts which are only designed to get the “act-or” into the Public Prints, will think twice about this fascist smugfest in future.

Goobye and good riddance (I hope!) Let’s hope against hope that we get “invited” to “not participate”.

Interview with Sean Gabb in Slovak Magazine

Lukas Krivosik, “Interview with Sean Gabb“, Tyzden, 19th November 2008 (This is in Slovak, and the web version is only a part of the whole. I see my comments on Mozart have been included. One day, I will translate this into English – but not just yet….

BBC: Oh, really? And which poor sad junior will be blamed?

David Davis

BBC “admits serious lapse” (of sanity or judgement I presume?) over Ross/Brand affair.

Perhaps the BBC is just another socialist-sausage-machine: it takes money from the terrified bourgeoisie, who are afraid of being prosecuted and destroyed as a result, uses it to fund pornography, such as people saying “f***” on live television, and then gives the product to the socialist-state-clientariat, for nothing (as it will not prosecute them for “watching without paying”.) If they do…. They probably do (watch without paying, a lot of them.

Who cares?

In a libertarian society, I fully expect that there’d be TV channels where you oculd say “f***” on live television. But you’d have to pay for them. I expect. They would not be especially mass-market. This is just not what Anglosphere people want to do or see. We are moral and liberal. (I DID say “liberal” yes.)

In return, nobody would force you to do so. No “detector vans” would come round, to pretend to see if your telly was saying “f***” without having paid the channel that transmits “f***”. All that the State would have to do (and not even that really) was to supply Courts which would discover if your telly had said “f***” without your having paid for it to do so.

The whole thing, as Auberon Waugh would have discovered long ago, is just an intellectual-property problem. If the monies collected by the BBC were regarded as collected by force, whether you used the service or not, then it was just stealing and doing robbery. If not, and it was regarded as consensual, just to fund sort of journalists and machines and stuff, then it could transmit, but could not also then charge you as well for receiving. Also it could not legally know who was receiving.

The corollary of this is the death penalty exacted by the Nazis for “receiving foreign broadcasts” or “having prohibited receivers”.

I think we all ought to start cutting off our BBC direct debits. Let’s see what happens.

Let’s call their bluff. I’m going to cancel our DD now, and see what happens.

I bet socialists can’t do this sort of stuff convincingly. Time for some music.

David Davis

Libertarian Alliance Remembrance Post 5: Giant Music in the Western Canonical tradition

David Davis

Firstly, this is a British Blog. There are no conditions under which we can easily see the titanic struggle we face for liberty, other than through the eyes of the Anglosphere.

Then, Libertarianism is about ultimately bringing individual freedom to all. We, or someone, shall: if not here, then somewhere far in the future. But in the meantime and in the coming “endarkening” (a Denis McShane word but none the worse for that) it can fall to some peoples through their history and traditions – better than to others because of their historical misfortune – to say things and do things which try to defend the idea of individual liberty of action and thought.

The Western Musical Canon, its traditions and its archive of sometimes giant material, is arguably the greatest legacy, with the possiblt exception of Hard Science, to be left to those who come after.