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Vol. IX.

JUNE 1931

No. 97


WITH this number we enter upon our ninth volume, and next September will bring the hundredth of our monthly issues; but as we hope to celebrate their century I shall abstain from the topic of THE GRAMOPHONE'S age for the present.

In the hope of achieving a kind of composite portrait of the reader of THE GRAMOPHONE we have been trying the good nature of many of our loyal supporters with a questionnaire, and I want to take this opportunity of sending my warm personal thanks to all those who have put themselves to so much trouble to help us. The response has been the most interesting and encouraging symptom of the vitality of our eight-year-old magazine. Any reader who has ~~t re_ceive.d the questionnaire, and who is willing to Jom the kmdly band of helpers by answering our questions, is invited to send a post card to the London office (lOa, Soho Square, W.1.).

I want this month to talk about singing a topic to which I have been led by a recent peru~al of Mr. Herman Klein's absorbing new book published by Routledge, G1'eat Women Singe1'S of My Time, and Mr. Dawson Freer's The Student of Singing and the G1'amophone, i l lustrated by H.M.V. records.

. v\~hen a critic who can remember hearing Tietjens smgmg in 1866 is writing reviews in THE GRAMOPHONE of last month's records, when he is not merely an esteemed critic but also a much-admired teacher of singing, and when finally his whole attitude toward life reflects his suavity, good taste, and perpetual zest, we may fairly call him the greatest connoisseur of singing that we have. I know nothing that reassures me so much about my own ability to judge a vocal record as to find my opinion endorsed by Mr. Klein, and I am happy to say that when I read what Mr. Klein says in THE GRAMOPHONE about records t~at I. may have already reviewed in the Sunday P1Ctorlal I have never yet found an important differen~e. of opinio.n. Yet we probably arrive at that opmIOn by entIrely separate lines of approach. I f I analysed why I call one ' vocal record good and ~nother bad I should probably discover that my final Judgment was based upon the success of i ts dramatic effect~ and therefore upon instinct rather than upon techmcal knowledge and experience. That is not to say, of course, that I have not learnt a great deal about singing technique since I became enamoured of the gramophone. I inevitably have. Yet if I look back to the first numbers of THE GRAMOPHONE I am not abashed by any conspicuous errors of judgment on my part, so that I can fairly claim that the experience of the last eight years has done nothing more than prove that my dramatic instinct was enough to guide readers along the right path of appreciation. The moral of all this is that perfection of technique will "do the trick." A1's est celare a1'tem. I , quite oblivious of the way i t is done, can usually say without my judgments being impugned that i t has been done well; whereas Mr. Klein, completely aware o~ the way i t is done, since for him the art of singing holds no secrets, reaches the same point of view as myself. In other words, I see that an engine is doing i ts business without knowing one screw from another, and Mr. Klein by noticing that all the parts of the engine are working properly presumes that i t is doing i ts business. Here is the way Mr. Dawson Freer lucidly puts i t : .-

"This l i t t le booJ, does not l)re:tend ·t o be ·a oomplffi;e guide to the s inger's 3ITt. The object in wri.ting i t wn-5 to eau e the rea,del' to ex.a ll1!i ne the truth of the following stlI.t eme nlt s :

(1) Artistic e essioln is impossible wit110ut I3deqnllt.e tBchnique .

(2) 'Dhe technique thirut is ne.cessM'Y fo!!' voca.l interpreta.tion tuls o d ve lops a.nd preservoo the voice.

(3) The tr a,d.itioJ'1all te miqiue r espons ible fm t he old ideal of bel canto (he.a utiful singing) sho;uld be eun'pl{),yed f or the interpretation of YGmt,] music -of I3;ny style, peri{)d o:r ruationaLity. Bel Canto d.oes not i.mply ,a 'pretty !pcretty' method of vOlce, p!I'od uctio:n, but i t d oes indi{Ja te the use of a ooa,l.1tifu.l , physioa.lly eru>y, tone for the int-e.rpretatio.n of eitJler canta.b il e,, 00' dedarrIllfUtory singing."

Mr. Dawson Freer throughout his most interesting brochure finds examples among the vocal records published by H.M.V. of the principles of good singing which he is enunciating. I should not always agree myself with the examples he chooses, but that is neither here nor there. Where I do think that he might have made his brochure more useful would have been by i l lustrating from records the meaning of such technical phrases as portamento, legato, and all the rest of the jargon which is necessary for the exposition of any art. He does indeed once or twice mention good legato or sostenuto in connection with a record, but nowhere does he explain what either means. Mr. Dawson Freer might retort that his job