London Offie. lOa Soho Square
THE GRAMOPHONE Incorporating VOX, TH E RAD I 0 C RITI C an d BROA DCAST REV lEW
COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE
Telephone Gerrard 2136, 2137
Telegrams Parmaxto, Rath, London
THE following letter from Mr. T. W . A. Donald, of Edinburgh, supplies such a valuable footnote to my remarks in the January editorial in reply to what I thought was an unfair critiGism of the recording companies by The Times, that I hasten to give readers an opportunity to read it.
I had hoped that someone else might have raised the question of Tovey's 'cello concerto with you in this month's GRAMOPHONE, but as they have not perhaps you will not mind if I suggest that you have quite umvittingly done The Times an injustice . The performance being discussed was not the first-that occurred some two years ago, naturally with the Reid Orchestra, in Edinburgh. Alone of English papers, The Times sent its critic, Dr. Colles, to Edinburgh for the performance. He attended the morning and afternoon rehearsals and the concert at night, and on the basis of these three hearings, wrote an exhaustive review which extended to a column of The Times-no small tribute- in which he discussed the work fully, and gave his opinions for regarding it as a most important addition to the 'cellos' scanty repertoire. Further, the work was performed again by Casals-Tovey on two consecutive nights at the Courtauld-Sargent concerts shortly afterwards and again a very full appreciation was given. Yo.ur attack on the phrase" grave sincerity" ,vas, I think, unjust as that does represent the prevailing mood of the music, and as regular readers of The Times would already have had the chance of studying Dr. Colles' reactions to the work and would know that the phrase was not merely "critical camouflage," but a convenient summing-up of what had already been discussed at length on two occasions.
With diffidence, I suggest you have missed the point of the extract you quote. The writer himself says that "obviously, it will be long before the music lover find~ himself in that position." To my mind the writer was merely suggesting that when a work by a great man like Tovey had been before the public for nearly three years, that when a great artist like Casals had championed it resolutely during that time and had described it as " the concerto Brahms failed to write," that it was a pity there wasn't even one record of it. And bearing in mind H.M.V's publication of the Shoshatovitch Symphony before it had been played here and e.g. the Gurre-lieder album, and some of the other ventures in that line, it doesn't seem an unreasonable complaint! However, with the companies turning to Vaughan-Williams and Walton i t does seem that a more adventurous spirit is at work, and perhaps we may A
get the Tovey yet. I for one hope so. Even more, I hope some Company will get him to record before i t is too late -he really is one of the greatest interpretive artists living. His playing of Bach and Beethoven is an artistic experience which it is a privilege to enjoy in Edinburgh, a nd I wish there were some way of preserving it. So far as I know his N.G.S. records are the only souvenirs we have and it would be fine to have his serenely beautiful reading of the G major Beethoven concerto preserved for posterity. But he is so unassuming a man that I suppose his fame as a pianist is only local.
I have wandered a bit, I'm afraid, but I ask you to believe that I write in· no unfriendly spirit and that my criticisms are sincerely made in the belief that you were misled by the article in question, into thinking it was something different from what it was. To turn to more pleasant subjects, may I hope that your pen will long continue to flourish in THE GRAMOPHONE, and that the paper itself wiH go on from strength to strength. With a big Cascade machine and a large library of records, the gramophone is one of my chief delights and the first of the month is a red-letter day for me-even if your Editorial does sometimes upset my cherished beliefs and make me long to be within arguing reach of you!
I regret that in being misled myself by the article in The Times, I misled readers into supposing that this was the first performance of Tovey's violonceIIo Concerto, but I must insist that the reflection the article seemed to cast upon the initiative of the recording companies was unjust. The villains of the piece are the public who will not rally round any artistic experiments in which the recording companies indulge. And by that public I do not mean the general public, but the public which has the money and which claims to have the taste to support art. As matters stand, i t is a financial impossibility for the recording companies to do more than they are doing at present in the way of putting quasi-novel compositions in reach of amateurs. You see the trouble is that the pleasant surprise never'happens. Mr. Ecstatovich's double-bass concerto which has been asked for over a period of ten years by devotees of Mr. Ecstatovich, is finally in a moment of wild optimism recorded by the Volumbiaphone Company and issued on five raw-sienna discs, at the popular price of 4s. each. Looking through