THE GRAMOPHONE London 0 jJice : 58, Frith Street, London, W. 1. Edited by COMPTON MACKENZIE
TELEPHONE: Regent 1383.
TELEGRAMS: Parmaxto, Westcent, London.
IAM writi~g:. these ~ines in a place which is almost . as far as It IS possible to get from London in the British Isles. I have not opened a newspaper for three weeks, and when this evening by accident I heard the golden voice of a B.B.C. announcer i t sounded in my ears as harsh and repulsive as the grating of a rusty hinge. I am sailing about among enchanted islands, standing on remote and immense stretches of sand, climbing hills and cliffs, watching birds and seals, and feeling about as unlike writing about the latest records as i t is possible to imagine. A silly letter about me in last month's Bookseller (need I specify that i t was from a bookseller on the South coast of England?) seemed more than usually silly. A letter from an indignant gramophone dealer (my sense of justice compels me to add that i t was a Scottish gramophone dealer) closing his account with us to mark his indignation over my remarks the month before last, seemed equally silly. So much by way of preface to anything I have to say about recent records. However, I did listen to all the June records, thanks to the courtesy and hospitality of Mr. Kelly, the managing director of Messrs. W. B. Patterson and .Co.'s big gramophone shop in Glasgow. To be perfectly candid i t cost me rather an effort. The more records I listened to, the better they all seemed from the point of view of recording and the duller they all sounded from the point of view. of anything else. I am referring, of course, to the .mass of songs and dances, not to the major works which are being produced with such prodigality even at Midsummer that the strain upon reviewers is really becoming serious. Y et in spite of the quantity of major works that are being produced I have a letter firom a correspondent asking for the electrIc records of Pelleas, the Stokowski records of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Brahms' First Symphony, the Spanish records of Beethoven's Mass in D, The New York Symphony Orchestra's records of Brahms' Second Symphony, and Ravel's Mother Goose, the records of Ravel's La Valse and Dukas' La peri, and the piano records of Myra Hess . I am bound to say that when one is confronted with a l ist like this of records that can only be bought much more exp~nsively out of Great Britain, I feel a tremendous sympathy with my correspondent and a certain amount of indignation with the r ecording companies for providing other countries with·something which we lack. Yet a moment's reflect ion is enough to remind me that we are getting each month more major works than the public as a whole can possibly absorb. Where I think the recording companies do fail us is in providing each month some really go?d songs, whether old or new. This is forcibly borne in upon anybody who has had in a short space of t ime to l isten to a very large number of records. Practically no song stands out, or so rarely as usually to earn almost hysterical praise when i t does. Really, what a dreary set of rubbish or repetition most of the month's output is! There is hardly any sign of the spate of so-called l ight American records diminishing. Here the public must be blamed, for obviously this spate would diminish if the public taste for such balderdash was not unquenchable. I have long thought this wearisome, shoddy, tawdry bosh an offence against humanity, and where I am now i t. seems an offence against nature. It may be that nobody in Scotland, Ireland, England, or Wales wants better songs, or at any rate not enough people to make i t worth while to publish them in any big recordirig list. I should like to start another branch of the N.G.S. to devote i ts energies entirely to the publication of songs, l istening to which one could spend an afternoon or an evening. We have plenty of operatic arias magnificently sung and recorded. We have great torrents of Cuties and Sweeties,we have a certain number of piffling ballads, and thanks to t lie fact that poor Schubert died in 1828 we have this year, and how welcome they are, many of his songs, but I think I am right in saying that the Beethoven Centenary was allowed to be celebrated without recording a single one of Beethoven's songs. We have hardly any of Hugo Wolf's. We have a miserable collection of Schumann. We have hardly any o~ the best and jolliest English folk songs. Scotland has been better served in this regard by the Parlophone Company, but there are still many beautiful songs un-recorded. I don't know how many of my readers agree with me, but if readers do and they will take the trouble to send a post-card to say that they will support a small programme of un-recorded songs to be chosen by themselves, I will do my best to dig a new plot of land in the National Gramophonic Society. I am not hopeful of a great response. It may well be that