Malcolm Sargent

Malcolm Sargent (1895-1967) was a vital figure of British musical life from the 1920s through to the late 1960s, being prominent both for his work with the D’Oyly Carte opera company, as a choral conductor, and then as the chief conductor of the Proms from 1948 to 1967. He recorded extensively, from the acoustic era well into the stereo period. His reputation has unjustly faded, perhaps tarred by his “Flash Harry” nickname, but his music making was of a high order.

Rossini – William Tell – Overture
Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden, Malcolm Sargent

His Master’s Voice – B2437/8
Matrices: Bb 9938-II, 9939-II, 9940-I, 9941-II (6-852/5)
Recorded 18th February 1927, Small Queen’s Hall Studio C, London

Schubert – Rosamunde – Overture
Royal Albert Hall Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent

Victor 9475
Matrices CR 1672-III, 1673-IA
Recorded 11th April, 7th February 1928, Kingsway Hall, London


Sargent’s first recording of the Rosamunde overture is on just 2 12” sides, and complete – which other 2 sided versions tended not to be in earlier recordings (Harty’s recording, for example). The recording was not issued in the UK, but has a curious history on Victor. Victor 9274 claimed to be the Rosamunde Overture with the RAHO, but the first side was actually matrix CR 1671-II, containing Entr’acte No.3, and the second side was the correct second side of the overture. The record was deleted (probably due to this coupling error) and later 9475 appeared in the catalogue. This contains the complete overture as given here, though credited to the New Symphony Orchestra. There is a noticeable difference in ambience between the 2 sides of the recording, as the set up was presumably different in the Kingsway Hall for these sessions two months apart. There is also a slight difference in recording speed. Both sides last about 4 minutes 40, so the sound is quite congested in places. I have done what I can to equalize the sound of the 2 sides, and obviously adjusted the pitch difference.

Thanks to Don Tait for information about Victor 9274.

Schubert – Rosamunde – Overture
London Symphony Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent

His Master’s Voice C 1873-4
Matrices Cc 17935-I, 17936-I, 17937-II (32-1067/9)
Recorded 16th December 1929, Kingsway Hall, London
Issued June 1930

Sargent’s second recording of the Rosamunde Overture, came just a year and a half after his first. This time he is allowed to stretch out over 3 sides, and he takes an extra minute in performance, compared to his 1928 account. The three sides were all made the same day, and there are therefore no pitch issues, and the recorded sound seems much better than that produced the previous year. The orchestra is credited only as “Symphony Orchestra” on the record labels.

Mendelssohn – Ruy Blas – Overture
London Symphony Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent
(The orchestra is credited on the record labels only as “Symphony Orchestra”)

Download – Mendelssohn – Ruy Blas Overture – Malcolm Sargent

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

His Master’s Voice C 1813
Matrices Cc 17933-II, 17934-I (32-1065/6)
Recorded 16th December 1929, Kingsway Hall, London

Brahms – Hungarian Dance No.6 in D major
Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden, Malcolm Sargent

His Master’s Voice C 1874
Matrix Cc 11677-II (5-0656)
Recorded 6th June 1927, Small Queen’s Hall Studio C, LondonThe three sided Rosamunde overture was filled out by the use of a Brahms Hungarian Dance recorded 2 and a half years earlier. The catalogue lists the work as No.6 in D minor, the recording ledgers as No.2 in D major. It is in fact the orchestral arrangement in D major, of No.6 in D flat major.

Johann Strauss II arr. Richard Atzler – Annen Polka
Eduard Strauss arr. Walter Goehr – Right Away Polka

Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent

Columbia DB2156
Matrices CA 19479-1, 19480-1
Recorded c1945

Haydn – Symphony No.94 in G major “The Surprise”
I. Adagio cantabile – Vivace assai (2 sides)
II. Andante (2 sides)
III. Menuetto (Allegro molto) and Trio (1 side)
IV. Allegro di molto (1 side)
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent

Available to download from Historic Recordings

Columbia DX 1490-2
Matrices: CAX 10088-1, 10089-2, 10090-1, 10091-1, 10092-1, 10093-1
Recorded: 1947

Mendelssohn – Symphony No.3 in A major “Scotch”

I. Andante con moto – Allegro (3 sides)
II. Scherzo (1 side)
III. Adagio (2 sides)
IV. Allegro vivacissimo (2 sides)

Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent

Available to download from Historic Recordings

Columbia DX 1451-4
Matrices CAX 10080-2, 10081-1, 10082-1, 10083-2, 10084-1, 10085-2, 10086-2, 10087-1
Recorded 1947

This recording was reviewed extensively in The Gramophone, February 1948

Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Sargent); Symphony No. 3, in A minor, “Scotch” (Mendelssohn). Columbia DX 1451-4 (12 in., 21s. 4d.). Auto. DX8304-7. Score, Hawkes, Eulenburg.

Recording excels in clarity, virility. Softer tones not so fine. The strings tell better, on the whole, than the wind. Not quite the finest wood-wind playing, I think. That start is a difficult one. Mendelssohn spread himself in this Scottish album. It is very much the German tourist’s Scotland, with rather a lot of padding to the scenery and history. He began it at Edinburgh in midsummer, 1829, and finished it in 1842. He wanted the movements to run without break, but applause spoiled that aim. It shows his strength and some of the weaknesses, in the latter category, particularly that of starting well and tailing off, in both melodies and phrases. One strength is the sense of the springing foot on the heather. Moodiness exhales, at first: the sense of the past invaded him. There is a touch of native song in an augmented interval in the second phrase. The preparation for the Allegro is deft: after the slight lift; then the flutes’ echo of the fiddles’ cry, distantly.

The first theme of this is pervasive; the key-changes are fine. The lower strings have free play, and record particularly well. The violoncello in particular has a good solo bit. Pretty dovetailing where the development merges into the recapitulation. The coda is particularly good: stormy seas? (cf. Hebrides, and think of Scott’s Pirate, perhaps). A touch of the early Andante leads into the

Scherzo – It is said to be “after” the Highland Games at Braemar, but I trow that this was also the native heath of the M.N.D. fairies. The staccato scherzo style at bar 72 is very much our hero’s own. The clarinet has a few tasty bits. How the Romantics loved it! Perhaps this hints at Scots piping, but in a spirit, as well as a tonal compass, soaring, I think, beyond the pipe’s range. The form of all four movements is “sonata,” but in the two middle ones it is condensed. Here, after development (at 105), the recapitulation is much shortened. The jumping arpeggio figure (214 et seq.) leads on to the coda. Orchestra and recorders are here alike excellent.

Slow Movement – A song without words, rather a flop in Scotland, I think. The horns have a hint, at the start, of the second subject. The varied presentation of the two themes is the main dish; development is slight. The wind colour in the scoring is richly conveyed. Indeed, I enjoy the scoring more than the thematic matter.

Finale – Originally marked “Allegro guerriero.” Note themes at 55 (five A’s to start), and 37 – flew march-like strain. The latter is developed in a fugato (182: Second subject, 67: oboe. Its second section has a fine brief blaze. At 137, note the octave “calls ” already heard in the first movement. The fugato is beautifully placed, as relief (towards end of side), and so is the splendid device that leads up the recapitulation at 245, which comes a little before the end of this side. It is in such building that Mendelssohn was always at his best. His master was Beethoven. The recapitulation is shortened, to make way for the long coda. The calls are capital, the sense of suspense superb. The introduction of a phrase used elsewhere (in the Reformation symphony, and the Hymn of Praise one, etc.) is striking. Perhaps it may be meant to suggest the composer’s idea of the triumph of the Highlanders, in the religious sense: the Covenanter’s struggles, maybe? In such music our players triumph gallantly. One could not wish a firmer-based recording, and scarcely a better-balanced one. In the finest details of full-pace rhythmic precision we allow a percentage of defection.

Britten – Peter Grimes – Four Sea Interludes Op.33A
No.1 – Dawn
No.2 – Sunday Morning
No.3 – Moonlight
No.4 – Storm
London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent

Britten – Peter Grimes – Sea Interlude 1. Dawn – LSO, Sargent
Britten – Peter Grimes – Sea Interlude 2. Sunday Morning – LSO, Sargent

Britten – Peter Grimes – Sea Interlude 3. Moonlight – LSO, Sargent
Britten – Peter Grimes – Sea Interlude 4. Storm – LSO, Sargent

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

Columbia DX 1441-2
Matrices: CAX 10119-1, 10120-2, 10121-1, 10122-2
Recorded: 11th November 1947, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road
Issued December 1947

This was the second commercial recording of the Sea Interludes, but the first to be issued. Eduard van Beinum recorded them, and the Passacaglia, for Decca with the Concertgebouw Orchestra on September 15th and 16th 1947, with the 78s issued in January 1948. These Sargent sides were recorded two months later, but the incredibly quick turnaround for issue suggests to me that perhaps EMI were determined to be the first to get excerpts from Peter Grimes in the catalogues.

Handel – Zadok the Priest
Elgar – Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 in D major Op.39 “Land of Hope and Glory”
Royal Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Malcolm Sargent

Handel – Zadok the Priest – RFH, Sargent
Elgar – Pomp and Circumstance No.1 – RFH, Sargent

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

His Master’s Voice Records DA 1980, 1981
Matrices 0EA 15573-1C, 15574-1C, 15575-1A, 15576-1A
Recorded live on 3rd May 1951 at the Ceremonial Opening Concert of the Royal Festival Hall, London

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