By Matesic aka Steve Jones
I’m conscious of having contributed a disproportionate number of recordings to IMSLP lately (disproportionate to my musical ability, that is). Definitely not “performances”, because there’s only one player involved and the “cello” is a really a viola in digital drag, these are intended to be realizations in sound of just a few of the previously unrecorded scores that proliferate daily on this amazing site.
The printed notes are one thing, but how many of us are really able to “hear” scores in our head? To make matters worse, the majority of string chamber pieces are preserved not as scores (if a score was ever published) but as individual parts, calling for stupendous feats of simultaneous reading or memory. A sound picture is surely worth a thousand blobs on the page. Having got my head round the basics of the Audacity program and learnt how to play the viola in a variety of clefs (just the one for the violin), I couldn’t resist the temptation to “realize” some of the pieces that seemed to have little or no chance of performance, let alone recording, by professional musicians.
It’s a time-consuming business (Wilm’s nonet was something of an epic), but what astonishes me is how few of the pieces I’ve tried have ultimately struck me as not worth the effort. My top recommendations have to be the string quartets by Maximilian Steinberg (classmate of Stravinsky) and Alexis de Castillon. Amongst my countrymen I feel I should give a special plug to Henry Rowley Bishop, John Lodge Ellerton and George Alexander Macfarren, but the man who stimulates the most affection is the even more obscure Percy Hilder Miles, whose composing career seems to have stuttered and slowly died after he failed to win the hand of his pupil, Rebecca Clarke. If only he’d managed to complete his cello concerto in time for the 1908 Proms…
Encouraged by certain of your editorial brethren (Eric, please stand up), my target for 2011 is to record and upload a “new” piece every week. For goodness sake don’t expect immaculate performances – just something that will give interested parties an impression of what the piece sounds like, hopefully without too many wrong notes and “train-crash” noises. There must be others out there who could do a similar thing for different sectors of the repertoire. Go on!