The Playlist • Feodor Chaliapin in “Boris Godunov” (1910–1922)

MSP_chaliapin-boris_composi .

Chaliapin performs the roles of Boris, Pimen, and Varlaam, in the Rimsky-Korsokov  revision of Mussorgsky’s original work. Discographic data are from the Gramophone Company and Victor Talking Machine Company files, courtesy of Drs. Alan Kelly and John R. Bolig.


FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — Yet One More Tale [Pimen, Act I]

Moscow: August 31, 1910
His Master’s Voice 022157 (mx. 2016½c)
Orchestra of the Imperial Moscow Opera directed by I.Semenov


FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — In the Town of Kazan [Varlaam, Act I]

Camden, NJ: January 30, 1922
His Master’s Voice D.A. 100 (mx. B 26100 – 2)
Studio orchestra directed by Josef Pasternack


FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — Once at Eve [Pimen, Act IV]

St. Petersburg, Russia: November 26, 1911
His Master’s Voice 022252 (mx. 2548c)
No conductor listed in the Gramophone Company file


FEODOR CHALIAPIN: Boris Godunov — Farewell and Death of Boris [Boris, Act IV]

St. Petersburg, Russia: October 15, 1911
His Master’s Voice 022221 / 022222 (mxs. 2492½c / 2493c)
No conductor listed in the Gramophone Company file


The Playlist • Arturo Toscanini and Walter Damrosch — Acoustic Recordings (1921–1923)


Norwegian Dances, Nos. 1 and 2 (Grieg, op. 35)

New York: May 1, 1923
Columbia 65001-D (mx. 98078 – 1)


“The La Scala Orchestra was made up of green Italian musicians and we found it very difficult to make them comprehend just what we wanted them to do for record making, and we, the Recording Staff, were not sorry when the engagement terminated… The sailing of the steamship on which they had booked passage, for some cause, was delayed or postponed on two different occasions, which prolonged the recording engagement, as the Victor Company thought it better to keep them engaged, fearing if they had open time they might sell their services to some other recording company.”
Victor recording engineer Harry O. Sooy (Memoirs, David Sarnoff Collection)


Carmen (Bizet) — Prelude to Act 4 (Aragonaise)

Church Studio (114 N. Fifth Street, Camden NJ): March 31, 1921
Victor 64999 (mx. B 24750 – 6)


L’ Arlésienne (Bizet) — Suite, No. 2 (Farandole)

Church Studio (114 N. Fifth Street, Camden NJ): March 11, 1921
Victor 64986 (mx. B 24984 – 1)


For a history of early attempts at symphonic recording, see A Phonograph in Every Home and Recording the ‘Twenties, both available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.



Vintage Phonograph Gallery • The Kraemer (Hawthorne & Sheble) Spring-Loaded Tone Arm (1907)

Thomas Kraemer’s spring-loaded tone arm was featured on Hawthorne & Sheble’s Star phonographs beginning in 1907. A key feature was a small coiled spring that was said to propel the reproducer, thus supposedly skirting Victor’s Berliner patent, which specified that the record groove served that purpose. The courts weren’t swayed by that argument, finding the spring was too weak to serve any real purpose. Victor eventually forced Hawthorne & Sheble into bankruptcy, over unrelated patent-infringement claims in the Starola enclosed-horn machines, in 1909. There’s much more on Hawthorne & Sheble in A Phonograph in Every Home, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.



The Playlist • José Mardones (1910–1923)


JOSÉ MARDONES: Mefistofele — Ecco il mondo
With studio orchestra

New York: April 9, 1910
Columbia A5216 (mx. 30417 – 2)


JOSÉ MARDONES: Mefistofele — Son lo spirito che nega
With studio orchestra

New York: April 8, 1910
Columbia A5216 (mx. 30415 – 1)


JOSÉ MARDONES & GIOVANNI ZENATELLO: Aida — Numi custode e vindice
With uncredited chorus & orchestra

New York: April 12, 1912
Columbia A5426 (mx. 36366 – 2)


JOSÉ MARDONES: La alegría del battalón (Serrano)
Studio orchestra conducted by Rosario Bourdon

Camden, NJ: March 9, 1923
Victor 921 (mx. B 27597 – 2)


Early Movie Stars on Records • Marie Dressler (1910)

MARIE DRESSLER: Marie Dressler’s “Working Girl” Song
(I’m a Respectable Working Girl)

New York: Listed July 1910 — Released September 1910
Edison 10416  (two-minute cylinder)
Acc: Studio orchestra


(Top) “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” featured a young Charlie Chaplin and was one of 1914’s biggest silent-movie hits.

(Bottom) A Bain News Service photo. Undated, but Bain posed a number of these “heavy drinker” shots with various celebrities on the eve of Prohibition. (G.G. Bain Collection, Library of Congress)