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Written by Richard Bebb. Pitching decisions by Ward Marston and Richard Bebb
HERBERT JANSSEN (1892 –1965)
HMB 157 Kriegers Ahnung [Schwangesang] and Ganymed (Schubert)
2ea 2199 and 2ea 6153 – previously unpublished
Recorded 1937 and 1938
Speeds 77.7 and 78.2
Of the many great baritones that Germany produced in the 1920’s, Herbert Janssen was, together with Friedrich Schorr, the most popular in England. Yet today this superb singer has been almost completely overlooked, and it is rare that any reference is made to his many wonderful records. It seem to have been forgotten that Walter Legge thought so highly of his art that he entrusted more songs in the HUGO WOLF SOCIETY albums to Janssen than to any other singer, or that his versions of Wolfram’s arias from the complete Bayreuth ‘TANHAUSER’ of 1930 may have been equalled by other baritones but certainly not surpassed.
It is excellent news that there are a dozen or so of his unpublished lieder records in the Archive, all of them quite beautifully and faultlessly sung – and all of which deserve to be published. These two rarely recorded Schubert songs are marvellous examples of his simple and uncomplicated style, mercifully free from the overemphasis and self- consciousness of so much contemporary Lieder singing. Both sides are being published now for the first time.
MARIAN ANDERSON (1902-1993)
HMB 158 Die Libelle and De Bagge rosorna/ Var det ein drom? (Sibelius)
Accompanied by Kosti Vehanen (piano)
2LA 1164 and 2LA 1165 – previously unpublished
Speed (both sides) 77.5
It was her accompanist, Kosti Vehanen, who introduced Marian Anderson to the songs of Sibelius very soon after she began her first Scandinavian tour in 1931 – in fact they visited the composer’s home in Finland together so that he could hear her sing the five songs she had so far been taught by Vehanen. They were invited for just half an hour, with coffee to follow. However, once Sibelius had heard her sing, he rose excitedly to his feet, embraced her and shouted to his wife “Not coffee, but champagne”. He also attended a recital she gave in Helsinki, and, much later, declared that her singing of his ‘Come away, Death’ was the favourite recording of any of his songs.
These three attractive Sibelius songs were made in Paris in 1936 and were until now unpublished in any form. At a slightly later session, she recorded two other songs of Sibelius: these too remain unpublished. Unfortunately only one of them is known to exist at Hayes, and this we will certainly make sure is issued later. Meanwhile a search for the missing side will be made in other surviving archives. All the songs are accompanied by the indispensable Kosti Vehanen. Due to the unfamiliarity of the songs a leaflet with the English text will be distributed with the records.
HINA SPANI (1896–1969)
HMB 159 LOHENGRIN – Aurette a cui si spesso and Sola nei miei prim’anni (Wagner) (sung in Italian)
Recorded 1927 and 1928
Speeds 77.4 and 78.4
These magnificent versions of Elsa’s two arias from ‘LOHENGRIN’ by the great Brazilian soprano were only ever pressed and issued by the Victor Company in South America, though they were recorded by HMV’s Italian branch in Milan in 1927 and 1928. Since her records of Italian arias achieved worldwide popularity, the failure of HMV or Victor to release the ‘LOHENGRIN’ excerpts in Europe and North America is a genuine mystery. The only credible explanation that occurs to me lies in the passionate emotional commitment of the singer, which is at almost total variance with the traditional German approach to the music. I do not want to imply that either approach is superior to the other, but Spani’s vibrant versions certainly make you listen to the music as though you had never heard it before. Both sides are accompanied by the orchestra of La Scala, Milano and conducted by Carlo Sabajno.
NINON VALLIN (1886-1961) / PAUL PAYAN (1878-1959)
HMB 160 (a) LOUISE – Crois-tu qu’il t’aimée? (Charpentier)
029471/2 v – previously unpublished
Average speed 79.5
One of the most amazing discoveries ever to have been made in the Archive at Hayes is this duet which ends the first act of the opera. Ninon Vallin made nine recordings for Voix de son Maître in January 1914, only two of which were published. Since neither the published nor the other unpublished sides, are at Hayes, why on earth was just this particular one ever sent across the Channel? It is even more fortunate that it has survived because it appears to be a passage that Vallin never otherwise recorded. Louise’s contribution to the scene is limited to a few brief responses and it is her father who dominates the record. This barely matters as this issue will help to introduce to many collectors one of the finest and most distinguished of the wonderful French basses of the early part of the 20th century. Payan was virtually VDSM’s ‘house’ bass, and he made a great many records for them. He also worked for a number of the smaller record companies in Paris: I have never heard one that was not perfectly vocalized and many of them are, quite simply, unforgettable.
DINH GILLY (1877 –1940)
HMB 160 (b) HÉRODIADE – Vision fugitive (Massenet)
Cc 3344-2 previously unpublished
Some years ago, Dinh Gilly’s remarkable singing of this aria was issued by HISTORIC MASTERS for the first time. It was not until the appearance of Alan Kelly’s great work on the HMV French Catalogue that anyone knew that he had ever recorded it. But there it was with its own assigned issue number, though no copies had ever been published. Luckily the master still existed at Hayes, and, when it was pressed, turned out to be probably the finest of all his excellent records. Very recently, an alternative take was also found to exist and it now turns out that it was this take, not the one previously pressed by Historic Masters, that was assigned the issue number. Given that Gilly’s recordings are central to the finest traditions of the classical style of French singing, (though he was, of course, Algerian by birth), it was thought to be an appropriate coupling for the Vallin/Payan duet. Both takes of the ‘Vision fugitive’ are conducted by Julius Harrison and played by an unnamed orchestra.
VLADIMIR ROSING (1890-1963)
HMB 161 – CARMEN – La fleur que tu m’avais jetée (Bizet)
and EUGENE ONEGIN – Khuda, khuda (Tchaikovsky)
both sides sung in Russian
2712c and 2713c – previously unpublished
Speed both sides 77.5
The records of Vladimir Rosing have long fascinated me. Leaving aside the two electric Parlophone sets which were made too late in his career, the early records made in St. Petersburg in 1912, the small group made for HMV in London during the first World War, and the long series he made for the Vocalion Company contain some performances of unmitigated genius. Born with a voice of second-rate quality, the technical mastery he developed over it was prodigious. For example, it gave him the ability to sing the final phrase of Arensky’s ‘Volga Lullaby’ for an amazing thirty seconds without taking a breath, a feat not equalled on 78’s by any other singer of either sex.
His genius for interpretation, especially of songs, was even more remarkable than his technique, and at the peak of his career he held his audiences in thrall:- it is claimed that, in just the two seasons of 1917 and 1918, he gave over forty recitals in London alone. His debut in opera was in St. Petersburg in 1912 in ‘EUGENE ONEGIN’. So great a success did he achieve that he was invited to record Lensky’s aria that same year. I will go out on a limb and claim that Rosing’s is the finest, most subtle version that I have ever heard (just think of the competition!), and it is a total mystery that it was never published – its coupling, the Flower song from ‘CARMEN’ was likewise spurned. Given that Rosing made so many records, it is even more amazing that he never recorded the Lenski aria again. I consider this to be one of the most valuable discoveries that HISTORIC MASTERS has ever made.
VASSILI PETROVICH DAMAEV (1878-1932)
HMB 162a OPRICHNIK – Proshanie Morozov (Tchaikovsky)
2962c – previously unpublished
VASSILI PETROVICH DAMAEV (1878-1932) / VERA PETROVA-ZVANTSEVA (1876-1944)
HMB 162b SAMSON ET DALILA – duet act 2 scene 3 (Saint-Saens)
Sung in Russian
1923c – ( 024033)
Our subscribers will be well aware of the late Dr.John Stratton’s great generosity in underwriting the costs of including in each of our sets a free record devoted to extremely rare Russian material. Shortly before his untimely death, he also paid all the pressing costs for a dozen or so tests for future issues. The Committee intends to publish most of these tests eventually, and the John Stratton Trust Fund has agreed to continue to underwrite all the pressing costs so that the Russian record will remain a gift. It also means that John’s influence and taste will still be reflected in our activities even though he is no longer with us.
Damaev was one of his favourite Russian singers, and the tenor’s open throated vocalism, though lacking the suavity and finish of a Smirnoff or a Sobinoff, has an enthusiasm and dramatic thrust that would have carried most audiences with him. The very rarely recorded aria from Tchaikovsky’s ‘OPRICHNIK’ is a fine example of his forthright style – -it is perhaps relevant that his fame in Russia was largely due to his many successful appearances in verismo roles.
He is joined by the mezzo-soprano Petrova-Zvantseva in the duet from ‘SAMSON ET DALILA’ that immediately precedes ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ – Due to an error in John R. Bennett’s and Alan Kelly’s Russian catalogue listings, John Stratton was deceived into believing that the record included at least part of the aria as well, but a thorough search suggests that the artists did not attempt it. Perhaps the explanation is that, though she has some good moments ~ Petrova-Zvantseva lacked the necessary weight of voice to do justice to the demands of the music, and that therefore the idea was abandoned.
You will find no given speed on the label of the SAMSON ET DALILA side but it is necessary to adjust your turntable to 72.00 rpm. The Committee regrets the omission, which was due to our inability to locate a test pressing in time. We have also found that the record was assigned an issue number 024033 and should not be described as unpublished as the label suggests.
LOTTE SCHÖNE (1891-1977)
HMB 163 DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR – Er wird mein glauben! Nun eilt herbei! (Nicolai)
As the ‘free extra’ record which the Committee offers to our customers with each issue, we have chosen this superlative version of Frau Fluth’s aria from the first act of DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR sung by Lotte Schöne and accompanied by Leo Blech and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra. Though the World Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music gives a Central European and a Victor issue number for the recording, the only pressings that ever seem to turn up are of the HMV, which is afflicted by a great deal of surface noise. All of us on the Committee are agreed that one of the most important of our tasks is to salvage very great records that only appear to exist in inferior pressings. To hear Schöne’s glorious voice, free of any extraneous noise, is a veritable delight.
A NOTE ON SPEEDS by Richard Bebb
The speeds for the first series of HISTORIC MASTERS (the 20 records issued under the auspices of the British Institute of Recorded Sound) were determined by Desmond Shawe-Taylor. When the series resumed, I took over the task and have continued with it ever since. Discovering the exact speed at which a record should revolve is an extremely difficult task and only years of practice can make you proficient. I have long prided myself, if I am working well, that I am able to pitch a record accurately to the nearest revolution, and, in the past, the speeds given on our labels have always appeared as two digit numbers.
However, that is now about to change dramatically. Two years ago Ward Marston joined our Committee, and many of you will know of him as the most celebrated and highly praised transfer engineer in the world. He is also a practising musician and is lucky enough to possess perfect pitch – gifts which I do not possess. Furthermore, because he is also blind, he has developed an aural sensitivity that is truly remarkable. I have watched him at work in his studio in Philadelphia and marvelled at his ability to pitch a record to one (or maybe two) decimal points. When I am actually with him, he can even make me hear the difference.
It would be criminally foolish not to harness such a talent, and I am delighted to say that Ward has agreed to take over the task of pitching all our future issues. This means that the speeds will now be given to the nearest decimal point. Collectors need not be alarmed by this. It is demonstrably true that to play a 78 record only one revolution too fast or too slow can substantially affect the colour of the human voice, but it is also true that fractions of one revolution will only be noticed by a tiny minority. If your turntable does not possess a digital read-out, and if the label tells you that the correct speed is 76.6 or above, I suggest that you play it at 77, or, if it says 76.3 that you play it at 76.
Tagged with: Issue 25
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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