Slight change of pace this weekend. Rather than play a concert or radio broadcast session, I thought I would pay attention to the title of these posts (“Weekend Gramophone”) and make this post about a rare commercial recording. This one, for the legendary Concert Hall Society, whose distinctive red-vinyl pressings boasted “limited edition” and whose reissues are almost nowhere to be found. Certainly, I have not seen this recording reissued and don’t know who long this work stayed in the catalogue.
This performance of Nikolai Lopatnikoff’s Divertimento for Orchestra op. 34 actually received its premier with the La Jolla musical Arts Festival Orchestra under the direction of its founder Nikolai Sokoloff in 1951 during the festival and was commissioned by Augustus Searle of the La Jolla Music Festival Advisory Board. The recording was made shortly after that premier, and there are various dates as to its release – some say 1952 and others say 1953. Which ever date it actually was doesn’t diminish the fact that this is a wonderful piece of music by a composer who has fallen into obscurity in recent years.
Performed by the legendary Nicolai Sokoloff leading the Orchestra. Sokoloff, another former household name, has fallen into obscurity as well; having been Music Director for The Cleveland Orchestra in the 1920s and was responsible for a number of “first recordings” of works for the Brunswick label.
As was pointed out in an AllMusic review, the music of Nikolai Lopatnikoff is rhythmically pointed but melodically voluptuous, it’s as though his feet are planted in two totally different worlds. Described as a blend of late nineteenth-century Russian nationalism and the leaner twentieth-century neo-Classical sounds of Hindemith and Stravinsky he managed to straddle both genres exceedingly well.
If you aren’t already familiar with the music of Nikolai Lopatnikoff, take about 18 minutes and give this one a listen. Although he is not well recorded, his music has been performed and recorded more recently.
So there’s hope yet.