A New Music Bargain from the ’60s Returns

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 7

In 1967 RCA Victor’s budget classical Victrola label brought out “The New Music”, three individual Italian-based LPs featuring prominent European modernists who made their mark in the 1950s and ’60s. Indeed, I remember purchasing these discs in the late ’60s for $1.49 apiece at New York’s Sam Goody bargain outlet (that’s $9.44 in 2013 currency). Sony/BMG and ArkivMusic join forces in reissuing the series’ first volume.

While the current catalog may offer suaver, more blended performances of Stockhausen’s Kontra-Punkte for Ten Instruments and Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, Bruno Maderna’s relatively spiky, clear, and closely miked readings with members of the Rome Symphony Orchestra still stand out today for their vivid intensity. Also of note is pianist Frederic Rzewski’s forceful and incisive presence in the Stockhausen.

Being a graphic piece, many characterful elements of Earle Brown’s Available Forms I for Chamber Ensemble are unique to the present recording, especially the slithering high string harmonics and gently cascading mallet instrument passages. In Henri Pousseur’s Rimes, pre-recorded electronics interweave with dense orchestral textures to complex and often exciting effect, even though the composer’s intended multi-channel loudspeaker deployment is somewhat compromised by the parameters of conventional stereo. That said, Sony/BMG’s CD transfers sound far superior to their vinyl counterparts; let’s hope that the remaining two volumes will follow.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Album Title: The New Music

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Kontra-punkt (for ten instruments); Krzystof Penderecki: Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (for 52 strings); Earle Brown: Available Forms I (for chamber ensemble); Henri Pousseur: Rimes pour différentes sources sonores

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