The eight records in this issue carry Historic Masters past an important milestone – 500 Issued recordings.

Read the issue notes to Issue 33 here.

Including our special boxed sets we have now issued more than five hun- dred separate recordings. Many of these had never previously been published whilst others are extremely scarce in original form; overall the advantage of pressing in vinyl rather than on shellac is the removal of much extraneous sound and a considerably greater ambience.

Inevitably the pool of available mate- rial is diminishing. EMI and, more recently, Deutsche Grammophon, have shown remarkable generosity in allowing us the ‘run’ of their wonderful archives. We have over the years also tried – so far without success – to access other company archives.

But we can only issue records from metals which still exist. Whenever collectors ask for this or that recording we scour our available sources – all too often and sadly the answer is that the material has long since vanished or, sometimes, the metals have deteriorated beyond the point at which quality pressings may be produced from them. As another example of our frustrations we investigated live recordings made at a Covent Garden performance of La Bohème by the much under-recorded Angelo Minghetti and the talented Irish diva, Margaret Sheridan only to find that surviving excerpts are fragmented. On the positive side we do hope to issue their ‘O soave fanciulla’.

Apart from the present issue we have also unearthed some other goodies for possible future issue including a test pressing by Genevieve Vix and the very first recording made by the young Eide Norena. Perhaps our most exciting recent discovery is that the metal parts for almost all of a series of recordings made by the German branch of the Gramophone Company in 1909/10 and entitled ‘The Singing School’ still exist. These recordings demonstrate singers ‘at work’; all of the artists were mainstays of the Vienna Opera and all had sung – in some cases learned their trade – when Mahler was the Director. Although the entire series was advertised for sale in April 1910 we have so far been unable to trace any extant shellac records.

So the discoveries continue and we would like Historic Masters to be able to make these available. But there are problems. Costs have risen and the number of subscribers has significantly reduced over the years. Historic Masters Ltd is a strictly not for profit company, but this does not give scope for operating as a loss making company! We owe our continued existence and ability to issue records to external subsidy. Over the last ten years we have received major financial support from the John Stratton Trust without which we would have simply ceased to exist.

We are of course aware that some subscribers have reservations about mixed sets of the kind we have issued over more than twenty years – on the grounds that they may not want all of the items. It has been suggested that we could issue and sell records on an individual basis perhaps through individual advance subscription and/or running a semi-permanent catalogue of available items. We continue to investigate these and other ideas but the problem is that on any such basis the price for individual items would have to be considerably higher than their current unit cost. A relatively recent development has been the introduction of boxed sets devoted to a single artist and they could with equal validity be devoted to a single theme. These have been well received; demand and sales have been higher. However, these sets also cost more to produce and have still required subsidy.

Such problems are in nature not new and were presumably the underlying reason for the demise of predecessor organizations such as IRCC and the like. The extra dimension facing Historic Master is that we are producing ’78 rpm’ record- ings more than half a century after regular production ceased and a quarter of a century after records as such were replaced by the compact disc.

Further consideration of these issues is for the future. For the immediate present I hope our subscribers and supporters will purchase the new set and enjoy the treasures described in this prospectus by my colleague Alan Bilgora.

Professor Stanley Henig, Managing Director, Historic Masters

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