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Vol. IX.

JULY 1931

No. ~8


FIRST of all let me thank most warmly all those kind readers who gave themselves the trouble to answer our Questionnaire. The replies have been of the very greatest help to us, and in our centenary number next September we propose to publish an analysis of this valuable expression of opinion, the obtaining of which has been of the utmost service to the direction of THE GRAMOPHONE.

I had already decided to devote some of my space this month to the discussion of piano records and recording when, by a coincidence, I found that various people all over the world were writing simultaneously to urge me to do what I could toward getting the whole of the thirty-two piano sonatas of Beethoven definitely recorded. This project was being discussed by the authorities of His Master's Voice some t ime before electric recording came in, and I understood that the artist chosen for this important enterprise was Frederic Lamond, a choice with which not the most critical lover of Beethoven's piano sonatas could have quarrelled. Little, however, has been done since to carry out the project, though Mark Hambourg has recently recorded one of the earlier sonatas,Op. 26 in A flat,and Lamond has added the Waldstein to the Appassionata, the Moonlight, and the Pathetique, which last has also been recorded by Backhaus and Mark Hambourg. In the Columbia l ist we find the Pathetique and the Appassionata again, played by William Murdoch, and the Moonl ight by Evlyn Howard-Jones and Ignaz Friedman. As a novelty in the Columbia l ist we find the late sonata Op. 81a in E flat played by Godowsky, and of course there are repetitions of the stock sonatas . in the Parlophone list. So of the thirty-two piano sonatas of Beethoven we have six, whereas if no reduplication had been allowed we might have had at least twice as many. In addition to these there are one or two isolated movements as fill-ups, and a few in foreign catalogues. On the other hand, we now have all the preludes, etudes, nocturnes, and nearly all the mazurkas of Chopin, and two of his sonatas. We have also several of his waltzes, polonaises, and all the ballads. Incidentally, why have we so few of Schubert's delicious waltzes? . Surely here is a field which recording piariists might exploit.

To return .to Beethoven. In view of the justice done to his quartets, his symphonies, and his concertos, surely i t is t ime justice was done to his sonatas. It is impossible to know anything about the later Beethoven without an opportunity to study those tremendous later sonatas of his. and there could be no more graceful commemomtion of the new alliance between His Master's Voice and Columbia than a series of albums containing all the piano sonatas o£ Beethoven, to which, while they are about i t , they might as well add the eight violin and piano sonatas. His Master'f, Voice might be responsible for half, and Columbia for the other half. I t would not mean nearly as much expense as orchestral works and, though I cann'ot pretend to believe the enterprise would be a profitable one, I do not believe i t would end in anything like a heavy loss.

It is not my business to teach the recording companies how to create a public appetite; but I cannot help feeling that opportunities are lost. A dark-blue Columbia disc appeared last month of William Murdoch playing the C sharp minor Prelude of Rachmaninoff and the G minor Prelude. This is the way the bulletin announces i t : "William Murdoch's earlier rendering of the celebrated Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sharp minor was always considered good, but with the advent of the improved Columbia piano recording i t was felt desirable to re-record such a prime favourite. The result is that the new recording has brought out all those wonderful round tones for which the pianist is famed . Masterly, too, is his playing of the other fuvourite Prelude in G minor-in all a wonderful piano recording."

But i t is something more than a wonderful piano recording. It is definitely to my mind the most realistic piano recording I have yet heard. I turn to what Mr. Warren said about this record in THE GRAMOPHONE last month, and I read that, in comparing i t with the Walter Rehberg pedormance of the C sharp minor, he says: "The recording is somewhat bolder than the Polydor whilst without i ts hardness." The recording had evidently struck Mr. Warren, but he · omitted to point out that until quite recently Polydor piano recording was better than anything we could do in England. 1 asked