Issued – November 1984

The first series of Historic Masters appeared in 1972. Twenty records by great singers of the past were made available by the British Institute of Recorded Sound (now part of the British Library) on an advance subscription basis. The records were pressed on vinyl and the scheme represented a collaboration between the BIRS and EMI Ltd. It was a great loss to the collecting world when this series – which enjoyed considerable world wide sales – was not converted into a continuing project.

A committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Lord Harewood in the hope of reviving the project and after the withdrawal of the BIRS this became Historic Masters Ltd. Despite very many technical and other difficulties, it became possible – thanks to the co-operation of Thorn EMI Ltd – to make available a second series of five double-sided records, again pressed on vinyl in an edition limited to 500 copies and for sale as a set only.

The discs were as follows:

HMB 21 – Tito SCHIPA – Boheme/Manon
HMB 22 – Selma KURZ – Les Diamants de la Cauronne/Don Carlos
HMB 23 – Luisa TETRAZZINI – Faust/Forza del Destino
HMB 24 – Antonina NESHDANOVA – II Barbiere di Siviglia/Life for the Czar
HMB 25 – Lev SIBIRIAKOV – La Juive/Judith

Sales to date of this second series of Historic Masters have been excellent, despite limited publicity and only a limited number of sets remain to be sold. This has enabled the Committee to announce a third series which will be available during November 1984. Provided the collecting world continues to support the scheme, it is intended henceforth to offer two further sets of discs each year.

Although Historic Masters is a limited company, the project for issuing discs in this form is not intended to be profit-making. Surplus income is presently being ploughed into research and development, particularly the technology for pressing ten and ten and three quarter inch records. At a later date it will hopefully also prove possible to subsidise other projects of interest to collectors.


Historic Masters – Third Issue – Propectus 

(The following notes have been prepared by Richard Bebb)


Five double-sided vinyl 78s will be available during November 1984 in a strictly limited and numbered edition of 500 copies. They are not available separately and can only be purchased as a set.

HMB 26 – Vladimir KASTORSKY (Bass 1871-1948)
Farlaf’s Rondo (Ruslan and Ludmilla)
Igor’s Aria (Prince Igor)

Wonderfully secure and imposing bass voice and an artist of unexaggerated power – his records were only ever published inside Russia and they are of the greatest rarity and desirability.

HMB 27 – Vasili DAMAEV (Tenor 1878-1931)
Levko’s Aria (May Night)
and with – Elena KATULSKAYA (Soprano 1886-1966)
Duettino, Levko and Panochka. (May Night)

Of all the great Russian tenors, Damaev can seem the most passionate. He is excellent in both the aria and the duet with the very reliable soprano Katulskaya. Their records were never published outside Russia.

HMB 28 – Dmitri SMIRNOV (Tenor 1882-1944)
Dei miei bollenti spiriti (La Traviata)
O dolce incanto (Manon)

The Russian tenor whose elegance, imaginative phrasing and subtle gradations of tone have made him one of the great favourites of record collectors world wide. Of the many extant matrices held at Hayes of this marvellous singer, we have chosen two sides – recorded respectively in 1910 and 1913 – never published outside Russia.

HMB 29 – Olimpia BORONAT (Soprano 1867-1934)
Qui sola virgin rosa (Martha)
O lieto suol (Les Huguenots)

Though born in Genoa, her career was almost entirely confined to Russia. A lyric coloratura of great individuality, and with a delicate charm that most collectors find irresistible. It is almost certain that neither of these sides has ever before been published.

HMB 30 – Francesco SIGNORINI (Tenor 1860-1927)
O muto asil del pianto (Guillaume Tell)

Graziella PARETO (Soprano 1889-1973) and
Giovanni MANURITTA (Tenor 1895-1984)
D’un pensiero (La Sonnambula)

A true dramatic tenor, Signorini had a distinguished career in most of the principal Italian theatres. His records are of great rarity and this appears to be the only matrix of his still at Hayes. We have, therefore, coupled it with a superb version of the Sonnambula duet, which is the only surviving side of an extremely rare DB issue. Pareto was a truly exquisite Spanish soprano whose voice was described by Beecham in a broadcast as quite simply the most beautiful he had ever heard. She is delightfully partnered by the Sardinian tenor Manuritta who matches her delicacy of tone and phrasing with equally distinguished singing. This record will be a revelation to many collectors.

And an extra record:

HMB 31
Clara Butt (Contralto 1873-1936) – O don fatale (Don Carlos)
Agnes Nicholls (Soprano 1876-1959) – Ocean, thou mighty monster (Oberon)

In addition to the set of five records, we offer this time an extra disc outside the series. Because both matrices have very minor but ineradicable faults, it was felt that this particular record should not be offered as part of an integral group which could not be purchased separately. The importance and desirability of these two sides sung by great British singers is not in doubt. Although there are published versions of both arias by the same singers, neither of these sides has ever been published before.

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