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Music In And On The Air - Clara Rockmore. Therimin

Rockmore,Clara / Reisenberg / Friedman
Release Date: 01/31/2012 
Label:  Roméo Records   Catalog #: 7286   Spars Code: DDD 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MUSIC IN AND ON THE AIR Clara Rockmore (theremin); Nadia Reisenberg (pn); Erick Friedman (vn); Barbara Stein Mallow, Bruce Rogers, Peter Rosenfeld, Diane Chaplin, Cynthia Cox, Marion Feldman, Neal lo Monaco, Janos Scholz (vc) ROMÉO 7286 (76:12) Live: New York 1/26/1979

SAINT-SAËNS Carnival of the Animals: The Swan. CASSADO Requiebros. BACH Read more Concerto in d for 2 Violins: Largo. Suite No. 3 in D: Air. RACHMANINOFF O Cease Thy Singing, Maiden Fair. FRANCK Violin Sonata in A: movements 1 & 2. BEETHOVEN Trio in C, op. 87: Adagio cantabile. VILLA-LOBOS Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5: Aria

Most classical-music lovers know the story of Clara Rockmore and the theremin, how she gave up her budding career as a violinist (she an Auer pupil) due to an injury to her bowing arm, but found an entirely new career playing Léon Theremin’s new electronic device in the late 1920s. By the early 1930s, Rockmore and the theremin were so well established and well liked by a wide listening audience that RCA even marketed theremins for home use for a brief time—certainly one of David Sarnoff’s greatest follies, simply because it turned out that most people could not play it well enough to produce music. Only Clara Rockmore could really play it, play classical music on it, and make it sound like a real instrument.

Here we have a real rarity, a full-length broadcast aired over New York’s WQXR in 1979 on Robert Sherman’s popular radio show, The Listening Room. I had moved out of the New York-New Jersey area for the wilds of Cincinnati by that time, but of course I remember Sherman’s program from its first six years on the air and liked it very much. Alas, I missed this program, and also missed hearing something I did not know, that Sherman’s mother was pianist Nadia Rosenberg, Clara Rockmore’s sister, and so therefore Rockmore was his aunt!

What puzzled me the most when I first discovered that this CD was an issue of a radio broadcast was, how did they manage to get the rights? In our modern-day, copyright-for-life, excessive-greed world, it doesn’t matter if Enrico Caruso or Eileen Farrell was your uncle or aunt or if they signed a letter saying that your family could issue their records any way you pleased for life, if you don’t get the Proper Permission your project is sunk. Sherman, who wrote the liner notes, provides a clue in that he received “a major grant from the Smart Family Foundation” in addition to contributions “from many individual friends and fans—some of them distinguished musicians themselves—which collectively made this CD possible.” Good for you, Bob! You beat the system—at least this once! Later in the booklet, Sherman also thanks Lu Friedman for permission to use the tracks with her late husband on them, and the president of the Violincello Society, whose members appear on several tracks here. (Sherman adds, regretfully, that he had to omit a couple of pieces played by the cellists without Rockmore.)

Moving on to the performances, Rockmore is evidently struggling with pitch in the first two selections, the Saint-Saëns and the Cassadó. Later in the program, she complains that holding the pitch on that particular wintry day in January was difficult for her. She is back in her best form in the performance of the Rachmaninoff song with Friedman, who also partners her for the Lento from the Bach two-violin concerto and plays, alone with Reisenberg, the first two movements of the Franck Violin Sonata in A. He is in his best form, displaying the superb technique and passionate phrasing he picked up in his lessons with Jascha Heifetz.

After intermission, Sherman announces that André Kostelanetz called to let him know he was listening to and enjoying the program. First up is a performance of the Adagio cantabile from Beethoven’s Trio in C by three members of the Violincello Society, and one of them is struggling with pitch, too. Overall, the performance is a good one, however. All of the cellos (and Rockmore) are in tune for a lovely, if far from historically approved, performance of Bach’s Air on the G String . Following this, Janos Scholz and Claus Adam explain and give a plug for their cello society for four minutes (possibly a request from the group in exchange for their permission to include the performances), then they accompany Rockmore in a very moving performance of the Aria from Villa-Lobos’s famous Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5.

The broadcast ends with Rockmore thanking everyone for their support of her, but also makes clear that Robert Moog did not repair her theremin, even though he did produce her Delos recording of 1975. Despite the occasional faults, this is a fascinating and moving recording of a truly unique broadcast experience.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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