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london Office 10a Soho Square

London W.1


Edited by


Telephone Gerrard 2136. 2131

Telecrams Parmaxto. Rat". Londo",



No. 149


Cheap Classics

I have received outspoken and obviously sincere expressions of opinion from two dealers, strongly criticising the warm praise I gave to the Decca records of Sir Henry Wood and the Queen's Hall Orchestra. For obvious reasons I cannot give the names of my two correspondents, who are both dealers, but I will say that they are both \vell-known men in the trade, one with a business in the South of England, the other with a business in the Midlands. A from the south· disagrees with my judgment on artistic grounds. B from the Midlands attacks i t on economic grounds. Here is an abbreviation of what A says:

" I am in the record trade, and naturally I want to sell records, but a queer str'eak in my make-up prevents my offering any record which I would not buy myself. . . . I do not stock any recent recordings which seem to me definitely bad. What, then, was my surprise to find you praising to the skies the new Decca 2s. 6d. records by Wood. . . . I feel that nobodv could possibly praise these rackety, harsh and over-amplified records with sincerity. I have often had occasion to dislike your opinions and your way of expressing them; but I have never before had occasion to distrust the sincerity of them. . . . I do feel that your desire for a cheap recording has exceeded your powers of calm judgment. But is i t fair to recommend these records except as good at the price? . . . I would also remind you that i t is probable that you are listening in a large room with a specially good instrument. I think you should try a more standard machine in ordinary conditions, when you will probably realise the very poor nature of' these recordings." .

As soon as this letter reached me I played through again the Beethoven Fifth Symphony, The Ride of the Valkyries, the Humoreske, and the Prelude in C minor, and I will say at once that I saw no reason for recanting what I said about them in the August GRAMOPHONE. They do, in my opinion, fairly represent a performance by the Queen's Hall Orchestra under Sir Henry Wood at a Promenade Concert. Sir Henry Wood himself has declared that these records "are not only faithful reproductions of my interpretations, but there is a subtle balance of part, a melodic interest, a true orchestral colour, and a grip of essential detail that really


give me an intense artistic satisfaction." I must remind my correspondent that I claim no more for these rp.col·ds than Sir Henry himself claims for them. I f you ask me to say with my hand upon my heart that I consider Sir Henry's interpretation of the Fifth Symphony the ideal interpretation, I shall reply frankly that I do not. At the same time, I have to remember that the first performance I heard of the Fifth Symphony, when I was in my 'teens, was a performance at a Promenade Concert conducted by Sir Henry Wood. lowe to him an immense musical debt which is owed equally by thousands and thousands of people in this country, and, like thousands and thousands of' oth~r people, I should have been in no position to be discussing this or that conductor's interpretation of the Fifth Symphony if once upon a time I had not heard Sir Henry Wood's. The Promenade Concert audience at Queen's HaIL is not a CI'itical audience. Nobody who listens over the wireless to the wild applause of some mediocre performance of a concerto could suppose that a Promenade audience was anything except a cl'owd of good-natured enthusiasts, and no doubt there are many people who would caU the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven as played at Queen's Hall on such occasions a " rackety, harsh and over-amplified" performance.

vVhat seems to me the dangerous part of A's letter is his suggestion that I approved of these Wood and Decca recol'ds because I was listening to them " in a large room with a specially good instrument." I listened to them in a room seventeen feet by fourteen, which is not particularly large, on my E.M.G. with the extra large horn of which I wrote at length a few mont.hs ago. I readily admit that this is a specially good instrument, but I maintain at the same t ime that all the E.M.G. models, all the E. M. Ginn Expert models, and the latest Cascade model are specially good acoustical instruments. I must presume also that many of the radiograms which are now so generally used are good instruments. \Vhat my correspondent A asks me to believe is that t.he standard machine is incapable of dealing with these records. In that case I have no hesitation in retorting that the standard machine is incapable of dealing with any record except those or cinema organs and crooners. How long is i t going to be before people realise that the better the instrument t.he