• Solti, Nilsson and Grane

I’ve just been watching a new TV profile of Sir Georg Solti (the centenary of his birth was on 21 October this year). ‘Maestro or Mephisto: The Real Georg Solti’ was on BBC4 – do try to catch it on iPlayer if you can.  There’s tremendous archive footage and still photography, going back to when Solti turned pages for Bartók’s wife at a pre-war performance of Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, to Richard Strauss’s funeral, and on through Solti’s days at Covent Garden, with the Chicago SO and to his last venture, the World Orchestra for Peace.  There’s a particularly interesting section early on from rehearsals and a performance of the Bartók by Solti, Perahia, Glennie and Corkhill. (A DVD is available of the rehearsals and concert, and there’s a two-part YouTube video of the performance alone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnDjIAazHK8 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l14a-GKqHfk.)

I remember decades ago watching a documentary on Solti’s making of The Ring cycle for Decca in the 1950s and 60s, a recording that is still one of the most thrilling.  Tonight’s programme showed a couple of excerpts from the earlier documentary, but it missed out the bit which I still remember vividly.  The original YouTube video of this now-famous ‘surprise’ has since disappeared, so here is the relevant section, from another upload of the complete programme, beginning at 1:14:54 (if you scroll down the accompanying info there is a direct link to this point in the documentary).


• Isoldina

I’ve been meaning to post this track for a while.  I first heard it on BBC Radio 3 and chuckled out loud.  I’m still chuckling.  It’s perhaps the wittiest piano parody of Wagner in a line that includes Chabrier’s Souvenirs de Munich (c.1887) and Souvenirs de Bayreuth (1888) by Fauré and Messager.  The French certainly knew how to prendre le Michel out of Wagner, but Clément Doucet brings such a gentle yet inappropriate joie-de-vivre to Isolde’s Liebestod that it’s impossible not to smile.

Doucet (1895-1950) was born in Belgium, studied with a pupil of Liszt, visited the US in the early 1920s and came back as a versatile jazz pianist with an enviable but light stride piano style.  He played at Le Boeuf sur le toit in Paris and consorted with luminaries such as Cocteau, Chevalier, Piaf, Rubinstein and Casals.  He and his piano partner Jean Wiéner laid into Bach, Chopin, Dvořák and Liszt as well as Gershwin and a host of popular jazz numbers.  You can find 38 of their remastered tracks on Les Rarissimes de Jean Wiéner & Clément Doucet. Les Années folles on a 2-CD EMI Classics album (2005).

Here’s Isoldina on an original Columbia 78 (recorded in Paris on 14 September 1927) – thanks agfamatic91!

And for anyone who wants to try it themselves, here’s the sheet music too.

Doucet_Isoldina (1927)

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