PHONOGRAPH RECORDS (or at least the vinylite discs on which they are pressed) are a petroleum by-product and, as such, subject to the whims of OPEC. The days when a new-made long-playing record would routinely carry a list price of $3.98 are long gone, and the time when some records will cost close to $10 is probably coming into sight.
In this situation, more and more lovers of recorded music are looking at the bargain labels (most of which now cost $3.98), and fortunately they can find there a variety of music, a quality of performance and sound sufficient to stock a large, highly diversified and very satifying collection. For example:
PEGGY STUART COOLIDGE: Rhapsody for Harp and Orhestra; Spirituals; New England Autumn; Pioneer Dances. Westphalian Symphony Orchestra, Siegfried Landau cond. (Turnabout QTV-S 34635). Those who heard the recent Washington premiere of the Pioneer Dances in the National Gallery's American Music Festival will know what to expect on this record: richly melodic, brightly orchestrated music, expertly written in the American idioms pioneered by Copland and Gershwin and immediately enjoyable on first hearing for anyone who likes those composers. There are touches of jazz in the Rhapsody and the Spirituals, a charming folk-music flavor in the Pioneer Dances, a haunting evocation of mountain landscapes and a lively depiction of a county fair in New England Autumn. The sound is excellent, the performance good, though the National Gallery Orchestra was even better in the Pioneer Dances.
Electronic Music Winners (Odyssey Y 34139). The seven compositions on this record were declared winners in the first international Electronic Music Competition sponsored by the League of Composers - International Society for Contemporary Music. They are too diverse in style for discussion in a brief notice but uniformly high in quality, and they offer a fascinating view of how contemporary composers are using the almost unlimited resources of electronic sound. Not recommended for conservatives, but others should find the Odyssey price very reasonable for a ticket into new worlds of music.
BEETHOVEN: Complete Music for Wind Band. London Wind Soloists, Jack Brymer cond. (London STS 15387). Don't be misled by the word "band" in the title; this is 18th-century chamber music for six to eight solo winds, a form which Mozart raised to its highest level and in which Beethoven made a few essays which he was under Mozart's spell - not important music but enjoyable and beautifully played and recorded.
GEORGE CRUMB: Markrokosmos, VOs. II. Robert Miller, piano (Odyssey Y 34135). With the appearance of this disc, all three part of Makrokosmos (probably the most significant work for solo piano produced so far in the 1970s) are available on records - and half-price records at that! Miller, for whom this segment of the work was written, meets its interpretive and technical challenges with a flair equally musical and dramatic; the result is a performance strikingly modern in form and technique but with much of the appeal of old-fashioned romanticism.
An Evening with Henry Russell. Clifford Jackson, baritone; William Bolcom, piano (Nonesuch H-71338). Songs by Stephen Foster, Volume II. Jan DeGaetani, mezzo-soprano; Leslie Guinn, baritone; Camerata Chorus of Washington; Gilbert Kalish, piano and melodeon (Nonesuch H-71333). Nonesuch continues to find a wealth of interesting material in its explorations of 19th-century Americana. The second volume of Foster songs (in interpretations which recreate with striking fidelity the original arrangements) contains some interesting rarities along with familiar items. Henry Russell, a predecessor of Foster, was a flamboyant master of "descriptive" and sentimental songs, including a vivid evocation of fire on a ship at sea, a rhapsody about his dead mother's old arm chair, a monologue by a man committed to an insane asylum, and the ever-popular "Woodman, Spare That Tree." Jackson's performance, including a monologue to introduce some of the songs, is equally brilliant as documentation and as nostalgia.