THE GRAMOPHONE London Office: 68, Frith Street,
Edited by ·COMPTON MACKENZIE
TELEPHONE: Regent 1383
TELEGRAMS : Parmaxto, Westcent, London
1926 By THE
IMUST own to wishing that our readers did not have a morbid passion for lists of selected records. Wben I look at the excerpts from my past criticisms with which every month F Sharp administers to old discs a kind of l i terary glissoline, these bygone superlatives of mine fill me with gloom, and now I suppose that I am expected to provide a list of best records for 1926. I wonder how i t will work out if, instead of reading through the back files of THE GRAMOPHONE or the fifty odd monthly bulletins issued by the recording companies, I try to remember some of the outstanding performances of the year. Of course, that will mean the omission of reference numbers, and i t is astonishing how much importance readers seem to attach to my giving the reference numbers of discs. Yet really I might be spared tbis fatiguing, exa-sperating, and finikin task. Looking back at the past yea,}' I have no hesitation in saying that the Wagner orchestral records conducted by Albert Coates and issued by His Master's Voice have given me more personal enjoyment than any others. Of these, I should choose first Siegfried's Journey to the Rhine, and secondly, the Tristan Prelude, but I should prefer the Columbia records of the Tannhiiuser Overture conducted by Mengelberg to any of the H.M.V. Tannhiiuser excerpts. I think the Expert Committee would vote for the Cockaigne Overture as the most realistic orchestral recording, though the Dance Macabre conducted by Stokowski had not appeared when they were at J ethou. I have made up my mind not to give an alpha plus to any orchestral recording which requi?'es a fibre needle. This may seem arbitrary, but I am satisfied that when I find myself driven by genuine necessity to use fibre the tone still leaves much to be desired. Now, at present with the exception of the Tannhiiuse?' Overture and L'Apres-micli d'um Fa,une all the Columbia orchestral records aJ'e better played with fibre, just as at present without exception all chamber music, whatever company records i t , is better with fibre. And this does not mean that I have abandoned steel needles. I t means that no piece of recorded chamber music up to the moment of writing these lines has been completely successful. The nea,rest to complete success was achieved in the Schubert B minor Trio; but I believe I should prefer that on fibre could I find any fibre needle capable of standing up to Casal's 'cello, which so far has smashed every needle I have tried i t with in the first minute. Luckily, in the Mendelssohn Trio in C minm'issued by Columbia in November, Lionel Tertis's viola is kinder to fibre, and the performance can be l istened to with a pleasure that with steel is impossible. The same is true of the Columbia Death and the Maiden Quartet (D minor). With fibre i t is delightful, with steel impossible. Judged merely a.'3 a performance, I think I look back with most pleasure to the Haydn Qttartet in G (H.M.V.) given by the Budapest Quartet, but the Lener performance in the Schubert D minor (Col.) was remarkable. For a piece of lovely music I think my vote must go to the two Columbia discs of the Kleine N acht M usik of Mozart. Other Columbia discs that stand out in my memory are those very rema;rkable ones of the Russian Balalaika Orchestra, and a very fine mandolin disc of the Circolo Mandolinistico (I think).
Of old style recordings the Haydn symphony issued by Parlophone in November will not be easily displaced by any electric version.
Let me try to recall some of the violin records of the year. Those that come most readily to my mind are the Parlophone discs of Spiwakowsky and the Vocalion discs of Fachiri a,nd d'Aranyi, none of them, let i t be noted, electric recordings. And of violoncello records I remember best the Parlophone discs of Emanuel Feuennann and the Vocalion discs of Howard Bliss. This sounds as i f I were trying to give a leg up all round, but that is not the case. I really am writing thiS" article without referring to anything except my own memory.
Of piano recordings I remember best that splendid performance of Percy Grainger in the Chopin B minor Sonata issued by Columbia, a lovely Chopin