THE SEVEN RECORDS IN OUR 31st ISSUE – MAY 2009

(Prospectus by Alan Bilgora)

HM 200A (and) HM 200B   Paul Franz, Tenor, (1876-1950)
Rome Narration pts. 1-2 Tannhususer (Wagner)
Matrix numbers; 02954/5v, issued on 2-032014/5.
Sung in French with Orchestra and recorded in Paris on 22nd April 1914.
Suggested speed; 80 rpm for both sides.

His real name was Franbois Gauthier and as a young man he worked as a Railway official, at the same time taking singing lessons from the noted tenor Louis Delaquerrire in Paris. In 1907 Franz won a prize in an amateur singing competition and this led to appearances in the French provinces before his debut at the Opera in Paris in Lohengrin in 1909. He became a noted Wagnerian tenor creating the title role in Parsifal at its Paris premire, as well as undertaking many heroic roles in the French repertoire. He sang at Covent Garden to great acclaim, and achieved a huge success at the Colon in Buenos Aires, as well as in Brussels and Monte Carlo.

He created a number of important roles at the Palais Garnier including Enee in the first complete performance of Les Troyens, Antar in Dupont’s opera of the same name, Auferus in La Legende de Saint Christophe by Vincent d’Indy and Ratan-Sen in Roussel’s Padmavati. Franz was considered by critics and public alike to be the most important tenor-fort of his generation, and following a career lasting almost 30 years, he became in 1936 a much loved Professor at the National Conservatoire, where he was admired not only as a singing teacher, but also a composer and translator into French of a number of German lieder. Paul Franz died in Paris on the 20th April 1950.

His voice possessed a warm, full-bodied timbre in the lower and middle registers, and his high notes were delivered with brilliance and power. His version of the long – Rome Narration, in spite of the French text, shows why he was so admired in Wagnerian roles, not only displaying a classical style, vocal stamina and power but also an excellent line, something that is not always evinced by many a Paul Franz helden-tenor.

HM 201A and HM 201B Louise Edvina, Soprano (1878-1948)
Noel des enfants – Debussy
Matrix number: HO 4084AF, issued on DB 547.
Sung in French with piano accompaniment by Mrs. Baker.
Recorded at Hayes on 5th November 1919, Suggested speed; 78 rpm.

Phidyle – Duparc
Matrix number: Cc 34-2, issued on DB 547.
Sung in French with piano accompaniment by Percy Pitt.
Recorded at Hayes on 2nd April 1921, Suggested speed; 78 rpm.

Born Marie-Louise Martin in Vancouver this French Canadian soprano began her career singing in a travelling concert party and then marrying the Hon. Cecil Edwards and in doing so became the sister-in-law of Lord Kensington. Between 1904 and 1908 she studied with Jean de Reszke in Paris and coupled with her social standing and undoubted talent, this opened the door to her making her official operatic debut in London at Covent Garden in 1908 as Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust with Alessandro Bonci in the title role. Edvina was to remain a long-time favourite there and the following season had a great success in Charpentier’s Louise, also creating the title role in the London premire of Massenet’s Thais and over the ensuing seasons, taking part in various other prestigious English premires. She repeated her success in Louise in Boston USA where she also sang the role of Melisande in Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande and, as part of the Boston Opera company, then sang in Paris at the Theatre des Champs Elysees as Fiora in Montemezzi’s L’Amore di tre Re. She had an important career in Paris from 1910 and sang at the Opera Comique in 1915 during the First World War.

Edvina was engaged from 1915-17 at the Chicago Opera and also sang in 1915 at the Metropolitan Opera New York in Tosca with Caruso and Scotti. Back in London she appeared regularly at Covent Garden from 1920 to 1924 and in her last season there sang in Tosca with Alfred Piccaver the English born tenor star of the Vienna Opera, in his only London operatic appearances. On her retirement from opera she sang in Musical Comedy and spent much of her last years as an antique dealer on the French Riviera. She returned to London in her late 60′s and died there on 13th November 1948. Given the enthusiasm she aroused amongst critics and public-, all of whom considered her to be a fine artist and very good singer- it is a mystery as to why she made so few recordings. There are just six sides in all. Her voice is beautifully placed and of really lovely and attractive quality and is heard to good advantage in her stylish singing of these two French Melodies.

HM 202A Walter Widdop, Tenor (1892-1949)
Gota Ljungberg, Soprano (1893-1955)
Geliebter, komm! (Venusberg scene) – Tannhauser Wagner
Matrix number: Cc 20643-1. Previously unpublished.
Sung in German with orchestra conducted by Lawrance Collingwood and recorded in London on 28th October 1930.
Suggested speed; 77 rpm.

Recordings by both of these fine singers have featured in previous issues and their careers have been well charted. Some years ago one major collector jokingly commented – how could anyone with such an English name as Walter Widdop be expected to make an international career?- and certainly, most of his appearances were confined to the UK. Surely neither luck nor opportunity were on his side, and had circumstances been different, he would surely have deservedly been ranked with the finest heroic tenors of his generation regardless of their nationality.

Happily we have a number of recordings to support this claim and this previously unpublished part of the – Venusberg Scene- makes a welcome addition to the output of both artists and to their legacy of Wagnerian excerpts.

Ljungberg’s tone is ravishing and beautifully controlled, and Widdop, as always, forthright and unforced; both sing with great emotional commitment and unflagging intensity.

HM 202B Jacques Urlus, Tenor (1867-1935)
Brunnhilde, heilige Braut – Gotterdammerung Wagner
Matrix number: xxB 7099, issued on Odeon O-8571.
Sung in German with orchestra conducted by Hermann Weigert and recorded in Berlin on 10th December 1924.
Suggested speed; 79 rpm.

Although born in Belgium, Urlus was always considered to be a Dutch tenor as both of his parents came from Holland. Originally a metal worker working in Utrecht he began to study voice, first with Hugo Nolthenius, then with Anton Averkamp and finally with Cornelie van Zanten in Amsterdam, where he made his theatrical debut in 1894 as Beppe in I Pagliacci.

He was awarded a contract to sing in Leipzig and from lyric roles developed to sing the helden-tenor repertoire. He sang Siegmund in Die Walkure at Bayreuth in 1911 and 1912. Between 1913 and 1917 he was the leading Wagnerian tenor with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he remained as a much admired leading Wagnerian tenor.

Back in Europe he undertook extensive tours as a guest artist and concert recitalist and appeared at Covent Garden and the Berlin Staatsoper.

He sang in Mahler’s Lied von der Erde in Salzburg and, as guest, appeared in Paris at the Opera as Tristan, a role which he was able to sing aged 65 in Amsterdam in 1932, a tribute to his vocal longevity. Such was his well-based technique he was also able to sing Mozartian roles as well as a number of dramatic roles like Otello, Samson, Don Jose and Raoul in Les Huguenots.

Urlus possessed a large voice that was used with great skill. In spite of a weighty and full-bodied lower register, the tone was always free from the throat and firmly based in the head, so that the voice passed through the passaggio enabling him to sing his high notes with a confident ringing and thrilling quality. His singing of – Brunnhilde, heilige Braut- has a passion that is coupled with authority and dignity and is a model of its kind.

HM 203A Joseph Hislop, Tenor (1884-1977)
Che gelida manina – La Bohme Puccini
Matrix number: Cc 15428-2, issued on DB 1230. Sung in Italian with orchestra conducted by John Small Queen’s Hall, London on 10th December 1928. Suggested speed; 78 rpm.

HM 203B Joseph Hislop, Tenor (1884-1977)
Apollo Granforte, Baritone (1886-1975)
Mimi, Tu piu non torni (La Boheme, Puccini)
Matrix number: CR 370-2, issued on DB 939. Sung in Italian with orchestra conducted by George Byng
Recorded in the Small Queen’s Hall, London on 13th May 1926. Suggested speed; 77 rpm.

Joseph Hislop’s career as an internationally admired tenor is frequently overlooked, by too many collectors. Born Joseph Dewar Hislop on 5th April 1884 at Holyrood Park near Edinburgh and educated initially at Coltbridge Public School where his singing abilities were noted; this led to his being accepted at the Choir school of St.Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral.

As a young man with talent for drawing and painting he entered an apprenticeship to become a Stamp cutter and Photo Engraver and was given the opportunity of joining a printing firm in Gothenburg. Inspired by the singing of Vilhelm Herold, who he heard in concert, he began taking lesson from Ragnar Grevillius. He then moved to Stockholm where he sang with a men’s choir anclwas heard by a visiting tenor soloist and advised to audition for the famous Dr. Gillis Bratt who was to number Gota Ljungberg, Kirsten Flagstad and Ivar Andresen among his pupils. Amateur concerts led finally to a scholarship to the Opera School and eventually to a professional career with the Swedish Royal Opera and an invitation to make his first recordings at Hayes which were released on the Zonophone label. However these hardly did justice to the singer he was to become.

He made his debut in 1914 at the Royal Opera Stockholm in the title role of Gounod’s Faust and later sang Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly and was praised for his Swedish pronunciation. In practice this was to give him some trouble for a number of years, as he gradually assumed more standard roles in the Italian and French repertoire that were all sung there in Swedish.

In 1919 he appeared in Oslo in Rigoletto and in 1920 he made his Italian debut at the San Carlo Naples in Lucia. That year Albert Coates who had heard him in Sweden paved the way for his first Covent Garden appearance in La Bohme and he also made his American debut at the Chicago Auditorium in Tosca. Between 1921 and 1933 Hislop made several concert tours of the UK, South Africa and the Antipodes and together with many of the outstanding singers of his generation he sang several times at La Fenice Venice, Regio, Turin and La Scala, Milan (where it is claimed he was the first British tenor to take a leading role). He sang at leading houses throughout Europe – Brussels, Liege and Antwerp in Belgium, the Opera Comique Paris, Liceo Barcelona, Theatre Royal Copenhagen, The Finnish Opera Helsinki and National Opera in Riga as well as the Estonian Opera Tallin and, back in his home country, at the Empire in Edinburgh. He shared the tenor honours with Gigli for the 1925 season at the Colon in Buenos Aires – then one of the world’s most prestigious houses. The list of appearances there include Falstaff, La Traviata and Aida – both opposite Claudia Muzio, Romeo et Juliette opposite Ninon Vallin, Gianni Schichi with de Luca in the title I role, and La Bohme in a cast which included Alda, de Luca, Didur and Pinza.

Hislop returned to Sweden in 1937 and for the next ten years became a noted teacher at the Royal Opera School and together with John Forsell the noted baritone and teacher he helped Jussi Bjorling with the placing of his high notes and Birgit Nillson with her vocal technique. Nillson, who was patently unaware of his career and vast performing experience, having sung with virtually every major artist of the time, states in her autobiography that she was somewhat disapproving of his methods. Nevertheless she decided to remain his pupil during her time at the Royal Opera School.

In 1947 he left Sweden and took up an advisory post at Covent Garden and also undertook teaching privately and among his many pupils were the tenors Alberto Remedios and Donald Pilley who between them went on to win a number of prestigious competitions and enjoy good careers. He was appointed a Professor at the Guildhall School of Music, teaching almost up until his death in 1975.

Hislop was a prolific recording artist, his operatic discs were awarded Red Label celebrity status by HMV. His voice possessed considerable weight and an attractive timbre: his recording of – Che gelida manina sung in the original key is stylish and very Italianate, containing a full-blooded High C. In the opening duet to Act 4 of La Bohme – O Mimi tu piu no torni sung with the massive voiced and internationally renowned baritone Apollo Granforte, Hislop he holds his own, with both voices blending well, and this is one of the most successful versions of the piece in the early electric recording period.

This record is sponsored by Michael Bott.

HM 204A and HM 204B Graziella Pareto, Soprano, (1889-1973)
Ah, fors’e lui, Follie! Follie!… Sempre libera – La Traviata, Verdi
Matrix numbers: HO 4429-2af/HO 4431-2af, issued on DB 565.
Sung in Italian with orchestra and recorded at Hayes on 10th June 1920.
Suggested speed; 79 rpm.

Born on 15th May 1889 in Barcelona, Pareto studied singing in Milan and made her operatic debut as Micaela in Carmen in 1906 aged 17. Seemingly this was not unusual for outstanding women singers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to appear in major roles in public at such an early age, viz. Jenny Lind aged 18, Adelina Patti aged 17 and Luisa Tetrazzini aged 19.

Pareto displayed a fabulous talent that was enjoyed in South America, the Caribbean, various regional houses in Italy as well having great success at La Scala. She appeared in St. Petersburg, and at Covent Garden where Sir Thomas Beecham commented in his book – A Mingled Chime- that in his opinion she possessed one of the most beautiful voices he had ever heard. She sang in Monte Carlo, in Chicago at the open-air seasons at Ravinia Park and as a I guest at the Salzburg Festival.

Happily Historic Masters have been able to issue several other recordings which are difficult to find in their shellac form, and when they are found are often in poor condition. Bear in mind that Violetta, a courtesan and although seemingly full of vivacity, knows she is ill. In this version of her great aria and cabaletta that ends the first Act of La Traviata, Pareto sings with a combined sense of foreboding and then brilliant exuberance at having met a young man with whom she can fall in love. As to be expected, Pareto’s vocal timbre graces the ear, her divisions are neat and the high notes perfectly placed with the dynamics of the piece well realised.

NB Some marks on the second side may cause slight extraneous noise.
This is caused by damage to the positive and is present on all copies

HM 205A Dimitri Alexeivitch Smirnov, Tenor (1882-1944)
Pensee d’automne – Massenet
Matrix number: 2544c, issued on 022272.
Sung in Russian with piano and recorded St. Petersburg on 20th November 1911.
Suggested speed; 76 rpm.

HM 205B Dimitri Alexeivitch Smirnov
Io son sol….Ah, dispar vision! – Manon Massenet
Matrix number: 141af, issued on 052300.
Sung in Italian with orchestra and recorded St. Petersburg on 23rd November 1910.
Suggested speed; 76 rpm.

Although Imperial Russia could boast of a number of very fine tenors who made recordings, the best known were Leonid Sobinov and Dimitri Smirnov, as they both enjoyed international acclaim in some of world’s greatest opera houses and left substantial recorded legacies. Sobinov always displayed on disc a pure tone, elegant style and musicianship. Smirnov on the other hand was possessed of a blessed individual timbre: instantly recognisable it was combined with a creativity that frequently makes the listener feel that they are hearing the music for the very first time.

Sadly, the only original metals of Sobinov which have survived in the EMI archive are for those recordings issued and widely available in good sound in the international DB series. By contrast, we have been fortunate to have uncovered in the archives at Hayes many Smirnov recordings which have always been difficult to find and extremely costly in their shellac form. Massenet’s attractive- Pensee d’automne- is sung with feeling and although in Russian displays a true understanding of the underlying sentiment. In act lll of Massenet’s Manon, De Grieux has been parted from Manon and is seeking a monastic life. In his delivery of the recitative- Io son sol- that opens the great aria- Ah dispar vision- he evokes a true sense utter loneliness, and the aria is sung with great feeling as he constantly tries to clear his mind of the recurring vision of Manon. The high B flats are sung with great intensity and are thrillingly combined with the chiaroscuro effects he achieves in the reflective section of the piece, making his version one of the most satisfying on record.

HM 206A Lydia Yakovlevna Lipkovskaya, Soprano (1880-1955)
How painful Act.l – (Schnegurotchka) The Snow Maiden Rimsky-Korsakov
Matrix number: 2724c, issued 023114.
Sung in Russian with orchestra and recorded on 19th December 1912.
Suggested speed; 77 rpm.

HM 206B Lydia Yakovlevna Lipkovskaya
All the day long… In Novgorod – The Tsar’s Bride Rimsky-Korsakov
Matrix number: 2729c, issued 023118.
Sung in Russian with orchestra and recorded on 21st December 1912.
Suggested speed; 73 rpm.

This lovely Russian soprano was born Lydia Marschner in Babino (Bessarabia) on the 10th May 1880 and began to study singing at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Natalya Iretskaya and later in Milan with Vittorio Vanzo. She made her theatrical debut as Gilda in Rigoletto at the Marynsky Theatre St. Petersburg in 1907 and by 1909 was making guest appearances in the USA with the Boston Opera Company in Lucia di Lammermoor. She appeared at the Opera Comique Paris in 1910 as Lakme and Violetta and the same year made her Metropolitan Opera New York debut in La Traviata with Caruso and Amato. She also appeared with the Chicago Opera and in 1911 was heard at Covent Garden in the local premire of Wolf- Ferrari’s Susanna’s Secret, also achieving success there as Mimi, Gilda and Violetta. She made guest appearances with the Vienna Volksoper, Monte Carlo where she sang in 1914 with Giovanni Martinelli in the premiere of Ponchielli’s I Mori di Valencia and then returned to Russia to sing in St. Petersburg and Moscow. After the revolution she escaped, evidently undertaking an arduous route through China and a long sea voyage to France where she became a leading member of the Opera Russe.

In the late 20′s she returned to Russia, giving numerous concert recitals and sang La Traviata in Odessa at the age of 61. After her retirement she taught singing in Paris, Milan and in Beirut where she died on 23rd January 1955. One of her star pupils was Virginia Zeani.

Lipkovska possessed a firmly based coloratura technique and a strong dramatic sense and is heard to advantage in the tuneful excerpt from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snow Maiden and also in Martha’s aria from the same composer’s Tzar’s Bride. The melodies of both arias here are perhaps best known, firstly on an attractive version by Sprishevskaya, who also recorded the Snow Maiden’s music for Victor in their rare Russian series, and through a popular, but truncated version of Martha’s aria (sung in German) made for Electrola by the delightful Miliza Korjus.

Lipkovskaya’s interpretations made here for HMV are beautifully vocalised and reveal the attractive qualities of her timbre, which unfortunately were not captured by her Columbia recordings which give an impression of dull routine, far removed from her actual abilities.

(Thanks once more to John Stratton Trust for sponsorship of this record)

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One Response to Notes to Issue 31

  1. [...] Issue No 31 will hopefully contain something for all tastes. The artists selected hail from Great Britain, Sweden, Holland, France, Spain, and Russia, the performances splendid, the music is varied, and the quality of pressings should reveal excellent audio results. [...]

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