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Date of Issue Not Known (Circa: 1998)
We are surely celebrating an anniversary since it is just twenty-five years since the very first issue of Historic Masters appeared under the aegis of the British Institute of Recorded Sound. This new issue is also our twenty-first and the complete Historic Masters catalogue now comprises 136 discs – 271 sides, around 70 of which had not previously been, available in ’78rpm’, format. These recordings feature no less than 112 different singers. No collector can ever forget the incalculable debt we all owe to the clubs and labels such as IRCC, HRS, and Addison Foster which pioneered the notion of making generally available special pressings from original metals. The reality is that in terms of the size and range of catalogue, Historic Masters has now superseded the activities of these pioneers and at a time when the manufacture of the gramophone record as we know and love it has become more or less obsolete.
Our new series is again made up of seven discs – the regular five; the free disc contributed yet again by Dr John Stratton and a seventh ‘bonus’ disc. A word of explanation is required about the latter. It is our intention to include with each Historic Masters issue a bonus disc – normally a common record which was originally issued on poor shellac. This was a particularly severe problem with English issues in the 1930s. Last time we offered as bonus two recordings of Walter Widdop and we thought it might be appropriate this time to focus on one of his major singing partners – Florence Austral – who has not hitherto been included in our catalogue. In the course of researching holdings at the archive in Hayes – and not many which were issued on the domestic black label still survive – we were guided, through the work of David Mason, to two unissued items by Austral, although a catalogue number had actually been assigned to one of them. So they halve been coupled as the bonus disc on this occasion.
Regular subscribers will probably note that this twenty-first issue is heavily tilted towards electrical recordings, and this confirms a trend which is likely to continue. We can only issue records from metals which still exist. The prime purpose of Historic Masters is to make available otherwise unpublished or rare items. As far as we know, outside the Russian catalogue, there is no great cache of important, unused acoustic material in the archive at Hayes. However we do hope and believe that collectors will be interested in acquiring more modern rarities of the kind featured in this 21st issue.
Historic Masters continues to enjoy the co-operation of many individuals without whom our work would be impossible. These include Ruth Edge and the staff of the EMI archive and Alan Kelly, master of the as of discography.
Collectors hardly need reminding that it is now more than 40 years since regular production of 78 rpm discs ceased. It is of course also more than a decade since the introduction of the CD. In this context it seems almost a miracle that we have so far found ways to continue our activities. However, nothing can be taken for granted. We depend on the EMI Archive to make available the metal masters and on the EMI factory to manufacture the records. Historic Masters also depends critically on its customers to ensure its solvency by ordering each issue promptly. It is certain that we are the last of a line: after Historic Masters there will be no more special pressings from ’78 rpm’ metals.
Richard Tauber (1891-1948)
DER SINGENDE TRAUM (Tauber)
Sagen dir nicht meine Augen
Singt mir ein Liebeslied
Both recorded at 78rpm
Matrices VE2138-2 and VE2139-2 Recorded in Vienna in 1934 and issued as Odeon0-4541
Sung in German
Tauber’s operetta ‘DER SINGENDE TRAUM’ opened to great acclaim at the Theatre an der Wien on August 31st 1934. It ran for well over a hundred performances before going on tour to other European cities, which were still open to the tenor, the Nazis had banished from Germany.
His partner (also his protégée) was the Russian soprano, Mary Losseff – an outstanding beauty, a fine, actress and with a beautiful voice. This record of two lovely duets was never issued outside Germany, and is extremely rare – probably because the operetta was never performed there.
Songs my Mother Taught Me (Dvorak) Speed 78rpm
Hat dich die Liebe beruhrt (Marx) Speed 78rpm
Matrices OB 5558-1 and OB 5561-1
Recorded in London, January 1934 and issued as IRCC 174
In 1933 HMV recorded in London six sides by Florence Easton at the request of the Victor Company. Four of them were published in the normal way in America only, but the remaining two sides remained unpublished until William Seltsam issued them some years later on IRCC 174.
Unfortunately, one of the sides was pressed from an unsatisfactory stamper. However, both of them have now been pressed from perfect stampers, and are in glorious sound.
Easton sings both of the songs in her usual immaculate fashion, is a pleasure to revive interest in a great English singer who was, in her time, almost unknown in her native country, and yet a great star of the Metropolitan and the creator of Lauretta in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.
Mamma (Bixio) Speed 78rpm
Se vuoi goder la vita (Bixio) Speed 78rpm
Matrics OZA 1239 and 1240 Recorded in Switzerland in 1944 and issued as HMV JK 34
Escaping to Switzerland from the German occupation of Northern Italy the twenty-three year old Sicilian tenor made the first of his many records in the studios of Radio Lausanne in 1944.
They had a very limited circulation in Switzerland and Italy only after the war was over and they are almost impossible to find today. No great claim can be made for the musical quality of the two songs by the ubiquitous Bixio, but here is the voice of the young di Sefano in all its glory.
Ria Ginster (1898-1985)
DIE ZAUBERFLOTE (Mozart)
Ach ich fuhls Speed 78rpm
Matrix Nos OB 4194. Recorded in London in 1933
LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (Mozart)
Non so piu coa son Speed 78rpm
Matrix Nos OB 6401. Recorded in London in 1933
Both issued as DA 1326
Most of the many fine records of this Swiss soprano are comparatively easy to acquire today, apart from the elusive discs that she made, and that were only ever issued, in Switzerland during the war.
Among her normal releases, this is the one that never seems to turn up. Her singing of Mozart has a cool elegance which is most attractive, and is in strong contrast to the breathy over interpretation so often encountered in modern performacnes.
GERHARD HUSCH (1901-1984)
Am Meer and Der Doppelganger (Schubert) Speed 78rpm
Matrices 2RA 2188-1-2 and 2RA 2189-1-2
Recorded in Berlin on 27 August 1937 and unpublished
In our last issue we included two 1 unpublished Schubert Lieder of out standing beauty sung by Gerhard Husch Here are two more and they am Me last Mat have survived in the Archive at Hayes.
In the Fischer-Dieskau era, Husch’s tremendous contribution to Lieder singing tended to be undervalued. What a relief it is today to experience an approach that is characterized by palpable but contained emotion, a rich beauty of tone, free from any over emphasis. To my ears, these are model performances.
EVGENI WITTING (1 889-1982)
LA GIOCONDA (Ponchielli)
Cielo e Mar Speed 80rpm
EVGENI WITTING (1889-1982)
ALEXANDER BRAGIN (1881-1 955)
LEV SIBIRIAKOV (1869-1942)
Que voulez vous, Messieurs? Speed 74rpm
Matrix 2036c Recorded in St Petersburg in September 1910 and issued as 024040. Sung in Russian
Ivan Erschoff, Evqeni Willing and Alexander Davidoff were Imperial Russia’s three principal dramatic tenors before the First World War. On this record, we hear Witting in Enzo’s aria from Act 2 of La Gioconda and in the duel trio from Faust with Bragin and the great Lev Sibiriakoff. Both sides are sung in Russian.
FLORENCE AUSTRAL (1894-1968)
Love’s Old Sweet Song (Molloy)
Scenes that are Brightest
Matrix Bb 18988
Both titles are sung in English, recorded in London in March 1930 and unpublished.
Our bonus record for this issue contains two unpublished sides by the great Australian dramatic soprano. They were unearthed for us by one of that dedicated bunch of discographers, David Mason. Normally such important discoveries would be guaranteed a place in our main issue. However, because the matrices have developed some clicks that are ineradicable, the Committee decided that this record would be a subscribers bonus. ‘Love’s Old Sweet Song’ was assigned an issue number (DB 1552) and was meant to be coupled with Goring Thomas’s ‘A Summer Night’ but as far as we are, aware no copy of the record has ever surfaced. Austral’s version of ‘Scenes that are Brightest’ from Maritana was unknown before Mr Mason noticed it in the files. Despite the clicks, the singing is wonderful.
Tagged with: Issue 21
Do you own a gramophone? Can you play 78rpm discs? Many of these records have never previously been published. Others are major rarities in their original form.
Lilli Lehmann, Richard Tauber, John McCormack, Nellie Melba, Titta Ruffo, Dmitri Smirnoff, Joseph Schmidt, Feodor Chaliapine, Geraldine Farrar, Lev Klementieff, Vanni Marcoux, Jacques Urlus, Beniamino Gigli, Jussi Bjorling and Celestina Boninsegna – our list goes on and on!
Our records are pressed from the original metal parts used for pressing the discs in the days of 78s. They are not transfers or dubbings. Thus they are identical to original pressings, but instead of noisy shellac, we use vinyl which has a much lower surface noise. That means more of the music can be heard. And, modern technology enables us to produce better pressings than could be made 50 or more years ago.
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