Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Very tenuous Penderecki connection

Now that Christmas is all but over and the sale season is in full spate, I thought an advertising record should be a tasteful blog item.

Saunders Calling 
Parts 1 & 2

Christopher Stone, Ray Noble and his orchestra 
with Alan Saunders

HMV B 23  
[matrix 0B 5193-2 and 0B 5194-2]
Recorded Thursday 23rd November 1933

Mediafire download FLAC [14Mb] or MP3 [10Mb]

The company of J.J.G. Saunders & Son is now no more I fear. In its heyday the firm was the chief suppliers of building, heating, plumbing, glass and ironmongery in the Brighton, Hove and Sussex catchment area.

Ray Noble
They have however left behind a very good record. Saunders' employed one of the best dance bands The New Mayfair Orchestra under its director Ray Noble to supply the music and Christopher Stone, the first British disc jockey among may other things, to act as our host.
Christopher Stone
I believe the musicians in the orchestra at the time of the recording are as follows:

Ray Noble - director
Max Goldberg - trumpet
Alfie Noakes - trumpet
Lew Davis - trombone
Tony Thorpe - trombone
Freddy Gardner  - clarinet/alto-saxophone/baritone-saxophone
Bob Wise - clarinet/alto-saxophone/baritone-saxophone
Harry Berly - clarinet/tenor saxophone/viola
Reginald Pink - clarinet/tenor Saxophone
Eric Siday - violin
Reginald Pursglove - violin
Harry Jacobson - piano
Bert Thomas - guitar
Tiny Winters - string bass
Bill Harty - drums

The playing is really quite brilliant, this is not surprising considering that each of the musicians was very well known or even a star in their own right. Jean Pougnet is probaly the best known to classical collectors, and it is noteworthy that with Harry Berly they played Mozart Sinfonia concertante K 364 in both the 1925 and 1926 London Proms. The clever music arrangements, the incorporation of sound effects, the timing, all without the possibility of editing and then each side only a second take shows how good they really were. I would think that two takes was the limit as the deal with HMV would be something like this: Mayfair orchestra £50: use of studio for a morning and two takes each side £25 and 100 pressings for £50 total £125 – maybe Christopher Stone came free for he may well have been a friend of Alan Saunders.

The HMV 'B' plum label was mainly, but not exclusively, given over to popular repertoire and became the longest running HMV 78 series. Starting with B101 in September 1912 with a final issue B10968 in February 1958, numbers B2 to B47 were utilized for private contracts and in-house requirements. As they were not part of the usual series they had more often than not a yellow label. The present record was made at Abbey Road Studio using the Blumlein recording equipment.

Below is a rather sad photograph of all that is left of this once proud company; I would think the white building to the left was originally the showroom. Today they are up for sale with planning permission for flats so I think they will be gone fairly soon.

Saunders in Brighton
Just love the graffiti 
Ok, Ok, in case you are wondering what this connection with Penderecki is, he just happened to be born the same day this recording was cut  - I did say it was very tenuous - clearly an underhand trick to get people to look at this blog - promise to make a New Years resolution about my deceptive personality.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas 1909 with Clara & Bertie

The recent broadcast of the earliest known Christmas records by the BBC a few days back has stirred me to put something up that was Christmassy too, but more to thank  Buster's Big 10-inch Record blog for all the Christmas stuff he has managed to upload.

With love and best wishes for
A Merry Christmas
Clara [Butt] and Bertie [Kennerley Rumford, with Joy, Roy and Victor]

The Gramophone Co. Ltd 
[matrix 3793f]

Recorded Monday 1st November 1909

1 Flac , Here at Mediafire. [ 10Mb]

Clara Butt, her husband Bertie Kennerley Rumford and their three children went down to the London Studios of The Gramophone Company Ltd on the Monday 1st of November 1909 and cut two waxes. The recording ledgers as transcribed by Alan Kelly lists these as follows -

CLARA BUTT and children (VICTOR, JOY, ...)
3793f    1-11-09  03168  Private record - no title
3794f    1-11-09   Private Christmas Greetings (Private record)

The matrix 3793f was assigned an issue number 03168 whilst matrix 3794f was probably made as a backup, presumably a test pressing was also made but this being most likely rejected very likely been destroyed. By some quirk of fate the original metal part survives at Hayes for 3793f and David Mason (an indefatigable discographer, collector of spoken word recordings and board members of Historic Masters)  had a very few vinyl pressing made a number of years ago. David also happens to own an advanced copy of this disc which may well have been the copy forwarded to Clara Butt to vet before final pressing.

Until a couple of months ago we had no idea that a label was specially printed for 03168. As you can see from the illustration this label uses the same blue that was specifically designed for Clara Butt's other discs, but here altered for this special Christmas issue. I have also illustrated at the very foot of the page an example  standard Clara Butt label for this period. These records, as with most celebrity records from the Gramophone Co. stable of artists retailed at 12s 6d.

The wording on the label  'Manufactured by The Gramophone Co. Ltd. (and Sister Companies) especially for Mr. and Mrs. R. Kennerley Rumford' may point to the company taking up the manufacturing cost of this special disc as a inducement for future records. Having a label printed and the pressing  accounted for in the company books meant it had to be assigned an issue number; properly speaking this number should have been in the 04000 series as it was is a concerted record with singing, but then who really bothered to worry about such a thing then as it was a private issue not for public consumption.

The Record was made for Clara's brother Warwick Gladstone Butt and his wife Lila Millian (née Livingston). Warwick married Lila on the 28th of April 1909  and was at this time working for the Santa Fé Land Company of Argentina. The company was a among other things a major exporter of frozen beef to the UK. As my maternal grandfather was the Chief Purser of the Royal Mail Lines which did the Argentinian run I can make the thinnest of claims to a connection! 

The whole reason for the record was simply to send them a special Christmas present. The record had to be  made in time for it to be pressed and then sent to Buenos Aires then transported up the river Plate in time to be heard by Warwick & Lila for Christmas.  I would think that a tiny number of these discs would have been pressed – this copy has come my way from the estate of Bertie's niece Cicely Murray. That the record may have been via Clara Butt's own record collection is quite possible for a sample copy of another disc, the title inked in by Bertie's, happened to came together with it. Cicely Murray was proficient enough as a pianist to be asked by Clara and Bertie's to be their accompanist on tour of 1931 that encompassed India, Japan, Australia and South Africa.

What of the record - Clara speaks first, probably from a prepared script. The relative faintness of her voice may have been due to her head facing downwards to read rather than speaking directly into the recording horn. This script could account for the rather late interjection of the word 'both' as she suddenly remembered Warwick's new wife.  Bertie follows with a hearty 'What ho!' and then each of the children Joy, Roy and Victor give their party piece. 

A photograph survives of the family group that would have been taken, I think at the end of 1909 or early in 1910, roughly around the time of the recording, so we have a pretty good idea of how this well to do musical family then looked.

Clara Butt - Bertie Kennerley Rumford
Roy - Joy - Victor
7 Harley Road, Hampstead, London
Joy is the first to sing, luckily Bertie plays a D chord faintly on the  recording studio piano somewhere close by  from which I have been able to pitched the record at 80.80 rpm. This is lucky for we have here a good idea of what Clara's speaking voice was like in relation to her singing voice.

These first two songs I do not know but have transcribed what I can make out. Are they family songs, does anyone know these as I have been unable to pin them down, or indeed can you make out the missing lines?

Awaking little Venus
Wipe sleep from now your eyes,
The stars are pretty faded,
The sun is in the sky.
Look up, look up,
The cuckoo calls you up,
Cuckoo cuckoo,
The cuckoo calls you up.

Joy & Roy then do a duet, unfortunately as with Joy's solo I can't make out the first lines -

We are the..............
..... orchard we'll be round,
But when the golden autumn comes,
They'll bring you apples, pears, and plums.

Victor then give his own  rendition of Harry Lauder's song, I have transcribed it as Victor sings it -

I love a lassie, a bonnie bonnie lassie, 
She's as sweet as a lily in the dell, 
She's as sweet as the heather, the bonnie purple heather, 
Mary, my Scots bluebell.

Of the children, who give their all in this recording, I have some short biographical details. Joy Clara Kennerley Rumford (1901-1976)  married Major Claude Harold Cross (1882-1944) in 1928 but I don't think they had any children; Roy Kennerley Rumford (1904-1923) had a promising career as a cricketer but died young from meningitis; and Victor Ian Kennerley Rumford (1906-1934) emigrated to Salisbury, Rhodesia in 1920s to make his living in farming, he sadly took his own life in 1934.

Label from October-December 1909

Saturday, 8 December 2012

'An adjunct to any collection'

August Klughardt
Quintet in C, Op. 79 (1901)
for bassoon, clarinet, flute, horn, and oboe

1. Allegro non troppo 2. Scherzo
3. Andante 4. Adagio-Allegro-Vivace.

Gewandhaus Wind Quintet (Bläser-Quintet), Leipzig

Polydor 65796 & 65797 
(1272as, 1273as, 1274as, 1275as)
(recorded June /July 1923)

1 Flac , Here at Mediafire. [about 43Mb]

Klughardt is hardly today a household name, his fame as a composer, such as it is, seems to have dissipated soon after he died in 1902. Only the Festival Overture, Op 54 has ever been performed at a London Proms, and that was back in 1901. The Wind Quintet has been resurrected once in a while and but I have been unable to find a public performance in the UK at all during 20th century with the only one broadcast performance in 1997, from a recording, at 2 o'clock in the morning on BBC Radio 3.

This was the first recording made, or at least the one first issued by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Wind Quintet. Whatever possessed them to record Klughard's Quintet I can't imagine, I can only think that it was a popular piece with the LGWQ and probably they liked performing it. DGG thought it was worth issuing but did not think to re-record the work when electrical recording came in. As the sides on this copy bear marks for first and second stampers I would guess that few copies were pressed either in Germany or for export, as here, with the Polydor label - possibly the records are quite uncommon anyway as this is the only copy that has come my way or indeed I have seen.

The biography of Klughardt on Wikipedia neatly sums up the composers career as 'a rather conservative composer in spite of his interest in more modern tendencies.'

The musicologist and historian Wilhelm Altmann writing in Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music gives his succinct estimation of the composition: 'The Wind Quintet Op. 79 should be of special interest to wind societies. The individual instruments are handled with admiral skill, the possibilities of the clarinet and horn, in particular, being well realized. The musical side of the work is also admirable and perfectly clear. Yet again one looks in vain for broad, original ideas which would make a lasting impression; in all four movements the music is of the agreeable, entertaining order. The composer's natural humour shows itself in the first movement, in the scherzo-like allegro vivace, and the still more in the rapid last movement which is preceded by a short introductory adagio. The tastefully conceived andante grazioso – a minuet in fact, though not so entitled – may be regarded as the most effective movement. It is not quite fair to neglect Klughard, even though he seems a dwarf in stature when compared to Brahms.'

Each movement in this recording forms a single side, the first movement, being the longest has had the centre section lopped out of it, but the flow of the music for all that does not seem too disfigured.

I cannot think that the issue on Polydor sold too well in the UK, for in reviewing the first batch of Polydor discs Compton Mackenzie [Gramophone, October 1925 p. 221] pulls no punches: 'There are a couple of good records of Klughardt for a wind quintet, if you like quintets; personally I hate them.'

The next month in the column headed Trade Winds and Idle Zephyrs a more upbeat assessment is reported from a correspondent 'Dr Francis Mead draws special attention to 65796-7, quintet for flute, oboe, horn and bassoon, by Klughardt - “an adjunct to any collection”' [Gramophone, November 1925 p. 281.] In the following year a Mr G.A. Tomlinson of the Richmond and District Gramophone Society played the records as part of a programme slotting the Klughardt between Purcell's Golden Sonata and the Forging Song from Wagner's Siegfried. [Gramophone, July 1926 p. 71].

No mention of this work or any other recording of any piece by Klughardt appears on 78. The advent of LP however had two versions issued at about the same time by the Chicago Symphony Woodwind Quintet [Audiophile AP 14] and the New Art Wind Quintet [Classic Edition CE 2020]. It was not until the late LP era that the work started to hit it's stride, but even then reviews are sparse and none has ever appeared in The Gramophone, tut tut.

I have rather sparse information of the performers such as it is is tabulated below.

Gunther Weigelt (no dates obtained) bassoon.
Willi Schreninicke (1893?-1979) clarinet. The first clarinetist of Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1918.
Carl Bartuzat (1882-1959) flute. A pupil of Maximilian Schwedler performed with the Theatre Orchestra of Leipzig and was one of several principle flautists of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra between 1918 and 1951.
Richard Schaller (no dates obtained) horn. Performed as third horn with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1911 to 1951.
Walter Heinze ( no dates obtained) oboe.

Leipzig Gewandhaus 1900

Sunday, 23 September 2012

One Thousand and One Nights

Eduard Mörike (1878-1929) was a house conductors of the Parlophon of Berlin, itself part of the Carl Lindström A.G. group of companies in Germany. In the early 1920s, together with HMV, Columbia and DGA/Polydor they began to record, and compete, with more or less complete recordings of orchestral works. Parlophone was the only company to attempt a fairly complete version of Scheherazade during the acoustic recording period. This is not at all surprising as the music was then quite exotic and the purchase of 5 records, even at 4s 6d each [£1 2s 6d], was then quite an outlay. I have had little luck in finding a portrait of Mörike and that below is but a third generation copy and the best I can do I'm afraid.

Eduard Mörike
I have transcribed two articles from the Gramophone magazine. The first from September 1925  has a biography of the conductor, a grading of his recordings and also describes the faults common to Parlophone acoustic recordings - 'The chief flaw in these records is that in forte passages the deeper toned instruments, including the 'cellos and double basses, sound muffled and "woolly."' - I have, I hope solved this problem but it still leaves a certain amount of noise behind for the muffled sound is just the shear volume of noise directed down the recording horn. The recording diaphragm nor the record player could really cope with this, there is inevitably record wear common to these passages.

The second article I have transcribed is the review from the February 1925 issue. This is a very detailed review, possible beacause the music was  new to most record collectors. It very helpfully also identifies the cuts made in this performance. The cut between the two sides that form the Part II is too great to make any attempt at a join. The other sides can be joined together and still make musical sense - Part IV is the only uncut section of music.

Mörike having died at 51 has caused him to disappear in large degree from general consciousness, very few of his recordings have ever been reissued and most of his acoustic records, by far the largest corpus of his recording career, have yet to see the light of day since there original issue. I have no proof for this but the concertmaster of the orchestra at this period was Rudolf Deman (1880-1960), later to found and lead the Deman String Quartet,  he may well be the solo violinist heard throughout the recording.

As performances go this one is exciting, with a reduced orchestra size, unimaginably difficult studio conditions, transpositions to brass instruments I can forgive the odd lapse of concentration, the passages that go awry, and a certain 'lost' feeling in places, despite all this its a real piece of music-making that grows on me from repeated listening.

 Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
Orchester, Staats-Theater Opernhaus, Berlin
Conducted by Eduard Mörike
Parlophone E10227- E10231

Part I: [2-6818, 2-6819 & 2-6820, Saturday 12th  April 1924]
Part II: [2-6846 & 2-6847,  Wednesday 30th April 1924]
Part III: [2-6821 & 2-6822,  Saturday 12th April 1924]
Part IV: [2-6843, 2-6844 & 2-6845, Wednesday 30th April 1924]

4 Flac files in a .rar file, Here at Mediafire. [about 82Mb]

Gramophone Celebrities XIII. - Eduard Mörike By W. A. Chislett

Mörike (or Moerike), which was a comparatively unknown name in England less than two years ago, has now become almost a household word in gramophone circles.

Herr Eduard Mörike was born in Stuttgart on August 16th, 1878, and comes of old South German stock, being one of the eight sons of a successful merchant and the great-nephew of his namesake the lyric poet. His mother was an enthusiastic lover of music and it was from her that he received his first lessons. When he was ten years of age the family moved to Leipzig, where he attended the High School. Up to the age of sixteen the career that had been mapped out for him was that of medicine, but as at that age he already showed unmistakable talent he was induced by Felix von Weingartner to devote himself to music. He continued his education at the Leipzig High School for some time and then entered the Conservatoire in the same city, where he studied the piano under Adolph Ruthárdt, the organ under Homeyer, the violin under Hans Sitt, and composition under Hofmann, the then most renowned teacher in Germany. Originally Ruthardt had planned for him a career as a piano virtuoso, but, following his own inclinations, the youth devoted all the time he could spare to the study of conducting, both orchestral and operatic.

At the age of nineteen he was awarded a Schumann composition prize for a piano concerto in A minor, and shortly after this became a private pupil of Silotti. The call of the theatre was still strong, however, and, on the opportunity occurring, he accompanied Ernst Kraus, the singer, on a visit to America, where he was engaged as a soloist at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, under the direction of Walter Damrosch.

After a period in America the student returned to Germany more strongly attracted to the theatre than ever, and soon secured an engagement as second conductor at the Stadt Theatre Rostock, and later, at the early age of twenty-four, was appointed chief conductor at Kiel. While holding the latter appointment, in 1906, he was honoured by being called to assist in the great celebrations at Bayreuth. His next permanent post was at Halle/Saale, where in addition to the opera he took over the direction of the symphony concerts. In the summer of 1907, while still at Halle, Herr Mörike received a personal invitation from Richard Strauss to conduct the rehearsals of the German operas to be given at the Paris Opera House. This invitation was gladly accepted and the visit to Paris ultimately extended over two mouths, for, in addition to taking charge of the rehearsals, he was called upon to conduct several performances of Salome and other operas during the season. At about this time he also directed the famous Wagner festivals at Halberstadt and at Lauchstadt.
In 1912 Herr Mörike received the appointment of principal conductor of the Deutches Opernhaus, Berlin, which post he held for twelve years, being responsible mostly for the production of Wagnerian works, including the first performance in Berlin of Parsifal on January 1st, 1924. He revisited America in 1922 and again in 1923, on each occasion as the general musical director of the Wagner Opera Company, which toured all the principal towns in Northern America.

Since 1924 he has been the conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Dresden - devoting himself entirely to concert work - and is now also the director of the Dresden Academy of Singing.

Herr Mörike has had a wide experience of conducting music of all schools, but his records of the works of Wagner and Strauss are the most valuable, for though all his interpretations are thoughtful and full of vitality, these, in addition, bear the hallmark of authority, and the Parlophone Company have done us good service by including so many of these works in the records issued.

These records have the virtues and faults common to all Parlophone orchestral records. The tone is full and forward, but inclined at times to be rather rough. Although this is doubtless largely the fault of the recording, it may also be partly due to the fact that the tone of the reeds in continental orchestras frequently is more pungent than that to which we are accustomed, and, I believe, that the brass tone, particularly that of the trumpets, is not quite so refined and suave as that of the best English orchestras. The chief flaw in these records is that in forte passages the deeper toned instruments, including the 'cellos and double basses, sound muffled and "woolly." This defect can be overcome partially by the use of suitable needles.

I know of no records which respond more to care in the choice of needles. It is, of course, impossible to lay down any hard-and-fast rules, for not only do the records themselves vary considerably, but machines also differ. I have found that a Columbia medium needle not pushed quite home into a Jewel sound-box with a Nom-y-ka diaphragm an ideal combination for most of these records. Splendid results can be obtained also from doped fibres after the record has been got into good condition by the judicious use of fine steel needles or otherwise ; fibres, however, are not a great success until this condition is obtained, as the material of which the records are made wears all needles very rapidly.

In grading these records I have had to adopt a somewhat different system from that used previously by other contributors. Comparisons are apt to be invidious, but when it is appreciated that much of the music recorded by Herr Mörike for the Parlophone Company has also been issued by other companies, they must be made when necessary. Grade I. only includes really first-class records, and it can be assumed safely that any Record in this grade is at least as good as, if not better than, any other record issued of the same music quite irrespective of price. Grade II. contains a large proportion of records which would have been in Grade I. but for comparatively slight flaws ; the most frequent fault being that occasional indistinctness of tone in heavy passages. Records in this oracle are well worth buying, and most of them will ''bear comparison with similar records issued by other companies, particularly when price is a factor to be considered.

The most successful complete recording is Ein Heldenleben, which is a magnificent piece of work. It is not absolutely without a fault throughout, but I am afraid it will be a long time before we get a work scored for such a large orchestra and which occupies ten sides recorded without a single fault.

Les Preludes and Scheherazade both contain records which considered individually might be placed in Grade I., but the works as a whole just fail to reach that standard. The last movement is my own favourite bit of Scheherazade, and this is really splendid. It is better than the Columbia version which is not too well recorded in places and which annoys me every time I either see or play it because of the absurd waste of space; why it was ever made to spin out to four sides I cannot conceive, as it can be got on to three easily and, moreover, with equally, if not more, convenient places for the divisions. The first movement of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, considered purely from the recording point of view, is worthy of a place in Grade I., but I have relegated it to Grade II. because of the disfigurement occasioned by a huge cut. Other records which only just miss being placed higher are Don Juan and the Overture and Sailors' Chorus from The Flying Dutchman. In the Overture the tympani are heard better than in any record I know, the pitch being easily distinguishable; the horns, however, are overpowering in some places.

The Ballet Music from Aida is issued twice, but both, records seem to be pressed from the same matrix. In No. E.10288 the reverse is occupied by the Introduction to the same opera, which is beautifully played and recorded, while in No. E.10055, we find on the reverse the Vale des Fleurs from Tchaikovsky's Casse Noisette Suite, which is a thoroughly bad record.

I am very sorry to have to relegate Beethoven's Seventh Symphony to Grade III., but it is not a good specimen of recording. The best that I can say is that the Columbia records of this symphony would be in the same grade and cost 15s. more! The reason for the lowly positions of the three excerpts from Wagner's Ring is the old trouble of muffled tone again, though it is only fair to say that Siegfried's Funeral March would have been a candidate for Grade I. had the first side been as good as the second.

Aida - Introduction (Verdi).
Fin Heldenleben (Strauss).
Lohengrin - Prelude (Wagner).
Parsifal Introduction and Good Friday Music (Wagner).
Rienzi - Overture and March of the Warriors (Wagner).
Tannhauser - Overture (Wagner).
Tannheiuser's Pilgrimage to Rome (Wagner). Tod und Verkleirung (Strauss).

Aida - Ballet Music (Verdi).
Don Juan (Strauss).
Fingal's Cave Overture (Mendelssohn).
The Flying Dutchman - Overture and Sailors' Chorus (Wagner).
The Magic Flute - Overture (Mozart).
The Merry Wives of Windsor - Overture (Nicolai).
The Marriage of Figaro - Overture (Mozart).
The Midsummer Night's Dream - Overture and Scherzo (Mendelssohn).
Oberon - Overture (Weber).
Pagliacci - Selection (Leoncavallo).
Les Preludes (Liszt).
Saint Elizabeth - Crusaders' March (Liszt).
Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov).
Siegfried - Forest Murmurs (Wagner).
Slavonic Dances Nos. 6 and 8 (Dvorak).
Symphony No. 6, 1st Movement (Beethoven).
Symphony No.8 (Unfinished) (Schubert).
Tristan and Isolde - Liebestod (Wagner).

Götterdammerung - Siegfried's Funeral March (Wagner).
Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven).
Symphony No. 8 - Allegretto (Beethoven).
The Valkyrie - Wotan's Farewell and Fire Music (Wagner).

Casse Noisette Suite - Valse des Fleues (Tchaikovsky).
Lohengrin - Introduction to Act III. and Bridal Chorus (Wagner).
The Rhinegold - Entry of the Gods into Valhalla (Wagner).

Many of the Parlophone records are pressed from old German matrices, and as I have a number of records purchased in Germany before the English company was formed I have been able to compare the two issues. The English records are pressed from a material which gives a better surface, but apart from that I do not think they are quite as good as the German ones. The general impression left after hearing all these records is that though many of them are really excellent many more would have been equally good had a little more care been exercised in both recording and pressing. The general standard has improved considerably during the last few months, and I am hopeful that this improvement will continue and that we shall be given more fine records of the music upon which Herr Mörike is such an acknowledged authority.

SCHEHERAZADE PARLOPHONE. - E.10227, 10228, 10229, 10230, 10231 (12in., 4s. 6d. each).-The Opera House Orchestra conducted by Ed. Moerike : Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov). (Min. score, Belaieff - G. and T.).

This great Russian master of orchestration gives us all sorts of coloured delights in the Scheherazade Suite, even though (after the Russian manner, with all the Russian limitation of outlook and weakness in practice) he is little concerned with the development of themes, here or anywhere else in his music. His treatment, of course, suits this particular subject well. His suite is a kind of suggestion, rather than illustration, of certain pages in the Arabian Nights'. The suite is entitled after the wily wife of Sultan Schahriar, who beguiled him with tales into continually postponing, and at last renouncing, his intention of putting her to death" to-morrow." The composer did not envisage the ballet accompaniment to the music, with which Londoners are fairly familiar. The suite has as poetic basis the story of Sinbad the Sailor, various phases of which are suggested in the four movements.

The sea and Sinbad's vessel are in view. One can feel here the slow surge and constant motion of the sea. (It is interesting to remember that Rimsky-Korsakov adopted as his first profession the navy).
Part 1 - After a few loud chords, a solo violin improvises, to the harp. Soon comes a tune, on violins and wood-wind, calm, but with a decisive little two-note figure at its tail, the two chords being echoed. The lower strings make an arpeggio background. The first side ends with an interlude of wood-wind chords, to soft plucked string accompaniment. There is a cut from here (page 13, bar 5, of the miniature score) to page 15, bar 2.
Part 2. - A little ingratiating theme, developed from the violin's improvisatory bit at the commencement, starts, with clarinet echoes. Then comes fuller orchestration of the first chief theme of Part 1, the wood-wind taking up the arpeggios, the horns having sustained descending chords, and repeating their little pattern many times. The development is in the orchestral colouring, not in the theme, which cannot be said to grow much. The side ends with clarinet and flute winding downwards, against six solo violins moving in chords in the contrary direction - one of those charming yet simple effects that Rimsky-Korsakov was so skilful in devising.
Part 3. - Clarinet, oboe, and 'cello have little solos, with plucked string background. The solo violin again has the winding, improvising theme, which is answered in snatches by delicate wood-wind. Then comes a period of greater animation - the working up by pattern-repetition of part of the material already heard, wood-wind trills going on continuously. This soon dies down, and a melancholy flute takes up the strain, with clarinet supporting in arpeggios. So the movement comes to its pianissimo close.

Here the composer had in mind the story of the Calender Prince - the king's son who went about as a wandering monk, seeking adventure.
Part 1. - The little extemporisation that opened Part 1 is heard again - linking up the tales, so to speak. (A bar of cadenza is omitted.) The bassoon starts a languid, five-bar-long dance tune, on a drone bass. This is directed to be played capriciously, in a manner resembling the delivery of recitative. It is a little stodgily played here. The tune soon livens up, as it is passed to oboe, and later to strings, with a plucked accompaniment. It is frequently held up while the improvisatory little tune, weaving round a few notes, muses for a moment. After a cut from the end of the top lino on page 55 to page 60, we hear a rapid plucking accompaniment on the strings, over which the clarinet plays a free version of the interjectory theme. There is then a considerable cut, to page 76, bar 4, where begins -
Part 2. - The lively march-like tune, played by trombone and bassoon, is four bars long, and is answered by a wood-wind phrase only three bars long - one of the effective means of variety in rhythm that the composer uses. This theme is broken in upon by the bassoon, with the plucked strings fretting below - the effect we noticed at the end of Part 1, when the clarinet then held the stage with similar matter. Then the dance tune, brisker than at the opening of the movement, returns. There is another cut (page 98, bar 4, to last bar of page 102), and after the lower strings have uttered a complaint the movement grows still more vivid in the last few pages.

This concerns The Young Prince and Princess - a love affair, needless to say.
Part 1. - Here is mildly romantic music, bearing less resemblance to real Eastern music than anything else in the suite. But Rimsky-Korsakov's peculiar brand of Orientalism is well worth savouring, though it be no more authentic than most such decoctions. His chief theme here might have done just as well for any salon piece, without its wood-wind skirls. The strings have the first statement of the tune, the oboe and 'cello the second. (There is then a cut, pages 112 to 117.) Now comes a new clarinet theme, with a drum-tap accompaniment. This lasts for the remainder of the side, after which a cut is made, from page 127, bar 1, to page 133, bar 2.
Part 2. - Again the slow, romantic tune, the solo violin's improvisatory passage breaking in soon. This is followed by a cadenza, over which the wood-wind has its old theme. A more impassioned moment, for full orchestra, follows, and the horn has a very lovely passage. There is a cut from page 143, bar 3, to the last bar of page 146, and a few bars of quicker, lilting music bring the movement to an end.

The Festival at Baghdad comes into this, besides the Sea, the Shipwreck, and then the conclusion of the story.
Part 1. - A fierce opening (the first few bars of the suite quickened up). The solo violin again has that cadenza that runs like a thread through the whole texture; but now it is in double and triple notes - chords. After more excitement and a repetition of the cadenza, the violas, with tambourine and horn marking the bars, announce a rhythmic figure that can be taken either as two in a bar or three. This is the liveliest lilt we have yet heard in the suite. The flute announces a jaunty tune that only moves over a few notes. The orchestration becomes increasingly brilliant. Up to now we have felt two beats in the bar. Now, with a snatch of new tune, comes a change to three ; and soon we are back at two, with scurrying triplets in strings and wood-wind. A third theme is given out, more gently, by the latter; this flows along lightly, in contrast to those which preceded it.
Part 2. - The various snatches of tune continue, in this and the last part, to be bandied about in the most infectiously exciting rhythms, which the composer agitates still more as we near the end. The opening rhythm of this movement, for example, advances from five notes in each bar to seven, in which form, with its swing of two in the bar, it is pumped out by the flutes and strings, very high up, against the more languid tune, in threes, played by the rest of the orchestra.
Part 3. - Soon, to a skirling accompaniment in the heights, the first theme of the first movement comes, on the brass, dominating the scene with dignity and reminding one a little of the end of the Tannhauser Overture, in this respect - though, of course, widely different in suggestion. The excitement subsides, and after a solemn chord on the horns the wood-wind lets down the tension with the ascending passage we noted at the end of Part 2 in the first movement. The solo violin interjects yet another reminder of its opening improvisation, ending on a very high harmonic. A few more calm chords, and the violin climbs into the empyrean and the music ceases.
Throughout this very taxing music the playing is eminently clear, resourceful, and full-bodied. Perhaps one does not want too many suites made up after the manner of this, but an occasional turn of Scheherazade is refreshing exceedingly. K. K.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Dual Alliance

The Dual Alliance, I here you ask what is he on about, was a defensive alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary, which was created by treaty on October 7, 1879 as part of Bismarck's system of alliances to prevent/limit war, sort of fell apart in 1918 but this  last throw of the dice did produced some good recordings - also the Austrian Schubert and the Hungarian Liszt was a dual alliance of sorts - history lesson over, phew.

Satyr at 78 toeren klassiek has made available a whole shelf of electrical recording under Leo Blech so this earlier acoustic recording is really dedicated to his hard work.

Schubert-Liszt:  Ungarischer Marsch
(From Divertissement a l'hongrois D. 818)

Kapelle des Staats-Theater Opernhaus, Berlin
Conducted by Leo Blech

DGA 69554 [040938/9] 
[1165m & 1166m]

1 Flac  file HERE at Mediafire. [about 17Mb].

Liszt's piano arrangement is more readily recorded and performed than this orchestral version. Leo Blech recorded it both acoustically and electrically the latter version must have been abbreviated as it was reduced to one side as a filler on HMV D 1987.

During the dark days of the First World War  Kapelle das Stadst-Theaters Opernhaus under Leo Blech recorded quite a number of compositions of German, Austrian, Hungarian and Czech composers, just as in Britain, British compositions started to be recorded, most notably the start of the relationship between Elgar and the gramophone

The 'royal' was no longer appropriate after the collapse of the German Empire in 1918, the Opera was renamed Staatsoper Unter den Linden and the Königliche Kapelle became Kapelle der Staatsoper. Whatever name it chose to call itself we today know it as the Staatsoper Unter den Linden or Berlin Opera House orchestra today.

Although this has nothing to do with the music the orchestra or Blech  I will bore you for a minute on briefly outline how these records entered the UK. In 1914 The Gramophone Co. Ltd lost control Deutsche Grammophon Aktiengesellschaft [DGA] when it was seized as enemy property and sold by the German government to Polyphon who subsequently developed as an  independent entity. The Gramophone Co. Ltd also lost the use of the HMV trade mark's use in Germany to Polyphon and although the Versailles Treaty allowed the return of all matrices recorded before the outbreak of war everything recorded subsequently by DGA remained with the German company.  This record was pressed during that interregnum period after armistice but before the  final arbitration ruling on 22 July 1924 up until which time Germany continued  export with the HMV Trademark to countries that had been neutral during the war. After the a courts ruling records appeared for export under the Polydor label created specifically for this purpose.

Surprising anything actually got recorded, pressed and marketed in those confusing times; normally this record should have had the trade mark overlaid to hid the dog and gramophone. One example I have has it scratched out with a knife!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Something Festive

With the Olympics going on but a few miles away from me to the north and the Proms to the west I though some musical offering was in order especially as there was once in the distance past Olympic medalists for Art competitions - more on that here. 

Debussy:  Nocturnes - No. 2  Fêtes 

Royal Albert Hall Orchestra cond. by Landon Ronald
HMV D 1000
[Cc 5863-III & Cc5684-II]
Recorded Tuesday, 10th March 1925
One Flac file, HERE at Mediafire. [about 16Mb]

One of the last acoustic orchestral recordings made by HMV the Debussy recording got decent reviews in its day, but I can't see the disc having been reissued on LP or CD. 

 (Alec Robertson 'N.P.' The Gramophone, July 1925 ) 'Debussy's Three Nocturnes (Nuages -  Fêtes - Sirines), composed in 1899, were played by the Queen's Hall Orchestra with the composer conducting at a concert of his works in February, 1909. Fêtes was encored, together with the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune it is a most attractively scored work and has recorded exceptionally well - as anyone might have prophesied - but-, as is so often the case in Debussy's music, the composer is apt to repeat one rhythmic figure ad nauseam; a trick he probably learnt from the Russians. The gradual crescendo to a climax that the march reaches comes out finely. There are many delightful touches of colour, such as those afforded by the harps and drums and the muted trumpets. The title of the movement sufficiently indicates its programme, which may be supplemented by individual fancy.'

 (Discus in Musical Times, August 1925) 'Debussy's 'Fetes' (No. 2 of Three Nocturnes) makes a brilliant record. I know of few, if any, better in regard to vivid tone, colouring, and clarity of texture. It is a happy thought to record 'Fêtes ,' for gramophonists appear to have little of this side of Debussy-a side that records better (and wears better) than his more elusive (I had almost said invertebrate) essays. The performance of 'Fêtes ' is by the Albert Hall Orchestra, conducted by Sir Landon Ronald.'

Landon Ronald and the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra attempted to record the first side of Fêtes in on the 8th September 1922, the same day as the re-recording of  Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune  that was made to silently replaced the 1911 and 1916 version on HMV D 130. An attempt of making a recording of the first side of  Nuages was made 4th September 1923 so there may have been and idea to record the work complete. They where back in the Studio on the 10th March 1925 and this time managed the two side which were to be successfully issued in time for the July 1925 HMV Supplement. The recording was to last in the British catalogue until March 1930 even though the version of the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski had been issued in September 1928 on HMV E 507. Considering the Acoustic 12 inch D 1000 cost 6s 6d and the 10 inch E 507  

Page from HMV Supplement July 1925 

The name 'The Royal Albert Hall Orchestra' [RAHO] began life in 1915. - The orchestra was really the same as the New Symphony Orchestra that was formed by John Saunders, concertmaster; Eli Hudson, flutist, and Charles Draper, clarinet. Edward Howard-Jones conducted their first concert and in 1906 Thomas Beecham became conductor, Beecham fell out with the orchestra as many of its members did not want to tour in the north of England - this was due to poor wages and most of the orchestral members also playing in the London theater orchestras to make ends meet. In 1907 Landon Ronald conducted the orchestra and was appointed permanent conductor in 1909 with a series of concerts at the Queen's Hall which ran to 1914. When the orchestra started to play at the Royal Albert Hall it changed its name for these concerts to the RAHO and from 1920 the orchestra used the RAHO name wherever it performed. However  C.B. Cochran, the general manager of the Royal Albert Hall put a stop to this and forced Landon Ronald to drop the RAHO name in 1929 when the orchestra became for a while known as the 'Orchestra formally known as the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra.' With the advent of the BBC and London Philharmonic Orchestras the RAHO was doomed and finally expired soon after Landon Ronald death in 1938.

Jon Tolansky make some interesting comparisons between recorded versions of this work in his article Performance Research and Conservation: Its Historical and Comparative Study, The Musical Times, Vol. 128, No. 1727 (Jan., 1987), pp. 21-23. 'We can hear on commercial recordings how some styles, and maybe even habits of orchestral playing and vocal performance, have changed in certain countries during the century. An interesting example may be found by listening to several recordings of 'Fetes' from Debussy's Nocturnes. In the middle section, in 2/4 and marked 'Modéré', Debussy portrays a distant brass band, in the open air, gradually drawing nearer to mingle with the sparkling brilliance of the carnival. After a barely audible suggestion of faraway marching drums, there is a magical moment when faint muted trumpets are heard, entering after a dotted-quaver rest, on the first beat of their bar. In the recordings made by Sir Landon Ronald and the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra (1924), Gabriel Pierné and the Colonne Concerts Orchestra (1930) and Piero Coppola and the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra (1935) the trumpets enter after nearly a double- dotted-quaver rest. On all the later recordings I have heard, including those by Pierre Monteux, who was nevertheless one of the first to conduct the Nocturnes, the trumpets enter after exactly a dotted quaver as written. Although Debussy never heard Pierné's recording, he is reputed to have expressed satisfaction at his interpretation.'

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Something from the Seaside

Something about the weather here in the UK that is making me long for the sunny seaside, the band playing, ice cream, sea washing across the pebbles, gently nodding off in a deck chair - bliss. 

Gustav Holst
Marching Song from Two songs without words 
Op. 22/2  [H. 88/2], 1906

Julius Harrison
 A Song of Adoration - Romance, 1930

Hastings Municipal Orchestra
Conducted by Julius Harrison 

Decca K 602
[KA1-4 & KA2-4]
Recorded: Saturday 14th February 1931

2 Flac files in a .rar file, Here at Mediafire. [about 21Mb]

Hastings, White Rock Pavilion
Issued in time for the November 1931 issue of the gramophone the reviewer clearly enjoyed the recording:

'This orchestra develops and records well, under its new conductor. Its force is not large—about 35, I believe—and it makes a very good show. Holst's piece is not very often heard. It is one of the pair in op. 22 (1906), and contains a first-rate humable tune, well bound with honest British wrapping. The conductor's own song is a sensitive addition to the store of good light pieces, which we should be grateful to hear oftener. This composer's suite of Worcestershire Pieces would make a capital recording item, and so would his Widdicombe Fair humoresque for quartet. We are apt to forget how many good British writers remain unrecorded.'

I think there is enough information on the web about both Holst and Harrison so I won't add to it here but stick to the recordings. 

Gustav Holst
The sides are somewhat over recorded, and acoustics in the pavilion for an orchestral group of 35 is quite reverberant. The pressing material that Decca used  hasn't helped with the dub but so I have left quite a lot of hiss in. The Matrix number are the first of a brief series which began in 1931 and seem to have been designated for recordings outside London. The 10 and 12 inch matrices were consecutively numbered  with the letter suffix KA for 12 inch and KB for 10 inch recordings.  These two sides were first recorded on Thursday, 8th January 1931. I think the first takes would have been tests for acoustics of the building as only 3 sides were cut that day. The recording engineers turned up again on Thursday, 12th February 1931 to do a run of 30 sides over two days. Being take -4 I think these two side may have been cut on Saturday, 14th February 1931. The Take numbers read KA1-4C and KA1-4C – I do not know what the 'C' suffix actually means as I have also seen DJ, AJ, AX, AXX, AXXX, and can only think they must be to do with the equipment used or the recording engineer, anyone out there know how to decode this? 

Julius Harrison
One other thing is the title of the Harrison piece is given as A Song of Adoration - Romance on the published score nut somehow got reversed on the label, maybe the Decca people thought it would be more marketable.