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135

The Granwphone, September, 1926

of brevity, but after all quality is more important than quantity.

I f i t is quantity one wants one had better go to H.NI.V. Their catalogue contains more Wagner i tems than any other ex cept Polydor, and nearly every disc is as full of music as i t can hold. Once or twice they have allowed their desire to give us as much of the score as possible to lead them astray, and have forced the pace. There are several of their Tristan series , for instance, that would be th e better for more deliberation even if i t involved curtailing the varions extracts. In other respects they are hard to b eat. They have solved the problem of balance with more completeness and consis te ncy than any other company, and their orchestra creates an impre::;sion (I do not trunk i t is an illusion) of genuine Wagneri~m weight that is most sa t isfying. Their celebrit y section is interes ting, but their greatest achievement is the splendid collection of bla ck label records in which the singing is done in English b y well-known British vocalists . Some of these artists may fall individually just short of the stttndard set by their continental brethren, but any weaknesses of this kind are amply compensated by t he admirable team work and by the sense of con t inuity that one gains by listening to a whole set of records from an opera in which the same cast has been preserved throughout. The surface of some of the ea,rly H.NI.V.'s is a l i t t le rough but this defect has di sa,ppea red en tirely in their recent . * Issues.

Columbia is the only other company that has provided me with sufficient material to justify any general inferences. This fu'm has not attempted to put together a representative Wagner record l ibrary as H.NI.V. and Polydor have done, but i t ha,s issu ed, incidentally a s i t were, a number of attract ive discs. Among the artists the most impressive names are tho se of Bruno Walter, H a,milton Harty, Norman Allin, and Frank Mullin gs . Delicacy and sweetness seem to be the wa,tchwords of the recording room, qualities which are both enhanced by the admirably smooth Columbia surfaces. ┬ĚTheir orchestra lacks the weight of H.M.V., and one somet imes suspects that the forces employed are not very large. But against this must be set the silkiness and purity of their string tone and the astonishing clearness with which the various instruments can be heard in the ensemble.

Quite independent of all these differences and peculiarities is the broad distinction between " new process" records and the rest. When fir st I began to prepare these articles the number of "Wagner i tems reproduced by electrical means was l imited to the Pa1'Sifal (H.M.V.) series and one or two other extracts issued by the same company; a nd I hoped i t would not be necessary to stir these troubled waters once again. But the last two or

* I do not refer only to the new process records.

three months have made a great difference. H.M.V. have been bringing out one or two electrical and electrifying vVagnerisms regularly, and i t looks as though they proposed gradually to supersede all or most of their old records. Columbia too have entered the field, and have already achieved very notable results. But though t hese companies appear to have decided definitely on an electric policy, a glance at the correspondence pages of THE GR.A:UIOPHONE shows that the public is by no means unanimous in i ts approv al. For myself, I have always taken the view that the discovery of the" new process" marked a considerable advance l but that we should have to wait till the experimental stage was passed before we could measure the ground ga.ined. I could not join the chorus of enthusia.sm provoked by the Parsifal album; for while I recognised tha,t we were getting a brighter, fuller, and more mao'sive tone than ever before, i t seemed to me that the price we were asked to pay in the distortion of instrumental t imbres wa,s rather a high one. The ftu t iness of the vioLins in their top regi ster , the reediness of the string ensemble, and the queer acrid quality of tbe wood-wind impart to much of the score a colouring that is not Wagner's and fill Klingsor's magic garden with a s ulphurons, infern al l ight l i t t le likely to assist the schemes of the magician. But the Parsifal album is now a year old, and there is no denying tha,t the latest records I have heard, the H.M.V. versions of Siegfri ed's Jonrn ey to the Rhine and B'iegf1'iecl's Funeral J11 arch, and the Columbia selections from Lohengrin and Pa1'sifal, show an enormous improvement. In all these the defects of the new method of reproduction have been so minimi sed and i ts virtues so enhanced that I confidently recommend these issues in preference to all others of the same music. But I see no reason why next year should not improv e on this year as much as this year ha.s improved on i ts predecessor. vVe do not want the tone to be ma,de still louder; i t is already quite loud enough. But we do want sweeter strings and a, more faithful reproduction of the qualities of several in struments. At present there is a devil in the instrument who imparts a sinister, almost threatening effect to the music whenever he can. The companies have already driven him out of choral territory and are pressing him haTd in orchestral country. I am hoping that another twelve months will suffice for his final exorcism.

I come neyt to the. matter of labels. Complaints of carelessness in this department have reached THE GRAMOPHONE from various sources, and are not without foundation; for while I a,dmit that the errors are not very many, yet I cannot see why there should be any errors at all. In the H.M.V. records of Tristan the company seem to have been unable to decide on the OTthogTaphy of the name

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