The Gmnwphone, September , 1926
The WAGNERIAN'S RECORD LIBRARY
I.-Opinions and Indiscretions
My firs t word this month must be one of thanks to the recording companies who have . responded so generously to m y exorbitant d emands for records. H.lYLV. alone must have supplied me (through THE GRAMOPHONE) with quite a hundred pressings, and Columbia and Parlophone are responsible for bulky consignments. Beltona, Brunswick, Velvet Face, and Vocalion have all sent their quota, and everyone has treated me with a courtesy and l iberality for which I cannot be sufficiently gratefu1.
the work of one or two great singers like Emmy Bettendorf or Norman Allin; or on a single set of records such as the familiar H.M.V. black label series; but if such a course avoids monotony in one respect i t introduces i t quite unnecessarily in another . I shaH presently endeavour to show that i t is possible to get together an exten sive and varied l ibrary that does not contain too many duplicates. For the moment i t will be sufficient to note that the difficulty exists and requires careful thought i f i t is to be overcome.
This ubiquitous kindness, coupled with the generosity of our old friends Messrs. Alfred Imhof, who have lent me a strong contingent of Polydors, has enabled me to marshal an imposing array of some four hundred records. These do not by any means exhaust the supply; they do not include any of the band records * or other arrangements, and even among the orthodox vocal and orchestral excerpts there must be many that have eluded my very fallible eye, quite apart from the innumerable Polydors of which I have had only a selection. I .'hould be glad, therefore, if readers who notice any important omissions would write to me (c/o THE GRAMOPHONE) giving full details.
I do not think i t would be worth while for me to give a separate account of every record I have heard even if the Editor allowed me space for such an undertaking. Naturally some have impressed me more than others, and most people will probably prefer me to confine my remarks to a select few. But i t may be u seful to discuss briefly some of the general conclusions to which my Tesearches have led me. These refer to a variety of subj,ects, and I must arrange them as best I can.
Let me take as my starting-poin1i the obvious fact that while there remain large masses of Wagner that no one has recorded hitherto, yet certain other portions (such as 0 Star of Eve, Elsa's D1"eam, the P1'iz e S'mg, and the Good Friday Jl1usic) have received 3,. v el'Y full share of attention. This will surprise no one; i t merely inclicates that these items appeal with special force to performers or public or both, and have been found suitable for reproduction on the gTamophone. But such reduplication sets a problem to the collector. He is anxious that his record l ibrary should be fairly representative of Wagner's work, but whenever he comes across a new and striking rendering of some beautiful but unfamiliar extract, he is sure to find " another infernal Prize Song" or something of the sort on the back. He can, of course, play for safety by concentrating on
*Perhaps the b (l ~d e xpert will de3-l with th ese?
But while nobody wants to be snowed under with Prize Songs and the like, i t is clear that at least one version of each of the popular i tems will be . essentia,l to the true Wagnerian. Here again I shall have some specific recommendations to make later on which may be of assistance to tho se who are willing to accept advice . The achame gramomaniac, however, will probably like to make his own choice, and to him I submit for what they are worth the following notes on the problem of selection.
In the first place I must in sist that any attempt to measure all Wagnerian records by the same criterion is a fatal mistake. Judged by the standa.rd of clarity achieved in the reproduction of 0 St a'l" of Ev e, all the versions of the Prize Song are blurred, and the choral Finale to the second act of The Jl lastersinge1's is a mere confused noise. This has nothing to do with faults in the reproduetion of the extracts from The .1vIasteTsingers, but is inherent in the music itself, and would be just as noticeable in the opera house. In 0 Star of ETC we have a perfectly straightforward tune of the cut-and-dried order with the simplest possible aecompaniment. I t does not n eed a genius to strike the balance required. There are a few orchestral points in the rcC'itative which practically make themselves, and there are a ha.rp and 'cello in the at'ia that fall into place almost automatically. But i t is the singer in whose hands the conduct of affairs lies, and if he is competent, the conductor has l i t t le to do but keep in with him. Nor is the reeording difficult for any company with experience of vocal and orchestral work. The harp must come out, of course~it is part of the poet ic idea-and the 'cello and one or two other small details, but these are easy matters with such l ight scoring, and in the main the orchestra may be left in the background and attention focused on the singer. I t is interesting but not surprising to observe that this and other excerpts from Tannhii'U8cr in which the conditions are fairly similar have attracted vocalists of the Italian school. Batt~~ tini's record