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Vol. VII.

JULY, 1929

No. 74


IWAS deeply impressed by the London String Quartet's performance of Cesar Franck's Quartet in D minor. This album of six discs is one of the most notable of the many brilliant albums of chamber music with which we have beenso lavishly provided by the Columbia Company during the last two years. I have always been disappointei at not having been able to write with as much enthusiasm as I had hoped about the electric records of the London String Quartet, because I have remembered all those Columbia snippets made by them, fifteen years ago and more, and I have remembered their shortened versions of Beethoven and Mozart quartets made for the Vocalion Company seven years ago, and the thrill of the morning when my Vocalion gramophone arrived and I put on the first side of the shortened version of the Schumann quintet played by them and Miss Ethel Hobday; and who that had so much pleasure from players would not be anxious to show his appreciation ~ Those records of the London String Quartet made by Columbia and Vocalion share with the orchestral records of Sir Landon Ronald made by H.M.V. an honoured niche in the ever-rising monument of gramophone music.

I t was good to find Columbia sensible of the sfllendid work this quartet had done in the past and according them an opportunity to show what they could do in comparison with the triumphs of the Lener combination. Yet, somehow or other, electric recording did not seem to suit them, and with all the good will in the world I have never been able to commend to my readers an outstanding performance of chamber music from their bows. We ca~:mot afford to be sentimental at 6s. 6d. a disc.

But this Franck quartet is a really beautiful performance, and I do not hesitate to say that I have found i t the most satisfying performance of any of Franck's work that we have had so far on the gramophone. The D minor quartet was played by the Virtuoso combination, and was one of the last quartets to be recorded by H.M.V. before the advent of electric recording. I remember hearing with some dismay as a piece of stable information the surprising smallness of the demand for i t by the public. I do hope I shall not hear as another piece of stable information that the demand for this electric version is equally small. I t is a work of surpassing beauty, and the listener who fails to grow to love this quartet must lack spiritu:wl imaginat ion and possess a muddy-metalled mind. I should be prepared to tell any man who did not love Blake's poetry that he did not know what poetry was, and I should feel equally inclined to tell any man who did not love Franck's music that he did not know what music was. We suffer nowadays from an alarming tolerance, and i t is the duty of people who feel strongly that there are such things as absolute . truth, absolute beauty, and absolute goodness not to tolerate the woolly standards of the moment. I read. in the current number of The Radio Times the following letter: "Love songs, love songs, that's what I want . . . i t is love that makes life worth living. I enjoy all the programmes except Chamber Music. That, I think, is beastly."

This sort of opinion may be merely the bray of a jackass heard over a hedge as we pass along ea country road, but there is no reason why we should tether jackasses alongside public thoroughfares. The jackass may think his braying melodious, and our present attitude of fulsome indulgence toward idiots may end in our coming to think so ourselves. The word "idiot" is derived from a Greek word which means" a private person." I need not stress this point further. I have no wish to persecute people who do not like chamber music so long as they realise that their dislike of i t indicates a lack of something in themselves. I have no desire to persecute or torment or jeer at or sneer at any human being who suffers from a mental or a physical deficiency; but when these abnormal creatures advertise their deficiencies, then persecution becomes a public service.

The other day I travelled in a railway carriage, and a man with a nose of the same hue and size as a large waggling beetroot got into the carriage and sat down opposite to me. I would forbid such a man to enter a public conveyance without a veil, because there is no reason why anybody should be allowed to inflict such nausea on his fellow travellers. Charity does not enter into the question. This man could afford to travel first dass, and any pity for his