London Office 10a Soho Square
THE GRAMOPHONE Incorporating VOX. TH E RADIO CRITIC and BROADCAST REVIEW
COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE
Telephon. Gerrard 2136. 2137
Telegrams Parmaxto. Rath. London
I have been having an extremely diffi cult time trying to make the final decision upon the merits of the admirable essays submitted for our composer-conductor competition. There are about twenty which definitely stand out from the rest, half of them devoted to the championship of the composer, half to a defence of the conductor. On the whole the essays in support of the conductor are better argued and more neatly set forth than those of their opponents. My final verdict in the conductor group entails a division of the honour, but not of the spoils, between a reader in Edinburgh who desires to remain anonymous and Mr. Leonard A. Lewis, 21 Lowton Road, Golborne, near Warrington, Lanes. I am also going to divid e the honours, but not the spoils, between two essays on behalf of the composer, one by Mr. H. W. Spence , 10 Upland Road, Scotstoun, Glasgow, W.4, the other by Mr. A. F. Manning, Gore, New Zealand ; but I must add that neither of these two essays stands out from its companions nearly as obviously as the two that win for the conductor. I suppose I shall get into trouble with the London office when they hear I have doubled the prize, but in view of our having reduced the £6 worth of records in the unrecorded works competition to £2 worth owing to the poor response I feel less guilty, and there is justice in the remark which Mr. X, our Edinburgh winner, makes in a letter: "You will not perhaps mind my saying your prizes are out of proportion- i t will be easier to get a sincere list of desiderata if there is no large prize than if anyone feels he is trying to forecast not what he thinks , but what he thinks other people will think , and I feel the effort involved by the essay competition a greater than in making a list of six unrecorded works."
At this point I may turn aside for a moment from the topic of the composer and the conductor to express disappointment at the response to the unrecorded works competition, but at the same time to point the obvious moral. When early in the career of THE GRAMOPHONE we had a voting competition for unrecorded symphonies the response was magnificentnaturally, because there was then a very long list of unrecorded works. Nowadays, however, there is comparatively little music left which people are sure
they will want to hear as often as they will be able to hear i t with the help of the gramophone.
There are still too many recorded works which people would like to buy for themselves, but which they cannot afford, for them to be bothering about the recording of more recherche works. The average gramophile is saying, " I wish I could buy that H.M.V. recording of Beethoven's Ninth or that Columbia recording of the Symphonie Fantastique. I wish I could become a member of the Delius Society or the Sibelius Society." He is not saying, "I wish they would re cord Bruckner's Fifth or Mahler's Eighth, or Bax's Third." Wireless will never satisfy the true music lover in the matter of the great masterpieces, but i t does satisfy his curiosity about lesser works. He enjoys listening to Rubinstein's Ocean Symphony or Raff's Fifth Symphony once in a while, but he does not pine for repeated performances of such works. Moreover, the mediocrity of performance which is a feature of wireless all over Europe does not affect him so severely when the works performed are themselves unfamiliar.
The strongest argument put forward by the champions of the composer was the supreme importance' of guarding against any freaks of interpretation in a recorded performance. In the case of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Koussevitzky's performance of which provoked the discussion, there have been so many recorded performances that the danger from an individual interpretation is not so great, and who shall decide on the authoritative performance? As Mr. Lewis well points out, "no score, however painstakingly annotated, is an accurate representation of the composer's wishes. The objective score Ernest Newman talks about is an abstraction."
The favourite illustration essayists used of the advantage of a composer's interpretation of his own work was taken from the splendid series of Elgar records. It was always a commonplace in musical gossip in London that Elgar was a bad conductor of his own or anybody else's work, but those who listened to Toscanini 's conducting of the Enigma Variations at the London Musical Festival must surely have realised the incomparable superiority of the Enigma Variations when conducted by Elgar himself. On the