Albert Coates and “The Rhinegold”

The anniversary of Albert Coates’s birth rolls round again. This year I’ve opted to transfer a disc from HMV’s acoustic Ring cycle excerpts in English of the early 1920s. “The Rhinegold” was rather short-changed in the set, meriting just one record, featuring scenes with Alberich.
(HMV did also have a 1920 recording in the catalogue of Landon Ronald conducting the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra in the Entry of the Gods.)

The first excerpt is described on the label as “Alberich steals the gold, The dawn over Valhalla – Scene II”. It runs from “Spottet nur zu!” (p73 of the Schott orchestral score) through the transition to Scene II (with a minor 8 bar cut on p83). The bass Robert Radford sings Alberich, with sopranos Bessie Jones and Louise Trenton and contralto Edith Furmedge as the Rhinemaidens.

The second excerpt is called “The descent to Nibelheim, Capture of Alberich – Scene III. It begins at Wotan’s “Ihr andern harrt bis Abend hier” (Schott p151), runs through the descent to Nibelheim (with anvils) (to p160) then cuts to Alberich’s showing off (p181) from “Hie her! Dorthin!” to “Soll ich euch helfen? Alles hieher!” (p182). After a cut of more than 30 bars we resume with “Zitt’re und zage, gezähmtes Heer” (p185). After the ensuing transitional passage (p186) the music then cuts to the Tarnhelm music (p204) where Alberich’s “Riesenwurm winde sich ringelnd!” line goes unsung. So the record doesn’t actually get as far as “Capture of Alberich” stated on the label! Robert Radford sings both Wotan at the start of the side and Alberich at the end. Edith Furmedge is also credited for Fricka’s single line, and brief lines are heard from Donner and Froh (almost inaudibly). The singers are uncredited, but baritones Leonard Hubbard and Edward Halland and tenors Sidney Coltham and Walter Glynne were in the chorus for these sessions. Although Florence Austral and Tudor Davies were in studio the same day for excerpts from The Valkyrie and The Twilight of the Gods, it seems unlikely that Davies would be the barely audible Froh, even if he were distant from the recording horn.

The orchestra for the recording session consisted of 4 first violins, 3 second violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, 4 flutes, 3 oboes, 1 cor anglais, 3 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 3 trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 tuba, 8 horns, 3 trumpets, 1 bass trumpet, 3 trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 bass tuba, timpani, cymbals. For these two sides there were slight changes involving addition of extra tubas, piano and percussion. The piano can be clearly detected playing the harp part when the Valhalla motif enters near the end of the first side.

Wagner – Rhinegold – Scene 1 to 2 – Radford, Coates

Wagner – Rhinegold – Scene 2 to Scene 3 – Radford, Coates

His Master’s Voice D 677
Matrices Cc 2243-3, Cc 2244-2 (side numbers 3-0814, 3-0815)
Recorded 18th December 1922, Room 1, Hayes
Symphony Orchestra, Albert Coates
Robert Radford (bass) – Alberich, Wotan
Bessie Jones (soprano), Louise Trenton (soprano), Edith Furmedge (contralto) – Rhinemaidens (side 1)
Edith Furmedge (contralto) – Fricka (side 2)
Leonard Hubbard or Edward Halland ? – Donner (side 2)
Sidney Coltham or Walter Glynne ? – Froh (side 2)

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