The Gramophone, January, 1930
and day out to contend with the humdrum moods of an individual.
The Two Black Crows provide a good example of the strain of modern conditions. Their first record was a fantastic success and sold by the million; now they have reached their seventh record and most of their humour seems to have moulted away. In the days before the gramophone and radio their repertory would have lasted them for twenty years. We even tend to become blase about the records of good music which are made nowadays with such prodigality. Readers who write and remonstrate with me for not appearing to give so much attention as I used to give to individual records forget that five years ago I could mention every record published during the previous three months and devote a certain amount of space to each one without taking up so many pages as I should have to take up now to discuss the mid-monthly issues alone. I have never pretended to be a technical critic, and recording has now reached such perfection that good technical criticism has become the most important part of a gramophone critic's duties. The wealth of choice is now so large for the gramophone enthusiast as to have bEpcome embarrassing. During December alone we had a splendid album of lr'1adame B~ttterfly and a six di~c album of Elgar's Concerto in B minOT from Columbia, two albums of the Bach B minor 1l1ass and an album of Cortot and Thibaud playing the Kreutzer Sonata from H.M.V., and from Decca six of the twelve records they have devoted to Handel's Grand Concertos. Anyone of these productions five or six years ago would have given us enough to dream about for three months. Nowadays, we accept them as nonchalantly as we might accept a bunch of fox trots. I must confess I did get a thrill from the Ha,ndel Concertos, because my correspondence for the last six years has continually been punctuated by despairing requests for the Concerti (l'rossi. Well, the Decca Company made no mistake about i t when they did publish them a,nd I hope that they will meet with a rich reward for their enterprise. The surface of Decca has much improved lately, the recording of the strings is particularly good, and the whole production is a monument of good taste. I hope that those readers who have been indignantly demanding why none of the recording companies has thought i t worth while to bring out Handel's Grand Concertos will ensure that the Company which has brought them out at last shall find them worth their while.
The performance of the Kreutze1' Sonata by Cortot and Thibaud was, as we might have expected, excellent. At the same time, I did not feel that i t was so much better than one or two other recordings of the Kreutze1' Sonata we have had, as to make i t worth while spending eight-and-six a disc on these two red stars. Still, even I have not yet quite lost my awe of red-seal celebrity discs, and I should
sympathize with the man who fancied that he was getting out of them some extra perfection of recording. I wonder who was the genius that first thought of red for the colour of these celebrities ~ No other company has ever been able to achieve a label so attractive in colour. The purple label of Columbia should have been good; but somehow i t was the wrong purple and never managed to effuse such an authentic air of grandeur. That idea of one side only for celebrity discs was a good one. I remember when correspondents used to write to assure me solemnly that one of the reasons why H.M.V. celebrity records were so much better than ordinary records was that they were only recorded on one side of the disc. I t was idle for me to write and contradict them, they did not want to be contradicted; they wanted to believe that single-sided recordings were better. One of the things I do miss in the modern H.lVLV. catalogue is the appearance of galaxies of . stars in various bright-coloured raiment. You will remember the sextette from Lucia, which was of such richness including as i t did six stars, that white had to be used to express as i t were the inexpressible. Then there were those buff-label duets, and pale apple-green quintets, and porcelain-PIue quartets. I have often thought I should like to start a museum to house one specimen of every kind of disc record ever published. I wonder how many there would be? I wish some devoted reacler would set himself the task of making out a list. I am sure I am voicing the opinion of our readers, when I say how much we should like such an article. "A Discography of Gramophone Records up to date," the article should be called. Now who will volunteer for this noble but arduous task ~
The Columbia album of Elgar's great violin concerto is a splendid affair. I t was inevitable that Columbia would do this sooner or later because Albert Sammons is in their list and Albert Sammons was the soloist whom Sir Edward Elgar chose to interpret his Concerto originally. The Concerto is one of the most difficult pieces of violin music that exists. ,Vhat amazes one now when one sees these six sumptuous discs is to think/that when i t was first recorded the Concerto was squeezed on to two lightblue Columbia discs, which afford one of the finest examples of the scratch that can be found anywhere. Albert Sammons will be glad to feel that at last his great playing has received a worthy setting. I t must have been about the same t ime as Sammons recorded Elgar's Violin Concerto that he was playing in the London String Quartet and took part in that wonderful performance of Mozart's G minor Quintet, which extended in those days to the almost unparalleled length of three discs. I hope that the publication of the complete Concerto may be taken as an omen that we shall presently get a complete version of that glorious quintet, but whether i t will be as tense a performance as that original one,