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. COMPTON MACKENZIE Parmaxto, Westcent, London. -

Vol. VII.

APRIL, 1930

No. 83


XLETTER from one of the original readers of THE GRAMOPHONE asks a question to which, I think, we are entitled to have an authoritative answer from His Master's Voice.

" . . . . . I have just got two extraordinarily fine sets of records of the Flonzaley's Mozart in D minor and a Smetana, one might call i t I suppose the Smetana. They bear H.M.V. Hayes labels, although not yet on the English list. From another source I got Strauss's Mein Heldenleben similarly labelled. Can we do nothing to persuade H.M.V. that they are making a sad mistake in faking their records as they are doing? Even the Flonzaley's have each one faked side and the Strauss has only three sides out of ten unspoilt. I t is useless for them to deny that they are doing i t . My friend -- sent to America for the original Victor recording of the Strauss, and i t is magnificent, as are the three unfaked sides in the version intended for us. The effect is damnable, rather like electrical reproduction with a bass filter. I t not only takes all the guts out of the tone, but affects the record track in some way so that the needle, fibre at any rate, seems to have difficulty in getting through and the tone wavers. Hardly any of the best works issued recently are free from this nuisance. I t is particularly irritating to fibre users who are not interested in wear tests and prefer unadulterated music. Can't we protest ~ "

The only comparison I have been able to make so far is that between the original Victor recordings of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra in the FiTst Bmhms Symphony and the version issued over here from Hayes. I commented at the t ime on the difference between the two versions, though I am not enough of a technician to know or even to attempt to guess what has happened. Nobody would object to suiting a set of records intended to have a wide popular appeal to the peculiarities of English gramophones. But I cannot help agreeing with our correspondent that connoisseurs are entitled to some consideration. There may be an unanswerable reason why i t is necessary to modify these recordings for this country, but if there is a reason may I press for i t to be given to us? The present state of affairs is unsatisfactory, because i t givescurrency to the rumour that the phonograph is getting a better deal than the gramophone, and i t is surely wise not to antagonise the buyers of big: sets, for though we may readily admit that they do not influence the dividends they have helped to givethe gramophone a standing which i t otherwisewould never have secured. My own feeling is that the vocal records we get from America might have:been toned down in many cases, and I should not be:surprised to hear a good argument put up in favour:of toning down orchestral recordings.

Curiously enough, this belief ' that Americarn recording is superior to English recording goes back some time. I remember being assured by several people long before electrical recording that Victor · records were better than English H.M.V. The:official reply at Hayes was "imagination." Rightly or wrongly people have now got i t into their headsthat American orchestral recordings on their way across the Atlantic suffer a sea change. I f ourcorrespondent is wrong in his assertions, let him be officially contradicted. I f he is right let him have a, satisfactory explanation.

For me the most enjoyable production recently has been the Brahms Piano Conoerto in B flat r played by Arthur Rubenstein and. the London Symphony Orchestra a,nd conducted by Albert Coates on five black H.M V discs. I believe that ma,ny people consider this Piano Concerto a more difficult work to appreciate than the Violin Concerto by the same composer or his Double Concerto fOl' Violin a,nd 'Cello which H.M.V. gave us recently ~ Perhaps because I got to know i t very- well on theplayer-piano I find i t a much easier work to fancy that I enjoy to the full than I do the other two· concertos. I am particularly fond of Arthur Rubenstein's playing, and I think that Albert. Coates as a conductor has been successful in aVOiding· the Charybdis of too much reverence and the: vulgay Scylla of irreverence in his interpretation. I hopeI am not unjustifiably revealing a secret behind the: