If you can remember from our last visit to his diaries of exactly 110 years ago, roving proto-field recordist Fred Gaisberg and sidekick William Sinkler Darby were in pre-revolutionary Russia in 1900 buying bear skin coats to ward off the harsh St Petersburg weather. (If you can’t remember you can read about it here.)
On April 3rd 1900 Fred & William were invited to “exhibit a Gramo” to a Russian princess which would likely have involved spinning some tunes for her majesty and making a recording for her amusement. This would proably have been the first time the royal lady would have ever have heard a recorded voice. Looking back from our perspective it is easy to forget what a revolutionary pastime Fred was engaged in. He was spreading the experience of recorded music into new pockets of the world as he toured them searching for musical talent. This was futuristic bleeding edge technology that Fred was working with and showing off!
Fred was no mug. It had been suggested to him by a Russian colleague called Raphoff that this exhibit may lead to an opportunity to record the Czar himself so Gaisberg was playing the angles hoping to engineer what would have been a significant early recording. Tune in to next week’s extract from Fred’s diaries to find out if he was successful pursuing this man.
The rest of Gaisberg’s week was spent watching a performance of Carmen (written only 35 years previously), following the Boer War in the old English newspapers in the lobby of a local hotel (Russians overwhelmingly supported the Boers, Fred overwhelmingly keen to point out to the he was American not English!) and recording and flirting with a beautiful young soprano called Radina.
On April 8th he wrote in his diary “We attended an afternoon performance of …Demon by Rubinstein. Radina was our prima donna ….Between the acts we would present ourselves at the dressing-room of our beautiful prima donna and congratulate her on her performance of the foregoing act…I told her I wished I was the Devil in the last act, when he was embracing her….” The rogue!