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The GRAMOPHONE

SeptembtT 1938

courteous insincerity; but I was assured afterwards by the mutual friend who introduced us that this was not the case and that the assurance was not just an empty compliment.

We ,:"rit~ so glibly about the work of pioneers, we who drIve In cars on the broad highways running over the .arduous trails they once upon a time cut through a ",:Ilderness. And what a wilderness i t was through whIch Landon Ronald had to cut a trail! Mr. Gaisberg reveals that i t was as long ago as 1900 that he became musical adviser to His Master's Voice, and when we look back across the fifteen years of the gramophone's development since this paper was started and bear in mind that for twenty-three difficult years before that Landon Ronald was associated with its develop:nent we can only marvel at the man's perseverance, m.dustry, and sustained power of critical judgment. He wIll not rank with a Toscanini, but with all Toscanini's superlative gifts i t may be doubted if he could have guided His Master's Voice for a generation, and we who to-day enjoy the riches of recorded music must revere the memory of Landon Ronald as of one of our greatest benefactors.

I t is a coincidence that the paragraph quoted above should also mention a record by Toscanini of the Finale of Beethoven's First Symphony, a complete recording of which has just been issued by H.M.V. on three and a half discs this very month. The reason why I ordered those early Toscanini discs, which were red-sided celebrity records costing about 13s. apiece by the t ime. they reached me on Herm where I was then living was that F Sharp had heard Toscanini conduct a performance of La Traviata at La Scala and came to England crying his praises. I believe the greatness of the man could be more clearly apprehended in those early records of his than in any medium. They were to early orchestral music what the early records of the Flonzaley Quartet were .to chamber music and the records of Caruso to operatic singing. It was a small orchestra he conducted, but i t sounded three times as large as any other orchestra then being recorded for the gramophone owing to the galvanic personality of Toscanini himself.

When we pause to reflect upon the conditions in which orchestral performances were recorded in those days the vitality of these old discs appears miraculous. I t is one thing to conduct an orchestra under conditions which the microphone has made indistinguishable from the concert performance; but i t is a very different thing to conduct an orchestra the various musicians of which are grouped round horns. In pre-electric days the double-basses could not be recorded at all and the tube was used as a substitute, the player of i t sitting a long way from the rest of the orchestra all by himself to supply a most inadequate bass. Percussion offered an insoluble problem for recorders. Even the piano was a failure. Castanets sounded like remote grasshoppers,

.the shaken tambourine like badly played Pan pipes. People would argue whether the violin or the wood wind was playing a particular passage. The cor anglais was always flat, and pizzicato passages on the strings reminded one of errand boys playing Jew's harps. It will be observed that I noted in the paragraph above the effectiveness of Toscanini's small orchestra for the gramophone, and indeed for a long t ime i t was difficult to obtain any proportionate reward in realism from the use of a full orchestra. In fact, at one time I was pleading for a general use of small orchestras in the recording studios. There is no doubt that pre-microphone conditions whatever their appalling deficiencies did reveal the really great artist. The danger now (though of course this applies more to singers than to orchestras or instrumentalists), is that the microphone is too kind. I t was not until I heard Gigli in the theatre that I was able to feel perfectly convinced that Caruso was the greater singer. If Gigli and Caruso had recorded under similar conditions there would never have been any doubt about their comparative merits. However, if we have lost something by electrical recording we have gained so infinitely much more that our loss is hardly worth mentioning. Certainly Toscanini owes nothing to any adventitious aid from the microphone. One does not know what the future holds in the way of recording development, but i t is safe to prophesy that on .the evidence of the records he has made posterity well recognise Toscanini's greatness.

Wienerisch

Joseph Szigeti, who is always a very good friend to ' THE GRAMOPHONE, sent me the other day, just too late for inclusion in our last number, the following poignant note on musical direction :

"I put down the paper with its headline '800 suicides in Vienna . . . Buerkel . . . ' (and so on). To blot i t out I begin looking through the score of Alban Berg'S Violin Concerto, completed a few weeks before his death in 1936-relishing the exquisite inevitableness of those pages, marvelling at the pre· ClSlOn of his auditive imagination from the playing directions which he gives, 'poco espressivo ma non vibrato,' 'delicato,' 'dolce' (and two bars further; , dolcissimo ') 'un poco grazioso,' 'fiautando '-then , Schattenhaft' (visionary, shadowy, flitting across ?) 'scherzando,' 'come una pastorale,' 'rustico '-and suddenly 'wienerisch'!

Ghostly word on such a page, in this July 1938 at such an hour. . . . And still: consoling word.

When the woodpulp of that daily will have turned rusty and perhaps stamped into 'brown packing paper' and Buerkel will be less than a name, that score will still be a living reality and that playing direction- ' wienerisch '- a precise evocation of some-

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