Incorporating VOX, THE RADIO CRITIC and BROADCAST REVIEW
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Tetegrams Parmaxto, Rath, London
AT the moment of writing, I have not heard the latest figures of the Hugo Wolf Society about which I wrote last month, but on October 7th I was depressed to learn that the response had not been too encouraging. It will really be grotesque if 500 people out of fifty million cannot manage to find thirty shillings a year each to possess records of the greatest living singers singing some of the world's greatest songs. Should the Hugo Wolf Society fail to become an established fact I shall feel that I have sutTered the most humiliating rebufT of my career. No doubt rebufTs are good fol' people, but good though they may be for individuals, they are very bad for art; and if lovel's of the gramophone never intend to venture beyond the familiar ground on which they now amuse themselves, this means inevitably that the gramophone will retum to the state of a mechanical toy from which we had, perhaps rashly, supposed i t had been promoted. It is not as if a large sum were being demanded annually. Whatever the financial state of the country, the expenditure of another £750 will not precipitate ruin, and 30s. a year is only a penny a day. "He who hath two loaves," said the Koran, " let him sell one and buy anemones, for bread is the food of the body, but flowers are the food of the soul."
He who smokes twenty gaspers a day, let him smoke eighteen and subscribe to ten songs by Hugo Wolf, for gaspers are the enemy of the throat, and Hugo Wolf songs are not. Even if the individual music-lover be not convinced that he will get his money's worth in enjoyment out of the Hugo WoH songs, let him remember that the failure to bring into existence this particular Society will set a full stop to the formation of any other societies. I know there are many enthusiasts who would like to see their own particular favourites in music honoured, but if devotees of Hugo Wolf do not achieve their object, what chance will there be for devotees of Beethoven or Mozart? I am continually receiving letters from all over the ""vorld, urging me to impress on the recording companies the vital necessity to record this or that concerto, this or that quintet, this or that symphonic poem; but how can I agitate for anyone composition when 500 people cannot be found to support an enterprise like the Hugo Wolf Society?
This is the sort of letter that I should like to send to one of the big recording companies ;-
I have recently had several requests from correspondents in difTerent parts of the globe that you will record more of Beethoven's later Sonatas. I feel convinced that if you would issue records of all the later sonatas you would find at least 20,000 eager purchasers to reward your faith in the public. And if I wrote such a letter now, this is the kind of reply I might justifiably receive from any of the big recording companies ;-
We think you probably over-estimate the number of likely purchasers for a set of Beethoven's later Sonatas. We lately tried to form a Hugo Wolf Society in order to give his admirers an opportunity to acquire year by year a certain number of his songs sung by the finest living singers, but the public response was so negligible that we do not feel justified in making any more experiments. I hope my friend W. J. Turner and the passionate idealists of The New Statesman and Nation will note the public response to a Hugo Wolf Society, and let me assure them that if a Bach Society were founded the response would probably be no gl'eater. No, i t is no use pretending that we are a musical nation; i t is no use pretending that we are an artistic nation; and, although we have produced the greatest poets and the largest volume of great poetry in the world, i t is no use pretending that we are a poetical nation. Of course, eould we establish a market for limited editions of records we might hope to publish rarities, for we should find plenty of people to support a composer if there were a chance of being able to sell his work two years hence at a profit of 50 per cent. on the original outlay. That is the spirit in which most people subscribe to limited editions of printed books. They are willing enough to reward the author if they feel sure that after they have rewarded the author they will reward themselves even more handsomelY.
However, enou"gh of this disagreeable and disillusioning topic. My next topic is a more grateful one. Some t ime ago I printed a letter I had received from "A