London Office lOa Soho Square
THEIncorporatingVOX, THE RADIO CRITIC and BROADCAST REVIEW
COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE
Telephone Gerrard 2136, 2137
Telecrams Parmaxto. Rath. London
EVERY month I prepare a pile of records about which I intend to write, and every month I start with various general topics that have arisen in connection with the gramophone, with the result that the records are usually postponed to the end and in some months ignored altogether. I have now two baskets in front of me full of letters from correspondents, press-cuttings, and all the rest of the heterogeneous material which collects month by month. This month I am putting on one side all that material until I havc said what I want to say about records. Therefore, correspondents who find their queries unanswered must forgive me.
First of all for this really remarkable record of Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski on a red H.M.V. disc. I have thought that several of the Stokowski-Phila~ delphia recordings overweighted the music they had to perform, but the Danse Alacabre can stand "big effects." I t is a melodramatic piece of music and there is no reason why so good a melodrama should not have a Drury Lane production. I look back to that first version of the Danse Macabre we had on one side of a black H.M.V. disc played by the L.S.O. under Sir Landon Ronald. It was a great favourite for sound-box experiments, the problem being to bring out the . xylophones which represent the ~keletons dancing. I can see old friends like P. Wilson listening for those xylophones, if without offence I may so describe it, with pricked ears, and the sound-box that removed them one inch farther into the background stood no chance of a recommendation from us. Readers who hear the xylophones in this latest version will wonder how such demonstrative instruments could ever have almost escaped detection. As a matter of fact, from the point of view of the macabre they were probably more effective when they were less distinguishable, for I find, perhaps under the influence of the genial Teddy Brown, that the xylophone is a very merry instrument. Delius used it most inappo-
sitely in his Hassan march to the torture. Holst, on the other hand, used i t with comic intention in his parody of magic in Uranus. I agree with W. R. A. in not being able to find anything to shiver at in the Danse Alacabre, but I can get a good kick out of the swinging melody (is this swing music?), and when i t is hamled out like this by Stokowski and his Philadelphians the kick becomes positively galvanic. In any case, with the exception of one chord in Glinka's A1idnight Review, no music I ever heard gave me the slightest feeling akin to that which stimulates gooseflesh. For that matter, no ghost story can manage i t for me. I have been reading ghost stories for years, in the hope of a shiver, but I must be like the young man in the Grimm story who wanted to shiver and could not succeed until the princess emptied a pail of minnows over him while he was asleep.
And now a word about fibre. To the first reader who can succeed in playing this latest version of the Danse Alacabre from beginning to end without breaking a fibre needle we will send the price of the disc, six shillings. The reader's word will be sufficient and aU he has to do is to send a postcard notifying his triumph to the London office. I have tried the disc on all my three horned mammoths, and there is one chord about a third of the way through the first side which in a moment turns the stoutest fibre to grass.
And now for a coincidence. One day at the end of February I found myself suddenly obsessed all the t ime by the melody in the first movement of Schubert's Death and the Maiden quartet, that melody which was used so effectively for a song in Lilac Time. A longing came over me to hear the whole quartet, but unfortunately my H.M.V. album of the Budapest Quartet performance was one of those which had suffered most heavily in the disastrous warping epidemic, and, being one of our first experiments at Aga Cooker remedial methods, had developed a kind of chicken-pox that made i t unplayable. So I searched for the Columbia