(Constant Lambert - as painted by Christopher Wood - the bottle in the background was more than coincidence)
Today's Sunday Gramophone entry is the world premier recording of The Rio Grande by the early 20th century British composer/conductor Constant Lambert. The Rio Grande had its premier in 1928 and was an instant success, establishing Lambert as a composer of merit, which unfortunately was never fully realized. Lambert is probably better known now as a conductor and his works are for the most part neglected. But at the time of this recording, January 11, 1930, Lambert was riding the crest of a huge wave and even though the work was recorded again later in the 1940s, there was an air of excitement about this recording that wasn't duplicated. It features the celebrated Irish composer/conductor Sir Hamilton Harty on piano (with pretty impressive 1920s quasi-Jazz chops) and the St. Michaels Singers, all recorded in the celebrated Westminster Hall in London. Lambert would later give less regard to The Rio Grande in favor of his later works. And truthfully, its something of a curio of a specific time; the mingling of Jazz and serious concert music as spearheaded by Gershwin. The Lambert story is one of somewhat tragic proportions. A string of failures and health issues brought about by a lifelong battle with alcoholism and alcohol related Diabetes brought an early end to his life at age of 47. Despite the difficulties, Lambert was a serious composer and a well regarded conductor. And listening to this piece again reminds me that many obscurities are completely unjustified.
There haven't been any "official" reissues of this recording, and this one comes from my own 78 collection as I believe the only other CD of this is now out of print.