The Gramophone, APTil, ::i928
singer. Miss Leila Megane jumps from the low road to the high road and back with le ss apparent strain than most contra l tos, but before I can write a final opinion about her voice I should l ike to hear her in something with a less attractive accompaniment than Sir Edward Elgar's "Sea Picturcs" (H.M.V . D-674, D-675) or th e two dull French songs on E-271.
What a perfect licdrr singer Mmc. Hempel is. I ought to hav e coupled" Wohin" (H.M.V. 7-430,j,3) with Michele Fleta's serenade (H.M.V. 2-062009) as the two best vocal records of th e first quarter of 1923. Nothing more exquisite than this song of Schubert's is imaginable.
I do not know how popular Mme. Fran ces AIda's records are in this country, but I do knmv that every record of hers issued by His :Master 's Voice is perfect. She has ease, richness , purity, strength, and taste. The singing of Marguerite's song in BOlto 's "Mefistofele," " L'altra notte in fond o al marc" (H.M.V. 2-053185) is onc of the loveliest discs obtainable. This quarter we hav e her r ende ring of' "Ancora un passo, " from "Madame Butterfly" (H.M.V. 7- 53046), and as always with Mm e . AIda i t is perfec t ly given. Chaliapine's song of " The Viking Guest," from" Sadko " (H.M.V. 2-022017), is not one of hi s best records, and I am a l i t t l e disappointed by both the records from " Hansel und Gretel" (H.M.V. 7-44010 and 2-044001) . Mme. Homer is my favourite contralto and Mme. Gluck is one of my favourite sopranos. All th e other records I possess of duets by the se two singers I count among my prizes. Both thesc songs are great favourites of mine, and yet somehow the result is disappointing. Mme. Gluck seems shrill and too strenuously dramatic. I was expecting to give full marks here; but I am afraid both records will have to go into th e second class, if we compare them with other duets hy Gluck and Homcr.
Songs from the Columbia Company include Dame Clara Butt singing" Barbara Allen" (Col. X - 263), of which the less I say the better, for the singer 's bad phrasing and inability to grasp that words mean something prevent my appreciating the quality of sound she emits. Mr. Norman Allin achieves some remarkable dramatic effects with his rendering of " The Ballad of Edward" (L-1466), but his voice is di spleasing to m e, and so much dramatic fervour issuing from a box affects me with the same kind of embarrassment I feel at having to l isten to a reciter. The duet, " Oh , that we two were 1\1ay ing ! " (Col. D.1448), sung by Mi ss Labette and Mr. Hubert Eisdell, will presumably be popular, but i t is the kind of singing, the kind of music, and the kind of words that I simply cannot stand. By far the best vocal r ecords issued by the Columbia Company this quarter are the" Five Cautionary Tales" of Hilaire Belloc, set to music by Liza Lehmann (3224, 3225, 3226). The delightful piano accompaniment and the voice are both perfectly recorded , and Mr. Harold Williams is to be congratulated on the clarity of his diction. I have played them over and over again and each t ime with more enjoyment.
The Vocalion Company has published a very large number of songs, some of which are good, most of which are moderate, and one 01' two of which are appalling. Mr. Eric Marshall gives what, if he had a better Italian pronunciation, would be a first-class rendering of" Non piu andrai " (C-01085) , and with a much better French accent he sings" Prom esse de mon avenir" from Massenet's "Roi de Lahore" extremely well (C-01088). Miss D estournel gives a charming, but not in spired performance of " Deh ! vieni, non tardar" (C-01087).
It was a good. idea of the Vocalion Company to pu blish on the other side of some of their records an explanatory note , but if the public is to be instructed , i t must be instructed seriouslv and not in the manner of a skit by the late H. G~ Pelissier. I have had many a good laugh from these introductory notes, but I do not fancy that they were intended to bc comic. "Figaro," for example, is not pronounced "Figaro," and " Non piit andrai " is not pronounced, even by Mr. Eric Marshall during his most Engli sh moments, to rhyme with" day." By the way, I do not want to suggest that Mr. Marshall 's Italian pronunciation is painful. It is, as a matter of fact, what Italians call molto carino, but what may be carino now when he is young will bccome far from carino later on, and he is too good a singer not to give himself the extra trouble to pronounce hi s Italian properly, and by doing so at the sam e t ime improve his singing. B el canto simply means good singing. It does not mean, as many musical critics seem to think , juggling with a dead language by the ghost of a ventriloquist.
One of the best Vocalion records of the last quarter is " vVhen other Lips ," from" The Bohemian Girl" and "Let me like a Soldier Fall," from " Maritana "(R-6101). Both songs are extremely well r ecorded and accompanied, and Mr. Frank Titt erton has a good, honest, straightforward voice with no aHectations and no soppiness, which gives him a high place among English tenors. His duet with Mr. Malcolm McEachern in that ridiculous song" 'Watchman! What of the Night? " (D-02089) is excellent. On th e other sid e of this record Mr. McEachern sings " The King's Minstrel " to a very well-recorded harp accompaniment. I have a constitutional dislike of rolling English basscs; but there is no doubt that, . if you do like them, Mr. McEachern is a splendid example. Another good bass record is V.F. 1044 by Mr. Harry Brindle, " Drink to me only with Thine Eyes, " and on the other sid e that intolerable song, "Drinking." An even better record is V.F. 534 by the same singer of " 'Vhen the King went Forth to 'Val'," and that dreary song of Gounod's from " La Reine de Saba," " Sh e alone Charmeth my Sadness."