We can’t thank you enough for coming to the block party and making it such an incredible event. Irene is so tired!
It’s Record Store Day!
We are proud to be one of the oldest record stores in the Twin Cities, with more than twenty-five years on East Lake Street and many more to come! This day provides us the opportunity to express to you our appreciation by presenting live music by some of the best live performers in town.
Here’s a few quick answers to questions: Yes, we have limited Record Store Day releases. We have been answering questions about which release and how many all week, but it is likely today we will not be able to answer your specific email or phone call as quickly as we usually do during the rest of the year. We open at 11am. And yes, there is usually a line. We do our best to talk with those in line about the release they’re hoping to snag, and where to find it. Also, there’s no line shortly thereafter and for the rest of the day.
Yes, we have live music all day. Details for this are below. It’s pretty awesome, we hope you’ll come by just to see these amazing people — you won’t be disappointed. Yes, there is food and drinks available at the block party. This courtesy of our incredible neighbors, Peppers & Fries. They are going to be very busy tomorrow, and we hope you will visit them again on another sunny Saturday, or any day of the week.
The one ‘no’ answer is that today would not be a good day to bring your record collection to the shop. We’d love to help you and we pride ourselves on making the process of selling records fair and transparent and maybe even a little fun, but it’s not likely to go quickly for you today because the neighborhood is going to be crowded.
Live music on two stages from 11am to 8pm!
39th Avenue stage:
Charlie Parr 11:00
Reina del Cid 12:15
The Southside Aces 1:30
Farewell Milwaukee 3:00
The Blind Shake 4:30
Black Market Brass 6:00
Mike Munson 3:00
Ben Weaver 4:40
Sabyre Rae 6:00
Thank you for supporting independent record stores, and for supporting local musicians!
It’s been one year and Prince’s estate has already become a multi-million dollar enterprise. In its most recent visit to court the estate blocked the release of Deliverance, and EP that was to be released digitally today. The reason? The estate argued that recording engineer George Ian Boxill violated his agreement “for his personal gain,” although the ‘independent label’ RMA set to release the recordings claimed the majority of its sales would benefit the estate.
Universal and Warner Music Group are in court with one another, and the estate, over ownership of Prince’s released and un-released catalog. The contents of Prince’s so-called vault of unissued music is the subject of legend, and those industry giants know there’s a fortune to be made in mining it.
For our part, we’re happy with the albums that were released, and hope to see all of them remain in print throughout the manic cash-grab. Honestly, the albums he released in his five decade career are a pretty incredible legacy without any embellishment. His records are steadily being reissued, including a series of classic 12″ singles out tomorrow for Record Store Day, but the fate of those post-Warner-era albums is uncertain. His last two albums weren’t even issued as LPs, although pricey European bootlegs with poor sound do exist.
As for his unreleased recordings, its entirely possible he intended to collect them but just as likely he kept them the same way a painter may keep his sketchbooks, that is solely for his own use. And maybe we don’t need to hear everything he chose to keep under lock and key in his studio.
All of this is before we even consider all the tell-all interviews and books, and the obsessive peering into the life of this famously private person. Its heartbreaking to see someone who had so much love being treated so poorly.
The forecast looks pretty good for this weekend, and we’re all gonna have a great time at our seventh annual Record Store Day block party! You can see a list of performers by clicking on “Events” above.
This week we have unpacked about a million boxes because the Record Store Day releases have begun to arrive. There’s a really remarkable variety this year, and its been fun to look at each as we unpack them. So far one of our favorites is a reissue of Mstislav Rostropovich’s recording of the second Shostakovich cello concerto, because its designed after the Soviet-era underground tradition of pressing bootleg records on old X-rays.
You can see the whole list of special, limited edition releases here. If there’s one you’re especially excited about, you can give us a call or send an email and we’ll be glad to let you know if we will have it in stock. The last of them should be arriving tomorrow afternoon.
On the local front we’re excited about the first ever vinyl pressing of the Marcy Playground album. Also, as a non-official Record Store Day release, Big Quarters are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their first album, The Cost of Living, with a double LP release. The Current did a great story on the release last week (here). Ever since Medium Zach brought some copies into the shop, it’s taken up a residency on our turntable!
We finished boxing up most of the free records for this Saturday’s block party, and started sneaking some gems into random boxes. This year we also cleaned out several shelves in the office and we have several boxes of CDs.
This year we’re gonna try and start putting out the records about an hour before the live music starts on 39th Avenue, so around 10 o’clock.
This week we discussed with a friend what his son’s musical taste was likely to become, growing up in a home with two musicians and others often visiting for band practice in the basement. It reminded us of Paul Witgenstein, who was destined to become a pianist, and whose determination to play led to the commission of a whole new subgenre in music for the left hand.
Witgenstein grew up in one of the wealthiest households in the world. His home in Vienna was of often visited by famous musicians, including Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler, and as a boy he played duets with Richard Strauss. What’s more is that his grandmother was the woman who had adopted Joseph Joachim, the famous violinist and friend of Brahms, and arranged for him to study piano with Felix Mendelssohn.
In December of 1913, Paul Witgenstein made his debut in Vienna’s Grosser Musikvereinsaal and received good reviews. The following summer, of course, came “the guns of August,” and at twenty-seven he was conscripted to serve in the Austrian army alongside his philosopher brother, Ludwig. In battle on the Eastern front, he was shot and lost consciousness. When he awoke as a prisoner of war, he found his right arm had been amputated.
While a prisoner in Siberia, Witgenstein “practiced” on a wooden crate with his left hand, and began to dream of ways to play his favorite music of Chopin without a right hand. He was returned to Austria by the Russians in a prisoner exchange in 1915, in part because they felt a one-armed man was not useful for forced labor.
After the War, Wittgenstein used his family’s enormous wealth to commission works from an extraordinary list of great composers, creating a collection of concerti similar to the book of variations created by Anton Diabelli which we featured in a post last month. This collection came to include works by Ravel, Britten, Richard Strauss and Prokofiev, to name just a few.
Pianist Nicholas McCarthy has a lot to say about Witgenstein and the music he commissioned, because he himself was born without a right arm. “The most poignant thing must have been to have lost his hand after such a long struggle to become a pianist,” he wrote. “Because he came from such a high society family, being an ‘entertainer’ was looked down upon.”
Wittgenstein had a bit of an attitude himself, and was even critical of several of the works he commissioned. He did not initially approve of Maurice Ravel’s employment of jazz motifs in his Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major, and to the consternation of the composer chose to perform it with his own revisions. This is a shame because the single movement concerto is one of the most interesting of Ravel’s explorations of American music, while also incorporating clever ideas from Saint Saen’s 6 Etudes por la main gauche seule.
More remarkably, Wittgenstein chose not to perform the concerto composed by Sergei Prokofiev altogether.
We are passionate fans of Prokofiev’s works, and can’t imagine simply sitting on something so lively and inventive. Wittgenstein did not, as is sometimes written, refuse to play the Piano Concerto No 4 in B-flat major, he said he would perform it when he understood it, and this just never happened. This sounds to us a lot like the notorious “Minnesota no,” which is when the booker doesn’t get back to you about your band after repeated entreaties because he doesn’t want to tell you that you suck.
Unlike Ravel, Prokofiev remained friendly with Wittgenstein. He considered adapting it as a two-hand concerto, but never found the time. Sadly, it went unperformed until Wittgenstein passed away in the early sixties. This is because he retained exclusive performance rights for the works he commissioned during his lifetime. “You don’t build a house so that someone else can live in it,” he famously explained.
For this reason many of the works Wittgenstein commissioned are not familiar, even to fans of the composers. For instance, Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote a characteristically bombastic concerto for in 1922 which has elements of his exciting film scores as well as a Wagnerian sense of tonality. It is, in many ways, our favorite of the left handed repertoire.
Wittgenstein’s exclusivity caused one of the lefty concertos to nearly go unheard. This was the concerto written by German composer Paul Hindesmith, which Wittgenstein apparently so disliked he did not keep the autograph (or original) copy. After his widows’ passing his papers became available to researches and in 2004 a copy of Hindesmith’s Opus 29 was discovered. Although it contained errors, Hindesmith’s enthusiasts were able to reconstruct his Concerto for the Left Hand from sketches and it received its long-overdue debut in Berlin.
Paul Wittgenstein lived out his late years teaching in the United States, where he’d become a citizen in 1946. In spite of his complicated relationship with some of the composers, his commissioned works and their story inspire pianists whether they have the use of one or two hands.
Another remarkable story began in 1964, when concert pianist Leon Fleisher developed a nerve condition called focal distonial, which cost him the use of his right hand in the middle of a successful career distinguished by his interpretations of Mozart and Brahms. For years he performed the left handed repertoire, until his condition was improved with the experimental use of botox. In 2004, the same year he performed the debut of the nearly-lost Hindesmith concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, Fleisher released his first album since his recovery. He titled it Two Hands.