Historic Masters are pleased to announce the thirteenth issue of direct vinyl pressings produced in collaboration with Thorn EMI from 78 rpm metals masters in their archives. The complete HISTORIC MASTERS series now numbers 86 discs comprising 171 sides of which at least 46 were never previously published in original form.

Whilst the current issue includes only one item (the Tamagno) which was never published in 78 form, it will – we hope – be of particular interest to collectors, including as it does four Fonotipia sides and one of the very finest of Battistini’s Warsaw recordings.

We have drawn attention in previous issues of our prospectus to the many major problems associated with the continuing production of 78 rpm discs. Quite apart from a shortage of technicians willing to work with ancient metal parts, we now face the likely ending of regular production of top quality vinyl records. Ultimately this will mean the end of the Historic Masters’ series of re-pressings from original metals. Our hope and intention is that before then we will be able to make more treasures available for collectors. We can only do this if they give us their full support. To ensure the viability of Historic Masters we still need to sell more sets and to sell them more promptly.

We have, however, made arrangements with our manufacturers which will ensure two further issues of Historic Masters during the next twelve months. The future thereafter is uncertain. Meanwhile we hope for your support for the current issue. Once again, it includes a record – a wonderful version of the final duet from Eugene Onegin – given by the same anonymous donor who has been our benefactor in the past. As on previous occasions we are extremely grateful for this gift.


PROSPECTUS (Notes by Richard Bebb)

NORMA – Casta Diva – Speed – both sides 76
– Ah! bello a me ritorna

For many years, Natalia Ermolenko (she acquired her last name after her marriage to the tenor David Yuzh in) was the leading dramatic soprano in Russia. She was only nineteen when she first sang leading roles at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, moving in 1905 for a long stay at the Bolshoi in Moscow. She was the principal soprano star of Diaghilev’s first Paris season, where she sang Marina to Chaliapin’s Boris Godunov and was much admired. At both Russia’s principal opera houses, she regularly sang all the great roles of her repertoire – from Brunhilde and Senta to Carmen and Violetta, until she emigrated to Paris in 1924, after which little is heard of her. Her records were never published outside Russia, and are of the greatest rarity.

HMB 82 – GIUSEPPE BORGATTI (1871-1950)
LOHENGRIN – Di, non t’incantan – Speed – 78
DIE MEISTERSINGER – Dal verno a pie – Speed – 76

The records of this great Bolognese tenor are extremely rare and have always been sought after avidly by collectors.  All of them in excellent, and, considering the fame of the singer in his own time, it is amazing that more copies are not extant. His rise to prominence was extremely fast – it was only three years after his debut that he was chosen to replace the aging Alfonso Garulli in the world premiere of ANDREA CHENIER at La Scala, Milan and he was also the first Cavaradossi in TOSCA and Herod in SALOHE to be heard there. He later became the most admired Wagnerian tenor in Italy, and it is fragments of his Lohengrin and Walther that are preserved on the two Fonotipia masters only recently discovered in the archives at Hayes. The pressings are outstandingly fine, despite some harmless discoloration.

HMB 83 – FRANCESCO NAVARINI (1853 – 1923)
LUCREZIA BORGIA – Vieni la aia vendetta  Speed – both sides 72 – Qualunque sia l’evento

This distinguished basso cantante aade his debut at the Teatro Coamunale, Ferrara, in 1876 in the role of Alfonso d’Este in LUCREZIA BORGIA. His career took him to practically every famous opera house in the world, where he was welcomed as much for his Wagnerian roles as for his interpretations of the classic belcanto repertoire. Toscanini chose him to sing Pogner in the La Scale premiere of DIE MEISTERSINGER, but it was the invitation to create the role of Lodovico in the historic world premiere of OTELLO for which he is chiefly remembered. As with the Borgatti sides, there is some slight discolouration of the masters, but this in no way affects the playing, it is possible to achieve amazing sound from these records.

HMB 84- JULIA CULP (1880-1970)
Verborgenheit (Hugo Wolf) – Speed – both sides 78
Du bist die Ruh (Schubert) 78rpm rising to 80

Julia Culp was one of the two most widely admired female Lieder singers of her time. Exclusively a concert artist, her many fine records have long been loved by collectors. By far the rarest are her acoustic Odeons, and the sides coupled here appear to be the only Odeon matrices to have survived. For a fine study of her life and art, I refer you to a recent authoritative article in THE RECORD COLLECTOR by her compatriot Floris Juynboll, though I disagree with him about the speeds of these  records.

Unfortunately, the recording motor was faulty, and the speed gradually increases by two revolutions during the playing of each side.

HMB 85 – FRANCESCO TAMA6N0 (1850-1905)
SAMSON ET DALILA – Figli aiei, v’arrestate – Speed – 77
THE DEMON – Deh non plorar – Speed – 77

The archives at Hayes still contain unpublished titled by Tamagno – all are titles of which published versions exist, but there are often differences in phrasing and detail which are fascinating, and some of then actually contain more or, in some cases, less music than those we all know. There is some ticking near the start, but, since the performance has never before been published, it is impossible to know whether the fault was originally there or whether the master has deteriorated. Battistini’s aria from Anton Rubinstein’s THE DEMON is one of the eleven legendary Warsaw recordings of 1903. In Russia and Poland, Battistini was truly idolised, and a later Rubinstein, the great pianist Arthur, remembered an uncle exhorting him when he was a little boy in Warsaw never to forget that ‘There are three geniuses of music – Beethoven, Mozart, and Battistini!’ See our Tamagno Issue

EUGENE 0NEGIN – Final duet Act III – Speed – both sides 75

So little is know about this excellent soprano that there is even some confusion about her first name. She appears to have spent most of her career at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, appearing often with Chaliapin and, her partner on this disc, Mikhail Karakash. It is therefore almost certain that this recording documents their performances in the theatre. We have already issued a Karakash in this series, and this confirms the fact that, along with Ivan Grizunov, he appears to be the most elegant of the Russian baritones of his time.

Our subscribers have once again been offered this record as a gift due to the generosity and enthusiasm of our anonymous benefactor.

This article was last updated Thursday, 26 March 2009
This article is presented here for archival reference only. All information was accurate at time of printing, however, HM policies, fees/charges, details and availability of recordings are subject to change without notice. Copyrighted material – Historic Masters

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