Historic Masters are pleased to announce the seventeenth issue of direct vinyl pressings produced in collaboration with Thorn EMI from 78 rpm metal masters in their archives. The complete HISTORIC MASTERS series now numbers 110 discs, comprising 219 sides of which a quarter have never been available in any other 78 rpm form. The complete series includes records by no less than 94 singers.

It is thanks to the unstinting co-operation of Ruth Edge and the EMI archives and also the work of many scholars and enthusiasts that we have been able to locate and issue so many otherwise unpublished discs. We owe much to the superb discographical work of Alan Kelly. Indeed, as far as unpublished items are concerned, Historic Masters has been able to outperform some of our distinguished predecessor labels devoted to the re-issue of vocal 78s. In addition to unpublished material, we have also been able to re-issue many records which are particularly rare in their original form,

Readers of the last newsletter will recall that Historic Masters records are now being manufactured by EMI Records. This development – exciting news for Historic Masters – will hopefully secure at least our medium term future. However, the usual word of warning: Historic Masters needs the support of collectors if it is to remain in business. It is of critical importance that the records we produce are sold as soon as possible. This is a key condition for our continuation. The potential stock of usable metal masters will not run out! We are constantly becoming aware of how many fine items still exist in the Thorn EMI archive. In this context, it is worth pointing out that Historic Masters is the only company in the world whose main purpose is to issue 78 rpm discs in original form and on a regular basis: we will undoubtedly be the last such company! It would be quite impossible for any collector to ‘find’ all the 219 items issued by Historic Masters in ‘original’ form and if they could, they would certainly have to spend a small fortune to acquire them.

The current issue again consists of six records. In his liner notes Richard Bebb explains the background to the now regular, sixth record. We are all grateful to Dr. Stratton for making this possible.

Those of us involved with Historic Masters like to think that we will still be issuing records on a regular basis when we reach HM 200! You can help ensure this by ordering the new issue promptly.

Stanley Henig

Prospectus, pitching decisions, and speeds by Richard Bebb.

HM 105
LILLI LEHMANN (1848 -1929)
Non mi dir – Speed 74
Matrices XB 3045 and XB 3046, recorded in Berlin on 22 June 1907. Issued in UK as Odeon UX 52575/6

Generally, the Committee avoids issuing performances that have been made available by earlier organisations that devoted themselves to repressing rare records from original masters. However the exception we made by including the Lehmann FIDELIO Abscheulicher aria led to that set being sold out faster than any other we have so far issued. Lehmann’s singing of the Don Giovanni aria is exemplary. Many have sung it with more beautiful tone, but very few versions can be compared to it for grandeur of style and musical authority.

Seek not, o maid, my spirit to vanquish
(with Clarence Whitehill) – Speed 79
Matrix 2812f. recorded London on 12 Feb 1909. Issued as HMV 04041
Wer bist Du, sag1 (Todesverkundigung)
(with Peter Cornelius) – Speed 79
Matrix 2819f, recorded London on 12 Feb 1909. Issued as HMV 044107

Minnie Saltzmann-Stevens was a pupil of Jean de Reszke and had a career that was both spectacular and brief. She was born in Illinois of Franco-German parentage and made her debut in opera at Covent Garden in January 1908 as Brunnhilde in DIE WALKURE in the revival of the ‘English RING’ conducted by Dr. Hans Richter. Clarence Whitehill was the Wotan and Peter Cornelius the Siegfried, as in the first cycle of 1908. Her success was enormous and led to an invitation to sing Sieglinde and Kundry at Bayreuth. Her few recordings were made in February 1909 and, though they occasionally turn up, they are almost always found in extremely poor condition. Her voice had great brilliance and power and only a very few playings would have resulted in severe wear. The outbreak of the First World War must have been disastrous for her European career, but I have never heard any explanation for her early retirement. A happy marriage one hopes!

It is worth noting that these heavily truncated performances are the closest we can ever get to a performance by the great Hans Richter, who never made any recordings. They were made only days before the end of the Covent Garden 1909, Winter, ‘English season directed by Richter and Percy Pitt, his close friend and associate. The label of HMV 03135 (the GOTTERDAMMERUNG Closing Scene) gives Pitt as the conductor, and it is more than likely that her other recordings would have been conducted by him. Can we deduce, therefore, that these are Richter’s tempi?

No doubt the fact that Peter Cornelius did not sing Siegmund in the English RING’ accounts for the fact that the truncated Todesverkundigung’ is sung in German.

As far as we know, these sides are the only ones to have survived, and the masters are in a particularly fine state.

HM 107
MATTEO DRAGONI (1890-1962)
Un dl m’era di gioia – Speed 76
Matrix 3307c. recorded in Milan on 1 Oct 1918. Issued as HMV 2-052132
Se ancor di me – Speed 78
(with Maria Turiglia)
Matrix CE 394. recorded in Milan on 20 April 1922. Issued as HMV 2-054122

The duet (a rarely recorded passage which follows closely on Gerard’s aria on side one) was issued on the very rare DB 476, but the aria was only ever available in single-sided form. As both masters were at Hayes, it seemed a good idea to team them up. It is something of a triumph that we have been able to supply Turiglia’s first name, as she is so obscure that the information was never vouchsafed by the Gramophone Company! Dragoni once more impresses as a firm and expressive baritone of considerable power, particularly in verismo music.

Senta’s Ballad (Wagner) – Speed 78
Matrix 2519c. recorded in Moscow on 31 Oct 1911. Issued as HMV 023110
Un bel di vedremo – Speed 88
Matrix 2509 1/2c. recorded in Moscow on 28 Oct 1911. Issued as HMV 023089

A true dramatic soprano voice is one of extreme rarity, and among Russian singers of the pre-war period, Ermolenko reigned supreme, with little competition from the many wonderful lyric sopranos that were available in Russia at that time. She has appeared in our series before, and these may well be the last titles that are available in the archive at Hayes. As usual, they are mightily impressive. Both sides are sung in Russian.

HM 109
LOTTE SCHONE (1891-1977)
LA BOHEME (Puccini)
Donde lieta usci – Speed 77
Matrix OD 258. recorded in Berlin on 20 March 1931 Issued as HMV DA 1238
Bolero (Rossini) – Speed 77
Matrix OD 260, recorded in Berlin on 20 March 1931. Issued as HMV DA 1238

The discs of this delightful singer have always been very popular with collectors. However, even though the record was issued as DA 1238 in Great Britain, it must have sold extremely few copies, as it is extremely rare today. Both the metals of these titles were in fine shape, and the performances are revealed with all their charm and delicacy. The rarely recorded Rossini song is better known under its proper title ‘L’invito’.

HM 110
I do not grieve over that – Speed 75
Matrix 2882c; recorded in St. Petersburg on 29 October
1913. Issued as HMV 023150
ZABAVA PUTYATISHINA (Ivanov) Zabava’s arioso –  Speed 74
Matrix 283 1/2 af; recorded in St. Petersburg in January
1914. Issued as HMV 023151

This beautiful singer made some easily acquired and rather dimly recorded Columbias while she was pursuing her career in North America. However, the records she made in her native Russia are a different story – the real brilliance of the voice is wonderfully revealed in these two excellent performances. The aria from Ivanov’s ZABAVA PUTYATISHINA is the same as that recorded by Olimpia Boronat, but here it is preceded by a long and very expressive recitative. The production of the record has been made possible by the generosity of a member of the Committee, Dr. John Stratton, and is offered as a free gift to our subscribers.

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