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Issued – April 2006
Introduction by Stanley Henig
Hopefully it is by now superfluous to urge prompt ordering of this new issue. It seems almost miraculous that fifty years after the major recording companies stopped issuing 78rpm discs, we are still able to produce them and also find so many hitherto unknown treasures. But for our work to continue we need you to carry on buying Historic Masters issues. In this context, all of us at Historic Masters have again to express our thanks to the John Stratton Charitable Trust. Without its support over the last difficult eighteen months, we would certainly have gone out of business.
Two final notes.
First, in planning future activities it is very helpful to know more about our subscribers. No questionaires, but we would welcome learning more about your collecting interests e.g. do you only collect operatic 78′s; are you interested in CD’s; what kind of music; do you buy books on records and/or singers of the past?
Do get in touch by post or email and let us know a little more…
Second, we often receive enquires about equipment about playing 78′s. There are now various sources for acquiring multi-speed turntables with variable – pitch control including models with digital readout. The Surrey based firm EXPERT can advise on and supply appropriate cartridges and stylui. We can advise on pre-amplifiers which are sometimes needed for optimal reproduction of 78rpm discs etc. If you have any questions or a supply problem, pleas contact us or place a notice in our forum.
Notes for Issues 28
Record Notes by Richard Bebb / Speeds by Ward Marston
Dmitri Smirnov (1881-1944)
Ellisir d’amore (L’): Una Firtiva Lagrima
Mat. Nos. 02451v, Recorded: 29.12.1912, Speed 80rpm
Issued as HMV 52373
Favorita (La): Spirito Gentil
Mat. Nos. 140af, Recorded: 23.11.1911, Speed 77rpm
Issued as HMV 52296
On January 6th 1938, Germaine Lubin made two complete recordings of the Liebestod in Paris, one in French and one in German – both conducted by the great Philippe Gaubert with the Conservatorie Orchestra. She had already made a ten inch double sided version in French for Odeon in the late 1920′s but that was at the time of her first attempts at the Wagnerian repertoire, and gives only a hint of her later development as one of the greatest Wagnerian dramtic sopranos of the 1930′s. Unquestionable, by the time she made these later recordings, Lubin has become a vastly more confident interpreter. Later in 1938 she triumphed at Bayreuth as Kundry in Parsifal under the baton of Franz von Hoeslin, and the following year she sand Isolde there, conducted by Vittorio de Sabata, with equal success. These are masters available for both versions. Currently issued is the one in German; we shall issue the French in due course. (Read a short review of this recording from the Classic Record Collector website)
HM 192 (HM 179 will be released soon)
Germaine Lubin (1890-1979)
Tristan und Isolde, Liebestod
Mat. Nos. CLX 2033/4, Recorded: 6.1.1938, Speed 78rpm
Gota Ljunberg (1893-1955)
Lohengrin – Einsam in truben Tagen
Mat. Nos. Cc6494-2, Recorded: 11.8.1925, Speed 78rpm
Tannhauser – Allmacht’ge Jungfrau
Mat. Nos. Cc6516-2, Recorded: 13.8.1925, Speed 79rpm
Both previously unpublished
Ljunberg recorded the Lohengrin aria acoustically on August 1, 1925 in the large orchestral studio at Hayes. Later that same day, she made a Swedish song title electrically in the small studio. Two days later she returned to the large studio and recorded Tannhauser aria, once again using the acoustic system.
Perhaps at this time it was not foreseen that the electrical system would so comprehensively sweep all before it, but of course, that is precisely what happened, and thus many fine, late acoustic sides did not see the light of day.
The Tannhauser side does, towards the end, suffer slightly from an over polishing of the master, most probably in an attempt to increase the signal to noise ratio.
In my view, Ljungberg never an indifferent record, and these performances rank among her finish efforts. It is a great thrill to be able to rescue these performances after 80 years.
Antonina Neshdanova (1873-1950)
Fra Diavolo – Cavatine di Zerlina Or son sola
Mat. Nos. 1928, Recorded: 27.1.1910, Speed 78rpm
Issued as HMV 23054
Lucia di Lammermoor – Regnava nel silenzio
Mat. Nos. 2796 1/2c, Recorded: 19.4.1913, Speed 79rpm
Issued as HMV 23126
Both side sung in Russian
Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938)
Don Quichotte – Sancho Panza’s (Act 4 aria)
Mat. Nos. CF 3002-2, Recorded: 27.2.1930, Speed 78rpm
It is widely known that Chaliapin created the title role in Massenet’s, Don Quichotte at Monte Carlo in 1910, with Andre Gresse as Sancho Panza. For Victor in 1927, he made a famous recording of the death scene in which he sang both the Don and Sancho Panza parts. This unpublished version of the aria which closes act 4 was recorded three years later and was his only attempt to make the title.
Nikolai Shevelev (1874-1929)
Treachery – Ota-Beg’s aria
Mat. Nos. 2620c, Recorded: 27.4.1912, Speed 78rpm
Russia has always produced a plethora of superb bass voices, but great baritones are another matter. Certainly Nikolai Shevelev can be counted among the top handful. He had an outstanding beautiful voice and made some sixty sides for the Gramophone Company in Russia, as well as for other companies such as Pathe and Favorite, so he must have been immensely popular. Ota-beg’s aria from Treachery by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov is a creator’s record as Shevelev sang in the world-premier with the Zimin Opera Company in Moscow in 1910. The subject of the opera is the conflict between Islam and Christianity during the sixteenth century, when Georgia was occupied by the Persians.
Lev Sibiriakov made a double-sided version of the bass aria, ‘My Spirit is Full of Forboding’ for the Russian Gramophone Company.
Walter Widdop (1892-1949)
Reine de Saba – How Frail and Weak a Thing is Man
Lend me Your Aid
Mat. Nos. Cc16792-ii, Recorded: 27.9.1929, Speed 79rpm
Issued as HMV D 1742
The free record for this issue is another rescue of a great but extremely common record that was only ever issued in England at the time when HMV shallac was absolutely at its noisiest. To listen to Widdop’s wonderful version of the aria without any trace of surface noise is a genuine revelation.
Widdop’s records seem to me to be unjustly neglected. Even in his own time I am not convinced that he was recognised as the great singer he undoubtedly was. His flawless diction, the marvellous thrust of his voice, the conviction of his expression and the sheer beauty of his tone, were without any doubt, superior to any other contemporary English tenor (though Tudor Davies – another neglected artist – ran him very close).
It is true, as a superb Wagnerian, he had to live in the shadow of Lauritz Melchior, but then, at any time in the history of singing, who would not have had to cede gracefully to that force of nature?
Alexander Alexandrovich (1881-?)
Night, Op.6 No.8, Tchaikovsky
Mat. Nos. 2763c, Recorded: 30.3.1913, Speed 78rpm
Evgenia Ivanovna Zbrujewa (Contralto) (1868-1936)
Il Travotore – Condotta ell’era in ceppi, Verdi
Mat. Nos. 2060c, Recorded: 16.9.1910, Speed 78rpm
Published Date not Available
Int Gipsy Azucena is the fulcrum upon which the plot of Il Trovotore revolves. In Act II she reveals to Manrico, who believes her to be his mother, that she had in fact sent her own child rather than the infant Luna to be burnt at the stake. Realising her disclosure will alter her relationship with Manrico she endeavours to re-assure him that he really is her son. This dramatic scene is vocalised with enormous vocal command and is truly hair-raising in its intensity, also needing to be evocative of a mother’s affection. It is a performance which underlines Zbrujewa’s position as one of the leading contraltos of her era, not only in music by Russian composers in which she was pre-eminent, but in the international repertory as well. (This side is supplied with a plain white label. However, a suitable printed label will be made available.)
These two previously unpublished sides are the Committee’s choice for the free Russian records of this issue, supported, as always, by the generosity of the John Stratton Trust. I think it is safe to say that until Historic Masters began to issue a few of Alexander Alexandrovich’s records, most collector had never even heard of his name. His lovely lyric tenor voice is ideally suited to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Night’ (of which there is yet another unpublished and equally fine take), while he is joined in the duet from Snyegourotchka by the little known dramatic soprano, E.I. Nikolayeva, whose only other published record appears to be the ‘Suicidio’ from La Gioconda.
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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