Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Something for Christmas

Harry Amers was and now never will be a household name. He however did his part to promote music to the masses in the first third of the 20th century at the seaside resort of Eastbourne on the South Coast of England for which we really should be grateful.

Amers: All on a Christmas Morning, Idyll [1920]
Amers: The B'hoys of Tipperary, Patrol [1915]

The Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra conducted by Harry G. Amers

Columbia 5400
(ⓦAX 8896-2 & ⓦAX 8894-2)
Recorded: Thursday, 18th April 1929 at Eastbourne
Issued: mid June 1929

(If you are not familiar with FLAC I can recommend Foobar2000 player)

‘Harry’ Henry Gallon Amers (1875 - 1944) was born in Newcastle to a musical family. Harry’s Grandfather was a band sergeant in the Newcastle Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry and his father J.H. Amers may also have been a member of this same regiment but due to delicate health we find him conducting a string band that also grew large enough to be called and ‘orchestral band’ that gave entertainment at various shows and functions in the in the Newcastle area. Most notably as musical director to the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1887. Harry started as a chorister in St George's Newcastle and as a youth he played a solo by command before the Princess of Wales and several times before King Edward VII - unfortunately I do not know which instrument he played.

Harry Amers around 1908
Harry was to joined the same regiment, now renamed the Northumberland Hussars Imperial Yeomanry, on 24 March 1896 as a ‘Bandmaster.’ This was just a month after his father’s death so the two events are probably connected for Harry either joined in order not to be a drain on the family finances or to help support his mother and siblings. In 1898 he can be found conducting the Elswick Military Band at the Pleasure Gardens at Saltburn and seems to have conducted various military bands in popular and classical music throughout the North-East. He may have been with the Hussars during the Boer War however he was certainly in the UK in 1906 to record a number of pieces, including some of his compositions for the Homochord label. Harry apparently re-enlisted twice firstly in June 1906, roughly when the Homochord records were issued and again in June 1908.  One has the feeling that Harry’s health was also delicate for although receiving his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal when war broke out in August 1914, Harry, still only 39 he was found unfit for service. Despite this he still seems to have seen action as he was wounded in action. Harry remained with the Hussars and sometime after 1915  took charge of a prisoner of war camp. Once hostilities had ended he received the rank of captain in the reserves on his leaving the army in 1920. 

Inside the Eastbourne Pavilion.

Amers soon afterwards was employed by Eastbourne corporation to form a municipal orchestra that was based at the Devonshire Park both in the Pavilion auditorium and the Theatre for the next fifteen year the orchestras conductor. He conducted his small orchestra throughout the year, the orchestra being augmented with musicians down from London once the session there had ended. He clearly had good connections in the music world for he very soon instituted a music festival. The first of these remarkable festivals was in 1923 and was reviewed in the December issue of Musical Times.

Devonshire Park - the Theatre to the left and the Pavilion behind the trees.
'Eastbourne.- A notable Musical Festival was held by the Municipality at Devonshire Park on November 8-17,with the Municipal Orchestra under Capt. H. G. Amers. The interest and popularity of the Festival were maintained from beginning to end. The British music included Sir Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Herbert Howells’s new Pastoral Rhapsody, Alfred Wall’s Thanet and Lucretius, Mr. David Stephen’s Coronach, Holst’s Fugal Concerto and Fugal Overture, Dame Ethel Smyth’s Prelude to The Wreckers, Maurice Besly’s new Suite, Chelsea China, and works of Holbrooke, Eric Coates, W. H. Reed, Granville Bantock, John Foulds, Roger Quilter, Howard Carr. and A. W. Ketelbey, who all came to conduct their own compositions [!!!]. Franck’s Symphony was conducted by Sir Henry Wood. The choir appeared only once - in [German's] Merrie England. The Municipality is to be congratulated on the excellent management and success of its new venture.'

The festival continued annually, even the redoubtable Thomas Beecham came to conduct together with international soloists as Elizabeth Schumann, Arthur de Greef, and Guilhermina Suggia. 

During the late 1920s Amers and the Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra broadcast on the BBC a number of summer programmes from Devonshire Park. I understand that in the summer concerts were given in the Pavilion and in the winter in the Theatre. 

Film of the the North-East Coast Exhibition 1929.

The present recordings are connected to the North-East Coast Exhibition, a world fair held in Newcastle between May and October 1929. Recorded in Eastbourne in April 1926 the orchestra then headed north to Amers home town for the Exhibition. The record was issued by Columbia in their mid-June supplement when a total of eight sides which included these two of Amers own composition/arraignments.

Columbia Supplement mid-June 1929
1929 was probably the high watermark of the Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra’s success, a combination of economic distress and the Corporation of Eastbourne wanting a more popular fare with their new Band Stand  caused the orchestra to be disbanded in May. 1936. 

The last Festival was held at Devonshire Park on November 25-December 1 ‘The principal works in their programmes being as follows: Sir Hamilton Harty - Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Elgar’s ‘Cello Concerto (Mr. Michael Cherniavsky), In Ireland (Harty); Sir Thomas Beecham - Schubert’s Sixth Symphony. Sibelius’s Four Historical Themes. Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony; Sir Landon Ronald - Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D (Miss Orrea Pernel). Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony; Dr. Adrian Boult - [Elgar's] Cockaigne/ Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Haydn. Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto (Miss Myra Hess), Bax’s ‘Tintagel’; Sir Henrv Wood-Moussorgsky’s ‘Peep-Show’ Sibelius’s ‘En Saga.’ On the Friday afternoon Capt. Amers conducted a programme that included Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto (Orloff) and Mozart’s Symphony No. 34 in C. Mr. Gordon Jacob conducted his Passacaglia on a well-known Theme. The festival concluded with a performance of ‘The Messiah’ under Capt. Amers with Miss Isobel Baillie. Miss Betty Bannerman, Mr. Heddle Nash, and Mr. Harold Williams as soloists. It transpired that the Corporation intended to disband the Municipal Orchestra when its present contract expired next April. At the end of his concert Sir Thomas Beecham made a vigorous speech against this decision.' [Musical Times January, 1929].

Opening of the new Eastbourne Bandstand in 1936 - at 28 seconds there is what maybe a 
glimpse of our Capt. Amers standing behind the dignitaries at his last official function!

Harry 'was a handsome fellow; it seems, always immaculately dressed with a red carnation in his buttonhole and red hair to match. Much admired by lady members of the audience it is said ... . He had flair and a good sense of showmanship and never arrived until the second item on the programme, allowing his deputy to start the concert off. He appeared, as did the orchestra, in uniform during the day but in the evening he put on evening dress and became Captain Amers and his Famous Orchestra' (Pegg: Newcastle's Musical Heritage - unfortunately with a number of inaccuracies but with further information on Amers the contribution to the North-East Coast Exhibition)

I suppose Harry Amers probably went into retirement and is invariable recorded as having died in 1936 however Harry lived until 1944 and  died at West Hills, Ottery St Mary in East Devon. He was at the time of his death married to Kate Amers but he was also married to a Beatrice in 1907, but that ended in divorce in 1910. Harry was cremated and his ashes were interned with his parents John Hall Amers (1840-1895) and Frances Gallon Amers (1846-1906) and his siblings John Richardson Amers (1865-1946); Frances Amers (1874-1941); Hilda Amers (1881 - 1891) and Richard Amers (1884-1885). 

Debussy at the Grand Hotel Eastbourne taking a photo of the sea -
probably not really thinking about La Mer which he happened to compose there!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Fauré in London

A long introduction before I get to the point I’m afraid on W.H. Squire's recordings of Fauré!

Sicilienne for Cello & Piano Op. 78 [1898]

William Henry Squire cello & [Hamilton Harty?], piano

Columbia L1759
(ⓦAX 1225)
Recorded: Wednesday, 23rd December, 1925
Issued September 1926 & deleted August 1931

Papillon for Cello & Piano Op. 77 [1898]

William Henry Squire, cello & [Hamilton Harty?], piano

Columbia L1977
(ⓦAX 1248)
Recorded: Friday, 15th January 1926
Issued June 1927 & deleted August 1930

(If you are not familiar with FLAC I can recommend Foobar2000 player)

During March and the beginning of April 1898 Gabriel Fauré spent a vacation with his friend and music patron Leo Frank Schuster (1852-1927). ‘Schuster was a music-lover and patron of the arts in the United Kingdom. His home overlooking St James's Park at 22 Old Queen Street, London, part of which now contains offices of The Spectator magazine, became a meeting-place for artists, writers and musicians, including Siegfried Sassoon, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert, Sir Edward Elgar and Sir Adrian Boult. He was a particular patron of Edward Elgar, and also did much to make Gabriel Fauré's name known in England’ [Wikipedia]

Film of Fauré having a smoke in 1913

It was on this visit that a meeting was set between Fauré and Mrs Patrick Campbell by Schuster. Mrs Campbell had been rebuffed by Debussy when asked if he could provide incidental music for Maurice Maeterlinck’s  Pelléas et Mélisande which she wanted to be produced in London in a translation by Jack Mackail. Mrs Campbell must have heard Fauré’s work and immediately set forth to commission Fauré to provide music in the places she felt most called out for music in the play. 

Mrs Patrick Campbell

Fauré composed some nineteen numbers very quickly and ‘On 21 June 1898 Fauré himself conducted the orchestra of the Prince of Wales' Theatre, Piccadilly (Coventry Street) for the premiere of the English version of Pelléas et Mélisande. In the audience were Maeterlinck, Charles van Lerberghe, Reynaldo Hahn, the Princess Edmond de Polignac (who was to be the dedicatee of the orchestral suite), the painter John Singer Sargent and all Fauré's London friends. The production was a great success with the public and the critics. Maeterlinck himself wrote an enthusiastic letter to Mrs Patrick Campbell which finished: in a few words, “you... filled me with an emotion of beauty the most complete, the most harmonious, the sweetest that I have ever felt to this day.”’ [See Jean-Michel Nectoux: Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life.]

Today only the Suite Pelléas et Mélisande of four of the nineteen pieces is regularly played: Prélude-Fileuse-Sicilienne-La mort de Mélisande.

The Sicilienne had been originally written in 1892 as part of the incidental music for a production of Molière’s Le Bougeois Gentilhomme that never reached the stage.

The question, which is open to a lot of conjecture, is this. Had Fauré sent Squire the scores of both Papillon and the Sicilienne prior to Fauré’s stay in London from March 1898. I can’t be sure of this as I have not tracked down a programme for a concert given on the 12th February 1898 at the Queens Hall in which ‘Mr W.H. Squire produced three little violoncello pieces by Godard and Fauré with much success’ [The Musical Times, March 1898]. Another notice of the concert appeared in The Observer ‘Three graceful little pieces for violoncello and orchestra, by Godard and Fauré respectively, were brought forward by Mr. W. H. Squire, for the first time in London. Their value is not great, but as played by that talented artist and the Queen’s Hall orchestra they were pleasant enough to hear.' [The Observer,13 February 1898]. 

This asks another question, was Squire playing the Sicilienne in its Le Bougeois Gentilhomme form, and did it even have a title yet, or was he playing just the Elégie Op.24 which had been arranged for orchestra in 1895 and the other two pieces were by Godard? At least one of these pieces would have been played, one hopes anyway. Another anomaly is this, did Squire play them again at Schuster’s house from which Mrs Campbell approached Fauré to compose the incidental music? Squire is known to have played at the Schuster house frequently.

Schuster's house at 22 Old Queen St., London

One fact from this mountain of hypothetical conjecture was that Fauré, on his return to Paris, dedicated the score of the Sicilienne and inscribed the manuscript 'To Mons. W. H. Squire Sicilienne pour Violoncelle et piano Paris 16 avril,1898, Gabriel Fauré’. [This is now held in the Eugene Istomin Collection, New York]

I’m not wholly sure when Squire first met Fauré but they had met by 1896 for in a concert of the 1st May 1896 included Fauré’s piano quartet Op. 15 with the composer at the piano together with Adolph Brodsky, violin, Alfred Hobday, viola, and W.H. Squire, cello.

William Henry Squire

Now as far as I can judge Squire had not previously recorded any Fauré and was not to do so again. Were these two early electrically recorded Columbia sides made as homage to the composer who died the previous year? Did he think that the subtleties of the work could be brought out better with this new process? Had he just decided that Faure might just become popular! Very little of his work, appart from the songs, were recorded by the mid 1920s.

Also single potpourri pieces that Squire had so often recorded for both HMV and Columbia had by this time begun to give way to longer concertos and chamber works. With a new generation of cellists competing for gramophone recognition, Squire’s was, with his ‘old fashioned’ playing style, being slowly being ousted from the studios.

These two recordings can probably be regarded as ‘creator version.’ The Papillon, although written in 1884 was not published until 1898, is played so much slower than cellist play it today. In fact most cellist take it as some sort of exercise in prowess, rather than the delicate butterfly hovering about on a sunny afternoon. The Sicilienne too is also played quite slowly and both recordings use what today would be thought excessive portamento, but then I  like portamento and I don’t think that it's a dirty word. The piano accompaniment is excellent and although the pianist is unknown it may well be Harty as he was the de facto accompanist for most of Squire's pre-electric recordings.

Both these recordings are not in the best condition the Papillon appears to have a pressing problem, this was noted in The Gramophone and so was not given a review and may also account for the delay in issue - both recordings are a bit noisy.

I should mention what is on the 'B' side of each of these pieces: L1759 has W.H. Squire's Slumber Song and L1977 has Herbert Hughes' arrangment of The Sally Garden.

Fauré and Mrs Patrick Campbell,1898

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Patriotic Gramophone Records

Now that 100 years have past since Europe decided to fight it out I thought I would share this fragment of the initial enthusiasm.

Allies in Arms - Selection 1

Hearts of Oak – England
La Brabançonne – Belgium
St Patrick – Ireland
Russian Hymn – Russia
Rule Britannia – England
See the Conquering Hero –England

Allies in Arms - Selection 2

Le Marseillaise – France
The Garb of Old Gaul – Scotland
The Maple Leaf – Canada
Marcia Reale – Italy
Men of Harlech- Wales
God Save the King – England

Metropolitan Military Band

conducted by Arthur Crudge

HMV C 378
(Al8088f & Al8089f)
Recorded: Monday, 17th August, 1914

(If you are not familiar with FLAC I can recommend Foobar2000 player)

The Gramophone Company was taken completely by surprise on the outbreak of war in 1914. Sales of records ground to a complete halt, as did recording. One feels a general panic in the recording industry as no one really knew what to do.  Louis Sterling of Columbia was quickest off the mark and probably the first to see the possibilities of patriotic songs and music.

The recording schedule at the Gramophone Co. Ltd shows that it all but halted for a couple of weeks until they knew how to handle the crises. This particular patriotic record was recorded and rushed out and it probably was just the thing to be played at recruiting events. My example is both worn and cracked, so it has had a rather tough life of patriotic playing.
Recruiting in Trafalgar Square, London in 1915

Arthur Crudge is the anonymous conductor probably of his own Imperial Orchestra under the name of the Mayfair Orchestra. This was the name given to the Gramophone Company’s ‘House’ Orchestra which had a fluid personnel, and several directors or conductors over several decades.

This the sum total of what i know of the conductor: Crudge was born near Hanover Square, London in 1862 and married a Laura Sapey in 1887. From 1900 his Imperial Orchestra began to entertain the public at such events as the Richmond Royal Horse Show, the conversazione of Committee of the London Schools. Crudge renamed his orchestra the British Imperial Orchestra sometime during the war. Apparently he got divorced in 1923, or at least he seems to have gone to the US in 1921 at the same time as divorce proceeding were wending through the court, later he married again to a Evelyn Ada Scheitlin. His orchestra was still performing in 1931 as Arthur Crudge’s Orchestra although he seems to have died in 1930! I believe he may have had a son, also Arthur, so this could be the explanation. Again as with so many of these minor players, information is in short supply. 

As the additional label on side one of this record makes clear ‘All profits yielded by this series of records of which this is one are paid to the National Relief Fund.’ I believe this equated to about 1d per record or about 2% of the cost price of 5s 6d. I do not know what the other record in the series were as I have never seen another record with this label; or indeed with the patriotic flags on the other side. Oddly the selection included Italy who were not persuaded which side to enter the War on until 1915.

One of the nice things about this recording is that you can plainly hear in a few places Crudge enthusiastically exhorting his players on. The music is a bit of a patchwork that may have been knocked together at fairly short notice by Crudge for the players do sometimes seem slightly lost - I wonder if it is Fred Gaisberg who is giving the Russian Hymn on the tubular bells, one of his specialities in the early days of recording.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

'My teacher was Ferruccio Cusinati' - Maria Callas

Is it not curious how some names fall by the wayside, Ferruccio Cusinati (1873-1953) seems to have pretty well sunk without trace - but not quite yet!

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
Act II Scene 2: Per te d'immenso giubilo ... Per poco fra le tenebre
(arranged for military band)

Rossini: Semiramide Overture - final 

Banda munipale di Verona 
conducted by Ferruccio Cusinati

Favorite 2-33013 & 2-33014
(Matrix Nos. 184-p & 185-p)
Recorded or fabricated Wednesday 21st October 1908?

(If you are not familiar with FLAC I can recommend Foobar2000 player)

Hard to believe with so much written about Maria Callas that Cusinati's part in her education has not really elicited much more than footnotes. Maybe his role is exaggerated, I really don't know, but will give the bare outlines of his career and so add my quota to the mountains of stuff already written on Callas.

I assume that he was born and brought up in Verona and probably had his musical education there also and maybe never strayed much from his home town. Cusinati wrote the music for at least two operas both of which were produced in Verona. The first was a two act opera called La Tradita [Betrayed!] given in 1892.

'The first performance, in the course of this month, of an opera, La Tradita! by a very promising young Italian composer, Signor Ferruccio Cusinati, is looked forward to with much interest at the Ristori Theatre. Verona. [Musical Times Sept. 1892]

The recently restored Teatro Ristori, Verona
A brilliant success is reported from Verona of a new opera, entitled La Tradita, brought out last month at the Ristori Theatre of that town. The composer, who conducted the performance, is a young Maestro, Signor Cusinati, hitherto unknown to fame. The natural anxiety on the part of the leading Italian towns to discover another Mascagni in their midst may have influenced in a measure the enthusiastic verdict pronounced by the audience on this occasion. [M.T. Dec. 1892]

Two years later in 1894 Cusinati wrote his second opera, this time of four acts, again Musical Times gave a review:

Verona - At the Ristori Theatre, Medora, a grand opera in four acts, composed by Signor Ferruccio Cusinati, was brought to a first hearing on November 29. The novelty was unsuccessful. [M.T. January 1895]

Cusinati possibly gave up all hope of being an opera composer after this disappointment but he still pursued his career as a conductor. Apparently the Verona municipal band broke up in 1903 and Cusinati reformed it two years later. It is this band that we can hear on these recordings. The band was not to last much more than a decade for it was depleted by conscription during the First World War and was then abandoned. It was however revived, again by Cusinati, but 30 years later after the Second World War.

The next mention I have of him was when Giovanni Zenatello, one of my favourite tenors by the way, had the idea of using the Roman arena at Verona for opera in order to celebrate the Verdi centenary of 1913:-  "My father was sitting at a table at the Löwenbrau," recounts Nina Zenatello Consolaro, daughter of the tenor Giovanni Zenatello, "together with the Maestro Tullio Serafin, Ferruccio Cusinati, Ottone Rovato [opera impresario] and the singer Maria Gay [Zenatello's long time partner, both operatically and every other way, but not Nina'a mama I think]. They were talking about music, of course, opera music and Giuseppe Verdi. Suddenly my father pointed to the Arena and with triumph in his voice said, 'Look, this is the theatre I’m looking for. This is where performances unique in the world could be held.'" 

Löwenbrau - Verona

Zenatello financed the original undertaking himself, he and Maria Gay gave freely of their talents, Maestro Serafin set to work to complete the casting and it was he who was in charge of the first performance together with Cusinati who trained the chorus. From 1913 until his death in 1953 Cusinati was the leading chorus master at the Verona Arena but also discovered he worked at La Fenice in Venice in the early 1920s too.

I have really nothing much to add to these years until the story of Cusinati is picked up again by Giovanni Battista Meneghini's. When he met Callas in 1947 at Verona Meneghini was a director of the 'Verona Opera Association of the Arena' which also included on the board Tullio Serafin, conductor; Augusto Cardi, Stage director, and Cusinati still as chorus master.

Callas and Meneghini in 1948

It is through Meneghini biography My Wife, Maria Callas, New York, 1982, that we have some more information on Cusinati's abilities. 'In Verona there was a voice teacher, Ferruccio Cusinati, who was also chorus master for the operas in the arena. I knew him very well and had enormous respect for him, he had a thorough understanding of the human voice ... Even though he did not have the renown that he deserved he was a professional of rare accomplishment. I took Maria to him, and after listening to her, told me that she indeed had a truly remarkable voice. “She is at your disposal” I said. “you must help her to make her voice more flexible, more supple, and in short, eradicate any faults. From now on, she will come for lessons every day... from that moment, Ferruccio Cusinati became Callas's teacher ... Elvia de Hildalgo taught Maria the technique of singing and she opened up the world of music to her, but it was Ferruccio Cusinati who taught Maria all the operas in her repertory ... His name never appeared in any of the biographies of Maria, but he was Callas's teacher, Maria herself has commented in some manuscript notes which she prepared, to refute a Time magazine article that was full of misinformation: “It is not true that my husband asked Tullio Serafin to coach me in my roles and that it was he who taught them to me. My teacher was Ferruccio Cusinati.”' 

Apparently Cusinati continued until the year of his death in 1953 as Callas's teacher so it is somewhat surprising that so little is written about him. I can't think why really. I believe he also taught the bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (1920-1991) prior to meeting Callas.

Verona Arena
It is probably fortunate that he recorded at all. Clearly he knew the Donizetti and Rossini repertoire and how to extract that visceral excitement that such opera demands. 

The performances put me in to mind of the opera episode in E.M Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread set in the fictional town of Monteriano:-

Citizens came out for a little stroll before dinner. Some of them stood and gazed at the advertisements on the tower.

"Surely that isn't an opera-bill?" said Miss Abbott.

Philip put on his pince-nez. "'Lucia di Lammermoor. By the Master Donizetti. Unique representation. This evening.'

"But is there an opera? Right up here?"

"Why, yes. These people know how to live. They would sooner have a thing bad than not have it at all. That is why they have got to have so much that is good. However bad the performance is tonight, it will be alive. Italians don't love music silently, like the beastly Germans. The audience takes its share--sometimes more."

Cusinati's recordings are sparse and comprise a group of records cut for the Favorite label in October 1908, i don't think anything esle survives except his part in any 'off air' recordings from the Arena. Unfortunately my copy of this record was well liked and played so  has rather suffered, especially so at the beginning of the 'Lucia' selection.

The playing of this Band of 44 is spirited, a bit hapahzard in places but then it has that rhythmic drive and panache that is just so often missing in performances of Rossini and Donizetti. I have just no idea what Cusinani's influence was on Callas but something of his style must have rubbed off.

These recordings are not listed by Claude Arnold in his comprehensive discography The Orchestra on Record 1896-1926 or indeed anywhere else, however the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek has a few including a copy of the one I have dubbed. Looking at the matrix numbers it would seem two recording session must have taken place in 1908 - the suffixes -o indicate 10 inch, and -p  indicate 12 inch discs. I have assumed the date printed on the label is probably a fabrication date and the recording where probably cut slightly earlier. From the gaps in the sequence I would estimate that Favorite issued a couple of dozen records by the band.

That is the sum total of my knowledge of Ferruccio Cusinati - I have also sadly not been able to turn up any photograph of him.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

'one can hear the far too numerous twiddly bits'

Liszt: Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Themes S123 

Arthur de Greef, piano &
The Royal Albert Hall Orchestra
 conducted by Landon Ronald

HMV D523 & D528

(Matrix Nos. HO 4573af; Ho4574-2af; HO 4575af & HO 4576-3af)
Wednesday 27th October 1920

FLAC file 16bit [91Mb] or FLAC File 24bit [167Mb]
(If you are not familiar with FLAC I can recommend Foobar2000 player)

I have always had a fondness for Arthur de Greef's playing and don't mind posting something that has been reissued before. A few months ago APR produced a 3CD set of de Greef's recordings that included the 1927 electric remake of the 'Hungarian Fantasia.' This post is partly to supplement and advertise their reissue available here but also to test out an alternative method of making a transfer [more of which below]. I don't think I could add much to the excellent notes by Jonathan Summers for the APR issue that can be had here

The 1927 recording runs to 16m.12s. whereas the acoustic version is faster at 15m. There is in fact plenty of room left on three of the four sides so it was not a case of rushing the performance. The month before the recording de Greef had given a performance at the Proms with Henry Wood and the New Queen's Hall Orchestra on Saturday 11 September 1920.

Wood was contracted to Columbia and De Greef to HMV so there was no way they would have been able to make a recording together. The standard practise was for extended classical works to be issued over several months hence the numerical gap between the record numbers D523, issued in February, 1921, and D528 issued in March. In the May 1921 issue of Musical Times 'Discus' reviewed the records in his Gramophone Notes column :- 

'Another old friend turns up in Liszt's ' Hungarian' Fantasia, with de Greef at the pianoforte, and Landon Ronald and the Albert Hall Orchestra, H.M.V., two d.-s. records. The pianoforte tone is especially well reproduced - so well, in fact, that one can hear the far too numerous twiddly bits with patience. What a long while Liszt is getting under way in this work! One feels inclined to say, with Macbeth, 'Come, fellow, leave thy damnable faces, and begin.' Of these two records the first is the more enjoyable, not because it is a better record, but because the musical interest is on the whole greater. But the pair should be in the cabinet of all who want a particularly good sample of pianoforte-cum orchestra.'

I have taken a somewhat different approach to this transfer than others on the blog, the sound is slightly noisier but I hope it is also a lot clearer and more balanced. This 'new process' is a work very much in progress, so any comments on it would be appreciated. I have the usual version of FLAC file at 44.1Khz 16bit but the 24bit version is better sound a lot better with less surface noise, although the downside is it is almost twice a large.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Dirigible Music

Hermann Männecke"Graf Zeppelins" Weltreise 
Rund um die Erde - Großes Potpourri. 

Orchestra of  the Berlin Staatskapelle 
conducted by Dr Frieder Weissmann

Parlophone E10951

(Matrix Nos xxB 8393-2 & xxB 8394-2)
Tuesday, 10th September, 1929

One Flac file, Here at Mediafire. [about 24Mb]

The label on this British issue as you can see only gives half the story of this once 'topical' record and for some odd reason drops the name of both orchestra and conductor too. I can understand the wish to miss out the Zeppelin name because of the fairly recent raids during the First War but it is more likely that the loss of the British Airship R101 in September 1930 may have caused a label change! 

The composition celebrates the airship LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin circumnavigating the globe in 1929. It was really a trip round the northern hemisphere and depending on which starting point you want to pick the trip either started and finished at Lakehurst in New Jersey or Friedrichshafen in Germany.

Thus each leg of the journey was as follows:-

Friedrichshaften-Lakehurst: August 1, 1929- August 4, 1929
Lakehurst - Friedrichshaften: August 7, 1929 – August 10, 1929
Friedrichshafen – Tokyo: August 15, 1929 – August 19, 1929
Tokyo – Los Angeles: August 23, 1929 – August 26, 1929
Los Angeles – Lakehurst: August 27, 1929 – August 29, 1929
Lakehurst – Friedrichshafen: September 1, 1929 – September 4, 1929

Wikipedia et al take the Lakehurst position but our composer clearly preferred the Friedrichshafen one. He must have dashed the piece off in August 1929 for the recording was made within a week of the Graf Zeppelin landing back home.

Of Hermann Männecke (1879-1950) I have little to tell and can only transcribe the information in Wikipedia. Hermann was born and studied music at Hanover, he conducted his own band Blasorchester Hermann Männecke made a number of recordings and broadcasts. In 1931 Männecke became head of the orchestra class at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. He made a large number of adaptations of classical music, but also  wrote his own work. Along with other composers and arrangers (Georg Haentzschel, Gerhard Winkler, Hans Mielenz etc.) on November 29, 1950, he founded the Vereinigung Deutscher Musik-Bearbeiter eV (Association of German Music Arrangers). 

This is a film of the Graf Zeppelin over the Netherlands dropping a mail sack as it passes by.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Even more duplication

TchaikovskySymphony No. 6 in B minor, 'Pathétique'

3. Allegro molto vivace -abridged

The New Symphony Orchestra 
conducted by Landon Ronald

HMV 0757

(Matrix Nos.al5864f)
Saturday 6th January 1912

One Flac files , Here at Mediafire. [about 21Mb]

I meant to add one more tract to my last post but entirely forgot.

Thought I would also try out Soundcloud to see how it worked and indeed if it worked!  I have however left my usual link to the recoding for download by ye olde tried and tested method as it has probably better fidelity.

Not much to say really other than this is Ronald's first attempt at recording a part of the Symphony. Same orchestra but before the name change a few years later.  This recording lasted an even shorter period in the catalogues that the 1923 'full' version posed a few days ago. HMV decided to re-record the excerpt in 1915 with another attempt under the same issue number. Clearly a much smaller orchestra than the forces used in 1923 but still Ronald and his 'band of merry men' managed to pack a lot in all the same. 

You will hear through this recording a bit of 'rumble' that is prevelent usually when the trombones are playing. I have a feeling that the lower harmonics may have mechanically vibrated the recording machine, either through the floor or to some part of the machine was exposed to their blast - anyway I have left this in the transfer as a sort of curiosity.

Landon Ronald & the New Symphony Orchestra c. 1912

I just love the wording from the October 1912 HMV New Records supplement below. At 19 years of age the work was indeed a 'landmark of modern orchestral music.' I can't think the adjective 'barbaric' would be used today though.

I can't help wondering what the public of 1912 felt about these recordings. Ernest Newman article ‘The Essential Tchaikovsky’ [published in the Contemporary Review, June 1901] succinctly summed up the general opinion a few years early  'It cannot be said that our ordinary musical audiences know Tchaikovsky very well...for the great majority of people Tchaikovsky may be said to be represented by the Sixth Symphony, the '1812' Overture, and the Casse-Noisette Suite - the first earning him the reputation of a hopeless pessimist, the second that of a semi-barbarian, the third that of an adept in graceful trifling.

Barbarian and Tchaikovsky synonymous then.