Friday, September 23, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 021 Stamper

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

021 Stamper

Normally, I post the image of the toy from the instruction sheet at right. For the next three posts, you'll be seing the same image. Although these are all separate toys, on the instruction sheet, the stamper (21), wind wheel (22), and the fork (23) were all jammed together. So rather than spend time Photoshopping the images, I just cropped the grouping. The toy we're focues on this time is the one at the far left.

The stamper was a simple toy to construct. The only difficult part was connecting the two dowels with the wooden collar. The handle is most secure when the collar is centered over the two dowels. Making that happen though took some trial and error. Eventually I was able to position the collar to provide support for both dowels. Eventually.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

László Lajtha Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 - A Great Start

László Lajtha, along with colleagues Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály collected folk music in his native Hungary. Their aim was to not only preserve their cultural heritage but incorporate it into their own music. Lajtha may be the least famous of the three, but his music can be just as rewarding to listen to.

Lajtha retained a neo-classic style throughout his career. His 1933 Suite for Orchestra is an intriguing mixture of lush harmonies, restless syncopations and sometimes spiky melodies. The suite is comprised of music from his ballet Lysistrata. Dynamic and dramatic contrasts abound in the score. It's a great opener -- I'm surprised the Suite isn't regularly programmed by orchestras.

The 1941 In memoriam was written to honor the victims of the Second World War. While it has a more somber cast than the Suite, the work effectively conveys the complexity of emotion war and loss can bring. There are quiet moments for contemplation and heavily chromatic passages that suggest anxiety and uncertainty. And throughout there's a slow, inexorable pulse that, like an army, keeps moving forward until, at the climax, it fades off into the distance.

The first of Lajtha's nine symphonies was completed in 1936. To my ears, it has more in common with Martinu's music than it does with Bartók's or Kodály's. There is similar syncopation that gives the themes a dancing quality, and Lajtha's use of the harp to punctuate parallels Martinu's use of the piano for the same purpose.

The influence of folk music is closer to the surface of this work. The harmonies have a modal sound to them, and the melodic turns -- especially in some of the fast passages -- sound very close to Hungarian folk dances. Lajtha studied with Vincent d'Indy, and to my ears, his influence can be heard in Lajtha's orchestrations.

László Lajtha ran afoul of Hungary's communist regime in 1956, and his music ceased to be performed. Recordings such as this should help rectify this wrong. In his native land, Lajtha is considered one Hungary's most important composers. With this release, it's easy to hear why.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
Symphony No. 1; Suite pour orchestra; In memoriam
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor
Naxos 8.573643 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Michael Haydn's Serenade

Johann Michael Haydn was the younger brother of the much more successful and famous Franz Joseph Haydn. It's not surprising that Michael's work is seldom performed. Who could compete with the father of the symphony and the string quartet?

But during their lifetimes, that fame didn't matter. Michael Haydn was able to have a successful career, and was well-thought of by his contemporaries. And it's not that his music is bad. It's really very good -- it's just that brother Franz's is great.

The 1768 Serenade in D major is one of Michael's more frequently recorded compositions (his trumpet concerto holds the record). And in this case, it's the only work on the record.

Serenades were designed for light listening, and this one is no exception. It compares favorably to those of Mozart and brother Franz; short movements with simple and appealing melodies.

Michael's Serenade showcases various instruments, adding variety and interest to the proceedings. Violin, cello, flute, horn, and trombone all get some time in the spotlight. The Virtuosi Saxoniae perform in a slightly reserved fashion appropriate to the style. This was music designed to pass the time with pleasant listening, and in that it succeeds.

I wouldn't recommend the Serenade as an introduction to Michael Haydn. If, however, you're already familiar with his work, this will make a nice addition to your collection.

Johann Michael Haydn: Serenade in D major, P.87 
Virtuosi Saxoniae; Ludwig Güttler, conductor
Capriccio Encore, C8003