Music News 01/13/2021



BLACK SWANS (Parnassus, $13.98) – Black Swan and Broome Records were the first Black-owned record labels, and the first to record Black artists singing classical concert music, including opera arias and spirituals, in the years 1917 – 1922. 

Black Swans is an important new collection of some of these recordings, most never reissued before. 

Artists include baritones Harry Burleigh and Edward H.S. Boatner, sopranos Florence Cole Talbert and Antoinette Garnes, pianist R Nathaniel Dett, contralto Hattie King Reavis, and violinist Clarence Cameron White. Perhaps the most famous artist of the period was tenor Roland Hayes, who produced, recorded and distributed his own records.  

NPR had a story on Black Swans in December, and the Parnassus label features a fascinating hour-long presentation on the background, and the making of this collection.  

Barry Gibb & Friends, GREENFIELDS: The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook Vol. 1 (Capitol, $14.98) – To say that the songs of the Bee Gees have been influential is an understatement. But the influence on the Gibbs Brothers  growing up in Australia of country music has not been written about much until now. With Greenfields, some of the best country and “Americana” artists pay tribute on duets with Barry Gibb, the sole surviving member of the Bee Gees. Artists on Greenfield include Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Jason Isbell, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Little Big Town, and Brandi Carlile. Aussies Keith Urban, Tommy Emmanuel and Olivia Newton-John are also featured. 

BEETHOVEN: SYMPHONIES 1 – 9 (Concertgebouw Orchestra Live, 5 CDs, $55.98) – This is another fascinating release to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, and shows the many different approaches a conductor can take with the Symphonies. Each of Beethoven’s nine Symphonies are conducted by a different conductor, all recorded live with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Nos. 1 through 9 are conducted by, respectively, David Zinman, Leonard Bernstein, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Herbert Blomstedt, Mariss Jansons, Roger Norrington, Carlos Kleiber, Philippe Herreweghe, and Antal Doráti.