Dick Wellstood (1927-1987)
Dick Wellstood was an American jazz pianist. He was one of the great stride pianists. Dick could take just about any jazz tune or classical piece and turn it into a lively stride piano piece. He made many recordings during his musical career. Here is a tune called the “Washington and Lee Swing” played by Dick Wellstood from his album “Ragtime Piano Favourites”. If you haven’t heard Dick Wellstood’s stride piano, “Ragtime Piano Favourites” is a good place to start. This music may make you want to get up and dance.
Fini Henriques (1867-1940)
Fini Henriques was a Danish composer and violinist. He was a colleague of Victor Borge’s father and both he and Victor Borge’s father played in the Royal Danish Orchestra. Fini Henriques was an excellent composer. He wrote music for piano, violin, and chamber ensembles. Fini Henriques also wrote operas.
Here is a rare clip of the Danish comedian and pianist Victor Borge playing a Lullaby by Fini Henriques. This piece was sentimental for Victor Borge because his mother used to play it for him when he was a little boy. I hope that you enjoy this music.
Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Charlie Chaplin was an English comedian, filmmaker, and composer. He became famous during the time of silent films. One fact about Chaplin that many people don’t know about is that he was a prolific composer. Chaplin composed most of the music that was used in his silent films. He was also the composer of the song “Smile” which was recorded by many singers including Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole.
In 2016, violinist Philippe Quint, pianist Marta Aznavoorian, Joshua Bell, and a couple of arrangers got together. After listening to many of Chaplin’s songs, they chose 13 of his most popular songs and arranged them for violin and piano. The project took three years to come to fruition. The recording was released this year. The CD is entitled Chaplin’s Smile and features Quint and Aznavoorian on most of the tracks. Violinist Joshua Bell joins Quint and Aznavoorian on two of the tracks. Here are three selections from that recording. I hope that you enjoy this beautiful music.
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Frédéric Chopin was a Polish composer and piano virtuoso of the Romantic period who lived most of his life in Paris, France. When he was a young man, he left his native Poland to go to Paris. There he met many of the important artists, writers, and musicians of his day including Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt. Chopin was one of the inventors of a new style of composition for the piano with singing melodies and ornamental flourishes. His melodies are beautiful and often contain a touch of melancholy. Chopin’s compositions are mostly for the solo piano, although he also wrote a cello sonata, two piano concertos, and a piano trio.
One of the first pianists to live long enough to be recorded was Vladimir de Pachmann. Vladimir de Pachmann (1848 – 1933) was a Russian/German pianist especially known for his performances of Chopin’s music. He also had an eccentric on-stage style. He was known for making gestures, muttering, and addressing the audience during his performances (even talking during some of his recordings). Vladimir de Pachmann was one of the top pianists of the 19th century. He died in 1933 at the age of 84.
Here is a recording of de Pachmann playing Chopin’s Nocturne in B Major, Op. 32, No. 1. The recording was made when Vladimir was 78 years old. Notice how expressive and elastic the playing is. This is a complete contrast to today’s pianists who are taught to play a piece in strict tempo without slowing down or speeding up too much during a piece. Enjoy!
Jazz violinist Joe Venuti and jazz pianist Earl Hines both began their careers in the 1920s. Venuti played with great jazz musicians such as Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Eddie Lang (Venuti and Lang were well known for their violin/guitar duos and they had an influence on Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli). Earl Hines played for many years with Louis Armstrong and was the pianist on several of Armstrong’s early recordings. It has been said that Hines was the only musician who matched Armstrong’s skill and inventive ideas when it came to improvisation.
In 1975, Joe Venuti and Earl Hines teamed up (this was the first time they played together) to make a recording called “Hot Sonatas.” Hines was brought out of retirement to make the recording and Joe Venuti was fading into obscurity (his partner Eddie Lang died early in 1933 and Venuti drank heavily). Venuti had a comeback in the late 1960s after a 15 year lull in his career. Here are a couple of tunes from the recording called “The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else,” and “Hot Sonatas.” Enjoy!
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman is the name of a classic album of jazz ballads recorded in 1963. The recording is famous for the flawless performance of these wonderful songs as well as for the collaboration between John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (their one and only collaboration together). John Coltrane holds back from his famous mile-a-minute wild improvisations and for the most part sticks close to the melody in his improvisations. His sax playing nicely complements Johnny’s singing. Johnny Hartman’s deep velvety voice is very soothing and expressive. The two are backed up by John Coltrane’s famous quartet (John Coltrane on sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums). The recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.
Here are two songs from that album. “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “You Are Too Beautiful.” Sit back wth a nice glass of wine and enjoy. This recording is great for unwinding at the end of a hectic day.
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Dmitri Shostakovich was a 20th Century Soviet composer. Shostakovich composed a great variety of music including string quartets, piano music, symphonies, film music, and ballet music. Today he is best known for his film scores and ballet suites, including the “Gadfly” Suite (which contains the famous Romance), his suite OP. 99a (which contains the famous Second Waltz), his suite of piano pieces called the “Dancing of the Dolls”, and his string quartets and symphonies.
Here are two waltzes by Shostakovich performed by Constantine Orbelian and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. The first waltz is a waltz from the Pirogov Suite, Op. 76a. The second waltz is the famous Second Waltz from his Op. 99a suite written for the Soviet film
“The First Echelon.” I hope that you enjoy this beautiful music.
Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang were pioneers in violin/guitar jazz in the 1920s and 1930s. They went to school together and played violin together in an orchestra. Eddie Lang later switched from violin to guitar and Joe Venuti stayed with the violin. They teamed up and formed a duo and made their first recording together in 1926. They quickly became popular and were in great demand. They were part of various jazz ensembles including Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra, and Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. They played with many of the major jazz musicians of their day incuding: Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, and Bix Beiderbecke.
Here are two recordings featuring Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang. The First recording is a piece called “Freeze and Melt.” It is played by Ed Lang and his orchestra: Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang · Bix Beiderbecke, Red McKenzie, Frankie Trumbauer, Louis Armstrong, and Tommy Dorsey. The second recording is a piece called “Pink Elephants” and it is played by Joe Venuti and his Orchestra and features Joe VEnuti and Eddie Lang. I hope that you enjoy these tunes.
The Wanamaker Pipe Organ is located in Macy’s Department Store in Philadelphia. It is one of the largest instruments in the world with 6 manuals (keyboards) and 28,750 pipes. Here is a short video about the history of this massive instrument. Enjoy!
Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
Louis Vierne was a French organist and teacher. He was born nearly blind due to congenital cataracts. Vierne’s music was idiomatic for his instrument and the harmonies in his music were rich. He was an inspiration to the many Parisian organist-composers that came after him. Vierne was also a great improviser on the organ. He gave many recitals during his life and toured widely. In 1937 while giving his 1750th recital at Notre Dame in Paris Vierne died at the organ console.
Here are two rare recordings froom 1929 of Louis Vierne playing the organ at Notre Dame in Paris. 1929 was the first year that sound was recorded electronically. The first recording is a soft improvisation that Vierne made up on the spot. The second recording is a Bach Prelude and Fugue. The second recording is a piece by Vierne.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like carrying all that heavy recording equipment up the narrow stairway to Notre Dame’s balcony to record the organ.
An organ with more than 7000 pipes! Enjoy.