Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Not another Leonora No 3 - I need to get a life

Probably a bit cheeky of me putting up yet another version of Beethoven's Leonora No. 3 but as it may well be the first attempt at an extended piece of Beethoven,  in anything like a complete version, I think it needs an outing.

Beethoven : Leonora Overture No.3, Op.72b. 
H.M. Band of the Coldstream Guards  
conducted by John Mackenzie-Rogan 
G&T GC 2-262, 2-264, 2-265, 2-266
[6881e, 6882e, 6883e, 6884e]
Recorded: Nov/Dec 1907 

John Mackenzie-Rogan and the Coldstream Guards recorded extensively for the Gramophone & Typewriter Co. and later HMV.  Most of the output were marches popular hits and arrangements - true deckchair and bandstand stuff - that usually fitted onto one sided records but here the work had to be accommodated on four 10 inch sides.

The recordings are a bit of an oddity as who exactly was the intended audience - was G&T trying to break into the high brow market, but then would any self respecting person with 'musical taste' a) buy a band arrangement and b) even own a gramophone. The records in the UK were never doubled or indeed re-issued on the cheaper HMV 'B' & 'C' series that most band music was moved to from 1912. Real orchestral work remained on Black Label single-sided issues until 1918, that is they still cost real money.

I believe the records were withdrawn soon after the three NSO/Ronald discs had been issued so some demarcation lines were being drawn. The Gramophone Company was not about to keep records in the catalogues which either failed to attract an audience or failed to sell. Further, the price of these four discs came out at 5s each, while the three NSO Landon Ronald discs were 7s 6d each, so a band performance would set you back £1 and the orchestral version £1 3s 6d - for a bob & half a crown I think your average punter would go for the orchestra and so the band arrangement was doomed for deletion.

I have pitched the recording at A = 452Hz which was then the standard pitch for military bands, this means the original disc play at 75 rpm

Band records always seem to suffer more wear than most but I have cleaned it up as much as I really want to.

I have joined the four sides together into one Flac file, HERE at Mediafire. [about 36Mb]. Score if anyone would like to note the cuts and Wikipedia [Fidelio] entry.


  1. Yes, you cheeky get, Jolyon! But thanks anyway - this is fascinating. Some details are clearer than in the orchestral scoring. Thanks for the forensic archaeomarketing too. And good joins! I wonder if the names of the players can't be dug up as well? Best wishes from the Cave, Nick

  2. Fascinating! The fidelity is remarkably decent (and thanks for your excellent transfer!) and the arrangement does no more violence to the original than the Stroh violins, tuba basses and drastically reduced forces of nearly all early orchestral acoustics. It may not be the most probing interpretation, but overcoming the sheer mechanics of getting it on record was challenge enough, and the snarling deep brass add an interesting dimension. (I haven't consulted the score, but I do know the work fairly well and didn't hear any obvious cuts.) Now you've inspired me to explore the other acoustics by the same performers on CHARM, including Meistersinger and Oberon! May your new site flourish -- it's off to a great start!!

  3. Dear Peter

    Many thanks for your kind comments - worth listening to Mackenzie-Rogan, he may have been 'just a bandmaster' but he was a very great musician and well worth listening to.

    Re Beethoven 6 Odeon - I will send you a link this weekend


  4. 'Cultured' people might very well have bought band records of works like this - aside from the enormous popularity and musical dexterity of the Guards bands (and remember, Albert Williams of the Grenadiers had been awarded an Oxford degree, which is proudly noted on many of his discs), several foreign bands on tour played to great acclaim in the UK, notably Sousa's in 1902 (for which he wrote his "Imperial Edward" march) and 1911, and the Channing Ellery Royal Italian Band in 1911 (all of whose discs, which are well worth investigating, were made by English Columbia during their UK tour, labelled "Fifty Performers", and sold internationally). Musical critics and, more importantly, the gentry patronized their concerts, giving them "Society" cachet. There's some surprising band repertoire on HMV and other pre-war labels, and Leonore no. 3 seems to have been a favourite in abridged versions; I have basically a little of the end of the Allegro and the coda complete on a Butterfly (i.e., Grammavox) disc by the Earl of Lonsdale's Private Band - well done, too. That said, this is a great performance, and thank you enormously for sharing it.