Friday, May 12, 2006


Gershwin's "Porgy & Bess" suite

Just a quick one to tide you all over... I found this 3-disc set, listened to it, and thought it was a very nice rendition of the classic Gershwin "Porgy and Bess" tunes, arranged into a symphonic suite. It was arranged by Robert Russell Bennett, and performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Fritz Reiner.

The shellac quality is typical Columbia Masterwork late 1940s (which means it's OK but very susecptible to any kind of grunge on the disc and almost 'mooshy' in places), but a little bit of CoolEdit's juju and it cleaned up to about 90% of where I'd really like it to be.

CoolEdit Pro also has a nice way to combine the discs using their multi-track mixer... makes the side transitions almost seamless!

The complete file is about 23 megs and runs around 24 minutes... I do not recall seeing this on LP or CD, so here's a perhaps-lost piece of very nice symphonic pop-ness for you.

Porgy & Bess - A Symphonic Picture

A couple of notes - there are moments in here that sound an AWFUL lot like the arranger was listening to Whiteman's version of "Rhapsody in Blue"... I think I can tell where Russell got a couple of his transitional ideas... also during one point in I think the 5th side, someone needs to shoot the clarinet player.

Anyways, I have some more 'conventional' 78s lined up for you for next time, in the meanwhile, enjoy a little symphonic Gershwin!


Brad: That P&B file is a brilliant testimonial to CoolEdit Pro's magic and to your good taste--thanks for that special suite. Excellent and listenable in all regards.
Brad, In 1998, Columbia Materworks released a 2-CD set called "From Gershwin's Time: The Original Sounds of George Gershwin 1920-1945" that included the Fritz Reiner recording of the suite in what I thought was a superb transfer. Unfortunately, the album, which was part of Sony's "Masterworks Heritage Mono Era" series is no longer available. 'Tis a pity. There is a "Rhapsody in Blue" transcription by Borah Minnevitch & His Harmonica Rascals from 1924 that is astounding.
Unfortunately, a LOT of the Sony-CBS Legacy series is no longer available, kind of like the RCA Bluebird Heritage series. Seems like the big boys only want the people listening to the garbage that passes for commercial (read: sellable) music. So, a LOT of GOOD material that was recorded in the past has literally gone poof... which is why blogs like mine & Lee's and a lot of others are invaluable for the musicologist... we're helping keep this old stuff alive and remembered.

Oh yeah, it also keeps the used record stores in business too :)

So, if you see a release of old 78-era stuff on CD, SNAG IT! Wait until it is out of print, then gleefully re-distribute (and, in the process, thumb your nose at the RIAA and the big boys for trying to cram crap down our throats) so that the music never dies.

I wholeheartedly sympathize with you and Lee. I have a friend in Toronto who has a CD company devoted to reissues of great known and unknown jazz singers of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. At times, he has had to sue to get masters for which he has contracted and PAID. To make matters worse, fewer and fewer stores carry his reissues. But he struggles on. And, as a result of his iron-willed determination, the world will soon have every Bea Wain record. That, to me, is a laudable restoration project.

In addition, companies like Vocallion in England continue to reissue superb classical recordings of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. So all is not lost. I recently heard a 1932 (or was it 1928?) recording of Debussy's "Nocturnes" performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stowkowski that had been mastered by Ward Marston. It was a sonic milestone, one that proved high fidelity was far older in origin that I thought. It was also, to my ears, a fabulous performance. It is such admittedly fugitive achievements that are among the central delights of my cultural life. Some day I hope to hear the 78s of Varese and Ives recorded for the Composers' Society in the 1930s. To this day, I remember spending $10 to buy a rather scratchy 1950 LP of Ives' "The Unanawered Question" featuring the legenday Harry Glantz on trumpet. O to hear that record again with pristine restoration!

Keep up the good work and works.

Thanks so much for your kind words... I think I remember you from the 78-L mailing list, no? I need to get back on there one of these days, but with a work schedule that is so screwy, I don't have the time to go thru all my eMail as it is :/

I always look for Ward's restorations when I am out in the GOOD CD shops... granted, I may find them at used CD shops, Ward doesn't get his financial due, but the music still iives and is appreciated.

The Toronto-based CD company, I remember it, but can't think of the name... if I were back on 78-L I'd sure remember it.

If you would, please, let the good peoples on 78-L know I'm still alive & thinking of them, and that if I ever get out to Kentucky, Mike Biel and I should do a radio show for Kentucky Public Radio (did he ever get all the records out of his bathtub??)...

Also, they're all welcome to check out my blogs and post comments... I don't bite!

miles and miles of shellac smiles,

Brad (the Impaler)
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