Saturday, 29 March 2014

Being topical

Well as topical as one can be about something made and played long ago:-

Landing through my letterbox today was the Spring 2014 edition of Classical Recordings Quarterly. An article on violinist Marie Hall (1884-1956) has prompted me to make a few transfers of her playing. Her late recordings are scarce and I don't think these discs have ever been made available except in their original format.

Marie Hall violin

SindingRomance, Op.9
Sinigaglia: Capriccio all'antica, Op.25 No.2
Goossens: Old Chinese Folk Song, Op.4, No.1
Holst: Valse-Etude, H.56

HMV E340  (Bb 4227-1; Bb 4238-3)
HMV E348  (Bb 4236-3; Bb 4237-1)

All recorded on 20 February 1924 with  Marguerite Tilleard, piano excepting the
Sinigaglia which was recorded on the 21st February 1924 with Charlton Reith, piano.

Zip of 4 Flac files , Here at Mediafire. [about 35Mb]

These four pieces must have been part of her repertoire in 1924, coincidentally a recent post on another blog Land of Lost Content transcribes a letter from Marie Hall in which she encourages British music. As is pointed out, the three pieces she played at a Wigmore Hall recital in 1922 have disappeared. The other correspondent, John Ireland no less, suggests several other piece that have subsequently stood the test of time. I wonder if Marie Hall career was leaning towards modern music but unfortunately for her the wrong sort of 'modern' music.

Marie Hall about 1904
What of the pieces, the Sinding and the Sinigaglia were both fairly standard repertoire in their day and do crop up from time to time on record and probably formed part of Hall's concert material. The Goossens was played by Marie Hall on the 19th September 1922 at a concert in Portsmouth, so this too was maybe also in her repertoire. Apparently Goossens researched authentic material from London’s Chinese quarter in Limehouse, I wonder what else he got up to in that quarter of London in his youth. Imogen Holst in her article on recordings of her father Gustav Holst for Recorded Sound (No. 59, 1975 p. 440) noted that ‘The early violin solo, Valse-Etude, was recorded by Marie Hall, the dedicatee, in 1924 (HMV E348), and as she had first performed it in 1903 she would have known his wishes.’ I might add that Marguerite Tilleard was apparently Marie Hall's accompanist from 1902 so would all likelihood have premiered the work with Hall.

Gustav Holst in 1923

These records come from what appear to be Hall’s last recording sessions. Fascinating for they show them juxtaposed with four remakes of La précieuse (Couperin-Kreisler); Humoreske (Dvořák); Minuet in G No. 2 (Beethoven) and Le cygne (Saint-Saëns) made in order to replace sides on HMV E16, E17 & E18. I think the deal may have been to re-record replacement masters and see if there was a market for her newish repertoire. Apparently the new records did not sell very well as E340, issued in May 1924, and E 348. issued in August 1924, were both deleted in December 1925. Only her Humoreske, survived any length of time until finally discarded in 1934. She was not asked back to make electric recording, maybe HMV just had too many already violinists on the books already.

Christian Sinding in 1890

There are only a few contemporary reviews of these discs:

For E340 only 'Discus' gave a review in The Musical Times for June 1924. 'A first-rate violin record is a 12-in. d.-s. of Thibaud in a couple of Granados's Spanish Dances, arranged by Kreisler and the player himself. Less good, because of the poorer quality of the music, is a 12-in. [sic] d.-s. of Marie Hall-Sinding's Romance and Sinigaglia's Catriccio all' antica.'

Leone Sinigaglia

For E348 there are two reviews  'Discus' again The Musical Times for September 1924 'The only violin record received is above the average of interest - Marie Hall playing Holst's 'Valse-Etude' and Goossens's 'Old Chinese Folk- Song' (10-in. d.-s.). The former gives us an unfamiliar aspect of Holst, and an engaging one.  The playing is delightful in freedom and delicacy.  I don't know whether the Goossens piece deals with a genuine Chinese folk-song, or whether it is just the composer's idea of what such a song might be; but  the result - especially in regard to some of the pianoforte harmonies - is excellent.' 

Also Alex Robertson in The Gramophone for August, 1924. 'The names of Goossens and Holst suggest an outburst of modernism, but you need have no fears. Holst's piece is just what its title tells us, and completely unambitious; and Goossens' nice “travelling" tune (pace Walford Davies) never originated in China and is cousin to some of Madame Butterfly. Both pieces are fastidiously and well played.'

Eugene Goossens in 1920
I have included a couple of scans from the HMV Supplements for May, 1924 and August, 1924 too. I just love the statement ‘It was daring of Marie Hall to choose for her records pieces of modern British music whose work is so widely and hotly discussed as is that of Goossens and Holst.’ That the pieces were inked in 1912 and 1903 respectively they may have been just  'daring' enough for the recording executives to take a risk, sales however were poor but at least they tried to extend the taste of a rather conservative record buying public. Also note the issues coincided with more expensive red-label issue of Jacques Thibaud

Three contemporary articles on Marie can be found at the blog Song of the Lark. Well down the page you have to search for it!

 Stradivarius 1709 ex “Viotti-Marie Hall”


  1. The link on this page appears to be not the Marie Hall one but the Smetana one from your previous posting...please correct this.

    1. Oooooooops, have corrected my gross error and Marie Hall is now tagged onto the link.

      Best wishes


  2. Yes, and it reminds me I meant to thank you again for the Smetana, which is cracking good! Best wishes, Gr

  3. Comes from copying & pasting that line from previous post - easy done but maybe I found some accidental converts to Smetana!