Music from the Disc
Another Gem from "Otello." The great siuging of the Italian tenor, Giovanni Zcnatcllo, in "Otello" (Verdi), was mentioned in these columns recently, and it is pleasing to note that he also figures on another discfrom the same opera, the love duet from the first act, which ho sings with Hina Spani,' who was one of the stars of tho recent Williamson Opera Company in Australia. Tho melody here is poignant in expression, and there is a luxurious accompaniment. The blend of the voices is beautifully balanced, and the scene of the meeting of Otello and Dcsdemona can be graphically visualised from this record. Pomp and Circumstance. (1) "Marchc Lorraino" (Ganne); (2) "Pomp and Circumstance" — march (Sir Edward Elgar). Played by the Regimental Band of H.M. Grenadier Guards. For some reason or other Elgar's famous March and Ganne's stirring "March Lorraine" are always paired for band recording. Perhaps it is because in these two marches Elgar and Ganne mako similar use of counterpoint and melodic development among the brass basses. Anyhow, both of these recordings display splendid balance and give a very satisfying volume. Altogether two fine examples of brilliant playing by what is possibly the finest military band in Great Britain. A Brahms Symphony. The fourth symphony of Brahms is far from-being a forbidding work. It contains a great doal that is supremely beautiful, but it contains so much that its contents arc not completely discovered at first hearing, but continue to reveal themselves, even in fresh aspects, upon each further performance. It consists of four movements. The first is a gentle allegro with a very beautiful melody of a wistful character for the first violins. The second is simplicity itself, and as performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under Hormann Abendioth is characterised by gracious warmth and lucidity. There is vigour in the scherzo or third movement, and the finale is a colossal piece of architecture, built in the form of a set of variations upon a theme announced in the first bars. Schubert. "Marchc Militaire" (Schubert arr. Tausig), parts 1 and 2. Played by William Murdoch, pianoforte. No collection of Schubert centenary recordings would be complete without a record of this famous March, and this rendering by William Murdoch makes a disc very!well worth adding to one's collection. This playing of this by no means Simple piece displays a dexterity that is a treat to listen to. It is worthy, of note !also that this recording is issued under the popular dark blue label, thus . giving every record collector an opportunity of possessing a disc by this celebrated pianist. "Messiah." (1) "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted"—Hubert Eisdell, tenor; (2) "And tho Glory of the Lord"—Sir Thomas Beecham's orchestra and tho 8.8.C. Choir. There is perhaps no other work that enjoys such perennial and Universal favour —no matter how or where it is presented. Practically tho oldest, choral work of any importance, "Messiah" contains such lovely airs and such majestic harmonics that it is safe to predict its continued popularity as long as music shall last. Tho two numbers under review, the third and fourth of the work, are recorded in the Central Hall, Westminster, and both Hubert Eisdell and the British Broadcasting Company's Choir combine with Sir Thomas Beecham's orchestra to produce two of the finest "Messiah" recordings to date. .This disc is part of a wonderful series of eighteen records by the same talented ensemble. "Messiah" lovers will want to possess nil of them. The Salon Orchestra has 'become famous as a light orchestra of the finest type, and in "Russian Lullaby" (Irving Berlin) and "Just a Butterfly"' (Dixon-Woods) thero arc innumerable clever touches which aro a perpetual delight. These two pieces have already won high approval in the world of danco music and light vocal numbers. Debussy's "La Fillo Aux Cheveaux de Lin" (Maid with the Flaxen Hair") is a enriously bitter-sweet melody, and the great French violinist Jacques Thibaud plays it with delicacy and polish. Tho contrast between it and the Brahms Waltz in A Flat which occupies the reverse side is typical of the vastly different outlook of the two composers. It is a Contrast of nationality—'■'No evanescent and ethereal quality of Debussy against the solid romanticism of the German. . A iy»,4pr in "The Musical Times" attack* . notion that tho ultimate result V_ ihe gramophone and of radio will bo to create a nation of listoners, and to annihilate the home-player. Ho says: "I ask any reader to look at his own case, and that of all his friends. Is there among them a single individual who is really fond of playing, and who has given it up because of the facilities offered by wireless and gramophone? I myself have never, in the whole of my misspent career, got more pleasure out of tho pianoforte than to-day, in spite of hearing stacks of gramophone records,and wireless and other concerts without number. Moreover, wireless and gramophone have increased the home-players' repertoire, by bringing fresh works to their notice, as well as by helping them in the interpretation by means of performances which are (usually) good object lessons. No doubt a proportion of players have given it up, but they were folk who in the past got little or no music beyond that of their own making; thoy had to play. But I can't conceive of anybody who played for tho pleasure of playing over being entirely satisfied with listening. So let us hear no more Jeremiahs concerning tho effects of mechanically reproduced music. Wish Wynne, the famous comedienne who visited New Zealand a few years ago, still continues to be one of England's favourites, and perhaps the secret of this is the touch of realism in her inimitable sketches. One laughs at her humour, but even in her gayest moods she gives a little food for thought. Two of her sketches, "A Servant Girl" and "Our District Visitor," aro gems from her repertoire. Tho warm tone of the 'cello- is nearly always associated with music of broadsweeping phrases, a general romantic leaning. Perhaps this is why "Consolation" (Liszt) and "Chant Sans Paroles" (Tchaikowsky), played by Cedric Stiarpc, aro so satisfying. The instrument is reproduced with startling clearness, even to tho "bite" of the bow on the strings. The "Valse dns Fleurs" and "Overture Miniaturo" from the "Nutcrackers Suite" by Tchaikowsky aro ingeniously playod by Reginald Foort on tho Wurlitzor. Tho diverse effects obtained mako up for the absent orchestra, and few will quarrel with .Mr. Foort on hearing this attractive disc. Mr.. Edgar Wallace, author, dramatist, and owner of racehorses, has broken into new paths by becoming a teller of tales for the gramophone. Ho has wi'ilten a special thriller called "The Man in the Ditch," and has read it into the gramophone recording micro- • phone, so that it may be transformed into a ■ double-sided record. It is not J
fair to divulge the plot, but there is said to be a hangman concerned, a woman who uses a revolver, and, of course, the man in the ditch. | Two numbers with the spirit of tho ! dance, "Love Me All the Timo" (waltz) and "If Tears Could Bring You Back to Me" (fox-trot) are splendidly played by the Devonshire Restaurant Danco Band. This combination is admirably balanced. The light tenor Gene Austin .gives a very pleasant melody to wait/, time, "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi," an American colloge ditty. Its companion piece, "Are You Happy?" is tho vocal version of a tune that has already proved popular as a dance record. In spite of the new recording of the sextette from "Lucia di Lammermoor" (Donizetti) and the quartet from Verdi' "Rigoletto," there are many who still prefer tho previous discs embracing these two great ensembles. Caruso has. the tenor roles in the older records, and lie cannot bo replaced. Definition of tone is tho chief characteristic of the electrical recording, and thus opera lovers are in a quandary. Quite a number have got over the difficulty by placing two discs in their collections, and intending buyers would be well advised to hear all renderings before making a choice. .Tastes and opinions differ, but it cannot bo gainsaid that each disc is an achievement in itself. To anyone who knows the Southern States, Paul Robeson singing "01' Man River" will conjure up a quite unforgettable picture. He will see in imagination the levee of any small riverside southern town, tho hot sun beating on coloured folk lolling at their ease, or even stretched out fast asleep . . . and'it takes a negro to be able to sleep in the full glare of a sub-tro-pical sun. The whole quayside drowses. Somewhere a guitar or banjo ' heard, and by the timo its owner appears on the levee, voices are sleepily crooning whatever air the player gives them. Slowly, sleepily, the whole gathering takes up the tune. Someone .claps their hands in time to the rhythm, at which the accompanist is spurred on to a livelier air. A faint air of excitement arises. There is a shuffling of feet. Soon the quay is alive with dancing, gesticulating figures. Cries of encouragement, shouts of laughter, stamping of feet, rocking and swaying of bodies, steps growing more and more intricato until the player, tired, puts his hand over the strings to still tho last throbbing chord. .. . Tho dancers stop. Once more the quayside sleeps. Tho Philadelphia Orchestra has achieved a notable success with the Cesar Franck Symphony in D Minor. The interpretation gets to tho inside of Franck; the playing has a sensibility, a nuance of rhythm and tone, which goes far beyond the efforts of the best English orchestra. Occasionally, as in tho slow movement, the records do less than justice to the band's warm and gloriously phrased strings. Here and there tho instrumental colour is not true; wood-wind and string tone is not always marked off clearly. But these aro slight flaws in a piece of expert recording of a great performance. Stokowsky does not coax the music; he lets it go its own way. This is "musiquo cathedralesquc." The lofty singing motive in the first movement is given with admirable Restraint. Franck's inveterate love of the grandiose climax is,'- so to say, softened down. The symphony is, despite the defects of the cyclical form, one of the masterpieces. The themes sing in one's mind and heart for days. But what banal closes we get to tho first and last movement! Yet how noble is the reticence of the close of the second movement. The reproduction of a series of lectures given by noted educationists furnishes another illustration of the great value of the phonograph (says the Melbourne "Herald"). The International Education Society has undertaken to circulate lectures by tho employment of various mechanical devices, mainly through the medium of phonograph records, and it has made a very . successful commencement. Professor B. S. Conway, of the Manchester University, who is at present in Australia, gives the first two lectures of the series. These are entitled "Specimen Passages from Latin Authors," intended as a guide to cor-rect-pronunciation, and "An Introduction to Virgil." Some of the lectures will naturally have a much wider appeal. Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson's Shakespearean lecture, for example, really takes the form of a recital. Beginning'with a few remarks on Shakespeare as an actor, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson proceeds to give excerpts from several of the plays. Tho deep resonance of the distinguished old actor's voice records capitally, and the extracts arc recited with- that ease and comprehension that means the making of a picture in the mind of the listener. The dignity and pathos of the scone of Buckingham's farewell, from "Henry VIII.," cannot fail to impress. "Uome Aspects of Eighteenth Century England" is another lecture which should have a very wide audience. Conditions in England in the reign of George 11. aro graphically told by Professor G. M. Trevelyan, who is Professor of Modern History in the Cambridge Univoirsity. He compares the comforts and discomforts of the times with those of modern England, and the picture.' of life in the villages is of arresting interest. "Good Speech" is the subject of a very interesting lecture by AValter Ripman, who deals with standard speech and dialects, and points out that speech should be pleasing as well as correct. "What History Means to Man," by Sir Charles Oman,, and "The New Russia," by H. A. L. Fisher, are other good records. (1) "Rondo in E Plat Major" (Hummel); (2) "Viennese Dance No. i" (Gaertner). Pianoforte solo by Ignaz Friedman. Friedman, who always impresses with the sincerity of his interpretations, offers new delights in this new record of his. Neither his practised touch nor his appreciation of tone Colour, his crisp rhythmical phrasing or his dexterous management of difficulties is missing from the playing of either the Rondo or tho Viennese Dance. Listening to Friedman is always a pleasure; on this record, unquestionably so. Siegfried (Wagner): (1) "Prelude, Act 3"; (2) "Fire Music." Played by the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, conducted by Franz Yon Hoesslin. Little is known in this country of Franz Yon Hoesslin, but you canot let his mastery as a conductor go long unrecognised after hearing this record—or indeed any of the Bayreuth Festival records. Recorded in the actual theatre that Wagner built as a home for his own works, the two "Siegfried's excerpts under review give one a sense of realism that is amazing. The Fire Music is a thrilling piece of orchestral description, aud tho Festival Orchestra does it a full measure of justice. The recordings made by the Grand Symphony Oichestra are most striking technically. They jumped immediately to a high place among orchestra] combinations, and their continued excellent recordings have kept them there. No introduction is needed to Suppc's overture "Light Cavalry," one of tho most striking overtures ever written. Tho Swedish tenor, Bjorn Talon, shows his dramatic quality and power in Leoncavallo's "Mattinata." A big tenor reminiscent of Caruso. Karol Streter, tho famous pianist, is at his best and gives a brilliant performance in tho lilting Strauss waltz "Soiree de Vienne." The naturalness ,
of tho piano tone is remarkable, and is a tribute to the recording. Tho French mezzo-soprano, Ninon Vallin, sings tho favourite "Jewel Song" from "Faust," which tells of Margaret's delight on finding the casket of jewels. Vallin's voice is noted for its rich timbre, its even quality, and its technical brilliance in the difficult passages. David and Quoonic Kaili arc always more than welcome, and the "Fijian Farewell" adds another success to their long list. Kaili is ono of the greatest living steel guitar players, and in conjunction with his wife, Quecnie, has made Hawaiian records that are outstanding. "Octet in F Major" (Schubert —Op. lb'6). Played by tho Loner String Quartet (Loner Smilovits, Roth and Uartman) and C. Hobday (string bass); 0. Draper (clarinet); E. W. Ilinchincliff (bassoon); Aubrey Brain (French horn). In. 12 parts. This Octet stands out among Schubert's chamber music because of its individual characteristics and the special importance it gives
to the clarinet. Its performance by the polished Lener Quartet, and tho four soloists by whom they are augmented is beyond criticism. The music flows and ripples, trips and moves so naturally and easily that one is left wondering which to admire most—the lovely music of Schubert or the supreme art of the players. (1) "La Serenata" (Angel's Serenade) (Brnga); (2) "Serenade" (Tjtl). Played by the 3. 11. Squire Celeste Octet. This' sweet-toned ensemble plays Braga's "Serenata" with wondortul effect and their handling of Titl's Serenade is indeed fine. It might be mentioned that this latter number is practically the ooly thing Titl wrote, aud was originally intended for flute and French horn. As it is now played, tho Celeste takes the horn score and the strings follow that intended for the flute. But as a melody it loses none of its beauty—either.in playing or in reproduction.