Aserious gap has been filled in the recorded representation of the National Symphony Orchestra with the issuing of a disc devoted to the orchestra's founder, Hans Kindler, in the Biddulph Conductor Series. Biddulph, an English label that specializes in digitally remastering 78-rpm recordings, has found remarkably clean and rich sound in some performances recorded by Kindler and the NSO in the 1940s. The music (by Frescobaldi, Handel et al.) is generally more pleasant than profound, and the orchestra in its first decades was not the powerful, virtuoso ensemble it is today. But the playing is capable, and Kindler is obviously a sensitive and technically expert conductor.
Three of the NSO's five conductors, Antal Dorati, Mstislav Rostropovich and Leonard Slatkin, have enormous discographies, of which a small fraction involves the orchestra. Howard Mitchell, who succeeded Kindler as music director, is not currently available on CD, but he made many LPs with the orchestra for RCA, including a series of well-planned educational records and (prophetically) Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, which would later become a specialty of the orchestra.
Grove: A lot has happened in music during the last 20 years; witness the revised edition of "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians" due for publication next November. It will have 29 volumes--nine more than the previous edition, published in 1980. This time, the massive musical reference work will also have an online edition with search functions and other special features, available to individual subscribers for $650 per year and to libraries and other institutions on a sliding scale beginning at $1,250 per year. The list price of the print edition is $4,850, but various pre-publication discounts are available.
Jazz on Film: Is jazz "America's only original art form," as someone says in the movie "Blue Note," playing today at the Washington Jewish Film Festival? It is certainly more identifiably American than the classical music of most American composers, and when our "serious" music sounds American, it is usually because of jazz influences. "Blue Note" is a documentary about two German immigrants who came to this country without knowing anything about jazz, became devotees, and founded the Blue Note label, creating "a legacy of a unique creative achievement." It goes beyond the story of a single record label, examining the role of jazz in American culture and upholding its claim to classical status.
Revels: Revels Records, which has produced some of the liveliest Christmas CDs I have heard, has come up this year with "A Victorian Christmas," combining traditional carols and folk songs, savory items from Victorian music halls and medleys of dance tunes. The carols are usually sung with melodies, harmonies or words slightly different from the forms we know. One item that has become familiar in Washington, thanks to cabaret performances at the Arena Stage's Old Vat Theater, is "Down at the Old Bull and Bush." All told, this disc is as lusty a celebration of the season as one can imagine. Revels Records is a division of Revels Inc., which celebrates the season in eight performances through Dec. 12 in the Lisner Auditorium.
Virtuoso: Violinist Janice Martin, who played with great elegance and sensitivity in the final concert of the November Chopin Festival, shows the same qualities plus virtuoso technique in her first recording. The program, on the Sonoris label, includes John Corigliano's Sonata for Violin and Piano, Clara Schumann's Romance in D-flat, Enescu's Sonata No. 3 and Saint-Saens's Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. It is imaginatively chosen, technically awesome and beautifully played with pianist Rachel Franklin.
Debut: A new choral group, the National Men's Chorus, will give its first performance today at Western Presbyterian Church in a program of Christmas and Hanukah music titled "Masters in the House" under the direction of the group's founder, Thomas Beveridge. The concert's title and part of its contents recall a program and recording conducted a few years ago by Beveridge in a previous position as music director of the Washington Men's Camerata. The Camerata's new music director, Frank Albinder, will make his debut with the group in a program of Renaissance and baroque Christmas music Dec. 11 at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church. For those who prefer higher voices, the Washington Women's Chorus will perform a Christmas program Dec. 11 at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Arlington.
Amahl: Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors" is not quite as frequently performed as Handel's "Messiah," but for years was a Christmas tradition on television and is usually available each December in one production or another. This year's Washington area staged production will be given by the Maryland Boy Choir, with some alumni in adult roles, Dec. 18 at University United Methodist Church in College Park.
Jerusalem: National Musical Arts, celebrating its 20th anniversary this season, will give a free concert on a theme that is both timely and timeless--music inspired by Jerusalem, from songs of the Crusaders to the 20th-century "Poeme Mystique" of Ernest Bloch--today at the National Academy of Sciences.
Opera on the Air: The Metropolitan Opera's 60th season of broadcast performances will begin Saturday with Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and continue through April 22. A highlight will be the live broadcast of John Harbison's "The Great Gatsby" New Year's Day, in its world premiere production. Also noteworthy will be the first Met broadcasts of Boito's "Mefistofele" on Feb. 19 and Lehar's "The Merry Widow" on March 4. A free broadcast guide can be ordered by calling 1-800-MET-8828. Further information is on the Met's Web site, www.metopera.org. The broadcasts are carried in Washington by WGMS-FM 103.5 and in Baltimore by WBJC 91.5.