Friday 8 June 2012

Acoustic organ music with a twist

Probably the first attempt at recording this famous Widor toccata and the Lemmens too for that matter, but what exactly are we listening to?

Charles-Marie Widor 
Symphony for Organ No. 5 in F minor, Op. 42, No. 1 -Toccata

Jaak Nikolaas Lemmens
March Tiomphale
[The beginning of this side is very badly worn] 

Frederick John Easthope Martin Organ

HMV C 461
[7000f & 6990f]
Recorded: Friday 17th January 1913

2 Flac file HERE & HERE Mediafire. [13Mb & 10Mb].

Organ music was all but impossible to record under the acoustic process, the bandwidth restriction gave very unsatisfactory results and it was not until the advent of electrical recording in 1925 that the organ became a reality for the gramophone enthusiast.

A few valiant early attempts were however made. On the 17th of January 1913 an 'English Pipe Organ' was either installed in the Hayes recording studioor the recording equipment was transported to the Aeolian Hall in New Bond Street. Fred Gaisberg was in charge of the recording session that day and he may also have enticed Easthope Martin to record. In all, seventeen titles on twenty-one 12" waxes and two 10" were cut from which fourteen were issued. Designated for double-sided issue on plum label records at 4s [20p] each, the first four of these records were issued in April 1913. I luckily have a copy of the original flyer that HMV produced that month, interestingly the organ on the front bears no comparison to what was actually recorded and the two 'unsolicited letters' quoted are possibly due to the forwarding of sample discs prior to formal issue.

Another two records were issued in 1914 but our record had to wait until July/August 1915 to see the light of day.  About a hundred 'new' double-sided records were published in one go and numbered roughly from C 400 to C 500. They seemed to have been an odd collection of previously available single-sided issues and unused masters issued in order to bolster up the main catalogue for 1916, this was published in October 1915 to be ahead of the Christmas market.

I have re-balanced these two sides as much as I dare and although a good amount of rumble is unfortunately still prevalent I hope you are impressed at how much of the low frequencies Fred Gaisberg managed to record. 

Easthope Martin pedalling a Pianola of the Grieg Concerto in 
1912 with Artur Nikisch and the London Symphony Orchestra
The organist for that day was Frederick John Easthope Martin (1882-1925). Born in Stourport, he studied piano, organ, harmony and studied composition with Samuel Coleridge Taylor, at Trinity College London and then joined the Aeolian Company in London as an organist, pianolist and demonstrator. He wrote a number of choral works, songs, piano pieces and chamber works but unfortunately contracted tuberculosis at quite an early age and died aged 42 at Hampstead in London. More information on Easthope Martin can be found Here and Here.

The above picture I think holds the clue to these records. What we hear is not simply Martin playing an organ but that this is an Aeolian pipe organ, and what we are hearing is Martin's interpretation of Aeolian Organ Roll numbers 466 [later renumbered to 51466] and 52. A modern transcription of this roll can be heard on Youtube HereHaving looked over the 1919 edition of the Aeolian Pipe-Organ - Catalog I see all the items recorded by Martin are included and one can only assume that Martin actually recorded most of these Aeolian Rolls in the first place. I have tabulated the roll numbers to the recording session below. 

So what we appear to have on these recordings are Aeolian Rolls, probably recorded by Martin, who then brings them along to the HMV studio and then interprets his own previous recordings. I have not determined if the idea of recording was to promote the Aeolian Pipe-Organ or not. I don't think Aeolian could have been impressed by the sound of these primitive recordings and their name was not applied to the record labels. Gaisberg and indeed HMV maybe thought otherwise and went ahead and pressed the records for sale.

Martin returned to the studios later in 1913 to record a number of piano pieces under a pseudonym, these maybe Pianola recordings. One other facet to dwell on is that Nikisch was quite keen on the pianola and said 'I recognize it as one of the greatest inventions of the century.' Possibly some sort of introduction was facilitated by Martin to Fred Gaisberg and HMV to record orchestral music with Nikisch and the LSO in June 1913?  

Lastly, as I am getting more than a bit completest here, these are the descriptive notes transcribed from the Aeolian Catalog of 1919:-

466  WIDOR: Symphony No. 5 Toccata (Fifth Movement)
Following out the scheme of departing from the conventional order of symphonic movements the composer has chosen a Toccata for his final movement in this interesting symphony. This movement is, in several ways, the most attractive one of the entire work. Its whole course is stamped with buoyant swing—save the very close—and the theme of the Toccata is most spirited. Widor plunges precipitately into the announcement of this theme, voiced in the high treble; then there enters a bass melody that accents the theme woven by the treble. Gradually the bass assumes importance and volume, and finally it is thundered forth. The very close of this movement and of the symphony is a chorale-like version of the Toccata theme.

LEMMONS: March triomphale
With a curtly expressed theme—one of heroic character—this March auspiciously opens. It impresses the quality, hinted at in its title, upon the listener with the very beginning, and this idea is still carried out further by the crisp, sharply defined rhythm and almost defiant character of the succeeding section. The music rises now to a climax, and at the crest of this emotional wave there is trumpeted forth the first section of the March most brilliantly. After this the music grows gradually more subdued, and dies leisurely away, but the initial mood is fully restored by the jubilant chord upon which the work ends.


  1. Facinating post, thank you so much! The Widor is a very attractive, fleet performance. Fine transfer and great forensic work, as usual! I only question your conclusion that, on his HMV discs, Easthope Martin interpreted his earlier Aeolian roll recordings. Aeolian made both player organs and reproducing organs (see the Pianola Institute's website) but only the former were 'played' (by, among others, Compton Mackenzie); the latter, like reproducing pianos, 'played' themselves - at least, that's my understanding! How are EM's Aeolian rolls which you list described in the 1919 Catalog? My guess is that, if EM 'made' them, it was as an editor/arranger rather than as a performer. Thanks again!

  2. My first thought where that as well, that it is actually Martin playing, however on the site it states 'He also made a number of 78 recordings of Aeolian Organ rolls.'

    This lead me to think that these could be rolls being played - I then listened to the Youtube example and although a minute longer, with tempos quite different, both faster and slower, than the recording, I thought there was great similarity especial so in the rhythms for the last several bars.

    Also I can find no other reference to Martin making roll recordings - one would think Aeolian would have recorded him but by 1919 he had gone to the US to take up another post. My final thinking was the relevance of the enormous number of takes taken that day, 23 in all, with a block of spare numbers at the end.

    For a novice recording artist to make that many takes in a day is exceptional - even seasoned recording artist only got to 15 or so in a day. I assume that after the first few waxes most of the recording was straight forward - slotting in new rolls and changing waxes.

    Now the only doubt I have is that HMV just took one of these organs and recorded the rolls and just issued them under Martin's name. I can't believe that by 1913 they would want to deceive their customers that much so can only conclude that Martin was on hand that day. I need to talk to the Pianola people as they may know much more about this recording event.

    The 1919 catalogue has sadly nothing to say about the performers!

  3. Thanks, that settles it. I don't think HMV was cheating or would have done. Martin was able to record so many discs in a day because he was pedalling rolls on a player organ, was highly practised, knew the pieces well and had his tempi all worked out; there was no danger of finger slips, though I suppose the odd pipe might not 'speak'. To me, this is consistent with what you found on the Pianola Institute site. The Youtube video is not strictly relevant; this is someone else's 'pedalling' (via a computer) of the roll. If the 1919 Catalog doesn't mention performers, that means that it lists only 'player', not 'reproducing' rolls.

  4. Yes, the lecture's over - you may go now!

  5. Well, how strange and wonderful that this page should have materialised just now! I write the website at, and all three of us so far represented on this page are well aware of who we are. I am just in the process of writing a webpage about historic Pianola concerts, the most publicised of which took place at the Queen's Hall on 14 June 1912 (one hundred years less four days before CharmNick's last post), with Easthope Martin pedalling the Grieg Piano Concerto with the LSO under Nikisch.

    I'm sure, barring anything really unexpected, that all Easthope Martin's recordings were made from roll. I have the Lohengrin Prelude, and the ultra-perfect trills are very definitely perforated! A 78 enthusiast called Damian Rogan has two of Martin's piano recordings (under the name of Paul Astor) on the web, and I'm absolutely certain that they are from roll as well. I played Mr Rogan's mp3 of the 78 track of the Godard Second Mazurka at the recent AGM of the Friends of the Pianola Institute, followed by the original roll, which has only three chords spread in the whole piece, all in the same places as the 78. The meeting was unanimous in agreeing that the recording was from piano roll.

    As CharmNick has pointed out, none of these rolls was of the recorded variety. Neither the Duo-Art reproducing piano nor the Aeolian Duo-Art organ had been launched at the time Martin made these recordings. Martin was the performer, conducting the rolls to exactly the same degree as a conductor would direct an orchestra. The world has forgotten the subtlety with which a Pianola or an Aeolian organ can be played, and YouTube is almost universally awful in that respect.

    By the way, Easthope Martin's biographical details are very difficult to pin down. Stourport seems to be the his accepted place of birth, but in both his recorded Ellis Island entries to the USA, he states that he is Irish, from Clonmel in Tipperary. And where does the "Frederick John" come from? I can only find it mentioned without any verification on the web. All very curious.

  6. Yes indeed the world all coming together in front of the great Auxetophone - Oh and even greater Pianola!

    Yes I know Nick well and we are all a rather select group of lunatics but still it keeps us out of trouble. I suspected the piano records were also pianola items and indeed I think I have one or two of the records somewhere and meant to play them……..!

    As to Martin’s name I found his full name on the site as some nice person had created a family tree that included him as a forebear. I can tell you his father’s name was Frederick Caleb Martin and his mother’s maiden name Sarah Ellen Elizabeth Easthope so we can see how the name was constructed so to speak. However as to his birth year it seems to be either 1884, 1882 or 1880 – I would need to toddle up to the BL or somewhere to look at the census and birth and death details etc to be sure there are not two people with these names!

  7. There is a village called Easthope about 25 miles from Stourport. I called in at the Stourport register office in the early 1980s, but I could find no Whatever Easthope Martin born anywhere around his supposed year of birth. I had assumed that he might have been called something else, and adopted a local name for stage purposes. But it's potentially easier now, with so much on line.

    He was very friendly with Julius Harrison, who came from the same area, and who dedicated one of his piano pieces to Easthope Martin - from the Worcestershire Suite, I think. I have the sheet music somewhere. That seems to make the idea of Stourport ring true, but then why would he report himself as Irish, from Clonmel in Tipperary, on both his US entry forms? You would think that the Passport Office, even then, would want some form of official birth certificate before they would issue a passport. The Ellis Island entry forms seem to have been transcribed by the ship's staff, while they were under way, presumably because they took the passengers' passports in for safe keeping.

    In the first Ellis Island entry, dated 6 June 1914, he is reported as 30 years old, and married to Margaret, aged 24, who travelled with him. In 1921, however, he is down as single, and aged 37. That certainly points to 1884, and I must alter my entry for him on our "Pianolists" page. On his second trip, by coincidence, the passenger six lines up from him is a certain Charles Chaplin, reported as a film actor. That emphasises that Martin was quite well off, presumably as a result of his songs being so popular, because he seems to have travelled first-class. But by 1921 his young wife had either died or divorced him - either her death certificate or any divorce papers would tell us more about him.

    As you presumably know, he suffered from TB, and he spent his winters in Monte Carlo, staying in his last four seasons with a friend, Osborne O'Hagen. I was told that he was nursed in England, as his illness progressed, by the mother of William Knightley, the export manager of the Aeolian Company. Mrs Knightley was a trained nurse. The Knightleys lived in Albermarle Road, Beckenham, so it is always possible that Martin was for a while a sarf Londoner, like many pianolists!

  8. Having looked around the net I think there are two Easthope Martin's! One born in Tipperary in 1884 who got married and lived in Essex somewhere and our Easthope who was born possible in Cheshire or Lancashire in 1881? and never got married - seems an unlikely coincidence but apparently this may well be the case - I will have to dig a bit further on this to find an adequate answer

  9. Alas, I bring unhappy tidings! The Easthope Martin from Ireland, who travelled to the USA in 1914 and 1921, was listed as a musician, and in 1921 he gave his US contact as Enoch and Son in New York. That's definitely the composer. He also gave his London address as 58 Great Marlborough Street, which was also Enoch.

    I was talking about it over dinner this evening, and my wife was saying that admitting to being Irish in those days still carried a certain stigma. One wonders whether he was perhaps sent over to Worcestershire to be brought up by another part of the family. There are probably enough records in existence to work it out in the end.

    I had also looked at the name of the friend in Monte Carlo and read it as a Germanic name, like Hagen in the RIng. But of course it's really a different spelling of O'Hagan, which is quintessentially Irish. I can send you the various document scans I have, if you like, including the Ellis Island manifests and the Times obituaries.

    I've just remembered that one of Julius Harrison's Worcestershire Suite pieces was a musical portrait of Redstone Rock, where I think he said that the sandmartins congregated, very close to Stourport, in fact. I need to recheck all this, but Easthope Martin could so easily be an assumed name, though it would have to have been officially done if it figured on his passport.

  10. I have worked out that a will and probate was proved on his death in 1925 so that might pin down exactly where he was born and who were his dependents - That Chaplin coincidence triggered a memory - Chaplin came to the UK for a 5 week break in 1921 and wrote an account of this under the title "My Wonderful Visit" in the UK and the more prosaic "My trip Abroad" in the USA - low and behold EM is mentioned! but throws up more questions than answers!

    'Carl Robinson and I are strolling around the top deck the next day in an effort to get away from everyone, and I notice some one looking up at a wire running between the funnels of the ship. Perched on the wire is a little bird, and I am wondering how it got there and if it had been there since we left England. The other watcher notices us. He turns and smiles. "The little bird must think this is the promised land." I knew at once that he was somebody. Those thoughts belong only to poets. Later in the evening he joins us at my invitation and I learn he is Easthope Martin, the com- poser and pianist. He had been through the war and it had left its stamp on this fine, sensitive soul. He had been gassed. I could not imagine such a man in the trenches. He is very frail of body, and as he talks I always imagine his big soul at the bursting point with a pent-up yearning. There is the inevitable concert on the last night of the voyage. We are off the banks of Newfoundland, and in the midst of a fog. Fog horns must be kept blowing at intervals, hence the effect on the concert, particularly the vocal part, is obvious. We land at seven in the morning of a very windy day, and it is eleven before we can get away. Reporters and cameramen fill the air during all that time, and I am rather glad, because it shows Miss Taylor and Mr. Hepworth a glimpse of what America is like. We arrange to meet that night at Sam Goldwyn's for dinner… .

    Easthope Martin is with us that night at Goldwyn's party. He plays one of his own compositions and holds us spellbound. He is very grateful for our sincere applause and quite retiring and unassuming, though he is the hit of the evening. Following the dinner I carried the English movie folk on a sight-seeing trip, enjoying their amazement at the wonders of a New York night.'

    1. Divorce it is - maybe Easthope went to the US to get away from his troubles, possibly he was able to afford the first class trip from this!

      Divorce Court File: 1714. Appellant: Violet Kate Louise Martin. Respondent: Frederic John Easthope Martin. Type: Wife's petition for restitution of conjugal rights [wrcr].1920

      Divorce Court File: 5398. Appellant: Violet Kate Louise Martin. Respondent: Frederick John Easthope Martin. Type: Wife's petition for divorce [wd].. 1921

  11. North side of the entrance porch. Note how the wrought iron fence is constructed to curve underneath the projecting extension. Organ Store