Issued – November 2004

Like the 26th, this new 27th issue of Historic Masters contains some unbelievable treasures never published in original ‘78rpm’ form. Our last issue included items by Björling and Gigli – surely two of the truly great tenors of the twentieth century! It seemed hard to believe that these were never published at the time of recording. On this occasion we can offer some equally fabulous items – records never previously available in original form by Boninsegna, Chaliapin, Flagstad, Korjus and Jurinac. The last name may cause some surprise. Jurinac’s earliest studio recordings were in 78rpm format. However, she continued to record in that format at the very moment our beloved 78s were being superseded by vinyl LPs. In consequence her superb full length performance of the great aria from Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans was never available in original form. If you do happen to own the wonderful LP of some of Jurinac’s greatest recordings issued so long ago in the old HMV Treasury series you may like to make a comparison. I think the special vinyl pressing we are now issuing has even greater immediacy: further confirmation, if any be needed, that Jurinac was one of the truly great sopranos of the twentieth century.
At the other end of the time span there is a recording by Celestina Boninsegna which it seems has hitherto been completely unknown to collectors in any form. Given the reverence in which most of us hold Boninsegna it does indeed seem astonishing that the complete duet from Il Guarany should have been ‘hidden’ for more than eighty years. We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our predecessor organizations, such as IRCC, HRS and Addison Foster. However, where the discovery of unpublished treasures is concerned we have out-performed them all.

In large measure this is due to the much greater availability of printed source material – above all authoritative catalogues by issue number and matrix of what was recorded. Of equal importance has been the willingness of the EMI archive to give us full access to their metal treasures. We are currently working with the archive on a range of cataloguing projects which will aid future searches. Hopefully, this will also include important EMI archives held in other countries. This cataloguing work and much else we undertake would not have been possible without support from Historic Singers Trust and the John Stratton Trust. Indeed in the absence of generous financial assistance of from the John Stratton Trust, Historic Masters might not have been able to continue our operations during some of the difficulties of the recent past. We should also recognize the extraordinary support of Record Industry in Harlem. Many of our customers have commented that the superb vinyl discs produced for us are the best they have ever heard where reproduction of 78rpm masters are concerned. So far we have only been able to offer 12”, but hopefully we will be able to offer 10” discs once again in the not too distant future.

Nonetheless the message cannot be repeated too often that ultimately, the survival of Historic Masters will be determined by our customers. As collectors, we are in a very real sense in the ‘the last chance saloon’. We are the only company in the world exclusively devoted to making available 78rpm discs from original metal masters and there is unlikely ever to be another. And please don’t forget that once any issue is sold out, there is no possibility of any further pressings. Very few back issues are still available.

Perhaps I should conclude my part of this bulletin by reporting some other developments. We have now issued the second edition of the complete Fonotipia catalogue on Cdrom. It gives details of approximately 1000 sides additional to those covered in the first edition. As promised. the second edition was circulated free of charge to those who subscribed to the first. We still have some copies available. Many collectors all over the world have helped in this project. Once again it would have been quite impossible without the financial support of both the John Stratton Trust and Historic Singers Trust. I would also (as Secretary and Managing Director of Historic Masters Ltd) like to pay tribute to various members of our own committee without whose efforts this project could never have been completed. Tom Peel and Richard Bebb collated and contributed a great amount of purely discographical material: by actually listening to a vast number of Fonotipia discs they were able to sort out the vexed question of the precise starting points on different recordings. Richard made two visits to Italy to gain information from major collections in this country. We also owe it to Richard that this second edition includes more than eighty of the postcards issued by Fonotipia with photos of leading artists. These are included on the Cdrom and can be readily printed from your computer. Even as reprints they are magnificent.

Above all, though, our Fonotipia project could never have been carried through without the determination and dedication of its principal editor Roger Beardsley. It is my belief that collectors the world over owe him a major debt of gratitude. And before leaving Fonotipia, I should mention that we plan to make the catalogue available in various printed versions. Subscribers will be able to order printed versions organized by matrix number, catalogue number, singer or work. These will, hopefully, include reproductions of the Fonotipia cards mentioned above.

Readers of this bulletin may also be interested in some of the other projects supported by Historic Singers Trust. First, a new biography of Lina Cavalieri by Paul Fryer and Olga Usova has now been published by McFarland & Co. With the support of HST and the John Stratton Trust, Paul is now working on a history of the Marinsky Theatre. Hopefully this will include a chronology up to 1914. HST has also commissioned a translation of the important book by Stark on the great singers of the Marinsky. As a source this rivals the Memoirs of Serve Levik, a translation of which was sponsored some years ago (pubished copies are still available). We are also supporting Vicki Kondelik in her continuing research of the life and career of the great Seinemeyer one of whose finest records is included in this current 27th issue. And we are still looking for a publisher of the English translation of the magnificent book by Jacques Chuilon, ‘Matia Battistini: le dernier divo’.

Finally, subscribers to the 27th issue of Historic Masters may be interested in the circumstances of the live recordings from Mozart and Salieri. The concert took place at the Royal Albert Hall in 1927. One of my personal enthusiasms is collecting old programmes of opera and concerts. Many years ago I was lucky enough to find a copy of the original programme for this Albert Hall concert. It is both informative – full English texts – and beautifully produced – fine illustrations. Historic Masters has produced a limited edition reprint of this 24pp programme which is available separately for the small extra charge of £6.

 

HISTORIC MASTERS – 27th Issue notes by Richard Bebb 

HM 171

CELESTINA BONINSEGNA (1877-1947) / LUIGI BOLIS

IL GUARANY: Peri!…Che brami…Sento una forza indomita… Ah! lo sguardo suo si vivado (Rec. 2/6/17) Mat. nos. 3198c (HMV DB 491) & 3200c (unpublished)

This completely unknown and unpublished second side of the great duet from IL GUARANY by Carlos Gomez must count as among the most astonishing discoveries that Historic Masters has ever made. The first side of the duet was issued in both single and double-sided form by HMV and was also reissued by IRCC in the 1930s. But there was absolutely no knowledge that Boninsegna and her excellent partner, Luigi Bolis, had gone on to complete the duet. What is more, we even found another unpublished version of the music (with a different matrix number), which, for the sake of completeness, we hope to issue later on. In the meantime, we felt it was more artistic and convenient to bring both parts together for the first time ever. The duet ends Act II of the opera, and the music is continuous.

The masters of both the unpublished matrices were in poor shape when they were discovered, but, though they lack the gleaming polished look of the rest of our issues, they both play with barely any audible fault. This has been due to much dedicated work by the Committee’s technical expert, Sean Davies and by the staff of Portal Space Records (who cleaned-up the masters), and of Record Industry, our pressing plant, Visually the pressings are pretty grim, but apart from a few trivial ticks, the sound is magnificent – and so is the singing!

HM 172

SENA JURINAC (1921-

THE MAID OF ORLEANS – Farewell, forests (Joan’s aria) sung in German. (Rec. 10/8/50) Mat. nos. 2EA 14953/4; Unpublished HMV (as direct 78 rpm pressing)

My favourite among the post-war lyric sopranos from Europe was the Jugoslav Sena Jurinac, who for many years led the company in the Mozart repertory at Glyndebourne, for which the beauty of her voice and person, plus the finish of her wonderfully secure technique, made her the ideal interpreter. Later she became equally famous as a Richard Strauss specialist, and was probably the finest Octavian of them all. This almost unknown 78rpm recording of the great aria from Tchaikovsky’s THE MAID OF ORLEANS was never issued in that form, and only appeared as part of an LP recital, which was a transfer from the tape made simultaneously with the 78rpm wax. Tapes of that time, made on EMI’s BTR 1 recorder frequently suffered from audible distortion, especially affecting sopranos. Our two sides are stunningly clean and vivid, exhibiting none of the problems of the contemporary tapes. The good news is that there are two further metals of Jurinac recorded at the same time which will form part of a future issue.

Meanwhile this is the free record of the set.

HM 173/4

FYODOR CHALIAPIN (1873-1938) with Theodore Ritch (1894-1943) as Mozart

MOZART AND SALIERI:

173: They all say; there is no truth on earth (Scene 1 opening) (CR 1525/6)

174A: Like a certain cherub, he has brought us heavenly songs (Scene conclusion) (CR 1528)

174B: You will sleep for a long time, Mozart! (Scene 2) (CR 1528)

All recorded live at the RAH, 11/10/27. Mat. nos. CR 1525-I, 1526-I, 1527-IC & 1528-IA; Unpublished HMV

After the death of Caruso, there can be no doubt that Chaliapin inherited his mantle as the most famous male singer in the world. The great English impresario, Charles B. Cochran, promoter principally of revues, musical comedies and prize fights, decided to go up?market and offered Chaliapin an engagement of two nights at the Royal Albert Hall. Only the best would do for Cochran and The London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society, under the baton of Albert Coates, were engaged for fully staged performances of the Inn scene from Act I of BORIS GODUNOV and Rimsky-Korsakov’s one act opera MOZART AND SALIERI. The evening began with four movements from the Mozart Requiem, continued with the Overture to LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, followed by MOZART AND SALIERI. After the interval, the orchestra played three Russian pieces followed by the Inn Scene (in which Chaliapin sang Varlaam). This highly eclectic programme proceeded to sell out the vast spaces of the Albert Hall, and even though Cochran was paying Chaliapin the unheard?of fee of £1250 per show, on top of all the other expenses, he claims to have made a profit. In one of his autobiographical books he wryly comments that the fee was at Chaliapin’s own suggestion..

The sound on these four sides shows just how much had been learned about ‘live-performance’ recording by the HMV engineers, since the Melba Farewell and Zenatello Otello of the previous year. Their vividness is quite extraordinary.

HM 175 A

KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD (1895-1962)

a) Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden (Richard Strauss) (Rec. 25/7/36) Mat. no. 2CS 386; Unpublished HMV

b) Zueignung (Richard Strauss) (Rec. 25/7/36) Mat. no. 2CS 386; Unpublished HMV

To the best of our knowledge, this is the only pre-war unpublished Lieder recording by the sublime Norwegian singer that exists in the Hayes archive, and as it is extremely well sung and recorded, it seemed an appropriate coupling for the Meta Seinemeyer master of another song by Richard Strauss. It is just one more example of a recording which has remained unpublished for no apparent reason, other than, perhaps, no suitable coupling, and it is worth mentioning that, with all the many test records that the Committee has ordered up over the years, it has been a very rare experience for us to be able to discover an obvious reason for the non-appearance of a particular record.

HM 175 B

META SEINEMEYER (1895-1929)

Cäcilie (Richard Strauss) (Rec. 9/4/26) Mat. no. 2-8802; Parlophon P 2218

This record was a late acoustic issue and was coupled with ‘Morgen’, also by Richard Strauss, on Parlophon P.1092. It is unfortunately extremely rare and, though it has been on my wants list for over thirty years. I have only once heard of a copy being offered for sale. By a miracle, a master for just this one side was found at Hayes, and the performance is so gloriously committed and of such surpassing beauty that we felt we simply had to issue it on its own. I have recently heard a copy of the missing ‘Morgen’, and it is, in fact, a disappointing performance and not really suited to her particular vocal capabilities.

HM 176 A

MILIZA KORJUS (1907-1980)

DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL – Ach, ich liebte (Rec. 2/10/34) Mat. no. 2RA 113-I; Unpublished Electrola

Born in Warsaw in 1907 of Swedish and Polish/Russian parents, Miliza Korjus enjoyed a meteoric career in Germany in the 1930’s. Her father was a military attaché, so she studied with a variety of teachers in various cities to which he was posted. Her concert debut was in 1929 in Russia and she began to tour extensively. In 1933, the director of the Berlin Staatsoper, Max von Schillings, heard her in a concert in Magdeburg, and he immediately engaged her to sing Gilda in RIGOLETTO in Berlin. She made a sensational debut, which was followed by other major roles in the coloratura repertoire. Her fame spread right across Central Europe, and she began to broadcast frequently and to make records. The discs achieved extraordinary sales, and one of them was heard by the great Hollywood producer, Irving Thalberg. He offered her the starring role in a MGM musical centred on the life of Johann Strauss II and called THE GREAT WALTZ, which became a world?wide success. A car accident, in which she severely injured her back, led to the abandonment of her follow?up film, arid she faded from sight. She appears not to have appeared in opera after she left Germany (to which she never returned), and her career petered out rather disappointingly. No doubt Lily Pons would not have been best pleased had the Met attempted to engage her!

But her German records remain and are still immensely enjoyable. She was a coloratura with a very sound technique, but also with bags of personality and charm, even though the voice has a kind of steely whiteness which is not only extremely distinctive (she is one of the easiest singers on record to identify immediately), but also, at least to my ears, is also very attractive.

There is no conceivable reason why this excellent performance of ‘Ach, ich liebte’ remained unpublished, since it is a wonderful piece of work and one of her finest discs. The only possible reason that occurs to me is the lack of a suitable coupling, as with the Kirsten Flagstad record listed above,

HM 176 B

MARY LEWIS (1897-1941)

MANON – Je marche sous tous les chemins…Obeissons (Rec. 7/1/25) Mat. no. Cc 5550-II; Unpublished HMV

Like Lina Cavalieri at the Folies-Bergeres, Mary Lewis first achieved fame in a spectacular revue, the Ziegfeld Follies. Both were women of outstanding beauty, but there can be no doubt that Lewis had the better voice and vocal technique.

After an appalling childhood, she progressed from the Follies to a briefly successful career at the Metropolitan Opera. It is much to be regretted that her published recorded legacy is by no means large. Apart from the five disc set of excerpts from Vaughan Williams’ HUGH THE DROVER, which she and Tudor Davies created, there are only four sides from Massenet’s MANON, three from THAIS (but one of them is duplicated), Nedda’s aria from PAGLIACCI, and four American songs. These contain some singing of the highest distinction and charm, allied to a beautiful voice. There are also many unpublished titles, but we have so far only managed to discover one of them in the Archive. It is another side from MANON, on which she sings, not only the ‘Je marche sur tous les chemins,’ but also the ‘Gavotte.’ Her HMV recordings were all made in 1924 and 1925 – they were therefore among the last acoustics to be made. There is no doubt that this accounts for their rarity, since they were available for such a short time.

HM 177

EVGENIA IVANOVNA ZBRUJEWA (1867 -old style calendar or 1868 – new style calendar – 1936)

177 A: RUSALKA – Days of past delights (Rec. 16/10/10) Mat. no. 2027c; HMV 023064

177 B: NERO – Bacchanale of Zulima (Rec. 25/09/11) Mat. no. 2448c; HMV 023084

This record is a gift of the John Stratton Trust.

Among the pre-revolutionary Russian contraltos, Evgenia Zbrujewa surely reigned supreme, and in her interpretations of music by Russian composers she has had few equals since – though Nadzheda Obukhova (who came later) would have made it a damned close thing! The aria from RUSALKA is an excellent example of Zbrujewa’s easy mastery of the correct style allied to distinguished phrasing and a fabulous voice,

However the aria from Anton Rubinstein’s NERO is something of a mystery. The HMV recording sheets and the original label of the issued record identify the music as ‘Bacchanale of Zulima (interpolated aria) ‘, but what no one has previously noted is that there is no character called ‘Zulima’ in NERO. Whether or not the aria came from one of Rubinstein’s other operas (certainly not from THE DEMON) is a matter for on-going research. We will of course pass on the correct information to our subscribers in a future bulletin – hopefully the next!

 

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