Mystery Object of the week #10 Answer

Congratulations to Rolf Christian Holth Olsen who correctly identify this weeks mystery object – The Lioretograph Model 2 phonogragh – created by the Parisian watchmaker Henri Lioret in 1898.

Lioretograph Model 2 part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

Lioretograph Model 2 part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

This particular model – The Lioretograph Model 2 – came in a fitted case dating from 1899/1900. Lioret used his watchmaker’s knowledge to create a machine with a curious mixture of high-class clock work motors coupled with wire and cardboard for the acoustic mechanism.

On the front flap of the case are instructions for use in French, the rest of the case interior is finished in a green cloth.  A compartment to the left of the case contains cylinders housed in cardboard boxes (6 x 2m cylinders).

The reproducer is made form cardboard with spring-tension to the mica diaphragm and a series of graduated cardboard rings inside the drum-shaped body, leading to a short celluloid conical horn.

Unlike Columbia and Edison phonographs, the Lioretograph had no feedscrew, and its celluloid and brass 2 minute cylinders were held by a split taper-pin.

 Lioretograph Model 2 designed by Henri Lioret 1898 – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.

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“The Dream of Gerontius”, Elgar’s opus 38 – Vivid memories from April 1945

By Ted Gadsby     

“The Dream of Gerontius”, Elgar’s opus 38 – Vivid memories from April 1945

April this year marked the 70th anniversary of the recording in Huddersfield Town Hall of the ‘Dream’, an occasion I witnessed at first hand. Could an 8-year old claim to have appreciated what was going on, and how much is it a genuine memory or later study? I confirm how I was deeply moved – this guaranteeing for me what I genuinely recall. I experienced a spiritual wakening at the choir’s affirmation of “Praise to the Holiest” and the lingering of Heddle Nash’s frightened, dying and weak voice shook this child on that day. I was hooked.

Sir Edward Elgar conducting first record 'Carissima' Jan 1914, possibly at City Road - Early 20th century recordings.  Image supplied Courtesy of The  EMI Group Archive Trust

Sir Edward Elgar conducting first record ‘Carissima’ Jan 1914, possibly at City Road – Early 20th century recordings. Image supplied Courtesy of The EMI Group Archive Trust

From the Mayor’s box (there were, maybe, 14 or 16 Huddersfield Choral Society (HCS) committee members, friends and civic dignitaries) we looked down into the auditorium; no other non-participants were present, just performers and recording engineers. I had been taken there by my father, Hugh Frederic Gadsby (on leave from the RAF) and his own father, Frederic Walter Gadsby, a long-serving member of the HCS Committee (and its President: 1947-1949). I remember acute embarrassment as my elders in the mayor’s box stood up in unison – and I demurely followed – on two occasions to demand a re-start.

In those days of direct shellac recording re-starts were discouraged – get it right first time! I remember the repetitive stops & starts as successive maximum-12 minute sections were put down for each of the 78-rpm’s 24 sides onto which the master (HMV recording C.3435-3446) was directly archived. Only those two sides (nos. 4 & 9 out of 24) were re-started, a remarkable contrast to today’s ‘perfecting-technology’. Cleverly, the sound technicians, I learned since, over-lapped many of the sides “as if anticipating how this could help bring together the recording as a whole at sometime in the future.”

This had been the first recording of the full 1900 work (those in 1927 under Elgar himself had been of extracts only). So, how did this performance compare with later ones? Bill Rosen has posed five short questions: Was Elgar England’s finest composer? Is The Dream of Gerontius his finest work (“the best of me”)? Was this Sargent’s finest hour and his 1945 recording of this work the greatest ever made? Was Heddle Nash the finest Gerontius ever? Whilst I am ill-qualified to compare this with a dozen post-war recordings, Rosen believes that others played the drama too early, Sargent (1945) sustaining it to the end. Perhaps his 1941 performance in London’s Queen’s Hall, hours before its destruction, moved and motivated him.

For years I had to make do with a poor cassette recording of an 8th December 1978 Radio 3 broadcast taped from the original discs, until I obtained, with great joy, the 2006 Direct Audio Transfer made by Pristine Audio (PACO.009). Despite bringing me a beautifully continuous performance, it will never cloud my personal reminiscences of that day. Two questions I pose: Does anyone know the exact date in April 1945 and, is there anyone else alive who bore witness to this musical treat? HCS’s 125th anniversary booklet (1961) omits this major contribution to choral music in its Notable Dates, it being covered in the Performance Listing.

Perhaps my visits to Birmingham Oratory, passing Cardinal Newman’s own office also adds a touch of sentiment! Being an early music buff, I don’t relish Gladys Ripley’s style, but my heart savours the whole. Heddle Nash’s “Take me away” will never be surpassed.

I was indeed so privileged to have witnessed the occasion, and after this arduous day was done, I proudly remembered being introduced to Mr. Herbert Bardgett, chorus master since 1932, and being patted on the head by Dr. Malcolm himself (two years before his knighthood)!

Comments invited and publication and archiving encouraged – by Ted Gadsby  

If you are interested in taking part or would like more information about the Memories of EMI Campaign please contact:  email: info@emiarchivetrust.org
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HARRY LAUDER (1870–1950)

By Tony Locantro

Harry Lauder (1870–1950), the great international Scottish entertainer, was born into a poor family in Portobello, near Edinburgh, and worked in Scottish coal mines during his youth. His fellow-mineworkers enjoyed his singing and encouraged him to perform in the local halls, which led to a full-time career as a singer.

He made his London music hall debut in 1900 under the Scots persona which became his hallmark, complete with a pastiche of highland dress, broad accent and a canny eye on his money.

From 1902, Lauder recorded extensively for The Gramophone Company, initially on G&T, and by the outbreak of war in 1914 much of his repertoire was on both HMV and Zonophone. The death of his only son on the Sommein 1916 prompted him to make a record appealing for £1 million to help disabled Scottish servicemen and he gave numerous fund-raising concerts at home and abroad. After the introduction of electrical recording in 1925, Lauder remade much of his earlier repertoire for HMV, Zonophone and Victor.

Harry Lauder – Don’t Let Us Sing About War Anymore.        If you’re a SOTH subscriber following by email please go to the actual blog to get the full posting.

Thank you to our friends at the EMI Archive Trust in providing these fine images.

HIS MASTER’S GRAMOPHONE

  

PART 1

We made mention of this fine new hardback book a few months back, but feel it deserves more attention, and so, with the kind permission of its creators Christopher Proudfoot and Brian Oakley, we’re starting a series of extracts to give/remind you of the first golden era of  recorded music and the wonderfully crafted machines that allowed it to be heard.

First up is ‘The Improved Gramophone – Trade-mark, (Style No 5).

This was the machine that started the life of The Gramophone Company in Britain in 1897, the first to be sold here by Wilfred Barry Owen and his associates. While the very first machines imported from New York bore The National Gramophone Co name, subsequent imports carried the names of The Gramophone Company (until 1899), The Gramophone Company Ltd. (until the end of 1900), and The Gramophone and Typewriter Ltd (January 1901-March 1902) together with one of the first two addresses of the Company, 31 Maiden Lane or 21 City Road.

Initially retailing  at £5.10s (£5.50), cheaper models were added, retailing at 2,3 or 4 guineas (£2.10, £3.15, £4.20)

With a plain oak case housing the motor and, together with the extension arm, mounted on a baseboard and the mainspring projecting in a nickel-plated cast iron casing, the Improved Gramophone set the standard of craftsmanship and quality that was to epitomise the Gramophone Company’s output for many years.

Other versions, like this one

were made from walnut with gilt fittings, and there were even ‘Extra Fine’ models made from mahogany – all at this stage imported from New York. The witch’s hat horns were either made from tinplate or zinc and painted black, as in the first photo, or single spun from brass. While the first shipment was largely the black version, the brass model, an experiment, proved the more popular and by 1902 nickel plated and even silver plated versions were available.

To complete the purchase, wealthy customers were invited to buy a carrying case. These came in several styles, made in black enamel, brown canvas and green crocodile or tan leather. Classy eh?

Warsaw, Berlin, London: Acid, Ladies and a stiff wrist (Fred Gaisberg’s diaries of 110 years ago. Continued)

After failing in his attempt to record the voice of Czar Nicholas in Russia, Fred Gaisberg and side kick William Sinkler Darby began the long journey back to London.
 
They stopped off in Warsaw where they found a “finer set of artists than we had met in St Petersburg” to record but found them more worldly wise than the Russians; “they were suspicious of us and made us pay in advance before they sang. The artists in Russia were more trusting.” He recorded Krusceniski, who was a huge European star at the time, on this trip. You can hear a recording of her from a couple of years later on this video.

On 20th April 1900 after a long day recording Gaisberg was awoken “by a terrible battering at the door” of his hotel room. “The room below was all dripping with what might be blood or something deadly and was falling on the face of the sleeping occupant” Gaisberg had a suite and used one of the rooms as a “Lab” for processing the recordings that he had been making whilst in Warsaw. Unfortunately one of the containers “filled with old acid had sprung a leak and the floor was flooded. We had the disagreeable task of sopping it up in our night-shirts and expecting the manager up every moment to pitch us out bag and baggage.” when they checked out several days later they found 14 Roubles added to their bill as “charges for repairing the room.” No further mention was made of the poor man in the room below who was doused in acid!

On 23rd April 1900 the recording partnership of Darby and Gaisberg dissolved itself for this trip. Darby headed to Vienna and Gaisberg took to Berlin where nothing much happened except he records “the acquaintance of a little French lady whose sentimental propensities robbed me of two hours sleep on the steamer” ……!!

He returned to London on the 26th April 1900 where, a couple of days later, he managed to fall of his bike and this hindered his writing up of the final part of the diaries of the 1900 trip to Russia “If the writing is unintelligible it is because I strained my wrist in tumbling from the wheel and it is very stiff.”

Gaisberg pursues an opportunity to record the Czar. More extracts from his field recordings of 1900.

(Fred is in St Petersburg recording local artists……)

On April 9th 1900, Fred Gaisberg returned to his hotel after watching the performance of Demon and flirting with Rodina to find a message asking him to “prepare to give a recording exhibition before the Czar’s secretary that evening”. This was news he had been hoping for. After “considerable bustle” he made his exhibition to “his High Excellence” Secretary Tanieff and entourage who all spoke good english. The exhibition consisted of a demonstration of the new-fangled recording technology and Fred played back some recordings from his trip, made a record of Secretary Tanieff playing one of his own compositions and then he and his colleague Darby sang a duet or two to round off proceedings. Gaisberg thought the evening had gone well (“they expressed themselves highly delighted”) and believed that it would lead to him having the chance to record the Czar’s voice for a charity release in Russia. This had been one of Fred’s great ambitions for this field recording trip to Russia. Darby and Gaisberg celebrated with a roister-doistering late supper and turned in after 2am convinced that they would be recording the Czar.

Alexander Sergievitch Tanieff, Secretary of State and Director of the Private Chancellerie of the Emperor

[Historical note: Tanieff’s daughter who was present at these recordings wrote a memoir of her time at court. She describes her family in “Memories of the Russian Court” in 1923:

” My father, Alexander Sergievitch Tanieff, during most of his life, was a functionary of the Russian Court, Secretary of State, and Director of the Private Chancellerie of the Emperor, an office held before him by his father and his grandfather. My mother was a daughter of General Tolstoy, aide-de-camp of Alexander 11. One of my immediate ancestors was Field Marshal Koutousoff, famous in the Napoleonic Wars. Another, on my mother’s side, was Count Kontaisoff, an intimate friend of the eccentric Tsar Paul, son of the great Catherine.”

Tanieff himself is clearly a good connection for Gaisberg and also personally very musical:

“My father, aside from his official duties, had no Interests apart from his home and his music, for he was a composer and a pianist of more than national fame. My earliest memories are of home evenings, my brother Serge and my sister Alya (Alexandra) studying their lessons under the shaded lamp, my dear mother sitting near with her needlework, and my
father at the piano working out one of his compositions, striking the keys softly and noting down his harmonies.”]

The St Petersburg part of the Russian trip begin to unwind at this point. One day of recording was expensively lost when the band failed to turn up and Gaisberg was left kicking his heels in a hired hall. When the band did arrive the following day, Friedman, the director of the band, refused to play the songs that Gaisberg had requested  and proved generally unhelpful to the recording process. This proved to the team’s last day in St Petersburg and on April 13th Gaisberg travelled by train to Moscow for Easter weekend hoping to meet the Czar.

Although he waited around for the opportunity, the Tanieff connection did not lead to an introduction to the Czar; Gaisberg’s luck was out. He did in fact get to see the Czar in Moscow but sadly only as one of thousands of people watching the parade of the Csar arriving at the palace in a convoy of twenty carraiges. Gaisberg got no closer to the Czar and after a couple of days of sight seeing at the Kremin and strolling around the bazaars he left on a late train to Warsaw arriving on Easter Monday 16th April 1900.

April 8th 1900: What Fred did next

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.

Nicholas II Czar of Russia

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!

Gaisberg in Russia: April 1st 1900

One hundred and eleven years ago today Fred Gaisberg was in the middle of his third big recording expedition. He’d travelled to continental Europe over the summer of 1899 and the British Isles over the autumn of that year and had already made hundreds of the world’s first recordings.

In spring 1900 he and his colleague William Sinkler Darby travelled to Russia to make some more recordings of local artists.  You can see them posing in newly purchased fur coats which were necessary to ward off the effects of the savage cold weather they encountered. Gaisberg is on the left.

Getting into pre-revolutionary Russia had proved a task in itself.  Their equipment was packed in 7 huge cases and Russian customs extracted a then-hefty £7 charge as duty for it’s import into the country. The country was covered in thick snow and the trip to St Petersburg took 8 days by train but they passed the time giving gramophone concerts at the different stop offs. This would have been the first time the listening people would have heard recorded music. It must have seemed like magic to them. Gaisberg remembers the impact they had:

“We would give a gramophone concert at these stops and the amusement of the natives was great to see. I really think the train tarried an extra long time so we could finish our concert.”

Once they arrived in Russia their principal method of transport was a sleigh. Gaisberg got a real kick out of travelling around on the horse drawn sleighs and volunteered to do a lot of the leg work whilst in Russia because it gave him a chance for more sleigh-rides. It was all very Dr Zhivago. Gaisberg and Darby complained constantly about the cold (which they ward off with local vodka) until 110 years ago today when they bought the bear skin coats that you can see in the photo. Gaisberg’s diary recalls intriguingly:

“Sunday 1st April, 1900. We bought our huge bear-skins. After dinner we visited our friends on Milka Prospect where we met an English chap who was nearly crazy. We cut up high.”

It sounds like quite a party….