Damian's 78s (and a few early LPs)

Historic recordings remastered. Not a sales list!

Happy Birthday Sir Henry

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry J Wood, the first conductor of the Promenade Concerts, and a mainstay of British musical life. The Proms were founded in 1895, and Sir Henry was their guiding hand for several decades, and continued to conduct in the concert series until his death in 1944. Although they are now known as the BBC Proms (the BBC having taken them over in 1927), Sir Henry’s bust still oversees the concerts every season from the back of the Royal Albert Hall stage.

Although I’ve not had time to produce any new transfers of Sir Henry’s work, last summer I uploaded a video of his recording of Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music. This work was written to celebrate Wood’s 50 years as a conductor, and features 16 prominent English vocalists of the era. I’ve included pictures of each vocalist as they sing their solo lines:

Serenade to Music – Sir Henry J Wood and soloist

More of Sir Henry’s recordings are available here on my site. I hope to upload soon a discography of Sir Henry’s recordings.

Fabien Sevitzky – Arensky’s Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky; Marie Novello – Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2; Thorpe Bates – Captain’s Song from HMS Pinafore; Joseph Batten – “March of Victory” for the National Savings Movement; Henry Wood – Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music (improved transfer); Michael Zacharewitsch – violin solos

The latest selection of recordings is a typically mixed bag.

Firstly, Fabien Sevitzky, who has been heard here before with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, recorded slightly earlier with his own Philadelphia String Simfonietta. One product of his studio sessions was Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, an adaptation of the third movement of Arensky’s String Quartet No.2.

The tragically short-lived English pianist Marie Novello managed to record extensively. For Winner she recorded Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody, though it’s somewhat gratingly abridged to fit on two 10” sides.

Thorpe Bates has also appeared here before in recordings from early in his career. The present pair of recordings take us earlier still, and also to the end of his career.

As a regular in the Gramophone Company studios, he featured in numerous ensemble recordings, not always credited on the label. A 1906 recording of the Captain’s Song from HMS Pinafore includes Bates as soloist. The accompanying choir includes Peter Dawson, whose distinctive tones can be heard particularly on each cry of “What never?” as he holds the final note longer than everyone else!

Bates also visited the studios in 1945, to take part in one of those curious patriotic records for the National Savings movement. This one celebrated the work of the British forces in securing victory in Europe, and was recorded after Hitler’s death, but a few days before VE Day. Bates contributes to the first side, and the second features Walter Saull, a baritone who had sung Dr Caius in the third performance of Vaughan Williams’s Sir John in Love in 1929 (part of the original run).

And staying with English singers, I’ve just acquired a fine set of original 78s of Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music, which provides a much improved transfer compared to the Columbia 7” reissue that I previously transferred.

I’ve been prompted to transfer my latest Edison Bell of the violinist Michael Zacharewitsch, who has also appeared here before. As well as the new disc in my collection, I’ve also improved the transfers of the other Zacharewitsch recordings which have appeared here.

Arensky – Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op.35a

Mediafire link for Arensky – Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovksy – Sevitzky

(This is an mp3 file – left click the link, download the file)

RCA Victor Red Seal DM 896 (11-8155/6)
Matrices 056558 7, 056559 1, 056560 1A4, 056561 10 (11-8155/6 auto, 11-8153/4 manual)
Recorded 1942

Part 1 – Variations 1 and 2
Part 2 – Variations 3 and 4
Part 3 – Variations 5 and 6
Part 4 – Variation 7 and Finale

Philadelphia Chamber String Sinfonietta, Fabien Sevitzky conductor

Album notes:

Arensky – Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op.35a

Anton Arensky was one of the most distinguished Russian composers of his period. Endowed with a natural facility of musical diction, a tenderness of feeling and a gift for simple and beautiful melody, Arensky soon won the warm friendship of his older and greater contemporary, Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky. A word concerning the cordial relationship between the two men is in order, for it is a melody by Tchaikovsky which forms the basis for the variations by Arensky recorded here. Tchaikovsky found in Arensky “a man of remarkable gifts” (as he expressed it in a letter to Mme. von Meck), not the least of which was an impeccable technical equipment in the craft of composition which, in Tchaikovsky’s words, “deserves unqualified praise.” As an older and more experienced composer, Tchaikovsky occasionally felt called upon to criticize certain aspects of Arensky’s music. The criticism was kindly but firm, and, in one instance at least, reveals perhaps more about Tchaikovsky than it does about Arensky. Arensky had submitted a work (Marguerite Gautier) based on the famous La Dame aux Camelias of Dumas fils – the work which served Verdi as the foundation for his La Traviata. Tchaikovsky disapproved, failing to see how “an educated musician” could have chosen so trivial a work when such authors as Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy were available as sources of inspiration. But Tchaikovsky could be extraordinarily kind as well. He put himself to considerable trouble to gain Arensky a hearing. He recommended Arensky’s book on musical theory to Jurgenson, the publisher. He wrote to Rimsky-Korsakoff asking as a favor that one of Arensky’s works be performed at one of his concerts. The manner in which the favours was asked is unique in the history of the friendship of composers, and indicates how much faith Tchaikovsky had in his friend’s talent. He proposed to Rimsky-Korsakoff that his own Rome overture be replaced by a composition of Arensky’s, arguing that where all Russian composers find a place, room should be made for Arensky. Arensky indicated his veneration for his friend by dedicating several of his compositions to Tchaikovsky. The present series of variations – originally a part of his string quartet, Op.35 – takes as its theme a song by Tchaikovsky.

In brief, the main outlines of Arensky’s biography follow. He was brought up amidst eminently musical surroundings. His father, a doctor, played the ‘cello, and his mother was reputed to have been an accomplished pianist. Arensky supplemented his early musical training with a course of study at the Petrograd Conservatory under Rimsky-Korsakoff. Following the completion of his studies – he graduated with honors – he was appointed professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Imperial Conservatory in Moscow in 1882. In 1889 he became a member of the Council of the Synodal School of Church Music at Moscow, a post which he held until 1893. For seven years he was conductor of the Russian Choral Society. In 189 he succeeded Balakirev, upon the latter’s own recommendation, as director of the Imperial Chapel at Petrograd. This post he resigned in 1901. He died in Terijoki, Finland, on February 25, 1906 following a long illness.

Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody (No.2)

Download – Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 – Marie Novello

(mp3 file – right click the link, then select “Save as”)

The Winner 3599 (10″)
Matrices 6849K-3, 6850R-3
Recorded November 1921
Marie Novello, piano

National Savings Movement presents “March of Freedom”

Download – March of Freedom – Joseph Batten

(mp3 file – right click the link, then select “Save as”)

EMI JG.303 (EMI: A Private Recording)
Matrices CTPX 12923-1, 12924-1
Recorded 3rd May 1945
London Symphony Orchestra, Joseph Batten
Thorpe Bates
, baritone (Side 1)
Walter Saull, baritone (Side 2)
Michael Shepley, compere (both sides)
Chorus (both sides)

Sullivan – HMS Pinafore – Captain’s song
(My gallant crew good morning… I am the captain of the Pinafore)

Download – Sullivan – HMS Pinafore – Captain’s Song – Thorpe Bates

(mp3 file – right click the link, then select “Save as”)

Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-4404 (10”)
Matrix 8352b (4404 II)
Recorded 16th June 1906
Sullivan Quartette:
Thorpe Bates
, baritone
Peter Dawson, bass-baritone
Stanley Kirkby, baritone
Ernest Pike, tenor

Thorpe Bates listed as soloist in Gramophone Company archives. Though the record label notes “Sullivan Quartette”, the ledgers give “Sullivan Operatic Party.” As noted earlier, Dawson is distinctly audible in the chorus. The recording ledgers do not list the chorus members, but Pike, Dawson and Kirkby were all in studio on the same day, recording with Bates and Eleanor Jones-Hudson in various combinations: Kirkby (recording as Walter Miller) was accomapnied by the Minster Singers, comprising Dawson, Bates, Pike and Jones-Hudson), and when Pike was the soloist his place is the same named group was taken by Kirkby.

Vaughan Williams – Serenade to Music

Download – Vaughan Williams – Serenade to Music – Henry Wood

(mp3 file – right click the link, then select “Save as”)

Columbia LX757-8
Matrices CAX 8367-2A, 8368-2A, 8369-1, 8370-1
Recorded 15th October 1938
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Henry J. Wood
Isobel Baillie,
soprano – Lilian Stiles Allen, soprano – Elsie Suddaby, soprano – Eva Turner, soprano
Margaret Balfour, contralto – Muriel Brunskill, contralto – Astra Desmond, contralto – Mary Jarred, contralto
Parry Jones, tenor – Heddle Nash, tenor – Frank Titterton, tenor – Walter Widdop, tenor
Norman Allin, bass – Robert Easton, bass – Roy Henderson, baritone – Harold Williams, baritone


Mediafire link for recordings by Michael Zacharewitsch

(This is a zip file – left click the link, download the file, then unzip when downloaded)

Schubert – Ave Maria
Zacharewitsch – Imagination

Edison Bell Velvet Face 509
Matrices X1125E-?, X1126N-?
Michael Zacharewitsch, violin with piano

Wieniawski – Legende
Svendsen – Romanze

Edison Bell Velvet Face 517
Matrices X1122D-4, X1123B-4
Michael Zacharewitsch, violin with piano

Sarasate – Zigeunerweisen (Gipsy Airs)
Edison Bell Velvet Face 525
Matrices X1171E-1, X1172F-2
Michael Zacharewitsch, violin with piano

Henry Wood’s Vaughan Williams

To round off this Vaughan Williams anniversary year, here are the remainder of Henry Wood’s recordings of Vaughan Williams’s music: The Serenade to Music, The Wasps Overture and the Fantasia on Greensleeves.

Download – Vaughan Williams – The Wasps – Wood

Download – Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on Greensleeves – Wood

(mp3 files – right click the link, then select “Save as” or click the play button)

Vaughan Williams – The Wasps – Overture
Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on Greensleeves
Originally issued on Decca K.821/2
Matrices TA 2136, 2137, 2138 (The Wasps), TA 2139 (Greensleeves)
Recorded 22nd April 1936
The Queen’s Hall Orchestra, Sir Henry J. Wood
George Stratton, leader

The present transfers are made from the Decca Ace of Clubs LP reissue, ACL 255.

Vaughan Williams – Serenade to Music

Vaughan Williams’s “A London Symphony” – Wood and Goossens

As we approach the end of the year, it’s time to remember a composer who died fifty years ago: Ralph Vaughan Williams. There have been many reissues in connection with this, including, from Symposium, Dan Godfrey’s premiere recording of A London Symphony – both his earlier recording of the first (abridged) and third movements, and the “complete” recording that followed. The abridged first movement was one of the records recommended by Percy Scholes in his “Second Book of the Gramophone Record”. Godfrey’s recording used the 1920 version of the score. Vaughan Williams published an updated version of the score in 1936, and it is this that was used by Sir Henry Wood in his recording the same year. However, by a curious quirk, when Eugene Goossens recorded the work in 1941 with the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra, he used the 1920 version. It is also noteworthy, that both Wood and Goossens omit the repeat of the first section of the Scherzo, which Godfrey included in both his acoustic recordings of the movement. There can be no doubt that both conductors would have had room for it: Wood’s side lengths are fairly short, and breaks between movements occur during sides; and Goossens’s recording takes 9 sides, with the 10th taken up by a 1938 recording with the LSO of Bizet’s Farandole!

These recordings, then, by Wood and Goossens provide an opportunity to compare the two versions of the work. It’s also an instructive comparison of recording styles. Wood rarely approaches a true pianissimo, particularly where the lower instruments are concerned, perhaps continuing the habits from around 1916 when he started conducting for records. Goossens for Victor has a much more natural recorded sound, allowing for a wide dynamic range.

Mediafire link for Vaughan Williams – A London Symphony – Henry Wood

(These are zip files – left click the link, download the files, then unzip when downloaded)

Vaughan Williams – A London Symphony

I. Lento – Allegro risoluto (3½ sides)
II. Lento (2 sides)
III. Scherzo (Nocturne) (1½ sides)
IV. Andante con moto – Maestoso alla Marcia. (2 sides)
Epilogue – Andante sostenuto (1 side)

Decca X.114-8
Matrices TA 2126-III, 2127-II, 2128-II, 2129-II, 2130-II, 2131-III, 2132-I, 2133-III, 2134-2, 2135-II
Recorded 21st April 1936
Issued June 1936
The Queen’s Hall Orchestra, Sir Henry J. Wood
George Stratton, leader

There is a deterioration in sound quality for the last two sides, as the final disc in my copy of the set of 78s has a crack from label to rim. I have done my best to alleviate the effects of this.

Mediafire link for Vaughan Williams – A London Symphony – Eugene Goossens

(These are zip files – left click the link, download the files, then unzip when downloaded)

Vaughan Williams – A London Symphony

I. Lento – Allegro risoluto (3 sides)
II. Lento (2 sides)
III. Scherzo (Nocturne) (1 side)
IV. Andante con moto – Maestoso alla Marcia. (1½ sides)
Epilogue – Andante sostenuto (1½ sides)

RCA Victor Red Seal DM-916 (11-8253/7)
Matrices 062506/14
Recorded 19th and 20th February 1941, Cincinatti
Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens

Bizet – L’Arlésienne Suite No.2 – 4. Farandole
RCA Victor Red Seal 11-8253
Matrix 2EA 6311-II, 073028
Recorded 9th May 1938, Abbey Road Studio 1, London
London Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens