The Gramophone, Sep:ernber, 1926
·of Tristan's beloved, which is speIt variously " Isolde" and" Isolda " (with a horrid, ba.rbarous " a "). To be sure, such .a harmless slip provok€s nothing worse than a smile, but why provoke eVED that? And sometimes the mistakes are leally misleading, as when the Polydor version of ,Valtraute's story from the Dus?: of the Gods is labelled H ore mit Sinn. One listens in vain for these words from the lips of the singer; they are indeed to be found in the score, but only by· looking at the ba.rs preceding the point where the ext.mct begins. Again, the rendering by Tudor Da,vies ·of By Sil ent Hem·th, Walther's first song before the Mastersingers, is called by the H.M.V. label .expert TValth et· . confesses N atme Ms only teacher. This gives quite a false impression; "Sir , iVa,lther -of the Vogelweide" is mentioned by name as the 2,uthor of the book whence the knight gained his knowledge. I am bound to sa,y, though, that I have not noticed any misstatements of this kind 2,mong the latest Wagner iss ues of the British companies, so perha,ps we may regard them as a thing -of the past.
I have a suggestion about labelling that may be worth putting fOl"ivard. I t is that all Wagner records s hould be issued with titIeR in English or German or both, no matter what tongue the singer uses. Many people find i t difficult to recognise even an -old favourite when i t is catalogued under a forei'gn di ··guise, and for those who enjoy following the music from the core the French and Itahan headings are an unmitigated nuisance.
~l'here remains the difficult subject of "cuts" which I have reserved till the end. I read a letter to TIm GIU:iI:WPHONE some t ime ago in which the writer lamented that we had not got a complete 1'ristan. I sympathise with him; I too should like to possess the whole of Tristan (in about four albums of a dozen records each) if only some one would give i t to me. There would be a few discs somewhere about record thirt.)' (the early part of Act III.) that I should not put on vel'.)' often, but i t would be nice to know they were there. I am a fraid, however, th ~1t the financial difficulty is too universal to make the recording of 'Tristan as a whole a profita ble adventure for any company. And i f once we admit (as we must) the principle of extra.cts I do not see how we can logically deny the expediency of " cuts," so long as the pruningknife is used sensibly and with moderation. There is, for one thing, a great deal of v-Vagner which the ordinary man finds dull. That will have to go. And there are other passages which, however thrilling in a stage performance, lose a great deal on the gramophone-especially if the audience has not seen the opera. These too we can dispense with, as also with those sections that are mainly repetitions of music already I'ecorded. But when these excisions have been made we are still left with a good deal more than can conveniently be dealt with. H.lVI.V. have given us an excellent example of how the telescoping may be done in their ~I(£stersingers series, where we get the gist of almost every scene on a very moderate number of records. They have set the score-reader a very pretty problem certainly, but he is not the only person to be consideI'ed, and on the whole the y have done their work splendidly. There is only one lapse, the unpardonable "cut" in .Mad! Mad! Why on earth did they not give l l . ' the 'whole of thi s even if i t meant filling two sides (as Polydor hav e done), and leaving out something else '1 The Nlonologue is one of the best things in the opera, and we cannot spare a bar of it. I f i t is too long for one side and too short for two why not let us have a double-sided ten~inch record? A judicious us e of ten-inch discs would e~1se the situation very often, I fancy, and I am surprised we are not given more of them. At present Il.10st of the companies seem to think that only the twelveinch variety are good enough for Wagner.
There is a story* of how Schubert at one period of his life regulated his lVIllse by the clock, start,ing and ceasing work in strict l;l,c cordance with his t ime-table. When asked by a friend wha,t he did if he found himself when the clock struck within a bar or two of the completion of a s.)'mphony he replierl: "I fini sh i t when I resume work." But the friend was not so ea ily dispo ed of: "\Vhat do you do if you finish a symphony fiv e minutes before the hour ~ " he asked. "I start another," said Schubert. I am reminded of this when I ·l isten to the records of Siegfried's Funeral Jlla:rch. The Ma,rch itself nearly fills two sides but not quite, a nd as i t is impracticable to go on into the next scene each version endeavour' to get in one more than i ts predecessor of those deta,ched, spasmodic phra,ses at, the beginning. At present the new H.M.V. edition leads by a short bead, but wha,t pleasure or profit we are cxpecteel to derive from this drum solo interrupted by occa sional bass rumblings I fail to see. I t is all in telligible enough in th e score where i t marks the dismay of the hunting pl;1rty at Siegfried's death. But until one of the English companies gives us the music describing this event I suggest that so many drum-taps tHe ·unnecessary. Another case in point is he H.M.V. v ersion of the beautiful EW1:g war ich from the third act of SiegfTied. There are very few sopraJ10S alive who can sing this song as Austral can, and I am sure that most people would far rather that she were a.llowed to " sprea.d herself» and fill the side (as Frida Leider does for Polydor), rather than that she should be compelled to hurry a,long in order tha.t Siegfried may babble forth some of bis much
-This anecdote was told me by a hj gh authority, but I will not guarantee i ts authenticity. The high authority }>ad imaginntion and a sense of humour.